Hope for Your Marriage

Hope for Your Marriage

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780785216452
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 01/23/2018
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 518,450
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Clayton and his wife, Ashlee, have been married for over 20 years and have 3 children. They have been on staff at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas since 2004 where they currently serve as the Marriage and Parenting Pastors. For many years Clayton and Ashlee struggled in their marriage not understanding how to make each other happy. They have learned over the years that God didn't create marriage to make us all happy. That's just a bi-product of when you do marriage the way God intended. Marriage is about choosing to sacrificially love each other everyday. Clayton and Ashlee don’t have a perfect marriage but today they have a strong marriage and have a passion to help others. At Lakewood Church they lead pre-marriage and marriage classes, marriage life groups, and marriage retreats that have hundreds of couples participating regularly. For several years they have hosted the annual Lakewood marriage conference called Spark with thousands of couples from across the country in attendance. There new marriage book from Emanate Books & Thomas Nelson Publishing is called Hope For Your Marriage and will ship January 23, 2018.


Ashlee and her husband, Clayton, have been married for over 20 years and have 3 children. They have been on staff at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas since 2004 where they currently serve as the Marriage and Parenting Pastors. For many years Clayton and Ashlee struggled in their marriage not understanding how to make each other happy. They have learned over the years that God didn't create marriage to make us all happy. That's just a bi-product of when you do marriage the way God intended. Marriage is about choosing to sacrificially love each other everyday. Clayton and Ashlee don’t have a perfect marriage but today they have a strong marriage and have a passion to help others. At Lakewood Church they lead pre-marriage and marriage classes, marriage life groups, and marriage retreats that have hundreds of couples participating regularly. For several years they have hosted the annual Lakewood marriage conference called Spark with thousands of couples from across the country in attendance. There new marriage book from Emanate Books & Thomas Nelson Publishing is called Hope For Your Marriage and will ship January 23, 2018.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Dry Bones Come Alive

"Son of Man, can these bones live?"

—Ezekiel 37:3

They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.

— Tom Bodett, author and radio host

Are you willing to do whatever it takes to have the marriage you always dreamed of?

At the very beginning of our marriage, we would have answered that question with a resounding yes! And if someone had challenged us with that question during the early years of our marriage, it could have changed the trajectory of our marriage.

On June 15, 1996, our wedding day, we began what we thought would be our uninterrupted, lifelong love affair. We were in love and all our energy had been spent planning and preparing for our big day. We picked out color schemes, decided whether to use real or fake flowers, and talked about whether eight attendants each were too many. The small details were important to us. We were both very proud of our Christian heritage and wanted everyone to know that our wedding day was dedicated to God and to the beginning of our commitment to each other. We had been engaged for about eight months, and the time had flown by quickly. Before we knew it, the pictures had been taken, the reception was over, and we were off on a romantic honeymoon. We were finally married, on top of the world, and nothing would ever change that — right?

In retrospect, we spent so much time preparing for our wedding day that we didn't prepare much for the days that would follow. In our premarital counseling sessions, we were assured that since our parents had great marriages we should be fine and there was no need to discuss anything deep concerning our relationship. And we believed it. We had a false sense of security. We thought there was no need to continue premarital counseling.

During that first year, we were redefining what normal looked like. We were learning how to be married, how to be a husband and a wife, and how to love each other on a new level. Honestly, we began the year on a mountaintop and then began our slow descent. We had no idea we were heading directly into a valley. A deep and painful valley. Almost five years later we found ourselves stuck in that valley. We had done so many hurtful things to each other we didn't know if there was any way out.

There is a story in the Bible that describes a similar desolate valley. The prophet Ezekiel was swept away into a panoramic vision by God. The Lord placed him in the middle of a valley full of dry bones. Suddenly, God took him up in the air to survey the scene of destruction. As far as Ezekiel could see in any direction was nothing but death and despair. A broad valley filled with dried bones, scattered from east to west. It was the valley of death and all hope was gone. Or was it?

Our Valley Moment

Our valley moment came early on in our marriage when we realized we did not know how to effectively communicate with each other. Often we found ourselves yelling back and forth, trying to get our points across. We were miserable. We thought we had tried everything but nothing seemed to work. At that moment, we were desperate for hope! We were faced with the same questions we now ask other couples: Were we willing to do whatever it took to have the marriage we had always hoped and dreamed of?

Were we willing to take small steps every day to get out of this hopeless valley we found ourselves in?

Were we willing to submit to God and to each other?

From Ashlee

It was November 2000. During the presidential election, as the world was debating and arguing over hanging chads, I was debating over a marriage hanging on by a thread. I had given birth to our first child just five weeks earlier. And as the world was thrust into chaos, I felt a chaos of uncertainty in my own heart of what the upcoming years had in store. How could we bring a new addition into our little family when our marriage felt lifeless? Why were we so unhappy? Why didn't we have a successful marriage? Both sets of our parents had been successful, both of us were raised in Christian homes, and we were very involved in our church. I started thinking back over the last five years and what had gone wrong. I started picturing it in bullet points.

• Year 1: The first few months were exciting and fun, almost like living Christmas day over and over. We lived in the cutest little log cabin in a hayfield with cows all around us. It was any country girl's dream. It was our own little East Texas paradise. We were happy. Clayton did have a few quirks that I thought were a little strange, but I was convinced I could eventually change him. I did, however, have some silent internal struggles from my past that I never shared with Clayton, but for the most part it was like dating, only we never had to say goodnight and leave.

• Year 2: The honeymoon phase was ending. When we tried to talk to each other we would find ourselves disagreeing on almost everything. Those disagreements turned into hurtful arguments. I had just started my first year teaching high school and I was not enjoying it. I was young to be teaching high school students and felt overwhelmed. I tried to talk to Clayton about it so he could encourage me through it, but he just tried to fix all my problems. I didn't want that, I just wanted him to listen. I stopped sharing as much as I used to with him.

• Year 3: Clayton took a position as the children's pastor at our church. I was now a "pastor's wife." I was twenty-three years old and felt very unqualified. I don't know how to play the piano, preach, or sing, I thought. How am I going to be a preacher's wife? I had ideas of what kind of woman I now needed to be and in my mind, I was a big failure, but I could never share this with Clayton. He would just try to fix it. I began to slowly close myself off from him and I started dying inside.

• Year 4: I hated sex. Those silent struggles from my past were starting to creep in on me in ways that I could no longer bury. A well-meaning person I confided my struggles to, however, told me I just needed to endure the fifteen minutes and I would be fulfilling my husband and that it was my duty as a wife to do so.

• Year 5: Everything was just too much — the terrible communication, the unfulfilled sex life, the idea that we needed to have this perfect marriage, and now a baby. I couldn't take it anymore. I felt trapped in a broken relationship, I felt trapped in an identity of unworthiness, I felt trapped in this new role as a mom, and I was depressed. I had thoughts of ending my life because I saw no other way out. I was in the valley of dry bones and I was dying.

From Clayton

I remember that fifth year being a pivotal time for us. We were struggling more than ever in our relationship. I remember being so overwhelmed by guilt, condemnation, and sadness. We were supposed to make it. In fact, not just make it, we should have been the poster couple for a perfect marriage. Our parents' marriages were successful and everyone assumed we would follow in their footsteps. We had a lot going for us, but our marriage was in a downward spiral with no hope in sight.

I had never felt so much pressure to keep it all together. There was such weight to be perfect and we were nowhere close. In fact, no one knew just how badly we were struggling. There was no way anyone could have known because we had become experts at putting on masks to cover our pain. People in our church were looking to us to lead the way. I felt that I was failing as a pastor and as a husband. Now with a baby on the way, I was destined to continue to fail.

Many times I felt as though I was swimming in the middle of the ocean and heading in one direction for what seemed like an eternity only to realize there was no land in sight. Then I would try something else and "swim" in the opposite direction and still see no land. I felt as if I was overwhelmed and about to drown. It was such a frustrating time. Our marriage wasn't supposed to fail. How had we fallen into such a place of desperation? Here are my thoughts looking back over those first five years.

• Year 1: We had nothing but each other in the beginning. I was working at the university where Ashlee was finishing her degree. We lived out in the middle of a hayfield in a log cabin that belonged to my family. It was a simple life and we were trying to establish a new normal for us both. It was exciting and we were in love.

• Year 2: The honeymoon was over. Ashlee had begun her first year of teaching. She was frustrated day after day. She would come home and tell me all her problems and I felt as if she wanted me to be her savior. I remember one day when she began telling me her problems and I had all I could stand. Obviously, she needed my help, so I began instructing her on how to fix things. Yelling, she said, "Would you quit trying to fix my problems and just listen?" I thought that was probably the stupidest thing I had ever heard. I was so frustrated that she wouldn't let me help. I was failing as a husband, but at work I was excelling. The university I worked for began investing in me and sending me out of state for training sessions. My bosses seemed to be pleased with everything I was doing. Finally, I was being appreciated!

• Year 3: I continued advancing at work but I was ready for a change. I had been faithful to serve in our local church and each Wednesday night I rushed home from work and then headed out to teach elementary kids at church. This provided another way to receive the love and appreciation that I wasn't getting from Ashlee. Midway through this year I was offered the position of children's pastor at our church. For a man, there is nothing quite like the feeling of being wanted or needed. The church wanted me to become a full-time pastor, which I had known I was supposed to do for a long time, but Ashlee was hesitant and scared. She told me she didn't want me to take the job, but I took it anyway.

• Year 4: Our relationship was continuing to sink deeper and deeper into despair. I was numb. I didn't seem to care. We bought our first house, so I felt more like a provider, however dysfunctional I was. My fulfillment was coming from helping others at the church. People around us thought everything was great because we were experts at wearing masks and speaking the right language. All the while, we were dying inside and our hope for a great marriage was fading fast.

• Year 5: Ashlee and I were nothing but roommates. We wore our wedding rings but, honestly, we were simply coexisting under the same roof. My work was continuing to thrive and I was finding my passion and voice through it. Then things intensified after Ashlee gave birth to our first child. How in the world could I be a good father when I couldn't even be a good husband? What should have been some of the happiest times in our marriage were turning into a valley of death.

We wish another couple had set us down and told us their story — their challenges and their triumphs. It would have helped us know that there was hope no matter how bad things seemed. If we had understood that God was fighting for us and that He didn't bring us together to fail, it would have helped us a lot. We wish we had been more open about our relationship and had realized that every married couple faces challenges. Back then we didn't know that marriage isn't about making each other happy; it's about making us holy. God uses our spouses to reveal the areas that need the most attention in our lives. If only we had laid our pride down and decided to love each other, oh what a difference that would have made!

Hope for our marriage was always there, we just didn't realize how to tap into it.

*
We have talked with many couples who found themselves in a valley just like ours. And as with us, it didn't happen overnight. They had been descending into the valley for some time when they suddenly realized they had lost all hope. It's almost as if they had been slowly dying.

Many times, couples become complacent with where they are and slowly their relationship begins to die. We tell these couples to recognize where they are in the valley and decide to make a change. Usually the change isn't earth shattering. Most of the time it's something small, but a small change can have an incredible impact. Just like a spark that can become a roaring fire. We often instruct couples to simply begin changing how they respond to situations. Where once they were negative, now they recognized an opportunity to respond in a more positive and encouraging way.

This is exactly what happened to the first couple I ever gave marital advice to. Ashlee and I had the opportunity to share our testimony for the first time at a marriage event at our home church right before we moved to Houston. We were excited and anxious to share some of the struggles we had encountered during those first five years. About a week after the event, I received a phone call from someone who had attended and wanted some marital advice. I was shocked by the phone call and immediately began to pray for guidance because the person on the other end of that call was my mom.

My mom and dad had been in the audience the night we spoke. They had been married more than forty years and most people, including myself, would have assumed that their marriage was as strong as ever. My mom and dad, however, were facing new challenges and needed to learn how to communicate all over again. This was a shock to me because I had never seen them upset with each other or even argue very much.

We were a normal family in a small East Texas town. My dad (Bill) worked for a local bank and my mom (Judy) was a kindergarten teacher. They seemed to have a good marriage. I remember my dad coming home from work and always kissing my mom while she was working in the kitchen. We went to church almost every time the doors were open. I was certain my parents had the perfect relationship because of what I saw growing up. They seemed to have it all figured out. On the surface, everything was fine.

My parents had successfully raised three great kids and as they were in the middle of their empty-nest stage of life, they realized they were in a valley. They weren't sure how they got there but wanted to get out and fast. Dad and Mom decided to swallow their pride and get to work. They enrolled in a marriage class at their local church to learn how to get out of their valley of dry bones. Although they had been married for many years, they realized they needed help. They chose to make some small adjustments in how they responded and reacted to each other. They began to establish some new habits that would impact their relationship for years to come. As I write, they have been married well over fifty years and are helping other married couples get out of the valley.

Can you imagine what was going through Ezekiel's mind as he saw the bones? Surely he wasn't thinking that God was going to challenge him. God asked him an impossible question and then something extraordinary happened. Ezekiel saw God perform a miracle but it happened because he focused on God and not on the circumstances around him.

Even though there was nothing but dried, sun-bleached bones around him, Ezekiel's response was filled with hope. "Only You know!" he said. In other words, Ezekiel wasn't moved by what he saw or even by how he felt. Ezekiel was moved by the hand that held the world in place. His response was not a closing statement but an opening declaration! The Bible says that "faith pleases God." It doesn't talk about the amount of faith that pleases Him. It's a good thing God doesn't require large amounts of faith to cause Him to respond. He is the God of hope. He is the God of restoration. He is the God of the impossible and nothing is too difficult for Him.

Your Part

Ezekiel had his part to play. Ezekiel had to take God at His word and begin to declare life out loud over a dead situation. God was helping Ezekiel begin to understand the power of the spoken word. God could have just raised the dead bones back to life, but He decided to teach Ezekiel a lesson that would one day help us all. If we go back to Genesis, you can see that He could have just thought about light and the light would have come. Instead, God declared, "Let there be light!" and there was light. God set the standard of declaring hope and life at the very beginning.

In marriage, we each have our part to play . Regardless of how good or bad it may feel right now, you have the choice to make it better. Ezekiel had to speak to the bones. For God to do a miracle in your relationship, you must begin by believing God and declaring life over your dead situation. A great thing to do is to declare what God's Word says about marriage in general. You could say something like, "God, You said in Ecclesiastes 4 that a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Thank You that regardless of how I feel today, our covenant won't be broken."

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Hope For Your Marriage"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Clayton and Ashlee Hurst.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

1 Dry Bones Come Alive 1

2 The "Happily Ever After" Myth 19

3 The Right Choice 35

4 Love, Security, Respect, and Honor 55

5 Effective Communication 69

6 Healthy Conflict 85

7 The Power of Partnership 105

8 Forgiveness 121

9 Sex Is Not a Four-Letter Word 135

10 Declaring Life over Your Marriage 153

11 Jesus at the Center 171

Epilogue: A Marriage Legacy Worth Leaving 191

Acknowledgments 209

Notes 211

About the Authors 212

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