“Since before I could remember, my Mum and Dad set a precedent in our home of regular sincere encouragement. It was unlikely that any small task of goodwill would pass without a letter or word of praise being given in return. It was this environment that taught me the power of expressing any kind words that passed through my mind. My Dad was unwell my entire life. At the time I wrote my tribute to him, he was recovering from yet another medical set back. I wanted to let him know how much I admired, respected and appreciated him while he was there to hear me say it. When I read to him how much I appreciated everything he’d done for me, the look on his face confirmed that a few simple words on a piece of paper was the best gift I could have given him. I will be eternally grateful to my parents for teaching me the power of encouragement. At the day of my Dad’s funeral, it made the day so much easier knowing that he had already heard every word that I said in my eulogy. I’m so thankful I wrote my tribute and got to say it to his face!”
Now that the rugby World Cup is over life in New Zealand can return to normal – at least for another four years 🙂
Along with every rugby fan, I was disappointed and surprised when the All Blacks were eliminated by the more powerful English team. Being English I decided to then support the ‘Lions’ but my hopes were dashed when the South Africans came out hungry and desperate for victory.
However, after hearing the captain and the coach of the Boks at the post match conference, I was delighted and inspired by what I heard; and after seeing many of the English refuse to wear their medal, well let’s just say, I wasn’t impressed by my countrymen.
What made the difference? What gave the Springboks the advantage over the Lions? I believe It was having a vision bigger than the game itself. Sure, every team there had a vision to be victorious and to hold the Webb Ellis Cup high but the South Africans were playing for more than that. They were playing for hope for their country, for unity and for the dream of a better future. If you haven’t read the Springbok captain Kolisi’s speech, here it is… it’s inspiring.
As I read the line, “We love you South Africa, and we can achieve anything if we work together as one”, I couldn’t help but think of how this sentiment could have the power to transform marriages. Imagine relationships where we are always working together as one; where the game plan is to always have each other’s back, to be united and to bring hope to those around us. Imagine couples who aren’t just focused on getting what they want in life, but are seeing the bigger picture of bringing joy, life and purpose to those around them.
All too often in marriage we can forget that we’re on the same team and we can spend our energy ‘mauling’ and ‘scrumming’ against each other – trying to win the argument or get the upper hand. I’m sure the enemy knows that if he can keep us tackling amongst ourselves we won’t have the time or energy to play the real game with the real opponent.
Fortunately, unlike the rugby teams, we don’t have to wait another four years to be victorious. Let’s choose today to focus on how we can each work together as one. As you think about your work environment, your home life, and your community, ask yourself, “How can I work together with those around me, how can I bring unity and hope to my team, and how can I be instrumental in building a better future?”
As I write this now I’m aware that our tagline is a perfect ending for this piece.
Hope for today. Help for tomorrow.
Like the Webb Ellis Cup, that’s a vision worth lifting up!
About FamilyLife NZ
Changed lives; that’s what motivates us.
FamilyLife NZ has been teaching, training and equipping families for over 25 years. We love hearing stories of husbands, wives, and children whose lives are different because of an interaction with something that we’ve been part of. That’s what we’re about at FamilyLife; to inspire and equip couples to be successfully married for a lifetime.
Andy and I have just come from the Auckland Prayer Breakfast where over 500 were gathered at Eden Park to pray for our city. It was truly amazing to worship God collectively and to pray fervently for issues that face our city and nation.
There were 4 prayers leaders and I was asked to speak on the area of Marriage and Family. I wanted to share what I spoke about because I feel that it’s relevant to each and every one of us.
Check out the image gallery on the Auckland Prayer Breakfast website and, while you’re there, I’d appreciate it if you would take the time to fill in our online survey. It’ll only take a couple minutes and includes photos of the morning to help guide you through the process.
“My husband Andy and I have been leading the ministry of FamilyLife for the last 24 years where our goal is to inspire and equip couples to stay successfully married for a lifetime. During that time, I have experienced God heal so many broken relationships …
Here’s what one husband said after attending our last marriage getaway:
“Where do I start? I thought we were coming to hopefully fix my wife! Turns out I had as many, if not more, issues than her. This has literally saved my marriage of 17 years. You have inspired me to give 100% not only to my wife but my children as well.”
Comments like these fuel my passion for building strong marriages and families … but you might be surprised to learn where that passion comes from.
It’s grown out of a messy upbringing. My mum has been divorced twice, along with two broken de-facto relationships (considering her background, there’s no wonder); I lived in an Air Force children’s home for a year, and throughout my teenage years I lived with guardians … who also divorced.
You probably all know the stats: with that background I was 5x more likely to commit suicide and 10x more likely to have psychological issues. And if Jesus hadn’t revealed Himself to me while at Uni I’m sure I would have succumbed to at least one of those.
A church initiative to help young students navigate life in a new city was a saving grace. A local church family kind of ‘adopted’ me while I studied for 3 years. I got to see first-hand how marriage and family is meant to work when God is present. I was invited round for Sunday lunches, family dinners and sleep-overs. Of course, with all the brokenness I’d seen I’d given up on the whole idea of marriage.
Now I had a completely different picture.
Fortunately, when Andy and I married we went to a FamilyLife weekend getaway and we learnt even more about how to build a marriage according to God’s Plan.
At that time, just one year into our young marriage, little did we know what we would face: 17 years of Andy on a kidney dialysis machine, 2 kidney transplants, cancer, a serious stroke, 2 heart attacks and the tragic death of our eldest daughter Natasha, at just 16 years old, in the Elim/OPC canyoning disaster in 2008.
Now why do I tell you all that?
When we share our own journey at our marriage events, without even being aware, we’ve been modelling to other couples, that despite serious challenges in life we can all still find deep significance and satisfaction in our marriage.
Think about this: Our marriages are taking place on a spiritual battlefield, not on a romantic balcony.
In Genesis, Satan targeted Adam and Eve – attempting to destroy their relationship with their creator and also with each other. And He is doing the same today.
We would all do well to remember this: My spouse is not my enemy!
Marriage is under attack as educators, politicians and the media try to redefine it. In fact, I can’t recall one Politician in this recent election who raised the idea that building strong marriages might just be one of the answers to so many problems that weigh down our country today.
We live in a beautiful country. It’s so majestic that New Zealand even has a nickname, Godzone. Isn’t that interesting when so many in this great land don’t know the God who created it. Those of us here who are married have one of the most amazing tools to tell people about God. It’s a marriage. A marriage built upon Jesus Christ.
Just as that church family modelled to me a different vision all those years ago, you too are modelling your marriage to others in your community. Your marriage is more significant than you may have thought.
By living out God’s principles for marriage in our own lives – in unconditional love, mutual respect, understanding and forgiveness, we are reflecting God to a younger generation who desperately needs Him.
Let’s each commit to rebuild the family in our spheres of influence, one marriage, one home at a time. May God grant us favour, not just in our own families but also in the lives of others – and may each of our legacies be mighty.”
Nikki Jump in Puddles
I want to know more
The Auckland Prayer Breakfast is an annual event organised by Auckland Church Leaders and New Zealand Christian Network and broadcast throughout the nation on Radio Rhema.
But it is more than a one-off event. Its a call to corporate prayer throughout the year on a number of issues that face our communities.
Sign up for the Auckland Prayer Breakfast newsletter and follow the Facebook page for updates, notices, encouragements and, more importantly, prayer points to help you pray for your community.
Andy and I aren’t qualified marriage counsellors, but we invest a lot of our time coaching couples in trouble. We love seeing couples grow back together again. However, last year, after many hours with one couple, the husband made a comment that made us realise it was not going to end well. He said, “I just don’t trust her”.
He wasn’t talking about his wife being unfaithful. Over the course of their married life together he’d felt betrayed time and time again until his trust had been eroded to the point that he felt his heart wasn’t safe with her.
I wanted to know when he had first started shutting his heart down to her, and what had occurred to make him do so, but he couldn’t tell me. Sadly, in this case, they didn’t make it.
Trustworthiness is essential in marriage. Our hearts have to feel safe with one another, don’t they?
John Gottman, relationship ‘master’, believes that in marriage, we’re all quietly asking the same questions:
Can I trust you to respect me?
Can I trust you to do what you say you’ll do?
Can I trust you to keep my confidence?
Can I trust you to work hard for our family?
Can I trust you to choose me over your friends?
Can I trust you to be financially faithful?
Can I trust you to help around the house – to help with the kids?
Can I trust you not to cheat on me – to be sexually faithful?
Can I trust you not to use my weaknesses against me?
So how do we build trust so that our hearts remain open and we feel safe?
Gottman, says trust is built in the small interactions of everyday life; when we choose to ‘turn towards’ our spouse in daily moments.
Every time a couple interacts they have a choice to either ‘turn toward’ or ‘turn away’ from their spouse. Each time a couple ‘turns toward’ they are building trust.
Let me give you a personal example from my own life.
We had some friends coming over for dinner and I was enjoying preparing them a special meal. Andy was in the study working on the computer, and I knew he was waiting on some blood results and was worried. As I headed into the study to get my recipe book I heard Andy groan “Uh oh”.
I remember in that split second thinking, “I really don’t want to deal with your health issues right now. Maybe I could just pretend I didn’t hear that and just sneak back down to the kitchen.”
But because I work at FamilyLife and travel around NZ teaching this stuff :), I checked my attitude. You see, I knew in that moment, I had a choice to either turn towards Andy, or turn away.
I walked into the study, put my arm around his shoulder and asked, “Tell me the bad news.” I was so glad I did because in that very moment Andy needed my support and reassurance. He needed to know that, once again, I will be there for him and that he can trust me with whatever “uh oh’s” come our way.
Can I encourage you, rather than turn away from your partner in those small difficult moments, instead choose to ‘turn toward’. It will build trustworthiness in marriage which is an antidote to conflict and foundational to healthy happy marriages that last.
If you haven’t heard of John Gottman then I highly recommend that you check him out. He heads up the Gottman Institute which teaches marital and relationship stability. His findings after 40 years of studying thousands of couples have revolutionised the study of marriage.
If you’ve attended our Weekend To Remember you’ll know we talk about 5 myths of marriage. Dr Gottman has come up with 12 Myths of his own. If you’d like to read all 12 then go to his website here. For a teaser I’ve selected 5 and added my two cents worth in colour.
1. Marriage is just a piece of paper.
The psychological and physical benefits of actually being married are enormous. After 50 years of social epidemiology, it has been established that in developed countries the greatest source of health, wealth, longevity, and the ultimate welfare of children is a satisfying and healthy marriage. God’s original design for us to enjoy a lifetime of companionship stands up under scrutiny and testing. No surprise there. Marriage is good for us.
2. Conflict is a sign that you’re in a bad relationship.
Conflict is inevitable in all relationships. Furthermore, conflict is there for a reason – to improve our understanding of our partner. Conflict usually arises from missed attempts to communicate, especially in one person attempting to get emotionally closer to the other. Conflict also emerges from discrepancies between partners in expectations. These are worth talking about. Ever thought conflict meant you had a bad marriage? Even the best of marriages have periods of hurt, disappointment and isolation. Conflict is normal, and if handled well may bring you closer together.
3. Love is enough.
Love is not enough, because in most marriages – especially after a baby arrives – people stop courting one another and they stop making romance, great sex, fun, and adventure a priority. Relationships have a tendency to become endless to-do lists, and conversation becomes limited to errand talk. You need to intentionally make (or keep) these parts of a relationship a priority. Stuck in a rut of to-do lists and emails? We have great resources to help you redefine your priorities.
4. All relationship conflicts can be resolved.
Quite the opposite. In fact, 69% of relationship conflicts are perpetual (they keep recurring), so what is required is acceptance of one another’s personality differences. Dialogue about these perpetual issues to avoid gridlock and resentment. The goal then is to manage conflict, not resolve it. Generally these on-going differences exist in a deep value or belief, even a dream that the other person has. It’s unlikely that conflict will resolve it. What we must try to do for each other is seek to uncover the real deep-seated cause. It may be as a result of an experience in their past. It may be necessary to let it be.
5. It’s compatibility that makes relationships work.
It’s diversity that makes relationships interesting. We are not looking for our clones. Agreeability and conscientiousness are the characteristics that people really mean when they talk about “compatibility.” These qualities are indexed by a person being able to say things like “Good point,” or “That’s interesting, tell me more” or, “You may be right, and I may be wrong” during a disagreement.” Did you read my last Notes from Nikki? I talked about this very point. Click here. I like that saying, Compatibility is very nice but not really necessary. Commitment is not very nice but absolutely necessary.