Messy Beautiful Love: Hope and Redemption for Real-Life Marriages

Messy Beautiful Love: Hope and Redemption for Real-Life Marriages

by Darlene Schacht

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Overview

Messy Beautiful Love deliversan incredible testimony of grace that offers hope for today’s marriages and aspark for rekindling love.

Love gets messy.

Financial problems, sickness, agingparents, a chronically unhappy spouse . . . trials will inevitably come thatthreaten your marriage. No matter how long you’ve been married or how strongyour relationship is, sooner or later you are going to have a mess to clean up.

MessyBeautiful Love is about cleaning up messes God’s way, exchanging your ideasfor His, and being prepared for both the best and the worst that marriage hasto offer.

When you surrender yourrelationship to God, then and only then will you experience the blessing ofmarriage as He intended. This is the blessing of obedience.

Messy Beautiful Love is an invitation to that obedience. The cynical world says marriagesdon’t last, but God knows better. Tune out the world and tune in to Him. Whenyou do that, a beautiful marriage is not only possible, it’s inevitable.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400206209
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 09/23/2014
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Darlene Schacht is the founder of Christian Women Online Magazine and The Internet Café Devotions and writes the popular blog Time-Warp Wife. She is coauthor of Candace Cameron Bure’s New York Time’s bestselling book Reshaping It All: Motivation for Physical and Spiritual Fitness. Darlene has been married to Michael Schacht for more than twenty-five years. They have four children and live in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Read an Excerpt

Messy Beautiful Love


By Darlene Schacht

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2014 Darlene Schacht
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4002-0620-9



CHAPTER 1

Messy, Beautiful Love


It was my husband's birthday. We had plans for the evening, and I was hoping to make his day the best that I could. The presents were waiting, and the kids and I were looking forward to taking Michael to dinner.

Bouncing around the house, I went from the closet to the dresser and back to the closet again, looking for the perfect outfit. You'd think that with a closet the size of Texas I'd find something in there, but it's never that easy. What's supposed to be clean and organized looks like something from an episode of Hoarders. I swear that my husband is hanging onto T-shirts that he purchased in high school. And most of the clothes that I have are too small, too formal, or too 1980s to wear. Nothing is ever just right.

Finally deciding on sea green, I pulled a cotton blouse off the hanger and slipped it over my head. The butterfly arms and soft flow of fabric were the perfect solution for hiding the extra ten pounds I'd put on that winter. The sequined front bodice? A special touch for a special occasion!

Looking in the mirror, I wondered whether I should go back to brown hair. I've always had strawberry blonde hair, but there's something about brown hair that makes my eyes look brand new. I'd never really noticed how green my eyes were until I went brown, but like anything else it was hard to get used to a change.

Brown or blonde, I knew the blouse would bring out the color in my eyes. Maybe not brand-new eyes, but I take what I can get! The rest of the outfit was simple. Denim capris are my go-to pants when the weather is nice, and since the day was sunny and warm, the decision to wear them was easy.

Finally pulling my hair into a ponytail, it was mission accomplished. I could have dressed up since it was a special occasion—maybe some heels and a skirt—but I figured that since we'd likely be walking outside, casual was the best way to go.

It's a family tradition that whenever one of us has a birthday, we all go out to eat at a restaurant. Normally Michael picks something that the entire family will like, which often lands us at the Forks Market eating spaghetti and fresh sourdough bread. There's nothing quite like the taste of fresh bread with garlic butter, is there? It's even better when you're enjoying the bread from an old streetcar that's been upcycled to recreate a vintage dining experience. The nostalgic atmosphere is enough to carry anyone back to the Roaring Twenties, but the presence of skater boys with ball caps flipped to the side ensures that we quickly return to the present.

Speaking of presents, I still had some wrapping to do when I heard the hum of the garage door open and close. I glanced at the clock. It was only three thirty; the kids weren't even home from school yet. Michael wasn't due home for at least another hour, and if you know my husband at all, you'll understand why this took me by surprise. Michael's never been late for work, he doesn't come home early, and he'll miss a day only if he's bleeding from the eyes. Whatever the case, I was just glad he was home. This was going to be an awesome night with the family, and I couldn't wait for it to get started!

Leaving his briefcase by the door, he asked me to join him in the living room. I wasn't sure what was up, but one glance at the stone-cold look on his face told me that something was wrong—terribly wrong.

Sitting across from him, I'll never forget the sound of his voice as it rang in my ears and ripped through my heart.

"Are you having an affair?" he asked.

Looking up at him, I quickly answered, "No. Why would you even ask that?"

"Please don't lie to me," he said. As he continued to question me, the heat rose in my face. My cheeks were numb; my mouth was dry; my body was weak. "Did you have an affair?"

I hung my head, unable to look in his eyes. Sitting alone on the couch, I felt the fear of truth spin around me like the web of a spider until I was helpless to move. Barely able to speak, I lifted my chin in a nod and then in another. My house of cards collapsed, my shame crashing to the ground along with it.

My sin, the glorious fruit of lust, had enticed me into the pit where all I could think of was death. For death itself had enveloped me, and with it came shame and reproach. I had sinned against God, my husband, and my family. Everything I had once held so dear to me loomed above the pit of sin and shame I had dug for myself.

Every muscle in my body was heavy, tense, numb. I was disconnected from the pounding of the blood that sped through my head like a runaway train. Even if I wanted to speak—even if I had something else to say—I couldn't. My jaw was locked; my throat was closed.

Michael stood up, and as I watched him walk out of the room, I realized that in every sense of the word, I was alone.

Through a fog of confusing emotions, I managed to get off the couch and go out to the car where I fished through my purse for my keys. Not knowing what else to do, I drove. I didn't know where I was going, what I should do, or where I'd be spending the night. All I knew was that I had to go some-place—anyplace—but where?

Finally pulling into a parking lot, I stopped the car and collapsed onto the steering wheel. My thoughts were a dark and dusty swirl of emotions that ripped through my heart and beckoned me into the grave. Tears poured down my face like poison escaping a wound, and I sobbed until my stomach was raw from the pain.

I didn't have a plan. I didn't have a home. And I didn't have a shoulder to cry on. All that I had were the shattered pieces of my life. A few hours later I made my way back to the house, where I started packing up a few things I could carry. Michael came into the room and sat down on the far corner of the bed. Staring straight ahead, he started to talk. This was my husband, the man I had lived with for nearly half of my life, but in every way he was different, from the sound of his voice to the way that he carried himself. We were suddenly strangers.

We exchanged words for a while, but at the end of the day, I had nothing left to offer him but soiled rags, words of remorse that he couldn't rely on, and promises where all trust was gone. My eyes were swollen from crying; my heart was heavy with shame.

"Do you want to stay?" he asked.

I didn't know how to answer. All I wanted to do was stay with my family—to turn back the clock a year. Back to a time when being a wife and a mom was all that I knew and all that I wanted to be. But I was unworthy to be a wife, a mother, and a child of God. How could I stay in a place where I didn't belong? How could I ever live on the surface again? How could I ever be trusted to love?

"I can't," I said. "I just can't."

Again he said, "That's not what I'm asking you. Do you want to stay?"

Loving his wife as Christ loves the church, Michael reached down to me with a hand of grace when I needed it most. When every thought told me that I was unworthy of love, something miraculous happened that changed the way that I look at marriage and the way that I look at our Savior. It was the realization that I am saved by nothing but the power of grace.

Perhaps that's how the woman who was caught in adultery felt when she was brought to Jesus. Face-to-face with her Savior, she was left with nothing but His hand of grace. What did Jesus write in the sand with His finger that day? Some say He was listing sins—and perhaps He was. But a part of me will always wonder whether it was an invitation that beckoned her to come home to a place where sin is washed away by the blood of an incomparable Savior.

There is incredible power in the words of Jesus Christ, who said, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more" (John 8:11 NKJV). It takes incredible strength for a man to echo those very same words.

I didn't deserve Michael's love and forgiveness. I didn't deserve a second chance. I didn't deserve my family, and I didn't deserve to be loved by those whom I hurt. But in that moment of darkness when one person in this world cared enough to display the covenant-keeping love of Jesus Christ to His church, I turned from my sin and clung to the grace of God that is strong enough to break the bonds of sin and death. It's strong enough to graft one man to a woman when everything in this world threatens to pull them apart.

I was called out from that place of grace while wondering whether God could use the testimony of someone who was broken and tarnished like me. Even after I came to a place of healing, digging this up was the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted nothing more than to encourage women with joy; to offer them a Pollyanna view of marriage that brought a smile to their day—housekeeping schedules, adorable printables, and entertaining articles that were easy to swallow with their morning cup of tea. That would be the easy road, but as time went by, I felt an undeniable nudge toward the road less paved—painful honesty.

Painful honesty hardly describes the experience I had when I went to my father's bedside with my sin. He was in the hospital, diagnosed with lung cancer that had metastasized to his brain, which was then riddled with tumors. Barely eighty-five pounds, he peered out from beneath a cloud of yellow blankets as I entered the room. Tears were streaming down my cheeks, and I asked my sister if I could have a few minutes alone with Dad.

Before I continue with this story, let me back up to give you a little history on him. Next to my husband, my dad was the most Christlike man I've ever met. He loved nothing more than to talk about God, and he spent endless hours reading the Bible. During his retirement I'd guesstimate that he read it about fifteen times, which is pretty cool for a man with a grade-three education. His style was to read from Genesis to Revelation and then read again from Revelation to Genesis. He also had an incredible sense of humor, which made him the love of my life.

Aside from the fact that he was battling cancer, I didn't want to disappoint someone who had made it his mission to instill faith in his family. He spent his life being an example to us so that we would come to know the Lord, but there I was with my tear-stained cheeks ready to shatter those dreams.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

Grabbing a spot on the corner of his bed, I started to tell him my story. "I had an affair," I said. My voice was low since he was sharing a room with someone behind the blue curtain.

"What?" he replied, pulling himself up on his pillow.

I answered a little louder this time, "I had an affair."

Dad shook his little head in confusion. "What? I still can't hear you!" he said.

Shouting this time, I repeated my sin: "I had an affair!"

I'm certain that the nurses' station down the hall heard every word, but apparently Dad didn't as he shook his head once again and said, "I'm sorry, but I can't hear what you're saying."

It was time to grab a pen and paper. With trembling hands I wrote down the four words that few dare to speak of and handed them to my father. The room was silent. He studied the paper a moment and then reached out for my hand to pray. "Lord," he said, "I understand that Darlene doesn't think that life is fair. And, God, I pray that You will help her."

What? My mind started racing. He still doesn't grasp what I'm saying. He thinks I wrote that life isn't fair. What should I do?

Placing my hand on his arm, I stopped him. "Dad," I said as loudly as I possibly could, "no, I had an affair."

As funny as my dad could be when it came to his hearing, it was a terrifying experience as I sat in his room screaming my sin throughout the halls of St. Boniface Hospital, but I'll tell you one thing I know: following God's lead is always worth the risk.

When he finally understood the gravity of what I was saying, he reached for my hand once again and gave me a gift drawn from the well of his wisdom. "God doesn't care about what you did yesterday," he said. "He's concerned about what you'll do today."

There's a good reason why I stepped out of my comfort zone to share the truth of my testimony, and it's the same reason I'm writing this today—so that my marriage will be a testimony of the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This testimony of grace is not exclusive to me or you or the sinner-turned-preacher who's standing onstage. It's the testimony of each and every person who takes the hand of another in marriage as we are called to bear witness to the covenant-keeping grace of our Lord: "The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body" (Eph. 5:23).

When marriage functions as God intended it, both a husband and a wife bring glory to God. My mission is to remind women of this truth so that we might live out our purpose, which is to love our husbands, raise our children with intent, and manage our homes well. In doing so, we strengthen the bond of marriage and glorify God.

When I felt the calling to minister to women in this way, it was a humbling experience. I remember sitting in the backyard, sniffling with a tissue in hand as I poured my heart out to Michael. I couldn't process my feelings. On the one hand, I felt this undeniable calling, but on the other, so many questions remained. How could I bring anything of worth? How could I minister to the hearts of women when I had failed so terribly? Why would God use a failure when there are so many strong women of faith?

Michael offered warm words of encouragement and a shoulder to lean on—he's good at that—but I really needed to ask God why He was calling.

A few weeks later I was sitting on the couch, typing out an article with a can of diet soda by my side. It was midafternoon, the kids were in school, and the house was quiet, except for the green-cheeked conure who was busy in her cage practicing the "Give me a kiss" voice.

Suddenly out of nowhere and much to my surprise, I heard the voice of God as He spoke to me, saying, "Write this." I paused, and He spoke again, "Write this down."

When the Lord says, "Take dictation," let me tell you, you type! And not only do you type, but you type it word for word.

He continued, "It doesn't matter where you have been or what you have done, My grace is sufficient for you."

I got a little choked up when that sentence came to me so clearly. It's not every day that I get such a clear message. Yet I wondered, Is it really God instructing me to speak directly to you? Am I really hearing His voice say with authority, "Write this down"?

Immediately I turned to my devotional for backup. Next to my Bible, I keep this book close and flip it open often. Like a kid tearing off paper on Christmas morning, I was anxious to see what was inside. Turning the pages, I prayed, "God if there is something in here that says, 'My grace is sufficient for you,' I'm going to pass out. Seriously, I don't know what I'll do."

I landed on the page, and no, that's not what it said, but the message He gave me was deeper and more explicit than any I would have expected to read. He led me to the story of Peter, one of the twelve disciples, who was passionate to serve Jesus. He reminded me of the incredible leader that Peter was when Jesus said, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).

He showed me how Peter, who with passionate faith once walked upon the water to meet Jesus, was the same Peter who fell asleep after his Lord instructed him to watch and wait. This man who declared, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will" (Matt. 26:33 NIV), was the same man who denied Him three times that very night just hours before His death.

And through His teaching, God taught me that grace is for sinners. It is by His grace that I humbly encourage you to seek something more for yourself and for your marriage. You may very well be in a good place today, but God prepares the heart for tomorrow.

Regardless of how long you've been married or how strong your relationship, it's inevitable that you will struggle in some way. Love is a beautiful thing, but it's messy at times. Whether we're dealing with a difficult spouse, financial problems, sickness, aging parents, or death, there will be trials that threaten the bond of our marriages, which is why it's imperative that we are prepared.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Messy Beautiful Love by Darlene Schacht. Copyright © 2014 Darlene Schacht. 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

Contents

Foreword, xiii,
Introduction, xv,
One: Messy, Beautiful Love, 1,
Two: Walk in Compassion and Grace, 17,
Three: Be Patient and Kind When the Going Gets Tough, 27,
Four: Give Up Your Right to Be Right, 39,
Five: Appreciate Him for Who He Truly Is, 57,
Six: Step Back and Allow Him to Lead, 69,
Seven: Handle Your Conflict Wisely, 83,
Eight: Communicate with Loving Respect, 97,
Nine: Be the Woman Your Husband Needs You to Be, 113,
Ten: Be Affectionate in Ways That Are Pleasing to God, 125,
Eleven: Seize the Day and Capture the Joy, 141,
Twelve: Build a Strong Friendship, 155,
Thirteen: Be Content with the Life That You're Given, 169,
Fourteen: Walk in Virtue According to Wisdom, 183,
Fifteen: Pray for Your Marriage, 197,
Acknowledgments, 209,
Notes, 213,
About the Author, 215,

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