Lessons Learned from Shattered Dreams

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I’ve been reading, again, a book that stirred, invigorated, and challenged me several years ago. Dr. Larry Crabb’s Shattered Dreams is a wise, hopeful, honest, and realistic examination of life’s difficulties and tragedies – our shattered dreams.

ShatteredDreamsDealing with a chronic illness marriage or any other loss in your life can be a genuine test of what really matters to you, what lurks in your soul and mind, the dreams you have or had. Dr. Crabb writes that “shattered dreams are never random. They are a piece in a larger puzzle, a chapter in a larger story.”

From the narrative of Naomi in the Bible’s book of Ruth, Dr. Crabb has learned six lessons – hard ones, wonderful ones, lessons that must be learned if we are to fulfill our true destiny. Necessary lessons if we are to grow into people with peace and power and unspeakable joy no matter what our circumstances. I share them here for your consideration. I recommend you get the book for more insights on these lessons.

  • Lesson #1 – Shattered dreams are necessary for spiritual growth.
  • Lesson #2 – Something wonderful survives everything terrible, and it surfaces most clearly when we hurt.
  • Lesson #3 – Some dreams important to us will shatter, and the realization that God could have fulfilled that dream pushes us into a terrible battle with Him.
  • Lesson #4 – Only an experience of deep pain develops our capacity for recognizing and enjoying true life.
  • Lesson #5 – Not many Christians drink deeply from the well of living water. As a result, our worship, our community, and our witness are weak.
  • Lesson #6 – No matter what happens in life, a wonderful dream is available, always, that if pursued will generate an unfamiliar, radically new internal experience. That experience, strange at first, will eventually be recognized as joy.

As I re-read Shattered Dreams, my sense of what really matters, what I truly long for, my dreams for this life, are being upended. I’m being forced to honestly and radically trust God as He redirects my focus, my loves, and my dreams.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

Tuesday Tip for a Great Marriage

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Confronted with the opportunity to purchase a truck, I sat down to see if we could afford it. I wanted it, and I wanted it badly. Cindy did not agree. She is our bookkeeper and has her finger on the pulse of our family finances. Our current vehicles were fine, but I wanted a truck.

“Why do you want a truck,” she asked.

“So I can haul stuff,” I declared.

After reviewing our income and current obligations numerous times, it was wretchedly apparent that I would be risking our financial strength to buy the truck.

Jesus warns us, “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first getting estimates and then checking to see if there is enough money to pay the bills?” (Luke 14:28, NLT).

Had I not taken the time to review our current situation, my wanting a truck would have brought undue stress upon our marriage.

The Bible reminds us, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity” (Proverbs 21:5). The opposite of good planning is impulse buying, which is when we buy too quickly. The natural-born shoppers among us should resist it. I heard of a woman who kept her credit cards in a solid block of ice in her freezer. In order to buy something for which she had no cash, she had to thaw out the cards. By the time that happened, she no longer wanted or needed what she was about to buy. It may seem like a ridiculous plan, but it’s worth doing it if it will rescue your family’s financial security.

Good planning also includes an agreement on the amount of money that can be spent without first checking with each other. The specific amount will depend on the budget category and your particular circumstances.

Budgeting can be difficult, but I want to encourage you to devise a plan for success. It’s a great feeling telling your money where you want it to go, rather than wondering where it went..

Let’s talk:   How has your marriage been strengthened or challenged by dealing with money issues? Please leave a comment below.

*The above marriage tip is an excerpt from Tools for a Great Marriage by Willie Batson.

Order here.
Order here! Available in paperback and eBook format.

Tuesday Tip for a Great Marriage

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Forgiving love is a power tool in marriage.

It frees you for a restored relationship with your spouse, because you choose not to hold it against her or to get even with him. Depending on the magnitude of the offense, you may not be able to eradicate it from your memory, but you can choose not to dwell on it. Focusing on grace and forgiveness keeps bitterness, revenge, and anger from destroying your marriage. It is not easy by any stretch of the imagination.

As we give to one another the acceptance and forgiveness that God has given to us, he brings that same redemption into our marriages. In bearing with one another and covering each other’s sin with grace, God touches our lives together with healing.

Let’s talk:   Why do you think so many people struggle to forgive their spouses? How has your marriage been strengthened by “forgiving love?” Please leave a comment below.

*The above marriage tip is an excerpt from Tools for a Great Marriage by Willie Batson.

Order here.
Order here! Available in paperback and eBook format.

Dancing in the Minefields

When it comes to living out our marriage vows in a chronic illness marriage (or any marriage for that matter), this song from Andrew Peterson says it all. I’m really impressed with the quality of the lyrics and the simplicity of the music. It is a great reminder to all of us married folks. Enjoy and celebrate!

In Sickness and In Health

On our wedding day in 1972, I spoke words of everlasting promise to my wife in front of family and friends. They sounded so profound and so spiritual. Honestly, I was so in love with this woman I would have said anything! I promised her the world! Marry me and you’ll go places!

Decades later we are still married. Still loving each other. The promise of commitment to one woman “till death us do part” have weathered storms with gale force winds and a few bombing raids by enemy aircraft. I have developed a healthy respect for those promises made when it seemed nothing could go wrong.

On a chilling December night, I stood in a hospital room not unlike I have done many times in my pastoral career. But this was different. This night, this room, this hospital was about to find a permanent place in my gallery of remembrances. Cindy, the receiver of my reckless promise of enduring commitment, lay in that hospital bed. The admissions clerk had extended us the privilege of the hospital’s VIP Suite at no extra charge. A private suite of two rooms royally appointed it was reserved for presidents, governors, mayors, and a child of the King. This was a small consolation for the seven months of unexplained numbness, pain and increasing discomfort.

A dozen guesses at the cause, vials of blood for evaluation, electrodes and pin pricks for tests, physical therapy to manage the pain — all added up to nothing. The doctors were confused.

We were pleased to know what it wasn’t, but frustrated because Cindy was not well. We prayed. We anointed. We persevered.

The months before Cindy’s hospitalization had gradually changed our home, our lifestyle, and our relationships. She was losing the ability to independently function in her daily life.

Our two daughters (ages 13 and 9 at the time) patiently and lovingly assumed more household duties. However, I found it difficult to add more duties to an already crowded calendar. The daily and weekly functions that Cindy administered and executed with such expertise had been taken for granted. The necessity of crutches for walking, the swelling of her legs when she would sit-up, the inability to remain at our family table for the complete meal, the restless nights of interrupted sleep, were all draining energy from our family.

I felt so weak when she would look to me for help. What more could I do? You see, like many men, I approach problems with a “fix it” mentality. Often I was able to correct and repair whatever troubled my wife. But what could I do about this? I prayed. I drove her to doctor’s appointments and the numerous diagnostic procedures. I held her when she cried tears of pain, anger and frustration. It didn’t seem to be enough.

None of this seemed fair. There was much to do for God. People to see. Sermons to preach. Seminars to lead. Books to read. Articles to write. But, I remembered my promise — “in sickness and in health.” Our love was being tested. My promise to love was getting an Olympic workout.

The VIP Suite of the Portsmouth Hospital had not been on the itinerary when I said she would go places with me. Yet, here we were. It seemed the last possible diagnostic test had been done. And now we awaited the doctor’s report. A brain tumor? Or would he once again say he had found nothing?

The MRI scan revealed telling spots on Cindy’s brain. Through a process of elimination the doctor arrived at his judgment. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – a neurological disease, the cause of which is as yet undetermined. It attacks the coating or insulation around the message-carrying nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord causing varying interruptions of the nervous system.

“Thank you, God, for an answer. Not knowing has been awful. Thank you that it is not immediately life-threatening. But why MS? Why us?” “Why” questions are tough. They are monsters. There are no easy answers.

Over the years I have come to understand that the indispensable basis for an enduring, unwavering and joyful commitment to a strong marriage is an implicit faith in God’s goodness. I stake my life on the certain truth that God would never ask us, his children, to go through anything that does not have our well being in view. God has marked out for us a path that is leading to unparalleled joy for us and glory for Him.

I don’t mean to convey that it has been easy. Life is not unlike reading highly technical books on theology or science or philosophy. There are some pages of information that are hard to comprehend. The only thing you can do is put a marker there and go on reading. Perhaps, later it will make some sense.

Cindy and I have put a marker on this page in our lives and are moving on in our marriage of love and promises. It has been almost ten years since that night we found out about MS. God has blessed us with a growing love in the midst of challenging days. There are limitations, but we are learning to adjust and thrive in God’s grace.

Often Cindy is holding on to my arm as we walk along – a means of maintaining balance and safety. I remember how she was on my arm walking down that church aisle after we were pronounced husband and wife. It was then that we began a wonderful journey of trusting each other for steadiness and safety in whatever we faced – “for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish, till death us do part.”

© 2000 William Batson – All rights reserved

UPDATE:  Cindy’s disability has advanced to where she has to use a wheelchair at all times. She remains active in ministry with Willie, cooking, swimming, and being Nana to their grandchildren.

Comments are welcomed below.

Grace is My Teacher

Grace begins with God. It is eternally one of the characteristics of His nature. It has been revealed to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – reconciling our broken relationship with God. Grace heals what sin has broken.

For a Christian couple, there is also an ongoing presence of grace which helps overcome the fierce struggles that seem to plague our existence on earth. There is no area of our lives that could more urgently use this daily infusion of grace than our marriages, especially as we live with a chronic illness or disability. As you and your spouse cultivate an appreciation for God’s grace and apply that grace in your daily interactions, you position yourselves to experience a joy that only God can give.

David Harvey’s book, When Sinners Say “I Do”, is very useful in understanding this aspect of God’s grace. He uses the Apostle Paul’s counsel to Titus to show that sacred grace is constantly working in us, not just for salvation, but also for helping us grow in how we love and live.

  • “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)

Sacred grace teaches us how to live in the unique, moment-by-moment days of our lives. It is always there like the coach or teacher who will not quit. What does it teach?

Grace teaches us to renounce

Grace teaches us to renounce; to turn from what is wrong – “ungodliness and worldly passions.” The biggest challenge in our marriage is to resist the pull of the old selfish, sinful nature that still plagues our souls. To not lash out when we feel our rights have been violated. To not demand that needs be met regardless of feelings and circumstances. Because grace is from God, it is violently opposed to sinful behavior.

Sacred grace meets us at these very crucial points of marriage with a desire to please God and with the power to overcome. For example, when your spouse hurls angry insults at you, or is disrespectful, or does something dumb, grace is there to help you renounce the phrases forming in your mind and the urge to punish that is erupting within your heart.

Grace teaches us what to embrace

Living in a wise and mature way in your marriage comes not just from knowing what to avoid, but what to pursue. This sacred grace not only teaches us what to renounce, but also teaches us what to embrace; to turn toward what is right – “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.” God’s sanctifying grace helps us replace old patterns of behavior with godliness. It is in this daily presence and power of sacred grace that we find hope for a marriage that is fulfilling and lasting. It helps replace the less-than-godly passions of our hearts and life with kindness towards one another, patience with challenging moments, right thinking about each other, self-control of our tongues and anger, and a host of other motivations and actions that make our marriages sweet and safe.

Living with a chronic illness or disability, or being the spouse of someone who is ill, can exhaust every ounce of patience and understanding you have. Moods fluctuate, tempers flare, patience runs short and guilt often sets in. Costly medications and uninsured treatments drain already limited financial resources which can contribute to marital discord and stress. We need this sacred relational grace for those moments!

Continue the Conversation: What are your thoughts on relational grace?

(Links in posts may lead to resources for which Family Builders Ministries may receive a referral fee.)

Bedtime Grumblings

 

We went to bed unhappy with each other. Oh, we gave each other a kiss good night, and we said, “I love you.” However, there wasn’t much passion in that kiss, nor in those words.

It all started as we were getting ready for bed. The day had been long and exhausting for both of us. I said, “There’s an MS conference coming up. Can we go to it?”

“No, we have a seminar that day,” he said.

“Maybe it will be cancelled and then we can go to the MS conference.” (Wrong thing to say!)

“Cindy, I can’t believe you said that! I don’t think you care about this ministry.” (Wrong thing for him to say!)

Back and forth we went, each saying things we would be sorry for later. We eventually calmed down and realized that our words came out of our mouths without thinking of their impact on the other.

Sometimes when you are living with chronic pain, it can wear you down and you say things you should not say, nor really mean to say. Sometimes when you are the caregiver living with someone with chronic pain, you may get impatient and say things you should not say or mean to say.

Next time we find ourselves bickering with each other, we are going to try to remember the following:

  • Don’t mind read, assuming you know what your spouse means or is really thinking.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions.
  • Give your spouse grace.

Continue the Conversation:  What’s your story? Do you identify with what happened to us? What other suggestions would you make on how to keep from grumbling?