Monthly Marriage Miracle Story: Forgiveness #2

Last month for my monthly marriage miracle story, I focused on forgiveness and the part it plays in marriage miracles. Here is another piece that has to do with forgiveness. I wrote this a long time ago, but I remember the incident clearly. The truth that comes forth is that as we call out to the Lord, He does make us willing to forgive.

The original title was “Our Little Reconciler,” but for this blog I’ve changed the title to, “Lord, Make Me Willing.”

I pray for you and your marriage that the forgiveness Jesus demonstrated on the cross will flow to you and through you to your spouse. If you have a marriage miracle story you’d like to share, please email it to me at emcreasman@aol.com. Maybe you don’t feel equipped to write your own story. If so, I’ll interview you and write it for you. I’m looking forward to hearing your story and passing it along to others.

Lord, Make Me Willing

With a cold expression on my face and my eyes fixed on the dishes, I washed them in silence. The message I wanted my husband to receive when he walked out of the bedroom was, “Leave me alone. Don’t come near me.”

The words he had hurled at me the evening before still stung. I could not focus on what I might have done to contribute to the fight, because my hurt consumed me. Although I wanted to obey God and forgive, I had let the sun go down on my anger. The best I could do was write one line in my journal before I went to sleep, “Lord, make me willing to forgive.”

Morning had come and I still felt unwilling; forgiveness now seemed an impossibility.

Steve avoided the kitchen and headed for the door, while Mindy, our three-year-old, shouted, “Daddy, let’s play.”

“I’ve got to go to work, Honey,” Steve said.

“My kiss! My kiss!” Mindy bellowed and raced after him to give her good-bye kiss. Anytime Steve or I went anywhere she insisted on a kiss and a hug.

“A hug! A Hug!” I could imagine her stretching her arms up and jumping up and down. Hurry, I thought as I waited expectantly for the door to close.

“What about Mommy?” Mindy asked. Why can’t children mind their own business? I wondered, hoping Steve would ignore her.

“You didn’t give her a kiss and a hug.” I didn’t remember Mindy ever noticing how we said good-bye to each other. Why today?

“I don’t think she wants one,” answered Steve.

Well, he was right about that. Now please leave. But Mindy could not let it rest. She raced into the kitchen with a shocked look on her face. “Mommy, do you want a kiss and a hug?”

Her eyes wide and filled with innocence looked up at me, seeing me not as a bundle of anger, but a dispenser of love. My heart was torn. I didn’t want to let go of my hurt, but neither did I want to cause her pain. How could I lie and say yes, when a kiss was the last thing I wanted?

In that moment between her question and my answer, it seemed God was asking, “Are you willing?” He was giving me the opportunity to take the first step toward restoring the peace in my relationship with Steve.

How unfair, though—I felt I was being forced into this. What a choice! If I disobeyed God and refused to be willing to forgive, I would hurt my daughter. God had backed me into a corner. Yet, wasn’t that what I had prayed for—“Lord, make me willing”?

“Yes,” I said to Mindy’s question and to God’s question, “Are you willing?”

Mindy ran out to get her dad, jubilant at proving him wrong. The joyful reconciler dragged him by the hand to the kitchen.

“Now give Mommy a kiss,” she instructed sweetly and gave a triumphant smile when he did so.

“Now a hug,” she urged. We hugged, and with that hug the wall of hurt within me began to melt.

Forgiveness no longer seemed an impossibility.

© Elaine Creasman1988
The article was first published in the August 1988 issue of Light and Life magazine

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Monthly Marriage Miracle Story:Forgiveness

It’s time for another marriage miracle story. This month I’m passing along some truths that will move you closer to receiving your marriage miracle.

In my marriage, miracles happened as I determined to forgive my husband as the Lord had forgiven me–no matter what he had done to hurt me. In her book, Or For Worse: Loving Your Husband Through Hard Times by Emma Chambers, Emma had a hard time forgiving her husband. Here is an excerpt from her book, which helped me in my struggle to forgive. I pray it will help you as well.

May your miracle come as you embrace forgiveness. What a miracle it is that the Lord forgave us and died for us. Let’s pass that miracle along to our spouses and everyone else in our lives.

Remove Roadblocks to Unforgiveness by Emma Chambers

In my marriage, I knew it was wrong to be unforgiving, and yet I still engaged in it. As I prayed, God revealed seven myths I believed which prevented the flow of forgiveness through me to my husband. As I let go of these, I moved on in the forgiveness process.

Myth #1: I must wait for my husband to say, “I’m sorry.”

I have wasted a lot of time rehashing the wrongs Randy has done to me trying to coerce an apology from him. As God has dealt with me, I’ve become determined to forgive without “ifs” attached–“If he says ‘I’m sorry,’ and if I decide he really is, then I will forgive.” Jesus forgave while He hung on the cross. (See Luke 23:34) None of the soldiers that were putting him to death said, “I’m really sorry for what we’re doing to you.”  Yet He said, “Father, forgive them…”

Myth #2:  I must feel like forgiving.

Forgiveness is a choice of the will. Sometimes the choice to forgive Randy has been followed by positive feelings.  Other times I’ve battled feeling hurt for quite a while. I’ve learned that no matter how I feel, I will determine to maintain a forgiving attitude. Reaching out and blessing even when I don’t feel like it is sign that I’m doing this. 

Myth #3 Certain things should never be forgiven.

There are no sins Randy has committed against me that are too big to forgive since God has called me to, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you,” (Colossians 3: 13) and He is One “who forgives all your sins,” (Psalm 103:3) At times I try to convince myself that there are divine exceptions when it comes to forgiveness.  If I choose to hold back forgiveness for these “exceptions,” I have been the one to suffer. I see that often more suffering happens because a person refuses to forgive than because of the the wrongs done to us. Someone has said, “Bitterness is the poison you drink thinking it will kill another person.” 

Myth #4 Saying “I forgive” means, “What he did isn’t wrong.”

Saying, “I forgive you,” doesn’t mean Randy is released from the truth that he did wrong. It means he is released from me seeking vengeance for that wrong-doing. True forgiveness means I leave the justice up to the Lord as Jesus did. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23)

Myth #5 Unforgiveness will force my husband to change.

I’ve learned that staying angry is not what motivates my husband to stop hurting me. It’s certainly not the tactic God uses to get us to turn away from our sins. In fact, the Bible says that, “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.” (Romans 2:4) What gets people to change and have sorrowful hearts concerning what they’ve done is for us to be kind and generous—even when they don’t deserve it. Joseph did this with his brothers who had sold him into slavery. (See Genesis 50:15-21) His kindness and mercy had a life-changing impact on them.

Myth # 6:  Unforgiveness will protect me from further hurt.

In former days it was my habit to try to build a wall of bitterness to keep from being hurt again. Unfortunately, this wall also kept me from getting close to Randy and to the Lord. As I have let God protect me, He has been faithful to do so. “He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings shall you trust and find refuge…You shall not be afraid of the terror of the night, nor of the arrow (the evil plots and slanders of the wicked) that flies by day.” (Psalm 91:4-5 AMP) 

Myth #7:  Unforgiveness Makes Me Stronger

When I meet women whom others label as “strong women,” I notice that sometimes they are also bitter. Instead of saying they have strong hearts, I have to realize what they have are hardened hearts. Years of holding on to unforgiveness has hardened them, so that they can lose their sense of compassion and tenderness. I confess I have been at that place. I want to be strong as the Lord defines it—someone who is able to resist temptation, especially the temptation to hold on to unforgiveness. Once I let it go, I notice that real strength can be displayed in my life.

Sometimes these myths—these lies from the enemy—come back and wrap themselves around my heart. It is through prayer and asking God for a willing heart that I’m able to come back to the place of forgiveness. Meditating on the mercy of Christ helps me to keep from having a bitter heart in my marriage and to forgive my husband as He has forgiven me.

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Monthly Marriage Miracle Story by Marie

Today is my 46th anniversary. Once again I’m celebrating the many marriage miracles from the Lord that brought my husband, Steve, and I to this day. My marriage miracle story this month is from another wife who recently celebrated her 46th anniversary. She, too, is celebrating God’s faithfulness in her marriage over the years.

Delivered From A Fling With Frivolous Fun and Financial Gain

Marie, who had never been married, entered her marriage with a little something extra—a three-year-old son, named Bobby. It was quite an adjustment for her husband, David, to suddenly be a husband and a father. He courageously made his former bachelor pad into a home for his new family. Here is the marriage miracle story that Marie told me. The story is true, but the names have been changed.

As a teenager, Bobby got into lots of trouble. He acted out by destroying things in the house. He was rebellious and turned on everything we said. If we put him on restriction, he would open his bedroom window and leave. David butted heads often with Bobby.

During this difficult time, I was offered a job which included traveling Monday through Friday. I was worn out from our son’s rebellion and from the constant conflict between David and Bobby. I went to a counselor who told me to leave when things heated up in the house between the two. The counselor meant for a brief getaway, but I decided to “leave” five days a week by taking this job. My husband agreed because the money was good.

I traveled with two other women who, although also married, believed you should have fun while on the road. I had been a Christian for five years, but went along with the fun they had by joining them in drinking, dancing and flirting with men in bars.

I felt like I was in a different world. It felt good at first to escape my home life.

As I made money and had fun, I felt myself drifting far from my husband.

One Sunday the message in church was about when a Christian falls. The pastor said it was like a basketball player, that if you got hurt, you need to sit on the sidelines. I did feel like I was hurt.

One evening while on the road, I attended a nationally-televised basketball game with the two women and the men they brought along. Will my husband see me if he’s watching this on TV? I wondered.

I realized that drinking was becoming a problem.

I did careless things when I drank, like one evening when I was drinking while out with my husband, I got drunk and went into the Gulf and tried to swim to a sandbar at midnight.

I saw that David was getting tired of it all, and Bobby was still misbehaving and butting heads with him.

I continued to go to church and began to ask myself, Should I be doing this? as far as my job and the fun time I was having. But then I’d be right back at it.

Because I was enjoying myself while away from David, I thought maybe I needed to ask him for a divorce.

So I went home at the end of the week and said, “I don’t think we should be married anymore.”

“We need to talk,” David said.

So we talked and talked. I realized I still loved David who said, “I’m going to try harder.”

David also said, “I’m going to go to church with you,” and he did.

Even so, I was back at my job and still drinking on Monday.

However, I woke up in the middle of the night one night that week and left a note saying, “I can’t do this anymore.”

I walked away from the money and the other temptations to save our marriage. I realized there was a price to the fun, and it wasn’t worth it.

Turning away from drinking was a process. But then our son started drinking, and I didn’t want to be a stumbling block, so I gave it up totally.People used to say to me, “You’re so much fun when you drink,” but even after I stopped, I could still have fun, and people would think I was drinking. Thankfully, my husband was never much of a drinker.

While I worked at my job for an insurance agency, my husband got laid off. Even so, after that God began to bless us. I was offered a new job in a different town, where we decided to move, and my husband found a job there right away.

God took care of our needs as we stopped focusing on money. These verses came to mind as I thought about how God was taking care of us: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:27-28 ESV)

I learned that money could never have bought me the happiness I have with my husband.

When we moved, Bobby didn’t go with us. He stayed behind and lived with my parents. Then he tried to live with us, but it didn’t work out. He and David still didn’t get along. He moved in with an older couple at age 16. He has continued to have troubles over the years, but I’ve had to let go of him.

David stopped going to church for quite a while, despite his promise to go to church with me. But then suddenly one Sunday morning, he got ready for church and has been going since. Now he’s part of the worship team.

My two-month fling with having fun and making money took place ten years into our marriage. Now we’ve been married 46 years and have a good life together.

In 1995, on our 20th anniversary, I wrote a Happy Anniversary letter to my husband, where I compared our marriage to a canoe ride and how it seemed to me that so far my husband had been doing most of the paddling. I wrote, “I have sat still for so long letting you do all the work. I promise for the next twenty years to paddle along with you as we continue the ride of our life in the same canoe.”

Marie has gone beyond that 20 years and is still paddling along with her husband to make their marriage work, and she continues to experience God’s faithfulness.

If you have a marriage miracle story from your own marriage that you want to share with others, please email me at emcreasman@aol.com.

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Monthly Marriage Miracle Story: Willing To Wait

For fifteen years, Gail had been praying for her unsaved husband, Jason. Like many of us who pray for a change in our husbands, she was tired of waiting. She felt like God wasn’t listening and often wondered, “Why doesn’t God just zap him with a mighty dose of the Holy Spirit?”

There were times Gail thought of running away. Even though God blessed her with many wonderful friends, there was a loneliness she thought she couldn’t bear.     

Gail tried many things to bring Jason to the Lord. She left 3 x 5 cards with Bible verses all around the house—on the refrigerator, on every light switch, on every mirror, on the back of both toilets–and in their cars. She bought books and tapes at seminars. With the books, she strategically placed them on a coffee table open to the page she wanted him to read. With the cassette tapes, she would cue them up and put them in the car, so when her husband turned on the car, God’s truth would reach him. 

When God didn’t answer her prayer, she would sometimes slip into thinking, It must be all my fault. I’m so far from being a Proverbs 31 woman.

One evening a breakthrough came for Gail as she sat in church sobbing.

“Why am I crying?” she asked God.

He revealed to her this truth: “You always have to have control.”

Gail was stunned because she had seen herself as a compliant person, a people-pleaser, and considerate of all authorities, especially the Lord.

“Well, Lord, what do you want me to do?” she called out.

In a clear way He said, “There you go again, Gail. It’s not what I want you to do. Just be still and know that I am God” (See Psalm 46:10)

That night Gail admitted she was trying to be in control. She wanted to control her circum-

stances and everyone in her life.

She admitted that she wasn’t trusting the Lord with her husband’s salvation.

Gail’s husband came to know the Lord as his Savior, but there are plenty of other women who are still waiting for that to happen. Gail would say to them: “Do what God told me to do: ‘Be still and know that I am God’ and trust Him—no matter how long your time of waiting is.”

Even though God corrected Gail that evening, over her years of waiting for her husband to change, she had developed a virtue that kept her praying for him instead of leaving him or withdrawing love from him. Patience.

Many times in my adult life I’ve prayed, “Lord, make me patient,” which some say is a dangerous prayer. I didn’t realize early on that we develop patience through trials.

James 1:2-3 does apply to marriage: “Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort…Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring about endurance and steadfastness and patience” (AMPC).

When I looked up “patient” in the dictionary I read: “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint; manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain; steadfast despite opposition, difficulty or adversity.”

I saw those statements as goals. Although I’ve come a long way, I still haven’t fully arrived at being a patient wife.

I don’t think it’s arbitrary or coincidental that God started out the love verses in 1 Corinthians 13 with “Love is patient” (verse 4). The longer I’m on planet earth, the more I see that love and waiting are tied together. So often I’ve prayed what David prayed in the Psalms–“How long, O Lord?” (Psalm 13:1) as I’ve prayed for my husband to change and/or draw closer to the Lord.    

Recently I heard a song that gave the message of “How long, O Lord, before I become like Jesus.” As I have embraced patience toward my husband, I thank God that He is patient with me. My goal is to embrace what I saw on a sign at a local church: “Be as patient with others as God is with you.”

Gail related that the times she felt weary of waiting were when she was trying to run the universe—or at least her little corner of it. So the problem isn’t the waiting, but the way in which we wait.

As part of our prayers in times of waiting and crying out to God in regard to our marriages, we can incorporate this verse from Scripture:

“May the Lord direct your hearts into [realizing and showing] the love of God and into the steadfastness and patience of Christ…” 2 Thessalonians 3:5 AMPC.

Note: Gail’s story is true, but the names have been changed. I pray for God to give you grace to wait as He works a miracle in your marriage in His way and time.

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Monthly Marriage Miracle: A God-Sent Weekend

Once again I’m posting a marriage miracle story. This story is true and was written by someone who remembered how she and her husband almost lost hope in their marriage. Then God intervened. The names have been changed.

I pray that this story shared courageously by Pam can bring hope to you if you are in a dark place in your marriage. If you have already received your marriage miracle, please pass this story along to someone who needs a miracle.

If you have a marriage miracle you’d like to share with others, please contact me at emcreasman@aol.com. You can write out your own story, or tell me your story, and I will write it for you. My goal is to remind others that we serve a God who heals–even when circumstances seem impossible.

A God-Sent Weekend

“When we return to the states, I think we need a divorce,” my husband said one day.

We lived in a compound with other foreign expatriates in Tokyo, Japan. Our three children, ages five, seven, and ten, attended a Christian school run by missionaries. After thirteen years of marriage with no reason for divorce—no violence, no hanky-panky, no lies, no illness, no alcohol, no nothing—he wanted to quit. It’s not as if this announcement came out of the blue.

Stresses in our marriage had been building for years. There was no lack of money, no extramarital flings, no violent outbursts; we didn’t even argue much. My husband did his thing, and I cared for the children and house with a few forays into substitute teaching. We attended church as a family every Sunday and stopped at the local restaurant for Sunday brunch. But we were not happy.  I resented having to stay home with the children, moving every year, and letting my college degree languish.

“Yes, when we get home, we’ll get a divorce,” I decided.

Then, God called.

“There’s a Christian Marriage Encounter scheduled three weeks from now,” a friend of ours said. “We’ll watch the kids if you two want to go. It’s not for troubled marriages; it’s to make a good marriage better.”

“I have an important meeting that day,” my husband said. “I’m not sure I can make it.”

“I think it’s important we go,” I responded.

“You go. If I can, I’ll show up.”

Standing at the bus station with couples excited about a weekend in the mountains, I waited, nervous he would not come.

“If he doesn’t come, then I’ll know there is no hope for our marriage,” I told the pastor.

“We need to go now,” the man in charge announced. “We cannot wait any longer.”

Crestfallen, my disappointment he had not come became resentment. It’s over, I thought.

Then, he walked in.

“The meeting ran late,” he said, “but I told them I had to leave. Hope this is worth it.”

We sat together in silence, watching the countryside, passing tiered levels of rice behind thatched homes, through forests and over hills, set below a cloudless blue sky. After an hour or two, we exited the bus onto a wooded clearing. The chilly mountain air sent us scurrying into the modern hotel-style retreat house where rooms were assigned and a schedule distributed.

“The first thing we must do,” the man in charge said, “is relinquish our timepieces. We want no distractions. No telephone calls. Time will have no meaning. There will be a talk about different topics; a question will be given, then we’ll adjourn to write your response in these notebooks, share and then discuss them with each other. After a while, a bell will ring, and we will reconvene for group discussion.”

Then he played, “We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters.

The questions, given one at a time with about 15 minutes between writing and then discussing before returning to the group, required some intense thought. Over the years, I’ve forgotten the questions, but not our responses to them and each other. We wrote but refused to speak. One question, in particular, sent me for a tailspin. “Why did you get married?” The easy answer was: “Because we were in love,” but that was not the truth. He married because I refused to live with him, and he wanted someone to cook and clean with benefits. I married because I was ready to settle down after a failed relationship. 

The next question: “Were you in love when you married, and how has your love grown?” Our answer: We thought so, but not really, and it hasn’t.

Other thought-provoking questions about our responses to each other when different situations occurred continued over the weekend. We learned to talk about difficult situations, express our feelings without blame, and accept each other for the person we were rather than attempting to change the other. Of course, these precepts didn’t happen overnight. The prayers of our friends, the openness of this meeting, and our desire to change, helped us renew our wedding vows.                 

                       Break down the walls we have built around our marriage
                       as you tore down the walls of Jericho. Send your grace and
                       fill our marriage with compassion. Rid our hearts of the
                       resentment we built and replace it with love.

Without this God-sent weekend, the prayers of our friends, and our change of heart, we would never have celebrated our fifty-second wedding anniversary last year.

This is not the end of the  tale. Over the years, difficulties, especially in communicating without blame, have sent us to counseling several times, but we agree that marriage is a life commitment. The only person we can change is ourselves. 

Note: To find out more about Marriage Encounter weekends, go to this link: https://wwme.org/

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Marriage Tips That Can Lead to Marriage Miracles

Lately, I’ve been posting a monthly marriage miracle story. Right now I’m on the lookout for more stories. If you have one, please notify me at emcreasman@aol.com. You can write out your own story, or I can interview you and write the story for you. If you know of someone else who has a marriage miracle story, please put me in touch with that person. I am looking for stories from wives who have not given up in hard times but have depended on the Lord and have received a miraculous healing in their marriage.

This month I decided to post some marriage tips that have spoken to me. I realized that receiving godly counsel from others contributed to my own marriage miracle. For a number of years, I posted a weekly marriage tip to help others–just as I was being helped by these tips. The following are twelve tips from the past that spoke to me and helped to change my perspective on marriage and improve my attitude. I pray they will also minister to you in your marriage.

#1

“…ask yourself…what are you doing (or neglecting) that makes your spouse feel lonely? Just as it takes two to get married, it nearly always takes two to let a marriage drift. So identify your own contributions to the problem. Is your schedule so crowded with outside commitments that you’re seldom home? Have you neglected hobbies or other activities that used to draw you and your mate closer? Have you started taking your spouse for granted— failing to express thanks, neglecting to extend common courtesies? Are you too preoccupied with work, the kids or family finances to listen to your spouse? After asking yourself the hard questions, commit to making the personal changes necessary to reverse the emotional drift.”

–Tim Gardner from “Alone Together” published in the September 2008 issue of Today’s Christian Woman.

#2

“It is a far better approach to accentuate the positive and to sincerely and enthusiastically applaud whatever…progress you see in your partner. Spouses have a tendency to become what their loved ones praise in them. Speaking gentle words of respect and encouragement, whether in private or in front of others, can be extremely influential in bringing about a desire to change.”

From the book, Surviving A Spiritual Mismatch, by Lee Strobel.

#3

“Choose to complete him rather than compete with him.” — Dr. Juli Slattery

#4

“Concentrate on what God wants to change in your life, not what you wish were different with your spouse. Strive to live out your convictions before her/him, in the balance of grace and truth.”

–Kathy Norquist, from Eternal Perspectives Newsletter, Spring 2014

#5

“As we start learning how to act right when our spouse acts wrong, we will begin to see what God is doing to make us more like him in the midst of marital difficulties. We will become able to…respond wisely when wronged. Perhaps most important of all, learning to act right when our spouse acts wrong will force us to forage for a deeper relationship with Christ. For to act right with a pure sincere heart in the midst of suffering will stretch our faith and trust in God as we struggle to yield our will to his plan for our life.

The marriage relationship is a picture of the covenant relationship with Christ. He is going to be our teacher in this process, for he always acts right.

Even when we act wrong.”

–From How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong by Leslie Vernick

#6

“A relationship is a living thing—it thrives with attention and withers when ignored. To maintain a healthy relationship, married couples should regularly examine how they spend their most precious resources—their time and energy—and determine whether they are following their priorities…

As you look at your normal daily schedule, what could you change—what could you spend less time doing—to make more room for your relationship?”

–from Keeping Your Covenant; A Small Group Study to Enrich Your Marriage put out by Family Life ministry, Little Rock, Arkansas

#7

“We judge ourselves by our intentions. We judge our spouses by their actions. No wonder we think we’re better!”

–Anne Moodie, To Love, Honor, and Vacuum

#8

“Quitting is not an option. When I don’t ‘feel in love,’ I make the decision to love anyway. There is a lot of forgiving that goes on. Being married for so long, there are plenty of opportunities to drag up old offences. I have to do as Clara Barton said when asked didn’t she remember something someone did to her. She said, “I clearly remember forgetting.” I have to chase off those memories with that statement! And so does he. Sometimes loving each other feels really, really good. But sometimes loving each other means sacrificing self and the ‘right’ to be angry or hurt, and just going ahead and forgiving, letting go, and getting over it. Love ‘feels’ very different from forty years ago.”

–From LaDonna—married to Buddy for 40 years.

#9

Marriage is like a dance, and we must learn not to give up when it seems our partner has two left feet.

–Paraphrase of statement made on a Refine Us radio commercial.

#10

“…we can live as critics and bring condemnation on our spouse, or we can live as supporters, focusing on attributes we appreciate. When we choose to dwell in appreciation of our spouse, we de-emphasize their negative,… and their positives grow. When we choose to live in the appreciation room, our focus transforms our thinking, our words, who we are, and to whom we are married!”

–from Molly

#11

“Communication is the essential element to every great marriage. Getting to know another human being requires talking. It’s how we fall in love. It’s how we understand another person’s heart. It’s how we resolve problems and discuss needs…Speak kindness, truth, and positive words to each other, and watch how God will use these things to draw you closer than ever before.”

–Jimmy Evans from Marriage Today email about communication in marriage.

#12

“…The places in our personality where we deviate from love are not our faults, but our wounds. God doesn’t want to punish us, but to heal us. And that is how He wishes us to view the wounds in other people…. When we are shaking a finger at someone, figuratively or literally, we are not more apt to correct their wrongful behavior. Treating someone with compassion and forgiveness is much more likely to elicit a healed response.” 

–M Williamson

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Monthly Marriage Miracle: Restored

My husband, Sam, and I met in 1990 in the Pennsylvania Pocono mountains at a kickoff retreat for a Ministry called Discipleship Training. The next weekend we ended up going together with a couple who were friends of mine to a Billy Graham crusade on Long Island, New York where Sam had grown up.  We dated, attending this ministry together and his church in Macungie, Pennsylvania. I had moved from Clearwater, Florida to attend a seminary north of Philadelphia, in order to get a Master’s degree in counseling.

Since we knew very quickly that God was drawing us together, we decided to marry June 1st just after I finished my classes that school year. Only one month later I got pregnant with our daughter, and when she was seven months old, we decided to move to Clearwater to be close to my parents. While renting two houses there I gave birth to three boys, the middle boy having Down syndrome. In 2000 we were able to buy our first home and moved to a more affordable area in downtown New Port Richey where we raised our children in the same small home we still live in today and the same church.

Next, here’s some background on Sam and my upbringing, which I believe influenced our issues in our marriage. I basically had a stable upbringing with both parents.  On the other hand, Sam didn’t have that stable of an upbringing. His mother gave him up as a baby into foster care, and then he was adopted at one and a half years old. Plus, Sam was placed back in foster care until he was 18 years old due to his hyperactivity and his father’s failing health. It was good that he stayed in that foster family from 6 to 18 years of age, but he experienced physical abuse there, ongoing manipulation and control, and, also, sexual abuse.

The positives we had in our marriage was that we both had given our lives to Christ before marrying, we knew God had called us together, we were very committed to one another, and had the same overall values and beliefs. I believe all of these factors are  important to a successful marriage.

Yet, Sam carried a lot of the bad, unresolved memories from his childhood into our marriage. He had a hard time working full-time hours and experienced disassociation at times, making it hard to communicate with him. I had rejection issues, poor self-image, and a poor example conflict resolution. The conflict between him and I worsened when the kids got older since he was afraid to overreact as his foster parents had. Therefore, it was hard to be in agreement on how to discipline the kids. Sam became overweight, would fall asleep easily, and usually wouldn’t work on resolving our issues. Therefore, resentment and bitterness grew in both of us over time. All of that plus the normal stress of raising four teenagers, one with special needs, caused a wedge between us and wounds in our hearts that needed healing.

Now for the stressful events that led up to October 1, 2017 and, eventually, to the climax of our story. Our youngest son was struggling to finish high school and barely got to graduate. My husband’s business was failing and he had to close it down. He was home all of the time with no plan for future, causing me to feel suffocated and frustrated. On top of all of that stress, hurricane Irma passed through the state of Florida sending us all into a state of panic. All of this combined, plus the things I shared previously, led into the events that happened October 1, 2017. 

After church that Sunday, even though tensions were rising high between us, I decided not to leave the house for once since I was determined to make lunch for us. One of the habits I had developed was to leave and drive to our park nearby so things wouldn’t get heated in front of the kids. That day I asked my husband three times to leave and take a walk before things escalated, but he would not go which was typical. Both of us were triggered to anger and Sam ended up losing control. I ended up with a concussion and some neck damage. I was thankfully able to get to the bathroom while grabbing a cell phone, locking myself in, and calling 911, which I knew I had to do for the safety of both of us.

Sam was arrested, taken to jail for one night, and a no-contact order was put into place by the law to keep us physically separated and providing safety. A few months later I was able to go before the judge and ask for counseling so that we could work on our relationship, and the judge granted my request.

After another few months I felt ready to ask for rights to talk to him on the phone, and the judge granted that as well. I tried to get the one year no-contact shortened, and was not granted that. Therefore, God allowed us to be apart for the seven months it took for Sam to get into the Batterers Intervention class, plus another full year in the Domestic Violence program, totaling one and a half years we were apart by law. 

Our pastor shared with me that statistics say when couples are apart more than six months the marriage is pretty much doomed to fail. The “marriage miracle” in our story is that we were able to be apart three times longer than that and be restored together to have a healthy and safe relationship. All of our prayers, the prayers of our pastor, as well as a few other people who knew our story, brought forth this marriage miracle. Yet, did Sam and I have a part in this as well? You better believe we did! 

One huge reason our counselors, Pastor, and we felt it was healthy for us to get back together was because we took this time very seriously to work on ourselves and our issues individually while apart.

Sam immediately started to go to Celebrate Recovery weekly, enrolled in the Batterers Intervention class before he was officially in the Domestic Violence program, and began working out to lose weight and get healthier. I found a counselor I could afford and saw her weekly, enrolled in a life coaching program to work on myself and boundaries, and completed a 12-step program in six months. So, because of our humility, willingness and acceptance of our own responsibility, God was able to bring real healing, cleansing and change in our hearts and lives while we were apart.

Another important thing we did was to meet together in counseling weekly where we were able to slowly and carefully work on the hurts between us and regain trust by the power of the holy Spirit. Another factor of God’s miraculous hand on us was that the judge granted us to be able to see each other in counseling. I found out later that that is highly unusual for a judge to give permission to that with a situation such as ours. I also believe that God honored the fact that we submitted to our authorities to be apart for that time as the law dictated. So when we were legally able to be together as of April 18th, 2019 we felt God’s blessing on us.

We decided to seal our reunion by going to a Weekend to Remember in Jacksonville, Florida in May of that year and renewed our vows to each other there. We have been doing well every sense, even through the trauma of losing our daughter in March of 2020. Again, let me emphasize through all of these circumstances we should have been a divorce statistic. But God. All things are possible if only we believe and obey! He is truly a restorer and redeemer!

A verse that helped me along the way is Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” NIV

The above story is true, but the names have been changed. This story was written by “Jane” with minor editing on my part.

I pray that if you have a marriage miracle story to share that you will contact me at emcreasman@aol.com. You don’t have to be a writer to submit your story. I can interview you and do the writing for you. If you are waiting for your marriage miracle, I pray that You will continue to believe in God’s healing power. Sometimes miracles take time as ours did in our 45-year marriage. Somehow the waiting and clinging to God as I waited made the miracle sweeter. May God draw you close to Himself as you believe Him for your marriage miracle.

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Hearts Set Free Monthly Marriage Miracle: Putting My Hope in God.

Once again, I’m posting a monthly marriage miracle. This month the story is from my life. God has worked many miracles in our 45-year marriage. This one has to do with God giving me the insight that I needed to stop putting my hope in my husband. Instead, I needed to put my hope in God alone. As I did that, my heart changed. Also, my relationship, not only with my husband, but with the Lord, changed. Here’s my story that I wrote years ago. I pray that this will help you to put your hope in the Lord rather than in your husband.

PUTTING MY HOPE IN GOD

One day I wrote down some of what I hoped for in regard to our marriage: 

I hope my husband changes.

I hope my husband meets my needs.

I hope my husband will embrace deliverance.

I hope my husband becomes all God has called him to be.

I hope my husband becomes an excellent spiritual leader for our family. 

            I reread this list, and saw God wasn’t at the center of my hopes.

            As I studied the Word and looked up verses about hope, I gradually understood the error of placing my hope in my husband, a fallible man who failed often. I needed to put my hope in God. When I put my hope in Him and His unfailing love for me, I found myself more joyful, with fewer ups and downs in my emotional life in regard to marriage.

Waiting, Hoping, Enduring      

            Once I took my mind off feeling hopeless because my husband didn’t express his love to me in the way I wanted to be loved, I determined to learn to truly love him. As I studied 1 Corinthians 13 in an effort to learn how to do this, I discovered three of the “love is” statements—“Love is patient,” “love hopes all things,” and “love endures all things”—are tied together. 

            Isaiah 40:31 centers on waiting, hoping and enduring. While many versions give promises to “those who wait upon the Lord” others like the NIV say: “those who hope in the Lord.” The Amplified Bible connects the waiting and the hoping. “But those who wait for the LORD [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; they will lift their wings and [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not grow tired.”

            As I saw “the wait-hope-endure interconnection,” I realized when I made statements like “I’m sick of waiting for something good to happen,” or “I just can’t endure this anymore,” this led to hopelessness and showed I once again shifted my focus to my husband changing, instead of keeping my focus on the Lord.

Putting My Hope in the Lord

            On the way to a counseling session one day, my husband accused me: “You have lost hope in me.” After I thought about it for a few minutes, I realized when I put my hope in him, it created a problem.

            When I feel overwhelmed by disappointments—typically based on something other than what I expected, I easily give in to hopelessness, especially when I expect God to do something extraordinary in my marriage when I pray, but instead it seems He does nothing. As I put my hope in God, marital disappointments no longer overwhelm me. Here’s what Romans 5:5 says about the matter:  “…hope [in God’s promises] never disappoints us, because God’s love has been abundantly poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (AMP)

            In his book, The Surprising Grace of Disappointment; Finding Hope When God Seems to Fail Us, (Moody 2013,) John Koessler helped to convict me as to why I often felt hopeless: “…we can grow irritated with Jesus when He seems unresponsive to our requests. We appreciate the encouragement of His Word, but would like something more substantial. Specifically, we want Him to get with the program—our program—and comply with the agenda we have set for Him. But the God who hears us when we cry also acts in His own time and in His own way. He is a God who makes promises. But He is also the one who determines how He will keep them. This is the chief difference between faith and presumption. Faith and presumption both expect something from God. Presumption wants to call the shots. Faith bows the knee.”

Hope and A Future

               A favorite verse I like to recite is Jeremiah 29:11: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”  For years I failed to apply it to my marriage. But these days when I feel I’m losing hope, I look at the verse. This is how I pray that verse for my life with Steve: “I praise You, Lord, that You know the plans You have for me and Steve as a couple—plans to prosper us and not to harm us. Plans to give us a future and a hope.”

            Not long ago, God gave me an insight on this verse: Satan has a plan too. If Satan had a verse of his own it would read like this: “I know the plans I have for your marriage, plans to keep it from prospering and plans to harm you. Plans to cause you to believe you have no future in this relationship, and there is no hope for you and Steve and your life together.” I discovered if I’m feeling hopeless and that “the love is gone,” I know from where those thoughts arise. Certainly not from the Lord. 

Holding to God’s Promises

               God gave me this acronym for hope: Holding Onto Promises Expectantly—not my husband’s promises, but God’s. My husband makes promises and breaks them. I do the same to him at times. Only God is the perfect promise-keeper.  If I hold to my husband’s promises, I lose hope. As I hold to God’s promises, my hope soars, and I see how God has intervened in countless ways as I put my hope in Him, but it’s in His way and in His time.

            Delving deeply into God’s Word restores me to peace and to hope as I trust in Him and realize my husband cannot be trusted. None of us can. But the good news is: God can be trusted. He, not my husband, is my Rock, and if I hold to that and to Him, I will have hope, no matter what difficulties we face in marriage.

Lord, I praise You that You are my hope, and You can rescue me from the pit of hopelessness.  Help me to stop hoping in my husband. Let me place my hope fully in You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen. 

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Monthly Marriage Miracle Story: Two Transformed Hearts

Thank you for coming here to read the latest marriage miracle story. The story is true, but the names have been changed. God has worked a major miracle in my marriage. I’ve written about it again and again, so now I’m determined to also share other couples’ marriage miracles. If you have a marriage miracle story you’d like me to share, please contact me at emcreasman@aol.com. God bless you with a mighty marriage miracle. He is able!

TWO TRANSFORMED HEARTS

Trudy has been married to Frank for 34 years. These days she says, “I couldn’t ask for a better gift than him.”

It wasn’t always that way. Early on, Trudy found herself losing hope in her marriage. She described it this way: “not trusting my husband, not believing in him, not seeing him as a full person—not loving him unconditionally.” She explains, “It was hard to learn to trust him and forgive, especially in the area of pornography. I couldn’t stand the pornography in my home, the loneliness, the isolation. I felt so disconnected from my husband, so I left and filed for divorce.”

But God brought her back home.

Two of Frank’s problems were pornography and gambling.

Trudy was into drugs, the occult, and “looking for love in all the wrong places.” She came from a background of sexual, verbal, and physical abuse—“daily beatings, daily sexual abuse.” She reports, “This brought on so much rage inside, and caused me to have hatred toward men.”

Early in her marriage, she was violent toward her husband and even threatened him with a knife. She tells of hitting her husband, but says, “he never hit back.” She admits to being sexually unfaithful after five months of marriage.

Trudy came to know the Lord in the first year of marriage. She was in church, and the Lord whispered, “I will turn your marriage around.” Once she was saved, it took her some time to understand and apply her marriage vows, but God started changing her heart. Frank also came to know the Lord shortly after, and God began to transform him.

They both started serving the Lord, and were delivered. One area of deliverance was unforgiveness. “Forgiveness was so hard, but it brought my husband and me closer,” Trudy stated.

Trudy saw that her husband was gentle, quiet, and sweet-spirited, and stated, “God uses him to quiet me, and he uses me to get him to speak up.”

Along the way Trudy was diagnosed with bipolar and is grateful that “he never left me. He never gave up on me through it all.”

Trudy said, “I couldn’t see my husband’s love for me because of my own pain. Because of all my brokenness and messiness, I went through years of therapy. I couldn’t see God’s love. He used my husband to show me unconditional love. The Lord used him in mighty ways to help me.

Trudy admits God isn’t finished with her yet. “God is still working in me, healing me layer by layer.”

What does Trudy say is the secret to her lasting marriage? “Never go to bed angry. Always put God at the center. I also tell women, ‘Love him anyway.’”

Here is a verse that Trudy has applied to her marriage: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8 NIV).

Here’s more of what Trudy has to say these days about her husband: “I am thankful for him. He’s the love of my life, who also is my best friend. I am richly blessed in the Lord to have a beautiful, wonderful man.”

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Monthly Marriage Miracle Story: Who Gives In First?

Here is another Hearts Set Free Monthly Marriage Miracle Story. The story is true, but the names have been changed. I pray God will bless you with your own marriage miracle. Open your heart to all God has for you. And remember that often what He has follows obedience.

Here is another Hearts Set Free Monthly Marriage Miracle Story. The story is true, but the names have been changed. I pray God will bless you with your own marriage miracle. Open your heart to all God has for you. And remember that often what He has follows obedience.

Give me what I want, and then I’ll give you what you want. Too many spouses have this attitude. If both have it, this can lead to continued unmet needs, increasing unhappiness, and even divorce. Mary learned that meeting her husband’s need, even if her need wasn’t being met is the right thing to do.

Your issue may not be about romance and sex, but about other areas of need. Maybe he needs you to listen to him talk about his work day, and you want to communicate about your feelings.

Not everyone will have the quick or positive outcome Mary did, but blessings of some kind always follow the action of showing love first.

Maybe this story doesn’t apply to where you are in your marriage. Pass along to someone who may be going through the battle of “he/she is not meeting my needs.”

Who Gives In First?

Do you ever feel like you’d be nicer to your husband, if he deserved it—but he doesn’t?  I was feeling that way. 

All I wanted was a date night.  Once a month even.  It didn’t need to be elaborate; I just wanted him to plan something special.  The price tag didn’t matter either, but the effort did.  If my husband had picked some flowers out of a field and brought them to me tied up with love notes, it would have sufficed.  His effort would say “I’m thinking of you.” And I’d feel loved.  

I was not seeing the effort. But I was feeling his demands.  One frustrated evening Doug spouted, “You’re never available for sex.  You seem so uninterested, but it’s a real and legitimate need I’m having!”

“I’d feel a little more amorous if you’d take me out more than once a year,” I retorted. 

He shot back: “You’re such an exaggerator, and you are never satisfied.  We took a walk on the beach yesterday.  That was romantic.”

“It’s not romantic because you put no effort into planning it.  We just happened to be there.”  My cheeks grew hot “You want sex,” I fumed, “but you do nothing to create the mood.”

“You just don’t get it,” he muttered as he shut the door, shutting me out.

“YOU don’t get it.” I shouted through the door as tears began to sting my eyes. 

A dull ache swept through my chest. My brain told my heart: It’s hopeless.

When my friend suggested we do a women’s Bible study about sex, I sputtered incomprehensibly, “Why would I want to do that?! And a Bible study for women about sex just seems weird.” 

Undaunted, she explained that this study was about improving relationships and was highly recommended by people she respected.

I prayed about it, and felt a peace. We started the study.  I learned that sex is a gift that I had the power to give or withhold, and that it was God’s idea to bring oneness into a marriage.  I was encouraged to meet my husband’s needs. 

“Unfair!” said myself to me—especially because he’s not meeting my needs.  But I had to admit the stalemate wasn’t getting me anywhere.  It was time to grow up.

I forgave, and then I gave—passionately, whole-heartedly, with a desire to please him.  The next night I gave again, and even enjoyed it.  The next night he asked me where I’d like to go because he wanted to plan a special romantic date for me.  The next morning, he brought me flowers.

Had I waited for him to give me what I wanted before I gave him what he wanted, I could still be waiting. Or worse, by withholding I could have added more layers of hurt and rejection onto him, while his response would pile more hurt and rejection onto myself.  And all of it would have been so unnecessary. 

I was damaging our marriage because I wanted my needs to be met first.  When I finally gave up my “right to romance” and met his needs first, I gained the very thing I longed for.

A wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands (Proverbs 14:1).

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