The Unexpected Realities in Marriage: Part 6 – Raising Children

This week we're going to discuss the raising of children.  We consider them to be part of the unexpected realities, in marriage. Most parents are not prepared for the changes that children add to their life.  In our experience, the girls shocked and surprised us more than they ever created any real heartache.  They came up with twists and turns that we are not sure any parent could prepare for in advance.  As a couple, we had to learn how to unify our front in dealing with them.

Our Story

Heather and I were 18 years old when we got married.  We had a really short engagement as well.  Some may be thinking that perhaps she was pregnant when we got married but that was not the case either.  Our entire dating and engagement period was barely over 6 months.  Heather became pregnant just 6 weeks into our marriage.  Neither of us was prepared for that on any level (e.g. emotionally, financially, or otherwise...).

When Heather was in her 5th month of pregnancy, she was involved in a car accident. She had been wearing her seatbelt, which protected her from slamming into the steering wheel. The impact bruised her bladder but didn't hurt the baby. Then, 2 days later, we were both involved in a car accident.  A teen driver ran a stop sign and we t-boned his car with my dad's truck.  I never even hit the brakes, as he ran right out into traffic.  The thought of Heather screaming "MY BABY, MY BABY" haunts me to this day.  We thought that we had lost Mindy.  After a few days in the hospital and all the test were completed, we were very pleased to find out that Mindy was unharmed.  We were so thankful the day that she was born to visibly verify for ourselves that she was really okay.

We were not prepared for the endless sleepless nights, in the beginning.  It did not take me very long to realize that Mindy needed to stay up more during the day and I worked hard to make that happen so she would sleep at night.  As she began to grow and we began to settle into the roles of mommy and daddy, we learned more about how to adjust our lives.  As I stated in Part 5 of this series, Heather was mainly the one who made most of the adjustments and I just found more things to work at and keep me busy.  I don't know if I ever did get used to being puked on, peed on, and crapped on.  Mindy was a projectile vomiter.  Just point and shoot! At one point, I thought we had spawned a demon and was just waiting for her head to spin all the way around (Exorcist reference, LOL). Nothing in my life had prepared me for that concept but mothers seem to accept it more quickly and just deal with it.

Our second baby would come to us about 2 1/2 years later.  Thankfully, we didn't have to deal with multiple car accidents with Kassondra.  The last few months of the pregnancy, Heather was dealing with a lot of stress and was put on bed rest.  I would imagine that our marital struggles had a lot to do with that.  She also had a troubled delivery and issues with low blood pressure.  It was very stressful for me because I felt so helpless.

It did not help my situation that the night Heather was in labor, a mother lost her life and both babies (twins). She had snuck into the bathroom to smoke.  A blood clot moved from her leg to her brain.  That was the most heart-wrenching scene I have ever witnessed in my life.  Particularly when the husband came back to the hospital and they told him what had happened.  My whole family sat in the waiting room weeping that night.  Fortunately, Heather was unaware of this even happening and we didn't tell her for some time after she was out of the hospital.

Through all of the labor struggles and incidents, somehow we managed to bring two beautiful little girls into the world both strong and healthy.  After our "almost divorce" in 1995, I became fully engaged in raising the girls and learned just how messy children can be.  No more babysitters when Heather went to work.  I gave them baths and learned how to feed them properly so that they would quit crying all the time.

Through the coming years, we would grow a deep family bond that is unbroken to this day. The quality time that we spent with them as they grew and explored their world was priceless.  We took them everywhere with us.  They grew to know us as the real people we are and not false representations of perfect people. This blog is not big enough to hold all of the memories that we have created with our children.  Though times were tough in different periods of our life through financial burdens, sickness, broken hearts, and many other emotional tragedies, we would not trade a single moment because those were the events that shaped us into the people that we are today.

Final Thoughts

You may be struggling right now with your own children. They are challenging the last bit of sanity you have left in you.  Take it from a couple who has already climbed that mountain and reached the top. You will miss the journey when it is gone.  Cherish those memories. Relish in the noise and messes that your children make.  Reminisce in the sounds of childhood and laughter.  Lean into God when they reject you through their teen years and tell you that they don't need you anymore. They will stretch their wings for flight and want to see what they can do without your help.  They will return to you again if you just hold on and pray through the struggling times.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6

The day they walk out the door for the last time and walk into their own home will be a tearful day of gladness and sorrow. However, it will be filled with the joy of the Lord for having finished the race and brought them to adulthood without killing them (LOL, kidding).

Parenting can be challenging.  It can also be very rewarding.  We suggest that parents find more reasons to smile with their kids.  Find reasons to laugh and play with them.  Focus more on the good qualities that they have and less on any bad ones.  Create so many memories with them that they can never forget the love that you had for them.

Tim & Heather Key
Life Travelers

The Unexpected Realities in Marriage: Part 5 – The Big “D”

This week we will take on the subject of divorce.  It is a big nasty topic that affects 1.2 million marriages annually in the United States alone.  No one is immune to its sting and a large percentage of people have been through a divorce or have family members who have been divorced.  Divorce is like a war. Though both parties involved may survive, nobody wins and everyone loses.

Our Story

In 1991, we committed our lives to Christ.  I (Tim) began working in the ministry, within a year, as I had felt the calling from God.  In 1994, I became an ordained minister.  I served the church through music ministry and youth ministry.

We were part of a new church plant in 1992.  I also worked full-time at a regular 40hrs/week job to support the family and all of my ministry work was solely voluntary.  Being the passionate person that I am, I put more effort into ministry than I did the paying job that I had.  We traveled around the middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky area on a regular basis holding revivals.  When there weren't revivals going on, there were meetings, music practice, and planning sessions that were going on several times a week. When we weren't working on church business, we were just hanging out together as friends. I was living a dream life; serving the Lord and helping the hurting and the lost find Christ.  What could possibly go wrong in a person's life who was serving the Almighty God?

Well, the reality is that there was a lot that went wrong.  I just wasn't aware it, at the time.  The truth is that I spent all of my time working and serving others while leaving my wife at home alone to raise our two children.  Heather worked full-time as well.  She was lonely and overwhelmed, while I was living a carefree life.  That is until April 22, 1995, when reality came to collect on the lie I was living.

Setting the stage for a disaster  Tweet This!

This was day 3 of a men's conference I had been attending.  It was called Riding for the Brand and hosted by Steve Farrar. That morning started off bad.  I had stayed up really late the night before and overslept.  Heather worked 3rd shift and had been trying to call me but I never aroused from my slumber.  Eventually, I did wake up and rushed to meet the guys I was riding with to the conference.  I knew that I needed to call Heather back but I guess that I didn't feel it was as important as getting to this conference on time.  That will prove to be one phone call that I wished I had made.  This was before cell phones were affordable.

I went on to the conference and it was the best day of the event.  Steve's message drove right to my heart about being engaged with the family.  He spoke about husbands taking the time and care to really listen to what your wife has to say.  How God speaks wisdom into your life through your wife concerning your family.  How she can be a real blessing to you because you don't have all the answers yourself.  He talked about how taking responsibility and an active role in your home was God's calling to husbands and fathers. We represent the brand.  I was inspired!  I couldn't wait to get home and share what I had learned, with Heather, at the conference.  We had not discussed any of it since the conference had begun.  I remember how excited I was on the ride home.  I wasn't talking to anyone in the car on the way home that day.  I was just going over the new things that I had learned and how Heather would be as excited as I was.  I couldn't have been more wrong!

The day divorce knocked on our door.  Tweet This!

I pulled into the driveway and literally ran toward the house and rushed through the door.  I found Heather sitting in the middle of the living room floor with our youngest daughter cradled in her arms and Heather was crying.  Shocked, I said, "What's wrong!"

She looked up at me with tears streaming down her face and said, "I don't love you anymore and I want you to leave!"

Nothing could have shocked me more.  I was totally blindsided and just stood there with my jaw hanging down. It seemed like an eternity but I knew, by the look in her eyes, that she was serious and I had a big problem on my hands.  The thought came back to me from the conference, "Listen to what your wife has to say".  It was not something that I was accustomed to doing.  Normally, I would lash out and argue my defense.  This was different.  I had new information about my responsibility as a husband and she was not trying to pick a fight with me.  There was no love in her eyes or voice and it burned my soul when she spoke to me.  I had done something that had killed our relationship and I honestly had no idea what it was.  All I knew, at this moment, was that she had something to say and I needed to hear it.  However, she had been trying to say it for so long that it had killed her love for me because I wasn't able to hear her.  Now that I was in a place to hear it, she had nothing left to give. We were at an impasse and I began praying to God in my spirit for direction.  "Listen" is all that kept coming back in my mind.

It took some coaxing to convince her to talk to me about what was going on and that I was willing to listen.  After some time had passed, she really opened up and unloaded her burden.  It was a lot!  She was upset and her anger took 5 years to reach this pinnacle. She was at the end of her road with me and the sad part about all of this, she was right.  I had been a bad husband and father.  I may have been a great worship leader and minister to the church community but I had failed at home.

Several hours would pass as she told me everything that she had been wanting to say for so long.  I just listened intently and accepted the full responsibility for it all.  This was probably the first time in our marriage that I actually heard her.  I had been so selfish and self-seeking that I had abandoned my wife and children.  I was an absentee father who lived in the same house.  I didn't take any part in their care.  I rarely ever changed a diaper or even watched them by myself.  I insisted that they go to a babysitter when she was working because I was too busy to watch them.  I am ashamed of the decisions that I made in this part of my life.  I have spent over 20 years trying to make up for that.  I vowed to myself and God that day that I would solely bear the burden of this disaster that I had created in our marriage.

I did not want a divorce.  I still loved Heather as much as I knew how and I loved our children.  I did not want them to grow up in a broken home.  I had to do whatever it took to repair our relationship and I convinced Heather that day that I would change.  Eventually that evening, she decided that I could stay but her feelings had not changed at all.  She had built a wall to protect her heart from further damage.  I was faced with an impossible task but I knew a God who could overcome the impossible and was determined to do whatever it would take from me to reconcile with her.

Let the healing begin  Tweet This!

I abandoned it all the next day.  I informed my pastor that I would be pulling back completely from any and all duties at church.  I knew that I could not lead in God's house while my own house was in chaos.  I abandoned all friendships and extended family. Heather and the girls would have my full and undivided attention going forward.  I started watching and caring for the girls.  I helped cook and clean.  I poured myself into God's word looking for answers that would change my heart and understanding of a Godly marriage.  I had no example to follow.  I had been living my married life just the same way I had observed other marriages I was exposed to growing up.  I had no one to call on for advice other than God.  I became an avid reader of books on relationships to try and find answers.  A few months later, I addressed this entire confession to our congregation one Sunday evening and I accepted the full responsibility for allowing it to happen.  I never allowed anyone to put any burden on Heather.

I persisted in this mode of trying to be a good husband and father relentlessly.  I exhausted myself attempting to prove to Heather that I was serious about changing my life and being the husband that she wanted and needed.  Two years later, almost to the date, I was burned out and Heather still didn't love me or trust me.  Her heart was cold toward me and she felt like I was only doing this to manipulate her.  She believed that if she opened herself up to me again that I would revert back to the man that she despised.  I was out of answers and I was tired.  One day, I sat down with her and shared with her my heart and said...

I have done everything that I could do that would convince you that I loved you and I have changed.  There is no more to me than this and I can do nothing else to prove it to you.  If you don't love me then I am ready to let you go. From today forward, if you stay with me, it is because you want to stay.  I release you to be free to live your life with or without me.  I can no longer live this way.

Heather said that this was the first time in two years that she believed what I was saying and that I had changed.

A new beginning  Tweet This!

That was over 19 years ago.  Something changed in both of us that day.  We each came to a new understanding of our relationship and how we could move forward.  I realized that I could not force her to love me and freed her from the bondage to be free to choose her own path, even if I was not going to be a part of it.  She realized that I was willing to lay down everything for her to be happy.

To this day, we walk in the freedom of being together because it is what we both want in life.  There are no rules or obligations to stay.  It's a choice that we make each day to live in peaceful harmony as a husband and wife.  This does not mean that we are without disagreement but, over the years, we have learned to communicate with each other and understand each other's strengths and weaknesses.  We vowed that day in the 7th year that going forward, we would keep all other influences (family and friends) out of our marriage.  Outside of what we have confessed, in the marriage ministry and our children, no one knows our personal business.  We don't talk to our parents about any relationship issues.  We don't talk to friends about our problems.  We seek only God to speak into our lives and keep our hearts pure and we talk to each other openly.

We have found a deeper, richer love in marriage that neither of us anticipated was even possible.  Heather is the joy of my life.  From our love, we have raised two wonderful daughters in whom we are very proud.  We have raised them with all of the knowledge of our shortcomings in life.  They saw us walk out of the depths of a broken marriage into a Godly marriage that is alive with compassion and love.

If you are struggling in your marriage, how far are you willing to go in order to save it?  Perhaps being prepared for that situations can help you avoid it all together.  We suggest that you prayerfully discuss this post with your spouse and if you find that you are headed down the wrong path, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Our testimony is a great story of God's undeserving grace and mercy toward us but the greater testimony would be to never face these problems at all.

God Bless,
Tim & Heather
Life Travelers

The Unexpected Realities in Marriage: Part 4 – Intimacy in Marriage

This week we are going to expand on Great Sexpectations, and talk about Intimacy in Marriage. We want to keep our conversation focused on progressing forward in your relationships and not getting bogged down in guilt and shame.  Guilt and shame are not of God but are used by the enemy to keep you from reaching your full Godly potential in your marriage.  The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin in order to lead us closer to God; not to bury us under the weight of our sin.

Everything God created, He did for a specific purpose and called it good.  Tweet This!

God created sex!  It is not dirty or taboo.  It is not some forbidden act that God allows us to do, while He turns His back.  It is also not intended for the exclusive use of reproduction. Reproduction can be a result of intimacy in marriage but it is not the sole purpose of it.  God looked at all that He created and said that it was good. He created man and woman with the physical ability and desire to be sexual and still called it good.  Sex is good! God said so and He cannot lie.  Tweet This!

Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. Genesis 2:25

God did not intend for us to have shame in our marriage; when it comes to our sexuality and intimacy.  He didn't create it that way, according to scripture.  So, why does shame exist in our marriages?  Sin is the reason that we have shame in our marriage.  If you think about it, what would be the angle of satan concerning sexual relationships?  Wouldn't he work against the purpose of God?

God's design for sex was for the benefit of a husband and wife; to create a bond of between them.  He created our bodies to release chemicals in our brain during intimacy that strengthens and bonds us emotionally.  Satan has been successful in undermining the design throughout time.  All he needed to do was convince people that it was okay to give in to their lust and become vocal about how wonderful sex is outside of marriage.  Today, Hollywood and the porn industry are the leaders of sexual promiscuity outside of marriage. Our children are being taught, through television and liberal school systems, that there is no God and it's okay to be sexually active outside of marriage.  They are watching all kinds of sexual alternatives to God's plan played out in front of them and told that it is good.

As parents, our voices have been silenced.We also may have participated in premarital sex and adultery.  We remain silent out of shame. There are still people who have not given into these temptations.  However, those numbers are diminishing rapidly.  We must break the silence and speak God's word about the grace and forgiveness found in Christ.  We must talk about the destructive effects that sexual fornication, pornography, and adultery have on a person's life and their marriage.  How marriages are destroyed and plagued with disease, unrest, violence, and unrealistic expectations because of it.  We must find a way to communicate this truth to everyone. God's people can no longer be silent.

Imagine this.  What if our children and grandchildren could preserve themselves for marriage because you were open and honest with them?  What if they never exposed themselves to pornography because they understood how dangerous it was for them long term?  What if we raise them with a full understanding that sexuality in marriage is holy and an act of worship, if kept within God's design?  What would that marriage look like compared to our own?

  Tweet This!There is hope, forgiveness, and healing for your marriage.  Tweet This!

You may be reading this and thinking that you've gone too far and can never experience true intimacy in your marriage.  We are here to tell you that there is hope and healing in Christ and you can move beyond it.  The Bible tells us that we are ALL sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God.  Jesus Christ came and died for our sins.  He suffered for us so that we could live free from the bondage of sin.  All we need to do it repent of our sins and accept His salvation.

Make the decision today.  You can walk away from sexual sin and begin a new life in Christ.  Some things won't be easy to let go of and can have lasting effects on our mind and body.  However, you don't have to walk through it alone.  We serve a God who will never leave or forsake us.  You may find that you need to work through some issues in marital counseling.  If you are committed to a life in Christ, He can redeem your life from your past.

Be bless and live free in Christ,
Tim & Heather
Life Travelers

The Unexpected Realities of Marriage: Part 3 – "Great Sexpectations"

We continue our discussion this week on expectations vs reality.  We are going to branch off into the area of sexual expectations that we will call "Great Sexpectations".  I know all too well that this is a taboo subject in our culture (Christian America).  The varying opinions concerning the sexual topic are as numerous as the stars in the sky.  Though we do our best to not be offensive, we will not apologize for speaking the truth.  We will be speaking very openly to ensure that we are clear in our message.  Let's get started.

How do we develop our sexual expectations before we get married?    Tweet This!

There is no doubt that everyone has some kind of expectation, as they enter marriage, about what the sex life should be like.  There seems to be some natural phenomenon built into human nature to attract to a partner sexually that begins with puberty.  Certain body parts begin developing in a new way and our hormones start driving themselves.  Obviously, the experience differs between males and females and also varies within the same gender role. But, something is certainly changing in our bodies in this period of our life.

Perhaps you grew up in a home with parents who talked openly about our sexuality. Maybe you even had meaningful conversations about what a marital sex life should look like. It could possibly be that they even told you about God's expectations concerning healthy relationships and respect for your own body.  If that is your situation, consider yourself blessed beyond measure because it is NOT the normal situation.  In fact, what we are mostly told by our parents is "do not have sex outside of marriage because it's a sin".  If you got much beyond that information, you are very fortunate.

Let me (Tim) walk you through growing up in my house and perhaps it will bring clarity to what we are talking about.  My parents had an active sexual relationship when I was a child.  We never talked about it but the "sounds of love" were in the house, after bedtime, on a regular basis.  (I'm smiling as I write)  I wondered, for a long time, what all the noise was about but never quite had the nerve to ask about it. Then, out of nowhere one evening, at the dinner table, I blurted out

"What are y'all doing in bed at night making all that noise?"

I was probably 10-11 years old, at the time.  Well, that didn't go over well and I didn't get an answer either.  My mother ran out of the room and into her bedroom, closing the door.  My older sister chuckles while not wanting to look up from her plate and my dad is smiling from ear to ear but saying nothing.  I then said, "Well, I want to know".  Dad calmly told me to hush, while still grinning and red-faced, and that was the end of my questioning.

Reflecting now, I think my timing was a little off for getting answers and the situation wasn't optimal for the conversation.  However, the answer never came from my parents.  That was the last question about sex that came from me to them.  I got my information, after that, from friends, Playboy, and Hustler.  I didn't feel like I needed anything more from them on the subject.  In fact, I knew way too much after the introduction to porn magazines.

That being said, I developed my sexual expectations about marriage from locker room chats, pre-marital relationships, and pornography. I was set up for a huge reality check after we got married.

My (Heather) situation was very different.  My mother was a nurse, there was no topic she would not discuss. At times,she became very embarrassing. My dad, on the other hand, did not talk about it. My mom told me about sex, what she thought about it, what God thought about it, and the choice was mine.  We all knew they did it; I walked in on it a few times but learned when the door was shut, walk away.  It wasn't a big taboo at our house.  It was just a part of life.  Perhaps, if she had told me that I couldn't do it, things might have been very different for me.  When Tim and I began dating, before we left the driveway on our first date, I told him that if he expected more than a hug and kiss while we were dating, he would have to go somewhere else.  He was okay with this, so we went out that night.

Heather set the stage for our relationship.  

I remember her telling me that and I also remember that being a quality in which I liked about her.  I had never had anyone tell me that so bluntly and be so established in their values.  I wanted to get to know this lady because she had tapped into something that I had never seen before.

I don't recall us ever bringing up the subject again, while we were dating.  She never had to remind me. That boundary was established and I honored her for it.  Needless to say, it did not prepare me for the variance that we would find in our "sexpectations" after we were married.  No, I wish there had been someone in my life, at the time, that was willing to expose themselves and tell me the honest truth like we are doing here now.

There is a rhythm to marriage and sexual fulfillment.  Tweet This!

Heather and I were unequally yoked in our sexual expectations when we got married. I will admit it, I was ignorant about sexual reality.  I falsely believed that she was immediately available to every sexual desire I could imagine and on-demand.  Boy, was I introduced to an alternate reality real quick.  Listen, we are not here to describe our sexuality in minute detail.  We are trying to show you a distinction between expectations and reality.  The honeymoon was a great experience for me and not so great for Heather (I found out years later).  It was several years before we found a true rhythm in our marriage and an understanding that has lead us to have a great intimate marital relationship.  But we are not alone in our venture.

It has been our experience, in talking with couples and conducting research, that most couples usually have one partner that is way more aggressive sexually than is the other. Meaning, one partner prefers 4 or more intimate encounters per week while the other partner would be okay with 1 encounter per week or less.  There are extremes in the frequency on both ends of the spectrum where one partner wants daily or multiple times per day and another person, prefers no sexual relationship at all or only for procreation.

Let's wade out a little further, into the deeper waters.

Our cultural taboos and silence about real sexual intimacy have left the doors open for every form of perversion and depravity to grow secretly.  Each person is left to figure things out for themselves.  The internet brought us pornography on-demand and freely available to anyone seeking to spice up their sex life or falsely seek to educate themselves about sexuality.  People enter marriage with wildly unrealistic expectations about intimacy and how things will be.  It often leads to unhappiness, isolation, violence, shame, brutality, divorce, or some other horrible and unhealthy marital situation. Some people, usually women, get trapped in horrible marital relationships that they were totally unprepared for and have no idea on how to get out of. And they can't talk about it because it's taboo and God hates divorce.

It is time that we break the silence and talk about sexuality in a godly manner.  Everyone knows, or most know, that God expects us to remain sexually pure until marriage.  What they don't know is why.  It is an abstract concept in our culture today.  Regardless, we need to speak the truth and share the reality for others to follow. The good, the bad, and the ugly.  If our story can save even one marriage, it's worth sharing.

Next week, we will explore this topic even further.  God bless and pray for marriages around the world.

Tim & Heather
Life Travelers