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Love In the Weeds – Finding Hope in the Seasons of Marriage

We were there to photograph my daughter and her friend, wanting to bless the friend with lovely images of herself. We wanted to capture a budding friendship, and create images for each girl to shine a light on her inner (and outer) beauty, and we brought our family so we could enjoy a sunflower field at the same time. It was unseasonably warm, and ever-the-over-planner-optimist, I’d hoped to capture some family images and a new headshot all on the same day.  But sweating while I carried gear (with plenty of help), and lacking artistic focus except for in the favor of the girls, I was giving up hope of the second goal I had.  Busy appreciating their youthful beauty, I self-criticized.  I didn’t feel pretty, and being in front of the camera did NOT sound fun.  I’m not gonna lie: I was having one of those self-centered, pouty moments, when hope in marriage seems fragile and elusive.

 

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“Go stand over there, mama,” my girl said. She instructed her dad to join me.  May I add that sweating profusely while standing among fields of sunflowers (mixed, surely, with the inevitable weeds) does NOT make me feel romantic, either?

 

She wouldn’t budge, though.  She took a moment and knotted my hair into some bohemian on-the-fly up-do, and she touched up my lipstick.  She used her shirt sleeve to dab the “glisten” on my nose.  And then she told me to snuggle with her dad.

 

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For just a few minutes, I forgot that I was hot and bothered, feeling chubby and disheveled, and let myself relax into my husband’s arms.  I let myself feel the way I’ve always wanted my photography clients to feel: free from the “weeds” of the everyday, and in love with the guy who won my heart all those years ago.  I felt like “his girl,” and I felt pretty in his eyes.

 

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For just a few minutes, while our youngest kiddos and my daughter’s teenage friend tried to ignore our “mush,” I melted into the moment, and I let our daughter remind me of one of the things in this life that really matters: the commitment of two people to “make it work” over decades, despite our individual and mutual brokenness, for a bigger purpose than ourselves.

 

By pushing me to get outside myself, my daughter reminded me that the fragile gift of hope in marriage is worth nurturing.  It sets an example for the generation to come.

 

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We’re in a season of transition as a family. My oldest two are exploring their next steps in growing and pursuing their calling. They’re primarily living in other states, thankfully close together and pursuing relationship with each other. I’ve never been the mom who couldn’t wait for them all to leave, and I’d be lying if I said their leaving didn’t leave a hole in my heart and in our home and rhythm as a family.  (Ask me sometime about the big, wretched ugly-cry that shocked me when my second headed off to hike the Appalachian Trail).  But something really cool has happened along the way.

 

I’ve been “surprised by joy,” as C.S. Lewis would say, in the changing rhythms of our family.

 

There’s a new type of interaction happening, between us as parents and our children, and between our kids, themselves. It wouldn’t be hard, though, for me to fall into a type of mourning, a grey-state, that shadowed the sunlight of what’s happening in our home. The ones still living and studying daily with us, their parents with a new type of attention to give, are both grieving with us at the parting of their siblings, and reveling in the sweetness of our ever-changing daily life.  Stopping to melt into that is a gift, for me and for them.

 

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Heaven knows, life is full of fields of weeds.  From our inner mess to the mess in our world, it would be so easy to lose ourselves in a cloud of resigned survival.  But I’m so thankful that my Papa uses my family to make me stop and melt into the moment.  I’m praying that with or without a sunflower field, I will remember to seek the heart of my husband with tenderness and grace, to find the romance in the everyday.

 

How do you stop and melt into the moments, finding hope in marriage and love in the weeds?

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He’s Not Perfect | Thoughts on a Christian Marriage

In the beginning, I had pretty sure thoughts on what a Christian marriage should look like. He would be strong and kind. Tall and handsome. (That part wasn’t necessary but surely, it’s what God wanted for me.) He would lead me daily in prayer time, and we’d hold hands and sip coffee and study God’s word together.  He would be a youth pastor, most likely, and I’d lead drama and music in our church, and together we’d have lots of babies and raise them to love Jesus.  And all the while, he’d be a man who was “wild at heart,” and pursue me diligently, and romance me regularly.  He’d gently lead me beside the still waters of fairy-tale-love and when needed, be outspoken with me and others about truth and justice.  He’d take care of all my physical needs and make me laugh and melt simultaneously.

 

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The real-life story just didn’t look exactly like the fairy-tale.  His style of “leadership” didn’t match the pictures in my imaginary world.  He sometimes got frustrated with me when I said too much or not enough or his words had been held inside too long and our combined sin had caused rottenness somewhere or other.  He romanced me sometimes, and he made me laugh often, but there were days and months and even years where laughter was scarce and neither of us felt particularly “smitten.”  Babies came and prayer happened and in between the beauty there was messy.  But one thing did happen – he stayed.

 

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It’s interesting how the Artist paints a better work of art than we can imagine.  How the colors he swoops across the canvas of our lives glows with golden light that is more pronounced because of the depth of the shadows.  Twenty-one years in, I’m still learning to wait on my one who is more contemplative.  To be brave and reach out when instead, I want him to first reach in.  Sometimes he does.  But sometimes, he needs me to be the helpmeet I was created to be, and to forget the romantic notions that aren’t really romance, but self-focus, and melt into the real that IS romance.  To stop dreaming of what others tell me love is, and to listen to what my Papa says it is… because He says it in the real moments.  He says it loud and clear by being my true fulfillment when a person isn’t enough.  By bringing me joy through the created, but ultimately BEING my joy in Himself.  And often, he shows me what love is, through the man who has stayed.

 

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Some mornings, we make each other tea.  Others, we roll grudgingly out of bed because one or the other of us stayed up too late. Some days, we flirt and send married-people-messages and kiss in the kitchen.  Others, we forget to have a real conversation and let the moments fly by unheralded.  Sometimes, we look like the perfect Christian couple in the perfect Christian marriage.  Others (well, most), we look like two broken people, in desperate need of ongoing grace, thankful for certain redemption, learning day and year how to love… really love.  Mostly, though, I think we are a reflection of our Papa in one tiny way every moment we choose to stay.

 

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Are you married?  Contentedly single or longing for more, whatever state you’re in?  How has God used longing, or faithfulness, to teach you more of Himself?

Save

Save

hope.

“find a new wife, then!!” i shouted.  it hurts to type the words.  it’s embarassing, and besides, it brings up that gut-sinking feeling all-too-quickly.  the one that comes from feeling betrayed.  from feeling unloved.

 

we joked during our courtship, after we knew we were going to marry each other.  “till death do us part, even if i have to kill you!”  we’d both been through broken marriages as kids, the victims of a parental choice to part ways.  one of us lived through being used as a weapon against one parent by another.  we knew we never wanted to live through that desolation, and we certainly didn’t want our some-day-kids to live through it.  yet here we stood, fists clenched, each feeling desperate and angry and defensive, and the scars on our own hearts threatened to infest the hearts of our precious children, not far outside the door of the room in which we waged our verbal war.

 

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truth be told, in my marriage, i’m more the talker.  over the years, he’s let me rant until he can’t take it another second and then let fly with his own darts, sharp and well-aimed.  i’m quick on my feet and come out fighting, but somewhere along the way i’ll duck and run, defeated by my own quick burst of energy and fearful of being deserted, backtracking to avoid an unwanted conclusion and receiving instead a sense of desperate alone-ness; of hunger for resolution.  on a good day, my knight would pursue me into the forest of my own confusion and work out the truth and reconciliation despite my kicking and screaming.  on a bad day, he’d throw up his hands and let me go, and days of silence and loneliness would follow.

 

i hear that same sense of isolated resignation in the voice of a woman i love as she flatly states her sense of survival has kicked in, her tone devoid of even a sigh.  she’s hardened her heart and she’s working on locking it up even tighter, convinced there’s no hope and she will never feel loved and valued.  and the truth is, without intervention, there is no hope.  no matter how i try, and no matter how much she longs, for something better,  there are always people involved.  they will fail.  i will fail… you will fail.  inevitably, your self-preservation or your past voices will kick in and you’ll punch and flail and demand what you deserve or the one you love will.

 

but hear this:

 

there is One who loves you more than life.  He made you, and He wants to romance you, heart and soul, and somehow in some mixed-up crazy way, He will use the very brokenness that has shattered you to mold you stronger and more beautiful than you can imagine.  He is the God of Hope.  He is father, son, and spirit, and He will waltz in and snag your dreams and enlarge them and somehow, as you let go, He gives you way more than you ever longed for, more than you imagined possible, more than you’ve demanded, time and again.

 

can you hear Him?  He’s whispering your name.

 

i’m speaking bold, friend.  i’m speaking to me, too.  much love and many hugs…

 

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