For Everything There Is a Season
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Jackie and Stephana BledsoeJackie and Stephana Bledsoe, the founders of Happily Married Couples, help couples connect and communicate, so they can create marriages worth celebrating. Their marriage story and ministry has been featured on ABC News, The 700 Club, Moody Radio, The Huffington Post, Yahoo!, CBN’s Turning Point International, and more. Jackie is a bestselling author and speaker who's reached over 100,000 couples with The 7 Rings of Marriage. Stephana is a speaker and former homeschooling...more
Did you know that there are different seasons common to all marriages? Jackie and Stephana Bledsoe talk about the patterns all couples face, the ups and downs, and how it’s all worth fighting for.
For Everything There Is a Season
Bob: Have you found that trying to schedule a date night with your spouse just seems to fall flat? Jackie Bledsoe understands that feeling.
Jackie: When we recommitted to dating, those first few dates were kind of like staring at each other, like, “Okay; what are we doing, Babe? What are some things we can talk about that are not just family business?” And by family business: kids, work, money, schedules, and all that. We’re like, “Okay, how can we start sparking other conversations that will allow us to dig deeper than stuff that we talk about all the time and makes our date nights boring?”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 31st. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. We all know how important regular marriage maintenance is, but it can be hard to implement at times. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re talking this week about how marriage is not a three-ring circus; it’s a seven-ring circus; isn’t it? [Laughter] That’s what it is. We’ve got Jackie and Stephana Bledsoe joining us. Guys, welcome back to the program.
Stephana: Thank you.
Jackie: Thank you.
Bob: You’ve written a book called The 7 Rings of Marriage. What we’ve been talking about this week is the fact that every marriage does go through seasons. It’s not like it’s a straight path; we can circle back around like some of the seasons we’ve been talking about/some of the rings we’ve been talking about. DiscoveRING doesn’t just happen in the early years of marriage; it continues to happen throughout marriage. PerseveRING has to happen, because trials come along later. So all of these rings of marriage we have to revisit over and over again; don’t we?
Ann: We do, and I think that/I don’t think we expect that.
Ann: It’s kind of like parenting: “Once we have this phase down, we’ll never enter that phase again.”
Ann: But it seems like we do continue to circle back. Hopefully, we’ve learned enough in the first ring that we can get better to move on.
Bob: Jackie and Stephana live in Indianapolis. They are the parents to three children. They speak with us at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. The seven rings that you lay out:
the first one is the Engagement RING, understanding where you’re going;
the Wedding RING, understanding commitment/foundation;
the DiscoveRING, where you’re learning about one another and learning, “Oh, there are some things here I didn’t know were there”;
the PerseveRING, where you’re sticking with it even when times get tough.
What’s the next ring?
Jackie: Yes; after you go through that, you have some broken pieces in your marriage. PerseveRING is the fourth ring, which is kind of like the fork in the road. Some couples choose to go and get out of the marriage; some choose to stay in the marriage; and some choose to just kind of stay and “Our marriage is just where it is.”
Then we come to the restoRING. That’s where we have to allow God to go to work and to restore the broken pieces/broken hearts, all the things that we brought about or that we went through during the PerseveRING in our marriage.
Stephana: Yes, there’s a lot of forgiveness that happens in the restoRING.
Dave: You talk in that chapter about “drawing a line in the sand.” What does that mean?
Jackie: Basically: “We’re not going back. This is where we are.” We talked about PerseveRING—how people go to the fork in the road—well, now, we’re moving forward; so we’re not going back to where we were. We have to continue to lean on that commitment in the Wedding RING/also, our foundation and our relationship with Christ.
But it’s something that without—like Stephana said—that forgiveness, you’re going to continue to deal with the suffering that happens in the PerseveRING. We want to say: “God, we want to give this to You. We can’t heal our marriage on our own. We can’t heal our own hearts.” We can’t even change our hearts without His grace; so we’re leaning heavily back on those early rings, especially the Engagement RING.
Ann: How would you guys say—if somebody is saying, “The flame has gone out in our marriage. We’re really struggling. I don’t even have any feelings,”—how do you rekindle when that love/that feeling to come back, and is it even necessary?
Stephana: I think that’s important. Jackie and I went through a phase, where we weren’t dating for years—in the early part of our marriage when our kids were young—that we had allowed just the routine of life to take over. I think if you start there, just spending some intentional time with each other—even if it’s 15 minutes a day—spending that time together so that you work on your friendship in your marriage again. That’s a good place to begin.
Ann: So just talking.
Jackie: Yes, just talking. We try to have, at least, 15 minutes per day that we’re sitting alone—no phones, away from kids, TVs, and all that—consistently. When we do that, that flame/that spark is still there. But when we don’t, we feel disconnected; we don’t know who the other person is, and it’s like a stranger that we’re living with. Just basic things like that is what we look to do. They’re really common sense things, but we just let life get in the way—like that season when we weren’t dating—we didn’t even realize it; we’re like, “When is the last time we went on a date?”
Ann: Yes; your kids are little—the demands of life—but you noticed it later.
Jackie: We noticed it in the disconnect between us. At that point, we got desperate for date night; because we were hungry to spend that time together—and continue to grow closer, and get to know where Stephana’s at mentally, emotionally, right now—and vice versa.
Ann: What was the best questions? What were two of the best questions that Jackie asked you?
Stephana: I think the first one would be to get something prepared to wear. I knew he wanted to take me somewhere; I knew that he wanted to spend time with me. It was like: “I’m not just coming home, and expecting you to have dinner ready, and we’re going to go through the normal routine,”—but—“Can you prepare something? We’re going to go out tonight.” That was probably the first question.
Ann: He’s saying, “Get ready, because we’re going out!” [Laughter]
Jackie: I would say the worst question I’ve ever asked is: “What do you want to do tonight?”
Ann: You don’t like that?
Stephana: No; I feel like he’s a planner. Everything in his world, he plans; but if you can’t think about a plan for date night, it’s like that wasn’t very important to you.
Bob: [Laughter] She’s throwing down on you right there, brother—
Jackie: Yes, yes.
Bob: —“You can plan everything else; you can plan a little time for me.”
Jackie: Right, right.
Ann: So now you have a plan almost every time?
Jackie: Not every time; at one point, we kind of traded off; because I got overwhelmed with the planning. [Laughter]
Ann: Felt a little pressure.
Jackie: What was appealing—the planning to me—became appalling when I had to do it every single time. [Laughter] So I did. We actually came up/I created a little thing, where, “Okay; we’re going to plan how much: ‘Here’s a high-end date night,’ ‘…a medium range…’ and ‘…a low end…’ as far as cost/as far as time to prepare”; so we came up with some plans.
Ann: “What you’re wearing.”
Stephana: Right. [Laughter]
Jackie: We did it. We got really, really consistent; and that was a very strong season in our growth and our connection. We’ve ebbed and flowed since then. There have been seasons, where we kind of missed; but we’ll notice that, when we’re dating and we’re intentional about it—one, when we make up our mind to do that—nothing gets in the way.
There was a time: “It’s in the calendar”; but it’s like those calendar appointments you just kind of gloss over. Then there’s another time, where: “Whether it’s in the calendar or not, we’re doing it.” There’s been times, where we’re like, “Okay; we had a date day, making a Sam’s Club® run,”—a Sam’s Club run, because we just needed that time.
So like: “How do we make this time?” That’s a perception that we had early—that date night has to be this big thing—we’re like, “No.” One of our marriage mentor couples said, “Have more dates, where you don’t do anything; so you have more time to just talk to each other versus being distracted by the things. Those are fun—you need those new experiences—but just be together.”
Dave: What if it’s like broken? Because you’re talking, in the RestoRING phase, about the fixing stage, which means something is broken. You mentioned, earlier, there’s forgiveness in this stage; so what if—you know, you’re at a point, where, “I don’t really want to go on a date with her,”/“I don’t want to go on a date with him, because they’ve hurt me.” Maybe there’s been adultery; maybe there’s been an affair; maybe there’s been something that really broke our spirit or even the relationship.
How do we get to a place of forgiveness? I know that’s a big part of this ring, which never really ends; it’s always going to be part of your marriage. But talk to the couple that’s really hurting/that’s like: “I don’t even want to/I can’t date right now. I don’t want to be with them. I want to make this marriage work, but I don’t have anything for them. I’m hurt; I’m broken; I need fixed.” What do you do?
Jackie: You have to make that choice to show up. It’s not going to be easy every time. We used to joke that sometimes date night will become fight night. We’d go in—what we thought was going/even if we can get excited about it—it may end up in an argument that night. Or for Stephana—it would be to get ready, and all the effort, and things she did to prepare, like, “Hey, get something together; let’s go out,”—then it wouldn’t live up to those expectations. We went through many of those; but we still had to show up and just trust God that, as we show up, and be intentional about our marriage, and connecting in that area, that we will eventually get over. I think we did.
Because those—when we recommitted to dating—those first few dates were kind of like staring at each other, like, “Okay; what are we doing, Babe?” Then we started learning, and we got some conversation starters. I’d get—you know, I’m the planner—so I’m like, “Okay, what are some things we can talk about that are not just family business?” And by family business: kids, work, money, schedules, and all that. We’re like, “Okay, how can we start sparking other conversations that will allow us to dig deeper than stuff that we talk about all the time and makes our date nights boring?”
Stephana: I think you said something key. It’s kind of making that decision: “I want this marriage”; so being willing to do what it takes to foster healing. I think you have to make that decision for yourself before you can move forward with any area of trying to fix it.
Dave: Have you had a time in your marriage, where you had to forgive one another?
Stephana: Oh, for sure.
Jackie: Oh, yes. [Laughter]
Dave: I don’t want to pry, but tell us.
Jackie: We came into marriage the wrong way. One of the things was that, when we were dating, I was unfaithful to Stephana. That lingered in our marriage for the first few years; there was always this seed of doubt or distrust. Even to what she alluded to about: “…not sure if I made the right decision”; like, “Did I rush into this decision, because we had a baby when we came into marriage?” Then there’s been—you can share any more—I’m sure there’s a lot more forgiveness stories from you for me [Laughter] than the other way around.
Stephana: I think just everyday things—being short with one another—I think you have to recognize Jackie is very much one that has to eat, so he’s going to be short; he’s going to be quick with words if he’s not well nourished. I have had to forgive him many times over just being hangry. [Laughter]
Jackie: If you look that up in the dictionary, you’ll see my picture. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, you know, somebody told me years ago/they said, “You are most vulnerable to sin when you are hungry, or angry, or lonely, or tired.” That’s been true in my own life; I’m weak in those moments. I think we can all understand that—the HALT idea: hungry, angry, lonely, tired—when somebody is empty, we’re not at our best. In those moments, I think it was Ruth Graham/Billy Graham’s wife, who said that: “A great marriage is the union of two great forgivers.”
This is going to be a discipline that we’re going to have to practice throughout our marriage: learning how to seek and grant forgiveness, how to restore what gets broken, how to take the fractures and reset the bone, and let some things heal over time. There may be some soreness there for a while; it may be tender for a while; but if we don’t do that, then we’re in real trouble. Learning how to forgive, as a part of the RestoRING phase of a marriage, this is essential for every couple.
Jackie and Stephana: Yes.
Ann: Let’s go to the next ring about ProspeRING. What’s that?
Stephana: I think that’s what we all come into marriage hoping for—kind of the vision—the happily-ever-after is kind of what you envision; but it really is a perspective change. Once you’ve gone through these other rings, and you recognize some of the areas that have been hurtful or have challenged you, your perspective has changed on it. It’s not just the end of the world because for whatever thing that tripped you up, early on in marriage, so you’re in a stage, where you’re healthy and you’re more mature.
Jackie: And that doesn’t mean your marriage is perfect when you have to ProspeRING. You’re still going through maybe some of the similar challenges that you’ve gone through before; but you’re more mature, and you handle it so much different. Early on in our marriage, a minor thing may have sent us in a tailspin, where two, three, four days a week that we’re not communicating at all. Now, we’re like—that thing—we can get over it much quicker. That’s one of the biggest things, and it’s a ring or season of celebration; it’s like: “Man, look what God has done in our marriage. Look what we’ve gone through and that we’re still here standing. Let’s celebrate!” Everything becomes a celebration.
Dave: Is there some story about diapers that has something to do with ProspeRING after suffering? [Laughter] I don’t know exactly what this all means; I think we need to hear the story.
Jackie: I just got nervous; I don’t know what’s going on. [Laughter]
Stephana: I was talking about the season when we had Joshua. Josh was our third-born. You reach this point in your pregnancy, where you just want things in order; you’re nesting. I had this diaper genie that had been given to us at our baby shower, months earlier. I had just reached a point in the pregnancy, where I wanted things to be in order. I wanted the diaper genie put together, and Jackie agreed he’d be the one to put the genie together.
I just was really bent out of shape about it not being put together at some point. I think, in his mind, he was going to do it; but in my mind, I was ready for it to have been done. There was just this big blow-up argument that we can laugh about today; but in the moment, it was not a fun feeling; it was very frustrating.
Jackie: I probably—you were still pregnant—so I’m like, “I’ll get to it right before he’s here.” [Laughter]
Ann: “Why do we need it until then?”; right?
Jackie: “We’re not changing diapers right now.”
Dave: I thought this was the guy that was organized and liked things a certain way.
Bob: She thought so, too. [Laughter]
Jackie: She discovered something new that day. [Laughter]
Ann: Dave and I had this conversation, so many times, where I’ll ask him to do something—
Dave: Oh, no.
Ann: —and then he doesn’t do it. He says, “You didn’t say when you wanted it done.” I said, “If I ask you, it means right now. That’s what it means—right now.”
Stephana: “That’s what it means.”
Ann: But he didn’t know that, and I’ve never communicated it.
Ann: Oh, that’s funny.
Let me ask you this: “Can joy and suffering co-exist in a marriage?”
Jackie: I think some of the—one thing with the ProspeRING is—we noticed that some of our greatest times in our marriage were some of our hardest times. Some of the times that we were suffering—there was a period of time, where we were homeless as a family—and not only were we homeless, but it was the second time; there were two periods of that. One time was just when we had our daughter, who is our oldest; she was by herself [no siblings]. The last time was/the second time was when we were all five of us.
During that time period, it was so hard and so unknown. We didn’t know what/but God brought us closer together. We were a homeschooling family. Stephana was directing a homeschool community. We’d have to go to a church once a week to set everything up. I was kind of like the building maintenance guy, so I’d set up all the classrooms at the church that we were borrowing from. We’d pack up and go back.
Well, we were homeless; so we had no place for all that stuff. We had a storage that we were renting; and literally, our kids, every time we’d go to storage, it was like playtime for them. They’re having the greatest time ever; they remember that season as a great time. At that same season, we were sleeping on the basement floor of some of our friends. To them [children], that was a week-long play date: we were having meals together; we were always going somewhere together; everything brought us closer together.
When we look back, a lot of the foundational things that we do in our marriage, now, were solidified during that season. But it was hard; I was scared. We didn’t know what was going to happen. I felt like a failure, and here we are. We talk about it amongst our kids. It’s like this thing that God was—it’s like He had this shield or this covering over us—where yes, it’s hard; and you’re going through stuff—but there’s still joy in it. But we could have chosen to handle it a different way.
Ann: Sometimes God does His best work during those times. When I was pregnant with our first son, we’d been married six years. We just finished seminary. We bought a fixer-upper to make some money when we were in seminary.
Dave: Who does that? [Laughter] We did! [Laughter]
Ann: We had moved back to Michigan. That house hadn’t closed yet; it had sold, and we had no money. We were on staff with Cru®, so we’re raising our financial support. We didn’t just have a lot of money coming in. I was seven months pregnant; and we were eating oatmeal for dinner—and crying out to God—like: “God, we can’t do this.” I remember Dave saying, “It seems to me like God isn’t bringing in the money.”
Dave: I mean, you trust God as a missionary to provide your financial support, which with Cru, was our paycheck. Long story short: as I was starting to feel like, “Okay, God’s leading us out of ministry; He’s leading us to a business job,”—I had a marketing degree; and I just thought, “Okay,”—I made sort of a fleece with God; it’s like, “Okay; I’m going to give you a month. I’m going to call everybody, and ask, and do what I need to do; and if You provide, then I’ll know You want us in ministry; and if you don’t, then I think it’s one of Your ways You’re showing us to move on.” Long story short—
Ann: It was a substantial amount of money.
Dave: We needed $25,000 in 1985.
Jackie: Wow; wow.
Ann: I go to this Bible study. I meet this woman at this—and I’ve never been to this study—she’s asking me why we’re here/why we moved to Michigan—all these questions. I said, “We’re on staff with Cru. Dave’s the new chaplain for the Detroit Lions.”
Dave: —which everybody thinks you’re making all this money, because you work with an NFL team. I’m making nothing; they don’t pay you.
Jackie: Right, right.
Ann: She said, “Tell me more about his money thing.” I said, “Oh, well, we just raise support from financial donors, who are really feeling like, ‘Oh, that’s a cool investment of my money.’” I just told her about it; she said, “Hmm, that’s interesting. I’d like my husband to talk to your husband.” I’m like, “Oh, okay.”
Dave: I actually, while she was at that study, was at a church and asking people to consider supporting our ministry. Back then, there was no digital; it was a 3x5 card, and they write their name and a phone number if they’re interested, and they hand it in right at the church. I’m looking through these cards, and I think we got $5 a month out of maybe 50 cards. I was so discouraged; I’m like—we’re like a week from the month deadline—so I’m like, “I think God’s leading us away.”
I get home; and Ann goes, “Hey, I met this lady named Ruth at this thing; and she says to call her husband, Ivan.” I’m like, “What?! You what?!”
Ann: I had his card.
Dave: I’m supposed to call some guy that doesn’t even know me or you. His wife—I dial this number—right?—and I’m not making this up: [gruff voice] “Hello,”—I mean, it’s the most gruff guy ever—[gruff voice] “Hello.” “Hey, Ivan; my name is Dave Wilson. We haven’t met, but my wife met your wife Ruth today at a Bible study or something.” [Gruff voice] “Yeah?!”—it was just like that. [Laughter] I’m like, “Well, Ruth mentioned to my wife that I should give you a call.”
[Gruff voice] “What for? She didn’t say anything to me about it,”—I mean, it was just like that; I’m not exaggerating. I’m like, “Well, here’s our situation. We’re on staff with Athletes in Action, a branch of Cru. We’re missionaries, and we raise financial support to do our ministry.”
[Gruff voice] “So why are you calling me?” He goes, “Tell me what you’re doing.” I say “Well, you know, we have this ministry with pro athletes. They have a platform, and they have an influence; so we try to lead them to Christ.” I went through this whole little pitch; and he goes, “Well, how much money do you need?” I go, “Well, could we get together?— I could share our thing.” He goes, “Just give me a number Dave.” I go, “Well it’s”—[stuttering] I just barely said/I said—“Well, it’s significant; it’s $25,000 by like next week.” He goes, “We gotcha; come to the office tomorrow and get the check.”
Stephana and Jackie: Wow!
Dave: Ivan became one of our closest friends. You think back about that moment, and we almost left ministry.
Ann: And we’d say it’s one of the hardest—as you were saying, as homeless—it’s horrible; and yet, in the midst of it, God came through—this miraculous story—
Dave: —and provided and said, “I’m right here.” I say all of that to say: “If you’re struggling, there is a God. He’s got an Ivan that’s waiting to help you. Just get on your knees, and ask and trust Him like never before.”
Bob: Maybe God, who’s going to provide, not financial support, but the emotional support you need/—
Ann: Right; exactly.
Bob: —the relational support you need.
The last ring you talk about in the book is the MentorRING. Maybe that’s what you need more than anything else—is somebody, who can help walk you through the hard challenges—can be the mentor you need in your marriage. Or maybe God’s calling you to be that in somebody else’s life/somebody else’s marriage.
You guys, thank you for this time. Thank you for the book. Thanks for coaching us on all of this. I hope listeners will get a copy of this book and go through it with other couples and do some diagnostic of: “Where are we?” and “What does God have for us in this?” I hope couples will come out and see you when we’re able to have more Weekends to Remember in that moment. Thanks for being with us.
Jackie: Thank you guys for having us.
Stephana: Thank you so much for having us.
Bob: And by the way, if folks want information about when and where we are hosting Weekends to Remember—because we have a few of those that have started back up this spring—you can go to the website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and find out more about the limited locations, where these events are taking place. Of course, in the fall, we hope to be back up to full strength.
But we do want our listeners to know that we’re making your book available this week to listeners who can help support the ministry with a donation. The book the Bledsoes have written is called The 7 Rings of Marriage: Your Model for a Lasting and Fulfilling Marriage. The book is our thank-you gift to you when you support the ongoing work of this ministry. When you partner with us to reach hundreds of thousands of marriages and families every day with practical biblical help and hope for their relationships, you make that possible.
In fact, what you’re really donating to is to strengthen those marriages and those families. It’s other couples and other families that are benefiting from the donations you make. So thank you for thinking about a donation. You can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. And again, when you do, we will send you, as a thank-you gift, Jackie and Stephana Bledsoe’s book, The 7 Rings of Marriage: Your Model for a Lasting and Fulfilling Marriage. I know the book is going to help a lot of couples; so I hope our listeners will call in, and make a donation, and get a copy of the book.
We’ve got the president of FamilyLife®, David Robbins, in the studio with us today. David, we always like having guests like the Bledsoes join us.
David: You know, one of my favorite things that happens on FamilyLife Today is when some of our Weekend to Remember speakers, that serve with us on weekends and pour their heart out into families on the front lines through Weekends to Remember, get to be guests on FamilyLife Today and that crossover and connection happens.
I love it because these are people who share our heart. You can hear their passion for marriages bleed out of them, and that’s certainly what we’ve experienced with the Bledsoes. We know that time together, around timeless truth, transforms marriages. We see it happen weekend after weekend with the Weekends to Remember getaways.
We’re so glad to be able to bring them back. Even though there’s not as many as there normally are, and that there’s less people that are going to be there than normally, we’re excited to get them back up, going again.
Bob: Yes, we really are. Again, there’s information about when and where we are hosting Weekend to Remember events. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to find out more.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about where God has placed you and why He has placed you where He has placed you. Dave Wilson likes to say, “We’re to make a dent where we’re sent.” We’re going to talk to a couple tomorrow that are going to share with us what they’ve learned about the art of neighboring. I hope you can tune in to hear from Chris and Elizabeth McKinney tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. We got some extra help today from Bruce Goff. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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