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The Book Thief
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
On Gold Mountain
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
City of Tranquil Light: A Novel
The Distant Land of My Father
The Paris Wife
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Fall of Giants
World Without End
A Stolen Life
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
The Pillars of the Earth
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
The Road
Trials of the Earth: The Autobiography of Mary Hamilton
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
Cutting for Stone

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Entries in marriage (3)


22 years of marriage

The sunrise on our twenty-second anniversary of marriage took my breath away and sent me running outside with my camera (iPhone 5) in the twenty-eight-degree weather.  The scene unfolding before me reminded me of how God holds the universe together by his grace. It also reminds me how He has held us together for twenty-two years.

We have spent two days at a refuge spelunking the past year and eyeing the future with optimism and hope. Each year (almost) we have made it a priority to get away for our anniversary. This time affords us the opportunity to gather the blessings of the past year and to set some goals for the next one. After a few years this practice became habit and now it has become second nature.

We picked a verse for the next year. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” 

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sword drills

Matt and I on our wedding day, January 5, 1991. Anger invaded my body and pushed aside good sense. 

I risk nausea to read in silence Safe Haven Marriage, a book assigned for the marriage group we are about to attend. We are late. And I am bringing the refreshments. Joshua and Sam chirp in the backseat as Matt navigates our van toward church. 

Matt and I had argued only an hour before and I had not recovered. Given a choice, a root canal would have been more appealing than a marriage class at that point. I couldn’t even look at or speak to my spouse, how am I going to absorb any information about loving him?

I read... “Contempt blah blah blah predictor of divorce. Criticism blah blah blah predictor of divorce.” Great, I am thinking but still not speaking. Matt drops me off first with the snack and drives around to take Joshua and Sam to childcare. 

Larry Kayser greets me as I plop down the chocolate chip cake on the table. “Wow! You look so tan! Have you been in the sun?” I want to tell him it is the glow of anger but blame the soccer field instead. 

Somehow I make it through half the group with this strategy: Say as little as possible. 

An hour in, I pray to Jesus. Help me. I don’t want to be robbed of this time. 

And I speak a few sentences because it is hard for me to be quiet. I steal a little look at Matt.

Then in closing, Larry opens his Bible and reads:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

And I feel it. The sword. I give myself over to it. Like a pin poking a balloon, the sword deflates my swollen ego. Divides bone and marrow. Rage and blame. Fear and loathing. I feel something soften deep with me like a moisture infiltrating a dry shell. Living Water rushes in and my heart is clay again. 

Later that night I sit with an open journal. I ask for honesty and humility and grace. I write these words: He bore it in His body so I don’t have to bear it in mine. Once again the Water in the form of tears softens my hardened heart. 

Then I take that much softer heart to Matt and we begin again. The anger is important identifying markers in my soul... things Matt, my soul-mate, needs to know to know me. Intimacy. 

It is a remarkable moment birthed in hope and promise.

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God's Word. We can't get away from it - no matter what.

Hebrews 4:7-14


ebb & flow

This morning when all the children were sleeping, I padded into the den to find Matt reading his Bible. He said we had a minor emergency in that no coffee was pre-prepared the night before. Like the stellar man he is, he got up and ground the beans stealthily in the garage as to not awaken anyone.  A few minutes later he brought me my coffee and stood above me and he said:

“I feel like you have pulled away from me and I am hurt by it.”

I needed a drink. Of coffee, that is. And I stalled a response by gulping in some much needed caffeine. I had felt distance the night before and wondered about it. In a marriage there is ebb and flow. It is to be expected. Natural. But a healthy marriage will note the ebbs. A courageous partner will confront the distance.

Matt and I began a heart to heart conversation about how we had arrived at this spot of distance in our relationship. I am grateful for this courageous partner and his servant-leadership. 

And so, I began pondering the ebb and flow of life. Ebb happens in our relationship with God. Recently I made a quick trip to the Mississippi Delta where I grew up. The trip threw my routine off. I usually spend some time in the mornings connecting with God. I lost my rhythm. Ebb.

Before that I had flow. Something I had been confounded over in my spiritual journey came together. Like the last puzzle piece falling into place, God delivered a message into my spirit and it gelled. It all started in Ezekiel. Zeke has a lot of ebb and flow. 

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it.  They will say, ‘This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.’  Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.”

Listen to the contrasts. Sins. Ruins. Desolate. Laid waste. Destroyed. In contrast with Cleanse. Rebuilt. Cultivated. Like the Garden of Eden. Fortified. Inhabited. Replanted. I hear ebb and flow in that. For me that passage represents all that He has been about in my life over the past five years. He has rebuilt my ruins. Yes, He has. He has rebuilt my ruins. Areas of desolation have become like the garden of Eden. And I am acknowledging a large FLOW of the Spirit.

In regards to the ebb, little e, of last week; I found my rhythm again by going back in my journal to get in touch with what He had been doing in my heart before the ebb. 

St. Ignatius called this ebb and flow desolation and consolation. Consolation refers to the times we sense God’s spirit. It is the sense that all is well. Desolation, then, is the loss of a sense of God’s presence (Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms, p. 112). We may feel off center or even rebellious. 

In the last few years, I have been encouraged to notice, simply notice, these ebbs and flows. What gives me life? What drains me? What has brought me back in the flow? What has blocked it? In noticing, I have been able to choose things that put me in the flow and try to avoid the things that block it. Certainly, I cannot always choose the flow, but in noticing I can search like a blind woman feeling her way for what will bring me back to the flow of the Spirit. 

I am grateful for the flow, and I don’t much like the ebb. I wonder how much I would appreciate the flow without the ebb, though. Even in the ebb, I can believe and trust that God is there. I may not feel him or know where He is exactly; but I can trust that He is with me. I trust that because His Love Letter to me tells me that. He will never change. He will never leave me.

As for the ebb in my marriage, we declared a date night. We ate at Whole Foods and went to see Midnight in Paris (****). We remembered what it was like when we were in the flow of relationship. We recently visited Paris. Flow. And seeing the images on screen took us there for a brief while. 

In marriage and in my spiritual journey, I am like an attentive gardner noticing the weeds, the dry patches, the rich soil and the delightful sunlight and cultivating the fruit that comes from walking with the VineDresser.