Pie Eating Competition.
These are a few of the stand out memories in my head from a summer retreat I went to in college. It was a weekend planned to celebrate life and deepen community with friends, with an abundance of confetti thrown around every corner.
Woven into the weekend were a few speakers. One of whom I really respected. He was an older man who had experienced a lot of life. I always leaned in a little harder when he spoke because he was the type of speaker that had a quiet, gentle voice but always said something incredibly profound.
As he began sharing, he explained that they chose the theme of celebration that year to remind us that sometimes in life, it might not always be easy to celebrate, but celebration is vital for the believer’s life. He shared that often there might be seasons in life where, “celebration would take discipline”.
To be honest, I remember writing that phrase down in my notebook with a question mark by it.
How hard could it be to celebrate? What do you mean, “celebration would take discipline?” Discipline is a word I associated with marathon training, military generals, or an attribute I try to possess when my teammates bring doughnuts to work. Not a word I associated with celebration.
He clearly didn’t see the pie eating competition at the retreat. It was not hard to celebrate!
Fast forward a few seasons in life, I’m sitting here at my desk preparing to stand up in wedding number three in the last five months, and something about that phrase has been ringing true. Another wedding while I am still single? Another baby shower invite in the mail when the gift of motherhood feels far away? How is it possible to show up in these moments and celebrate those we love when our own hearts feel heavy with the disappointments of life and unfulfilled longings?
Sometimes things like sadness, grief, disappointment, envy, and comparison start to cloud the ability to celebrate.
Am I alone in this? Cringe.
Paul gives us a command in Romans 12:15 to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
This isn’t just the “thing to do to be a good friend”. It’s actually a biblical command. Rejoice with your friends who are rejoicing – even when you don’t feel like it.
I think that speaker back in college was right. Just like it takes discipline to strengthen our bodies, I believe it also takes discipline to strengthen our ability to celebrate. There may be seasons where it may not be our natural response to rejoice with those who rejoice, but we still need to flex the muscle of celebration in our life.
So how do we strengthen within us the discipline to celebrate? Here are three ways I have found that have helped me on this journey:
Just before Paul gives us the command to rejoice with those who rejoice, he also provides us with another call to action – “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans- 12:10 Celebrating others involves first looking outside of ourselves and to the needs and situations of another. As believers, we are called to do this life together and walk alongside of each other. Therefore, we first must be devoted to each other in sincere and genuine love.
Sister, it is not wrong to feel sadness in areas where your friends might be rejoicing. However, I have found that our sadness can easily morph into envy or jealously. Sometimes, I have to do a personal inventory and ask myself, am I holding these desires too closely? Do I need to surrender and trust God in this area of my life? Perhaps our inability to celebrate others in an area is because we have not yet surrendered that part of our lives fully to God.
Pray that God would allow you to truly celebrate those around you are walking through times in their life where they need a friend to dance and cheer with them.
Pray that God would help you love those around you with sincere love.
Pray that as members of the body of Christ your eyes would be opened to the needs of others.
Pray that God would comfort you as you celebrate others.
Pray that the Holy Spirit would illuminate areas of your life that you may need to surrender to Him.
Finally, pray that the Lord would strengthen within you the disciple to celebrate!
Steph Vandermolen is a member of the Live Original Team. She loves watching hockey, drinking coffee on chilly days, and knows too many random facts about Iceland.
You probably know them as one of the greatest, most lovable couples out there right now, but what you might not know are all of the details that make them so great. We sat down with former Bachelor, Ben Higgins and his rockstar girlfriend, Jessica Clarke, to cover all the fun topics – like how they met, their favorite things about each other, and how they keep faith in the center of it all. We hope you LOVE this post from this precious couple!
How did y’all meet?
Jess was working a full time job in Nashville and Ben was staying in a hotel by Bridgestone Arena. There was a hockey game that night and he wanted to know what teams were playing so he looked it up on Instagram. Jess was at the game and posted a photo with her dad and tagged their location (always tag your location, ladies!). Ben saw the photo and took a screenshot then waited a few months until he messaged her on Thanksgiving. When she saw his message, Jessica was curious why someone with such a large following sent her a DM. She responded and we’ve talked every day since.
What quality did you first notice in each other?
Ben – “An ability and a desire to empathize in all situations, a kindness and consideration really wanting me to be my best. Also, a joy in all circumstances.”
Jess – “A selflessness that I’ve never seen in anyone. He leads those around him well, always putting their needs and considerations above his own. I saw that right away, and the more I get to know him, the more I see it’s true.”
How did y’all start dating? Who DTR’d first? (HAHA)
We had planned on having our first date in Nashville when Ben would be out here for work. Buuuut about 3 weeks into talking, we couldn’t wait to meet, so Jess flew to Denver and as soon as we saw each other we mutually decided Jess would be Ben’s girlfriend. (and Ben would be Jess’s boyfriend)
When did y’all start talking about faith? How important is that aspect of your relationship?
Right away! We had been texting for about 2 days and then it was a Sunday. Ben was having questions about his church service that day and we had gotten into a deeper discussion than you would normally have with someone you’ve never met. He asked Jess a challenging question about generosity and giving. Rather than having her answer be misinterpreted, she sent him a voice memo. He called her right after and it was our first phone conversation.
Faith is foundational. Our relationship wouldn’t work or make sense without our faith being front and center. It’s a grounding force for us and something that has led to the most challenging, but also the most fruitful conversations. Starting to get to know someone by dating long distance means that everything must be intentional. We never have been afraid to dig deeper into our beliefs from the get-go and it’s led to a strong foundation that now we’ve been able to build on and really have fun with. Ben’s leadership in faith is one of the things Jess is most attracted to about Ben.
What would you say is the most important quality of a healthy, lasting relationship?
Ben – “A mutual desire to see the other person be their fullest and most joy-filled self. Serving each other well, and valuing the other person’s needs and wants as highly if not higher than your own.”
Jess – “I agree with Ben, and I would add honest communication. Clear communication has been the hardest thing for me, but it has also been the most important thing for our relationship. A lot of our conversations happen on the phone or facetime and I’ve never been great at expressing myself, so I’m getting better at speaking what I am thinking.”
Ben—has being in the public eye when it comes to your relationships shaped the way you pursued Jess?
“I think I knew I could be a little more forward because she wouldn’t think I was super big creep in the beginning. But, because I was on a show that involved dating and relationships my past would be something that would be brought up and talked about, so we have to be more considerate, communicative, and intentional. And I have been especially attentive to always make sure that Jess knows that she is the one I care about. But we both have learned to understand that the public will always be a part of our relationship because I dated on TV.
What keeps your relationship grounded?
We don’t expect or believe that either of us are perfect, and we love the quirkiness that we each have.
What efforts do you make to continue to get to know each other better?
Face to face time when we say no to distractions. For example, this weekend we carved out time to lay on the couch and have dinner in, just the two of us. It’s rare that we are ever in our home towns when we are together. While doing distance, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of travel and events, but we have learned to take time to slow down and just enjoy being alone together. Sometimes those are our most exciting nights, which is honestly really lucky. It’s fun to look forward to a night on the couch with your significant other rather than wishing you could do something more. Hopefully, we’ll always appreciate the presence of each other! Another way we continually get to know each other is by not being afraid to have hard conversations and we both feel the freedom to ask and say whatever is on our mind.
How do you make long distance work?
Talking on the phone and facetime rather than texting. From our first visit, we made a promise not to be sad to leave each other but instead leave looking forward to the next time we’ll see each other. We never leave a visit without having a next one planned, that’s a tip from one of Jess’s friends who started dating her now husband by being long distance. We learned early on that if we go longer than two weeks without seeing one another, it gets super hard so we try to not go that long. We’re really lucky that we both have flexible jobs that allow a lot of travel, so our distance doesn’t seem as tough.
How do you support each other in what God calls you to do?
Ben – “I fully trust in Jessica’s intentions and her heart, so when she pursues something I never want to be a boundary, but I want to find a way to be a facilitator and helpful partner to motivate her to continue to move forward. I believe that she has prayerfully considered her passions and her heart to know that what she’s doing is her calling.”
Jess – “I would rather see Ben every 2 weeks and have him at his fullest self, than see him every single day drained and feeling purposeless. He has been given an incredible platform that I think he has used in a way many would not choose to use it. I believe in everything he does and that he recognizes that he wouldn’t have any of this if it hadn’t been the Lord’s plan. With that, I know that God is going to continue to bless his efforts and I get so excited to see how he will use any new opportunity he gets. Being Ben’s biggest cheerleader is something I take a lot of pride in. I know he has a lot of fans, but I can guarantee that I’m the biggest!”
What do you hope people see when they look at yall’s relationship?
Realness. A genuine desire to show the hard parts and the good parts of a relationship. We hope they see vulnerability and not something that’s picture perfect all the time. We hope to prove that love is an incredible decision and that a healthy relationship takes work! We wouldn’t change anything about our relationship, but it is hard being apart and a keyword is “intentionality.” We get to have a lot of cool experiences together, but the best parts aren’t documented and we hope that people remember that. Our alone time and privacy is where our favorite moments happen. We hope they see Christ in our relationship and a joy in seeing one another succeed.
Ben found Jess while scrolling through Instagram in a hotel room in Nashville, TN. There’s not really a reason why they should have found each other – Ben is best known for being the Bachelor on TV and Jess was working in a sales job. We attribute our relationship to the Lord just knowing we would work together as a team. It’s been almost a year of dating and we are each other’s best friends, cheerleaders, and challengers in life!
Follow Ben on Instagram @higgins.ben
Follow Jess on Instagram @jessclarke_
If you’re looking for more great content, check out a recent post from another Bachelor contestant, Heather Martin, on the ways that God is using all things to shape her life!
As I sit here on my bed with dozens of my handwritten journals sprawled before me, tears of joy and feelings of complete awe overwhelm my thoughts. In these journals, I have attempted to capture my feelings and the events of the past year. I am filled with a sense of wonder at God’s faithfulness throughout my personal journey. What a year it has been! Never in my life have I felt closer to God as He has revealed His purpose for my life. There are no words to adequately express how God has worked in my life and how He has been teaching me to trust in Him and to wait on Him for direction.
Throughout my life, I have always “trusted” God. I grew up in church and have always been taught that He would guide me and that He loved me beyond what I could even comprehend. But this year, for the first time, I had to put that knowledge into practice. It was the first time I really, truly had to trust God by fully surrendering and allowing Him to lead me where He wanted me to go.
So let’s back up. This past year, I was one of the contestants on the dating reality TV show, The Bachelor. I know… not exactly the place you would expect to find a passionate, committed Christian. However, as strange as it seems, I knew wholeheartedly that that’s where God was calling me. Through a series of amazing and clear signs from the Lord (story for another time), I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that God had me there for a reason. I was MEANT to be there, and I knew it with my whole being. However, as exciting as that thought was, I was also terrified. I knew this setting would be completely different than my close-knit Christian community at home. I also knew that my story (having never been kissed… something the show has never seen before) would be something that was emphasized and, frankly, made to be a spectacle of disbelief in a world that is so drawn to sexuality. So… all of this swirling through my head, I said yes to an offer to be on the Bachelor and a week and a half later I was thrown into the fire. My prayer going into this adventure and throughout the journey was, “God this is for you. Lead me in any way you want. I am fully yours and trust you 100%.” Then off I went into the unknown trusting that God would lead me along the way.
Throughout the entire process, I grew closer and closer to God every day. I was praying more than I ever had and was seeking guidance from the word of God on a daily basis. In a time when I should have been the most unsure and anxious, God gave me a peace that He was in control and that He was guiding me. Week after week went on, and I had the time of my life because I was so reliant on the Lord and knew that, whatever the outcome, my future was fully in His hands. He instilled a supernatural peace in me that I experienced more powerfully than ever before. It was a peace that didn’t make sense. It was a peace that didn’t align with my situation but aligned with my complete trust in the Lord. I was able to release all my worries and anxieties onto Him because of my confident trust that He was going to work out my situation according to His will. It was Him who had me there, so I knew that He was going to lead me through. Because I knew my purpose so deeply and had experienced the power of my God at work, my fears went away. I was able to trust that, even if I was made to be an absolute fool (at some points this did happen, lol), God was in it and this situation WAS going to be used for His glory, even if I wasn’t aware of what that would look like at the time.
So each passing week, I waited and waited on God to guide me. I told Him to guide my conversations with everyone I encountered, from the girls on the show to the production team. I wanted to show His light to everyone I met and be like Christ to others. My plan was not to be pushy but to let God open doors when He wanted to, because that’s how I got here in the first place. Let me tell you, God had more in store than I expected. I was able to have countless intentional conversations about Jesus, and they weren’t me preaching or planning or being nervous about how I was going to present the gospel. They were raw, vulnerable conversations about life that naturally led to our core belief systems. These conversations were so eye opening because, for the first time, I wasn’t nervous about how or what I was going to say to people and how I was going to convince them to follow Jesus. It was purely a heart to heart conversation with another human being, created in the image of God, and I was fully depending on Him to guide the conversation. The crazy thing was, it took me being in a place where I was fully uncomfortable and out of control to feel free and confident. It seems so counter-intuitive but, for the first time, I felt bold. For the first time, I fully surrendered to God (without a backup plan) and I experienced true freedom.
Today, I am in a season of my life that is so incredible but comes with its own challenges. I feel like God wants to continue to use my situation but, to be honest, I don’t know what that looks like. Yet again I have been in a season of waiting, and I’ve heard God speak that more clearly than ever before. I have been praying and seeking for God to direct and show me exactly what He wants me to do next, but sometimes that answer is just, WAIT. In the waiting, I have caught myself wanting to take back control of my life and do things in my own way and time. I have allowed doubt to creep in, and it started making me question if I was actually hearing God correctly or if I was just making it all up in my head. I had gotten to the point where I was so confused about what I was supposed to do that I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore. I did the only thing I could think of and got in the car (with no music on, quite a rare thing for me) and started crying out to God, “GOD, SPEAK. Just please speak. Say something.” I turned into the gas station and got out to get a Gatorade (which I never do but felt like I needed to make some purpose out of the drive) and, as I was getting out of the car, I prayed, “Just give me a way to serve you right now in this gas station. That is what I want for my life so please just show me that you’re here with me.” I walked in and picked up trash on my way inside (thinking that could be the way I was serving, lol), got my Gatorade and got in line still thinking something was going to happen. As I stepped in line, I heard a beeeep from the cash register like the credit card wasn’t working for the guy in front of me. In my head I was like “no way this is happening God.” Again he tried and the same beep and then one more time. Literally, I am like “c’mon God this can’t be real! I mean, how often does this happen? He must have cash on him or another card.” Then the cashier says, “Sorry I don’t know what else to do,” and the guy starts to walk out. I knew that God had heard me and He had given me that moment to serve him by serving others. So, I said, “well, okay, thank you God! Here I go,” and offered to pay for the man’s items. When I left that gas station, as simple as this was, I knew I had just had an encounter with God and he so specifically showed me that not only was he listening to me but that I was hearing him and walking the path he had for me. I knew that, even though I was confused about God’s plan, He is still guiding me and leading me even now.
The crazy thing is, now when God says, “wait,” it doesn’t scare me as much. After going through such a crazy experience and seeing how God was so faithful through everything, I have grown in my confidence in Him. I realized that it’s easy to say the almost cliché line, “God has a plan.” but not truly believe it in your heart or not allow God to have so much control of your life that you have to trust Him completely. No no no! God allowed me to go through an experience that caused my whole mindset to shift. I now believe with my full heart that God is in control and, no, that does not mean that everything is going to go my way and if I trust him he is going to lead me into wealth and riches. What it means is that God has a plan for my life that may not look like my own plan, but it is so much better! It may not look better from a worldly standpoint but God knows what we need more than we do, and I fully trust now that if God says wait or no, that He has a plan that is so much better for me and better for His kingdom. I’ve learned to believe that God can do wonderful things with our lives if we just take a risk and give up control to Him. It is not until we fully surrender and trust Him that we will see what is possible only through Him. So right now, God has me in a time of waiting but, you know what? That’s okay. It actually makes me excited! Do I still get frustrated and think my plan is right and wish God would follow my plan? Of course! But, I always go back to God’s faithfulness and know that I want to be a part of His story, not for Him to be a part of mine.
Even still, I trust you, Lord.
My Prayer for you is this… that you step out of your comfort zone in whatever way God is calling you to in your life and you take that leap of faith to trust God with your whole life. It’s not easy by any means, but I promise when you surrender to God and listen for his guidance, He will lead you into a deeper relationship and reliance on him that brings more joy and peace than you ever thought possible. So live your life for Jesus and wherever he has you, use that place to show His love to the world.
Heather Martin was a contestant on Colton Underwood’s season of the Bachelor. She lives in San Diego, California and in her free time you can catch her at the beach with her friends and her two sisters (who also double as her best friends.) Her main passion in life is to spread the love of Jesus to everyone she meets and to make sure everyone has a friend.
Follow Heather on Instagram @heatherm22
I am SO excited to announce that I have teamed up with Live Original to create an exclusive study for their online community, LO Fam! The study is all about love, relationships, and redemption and I couldn’t be more hopeful to share about all that God has taught me about Himself through my relationship. Doors are open this week for you to join so I hope to see you there!
But for today, friend, as I was praying about what I wanted to write about for this blog, Jesus put you on my heart. That may sound funny because you may think “you don’t even know my name”, but I believe that’s why Jesus put you on my heart. I felt like He wanted me to remind you today that He knows your name. Yes, it’s that simple and yet we still often forget. The creator of the world, who is also the creator of your heart, knows your name.
In fact, He LOVES your name. He loves getting to hear your name and He loves getting to say it. He calls you by name.
The reason I think I feel so strongly to remind you of that, is because Jesus has been reminding me of that lately. I’ve been in a place where I’ve desperately needed to hear Him say my name. Some of you might know already, but I’m engaged and getting married on Dec 15th to Clayton Ray Pickens (insert heart eyes emoji). Although I prayed for my husband as long as I can remember, I truly couldn’t have ever prayed for all the little things about Clayton that drew me to him. I’ve never known someone to love so deeply. His heart is tender and soft before Jesus like I’ve never seen before. I could go on and on about Him, but that leads me back to what I really want to share today.
My relationship with Clayton brings me so much JOY, but Clayton is not my happiness. My relationship with Clayton brings me so much PEACE, but Clayton is not my peace. My relationship with Clayton brings me so much LIFE, but Clayton is not my life. My relationship with Clayton brings me so much CONFIDENCE, but Clayton is not my confidence.
If you don’t already know where I’m going with this, you may be thinking you hope he never reads this blog… and if so it might surprise you that I sent it to him, he read it, and he loved it! Let me explain why he loved it…
Just like Clayton isn’t my joy, peace, life, and confidence… I’m not his joy, peace, life, and confidence either! Although our relationship is full of all of those things, we both have realized that it’s not US. It must be something and someone greater. It must be supernatural. It must be our first love, Jesus, in one another drawing us to Himself. One of the greatest things I’ve discovered in the last year is that love is consistent no matter where it’s found, if it’s true love. The world will try to give love many different definitions and attributes, but God defined love once and for all.
Love can never be redefined.
The point I want to make is that Clayton could never fully satisfy me on his own. If I put all of my hope in Clayton’s love for me, although I know it is true, I recognize that he is human. There is a greater love that lives in Clayton. His name is Jesus, and He is the only one who can truly satisfy my soul. I love spending time with Clayton, but what makes spending time with Clayton so sweet is when we both spend time with our Jesus. Our first love. I love hearing Clayton say my name, but I NEED to hear my Father say my name. I need to hear His voice and lean back into His arms. This not only satisfies my soul, but I believe it makes me a better fiancé, and soon to be wife. If I tried to love Clayton out of my own strength and idea of love, I would fail every time. But is it God’s love and strength that makes loving Clayton effortless.
What I’ve found and seen is that God is the source and the key to a love that isn’t of this world. God’s design for love and relationship is so much better than this world will ever tell us it is. Love is Jesus, and when two people allow Jesus to satisfy their every need, they will experience a satisfying relationship. The world will tell you it’s physical attraction that drives a relationship and to make sure your partner is satisfying all your needs. But as your friend I want to tell you that no person could ever or will ever satisfy all your needs. No person was or is meant to do that.
There was a season of my life when I was in a relationship that I didn’t have peace about, that I discovered this to be true. No matter how hard I tried to create peace, it didn’t work. No matter how much I tried to satisfy, or be satisfied by the relationship, it didn’t work. But the minute I let go and let Jesus satisfy my heart’s desires everything changed. The fruit of His spirit became my new definition of love and my resting place.
When I let go, I thought I was losing everything. But I soon discovered that in letting go, I was gaining everything. His love completely redeemed my understanding of love and relationship. I never knew it could be this good. I never knew “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control” like this before. Everything became new and every thought had been redeemed.
I want to encourage you friend to listen to Him say your name. Let His voice remind you who you are and whose you are. There is no greater relational status than being loved by Jesus. He is the one we need and the only one that can show us what real love is. Let Him love you today and find yourself wrapped up in His faithfulness! Hear Him say your name and woo you to Himself. I promise you He’s willing and He’s waiting to be everything You need Him to be.
Laney Redmon is a lover of Jesus who loves sharing about what He has done in her life. Whether it’s through writing blogs, music, or designing clothes, Laney’s prayer is that it would always remind people of how loved they are by HIM.
Check out Laney’s brand new study, available on LO Fam!
Follow Laney on Instagram @LaneyRedmon
Noah and I were married two months ago after dating for two and a half years. We met and became friends a couple months before I signed my record deal. Noah has been by my side as I’ve made a lot of big decisions at the beginning of my career. He has seen a lot of my uncertainty and the not so pretty parts of my job that most people don’t see – the long hours, the days away from home, the number of people involved in every part. Noah has also watched me work really hard, fight nerves, and shine on big stages. It’s been a blessing that we met at the very beginning of my career in Nashville because through all these experiences we have developed a respect for each other for choosing to give God the glory when it feels like we’re flying, and when it feels like we’re just barely hanging on. So our relationship and my career took off about the same time, and both began to escalate really quickly.
In that time, I have grown in my faith because I have moved more and more out of my comfort zone. I’ve battled with worry, fear, and anxiety when faced with decisions that I didn’t know which way to go. But in those moments, I’ve increasingly turned to my faith for strength and the blessing of discernment. So many people are involved in launching a new artist from the label, my management team, my publishing team, the amazing group of musicians I have on the road, and especially my close friends and family who have supported me from the start. I’ve never been good at letting anyone down and making decisions from a place of confidence because I’m using faith as my guidepost has really helped me keep focus.
When I was asked to write about the topic of balancing career and relationship, I sarcastically thought to myself, “I’ve been married two months, so I’ve totally got this right??” Ha!
I became inspired to look outside my own opinions and instead use this as an opportunity to explore faith as a source for wisdom about balancing my life, my relationship with Noah, and my career as an artist/songwriter. Before I knew love with Noah, I knew the phrase “God is love” from the bible. And that simple, straightforward thought continues to influence all my relationships and set the standard of what I wanted my marriage to be.
The truth is you can’t completely prepare for the unknown. However, I took this topic and asked advice from many married couples whom I admire. Of these couples I talked to, some that have been married for a year or two, some 20 years, and some have been married more than 30 years. Some are friends and some are family members— all who travel for work and have had to adapt to the lifestyle that comes along with a career like mine. What I heard over and over was the importance of faith and choosing to believe in something bigger than ourselves and our relationship, or my career. They told me that marriage is not an easy or perfect adventure, but a solid foundation makes a huge difference in figuring out how to maneuver through this lifelong commitment.
After seeking advice from our married friends and turning to faith for inspiration, we have come up with our own strategies for staying connected through intentional communication.
One thing that each couple touched on was how to intentionally communicate with each other while traveling. Especially as a recording artist I’m constantly on the road and it’s easy to get caught up in each day’s events and forget to reach out to Noah. A quick text or call to remind him that I’m thinking of him every day goes a long way while I’m away and keeps us in touch with each other. Even if it’s a completely different time zone or no cell service, sending an email or Facebook message can make a huge difference in his day, and mine.
Prayer helps me feel more connected to Noah when I’m away from home, so praying for Noah is always a part of my morning routine. I thank God for Noah, pray for his heart and mind, and ask that God would take care of him throughout his day. Prayer always makes me feel closer to him somehow and puts my mind more at ease.
Another thing several couples mentioned was the importance of being aware of each other’s “love languages,” and how making an effort to speak each other’s love language during the time we are together can really make up for the lonely times when we are apart. For example, Noah and I both really respond to words of affirmation; and they can really help refill both our empty “love buckets”! For us, simply asking about each other’s day, snuggling on the couch, or doing a chore or two around the house shows how we care for each other. One friend went so far as to advise me to schedule time just for us – even if that means staying at home. It’s worth it to be proactive and schedule the time.
The thing that Noah and I continue to remind each other is that no matter what happens each day, no matter how far apart we are, we have this unique, beautiful relationship with Christ as the anchor. Here are a few verses that have helped me see better how I can live and love in regards to relationship and career.
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
I love this verse because it’s a simple equation that makes sense. It’s a good springboard for my thought process about the idea of balance.
Many days I wake up feeling out of balance and automatically feel myself battling with stress, worry, anxiety, depression, confusion, or loneliness. But when I remember to seek God first thing when I wake up, He reminds me that He is giving me everything I need right in front of me and my heart and my mind immediately feel lighter. Growing in our faith in Christ isn’t easy – especially with a demanding schedule – it takes practice and tenacity. So, Noah and I carve out time in the mornings to pray and ask God to give us a heart that seeks Him first – not our career, not each other, not our families, not friends, not money, not reputation, not personal gain. Then we talk to God about everything on our hearts. Prayer is a sacred time that we get to share and I’m really thankful for that bond we create through that time while getting to know each other more and getting to know God more.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
In my mind, when I see “To every thing there is a season,” I see “To everything thing there needs to be balance.”
I was on the phone with Noah’s parents, talking about the balance beam of life, and Noah’s dad — who was the officiant at our marriage – brought up this passage in Ecclesiastes. He talked with me about the image of a man who walks across a tight rope, and how in pictures you can’t see how hard he leans from left to right in order to keep his balance. It’s never just a perfectly balanced walk. I think that’s an amazing picture of how I have to experience balance in my live.
Sometimes my career calls for me to bury my head down and focus on my work whether it be at home or during travel. And sometimes Noah (and our future kids) will need me to be focused on the needs of our family and nurturing our relationship. However, taking the time to communicate when the balance needs to shift is critical. It’s really important that I create a safe space of communication for Noah and vice versa. I want him to feel like he is listened to when he speaks about his feelings and that I care about those feelings, even when it’s not an easy conversation. If I don’t, he will bottle up his feelings or let them build up and spill over in an unhealthy way. I have to choose to let Noah know he can be honest with me when he needs more quality time. This way, when the balance needs to shift between the two of us, he doesn’t feel needy or overbearing, and I don’t feel controlled.
For us, our marriage is a dream come true! This year I released a song called “Enough” that talks about that, and I hope it will be a reminder to us throughout our marriage. Noah and I are so excited to continue to learn about life and share our world with you all throughout the journey.
Picked as the only country artist on Entertainment Weekly’s “2019 Artists to Watch” list, Rachel Wammack has a deeply-rooted, classic sound influenced heavily by the rich musical history of her hometown of Muscle Shoals, Ala. Her songs showcase a gifted musician with a confident, soulful soprano earning her early recognition including being named to Rolling Stone’s “10 Best County EPs of 2018” as well as Amazon and NPR’s lists of “Best Music of 2018.” She received “2019 Artist to Watch” acclaim from multiple outlets including AOL, Pandora, Music Row, Pop Culture, Sounds Like Nashville, and more. She was also selected for CMT’s “Next Women of Country” and Bobby Bones “Class of 2019.”
Follow Rachel on Instagram @rachelwammack
“We just didn’t love each other anymore.” Those were the words my friend Jeff said to me, as we sat on the back porch of a rustic cabin on a guys weekend. “One day, we woke up, and realized that whatever “this” was, it wasn’t real love. So, we decided to file for divorce.”
I could literally feel the pain that my friend was experiencing. You could feel it through his tone of voice and the expression on his face. Though it had been over two years since his marriage had ended, Jeff still could barley talk about it. He told me that the person he had married, slowly over time, began to vanish. Jeff said that he began to feel like no matter what he did, or how hard they tried as a couple, they just couldn’t “get there.” They couldn’t feel the love that their married friends with “great” marriages seemed to feel with no problem.
Jeff asked me what I thought about his relationship. “Wasn’t your grandpa that famous relationship expert? What would Gary Smalley say.”
I get asked that all the time. “What would your grandpa say?” And, I honestly love that question. Because, I’ve never faced that question without an answer my pops taught me.
What Jeff experienced in his marriage, is something single people like me dread. And, it’s something that terrifies people that are dating or married. What happens when our relationships aren’t what they seemed to be at first? What happens when we’ve slipped inadvertently into the abyss of disfunction?
What happens when my relationship isn’t real?
If you’ve ever found yourself asking that same question. Or, are afraid of asking that question some day. I want to give you a secret. And, this secret has the potential to not only save your marriage before it starts, but can open up a new realm of possibilities in your relationships. I’ve watched this secret create marriages that last a lifetime. And, even spill into relationships with family and friends. And it all has to do with this word… safety.
The relationship ingredient Jeff was missing, and many of us can miss if we’re not careful is safety. Safe relationships are life-giving. Safe relationships give freedom. And, safe relationships are real relationships.
So, what is a safe relationship? How can I make sure my relationship is safe? Or, how do I know when to get out of a un-safe relationship? I’d like to let you in on this special secret with five traits of a real (safe) relationship.
1. Safe relationships help you be the best you.
In my new book, Real Life Love, I dedicate a full chapter to honor. You see, if you aren’t with someone who honors you for who you are, then you are literally wasting your time. Honoring someone means to value them, and everything about them, like they are the most important things on Earth. So, all of those quirky things you do. Your crazy, outlandish dreams. That thing you do when you’re nervous that everyone else finds annoying. That person honors each of those. If you’re with someone who doesn’t propel you to be the best you, then that person isn’t safe.
When I was in college, I dated this girl who was awesome. She was funny, and was extremely intelligent. Until one night. I remember telling her that one of my dreams was to someday be a host on NBC News. She looked at me, and shot back with, “let’s be honest, the only thing you’re honestly capable of is cleaning the bathrooms at NBC.”
I know. Brutal, but true. Let’s just say I quickly realized that I was never safe to truly be who I was around her, and who I wanted to be in that relationship. That girl was more focused on her putting her best on center stage of our relationships, and I was supposed to be in the wings.
Real relationships honor everything about you. And, they never put you in the wings of your own life. You deserve someone who thinks of you as highly valuable, and allows you the freedom to be your best.
2. Safe relationships want you to have good relationships with other people.
One of my best friends recently started dating this girl. And, before we all knew it. Not only was he dating this girl, he was only seeing this girl. As in, every waking moment of every waking day. Our friend group would text him, and it was always the same thing.
“Hey, thanks for the invite. But, I’m hanging with Jamie tonight.”
Every night. Every day. Every weekend. It was always Jamie.
One day, I decided to ask my friend. Why in the world was he spending so much time with this girl? I mean, I get it! You’re in love! But, did that mean he had to sacrifice his friendships for his romantic relationship.
It turns out, Jamie put tremendous demands on my buddy’s time. And, she didn’t want him to have any other strong relationships, that was stronger than theirs. While, I will agree that our romantic relationships are important. They aren’t the only relationships that we have. If someone isn’t willing to allow you to build quality relationships with others, which only brings more fulfillment in your life, then they aren’t worth being in a relationship with.
At some point, they need to trust you that you are doing the right thing.
3. Safe relationships point you back to your relationship with Jesus.
Jefferson Bethke is this author and speaker who lives in Maui. He’s super popular for doing cool videos on YouTube and a book he wrote called Jesus>Religion. A few years ago, he released another book called Love That Lasts. It’s about relationship secrets him and his wife used to build a healthy marriage. He recently posted a photo on Instagram of this book someone bought from a used book store, and in the book, there was a list this girl wrote called “10 Reasons I Need to Break Up with Jordan.”
I read the list hurting for this girl. She wasn’t in a real, safe relationship. And, several times on the list pointed to the fact that Jordan wasn’t challenging her spiritually. Not only that, he wasn’t really interested in following Jesus.
I’ve seen so many of my friends walk into relationships with someone who wasn’t a Christian. And, I’ve never seen any of them work out for the best. If you think that someone is going to change because of how strong your faith is, I have bad news for you. It’s not going to happen. Because Jesus is the only one that changes hearts.
Instead, invest in a relationship with someone who is excited about their faith. Invest in a relationship with someone who isn’t afraid to pray over decisions. Who wakes you up for church in a Sunday. Who is genuinely interested in reading God’s word. Who is spiritually wise.
Trust me, the other way only leads to pain. Be with someone who will sharpen you!
4. Safe relationships are judgement free zones.
Let’s go back to my friend Jeff. When he told me him and his wife couldn’t ever get “there,” I asked what he meant. “Well, I guess I feel like nothing I ever did was good enough,” he said. “Nothing was ever right. Nothing was ever the way she wanted it. I guess I just wasn’t good enough.”
Once I heard him say that, I realized that he probably wasn’t in a safe relationship from the beginning. Jeff was with someone who was quick to judge. She critiqued and criticized even the small stuff. The way he would chew his food. The fact that he wanted to start a company, and be an entrepreneur over being a doctor like she (and her mom) wanted.
Safe relationships can’t be judgmental, because people who want safe relationships say goodbye to their role of critic.
Jeff’s ex-wife was like a food critic that couldn’t get over what Jeff was wanting to serve. Jeff could make the meal of his life, and she would still give it just one star.
Safe relationships appreciate, and celebrate everything. The good. The losses. The joyful. And, the ugly.
5. Safe relationships are quick to seek forgiveness
In the book Real Life Love, I talk about how forgiveness is the healer of all wounds. The stark reality is that when people mess up in relationships, they refuse to seek forgiveness. They cast all the blame on the other person, and hold onto those angry feelings for years to come.
The true mark of a safe relationship is when someone messes up, they immediately seek forgiveness. The don’t let the grass grow under their apology. They understand that the other person is so much more important than “winning.” Real life love wins, when both people win. And, sometimes, that win starts with the words, “will you forgive me.”
Michael Gibson writes and speaks about relationships. He’s the author of Real Life Love: Saying Goodbye to the Fairytale and Hello to True Relationships. A book about the seven secrets his grandpa, the world-famous marriage and family expert, Gary Smalley. He lives in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.