Twenty Lessons Learned in Twenty Years of Marriage

Insatiable Compassion

Recently, I finished reading “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky with my high school “Great Books” class in our homeschool co-op. One of the characters, Sonia, is described as having “insatiable compassion”. Later in the book, when she discovers that the main character is a murderer, her response is surprising. When Raskolnikov says to her, “How strange you are, Sonia. Embracing me and kissing me after I’ve told you about that. You don’t know what you’re doing.” To which she replies, “No, no, there is nobody, there is nobody anywhere in the world now unhappier than you!”

Insatiable compassion.

My class was incredulous with her response. Who responds to a confession of murder like that?!

My response was that God does. That’s exactly how he responds. His love and compassion towards sinners (that’s all of us!) is insatiable.

It’s incredible really. That He would look on us with all of our sin, our failings, and our inadequacies and move towards us instead of running away. How can He do that? It’s because He looks at us with eyes of grace, seeing what He can do to change us and make us right with Him. There is no sin he can’t forgive, no hurt he can’t heal, no brokenness he can’t fix.

I was reading all of these things and having all of these thoughts at the same time that our country was embroiled in the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and the accusations that were made against him by Dr. Ford. As I watched and read and considered all of the varying opinions among politicians, friends of the individuals involved, and social media discussions arguments, I was struck by how different responses would be if everyone had insatiable compassion.

Insatiable compassion would mean that if a young woman is attacked in any way (whether it results in rape or not!), she would have trusted adults in her life that she could run to. She would know that they would open their arms wide to her, they would believe her, and they would not condemn.

Insatiable compassion would mean that if a young man acted inappropriately, he could admit his guilt and seek restoration. He would know that his actions would not be tolerated, but grace and forgiveness were his for the taking if he was willing to do the hard work of repentance.

But that’s not the world we live in. I was shocked that so many were shocked that Dr. Ford didn’t tell anyone outside of therapy for three decades about what she had endured. When I was seven-years-old, I was at a neighbor’s house. My friend’s dad was watching television and as we walked through the living room on our way outside, I glanced at the TV. All I remember is that a woman was getting into the shower and when she turned on the water, blood came out instead. I had nightmares for ten years afterwards. I never told my parents, because I knew they would not have approved of their daughter seeing what she did. In my little girl mind, I thought they would be upset with me. As an adult, I realize that I should have told them, because it’s the concealing of trauma that actually keeps healing and recovery from happening. My situation in comparison to what so many women have had to endure is so inconsequential, yet it helps me to have compassion. If I felt that I couldn’t tell anyone, then I get why young girls feel incapable of telling their story.

What would change if we all KNEW that we would be heard and not judged if we shared our stories? I have two daughters and two sons and we talk with them frequently about the unconditional nature of our love for them. We don’t want them bearing burdens on their own for fear of losing our love or our trust. I’ve shared my nightmare story with them, because if I saw something I wasn’t supposed to see in a world where I was sheltered and protected by my parents, I do not want to be naive and think that my children will never see something I wish they wouldn’t or encounter a situation that will leave them feeling powerless.

I was equally shocked that so many were shocked that a teenage boy would get drunk at a party and try to have sex with a girl. My thirteen-year-old son has heard “locker room talk” and he has been homeschooled for two years and most of his interactions are with kids who are either Christians or have strong moral backgrounds. It’s a cultural expectation that boys will be boys and while I abhor this expectation, I don’t understand how we expect any different when this behavior is celebrated- until it isn’t. Underage drinking is encouraged by many and tolerated by most. Girls are encouraged to dress in certain ways to get the attention of boys. Do girls deserve to be taken advantage of boys? Absolutely not! But are there societal changes that could occur to make these stories rare rather than common? Absolutely!

What would change if no drinking under a certain age was enforced by parents and compassionate adults? If boys were taught to value girls and treat them as the priceless treasures they are, could they ever force a girl to do something that she doesn’t want to do? My children are imperfect sinners, so we have plenty of opportunity to practice valuing others and it makes me wonder what would change in our society if we all practiced this. If we would all have to come up with three kind things to say to someone if we were mean to them. Or we had to do something nice for someone if we acted in a way that was hurtful.

A lot of opinions get thrown around when political issues arise and it always baffles me when I see Christians speak in hateful ways about individuals or groups of people that they disagree with. It’s almost like we feel we have a pass when we’re discussing these issues. I don’t understand it. We are to be imitators of Christ, which means we need to seek to respond to situations the way He would

With insatiable compassion.

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

“Praise the Lord, my soul; who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:1,4,10-12

“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:1-4

What would change if we actually lived this way? What if we followed Christ’s example and sought to be like-minded in ALL of our interactions? What if we based our compassion on God’s standard and not our own? What if we treated others not as we feel they deserved, but as Christ sees them?

As I drove home tonight from dropping my oldest two off at youth group, I heard the Tauren Well’s song, “Known“. There is a line in the song that says, “I’m fully known and loved by you.” This is the love God has for each one of us. He knows us completely, yet loves us unrelentingly.

He knows what happened at that party all those years ago. Both Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford are fully known by God. There is nothing hidden from Him. But his response is not to run away from them. It is to love them.

Insatiable compassion.



All scripture references are from the New International Version,

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Signet Classic, 1968. Print.


Summer Adieu

I’m grasping, reaching just a little further, trying to grab on tight, but it slips through my fingers.

Summer is elusive and I confess that it has gone too quickly. I want more.

More fireflies.

More naps in the hammock.

More sounds of splashing in the pool.

More chalk drawings, swinging in trees, campfires, and trips to the beach.

At the same time, I see it just ahead of me. The promises of Autumn.

The changing colors above my head.

The crispness in the air.

The structure of school time.

The sweaters, the boots, the pumpkin everything, and football.

Change is inevitable and this year I am welcoming it more than ever. I love my past and I am fully embracing my present, but I long for the future. I don’t want to stay where I am. Amidst the delights of summer, there has been a dark cloud of unfinished and unknown and unexpected (but not the good kind!). I need something to follow the question marks. I need resolution to the uncertainties. I crave consistency and connection and completion.

And so, we say goodbye to summer. To this new season, we invite you in with joyful hearts. The notebooks and colored pencils, the compass and protractor, the index cards and folders, the textbooks and backpacks- they are all ready to go. We step gingerly into this new year with titles like “sophomore” and “kindergartener” and enter the last year of middle school and the year to decide what instrument to play. We will take on new roles as teachers to high schoolers and figure out how to teach our youngest to read. We’ll move into newly renovated spaces and be able to look out of real windows.

It’s a big year. Momentous. Epic.

I feel a bit like Elastigirl- holding onto Summer while reaching out for Autumn. It’s why I feel stretched thin. And so I relinquish my hold on what was and turn my eyes to what is and what will be.

Things I’ve Learned This Summer~

One of my favorite bloggers/writers/podcasters is Emily P. Freeman. Every quarter, she hosts a “things I’ve learned” writing prompt and while I probably won’t link to it (it has been way too long since I joined in with blogging linkups and I’m not sure I want to jump back in!), I’m feeling the desire to share some of the things I’ve learned in this tough season. So here goes!

  1. Taking a vacation before Summer officially started was one of the best decisions we made. We knew that my husband would be busy with church renovations during this time, so taking time away before it all began was wonderful. There were many amazingly beautiful experiences in the Outer Banks, but one of my favorites was flying kites. It was glorious and magical, one of those never-to-be-forgotten days.  Lesson learned: When presented with the opportunity to go anywhere, take it and make the most of it!
  2. Friendships can be difficult and challenging, but they are worth fighting for. Lesson learned: Be willing to work through difficulties and be grateful for the friendships without pretense.
  3. Working through a book of the Bible over the Summer is one of my favorite things to do. I started working through Jeremiah at the beginning of Summer and made it through Daniel and Ecclesiastes as well. It has been a life giving experience and I have learned a great deal from this focused time. Lesson learned: The more you read the Bible, the more you WANT to read. 
  4. My oldest worked for a week at a local camp and then went back for another week as a camper. When we dropped her off for her week on service crew, I realized that I was not prepared to have zero contact with my teenager for an entire week. She didn’t know anyone at the camp and as a result, I found myself struggling a bit with worry. It made me realize that I have some heart work to do as I prepare to launch my kids into their futures. While I still have some time (three years for my oldest and thirteen years for my youngest!!!), this experience made me realize that I need to prepare myself for what God might want to do in their lives. They have a bit of wanderlust in them (especially my oldest!) and so I need to relinquish my worries and grow deeper in my trust of God’s perfect plan for each of my littles. Lesson learned: Love your kids so well that they are confident in stepping out into the places God has for them.
  5. On my 40th birthday, I was given a gift certificate for a hot air balloon ride with the love of my life. For three and a half years, we have been trying to schedule our ride, but every time we have tried, it has been cancelled. I was hopeful this year. The day started out beautifully, but when I called later in the day, it was cancelled AGAIN! I was so disappointed. We had scheduled the ride to be a part of our 20th wedding anniversary celebration. But earlier in the week, I had decided to work on setting up a fire pit area in our backyard as a gift for my husband. Turns out that we were able to use it that night after enjoying a lovely meal together. Lesson learned: Life is full of disappointments, but working hard at creating special opportunities is always worth it.

It has been a full time in our lives, one fraught with difficulty, but also some significant moments that will not be forgotten (losing the last first tooth, conquering a fear, given access to a neighbor’s pool, being honored for Godly behavior, first time singing on the praise team, going on a zipline, learning how to dive, giving up naps AND sucking a thumb, making new memories with old friends and meeting new friends who we get to support as they prepare to go on the mission field).

So, adieu, Summer! You have been good, but it’s time to make some space for a new season. Until next year…

All My Ducks in a Row

The choreography was exquisite,

the music sublime,

the costumes impeccably matched to the performance.

All that remained was for the participants to learn their parts.

At first, they did—

with wonder and awe they stepped onto the stage,

they wobbled and toppled,

and got up and tried again.

They stretched beautifully here

and leaped elegantly there,

moving effortlessly with the expectations,

hitting all of the right notes in the right timing.

But soon there was a shift;

this one started to lean heavily in the direction of improvisation,

that one wanted more hip-hop and dub step;

when he would move in one direction

she would move in the other.

It wasn’t long before the choreography was forgotten,

the steps that had been meticulously prepared

by the one who thought she knew the way it should be.

Except she didn’t.

What began to unfold was beyond her imaginings.

She soon realized her plan had been too small,

her expectations limited,

her thoughts flawed.

Her choreography had been planned before she met the dancers,

and she soon discovered

that was not her job after all.

Instead her role was to introduce her troupe

to the master Choreographer, the grand Composer, the supreme Costume Designer.

When she relinquished control,

she saw clearly for the first time.

Her vantage point was not meant to be from behind the curtain;

now it was from the best seat in the house.

For a long time now, I have referred to my children as my little ducks, reminding them when we are out and about to follow close behind me. But the older they get, the more obvious it becomes that I do not have my “ducks” in a row, nor do I want them to be. They are each unique, designed by their Creator to fulfill their own destinies. When I remember to get out of the way of His work in their lives, I stand back in amazement. His plan is always better! Always.

As their Mom, I’m so grateful for the “best seat in the house” tickets that I hold! I can’t wait to watch the glorious unfolding of God’s plan in their lives!


Twenty Lessons Learned in Twenty Years of Marriage

One of my favorite parts of being married to a pastor is the opportunity to do pre-marital counseling for young couples preparing to spend the rest of their lives together. I love it, because it gives my husband and I the chance to share how God has been faithful in our marriage and it forces us to evaluate our own relationship and look for any areas that we might need to work on.

Today we are celebrating twenty years of marriage and while it seems like these years have passed in a flash, I am aware that this is a significant accomplishment in a society that is rampant with divorce and broken relationships.

What makes a marriage last? And an even better question—what makes a marriage great? Here are some lessons my husband and I have learned along the way that has allowed us to fall more in love with each other through the years.

1. Marry your best friend. Before Dave and I started dating, we spent hours talking and getting to know each other. By the time he told me he liked me and wanted to pursue a relationship, we already knew all that we needed to know about each other to have a relationship that would last. We knew that we genuinely enjoyed being together. Our conversations were stimulating, so we anticipated the next time we could talk together. We weren’t trying to impress each other, because we understood that we needed to be real with one another if we wanted a relationship that would last. He had become my favorite person, so when I walked down the aisle, I knew I wanted to be by his side for the rest of our lives.

2. Hold expectations loosely. Unfair or unmet expectations in a relationship can be the biggest source of angst and frustration. If you expect your husband to bring you flowers, but that is not his thing, you will be frequently disappointed. But when you let go of expecting your husband to be _________________ (fill in the blank), you are able to see how he does show love and you learn to appreciate those gestures even more than the flowers or gifts.

This has been a big one for me and honestly still one that I struggle with on occasion. But I have learned to communicate clearly if something is important to me (he can’t see my thoughts after all!) and I have also learned to be grateful for the myriad of ways he shows love to me and to our family.

3. Get used to disappointment. Coupled with holding expectations loosely is understanding that life is full of disappointments. Life is not ours to control which means it will probably rain when you want sunshine and someone will get sick at the most inconvenient time. If you expect life to work perfectly, than you will constantly be flirting with discontent and dissatisfaction. Both of these feelings can lead to broken relationships if they are not dealt with.

When you are willing to go with the flow when disappointment creeps in, you will find beauty and joy even in the worst situations and as a result, you will be drawn closer together in your relationship rather than being torn apart.

4. Have separate interests. Couples often make the mistake of thinking that in order to have a great relationship, they need to enjoy everything that their spouse enjoys. The opposite is true. It’s in pursuing personal interests that shared interests are even more enjoyable. We are all unique individuals. God has designed us that way for a purpose. When we are living out our own purposes, we are able to appreciate and celebrate our spouses interests as well.

5. Celebrate your spouse’s interests. There are many interests that my husband has that I do not understand. He enjoys computer coding and has learned different computer languages. He gets excited when he can rewire a circuit (okay, I concede. I cannot even speak intelligently about the things he is passionate about!). But what I love is that he gets excited about these things and while I don’t understand most of what he shares about these particular passions, I am always drawn to the passion in his voice and the excitement in his eyes and as a result, I want to encourage those passions! He loves that I encourage him to pursue his interests AND he loves that I have interests of my own (even though he doesn’t always understand my interests either!), because we are both growing in knowledge and in passion. We are not waiting for the other person to fulfill the need we all have for purposeful living.

6. Marriage is not dependent, but interdependent. This is a big one. Contrary to a popular opinion, love is not meant to complete you. When Dave and I got married, I had learned already that I needed to hold him with open hands. He has a lung condition that while it is not life threatening, it has taught us that life is but a breath and it is not ours to control. So while we are dependent on each other to a point, it is not the dependence of our identity, our security or our wholeness. Those things can only be found in Christ. What we have found is that when we allow Christ to be our refuge and strength, we are able to depend on one another in a healthy way.

7. Allow difficulties to bring you closer together. Dave and I have faced several hard and even devastating life events through the years, but each one has pulled us closer together. I believe the reason for this is that we have never judged one another for the way we have dealt with grief or loss, but we have also been able to challenge each other to walk through difficulty and not become a victim of grief.

8. Dream together. While both partners are unique individuals, it is crucial to have shared purposes and dreams. We call our list “Dayedreams” and on that list are separate and joint dreams we have for our lives. It’s part of being best friends. Having places that you want to visit together or experiences that you want to share keeps a relationship exciting.

9. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. This is the antidote to disappointment or hardship. Make the most of every situation. When we found out I lost our first baby, our almost immediate response was to plan a trip to Hawaii. Early on in my pregnancy friends had invited us to join them while they vacationed on the Big Island, but we had to say no because I would have been seven months pregnant. That remains one of the best decisions we have ever made and I am so grateful for a husband who is willing to “make lemonade” with me.

10. Fight well. The more different you are as individuals, the more you will have potential for arguments. Rather than trying hard not to fight, it’s important to figure out how to disagree with the purpose of resolution. If you allow disagreements to simmer in an attempt to keep the peace, you will eventually blow. It’s better to express frustrations and work through them together.

The difficulty and challenge here is that this requires humility and submission. It requires an ability to admit wrong. And it requires a commitment on both sides to fight for unity and love in the relationship. This is tough, because you can’t make the other person demonstrate all of these qualities—you can’t even demonstrate them yourself without God working through you! But this should be the goal of every married couple, to fight well by pursuing unity and love.

11. Love God with all of your heart. If I were sharing lessons learned by order of importance, this one would be number one. Love for one another can only be as strong and deep as our love for God. The more we love Him, the better we are able to love others. So in order to love my husband well, I must pursue knowledge of God and to allow Him to transform me.

One of the greatest gifts my husband gives me is unconditional love. He knows my faults, my failures, and my sins more intimately than anyone else (except maybe my children who are privy to my failings on a daily basis!), yet he loves me. It’s pretty incredible really. But I am able to recognize the significance of that love because I have learned of the unfailing love that Christ has for me that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. (Romans 5:8) And I desire to love Dave with that same love. Unconditional. Unfailing. Always and forever.

12. When you are both pursuing Christ, you will be drawn closer together. It’s inevitable and it is sweet. Marry someone who wants to know Jesus. It is the best gift to give to one another. I have been dwelling on this verse all year, since “light” is my one word for the year- “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 (ESV) I can speak for the veracity of this verse, because I have seen the evidence of this in my marriage. As Dave and I have both pursued a relationship with Christ separately, we have been drawn into deeper fellowship with one another. We have also learned that we don’t have to be afraid of confessing our sins to each other. When there is the assurance of forgiveness and change on the other side of that confession, there is no fear.

13. Have fun together. Life is tough and it is good to take it seriously and to live with mutual intention. But because it is tough, it is equally important to be deliberate about having fun together. For us, this looks like picking TV shows that we watch together. Or cooking a meal together. Or playing Dutch Blitz with friends. Or going out for coffee. Or discussing a great book. Find the ways that you have fun together and make them a priority.

14. Don’t compare your relationship with any other couple. This is a danger zone for so many of us and it has the potential to ruin relationships. Every single couple has challenges that they face, but often you only see the great parts of relationships. Don’t compare your reality with someone else’s highlight reel. Every marriage will look different because it is made up of unique individuals. It’s not supposed to look like anyone else! The grass is NOT greener on the other side.

15. Understand that marriages go through seasons. Job changes, new babies, issues with kids, elderly parents and loss of loved ones can have huge effects on a marriage. Knowing that these things might cause distance in your relationship is important, because then you can figure out ways to reconnect without becoming bitter against the other person. Maybe they didn’t respond the way you expected them to or they weren’t there for you in the way you needed them to be. Don’t make the mistake of holding this against them. Instead, allow it to drive you to deeper discussions on what you need from one another.

16. You’re marrying a sinner. Dave will often say this at weddings he officiates and people laugh, but it’s such an important lesson to understand! You are not marrying a perfect person (neither are they!). You are both going to mess up, but when you know this, you can offer forgiveness and grace. You shouldn’t be surprised when the other person messes up, but by being a safe place where your spouse can confess sin, you can be part of the redemption process that God is working in each one of us. And rather than that sin driving a wedge between you, it can draw you closer together.

17. Figure out how your spouse gives and receives love. If you haven’t read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, I would highly recommend it. If you don’t know how your spouse receives love,  you might think that you are doing everything possible to show love and then be frustrated that they’re not getting it. And all the while, you’re missing the thing that actually makes them feel loved. When we were first married, I thought that gifts were my primary love language, but over time, I have realized that I long for quality time and words of affirmation. Gifts are special and appreciated, but are not as important to me (I think part of that goes back to the “holding expectations loosely” lesson!). For Dave, he appreciates acts of service. Knowing this can save you lots of frustration. If you desire to love well and to be loved well, you need to understand the best way to do this for your spouse.

18. Sometimes you need to let the sun go down on your wrath. Ephesians 4:26 commands us not to let the sun go down on our anger and I do not want to disagree with scripture, so stick with me. When you are angry with someone, you are not supposed to sin in your anger against them (also in this verse). If you are allowing your anger to cause your thoughts to turn into bitterness against them or if your anger is causing you to gossip about your spouse, then you are sinning against them, so the point of this verse is to make sure you are not allowing sin to grow in your heart. In other words, don’t allow too much time to pass before you make it right.

But there are times in marriage when you think you are angry at your spouse, but really you are just exhausted and need to sleep. We learned this early in our marriage. We had an argument over something that we have both forgotten what the actual issue was and Dave had learned that I needed space in those times, so even though he prefers to talk about things right away, he gave me time away. He waited and waited and finally came to our room to check on me and I had fallen asleep! We were able to laugh about it and discovered that we no longer had anything to argue about. There are legitimate times when arguments need to be discussed, but there are other times when it really is just something you need to personally get right with the Lord. Learn to know the difference!

Dave has also learned in our marriage to remind me not to make rash decisions or to make major decisions when I am emotional. There are times when I need to wait on making decisions until I can think about them rationally and I am so grateful for a husband who is able to recognize this in me and challenge me when he sees my emotions getting the best of me. Sometimes you just need to sleep on those emotions and see how you feel in the morning!

19. Be intentional about making time for each other. Some couples do this by setting aside a weekly date night. I think this is a wonderful thing, but it hasn’t worked well for us. Dave and I are both spontaneous people, so we struggle with planning ahead. What has worked for us is to have lots of things we enjoy doing together and then do one of those every single day. Intentional time doesn’t have to be grand or expensive. It can be watching a show together or talking while you do meal preparation. Find simple, daily ways to connect with each other if you are the spontaneous sort. And if you are more of a planner, plan those date nights and make sure you follow through.

It’s a sweet thing to get to our 20th anniversary and have so many special memories and inside jokes that only we understand. Our son told us about playing a game on a playground with friends and as he talked, we were reminded about the first time we noticed each other as twenty-year-olds. We were playing on a playground with friends and discovered that we were both playful and competitive in a fun way. I was able to tell my son that that was when I started falling in love with his Daddy. He couldn’t believe that we played on a playground at the age of twenty, but I hope he will be able to have those kinds of stories to pass on to his kids too!

20. Never stop working on loving well. Romans 12:10 says that we are to outdo one another in showing honor. I love this challenge. When both spouses are seeking to outdo each other, not in a competitive way, but genuinely seeking the best for the other person, there will be an intimacy and a joy in marriage. We should never stop growing in our love for each other.

To my dear husband,

Thank you for loving me so well and for consistently pointing me to Jesus. Our life together has been truly joyous—even our difficulties have served to change us and draw us closer to each other and I am so grateful for this. I can’t imagine going through life with anyone other than you and I am so incredibly blessed that God brought you into my life. Thank you for pursuing your own passions and for supporting me in mine. Thank you for all of the adventures we have gone on together and for the quiet moments sitting by a campfire that have been equally wonderful. You are a treasure to me and I am so glad that I get to call you mine.

Happy 20th anniversary! Here’s to the next twenty and beyond.

All my love,