Reflecting on marriage

Jason and I mark 19 years of marriage tomorrow (July 12). I remember poring through so many books and articles on marriage that first year and trying to do everything exactly right to have the perfect marriage. What I didn’t understand early on, what actually took years to understand, was that I couldn’t manufacture enough of the tips and how-to suggestions to develop a marriage like what was in my head. It wasn’t something I could control. It would take total sacrifice for Jason and seeking God above all else (and vice versa on Jason’s part). While I finally understand marriage in itself is a lifelong learning journey, I would like to share some of what I have discovered along the way. More about sacrifice can be found below and a little on forgiveness can be found by clicking hereJ and J 2-14-16

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When my nephew, Jared, was a little bitty thing, he would get all over his brother with a consistent reminder, “It’s not all about you, Jacob!”

The boldness of his approach and the intensity behind his words always made me smile, but the clear truth behind his appeal has stuck with me since the first time it rolled out of his mouth.

The key to strength in any relationship points back to whether the two parties are going to be self-centered or other-centered. This is true with friends, co-workers, all formulas of family relationships and especially in marriage.

“It’s not all about you” was the focus of a recent article in Relevant magazine, “Marriage Isn’t About Your Happiness.”

An excerpt from the article by Debra K. Fileta says:

“Marriage is not about your happiness, it’s not even about you. It’s about love — which is something we choose to give time and time again. It’s about sacrifice, serving, giving, forgiving — and then doing it all over again. … Often, we’re choosing ‘personal happiness’ over real commitment, over real love.

“They say marriage teaches you more about selflessness than you ever wanted to know. … Because at the heart of it, real love is all about sacrifice. About the giving of yourself, in ways big and small.”

It’s about sacrifice

I agree with Fileta. Real love truly is all about sacrifice.

The seasons where my husband, Jason, and I focus sacrificially on each other at the same time bring such great blessings and richness to our relationship.

When one or the other decides to be less other-centered and more self-centered, frustrations mount and life is more strained.

And the times we decided to focus on ourselves rather than the other — simultaneously — it basically led to confusion, insecurity, disappointment and pain.

Being married long enough to have a variety of seasons (19 years tomorrow) also has given us the opportunity to truly start learning and growing in the process. And we both agree we prefer the sacrificial model hands down.

I do know that putting Jason’s needs before my own and sacrificing for him in big ways and small ways brings tremendous fulfillment and allows me to demonstrate real love, true love.

And I learned through the precious five and a half years we fought alongside our niece, Belle, in her cancer journey that the purity of the love received in return is worth all the pouring of yourself into another.

Ultimate model

It seems so obvious to me now but it took years for me to get to this point. I’m not sure why because we were given the ultimate model of sacrificial love to follow — Jesus Christ.

It seems silly to not figure it out sooner. The example is so powerful.

But if you, like me, struggle to focus entirely on Jesus in everyday life, then how much more will we struggle with giving of ourselves to ordinary humans?

My friend and colleague, Grace Thornton, reminds me often that we are to desire God first, before ourselves and anyone or anything else. And from that place we are to let our lives flow outward.

“His heart is for us to know Him,” Grace says, “making that the entire goal of our life and then trusting Him no matter what happens.”

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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Can we agree to disagree?

I look back now and see that it was actually kind of rude of me to dump all of my frustrations on my friend and colleague. He didn’t have any control over the decisions that were being made nor the seemingly disrespectful way they were being carried out. Sure he was employed by the organization but he was not among the leaders making the difficult moves.Donuts image

Why I let the situation upset me so much I don’t recall, but I do remember the graciousness with which my friend handled me. He stopped what he was doing and let me vent, which actually left him with a late night working to finish up a deadline because I held him hostage debating the issue that was forefront in my mind.

I never once thought of his schedule, his responsibilities, his energy level nor even what heavy burdens he might already be carrying. I used him as a sounding board whether he wanted to be or not.

And he kindly sat there and listened, nodding sympathetically as I talked. I asked him why but my question was not sincere. My mind was made up and I wasn’t really interested in why nor any of the details that led to the decision. And I certainly wasn’t interested in hearing viewpoints from the other side. I really thought that if I could convince my friend to agree with me then we might have a chance to change the leaders’ minds.

Gracious response

When I finally took a breath, he said he understood how frustrating it must be to hear the news without having been part of the internal discussions. He also agreed there was no guarantee the decision was the right one, but he reminded me that I was not privy to all the information and that sometimes tough decisions have to be made for the greater good. Sometimes individuals or even groups have to sacrifice their preference in a situation if it means unifying the whole.

Granted there are essentials of the faith on which we as believers in and followers of Jesus Christ must never compromise. But when the issue falls in the nonessentials category, there must be a willingness to — at the very least — have calm, controlled and open dialog.

When it gets personal

What gets hard is when people on the various sides speak disrespectfully to each other or when one side tries to shut down the other side without a fair hearing. When this happens, it takes a lot of discipline to control emotions and not take the comments personally.

The difficulty level rises if conversations about controversial topics develop into a time of tossing blame or indicating the way it is being done by an opposing force is “wrong” merely because the person doing the talking disagrees. Conversations where all parties are respectful to the various viewpoints being shared are certainly more productive.

I know it disappoints me when my opinion is not valued, even if my opinion is still being shaped as I’m attempting to understand a situation.

Understanding all sides

Another friend shared with me recently that he enjoys reading articles and comments from people on all sides of an issue. He said it helps him better understand the issue. Many times it serves to solidify his own thinking while helping him know how to converse with those who disagree. And then other times, he might even adjust his own way of thinking.

As I attempt to learn from the wisdom of my two friends, I also am reminded to seek direction and wisdom from the Word of God in how to relate to others (Gal. 5:22–23), truly stay in tune with God (2 Chron. 7:14) and live life in general (Luke 10:27).

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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Returned citizens’ life changed because of ‘church ladies’ efforts

 

Charlene A. Ferniz, an active member of First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, knows the struggle of becoming a returning citizen all too well.

After reading the recent article “Doing missions behind bars” in The Alabama Baptist (TAB), Ferniz shared her story with TAB.

“The Church needs to be in the prisons,” Ferniz said. “I know the impact that the Church has had on my life since I re-entered society.”

After being arrested for a crime she admittedly committed in 2010, Ferniz said she began reading the Bible for the first time. She also started attending Bible studies and met three women who came to the county jail — where she resided as she awaited trial — every Tuesday.

Found God

“They were called ‘church ladies,’” Ferniz said. “I grew up in the Catholic Church so I knew who God was but had no idea that I could have a personal relationship with Him. Or that God would even want a relationship with me.

“The more I read the more I wanted to know,” she noted.

Ferniz’s sentencing finally came down and she was transferred to Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka for three months to complete her sentence. She continued her Bible reading while there.

And when her sentence was completed, she returned to Tuscaloosa and reached out to “those church ladies,” she said. “They helped me with my immediate needs but more importantly they got me plugged into a church.

“These ladies are members of First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, and so am I,” Ferniz said. “It is in this church I found unconditional love and acceptance. I found joy and peace above all understanding. No one asked questions. FBC became my rock, my beacon during dark times.”

Not only did Ferniz find Christ and a church family to help her transition back into society, but she also gives back by being part of the Kairos of Alabama Prison Ministry team and helps with ministries at the Federal Correctional Institution (for women) in Aliceville.

Turning prisons into missions fields

Is Ferniz’s story one that could be repeated over and over again if churches determined to see the closest prison facility or jail closest to them as a missions field?

Could the state’s prison system crisis be exactly what Alabama Baptist churches need to bolster relevancy within society and discipleship efforts among believers?

TAB staff is working to determine what the possibilities might be and will be developing content and providing resources during the next few weeks.

What are your suggestions?

Staff members would like to know about your prison ministry efforts as well as suggestions of inmates, returned citizens and prison ministry volunteers who would be an inspiration for readers to know. We also want to know your concerns and fears so we can ask the experts for advice in those areas.

Please pray about how you and your church might participate in making a positive difference in the Kingdom and the state by intentionally focusing on the prison population in some specific way.

Email your suggestions and/or information to jrash@thealabamabaptist.org. For more information on Kairos, visit http://www.kairos-al.org.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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The difference a toy can make

I know you will want one as soon as you hear about it, but there is onlyIMG_20150228_093800 one that exists and it was sweet Belle’s doll. We aren’t sure where she got it but one day as she played with her Auburn-haired cuddly doll, she said, “Hey, she looks like Aunt Jen Jen.” And from there the doll’s name became “the Aunt Jen Jen doll” — not because of how cuddly she is but because of her wild Auburn hair.

Belle liked to help me attempt to tame my sometimes uncontrollable locks or “crazy hair,” as Belle described it.

The Aunt Jen Jen doll now resides among the treasured possessions in my collection of Belle memorabilia and reminds me of how much Belle, like all children, had favorite items such as blankets, dolls and other toys.

Receiving a new toy at the hospital while receiving chemo or radiation also became a consistent part of Belle’s life. Those toys provided a moment of excitement and served as a positive distraction while the not-so-fun other activities were taking place.

Belle’s mommy, Kelley, is collecting toys this month to give to the children at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, N.C., where Belle had many of her treatments. Please consider donating a toy (must be new because of the variety of health issues) for Levine or your area children’s hospital.

Email me at jrash@thealabamabaptist.org or message me on Facebook or Twitter (@RashionalThts) to find out the details.

—Jennifer Davis Rash (aka Aunt Jen Jen)

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Happy Belley Birthday

Happy Birthday, sweet Belle. You would have been 9 today. We love you and miss you so much. We loved being part of the big celebration in your honor this morning with several hundred of your closest friends! And what a fun way to honor you with your very own garden at India Hook Elementary School. You are still touching lives!

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What I Am Reading

Crosson

I love reading books on leadership, management and organizational skills. While I always learn at least a few tips from each book, some books are better than others. There are those that leave you longing for and imagining a world in which what was described in the book could be true, but we all know it is totally unrealistic. And then there are some that are realistic but too complicated and complex to embrace. When you find one that combines a realistic view with manageable concepts, then you know you have a winner.

“What Makes A Leader Great” by Russ Crosson is one of those winners. It not only is realistic about what is possible but also has the most clearly articulated concept of the importance of the “why” of leadership that I’ve read to this point.

Russ Crosson says, “We lead in order to replace ourselves.”

And he is speaking to all forms of leaders, not specifically to business leaders.

“At some point all of us will have opportunities to make decisions that can potentially change the course of a situation or the life of another person. Men and women from all walks of life are asked to lead but few have the tools or the motivation needed to teach others to do the same.

“Great leadership isn’t about the leader at all — it’s about the mission of the organization, church, business or even family where the leader serves. And it is about who will replace the leader when he or she is gone.”

With only 153 pages, the book is a relatively quick read and is packed with rich nuggets and challenging concepts I plan to implement.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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‘It’s not all about you’

When my nephew Jared was a little bitty thing, he would get all over his big brother with a consistent reminder, “It’s not all about you, Jacob!”

The boldness of his approach and the intensity behind his words always made me smile, but the clear truth behind his appeal has stuck with me since the first time it rolled out of his mouth.

The key to strength in any relationship points back to whether the two parties are going to be self-centered or other-centered. This is true with friends, co-workers, all formulas of family relationships and especially in marriage.

“It’s not all about you” was the focus of a recent article in Relevant magazine, “Marriage Isn’t About Your Happiness.”

An excerpt from the article written by Debra K. Fileta says:

“Marriage is not about your happiness, it’s not even about you. It’s about love — which is something we choose to give time and time again. It’s about sacrifice, serving, giving, forgiving — and then doing it all over again. … often, we’re choosing ‘personal happiness’ over real commitment, over real love.

“They say marriage teaches you more about selflessness than you ever wanted to know. I have definitely found that phrase to be true in my relationship with my husband. Because at the heart of it, real love is all about sacrifice. About the giving of yourself, in ways big and small.”

Read the full article here.

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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