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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?

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undaunted, part 2 {thoughts on living fearlessly}

dear friend, have you ever looked at the things wrong in your life and blamed them on your spouse or your kids? on the people you work with or work for or live near?  so often, i have found myself blaming my perceived and real failures on those i live with and love.  i have fought them as my enemy on what i believed to be my path toward success.  i did not know then that this journey was the next step in my soul’s dare for living fearlessly.

 

(this post is part 2 of a series called undaunted.  here is part 1, if you’d like to begin there.)

it’s not new: even in the garden, eve blamed adam for her sin, and he hurled the blame right back at her.  a professor-turned-dear-friend in college called the human syndrome “hide and hurl.”

i have a friend who reminds me often that if I fight for me, God may not.  in my park-bench, life-changing conversation with my husband one day, i mercifully began to lay down my stones and let my heavenly Father fight my battle.  i believed i was discovering that my husband, in his servant’s heart, had unwittingly strayed from his first calling in work and ministry, in order to help me.  i  believed it so strongly that in that conversation i told him if I never took another photo (our full time career at the time), it was a sacrifice i’d make to see him know confidence in his calling and find great joy in his work.  later that day i set a daily alarm that still sounds each morning, reminding me to pray for him in that way.

although we made a decision together to begin to seek God’s heart for a possible change in his work, answers didn’t come right away.  in fact, it was a looooong time before changes started to happen.

this is where my second life-lesson came in: God may intend to use suffering for our good and His glory.

our move to seek work for my husband outside our photography business was slow going.  at first, we thought we were being called to work alongside a family we knew at a Christian camp much nearer to where my parents lived.  during this time I wrote:

a (our daughter) is excited about a move (one minute), then sad about leaving heart friends.  her brother has been sharing advice with her about coming to peace with God’s leading for our family and for her best, about how she doesn’t need to worry about friendships, that God will work those out. that she will minister to the girls God puts in her life, as they will to her.” (7/7/13)

and a few days later:

“it seems so long we’ve been stuck wandering, this crew of mine, and i feel often the wandering-est. the most lost. i’ve asked friends i trust for wisdom and one suggested, perhaps we’re less in the desert, more in the wilderness.”

and after a deep heart-talk with a devoted and wise friend:

“the desert, she mused, is a place of discipline – the result of broken choices and the place for learning from mistakes. it’s a lonely, hungry, aching place. the wilderness, though, is the place where there is provision (think: the isrealites and the manna…), there is hope for the future, and there is learning; there is fruit from the wandering in the wilderness. if we do not give up hope.” (7/9/14)

 

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during this time I started turning down photography jobs in order to find balance and clear the way for what God was going to do. as finances at times became very tight, tension between us rose.  in an effort to heal our marriage and build healthy patterns, and to be prepared for change, we didn’t make any commitments at our church.  the firstborn, people-pleaser in me ached to let people know i was still a “good Christian.”  so often my fear of others’ opinions rose to choke me and drove me to be ever more hard working and impatient with my precious children and husband.  as things went outside my “plan,” i noticed my tendency to seek validation made me feel desperately lonely because I didn’t have a “visible” role in the body. I wrote:

” what you don’t think about is that the waiting hurts. in the waiting, you realize you’re broken. impatient. fear-driven.
in the waiting, you see your tendencies to self-preservation at the cost of mercy and grace-giving.” (12/10/13)

during this same time, the opportunity for the ministry job feel through – rather suddenly.  our house was on the market, and God seemed to provide work in our field, so I took on just what i felt I could handle, praying hard for the right doors to open and close as I went along.

(a huge life lesson here that learned painfully, is the importance of seeking wisdom from God’s word first, then our husbands, if we are married women, before asking a trusted and godly friend.  i caused myself confusion and got myself into messes when i committed based solely on opinions of others.)
I was challenged during this time to still invest genuinely in relationships even while feeling we would soon be uprooted, and to fight the tendency to withdraw, either because I thought we’d “desert” those connections, or because I was afraid of failing.  i’m so glad i didn’t, because it was in the brokenness that I saw God working to encourage others.

have you ever found that when your sisters found a weakness you shared, they were somehow emboldened to share their own, and so be encouraged?  have you struggled with the tension between the now and the not-yet?

 

i would love to hear and share your experience, as well.

 

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moving forward. {heart-thoughts on marriage}

we sat across from each other at a decades-old wooden picnic table, the physical barrier a symbol of the heart-barrier between us.  it was hot; i hate being hot and i hate sweating, more.  i hate being angry with my love more than all that and the three combined were painful.  but he’d called us to get away for an afternoon, to work through some ugly, to be out in the Son and away from our children so we could share freely, and what we had to share wasn’t pretty.  we were tired, and we were angry, and we were disappointed in each other as we spent countless hours working hard at a business that brought joy and affirmation to one, and more often frustration to the other of us.  instead of learning to work together, it seemed the “business” of the business was wearing at bonds that should’ve been unbreakable.

 

we had owned our own business for near a decade, and it was successful.  we were provided for, and although there’s rarely been “extra,” there’s always been enough (sometimes with surprise help, and sometimes with a job we didn’t expect), to provide for our “small” family of seven.

 

the work had brought joy, too, for us and for our clients, and we went at it with a sense of calling, of love for people and art.  but the work was beginning to eat up our lives and our time, and i found myself resentful when the hearts of my not-so-little-ones clamored for time.  (and i think, by the way, that “quality, over quantity” is a farce.  but more on that later.)  as a mama who’d taught my children from home for their whole lives, i’d handed over the mama-reigns to my husband and a cooperative learning environment, and my heart wasn’t in it any more.  and while he did a fine job, when i realized it was the turn things were taking, it broke my heart.  and if i may be direct, i was remembering i wasn’t meant to lead the charge to our financial “success.”

 

 

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and while that man loves people and can calm the fluttery nerves of any bride, can talk any grumpy church planner down from her panic-point, and can melt the tantrum of any photo-phobic toddler, in the process, he was also losing his earlier loves.  he found himself serving as God built him to, but serving in a way that wasn’t utilizing his true gifts.  he’s an analyst, and a servant-heart, and he’s an amazing right-hand-man.  he’s a leader people will follow, because he does it with a quiet firmness that gains respect because he’s in the trenches, too.  and if i may say it gently bluntly, he wasn’t meant to be my right-hand-man.

 

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so i appealed to him that day, to release me from my own dream, to call me back to my first love, to him, to our children, to our home.  to release himself to run after Calling and clarity.  and he appealed to me to be hopeful, to be joyful, to be patient, and to trust the One who led us both.  and i told him i’d lay my “good” on the altar of what was “best,” and that i would follow him anywhere, as he followed my Papa.

 

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and so  we quietly began the transition from a place of panicked-running-at-breakneck-speed, to a place where we again sensed God’s calling on our lives, through peace and prioritizing.   it’s been quiet, because there’s some fear in change, and in stepping outside the comfort-box.  but underneath the calm, there are swells of something beautiful growing.  and as our children see us stomp on the fear and step forward in faith, i already see, with awe, the sprouts of their faith growing, too.

 

as for me, i don’t know what i’ll be asked to lay down, but i’m all-in.  and so we journey, and though we feel closer to the next season, we hold it with open hands.  we focus on the Voice that calls, and we are ready to run wild in fields of grace.

 

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