19 and counting

On this day nineteen years ago I said yes to a life-long commitment. I said yes to Shawn Lovejoy.

It has turned out to be a pretty good decision.

We’ve weathered some storms and made lots of good memories.  We’ve built a family and a church.  We’ve traveled and experienced some first’s together.  We’ve held hands and held each other up.  We’ve laughed and yelled.  We’ve shared secrets and inside jokes.  We’ve let each other down and let each other off the hook.

We’ve built a life together.

What would I be without Shawn Lovejoy?  I can’t imagine.  I’ve been with him since I was 19 years old.  Sometimes I feel like we are so close that we’ve literally meshed into one person, and I fully understand the Scripture “…..and the two are united into one.” (Genesis 2:24)

That kind of relationship is a gift from God. In a world where marriages last 7 months, not 70 years, I’m celebrating the gift of sharing my life with someone I love and respect.  God intended marriage to be a partnership in which we find love, compassion, encouragement, laughter, support, and even the motivation to become better people.  God has given me a spectacular gift in Shawn Lovejoy and the marriage we share, and I’m overwhelmed with thankfulness.

I bet God has given you some incredible gifts, too….relationships that fill you up.  Why not take some time today to celebrate them?  I’m going to!

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Ways to FLOURISH in Your Marriage

Yesterday, I posted a blog at Flourish.me, a brand new website for pastors’ wives and women in ministry, but I forgot to share it with you guys, too!  I shared some of my personal tips for a healthy marriage.  If you’d like to take a sneak peek into my private life to see how Shawn and I resolve conflict, click here.  I’ve pulled back the curtain on my life for all the world to see.

 

Wednesdays Are For Women: Ministry Partners vs. Marriage Partners

Pastors’ wives (PW) and women in ministry are incredible sources of wisdom and creativity as they use their gifts in leadership and service. I highly value their insight, faithfulness, and diligent labor. That’s why I’m hosting Wednesdays Are for Women. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share a few videos from other pastors’ wives at our recent Velocity conference.  They will share their ideas on everything from marriage to ministry.

Married life is the bomb.  Or, at least it can be.  Spending time with your best friend….sharing a home together…..raising a family…..knowing someone else loves you with abandon…..loving someone else above yourself……and partnering to accomplish life goals.

Yes, married life is sweet.  That is, unless other things have robbed your marriage of intimacy and unity.  The demands of life have a way a wriggling into our marriages and diverting our attention away from the very one we pledged to honor and esteem most.  (Who knew laundry and yard work could have such disastrous effects?!)

For those of us in ministry, we have another demand that can divert our attention: leadership.  As we serve and lead our churches, we are apt to become ministry partners instead of marriage partners.  Our dates can be overshadowed by a brainstorming session for upcoming church events, our family nights can be robbed by endless emails and phone calls, and our pillow talk can be about staffing issues rather than….well, the pillow talk we crave.

At our recent Velocity conference, I took full advantage of so many pastors’ wives and women in ministry being on our campus by interviewing them with a handy-dandy flip cam.  Today, I want to introduce you to Karen Hudgins.  She and her husband, Tom, are planting a church in Clearwater, FL.  Together they have a dynamic marriage AND ministry.  Check out what she has to say about protecting their love life:

Church Planting Marriage Partnership from Tricia Lovejoy on Vimeo.

Thanks, Karen! My favorite quote was, “We are completely in love with each other!”  Doesn’t she inspire you to make a plan to steal away with your hubby for a little while?

What about you?  How are you protecting your love life?  What are some of your best, most creative date ideas?

I’ll get you started by sharing one of ours.  My husband, Shawn, and I are taking our next few dates to walk down memory lane.  We’re reminiscing about our college dating days, our wedding day, our seminary years, life before kids, and the private jokes we share.  We’re reminding each other of moments long forgotten and falling a little more in love because of it.  I love my man, and I cherish our life together.

It’s your turn!  Share your date ideas, and let’s inspire each other to reclaim some time alone with the men we love most!

On My Nightstand…..

My favorite church is currently in a teaching series called VOWS, and since we’re discussing all-things-marriage, I decided to read a book that go along with it.  Heart To Heart About Men is an oldie, but goodie.  God is using it to:

* make adjustments in the way I respond to my husband

* admit sins I didn’t recognize

* and, draw me closer to Himself.

I don’t know about you, but there are times that I’m not motivated to be the best wife I can be.  My selfish motives get in the way, or I wrongly interpret the intentions of my hubby.  Even if I’ve been offended, however, God still wants me to respond in honor and grace.

The author, Nancy Groom, has a wonderful way of paralleling the marriage relationship to our Heavenly relationship, which motivates me to change the way I act and respond to my hubby.

Want to know one of my favorite challenges from the book?  Here you go:

“Are we willing to listen to God’s voice so that what we speak comes only from what He is whispering in our ear?”

Geez Louise, that’s hard. (Yes, I say geez louise from time to time.)  I’ll admit I have a quick tongue.  Not with everyone, mind you.  Just with those that I love the most.  Quick to defend my actions or feelings.  Quick to respond before I think.  Quick to say the first thoughts that come to mind.  Yep, I’m quick-tongued.  And, that’s not a good thing.  Quick wit, yes.  Quick tongue, not so much.

Do you bear the same burden of a tongue that leaps into action before you’ve even had time to think?  I want to learn to listen to what God is whispering in my ear and speak only what He tells me to.  Who knows? I might just save myself needless arguments, hurt feelings, and damage to my hubby…..whom I love endlessly.

What about you?  Would you challenge yourself today to listen to what God is whispering in your ear and speak only His words? I’m going to.

Bragging Is Ok Today!

I watched The View this week on Valentine’s day (yes, I love to watch those ladies argue!), and I saw something happen to Sherri Shepherd that made say, “Awwww!” (insert high pitch girl-y notes). 

Her hubby surprised her live on the show with a serenade and flowers.  Poor Sherri thought her hubby was going to give her the shaft, but instead he showered her with love…..for all the world to see.  She was a blubbering mess.  And, yes, my eyes teared up, too.  Don’t tell anyone.

Oh, we women.  We love for everyone else to know that our man loves us.  That we are his world.  Don’t we?  That’s why we love getting flowers delivered to our work places or hearing our spouse telling someone else how much he loves or admires us.

So, let’s have some fun today.  What did your hubby/boyfriend do for you this Valentine’s day?  Dinner? Flowers? Gifts? Thoughtful gestures?  I’ll get the ball rolling: Shawn woke me up with a few sweet gifts and a thoughtful card, but his best gift was yet to come.  He took me to dinner that evening and walked us down memory lane.  From our college years to our wedding, from our seminary years to the births of our children, he said he wanted us to reminisce about all the times we’ve shared together.  We spent our entire dinner swapping old memories, laughing, and remembering things long forgotten.  I love that man.

Now, it’s your turn! Brag on your favorite man a little.  How did he let you know that you are still the one?

Wednesdays Are For Women: Little Things by Laryssa Toomer

Pastors’ wives (PW) and women in ministry are incredible sources of wisdom and creativity as they use their gifts in leadership and service.  I highly value their insight, faithfulness, and diligent labor.  That’s why I’m hosting Wednesdays Are for Women.  Each week, we’ll hear from a different PW or ministry leader and gain her perspective on God’s activity on her ministry team, her local church, or the issues facing church leaders today. 

Today, we’ll hear from Laryssa Toomer from Manna Church in the Fayetteville/Fort Bragg area of North Carolina. Are the lines between marriage and ministry getting a little blurry?  Laryssa offers some practical advice:

Little Things

I recently bought an embroidered hand-towel that says, “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Being married over sixteen years and looking back, I can truly say that the little things really are the big ones.

Ministry marriages don’t go bad overnight; it almost always happens progressively. Somewhere along the line, we become so busy or inattentive that we stop investing in daily friendship intimacy. We often think:

“Once this [ministry] event is over, we’ll invest more time and care in our marriage.”

“Things will flow more smoothly at home after we get past this busy calendar period.”

“The children require a lot of my time right now.”

“…just a few more emails, then we’ll have face time.”

The truth is nothing just happens. We don’t float into a great marriage by ministry-default. And we’re often blinded to red-flags because it’s easy to confuse ministry success with marital success.

One of the most profound statements I heard at Velocity 2011 (the annual churchplanters.com conference) during the Pastor’s Wives session was this: “Often times, we are good ministry partners but not good marriage partners.” This statement made me stop in my tracks and prayerfully ask God to reveal the areas where I have confused the two. Another pastor recently said something along the lines of, “…[marriages] tend to shoulder ministry side-by-side very well but we rarely do life face-to-face well.”

Love deepens for one another in marriage not by major moments in life or ministry, but rather by the daily investment in your relationship with your spouse. Here are some ways you can proactively seek opportunities to connect, even when you don’t feel like it:

Look into each others eyes when talking. This lets the other person know that you value them.

Put down phones and devices when talking to your spouse. 

Pray together consistently, preferably non-ministry requests.

Speak truth to your spouse in love and not from a place of self-righteous annoyance or a desire to make them change.

Confess sins and weaknesses regularly to your spouse.

Forgive and extend grace, remembering that we, too, have been forgiven greatly.

Participate in an activity together–a shared interest, or a hobby that neither of you are familiar with that requires you to learn together.

Appreciate and celebrate the uniqueness and differences of your spouse. Quirks aren’t necessarily sin or bad habits but rather God’s design.

Resolve conflicts as they occur. Press for unity in those small moments instead of your own way.

You can gain a wealth of wisdom and resources on your marriage and ministry at Velocity 2012. It will be a great venue to connect with other wives who understand the unique challenges we face in our relationships while serving on the front lines of ministry.

About Laryssa:

Laryssa Toomer is married to Jeff, the Cliffdale Site Pastor for Manna Church.  Drawing from experience in both military and ministry leadership, they love helping families persevere through life’s challenges by the transforming power of Jesus. Jeff and Laryssa have been married sixteen years and have three children, Jonathan, David, and Zoe. Laryssa enjoys fitness, great coffee, and family games. You can connect with her on twitter at @laryssatoomer.

Relationship Rx

Each month I write an article for a local magazine, Up In Cumming.  This month’s issue highlighted an area some of us love and some of us dread:  home improvements.  I couldn’t resist using the theme as a springboard for improvements in another area of life.  Check it out:

Last month, my husband, Shawn, and I celebrated 18 years of marriage, and I honestly think that I have the best husband – the best marriage – around.   But, then again, a lot of people think that about my marriage.  It’s one of those crazy myths that come with the territory of being a Pastor’s wife.  Our life must be perfect, right?  No arguments.  No overlooked feelings.  Only happiness all the time.  Let me dispel that notion right now.  Our marriage is just like any other!  We have our up’s and down’s, but thank God the good times far outweigh the bad. While we certainly enjoy a great relationship, sprinkled throughout the years has been a little strife here and there. Like year one, which brought to the surface the need of putting each others’ desires first.  That was a back breaker.  Or, year 5 which brought the birth of our first child and the launch of Mountain Lake Church.  That was a demanding year.  Year 7 brought much tension and stress and the temptation to grow apart.  And, years 8 and 9 dealt us not one, but two miscarriages.

In our culture, any of these situations would have been grounds to throw in the towel.  Shawn and I are both strong
willed, independent people.  If we aren’t careful, conflicts, or even bad circumstances, can wreak havoc on our
relationship.  I have never understood why we can be so kind and polite to friends and neighbors (even strangers) but can shoot venom at our spouse. Yet, we are all guilty of it, aren’t we?  We must learn how to relate to one another, so conflict resolution is one of the cornerstones of my marriage relationship.  Here are a few of the things Shawn and I do when we disagree:

Continue reading at Up In Cumming…..

Our Date Days

Friday’s are my hubby’s day off, and we claim that day as our own.  We call it our “date day.”  The kids are in school, so we have an entire day just to ourselves.  Sometimes we make a day of shopping and lunch.  Other times, we watch movies.  Sometimes, we even tackle ministry stuff – the dreaming and planning side of ministry.  We’ve always been partners in every sense of the word, from working to having fun.  We just like being together.  Now, don’t think I’m being sappy.  I’m not.  We just have that easy kind of relationship and are really comfortable with each other.

So, today Shawn has uploaded a video blog about what a day off for us looks like.  And, it made us wonder what YOU do on a day off.  Do you get to spend time with your spouse?  Do you veg out?  Do you hit the stores or paint the town red?  Playstation?  Cooking?  Reading?  Endless hours on FB?

Give us some ideas for our date days!  For now, I’m off to grab a workout before a lunch date with Shawn.  Happy Friday everyone!

Refreshing Reminders: The Power of a Wife Who Remembers

Today, I’m continuing a series of Refreshing Reminders for all of us wives.  For the last few weeks, I’ve shared some of Pastor Steven Furtick’s words to a group of 17 Pastor’s wives at a retreat hosted by my friend Holly Furtick. His words are relevant not just for wives of men in ministry, but for every married woman.  The title of his talk?  “What Your Husband Needs.” Let’s dive in.

“Your Husbands Needs You To Remind Him Of God’s Past Faithfulness.”

Have you ever read through one of your old journals, some old letters, or old sermon notes and been transported back to a time when God was so real, so evident, so practical in your life that you were inspired to love Him better?  Walking down memory lane can have that effect sometimes.  Life can become so busy, so hectic, so full of details that we tend to forget how faithful and powerful our God is.  We tend to allow our circumstances to dictate our faith, or lack thereof!  But, those old journals or notes help us remember that God is faithful and good.  And, THAT increases our faith to face life today.

Our husbands are no different than we are.  They, too, get caught up in the busyness of life, and tend to forget how big our God is.  Pressures, demands, and deadlines loom over them, and they can be overwhelmed trying to measure up, maybe even doubting God’s ability to see them through.

Could God use you to remind your husband of God’s past faithfulness in his life?  ABSOLUTELY!  Who knows your hubby better than you?  Who has first hand experience of God’s activity in your man’s life?  YOU DO!  Who on Earth does your husband trust more than you?  No one.  YOU hold the power to influence your husband to stand strong in his faith during trying circumstances by reminding Him of all that God has done in the past.

So, let’s get practical with this challenge.  Here are a few ideas:

Write down some of the way God has been faithful in your life as a couple.  Maybe even make a family journal, of sorts.

Make a point of thanking God specifically for what He has done in your family prayers.

With the holidays coming up, Christmas is a BRILLIANT time to sit under the tree as a family and talk about all the ways God has shown His love for you.

We all face trying times.  We all experience moments of doubt when it comes to faith.  But, when we remember what God has done in the past, we have more faith to trust Him in the present.  Thankfully, marriage is a partnership, and we have someone to catch us when we fall.  Catch your hubby!  He’ll be better for it.

Win The Fight or Win The Relationship?

Thisyear, Shawn and I celebrated 17 years of marriage.  Wow! I honestly think that I’ve got the best husband….the best marriage around.  But, you know what?  Our marriage is just like any other!  We’ve had our up’s and down’s.  Thank God the good times have far outweighed the bad. We’ve had a great life and marriage.  But, sprinkled throughout the years has been a little strife here and there. Like year one, which brought to the surface the need of putting each others’ desires first.  That was a back breaker!  Or, year 5 which brought the birth of our first child and the birth of MLC!  That was a demanding year.  Year 7 brought much tension and stress and the temptation to grow apart.  And, years 8 and 9 dealt us not one, but 2 miscarriages. 

In our culture, any of these situations would have been grounds to throw in the towel.  Shawn and I are both strong willed, independent people.  So, if we aren’t careful, conflicts, or even bad circumstances, can wreak havoc on our relationship.  Why can we be so kind and polite to friends and neighbors (even strangers) but can shoot venom at our spouse?  Conflict resolution has been one of the cornerstones of my relationship with my husband.  Here are a few of the things Shawn and I do when we disagree:

-We ALWAYS talk it out, and we NEVER call each other names or threaten the other.  Our goal is to end the conflict, not end the marriage!

-We never sweep ANYTHING under the rug.  Unresolved issues just lead to more issues.

-Sometimes when we make a covenant together of what we’ll do in the future to prevent a conflict, we actually write it down!  It may sound over the top, but it works for us.  Putting it in writing seems to hold us accountable to our promises.  We don’t do this for every disagreement, but if we realize that we’re continuing to deal with the same issue, we opt for this resolution.

-And, we always BELIEVE the best about each other.  Even when Shawn has completely frustrated me, I choose to believe he didn’t do it on purpose.  I choose to remember his great love for me.  Check out this verse: 

“Search for peace and work to maintain it.” 1 Peter 3:11b (NLT)

 Marriage is a lot of fun.  A lot of laughs.  It is tight friendship.  Sweet love.  But, we’re kidding ourselves if we think it all just comes naturally.  It takes loyalty, unity, and trust to see you through the conflicts.  So, hang in there.  Search for peace – believe the best about each other and talk through your issues.  And, then work to maintain it – find creative ways to eliminate the same old arguments and deepen your friendship. Marriage is an ongoing project.  Are you working on it?