Month: May 2015

Repair or rebuild

Over time without a lot of regular maintenance bridges will begin to deteriorate. A once strong bridge that could support a lot of weight becomes weak and unstable. At that time a decision has to be made – repair or rebuild the bridge. I think marriage can be the same way. 

When the relationship starts, the bridge is built. There are two people and the bridge that is built is the relationship between them. The relationship starts out strong and each piece of the bridge is carefully put in place. The bridge parts are the moments of connection and trust that the two people share. It is the experiences they have together and the way they do things as a couple. As their commitment to each other grows, the bridge becomes stronger. 

The bridge remains strong for a while. It is important that it does because every day the bridge has to bear the weight of the things that come against the relationship – other people, outside commitments like work, friends, hobbies, money, etc. As long as the bridge, the relationship, stays strong it can continue to connect the two people and hold through any of these stresses put on it. 

Without regular maintenance the bridge will begin to deteriorate and become weak. It can no longer support the weight and stress it used to. This happens when the two people stop putting so much effort into staying connected and caring about each other like they did when they built the relationship in the beginning. Then the pressures and stresses from outside the relationship begin to weigh down too heavy on a relationship that isn’t strong enough to stand against them. 

As the bridge becomes more weak there comes a point where a decision has to be made. The bridge is weak enough that is is unstable and not safe. You can either repair the existing bridge or rebuild a new one to keep the two connected. 

Marriage as a lifelong commitment between two people – for better or for worse – forever and ever times infinity and beyond – has these same two options when the relationship is stressed, worn down, hurt, and damaged. Because the love and relationship is forever, there must always be a bridge connecting the two of you. The two people can either repair what they have or start to build a new, better, stronger bridge/relationship between the two of them, learning from their mistakes from the past to build a stronger bridge this time.

In this type of a lifelong commitment and love for each other it can sometimes be necessary to realize that what you had built before isn’t working anymore and is too worn and hurt. It can be scary to rebuild that bridge between the two of you, to start trying to reconnect again, but sometimes that fresh start at a new relationship with your spouse is needed. Both of you can come to the table with better knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of what failed before and rebuild a new bridge and connection with each other. 

The old way didn’t work between the two of you, but the new way, the new bridge, will be better than the previous one. This is because as we change as people and our circumstances change over time, we have different needs and thoughts. These must be taken into account when repairing or rebuilding your bridge. When the bridge has gone too long without maintenance, rebuilding it may be the best option to ensure those new needs and changes are taken into account when you begin to reconnect. 

Rebuilding doesn’t mean the old bridge and relationship didn’t exist. It doesn’t erase the old way you did things or the hurts or problems from before. Those things are there and they are very real. But rebuilding chooses to use those experiences to start fresh with something new that learns from past mistakes and makes different better decisions from now on. 

Repairing would take the form of addressing all your problems and fixing each one individually – looking at each weak part of the bridge and fixing it. But this rebuilding takes the form of starting from the very beginning – getting to know each other again and connecting with each other. It acknowledges all the wrongs, hurts, and failings of the old bridge, knocks them down, and then uses that knowledge to build a new bridge without those same issues in it. 

Sometimes it is necessary to rebuild your marriage and your connection with your spouse with a fresh start between the two of you.  The rebuilding starts with an attempt at reconnecting with each other like you did when you first met and began building your first bridge. 

The trust fall

The trust fall ….. The dreaded trust fall. See I was never very good at the trust fall. I never trusted anyone to actually catch me. So I would start to fall backward but would quickly take a step back to prevent myself from falling – I didn’t like feeling that vulnerable. 

I had to learn how to do the trust fall in relationships and love. 

Falling in love taught me that it is ok to be vulnerable. It taught me that taking that step, that leap of faith, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable can bring you happiness you never imagined. 

I have only met one person in my life who made me feel that way and who made me feel completely safe in my vulnerability. It’s the most amazing feeling in the world to be vulnerable yet safe. When that feeling is broken, when you have been dropped, it can be incredibly hard to recover from but repairing that trust can bring about the most rewarding results. 

In a relationship it isn’t quite the same as the traditional trust fall because if one person doesn’t catch the other, they both fall. That’s the hard part – being vulnerable together and knowing if you hurt the other you both suffer.

Someone recently asked me how I forgive when that trust has been broken. That’s such a loaded and complicated question and one I could never find a simple answer for. One thing I have learned about forgiveness is that it requires you to be vulnerable again. When we don’t forgive, we close the doors and stay locked up like a vault because we don’t want to be hurt again. While that is such a normal and reasonable reaction, it also prevents us from experiencing the joy and peace of love. 

When you try to not be vulnerable you take that small step backward to prevent yourself from falling, you try to ground yourself and depend on only yourself. What you miss by doing this is the support of the person there to catch you, the support you can only get by letting go and falling into their arms, trusting they will be there to catch you. 

Love requires us to be vulnerable and trust the other person. It is that vulnerability that makes love so special and unique. I have made decisions to forgive and trust people in my life who have hurt me and I have found that doing so and being vulnerable again is amazing and freeing. 

I am so thankful to this day that I had someone in my life who taught me how to feel secure and vulnerable at the same time, because although I was vulnerable, I was on top of the world because we were vulnerable together and in it together. 

Although the trust has been broken before and we have each missed catching the other, rebuilding that trust brought a greater strength to the relationship than before. It required a decision to forgive and trust and be vulnerable and a promise to do better, to be better, and to learn how to catch each other better in the future. 

It sure is terrifying to feel like you are losing that control as you fall back, but it is also worth it. 

There is nothing in the world like being vulnerable as you are falling but falling right into the arms of the one you love and being safe and home again. 

Breathing Love

You can’t give what you don’t have. 

The first step in loving those who don’t love you is to first be filled with love yourself. If you don’t have love in you, you can’t give it to others. It’s impossible. The question is how can you be filled with love when you don’t receive love from that person. The answer is in the word love itself. God is love so we must go straight to God to receive the love we need for this seemingly impossible mission. 

I once heard that receiving God’s love is like breathing. If your lungs are empty, you become weak and cannot live for long. We cannot live or love fully without God’s love. When you inhale it’s like receiving his love. Your lungs fill with his love and you receive life. You are filled, satisfied, and can delight and treasure his love. But you can’t keep your lungs full constantly and you have to exhale and let the air out. This releasing part is what happens when God’s love overtakes you – there is so much that you cannot contain it inside and must share it with those around you. When God fills you with love, he gives you more than you need so that you can then be his love to those around you. 

God desires to fill each one of us with his love, not just to make us feel loved, but to fill us so full of love that we can’t contain that love and want to love others like he does. This is his greatest desire and makes him so happy. 

In every moment he is longing for us to surrender to him and to let him love us. He wants us to open up ourselves to him to receive this love. To do this we have to be willing to completely surrender. He can’t force his love on us, so we can only receive it when we are open to it. When we do let him love us it is life giving and life changing.

This love I have received from God has filled me so fully in ways I never knew were possible. It has opened my eyes and completely changed my thoughts on love. It has given me everything I need and more to love those in my life even when I don’t “feel” like it or when I don’t feel loved by them. In the moments in my marriage where I feel unloved or hurt, God’s love has sustained me, reminded me of my immense worth as a daughter of God, and given me so much love to pour out on my husband. 

In my moments of frustration and hurt when I wonder how I can love someone who I don’t feel like loving or someone who isn’t showing me love, I breathe slowly. Each time I inhale I ask God to fill me with his love. I hold my breath for a second, just thinking about his love for me. Then I exhale and imagine the air I exhale as being the love I want to give and respond with that love that God had placed on my heart. 

Just as God can’t force his love on us, we can’t force others to receive our love, but we can choose to love them anyway. God is the source of love and he fills us with the love we need to love others when we don’t feel loved by them. When we let him fill us we receive love and can then give to others what we have received. 

For me it’s a simple reminder to always breathe love. 

Love your enemies

“Love your enemies,” he said. “Pray for those who persecute you.” This was considered radical at the time Jesus said it. But isn’t it really still radical today?

How often do we really love our enemies? How often do we pray for those who persecute us? Aren’t we much more likely to harbor feelings of hurt and resentment? 

But if you really think about it, this statement is even more radical than it may appear on the surface. For God sent his son Jesus to be our example of how to love. He showed us that loving means choosing the other person and putting them first in a selfless love. He showed us that loving means forgiving as he did on the cross – forgiving even when we don’t feel like it and even when forgiveness isn’t asked for or even deserved. He showed us that loving means sacrificing for the other. After all he made the ultimate sacrifice for us by giving his life. If we are to love in this world, we are to use that as our basis and example. 

Do we love our enemies in this way? Or even close to it?

How much would our world change if we truly lived out just this one statement Jesus made? Wouldn’t it be radical? 

What would happen if we chose to love instead of returning injury? What would happen if we chose to love instead of just ignoring the person? What would happen if we prayed, truly prayed for those who have hurt us?

Isn’t this ultimately what Jesus did on the cross for each and every one of us? We are all sinners and our sin is why he died on the cross. But although that is true, he chose to love each one of us with all he had. 

He isn’t just telling us not to seek revenge on our enemies. He isn’t just telling us to be kind to our enemies. He is telling us to love them with all we have, just the way he loves us. And if we are to love our enemies in this way, how much should we also love those who aren’t our enemies?

One small statement, if lived out, could have an impact on the world greater than we could ever imagine. 

Which people in your life have wronged you that should be loved in this way? 

Can you love those who seem unloveable in your eyes right now? More on that later….

The Rose

The sun is rising as spring begins

Grey, black, and white leave as fragrant colors come in

The rose starts its long journey

with someone on a bended knee

Starting out tiny and small

Seeming to have no chance at all

Pushing its way up through the earth

Giving all that is of worth

Never knowing what each morn will bring

Such a precious little thing

The roots and stem have long been in place

Its leaving wonder and awe in the human race

The rose blooms with petals in sight

And fresh drops of dew shimmering in the light

Slowly the flower opens up dear

Showing all who are near

How perfect true love can be

When you open up your heart to see

Time goes by and its still holding strong

Only God knows for how long

As the winter winds start blowing in

The thorns grow larger with all the sin

The petals of hope slowly die

As each dreary day passes by

There’s one petal that fights letting go

Strongly holding on to protect against the foe

Holding on to remind all of the beauty

That comes from this love between you and me

The winter storms pass through and now seem far

They came, tormented, and left some scars

But just as the bitter storms seemed too much

The warmth of the sun returned to touch

Springtime hope comes with a chance for a fresh start

As each new bud opens like a softening heart

The trials of winter will surely come again

But God’s grace can always heal, strengthen, and mend

I love you forever and ever – times infinity and beyond

“I love you forever and ever – times infinity and beyond.” The words still ring clear in my mind. Just a boy and a girl so in love with no idea what the future would hold. 

None of us really know what the future will hold. We make plans and have great ideas for our futures but too easily forget that God is in control. We too quickly dismiss the fact that God’s plans are rarely our plans. We don’t trust that his plan for us is greater than anything we could ever plan for ourselves. We don’t like that God’s timing is not our timing. We may never understand what has happened in our lives, but God does promise that he will use everything in our lives for His greater glory if we let him. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Everything in our lives has a purpose and every cross we bear is a chance for us to grow closer to God and experience his great love for us. 

Looking back at the naive high school love I shared makes me smile because we allowed ourselves to believe the best. We believed that the good times would come and the bad times wouldn’t be so bad. We had no idea what was in store for us. 

Years later the storms would come. They would shake us and change us in ways we could never have anticipated when we first fell in love in high school. The trials were real and the challenges bigger than we ever imagined. Through the storms there was one thing that held us anchored – God. 

When the times were tough God said,”I am with you.”

When we felt like we were drowning God said, “I will save you.”

When we were lost and didn’t know what to do God said, “I will lead you.”

And when I didn’t know what to do next, God simply said, “dare to be love.”

We all start out so optimistic when starting a new relationship. We think the other person can do no wrong and would never hurt us. We think we are a team – Bonnie and Clyde – and together we are invincible – nothing can touch us, nothing can stop us. This childlike vision for being together is that everything is perfect and always will be. 

Though the good times may be great and many, the bad times will definitely come. Although our journey together hasn’t been as peaceful or easy as we thought when we were kids who had just fallen in love, the trials have given us opportunities to grow into greater people than we ever thought possible. The storms brought us blessings and a future we could never have dreamed of on our own. With God as the anchor we can navigate any storm. 

Those words we said so long ago are the anchor because God is love. We didn’t know it then, but those words mean everything. Those words are God’s call for our lives. Those words, when lived out, give life to us and to those around us. Those words mean that you choose to love through the good and the bad times. 

God calls us to a childlike faith in him – a simple faith that trusts and believes in all things. I think for love to last we need that childlike love. Too often our view of love and our loved ones gets distorted by our adult reasoning and distrust. We need to remember to be like children in love and hope and believe in all things good, even in the midst of the storms. Those words are a simple promise that has extraordinary results. We promise to simply love no matter what. That love will radically change our lives. We need to always remember and live out those words we promised each other when we were just kids: “I love you forever and ever – times infinity and beyond.”

As You Are

There’s an interesting challenge in loving someone where they are for who they are. You can’t expect them to change, yet when they do change you have to learn to love who they have changed into. We all change as we go through life. Every experience we have shapes and molds us in some way. We are affected by our decisions and by the decisions and actions of others. We are affected by everything that goes on around us. As we change and as we grow we sometimes struggle along the way. Sometimes our growth comes in the form of taking a step backward before we can take two steps forward. The same is true for our spouse. The growth that requires failures along the way can be the most difficult to love, but sometimes it is essential.

When I am sitting at the foot of the cross I hear Jesus saying to me, “Come to me as you are. Come with all your faults, all your failings. Come with all your reservations, all your questions, all your concerns. Come with all your strengths. Come to me exactly as you are in this moment.” He constantly reminds me that he loves me exactly where I am. He reminds me that I do not need to be “perfect” in order to come to him or in order to receive his love – he loves me in my imperfection. This is the first challenge of loving someone for who they are. It is accepting that person exactly as they are in the moment. You can never expect your spouse to be perfect.  The idea that we can attain perfection in life is a lie. No one is capable of being perfect. So we must learn to love ourselves, our spouse, our children, and everyone around us for who we are – imperfect people.

You can only ever ask your spouse to be who they are in the moment. You cannot force change in others; you only have the power to change yourself. Instead of looking at the things you do not like in your spouse, take a look at yourself. Maybe there are changes you can make in yourself to better the situation. Maybe some of your frustrations with your spouse would go away if you made a change to respond more graciously and with more patience. Maybe your perspective on one of your spouses’s annoying habits would change if you saw each annoyance as an opportunity to say a quick prayer for your spouse and your marriage. Maybe if you really think about it you would realize that one of the things that bothers you about your spouse is actually the way they react to something you do that bothers them – something you have the power to change in yourself so they wouldn’t have anything to react to. All you can do is love your spouse and pray for God’s love and God’s will to be in them.

The second challenge in loving someone for who they are is in their change and growth. Since we all change and grow, the person your spouse was when you first met was likely different than the person they were when you got married. The person your spouse was when you got married will change and grow over time and throughout your marriage. These changes can be difficult, especially when they are not the changes you imagined would ever happen or when you watch your spouse make a decision that is something you never thought that they would do. Both you are your spouse are constantly changing. This challenge can also bring out the fun in remembering to date your spouse throughout your marriage, because you have the opportunity to continually get to know your spouse for who they are at that point in time. Each time you get to know your spouse and each time that they change is a chance for you to fall in love with them all over again – the new version of them. Each time they grow is a chance to appreciate something new about them.

It’s like sitting on the shore of the ocean, watching the waves come in. Each wave is different and with each wave the ocean changes, but yet it remains the same ocean. Each time the waves hit the shore, they deposit some things on the shore and take others back into the ocean wave’s fold. The ocean both impacts and is impacted by its surroundings. It constantly changes shape as the waves continually roll as well as composition as it gives and takes from the shore. Each person remains the unique and precious individual that God created them to be and while they are on their life’s journey they impact those around them and are impacted by the people and events in their lives. We are ever changing. Unconditional love embraces the changes in yourself and your spouse, encourages growth, and loves in each moment. It seeks to know and understand who your spouse is in each moment and chooses to love that person. It simply says “I love you – as you are.”

Love independent of other’s actions

“But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)

Christ not only freely chose to love, he chose to love fully knowing all the times you would hurt, reject, and deny him in your life. Christ as God knew every time you would sin against him. He knew every time you would feel his love yet run the other way. He knew every time you would hurt him. He knew each and every time you would have bad thoughts. He knew all. Yet, despite knowing how many times you would fail to love him and fail to let him love you, he chose to die on the cross to save you. That love is unconditional. That love is based on the decision to love regardless of how the other person treats you, regardless of what the other person does for you, and regardless of if the other person loves you. That love is completely independent of other’s actions.

For us to love as Christ loves, we must also learn to love our spouse regardless of their actions, because this love is a decision, a choice, it is freely given regardless of what the other person does. So often we hear people talk about leaving a relationship because they deserve to be treated better. While we all have immeasurable worth and deserve to be treated with respect, love, and dignity, God’s unconditional love is not based on how other’s treat us. God’s unconditional love says that we should even love our enemies. This love says that regardless of what the other person has done, regardless of how they have made you feel, you should choose to love them and be there for them. This love says that no matter how rejected, how hurt, or how disappointed you may feel you can still choose to love.

When this love seems impossible, when it feels like there is no way you can choose to love someone because of what they have done, you need to only turn to yourself and have an honest look at yourself and your relationship with Christ. Allow yourself to be humbled by all the times you have failed Christ, all the times you have hurt him, all the times you have rejected or denied him. Allow yourself to see your failures in your relationship with Christ. Then ask Christ to remind you how much he loves you anyway. Allow him to show you how much he loves you and let that love cover you and overtake you. Look to the cross and remember that although at that moment he knew of how you would treat him, he chose to love you with all he had until his dying breath. Ask God to give you that same love for your spouse, to give you all you need to love like that. Then resolve to do the same for others – to strive to love them by chose no matter what they have done. Allow your love to transcend their actions.

Choosing Love over Feelings

“Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, My love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the Lord, who has mercy on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)

As Christ was on the cross, He freely chose to remain there out of love. He understood God’s plan for mercy and redemption in the world and His great part in that plan. He understood that love conquers all and that this love must be freely chosen. He is God and He could have taken himself down from that cross, relieved himself from all suffering at any point. But He didn’t. He instead chose to love through the difficult times. He demonstrated for us that love isn’t always about the great feelings – it is about a conscious decision to love through all feelings, good and bad. He couldn’t have been feeling all that great while he was in so much physical pain from the torture he endured. He couldn’t have been feeling supported or loved from all the people, including some of his own beloved disciples, who abandoned and rejected him. In his final moments he even felt abandoned by his own father. However, although he probably wasn’t feeling very loved or filled with great emotions of love for the world, he still chose to act out of love. He chose love.

Too often we hear about falling in love – this great feeling that we can’t control or help. The problem with this definition of falling in love is that all feelings – good and bad – are temporary. Basing your commitment to your spouse, or anyone else in your life, off of a good feeling will only ever produce frustration and problems because at some point that temporary feeling will give way to other feelings. The good feelings may come frequently, but they will never remain permanent. Unconditional love, the love that never leaves, never gives up, and remains true through all challenges must be based on something other than feelings. It must be a conscious decision made continually at all times. It must be a decision to commit to the person you love at each and every moment in your day for all your days, even when the good feelings aren’t there. Love that is based in a conscious decision can withstand the trials that it encounters because it actively chooses to love no matter how difficult life may be.

This love means waking up each morning and determining to love your spouse the best you can in every moment of the day. It means looking for ways you can show that love throughout each and every day. It means that in both the good and bad times, you internally renew your commitment to your spouse. It means that especially in the difficult moments, you actively choose to love your spouse regardless of what your emotions may be telling you. As a spouse this means loving no matter what -loving no matter if you receive love back, loving when you are tired and worn down, and loving when you are rejected, denied, hurt, scared, or frustrated. It means that you love and forgive and never look back. It is choosing love over emotions, and when you choose to love through the difficult times when the feelings may not be there, it allows those amazing feelings of love to return and replace the current frustrations and hurt. Choosing to love is choosing to commit to your spouse no matter what you feel. It is deciding to be like Christ on the cross and commit to loving through the difficult times when the emotions may not be running high. This unconditional love begins with a conscious thought to love regardless of feelings and from that decision and commitment to love come loving actions and loving feelings.