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“We should all find a quiet place, a peaceful space, to bury the chaos and rest for a while” – Christy Ann Martine

I’ve never seen Hot Tub Time Machine but I do believe in the magical transportation of a good soak. My favorite time to tub is early in the morning. A summer sunrise, the first bird’s song, children sleeping, and a cup of fresh coffee all point to perfection–now add warm bubbles–bliss.

While the hot tub plays a large part in my self-care routine, it has also rescued my marriage. 

Our hot tub was an Amazon Prime impulse buy. Two days later, a semi-truck dropped it off in our gravel driveway and took off. At least 100 feet away, over rough terrain, was the deck where it was going. What did we do? Rolled it. Yep, we decided to “roll” a square, 500-pound hot tub over rock, gravel, and seemingly endless grass. We were sweating, laughing, and swearing, but in hindsight, the tub was already bringing us together in fresh ways.

Thankfully, the roll didn’t ruin anything and my husband’s brute strength combined with a makeshift pulley got it on the deck where it will stay forever–or until it’s time to sand and stain the deck again. 

Our first time sitting in the tub was a summer evening. The grass was freshly cut, our beverages were strong and sparkly, and I could feel his sense of accomplishment. My husband is a very humble man but there was a rare glimpse of pride. I realized the steam and jets were creating a physical space for relaxed transparency. We seek that intimate space daily. 

By transparent and intimate, I don’t mean the hot tub makes everything easy and we have it all figured out. Far from it.

What I do mean is very basic and practical: it is hard to get real pissy about tight finances, your in-laws, a leaky skylight, when to schedule an oil change, work, college savings, or what to make for dinner when a water jet is literally easing your tension.

Our hardest and most honest conversations are reserved for “the tub.” But, it’s not because of the 104-degree water massage. It’s the intentionality of the space. How many times have you asked your spouse a question that morphed into a heated conversation and then exploded into a fight– because the timing and space the original question required wasn’t available? I do this. He does this.

We are trying to be better because we realize it is easy to get huffy when asked about a late notice while the kids are pulling on your nightgown and patience, the eggs are burning and Paw Patrol is on volume 1,000 in the background. It’s not so easy to be defensive when asked, “Do you need any information from me to look into that bill?” by bare wet shoulders glistening in the twilight. Good space–good timing–good heat. 

I show my first-rate “processor” husband respect and care when I wait to ask the hard questions or start a tricky conversation until we can both be fully present and relaxed. When he is thoughtful, engaged, and encouraging—he shows me, an impulsive Amazon-primer, respect, and care as well. 

The result, for us, is many hours in the hot tub and a more gracious, authentic, and supportive marriage. 

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I don’t know about you, but this pandemic we’re all going through—has been REALLY hard! It’s been a string of disappointments for my kids, sad not being able to visit my parents as my dad battles pneumonia, and at times, very stressful as small business owners. Continually trying to find healthy ways to cope has been the key.

For a while there, I felt like my husband and I were dangling on yo-yos—each hanging on to our own for dear life. When my husband was feeling down, I’d try to gently tug on his yo-yo’s string just enough to propel his spirits back up. Then, he’d have to do the same for me, and the cycle would continue­­—leaving me a little dizzy as life spun out of control.

As the days have slowly past, our emotional highs and lows have leveled off, never again descending to the lowest of lows. Just like the yo-yo, the earth’s gravitational pull eventually won out, grounding us to face the next challenge.

I think we were both grieving our “old lives,” of only a few weeks ago, which seemed to have vanished in an instant. At times, I’ve felt paralyzed to move forward and accomplish even the smallest task.

Once we got over the shock of something so microscopic, from so far away, having such a devastating effect on the whole world—I got mad. I wasn’t just angry, my heart ached for my kids as news of school closures, and eventually all their activities were stripped away like a Band-Aid ripped off too soon.

I wasn’t sure who or what to be mad at, but I quickly realized I couldn’t stay angry forever—it’s too exhausting! Like many of you, somewhere along the way I settled in, accepting our lives are going to look a little different going forward.

Then, there’s the matter of our kids being at home. All three are older now, and should be at work, in college, or attending high school. Not to mention hanging out with their friends, but they’re not—they’re home.

At first, I grieved for them: all our son with autism’s daily outings and activities, our 20-year-old’s Spring term in college, and our daughter’s high school track season—all canceled. But selfishly, all three being home together is what I’ll miss the most when our communities start opening back up again.

One evening early on, we arranged the chairs in the family room in a quasi-circle and started serving dinner on trays. The relaxed atmosphere has lent itself to a plethora of interesting conversations.

We’ve debated the world’s response to the Coronavirus, how different (or as I argue…similar) the antics on college campuses are today compared to thirty years ago, and critiqued the latest TikTok going viral—laughing so hard, if we could bottle it, we’d make millions.

How does the saying go? Sometimes the little things ARE the big things in life.

So when I listened to Dave and Ashley Willis’ Naked Podcast #81, Rekindling Romance, I realized what has helped me cope the mostit’s all the little things

  • The smell of coffee in the morning
  • Waking up to funny memes and inspiring quotes from friends
  • Listening—really listening to each other
  • Prayer and more prayer, for so many near and far
  • Dusting off my Daily Devotional and actually meditating on its message each morning
  • Patience, and lots of it when one of us is frustrated with challenges out of our control
  • My husband hugging me when I have my little pity parties, while not trying to “fix things for me” in the process
  • Laughing until our sides ache
  • Of course, my husband suggested ‘quickies’ always help
  • Picking up take-out, so no one has to cook
  • Talking with friends on actual voice calls, and joining more on-line gatherings than I ever thought possible
  • Keeping up our exercise routines or at least walking around the neighborhood. In fact, my whole neighborhood seems to be out walking in endless circles

And…

  • If I’m being completely transparent­—yoga pants, mindlessly scrolling TikTok, and a quarantini…or two—have also helped immensely.

So I encourage you to listen to Dave and Ashley Willis’ Naked Podcast #81 (linked here) as they have some great suggestions to not only “rekindle your romance,” but helpful coping strategies as well.

As I write this, some states are slowly relaxing their Shelter-at-Home orders and although the kids aren’t leaving the nest anytime soon, I will be sad to see them (hopefully) go back to school in the fall.

Spending so much time with our kids at this stage in their lives has been one of the unexpected blessings of the pandemic.

When the pandemic hit, I may have let the shock of life shutting down around me affect my mood a little too much, but quickly, both my husband and I realized we needed to pivot and adapt if we were going to come out of this stronger.

My husband and I have survived loved ones lost too soon, serious health scares with family and friends, the dot-com’s bubble bursting, 9/11, challenges in our marriage, the 2008 recession, and we will survive this.

            “The virus can invade our bodies, but we get to decide whether we let it invade our minds.”

Thank you for taking the time to read and I’d love it if you’d comment below, or on Facebook, and share your ideas with readers on how you’ve coped with the threat of the virus and having to stay at home longer than anyone thought possible. —Lisa

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3 Minute Read

By Lisa Quigley

I think I had a sort of midlife crisis. No, not like that. I didn’t go out and get a tattoo or have some kind of regretful affair. I still drive the same Toyota I drove back when my children sat in booster seats. I didn’t even really change my hairstyle. It was much more subtle than that.

Whatever it was, it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Last year, on a beautiful evening in June, our daughter graduated from high school. It was a surreal and sweet time. The days leading up to her graduation were filled with anticipation and memorable moments. I watched as she modeled her cap and gown. I took a picture of her leaving for her “last day” of school in precisely the same spot I had taken her picture on the first day of school, some thirteen-grades ago.  

During this time, friends and relatives, from near and far, would send their greetings and wishes. They all seemed to ask the same question. The question that she seemed all too happy to be answering. “So what are your plans from here on out?” I watched as her excitement escalated each time she spoke of all her goals, dreams, and plans that lie before her on a clean slate of the life she was embarking on. We were, and continue to be, so proud of her. 

Strangely, during this time of excitement and nostalgia, waves of anxiousness and grief would wash over me. We would miss our daughter so much, and we would miss the role she has so beautifully played in our family. Our daughter has always been a leader, an encourager, dear friend and wingman to our son, and now she was on the verge of moving on with her own life. 

Graduation proved to be an emotional time, but we’d weathered challenges in our marriage and family before—all which have significantly impacted the course of my life—ultimately giving me strength. So, I knew I had hope.

When our son was only two, he was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum—the diagnosis was both shocking and a relief. Our hunches made sense. We knew what we were working with. We took a deep breath, rolled up our sleeves, and got to work.  

Life was hectic. Our lives revolved around specialists, horse therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and my personal favorite, dog therapy. Then came school and Special Education classes (SPED), more therapy, Individual Education Plans, and painful, sometimes tense, communications with teachers and principals. During these years, we cycled through an erratic, and always an unpredictable pattern of joy and grief that seems to have no timetable.

My wonderful husband was a rock to our family as we navigated the life we’d been given. He is a CPA and works very long hours. Our life, as a family, revolves around Tax Season. Like many other wives of Accountants, I solo parented about one-third of the year.  

During this time and even during the “off-season”, we did a lot of tag-team parenting. My husband would take the kids to do something on a Saturday afternoon to give me “a break.” I would take the kids and go out of town to visit friends for the weekend as ‘Dad’s going to be at work anyway.’ The kids and I would spend several weeks in the summer at a summer camp run by friends.  

As the kids attended the camp, I helped run the camp. During these years, I even took a job in retail. The flexible schedule of working nights and weekends guaranteed there was consistency in therapy and parenting. The kids were doing well. Our son was blooming. All of our work seemed to be paying off. 

The years passed, things began to fall into a pleasant routine. The kids grew. Life began to run smoother. We reached the point in our parenthood, where we could leave the kids home alone for a short time. It was then that my husband and I started a little activity that would become a life-changing ritual. 

We embarked on a new adventure. That’s right, we began taking a walk in the neighborhood most evenings, after dinner. 

After so many years of talking about kids, parenting, therapies, it seemed that life had settled down, and we had the chance to talk about more important things. We talked about us. We talked about politics and football, sometimes we bared our souls to each other. We joked and laughed. We spoke encouraging words to each other. 

Even though our neighborhood runs along a freeway, our walks had the magic of a long trek in the woods or a stroll along a river in some exotic city. These treasured walks also made me realize how much I missed my husband. 

At the risk of sounding corny, I fell in love with my husband again on those walks. I will admit it, how much our relationship had fallen into doing life with each other, but not necessarily together. I remembered just how much I loved being married to my husband. We both agreed that we needed to do what we had done with our son so many years ago. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work—this time on our marriage.

Those walks turned into hikes. I started going to the college sporting events that my husband so enjoys, the ones for so long I told him to go ahead and take one of the kids to, so I could get some things done around the house. After the games, we would continue talking over a meal at an eccentric restaurant in our town. 

We started binge-watching a NetFlix series together (why did it take so long for us to discover HOMELAND?). During this time, something else happened. Even though we were focusing more on us, our son continued to grow and experience life just as we had watched him do when we were so focused on his care and progress.  

Just like many of our friends that we have known for years in the small town where we live, we are all on the doorstep of our empty-nester years. Like many of those same friends, we are talking of taking more trips, a more peaceful schedule, and learning new skills as a couple. 

Unlike many of the couples we have literally grown up with, the rest of our lives will, at least in some part, include our son. We absolutely remain vigilant in our coaching of him and encourage him to pursue his dreams. We expect him to live a full life of his choosing. In that expectation, we also realize that we will need to be a sort of home base, mentor, and guide. Our parenting will need to carry on, at least in the form of a consultant to our son as he grows older.

We look to our future responsibilities as parents in this type of arrangement, with the same passion we began this whole journey on. Thankfully, we are going to continue on this journey together, and that makes me smile.

So, was it a midlife crisis? I’m not entirely sure, but it was certainly a wake-up call.  A sort of alarm that happened to wake me up in time, before someday when we both realized—sadly, a little too late—that besides having raised two children, we had nothing in common. 

It was like a text alert for my soul, reminding me how thankful I am that I married my husband, and how blessed we are to do life together. In the end, it was definitely a gift.

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By Tiffany Kong, founder of DiscoveringWE
with her husband, Joseph Kong

If you could go back in time to give yourself advice before getting married, what would you say? Chances are, there’s probably a lot that you would tell yourself to do or not to do. I grew up in a family where we didn’t talk much about what to expect in marriage. Everybody knew that when you got older, you’re just supposed to find a job, get married, and then have kids. 

A lot easier said than done.

I wish I knew that being married would mean dying to myself every day and putting my spouse first. I wish I knew that being married would be one of the hardest things I experience because I’m tested and tempted each day. I wish I knew being married isn’t about finding the right person but being the right person.

You may not be able to change your thinking from the past, but you have that opportunity to do so now for the future of your marriage and also as you teach your future generations on what this sacred covenant really means.

Whether you need the reminder or are giving advice to a loved one headed for the altar, here are 10 pieces of advice for a happy and healthy marriage.

  1. Work on being a better version of yourself

The key to a better marriage is by being a better you. You are the only person you can control. Become the type of person you want to attract. And while it’s important to find the right person, it’s also just as important to be the right person. You can’t give your best to your future spouse if you aren’t your best.

2. You’re not always right

And it’s okay to be wrong! That’s how you learn and grow. When you want to be right all the time, you’re only allowing yourself to see one possibility instead of seeing all the possibilities together. You don’t win anything being right all the time, it will actually end up doing more damage to your marriage than you think.

3. Master the art of apologizing

Own the mistakes you make and apologize sincerely. We all make mistakes and do stupid things, so take responsibility for your actions and apologize. And sometimes just saying I’m sorry won’t be good enough. Be specific in your apology. Admit your fault, take responsibility for your actions, ask for forgiveness, and then ask what you can do to prevent this from happening again.

4. Learn to actively practice forgiveness

You and your spouse will be apologizing to each other for the rest of your lives. One of the hardest things you’ll need to learn is to become an excellent forgiver.  Stop holding grudges and keeping score. When you learn to forgive more often, you release yourself from constantly feeling chained. Forgiveness opens the door for change and growth.

5. Continue to date each other after marriage

Just because you got them, doesn’t mean they’ll stay. By dating each other and continuing to build emotional intimacy, you are building a strong foundation for your marriage. Going on dates creates the memories that you look back on and remember why you fell in love in the first place. It’s okay to schedule your date nights too, it’s all about being intentional.

6. Learn to manage your money

When you get married, you and your spouse’s finances will be combined. There should be no secrets because you will be sharing your debts, bank accounts, and credit. If you don’t learn to manage your money right now, it’ll only get worse after you get married. Your money habits that you have when you’re single will transfer over to become your money habits in marriage. If you have toxic spending patterns, you need to address that and resolve your own money issues before being responsible for someone else’s. Get smart with your money. 

7. Don’t bring your childhood baggage into the marriage

The reason why we act and think the way we do is largely because of how we were raised. When you face conflict, look for clues that explain why your significant other acts in the way they do. Did something happen to them as a child to make them feel this way? Your marriage is not the same as your parent’s marriage, whether it was good or bad. Your spouse is innocent from all of that. You must start fresh and new with your spouse.

8. Love and respect yourself

How you treat yourself will determine how you allow others, including your spouse, to treat you. When you love and accept yourself, flaws and all, there’s no chance that anyone else would treat you with disrespect. Know who you are and how much you’re worth.

9. Throw everything you think you know about marriage out the window

You’re going to build your marriage with your spouse. You two get to define what that means and how your relationship will look like. It’s good to learn about marriage by reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching informative videos. But be careful not to idolize a relationship, whether it be fictional or real, and create unrealistic expectations for yourself and your marriage.

10. There’s a time for everything

There’s a reason why you’re still in this season. Learn everything you can from it, and do not be so anxious for tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

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A day known for love and romance is quickly approaching, and there are A-LOT of expectations wrapped up in just that one gentle rotation of the earth. 

If we buy into all the hype, there are roses to be delivered, perfect gifts to be wrapped, and dinner reservations to be made…weeks in advance. Plus, there’s an overwhelming assortment of cards and candies to choose from, which start filling up store shelves mere moments after the ball drops in Times Square.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Valentine’s Day. I’ve just never felt an overwhelming need to be wined and dined on this one particular day of the year. Even as a kid, I don’t remember it being that big of a deal…

I’m not sure if that incident in grade school has anything to do with it, but if your earliest memory of Valentine’s Day is laughing so hard you pee your pants…February 14th might not be your best day for romance.

Remember those Sweethearts candies, the ones with the cute little sayings like, “Kiss Me” and “You Rock”? Our teacher had the brilliant idea for all of us to read one aloud to the nearest boy if you were a girl or vice versa—one at a time—with everyone focused on you! 

Imagine having to ask the boy who calls you “bigfoot” at recess, if he wants to “Marry Me?” while fifty laughing-eyes stare in a chorus of giggles? 

All I could do was laugh along uncomfortably…unfortunately, I laughed too hard. That’s when it happened, the so-called “Sweetheart incident.”  Trying to keep it on the down-low, I quickly tied my sweatshirt around my waist (hiding my indiscretion), before sneaking out of class as fast as possible. Those chalky heart-shaped candies have haunted me ever since.

I don’t recall all of my Valentine’s Days past, but a few—for better or for worse—are memorable in their own special way…

One year, a boyfriend gave me a dozen red roses, a box of Russell Stover chocolates, and a teddy bear. That teddy bear is one of many reasons said boyfriend is no longer in the picture. 

As we discussed our plans for the big day, I happened to mention how cheesy I thought it was for couples to exchange stuffed animals. So what does the guy do? 

He gets me—wait for it— a teddy bear holding a stuffed version of a Sweetheart candy (best memory ever!) printed with “Be Mine.” It was definitely the beginning of the end for us.

Jumping way ahead in the time machine…

There was this one special Valentine’s Day shortly after we were married when my husband left little love notes all over the bathroom. He then proceeded to send me sweet nothings, via the World-Wide-Web, for the rest of the day. 

Walking in the door that evening, he greeted me with a kiss and a glass of wine as he escorted me upstairs to a warm bubble bath sprinkled with rose petals. I asked him about it as I prepared this article, and he laughed saying, “I must’ve seen it in a movie.” Sadly, no rose petals have ever graced my bubble bath since.

So, you know what I remember most about good ole’ days of Valentine’s Day when the kids were in grade school? Staying up late the night before the class parties to scribble their cute little signatures on each of those 75-plus miniature cards. Then folding those little buggers in half, while trying clip the tiny half-moon into the irritatingly small cut out. (Insert frustrated emoji here!!)

Of course, my kids didn’t want to only give cards, they wanted to give candy too. But, if you opted to include candy, you had to follow the Allergy Guide. “No nuts, remember-not everyone likes chocolate, some kids can only have sugar free, and others are gluten-free… and it went on.” It was SO stressful trying to meet everyone’s dietary needs—for candy!

All kidding aside, my husband and I have always acknowledged Valentine’s Day with each other and the kids in some small way. From love notes to small gifts, but making each other feel loved and appreciated has never been reserved for just February 14th.

What really matters is how we treat each other every day of the year. When we show up as the best version of ourselves for our spouse, our family and our friends, the myriad of ways we experience and express love are pretty extraordinary! 

It’s exactly why I’m a little hesitant to get overly hyped about this one particular day in February—when we ALL already LOVE the special people in our lives—TWO-FOUR-SEVEN-THREE-SIX-FIVE!

So this Valentine’s Day, if you’re stressing about creating the perfect date night or staying up late actually making Valentine’s cards with your kids, try to remember what’s really important about the 14th

It’s just one of many days to count our blessings, and remind our loved ones how fortunate we are to have them in our lives.

I am having an affair. I should feel very, very guilty … but I don’t. He’s a married father of three. I’m also married with three children. I happen to know his kids very well. In fact, I’ve known his wife my whole life. She is me, I am her. I’m having an affair with my husband.

It’s strangely quiet in our house this week while ALL of our children are gone. Our oldest recently moved south for his first job after college graduation and it’s going well for him. Our second is up in Canada with one of his best buddies visiting his other good friend’s family. Our youngest is at her favorite place in the world, a week-long overnight camp an hour north of us. 

We know all of our kids are safe and happy, soooo we can thoroughly enjoy these few days and nights that we have together. ALL BY OURSELVES. Did I mention that we’re ALONE? Good food, great wine, sweet music, and warm candlelight – we’re loving like we mean it.

We often wonder what we’ll talk about when the kids are completely grown up and not one of them is under our roof. If this week is any indication, it’s them. And we wonder, will we like each other? Yes we do. Yes, we most certainly do.

We’re approaching the thirty-first anniversary of the first time I fell for this guy I’m currently romancing. It was at a party about a month before he was leaving for college. We went on a date or two prior to that, but nothing serious. But THAT night, when he walked confidently through the front door of a friend’s home … I loved the way his shorts fit his waist and the look of his strong, tanned wrists. Truly! I’m not kidding!

We started dating exclusively after that fateful gathering, mostly long-distance because we attended universities in different states, but we married six years later on a snowy February afternoon. 

We keep several shoeboxes of cards and notes to and from one another, sent during the painful stretches we had to be apart, and still add new love letters to the collection now, even though we’ve been together and sharing the same address for over two and a half decades. 

Both my parents and my husband’s, had long-standing, rich marriages and without us even realizing it, modeled to he and I what a healthy, satisfying day to day relationship could look like. That’s a legacy that we prayerfully plan to hand down to future generations, starting with the dear souls that we’ve been raising, and pray that they each, often, have a married “affair” of their own. 

I sometimes daydream about them and about our daughter and sons’ futures and who they might marry, then realize that God already has every minute of their days mapped out. Whenever I look at those three, my heart fills with joy and understanding. God knew from the very beginning of time that my love and I were going to belong together and that those precious ones were going to belong to us. He will work out the details, big and small, for them also.

I’m mindful that the tenderness and affection we have in our marriage can be rare and I’m grateful. I know that every day is a gift from God and I’m thankful. Our girl and our boys have grown at the speed of light and all of our lives are constantly changing. I could worry about tomorrow, but why? I’ll enjoy today and let tomorrow take care of itself.

And tonight, right now, I’ll light the votives, pour two glasses of cabernet, play our favorite album and place dinner on the table…my beloved is almost home.

“My beloved is mine and I am his… ” Song of Songs 2:16

A couple writing about their 30 years of marriage

4 Minute Read

“If in the dark we lose sight of love, hold my hand, and have no fear cause I will be here.”-Steven Curtis Chapman

When we stood at the altar over 27 years ago, and my friend Marcy sang those haunting words, I had no idea in my 25-year-old head how true they would ring this many years later.  I didn’t know we were embarking on a journey of Three Marriages (and that’s so far…who knows how many more we have in us).

When we meet couples who are on their second marriage, sometimes we feel like we can’t relate. After all, what do we have in common with them?  But as Allen and I joke, we aren’t only on our second marriage, we are on our third…it just happens to be with the same person. Very different and also somewhat the same.

Our “Three Marriages” have been loosely marked by the decades we’ve been together. This past weekend, questions were posed to us by our Pastor when we were interviewed on stage at our church, “Tell us about the early years of your marriage. What came naturally… and what was a challenge for you?  Any Points of Conflict?”

My answer to him was hard for me to say and even harder for me to hear out loud and share with the audience. However, it was worth telling because vulnerability breaks strongholds and provides undeniable freedom.  (Sorry. I have kept you in suspense long enough with how I answered, so here goes.)

Our first Marriage was characterized by HIDING. We so longed to be the perfect Christians, the right kind of wife and/or husband, the ones everyone would look at and say, “We wish we could be just like them.  They have it all together.”  Needless to say, with this kind of pressure to perform, we hid from ourselves, our families, our church and mostly, from each other.   

We had lots of manners, not a lot of meaning. Lots of talk, not a lot of truth. Lots of outer, not a lot of inner. During that time, we actually did NOT have a lot of CONFLICT (which probably made my conflict-avoiding, peace-loving husband a happy camper), but we also did NOT have a lot of CLOSENESS.  And to be honest, it felt good.

Thank God He didn’t leave us there. It all “hit the fan” at the end of those 10 years.  

Our first marriage came to an abrupt end. With the help of some friends, Allen took a huge risk and shared some of his “not-so-perfect” stuff with me. I would love to tell you that I returned his risk with the reward of kindness, understanding and grace. Not so much. His reward was judgment and anger. After all, I liked my perfect, cookie-cutter world, where we were “godly” people and had a picture-perfect marriage and family.

Over the next months, my heart began to slowly change. Allen’s risk affected me. I was free to explore the ways I was hiding, the “not-so-perfect” parts of me. For the first time in our marriage, I felt safe and free to share those things with him.  If he wasn’t perfect, then I didn’t have to be either. What a relief!

This was the beginning of our second marriage, one characterized by a lot of HARD WORK. Transparency and authenticity came to the forefront and was mostly met with forgiveness, grace, and compassion, which required long talks and much conflict.  

We plunged headlong into books on authenticity, life groups that offered mutual transparency and trust (we have a couples’ group and we each have our own group comprised of just men and just women), and fought for these everywhere in our life: each other, our kids, and our friends.

As that decade came to a close, and our second marriage felt fairly successful, God called us to another, even deeper level in our relationship with Him and with each other.  With the help of a very safe and close-knit group of friends who regularly meet together and the decision to go to counseling, we found out that we “married the wrong person,” to quote Pastor Tim Lucas’ book on the subject.  

We began a slow undertaking towards HEALING, wholeness (I MEAN SLOW), another marriage, our third. Our small group went on an inner journey together exploring our pasts and how those played into who we are today, for both good and bad.  

Counseling revealed to us that we each had core wounds that affect most aspects of our lives and especially each other. That was tough. There was even one very scary night that stands out vividly in my memory. 

We were lying in bed, seeing very little light at the end of the tunnel, and asked each other, “Will we make it? Is there any hope for us?”  We actually weren’t sure and this made for a very dark time.

We pushed ahead with our group and with counseling.  This journey for HEALING seemed endless.  One evening during a session, we came right out and asked the question, “Do you see any hope for us?  Is this normal, that it gets much worse before it gets better?” 

Thankfully, our counselor answered with a resounding, “YES!”  to both questions.  That gave us the spark we needed to move (albeit slowly) forward.

We have found a few things during this time that have been huge for true HEALING in our marriage.

1. Working on our marriage without recognizing and working on our own individual brokenness is pointless. They go hand-in-hand.

2. Removing blame from each other for our own wounds is huge.  Blame produces shame, shame begets blame and the cycle goes round and round (that might just be why our fights kept going in circles).

3. Neither of us is changing the basic core of who we are.  We have each had to (and are continuing to) grieve the things about each other that we wish were different.  To give you an example, I am just not a physical person and Allen’s highest love language is physical touch.  Even if I set alarms on my phone to cuddle and hold his hand, it just doesn’t come naturally to me.  It’s really sad for Allen.  It might never change, no matter how hard I try.   He is grieving what might never be.  The hope we cling to is that at the end of the stages of grief lies acceptance and freedom.  YAY!  We’re slowly getting there.  (Believe me, it’s not just one way.  I’m grieving too, but not throwing Allen under the bus this time around.)

4. The journey is SLOW. There’s no way around it.  It takes lots of time and needs the “long-view” approach. None of us can undo years of damage and bad patterns in days, weeks and even months. The good news is that this perspective calms hearts and gives the much-needed room for long-term growth and change.

5. The process requires struggle. It might be painful. There will probably be some conflict. It won’t be comfortable. On Wednesday, Allen reminded me of the image of a butterfly, my all-time favorite creature. Without the stage of the cocoon, there would be no transformation.  Scientists tell us it looks pretty gruesome deep inside the chrysalis, kind of like caterpillar soup.  Finally, after weeks of this and the butterfly is ready to emerge, it takes hours of struggle to get free and more hours of waiting to fly.  The result is sheer beauty.

6. The other person is worth fighting for. Each of us longs to have true intimacy:  being fully-known and fully-loved, naked and unashamed, as Genesis defines it. We want it for each other and for ourselves. This is the place where the most transformative healing can happen, inside true transparency and trust. This is the toughest and yet most rewarding path of all!

We wonder if we will have even another marriage, one where HIDING, HARD WORK, AND HEALING are over.  

 It actually sounds a little bit like HEAVEN to me!

Esther and her husband were interviewed by their pastor about the authenticity and transparency they have in their marriage today. The entire 51-minute video is excellent, (if you love This Is Us-you’ll love it) and the Goetz’s are interviewed at the 26-minute mark and last about 10 minutes. (Click “Here is the link”)  HERE IS THE LINK

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3 Minute Read

So apparently it’s a thing now. Like, 25% of married couples are WAAY into it. 

Even my grandparents, who would now be well over a century old if they were still alive, were into it as young as their 40’s.

I remember discovering their little secret as a newlywed, and after the initial shock wore off, thought to myself…that won’t be us; we’ll never do that. 

Well, it turns out my grandparents were ahead of their time, and I’ve to add it to my list of things I swore I’d never do or say, but every so often, ‘find myself doing or saying.’ 

You see, about every 10th night…I retreat to our guestroom to get a good night’s sleep because occasionally he snores, and I apparently purr; either way, it’s keeping us both up at night. 

I hate to admit it, but some nights, I’m downright giddy. 

I bid my husband farewell, stroll down the hall and gently shut the guest room door. Nestling into bed, I fluff the pillows just so and leave the bedside lamp on as long as I want- because I can. 

Once all comfy, I’ll leisurely alternate between listening to a favorite podcast and scrolling through social media until I drift off; with no worries of the blue glow from my iPhone disturbing my husband’s slumber.

After an evening apart, I feel a little bit like we’ve just channeled Queen Elizabeth and her prince as they sauntered out of their separate bedrooms; she in her silk robe and he in his smoking jacket.

Except, in reality, my prince is already sweaty from his early morning workout and my oh-so-not royal self is stumbling around in old pj’s trying to find glasses and coffee…and not necessarily in that order. Romantic, it is not.

I wake up refreshed, yet discontent. For me, there’s something lost when we don’t sleep next to each other; something is missing.

I don’t want to just ‘cuddle’ and go our separate ways

I want to fall asleep next to my husband, reach for his hand to hold in the middle of the night and wake up with him by my side. Sleeping next to each other over the last twenty-seven years has created a bond beyond words, and the less time we sleep near each other, the less emotional intimacy our marriage experiences. 

We spend the majority of our working days apart, and sometimes the only chance we get to reconnect is falling asleep…back-to-back.

So, when the demands of the day overwhelm us, or we’re just a little bit irritated with each other…there is nothing like holding his hand in the middle of the night to melt our frustrations away.  

My intent is not to debate the pros and cons of couples electing to sleep separately, because I know it’s a reality for many couples to get a good night’s rest. I’m simply pointing out that it’s one part of my aging process, I don’t particularly care for and I’m hoping to reverse the course.

Fortunately, we don’t snore every night…yet. 

My grandmother must’ve noticed my surprise all those years ago, because she casually offered, “Honey, your grandad sounds like a freight train, and sometimes a girl just needs a good night’s sleep.”

I pray we have many more decades together, but unlike my grandparents, I don’t want sleeping in separate bedrooms to become more frequent, or even the norm. 

So, I’ve decided to make that appointment I’ve been avoiding; the one with the sleep clinic…

I promise I’ll call…first thing in the morning, just as soon as I get a good night’s sleep.

Story about how opposites attract and after the couple married they used the book the Five Love Languages to help their relationship

4 Minute Read

It wasn’t like he spoke French, or we had grown up on different continents, or had families who forbade us to date each other…but it was close. 

I was born and raised in a small town in Vermont at the base of the Green Mountains. So, it was kind of a big deal to be moving south to play soccer at a small, private college in North Carolina.

Just prior to departing on my new adventure, I was out shopping with my mom for all the essentials I’d need for school. Stopped at a red light, my mom turned to me and said, “Whatever you do, please don’t fall in love with a southern boy.” Well, like any teenager, I went right ahead and did just that.  

Jeff was a baseball player from Southern Florida, and at the time, it seemed like sports was about the only thing we had in common. It was not “love at first sight”…at least not for me. 

I mean, who would ever shave their own head, wear baggie Tommy Hilfiger jeans with stripes down the sides, a white tank top and sport a chain necklace with a cross?  

And boy was he loud! His energy was electric!  Jeff was that guy, yelling at the poor referee “to bend over and look out his good eye!” There were times I wanted to slink away, and crawl all the way back to Vermont.

I was not perfect by any means, but I was chill. 

I was a Vermont-girl, who thought she was looking for a typical Vermont guy. You know, the rugged outdoorsy kind of guy who wears hiking boots, Carhart pants, flannel shirts, and enjoys quiet conversation over a good IPA.

Not the Miller High Life guy, who drank “The Champagne of Beers” as Jeff would call it. By the way, do they even make that beer anymore? He’d grab a bottle of “champagne” as he sat down to watch his beloved NASCAR.

Jeff was so foreign to me; he might as well have been from another country. He’d say things like “fixin’.” Why would anyone say they are fixin’ to make a sandwich?  Is it broken? 

Or when he’d yell, “G.D!” Which, I assumed for months was a reference to the Grateful Dead, not the abbreviation for an offensive expression. 

The guy ate biscuits and gravy! He loved sauerkraut! He washed his shiny, silver sports car every Sunday afternoon while I tooled around in my beat-up truck which was nicknamed Swiss Cheese because of all the rusted-out holes caused by the cruel Vermont winters.  

He liked fast-food, I liked fresh.  

He cheered for Tampa, I bled red for Boston.  

He loved Jesus…Who?  

He was very conservative, and I was quite liberal.  

He was so…Southern, and I was so…Not.   

So, you know how magnets work…when like poles of two magnets are placed near each other, they repel.  But, when the north pole of one magnet is placed near the south pole of another: Boom!  We were magnetic! 

As different as Jeff and I were, we were drawn to each other by a force that was quite literally out of our control.  

In the beginning, all of our differences were part of what kept our romance exciting.  We were the epitome of the saying, “Opposites Attract.” But, like anything in this world, when there are strong, opposing forces involved, life can get complicated- fast.

We knew we had to figure out a better way to communicate after we realized our love and excitement for each other could only be stretched so far.  

Thankfully, around this time someone recommended the book, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman; it was a game-changer!  

Mr. Chapman explains how every person has a different way of feeling truly loved and there are five primary ways we feel loved by our partners; rarely do a husband and wife have the same love language. So, the challenge is discovering the primary language of your spouse. 

The Five Love Languages are:

  1. Receiving Gifts
  2. Quality Time
  3. Words of Affirmation
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

For some, it’s a mixture of two or three of them but most people have one primary love language which really makes them feel treasured by their partner.  

For me, I always appreciate it when Jeff washes my car (Acts of Service), or surprises me with a small gift, but these acts rarely “fill my love tank” as the author describes.

As we discovered through the book, I feel most loved when my husband takes time to sit and talk with me, with no distractions, or when we go for a walk together. (Quality time) 

Conversely, Jeff certainly appreciates it when I make him a tuna sandwich or I stop and pick up something at the store I know he needs. However, he feels most loved when I tell him how grateful I am for all he does for our family; what an incredible dad he is to our three kids or how wonderfully he provides for all of us. (Words of Affirmation) 

Over the last 15 years, our marriage has been a continuous journey of learning to love and appreciate each other’s differences, all while trying to make our marriage thrive. 

Understand each other’s emotional love language does not mean our marriage is challenge-free, or we have it all figured out, (especially since we’ve added three strong-willed, high spirited kids to the mix) but it does give us a road map to go by when we get caught up in the craziness of our life.  

It is that simple? Of course not.  

We still have our days.  Like when Jeff’s been gone and I’ve been driving the kids in all different directions, dinner’s not ready, the dog hasn’t been walked, everyone has practice or a game, and there are no clean uniforms.  

Then there are those times when the dishes are still sitting in the sink from breakfast, the laundry is overflowing, homework hasn’t been touched, field trip forms are missing, the floors are sticky with patches of who-knows-what, and I’m trying hard not to trip over the last thread I am hanging on by. 

On those days, when I am trying to regain my footing, Jeff knows he can gently take my hand and go for a quiet walk together to hear my heart.  And through this simple act, the pace of my heart rate lowers, my tank refills and I’m reassured of his love for me.  

This didn’t happen by accident or overnight. It has taken us both time and a deep desire to invest in each other and our marriage. Sometimes we don’t do as good of a job of filling each other’s love tanks.

But, we have discovered over the years that keeping this simple idea in mind has helped immensely in keeping this Vermont-girl and Southern-boy…walking hand-in-hand.  

Now, if ya’ll excuse me…I’m fixin’ to make Jeff a sandwich and then I am going to thank Jesus for all He has done for me.  

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“In the tapestry of life, we are all connected.”- Unknown

Last weekend I flew from the lush Willamette Valley in Oregon to the arid desert of Tucson, Arizona to witness a longtime friend’s daughter marry her sweetheart.

The outdoor setting was spectacular: a white rose and eucalyptus draped arbor was nestled perfectly under the shade of a decades old Palo Verde, where twenty-two wedding attendants waited cheerfully to welcome the bride down the grassy green aisle on the proud arm of her father; there wasn’t a dry eye to be found.

If that weren’t enough, the rocky Santa Catalina Mountain Range jetted up behind the bride and groom less than a mile from where we were seated to behold this blessed event; it was simply breathtaking.

As the wedding unfolded, even this gorgeous setting was eclipsed by the story their pastor told of all the close familial ties and friendships that have been woven together through the years making this celebration a reality.

Taking us back in time, the charismatic pastor told how as a 6th grader in a new school the bride’s father had befriended him and invited him to sit with his buddies in the cafeteria. 

None of these pubescent boys could’ve imagined the divine intervention taking place at that pint-sized table which ultimately led the father of the bride to meet his wife years later. 

Because it was the pastor who would eventually introduce a cute twenty-something co-worker to his childhood friend, from this union the bride was born.

__________________________________________

As the officiant continued to weave this rich tapestry of relationships, he noted it was only through these longstanding connections that the bride and groom would meet a few years ago in the Windy City, 2,000 miles away from this desert sanctuary.

Scattered amongst the vows and ceremonial traditions was the acknowledgment of all the friends of the bride and groom who have traveled far to support this couple. 

As he spoke on the importance of maintaining these ties, I couldn’t help but think of all the family, friends and the purely divine hand that had helped create and maintain my own marriage over the last twenty-seven years.

The pastor reminded all of us our lives crosses the lives of many others and most significantly it’s entwined with the lives of a special few, those friends and family members who will support and encourage us during the most challenging of times. 

Together, this young couple will begin to weave their own tapestry with a richness of history, familial ties, friendships, triumphs and of course some disappointments, which will only serve to enhance its splendor.

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