Story of Us

His story …

If you didn’t agree with me, apparently you didn’t hear me. That’s what I thought. I knew before I ever took the Leading from Your Strengths inventory that leading people to my conclusion via verbiage was supposed to be one of my strengths. I could teach an auditorium full of people, but I couldn’t convince my wife of a thing! Why couldn’t I convince her that I loved her? My arguments led straight to the conclusion that she was the number one priority in my life. Why couldn’t she see that? I talked all the time – I made a living talking – and yet she thought I didn’t communicate! I talked to her a lot, in fact, saying the same thing over and over again trying to convince her of my love.

I finally got worn out trying so hard. I felt like a miserable failure. What was the point in continuing? My best arguments couldn’t make her feel better. After years of repetition, I finally concluded that saying it one more time was not going to make a difference. I had an answer for nearly everything, but I didn’t have the answers I needed to keep trying. I was spent. I was tired and deflated. I was a dead man walking.

I wasn’t trying to move on to a better life. I was about to have to walk away from the ministry that I had always wanted to do. I was moving from one deadness to the next; a Bible-toting zombie. Ending our marriage because of our problems simply meant that neither of us would have to keep waking up looking right into the face of failure.

“Here are the Yellow Pages,” I said in defeat, “find a lawyer.”

Her story …

WOW! It was the spring of 2003 and my marriage of 17 years was coming to an end! I didn’t know what to do to stop it! Worse yet, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stop it! I was so broken and defeated that allowing Satan to win this battle seemed like the only option!

When I said “I do” on December 29, 1986, I was afraid that I would never make a very good “preacher’s wife” – now, 17 years later, my fears were realized! I had failed. Failed our friends, our families, myself, my husband, and God!

What were we going to do? That was the big question we both found ourselves asking – What is the divorce process? Neither of us had any experience with the process. Our parents were still married and none of our siblings had divorced. Since Richard was the preacher, he sure couldn’t ask for help. We wanted to get everything taken care of quietly, including him finding another job, before letting anyone know. Besides, we had done such a marvelous job of being image managers, it seemed silly to blow our cover!

So there we sat – going through the phone book discussing how to get a lawyer, how many lawyers would we need, what we would do about the kids, where we would live, what we would do about insurance and all the stuff we had accumulated. We found ourselves ignorant when we came to the process of divorcing. We were momentarily stuck. Then, something happened that spring day – God intervened – YES! That is the only explanation we have!

Only God could have removed the bitter resentment in my heart! I felt that Richard was married to the church! For years I felt ashamed and guilty for feeling this way. How could I be a preacher’s wife and resent the church so much? But, over the years of feeling low on the list of Richard’s priorities, I was finished fighting! Or, so I thought…. God wasn’t finished with me. He wasn’t finished with us. He wasn’t finished with our marriage! He had a plan for our marriage and we were just about to discover it …all because we were ignorant!

Our story …

It was totally amazing, as we look back on it now! When we were ultimately forced because of fatigue to surrender our own agendas, God had a chance at last to allow His agenda to be known. God led us to agree with each other. He moved us to laughter. He saved us from divorce. We grew to understand that divorce was actually going to bring a whole new level of deadness. God led us to discover that we could actually be a team; the team of two He had always intended for us to be! Ultimately, He convinced us that if we could work together to make our marriage last like we were working together to make it end, we could have HOPE and future!

God led us to a Minister’s Support Network retreat where, as a couple, we were allowed to speak to others for the first time about our struggles. No cruel judgments, no resignations; just compassion and gentle, yet firm instruction. At that retreat, one of the leaders invited us, out of his own concern, to come to his goat farm whenever we needed. He promised to leave us alone if that’s what we wanted or to give us some counsel if that’s what we needed. Six months later we were on his little farm in the middle of nowhere and God helped us see that what we thought did not exist actually did exist: candid, discreet help for the marriage of a preacher and his wife.

We still remember with embarrassment and appreciation the moment Paul Faulkner stood up from the table where he witnessed us bickering and said, “You two are acting like children. When you decide to act like adults, you can come get me.” Then he walked out of the room. That was a marriage-changing moment! God taught us at that moment that we needed some maturity in our relationship. Richard went out to get Paul. “We’re ready now,” he said sheepishly (on a goat farm). And we were! We were ready and willing to answer God’s call!

When we began to work as a team on our marriage, we began to have the kinds of victories that we should expect because “two are better than one.” Our mindset on a godly marriage convicted us to work as team to help others who are struggling. We believe that the most mature marriages have an outward focus – a concentration on working as one to bless others.

During the summer of 2005 we stumbled across AMFMonline. We didn’t have a clue what it was about, but we recognized a few of the names. As we read, we knew that we had to be in Scottsdale, AZ for that conference! At the conference our eyes were opened to exactly what we had wrestled with for months! We could feel that nudge to “do ministry” together, but we had neither model nor clue as to how to do it. Within a matter of days our questions were answered, our passion was ignited, and the floodgates to our dreams were opened. We talked at that conference and every other one since with other couples in ministry like the Garcias, Rogers, Linds, Braggs, Olivers, and Krafskys. The workshops touched our lives and spoke to our souls! We couldn’t wait to get home and start doing ministry together!

We guarded our marriage against Satan’s tenacious attacks. We worked to equip ourselves for service with Prepare-Enrich, AACC Marriage Works, Dynamic Marriage from Family Dynamics, Leading from Your Strengths, and mentor training. JeannaLynn transitioned out of full-time nursing to part-time childbirth education. To strengthen the team, she trained with the ILCT to become a certified Christian Life Coach. Richard invited JeannaLynn to become a part of his ministry – he allowed her to become a part of his world that for so long had been a dividing wall.

We began writing articles together for weekly publication and sharing what we were reading and learning with others. We discovered how hungry other couples were for the same marital feeding and Christian marriages – learning to move from surviving to thriving in relationships that mirror our relationship with God. God began closing the doors that had kept us living independently and opening the doors that led to teamwork. Richard had led marriage retreats, but in 2005 we led a retreat for the first time as a team and the response was overwhelming.

That retreat became an annual event for us, and we led retreats for other churches.  The word about the availability of couple-to-couple coaching got out and we were coaching as much as our schedule would allow. A class we began teaching on Wednesday nights was supposed to last 3 months and it continued until Richard resigned in 2010 to lead WGHJ Ministries.  This is an incredible journey!

And all of this is happening because we were ignorant about how to proceed towards a divorce. We were momentarily stuck and God made his move.

Blissful ignorance led to godly surrender and now an excited Team of Two! Praise God!