Living for the 50

When I was a young girl, we had a lot of dogs around. A lot. My dad was breeding hunting dogs for a while so the whole puppy thing was fun (well, my mother might disagree). Eventually, though, puppies started growing and what was cute before was annoying now. A two month old labrador, what is cuter? Attempting to jump on you when their legs are only a few inches long, licking your face and biting your nose as you wrestle in the grass. All of that is decidedly un-adorable when they are two years old.

So, my Dad would begin the whole training program. Daily teaching them to sit, stay, retrieve, not pee on your couch… the whole deal. At the beginning a little doggy treat and abundant affection rewarded every behaviour. But, this constant reward system subsides as time goes on.

Let’s be honest, in marriage, we can all be growing puppies sometimes. We know what to do to make marriage successful. Give affection, listen patiently, forgive and be forgiven, serve sacrificially, communicate needs. In the beginning of the marriage we want puppy treats and abundant celebration with each completed task and chosen moment of love.

Noticing and appreciating our spouse is so important. The reality is, though, that not every act is noticed. Not every moment of love receives a thank you note and flower. There are reasons for this.

For one, it is unrealistic. Not every act of love can be noticed and celebrated.

But what do we do when we realise marriage involves a lot of unnoticed acts of sacrifice? When the reality of the work it takes comes into clear view? What do we do when there is not immediate pay-check for making the right choices? When there is no immediate reward for choosing to love and serve our spouse?

How do we make choices to invest in our marriage day in and day out when we don’t get the immediate reward?

Here’s what we say in our marriage. We are living for the 50.

My husband and I have this framed in our home:
50-new

For most marriages, the most important date is their anniversary. Celebrating the day they got married. We have another date the we look at every single day, September 14, 2052.

On this day, by God’s grace, we will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.

This is the day we have before us day in and day out.

We don’t want to live because we once got married, when we looked so perfect and saw barely a flaw in each other. We have chosen to also live towards a day in the future. We want to live our marriage in a way so that we will still be married on September 14 2052. And not just still married. But having a marriage full of the life and love that we long for.

I want to love my husband not for today’s reward but rather towards the vision I have of our 50th.

Some days I serve my husband and there is an immediate reward… an affectionate hug, a thankful word. But many days there is no immediate gratification. Many days we annoy each other to no end. Many days our communication feels like we are literally speaking different languages.

In those moments, that framed date reminds me to not just love Chris for today’s reward. Whether he notices or not, I’m living and loving for the 50. I make daily decisions in our marriage that will get us to that 50th in the way we want.

Today’s culture tells us to “live in the moment” and “do what’s good for you”. Some moments what is good for me is a sarcastic comment and silent treatment towards my husband. That’s what would feel good in the moment.

Don’t forget to live for the 50. When you live your marriage for the 50 you don’t always do what feels good in the moment, you make daily little decisions that invest in a future reality.

Some days I think, “Why should I be generous towards him, he won’t even notice?!” In that moment, I think of September 14, 2052 and remind myself… live for the 50.

We don’t arrive happy, in love and best friends at our 50th because of one grand event or one big romantic gesture. You arrive there little by little. Day by day. Living each day for the 50.

Top Relationship Books of 2014

It’s coming to the end of 2014 and I’ve been reflecting on some of the top books and writings that I’ve enjoyed this year. This is a list of my favorite books on relationships of all types! I hope you get some ideas. Is there a relationship orientated book that you’ve loved this year? I would love to hear about it in the comments section.


With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God

Best Book on Relationship with God: With by Skye Jethani

This book wins far and away as my favourite book of 2014. Jethani is both engaging and penetrating as he looks at the false ways you might be relating to God. He takes on the false belief systems in Christian culture and our own individual lives, you will be left seeing things in new ways. The best part is that you are left with a deep and fresh hunger for Jesus. During a season of my life that I was struggling with stress, anxiety and fear… this book was a shining light in hard times.


Fun Loving You: Enjoying Your Marriage in the Midst of the Grind

Best Book on Marriage: Fun Loving You by Ted Cunningham

My husband and I both loved this book. A great read for those who have been married for a few years and need to re-focus on the fun and friendship that bring so much life to your marriage. As a bonus he gives a ton of practical ideas for dates, fun get-aways, and ways to just have fun together.


Boundaries with Kids: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, to Help Your Children Gain Control of Their Lives

Best Book on Parenting: Boundaries With Kids by Cloud and Townsend

The “Boundaries” series is a classic in Christian and counselling circles. I had never read the parenting version and it came at just the right time for me with an 8 and 9 year old. There is a ton of helpful advice and practical tips. I think you could read this book at each stage of parenting and come away with key wisdom to apply.


Best Blog Post on Dating and Engagement: “Sex & Engagement” by Ron Smith

I haven’t read any great books on this topic this year but a great article is buy a close friend and mentor, Dr. Ron Smith. Ron and his wife did our own pre-marriage counselling. He is honest, straight forward and so excited to see people find their love for a lifetime partner. This article is honest and direct about the sexual relationship of an engaged couple.


Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Best Beach Read: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

If you read my husbands book list for 2014 you will see he also listed this book (along with 2 others I mention here!). I would just like to state for the record that I was the one who tipped him off to this great read. It’s the captivating story of ultra-marathon runners. You don’t need to be a runner to love it, though. It is a true-story adventure that takes you from the headquarters of Nike to a stone-age tribe in the hills of Mexico. The characters are funny and totally engaging, you will get sucked in. This is a great Christmas idea for someone that loves running, adventure or just a great read!


With-God-Devo-logo

Best Daily Devotional: With Daily Devotional by Skye Jethani

I recently had the privilege of meeting Skye Jethani. He was speaking out our Community Gathering at our campus in South Africa. I was chatting to him afterwards and told him that I was aiming to sign up as many as possible for his daily devotional, it is one of the best kept secrets on the internet. For $1.99/month you get a daily devotional e-mailed to you with scriptures to read and a prayer to meditate on for the week. It is short, engaging, challenging, personal and helps you focus on Jesus more than ever. This would be a wonderful gift idea for yourself or others!


Bonus: Favorite Music Albums

Mali Is...

Mali Is… by Mali Music

Ok, little known info about me, I’m a huge Jazz, Black Gospel, R&B and Rap fan. I’m listening to one of these genres most of the time. My first CD was the Winans Brothers… not Bibi and Cici Winans, that’s black gospel for the masses. I was in to the real deal Winans. I seriously am tempted to do a whole post on my top ablums in these genres. But, it’s not the point of this blog… sigh. But, if you love any of these genres or want to love them, run, don’t walk, to your computer and buy this on Amazon or iTunes. Ok, you are sitting at your computer. So click on the link above. Do it. This guy is the real deal. Best relationship track on the album? “Heavy Love”. You will at least start chair dancing while he extols the beauty and power of love that lasts a lifetime. As he says, beautiful love is that “great-grand-mama and grand-daddy love ya’ll”.


The Undoing

The Undoing by Steffany Gretzinger

So now that you know my tastes, this album is out of my norm. Most worship albums I listen to involve Fred Hammond or Donnie McClurkin (if you just said, “Who?”, hang your head in shame and go take a time-out for 10 minutes). This album is minimal, contemplative and personal.  I found myself surprisingly drawn in. Steffany has an amazing voice, that is undeniable. But, it’s more than her voice that draws you in. Each song seems to be taken straight out of her personal journal in the best of ways. For those days when you need to hear the heart of Jesus more loudly, this album delivers exactly that.

“Do you understand anything I’m saying?”

My son and I were driving to the butcher when he looked off in the distance. We were discussing the pros and cons of using golf carts on a golf course (as we do).

“You know Mom, I think the reason old people don’t use golf carts, is… they’re old… carts can be used for…”

A long silence enveloped the car.

He looked up at me, “Ummm, I have absolutely no idea what I was going to say so never mind about that!”. We laughed together at the humour of it.

He suddenly said, “If I forget my thought in the middle of my sentence that must mean I’m becoming a grown-up!”.

“Yes, son, losing your words (and mind) is a definite marker of growing up”

A few days before that my husband and I got in a tense conversation over absolutely nothing and almost everything. All at the same time. Does that ever happen to you too? I was frustrated and couldn’t find the words out of the swamp of confusion, so I just walked away. My husband came back to our bedroom where I was hiding (as he always graciously does). He started talking, tentatively searching for a way out of a simple argument over a child’s car seat. Yet it was really about so much more.

Communication, words, listening, talking, all that stuff… it isn’t easy is it?

These words of Eugene Peterson struck me:

Because we speak our language so casually, it is easy to fall into the habit of treating it casually. But language is persistently difficult to understand. We spend our early lives learning the language, and just when we think we have it mastered our spouse says, “You don’t understand a thing I’m saying, do you?” We teach our children to talk, and just about the time we think they might be getting it, they quit talking to us … A close relationship doesn’t guarantee understanding. A long affection doesn’t guarantee understanding. In fact, the closer we are to one another and the more intimate our relations, the more care we must exercise to hear accurately, to understand more thoroughly, to answer appropriately.

I don’t want that to be true, but my experience affirms what he is saying.

Modern culture makes false promises about love and communication.

The deeper the love, the wider the years; the less the effort to communicate.
In true intimacy, we should know what the other is thinking even before they say it.

If only either of those statements were true.

The converse of this is old married couples warning us, “communication takes hard work people!”. So, the options become either effortless communication (not attainable) or a life-time prison sentence to hard labor (not enjoyable).

The truth is deeper than both these.

Communication will not flutter down on the wings of a dove like a moment of “eureka!” Nor will mere back-breaking work get us there.

Communication takes commitment, it is a heart issue. An unmovable heart to stay there and journey the path over and over until the right tributary is found. Not giving up until the path to understanding is walked upon.

Communication takes intention. True, deep communication takes days and months of chipping away at a thought or feeling of the heart until both can see it clearly. This is humbly sought after with immense amounts of love and care of the other.

Communication takes grace. True heart-felt communication is a messy and danger filled path. There are so many opportunities to hurt the other (whether friend, spouse or child). So many chances to be mis-understood. Constant temptations to build more walls than bridges and to throw our hands up in exasperation. Immense grace is needed.

Perhaps you are like my son who can’t find the right words in the right moment. Or like me who is tempted to hide in your room instead of treading deeper into a conversation that has no clear-marked exit.

Either way, there is only one path to deeper intimacy in our relationships. Communication. Get there by any means necessary, the journey is worth the destination.

SHE is marrying HIM?!?

I love seeing people get married. This is nothing short of a miracle considering that marriage was at the very bottom of my goals in life. Well, that is before I met my husband Chris. Funny thing how that works.

Marriage does not solve life’s problems (it creates a few more actually). Marriage is not a utopia of romantic bliss. Marriage is not for everyone. I know this. With all of this, many people still want to get married and I think this is a good thing.

Those who know me also know about my “prayer list”. This is a list of people that I regularly pray for… that they would meet someone who would be their best friend in marriage. I have to say, these last few years have been good one for me. I’ve been crossing people off the list one by one as wedding bells have been ringing. (I’ve also had years of stagnation to the point that people wanted off my list because it wasn’t helping!)

In the midst of all this, I find another conversation going on. As singles are longing for, loving and pursuing someone there is a chorus of friends that are cheering publicly but doubting privately.

The doubts are varied and many:

Does this couple have what it takes for marriage?
Are they a good match?
Do they have any idea what they are getting themselves in to?
Shouldn’t someone tell them the hard truths?
Aren’t they being too naive and not counting the costs?
Is it a good thing that “she” is marrying that “he”?
Does “he” really want to marry that “she”?

We all can think of couples that married, all the while everyone had doubts in their mind if it would actually work.

Here’s the big question: “When do you say something and when do you keep silent?”.

I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve boldly gone to friends months before the big day, said the hard thing and gotten the response, “Did I ask you?! Keep your advice to yourself!” Other friends have come to me after a first year of marriage that was full of tears and sorrow. They have looked me in the eye and asked, “Did you have doubts about this relationship and not tell me before the wedding?” Gulp.

So, when should you say something to a couple that you are concerned about? Here is the grid that I use:

When to pause before you speak.

“They have no idea how hard marriage is”

This is the most common thing I hear by myself and others. This is said by married couples who also had no idea what they were getting themselves in to on the day of marriage. If the only reason you want to say something is to give this couple an “education on the reality of how hard marriage is” then perhaps you should keep quiet. No one has a clue on their wedding day what is ahead.

“No one is being direct enough with them!”

This is also said by people who actually aren’t involved in the day to day of the relationship. I have actually had people come and ask me to step in to a relationship where I was not invited and did not know the couple very well. Others simply perceived that I was able to be “direct and honest” with the couple. I declined. I don’t fancy myself a professional “hit man” on those headed to the alter.

When to speak up and speak in love:

If they have invited your input.

If someone in the couple has invited my input, then I am obligated, by love, to ask the hard questions. I have been given permission to do so!

When the issues are repetitive sin.

If I see issues from the outside that are blatant, un-dealt with sin… I feel the Christian community can approach them with concern. I once asked a girl, “Does it concern you that your fiance regularly get’s drunk on the weekends to blow off steam?”. I knew her but not well. She later thanked me for being bold enough to ask the question.

When no one else is speaking in to their life.

Just because no one else is invited does not give me an automatic right. But, if I see a couple that I love “going it alone”, it concerns me. I will simply encourage them to find another older, wiser couple to walk with them. I have seen many times that one or both resist this because there are dysfunctions they are hiding. Overcoming this resistance is not always successful but I give it my best shot.

I might say something like, “I love you both so much. Marriage is difficult but wonderful. I want to strongly, strongly encourage you to find someone that can ask you both the hard questions as you prepare for your big day! If you need suggestions for people, just ask.” I then follow it up later and ask them if they have acted on my advice.

So that is my grid, what about you? Are you bold enough to ask the hard questions or are you too bold and an unwelcome counsellor in a couples life?

By the way, if you are actual friends with an engaged couple, here are 3 simple questions that will help them immensely! You don’t need to be their wise sage, but can raise the value of having input in any couples life!
  • Who are you going to for pre-marriage guidance and counselling?
  • How are you doing with preparing for the wedding, is there any way I can help and support?
  • Do you have people that you can talk to after you get married?

Christianity is a crutch. And other true statements.

If you are a parent, or around kids for any amount of time, you know how they love a good cover-up. My boys can compound a deception with another lie in record time. I love being a parent because I know EXACTLY what they are doing and they seem oblivious that “I AM ON TO YOU, BUDDY!”

So often, one of them has something in their hand. Candy, an off limits electronic item… just anything they know is contraband. They see me, they subtly hide it. But, I know. I know the whole thing.

“What are you doing?” I ask.
“Nothing” they reply in a contrived innocent tone.
I prod some more, “Do you have something in your hand?”
“No, nothing, I’ve got nothing”
Smiling sweetly I say, “Well you are adding lying to your thievery, it’s all going down-hill isn’t it?”
“Mom!!! How do you know!!?!”

How? Because Mom’s and Dad’s know. They see all the great things about their kids but they know the rest too.

Too often, the cover-up becomes a life-long way of living. Even as adults, we are reluctant to come out of hiding. If we can hide, we will hide. That seems to be our default ever since the Garden of Eden.

Why do we do this? Our Father knows. He’s watching it all. We are that kid with the contraband chocolate chips from the kitchen cupboard.

Why? Because we still have a death-grip on a faith that is about me and what I do instead of about Him and what He’s done. When it’s about me and what I do, cover-up is necessary, hiding is essential. In order to measure up we have to cover up anything that feels messed up.

Our inner life becomes like a Queen Size mattress with Single bed sheets… something is always exposed and we are constantly trying to fix that.

So goes the great life-long effort at covering up our weaknesses, failures and sins. And when we do this, you know what happens? Crap. Crap happens. That’s the truth.

My son covers up stealing with a lie. Then he lies about the lie. Then he starts accusing me of being unfair. Then our relationship because distant and hurtful.

When I lack humility and honesty I am doing the same thing with the same consequences to myself and those around me.

Living a life of constantly trying to avoid exposing the unseemly bits destroys us and our relationships. It may be slow but it is unrelenting.

What’s the markings of a Christian? Love? Patience? Peace? Yes. But before all that our first act is one of honesty and humility. We can’t let it stop there, the gosepl is not an event, it is a way of life.

Some people say to me, “You know, religion is a crutch” or “Religion is for weak people”.

I don’t deny this at all. In fact, that just is not taking it far enough in my opinion. Faith is not a crutch, it’s a stretcher. Jesus is for dead people. Jesus is for weak people. Jesus is for tired of the cover-up people.

Who do I want to be? I want to be this:

God: “Lindsey, what’s in your hands”
Me: “It’s stolen candy!! And that’s not all, I’ve got a bunch of crap in my pockets that doesn’t belong to me! In fact, things are pretty messy here God!

All our relationships need deep honesty and humility. Our relationship with God would be deeper if we’d be quicker to transparency. Humility and honesty is the oxygen to a life-giving marriage. We are willing to work with anything, if our kids would just be quick to be open with us. A boss, so often is willing to extend mercy if the employee will confess right away an error.

What about you? Christianity is for messed up people. This is the truth. In what ways can you dive more deeply into humility and honesty with God and those around you?

4 Simple Questions for Marriage Health

My husband and I are about to celebrate 12 years of marriage. We are not typical “romance” people. Our anniversary generally doesn’t involve me getting flowers, jewelery or chocolate. I don’t buy him… well, men are hard to shop for so that’s my excuse.

For us, an ideal anniversary involves the two of us being alone, away from the kids, overnight and with… wait for it… UNINTERRUPTED CONVERSATION. It is a rare thing but it does exist!

Since our first anniversary, we have a tradition of spending some time to just ask questions of each other. Questions that don’t normally get asked in the day to day of life.

If you don’t do this in your marriage, you should. Asking questions and then truly listening is one of the most powerful communication tools to keep a whole and healthy marriage.

Here are 4 simple questions on 5 important areas. Pick a topic, ask and listen.

4 Questions on Your Friendship:

Do you feel that we are having enough fun and light hearted moments together?
What events or dates could we plan that build our friendship?
Do we have any hobbies together? If not, what hobby could we do together?
Do we have mutual friends that we both like to hang out with? If not, who could we pursue?

4 Questions on Communication:

Do you feel I truly listen to you?
Do you feel that my words and tone show that I respect and value you?
Are there times that our communication struggles? What are those times?
Are there topics or areas you wish we would communicate about more?

4 Questions on Sex:

How is the frequency for you?
Are you feeling loved and cared for in this area?
In what ways could we make more time for it?
What could we do to make this area better?

4 Questions on Parenting:

How do you feel we are doing in being loving parents?
How are we doing in being consistent and following through?
What “season” do you think each child is in?
How are our family times, are they bringing us together or apart?

4 Questions on Spiritual Health:

What is God teaching and growing you in, right now?
What areas do you feel spiritually weak in?
What things do you do that feed your walk with Jesus?
What ways could I support you in your walk with Jesus?

More resources on question asking and date night ideas:
4 Types of Date Nights
Date Night on the Cheap
20 Ways to Take Initiative in Your Marriage
Questions to Take You Deeper in Friendship or Marriage