Monday, April 17, 2017

The Mingling of Souls Marriage Conference

Disclaimer:  This is going to be a mushy post.

Needing a trip away from home, something that would encourage and refresh us, Wade and I began looking for something we could go do together.  Not really knowing what or where to look, we just began to browse the internet.  Wade came across a marriage conference in Houston, Texas, that was coming up and it wasn't just any marriage conference..  It was the Mingling of Souls Marriage Conference led by Matt and Lauren Chandler!!  We enjoy Matt's preaching so much and while we hadn't read the Mingling of Souls book, we both were instantly interested.  Speed up a few months, and Wade surprised me one night by handing me the tickets for the conference, our hotel reservation, and a list of restaurants that looked ideal for us!!

Can I just pause right here and say how much that meant to me??  That not only did Wade initiate the idea, but saw it through.  Not only did he desire a get away for us, but he picked out a marriage conference..  Not only did he want time away with me, he wanted to invest in US.  ((AND not only did he buy tickets, he bought front-row tickets, surprising me and endearing himself to me in ways I'm sure he didn't even realize.))

That pursuit to please.  That sacrifice of time and money because our marriage is worth it.  All of the planning, researching, and preparing just to slip away for a few days and simply be husband and wife.  It's this adoration that touches my innermost heart, it's this kindness that draws me deeper still.

My mom graciously agreed to watch all four kids for three days, so with much anticipation, excitement, and a tiny bit of sadness, we woke the kids up on February 9th and had a "We love you so much and we'll miss you" breakfast.  Nothing like a little Sally's Blueberry French Toast to show how much you care.. ;))

These babies were super excited about our breakfast together!!

We got enough hugs and kisses and syrupy loving to last us for three days, dropped them off with my mom around 11 Thursday morning, and headed west.

We drove straight into Houston, and while the traffic was UNREAL, we safely made it to our hotel.  Thank You, Jesus!!  (I love to drive and Wade is a master at navigation.. it works really well, and I'm especially thankful because I've come to realize my weakness at being able to read a map! Seriously.  I don't know how I ever passed Social Studies.  Thibodaux Elementary, you have failed me, hahaa!)
Upon checking in, I noticed Wade's name in a plaque on the desk.  I said, "Awww, Wade!!  Look your name!"  The receptionist says, "Oh, that's right!!  You're our Guest of the Day!!  Not only do you get a snack bag (yay!), you will also receive free parking for your entire stay (yaaaayyy!!!), AND we are upgrading you to our Executive Suite for your entire stay!" (AHHHHHHHHH!!!!)  Wade and I just beamed and then I said to the guy at the counter, "I'm so sorry, can I go grab my camera out of the car?!  I need to get a picture of this!!" Hahaha!!

Right from the start we could see God's blessings being poured out on us during this trip.  It was like He had planned and prepared it for us from the very beginning and it was SO sweet to me that I actually started a list of it all in my phone, just to be able to go back and remember His loving kindness towards us.  Here is Wadie with his snack pack.. in our hotel room kitchen. ;))

There was an office space and a living room attached to our bedroom and while we didn't really need it, it sure was nice to be able to spread out, especially in those tiny city hotel rooms!
That night, we walked the .2 seconds to the Galleria (our first time!) and realized the only thing we were going to be buying there was dinner, ha!!  We ate at Cheesecake Factory and I was SO SAD I hadn't brought my camera!!  Wade ate the most beautiful steak, green beans, and mashed potatoes while I had a veggie burger and spinach salad!!  It. was. heavenlyyyyyy.  Everything was so, so delicious, and while we had to sit at a big long table with lots of other people (big city dining, I guess), it was still strangely intimate.  You're so focused on not getting into conversation with anyone around you that you're INTENTLY focused on the one right across the table, ha!!  The food was delicious (especially the two cheesecakes we got for dessert!), the trees outside were lit up, the moonlight was dancing across the windows downtown.. and when Wade went to pay, he realized he had a forgotten gift card from work that paid for EXACTLY HALF of our meal.  Another blessing from above that did not go unnoticed.

Early the next morning, we got ready to take on downtown Houston.  First up - Academy.  Hahaa!!  Wade is always needing new shoes and it was a treat for him to get to go in, browse around and actually try them on, instead of just rushing in, grabbing a pair, and getting back to the house asap, ha!! We found some things for the kids and then walked next door to DSW.  Perfect. ;))

We headed across town when Wade happened to notice this little gem!!  I made a U-turn then and there and immediately jumped out for a picture!!  I've heard so many wonderful things about Trader Joe's and the opportunity to just stop and shop around was too good to pass up!!

Cookie butters, fancy crackers, cookie dippers, and a bottle of sparkling grape juice, Trader Joe's is a must-come-back kind of place!!  It was SO MUCH FUN!!

After looking at all those yummy groceries and specialty items, we were hungryyyyyy.  We got back on the road to find a place to eat.  We were actually heading to P.F. Changs when we passed this little barbecue joint.  Wade pulled out his phone and looked up "best barbecue in downtown Houston" and this was one of the first places that popped up!!!!  I did another U-turn and pulled right in, ha!!  We love eating where the locals eat!!

It was nothing fancy.  Just trays, paper plates, plastic bottles filled with their homemade sauce, and workers going 90 to nothing in the back.  We sat in the corner and watched as the Houston people filed in.. more and more until the line was wrapped around the corner and out the door.  We now know why!!  THIS WAS DELICIOUS!!!!!!!!  You realize how mediocre your local bbq is when you eat at places like this that are all heart-and-soul barbecue deliciousness, ha!!

I didn't get a picture, but we hit up Ikea for my first time ever.. I was overwhelmed and definitely not prepared for that experience!!  Now that I understand it better, I think next time will be much more of a treat.. Wade didn't complain once about the hours we spent there and I love him all the more for it!!  I found so many things I liked, but there was only one piece that I came back to over and over..  one that I just couldn't get enough of and knew we needed to bring it home!!  We made plans to come back and pick it up the next day, and then headed to the hotel to get ready for our conference!!!!

Houston First Baptist Church at 6 pm.. timeeee for Mattttt Chandlerrrrrr!!!

I LOVED GETTING TO SEE THESE 2 IN PERSON!!!!  Lauren led us in worship and Matt preached two sessions before a question and answer time.  I snapped pictures and scribbled down everything he said as fast as I could!!  I took 13 pages of notes total..  I just couldn't get enough!!

Here is the briefest of overviews and it in no way encompasses the depth, richness, or clarity of the actual seminar.  If you ever get the chance to attend one, DON'T HESITATE.  It's worth every effort to be there.

First Session: The Covenant
We desperately need each other, husband and wife, to be ALL that God has created for us to be.  All of creation has a counterpart that makes it all it was meant to be.. the way the sky needs the sun, moon, stars, and birds.  The way the oceans needs the animals and plants.  So a man needs a wife to be all that he was meant to be!!  How beautiful is this design?!  How sweet of our God to give us someone that complements us and tempers us all for His purposes!

In our culture, we see "marriage consumption."  Happiness is the ultimate goal and self is the heart of marriage. It is driven  by feelings and passion instead of promise and duty..  But the most romantic thing in the world is promise and duty, especially in those moments of weak and ugly.

Most days, life is mundane.  The covenant keeps us there and instead of our attitude being, "You adjust to me or I'm out," we should view our marriages as "We adjust to God together."  And as we submit to each other, we will grow together towards Christ AND in our passion towards each other.  Only when God is supreme in our lives will we have joy instead of fragile happiness.

Session Two:  Progress
Sanctification - we are not yet what we will be.  God is using both joys and sorrows to teach us, mold us, and make us what we should be.  The great adventure of marriage is getting to know the person you married.. things will be exposed that were once hidden and we must stay in a constant phase of progressive sanctification.

See conflict as a grace of God.  Conflict gives you an opportunity to see your sin, repent, receive His grace and be transformed.  Recognize your part in the conflict and lay it before the Lord.  Endure with joy through conflict.. For if you will recognize your sin and repent, you will be transformed, continually partaking in life's 'beautiful dance of grace.' 

Know the joy of sacrifice.  Know the joy of helping someone else to flourish!!  Few things are as life-changing as gratitude and gladness.. Be an expert in your spouse's strengths (because it is evil to be an expert in their flaws!!)  No one should know how amazing they are more than you.

Two imperfect people who grow together in the Lord will be a light to the world.
Mutually submitting to each other and to the Lord will be a light to the world.
Speaking highly about your spouse and beautifully about marriage will be a light to the world.
See your conflicts as a way to move closer to each other and closer to the Lord.. and be encouraged by the progressive sanctification you will see in your marriage.

The next morning, we heard the final 2 sessions and another question and answer time.  I didn't bring in my camera and so regret it!!  Not only did we run into friends from LC (ahhh!!), but I was in the bathroom at the same time as Lauren Chandlerrrrrr!!  Hahaa!!  If I would have had my camera, I MIGHT have been brave enough to ask her for a selfie together. ;))  Instead, we just smiled and followed each other out the bathroom, ha!!

Session 3: Common Grace
Things meant to be savored and be a worship to God can be enjoyed to a shallow degree by those who don't know Him.. but they can never enjoy it to its fullness. 

 To better understand this, there are three Hebrew words for love:
((Note - I'm not sure how these words are actually spelled!  These are just my phonetic spellings from the way they sounded!))
1. 'Ryah' - friendship; brotherly affection
2.  'Ah-hava' - love of the will; love from a decision (I am going to be with you forever, no matter what!)
3. 'Doed' - to mingle; two souls coming together
We can only experience the third type of love after we have had 'ryah' (friendship) and 'ah-hava' (covenant marriage). Non-Christians cannot experience 'doed' because they cannot come together spiritually.  Praise God for His beautiful gift of oneness to the believer!!  (This was so profound to me and makes so much sense!!  His design for us is amazing and ultimately glorifies Him!!  Incredible.)

That night, we went back to the hotel around 10:30 pm.. and were STARVING.  Wade ran over to the Galleria and picked up Chipotle, ha!! Delicious, cheesy, full-fat quesadillas!

When we took road trips as kids, if my dad grocery shopped for our snacks, we would have chocolates, Cheese Its and Little Debbies.  If my mom packed our snack bag, it would be carrots, celery sticks, and apples.  I'll give you one guess who packed us a snack bag for this trip....
Hahaa, Mommmm!!  You made me laugh!!  Thank you so, so much!!  It came in quite in handy after those quesadillas!!

But because we couldn't help ourselves, we had to finish off our cheesecake from the night before, ha!!

Why is late night eating the most delicious?!


Saturday morning, we got ready, packed up, and actually arrived at the church an hour early. It's amazing how much faster you can get out the door when you aren't taking care of four extra little people, ha!!

Session 4 - The Long Game
If we want to make it to the end, to grow old together, there are a few things we have to do.

1.  We've got to the get the gospel right.  If you have it wrong, you don't have it at all.  We are the passive recipient!  We were washed!  He has sanctified us and we have done nothing to earn or deserve His grace and mercy.  God knew what He was buying at the cross and we can rest in this - God loves us NOW.  Not our future selves, not when we have it all together.. He loves and enjoys us now!

2. Remember His steadfast love and recall His kindness in bringing you and your spouse together.  God wants a forgetful people to remember.. Remind yourself what you loved about your spouse!

3. Invest in one another. This marriage is sacred.  Be ferociously disciplined about fighting for time together!!  We love our children, yet we MUST press pause on our role as parents and simply be husband and wife again.  (I have remembered this and quoted this to more people than anything else, I think.  It's haaard to do, but so. worth. it.)

4. Learn to play together.  Be flirty with each other the older you get, be playful, and laugh a lot. "You may be asking, 'What does this have to do with marriage??'  It has everything to do with marriage." M. Chandler

5.  Work together.  What are things you can work on together??  Not just parenting, but look for ways to use your gifts together!

6.  Pray together.  Nothing will expose spiritual clumsiness like praying together.  Lay down your thoughts, dreams, complaints together before the Lord.  This will be an incredibly intimate experience.

7.  Belong to a community of local believers.  You need the multi-age, multi-cultural aspect so you can see where you were and and how you can grow.  You need the right kind of community - multi-generational friendships!!

8. Find your 3.  Jesus walked with three of His closest, dearest friends.  To walk in genuine community, have your three that will ask questions and are invited to speak into your life.  Be wise about your three.. and fight for them.

9.  Live with the end in mind.  Only the things God has done will ultimately last.  Lean into the sacred covenant of marriage. "For richer or poorer, in sickness or in health, for better or worse.. I AM HERE."

You can do this.  One day at a time.

Wade and I could not have sat closer, held hands tighter, or desired to just be together more than after this conference was over.  We were renewed.  We were refreshed.  We wanted to share what we had learned and allow the Lord to make our marriage all that He had intended for it to be.  We wanted to be a light and testimony to His goodness!! His grace!!  His life-giving gift of marriage!!  

We left so, so thankful for this conference and being washed in truth for hours.. there's just nothing better.

After leaving the church, we headed to Ikea to pick up our new furniture!!  It was absolutely packed, but we were able to get in and out quickly.. in order to drive the hour or so north to a Brazilian steakhouse that we had made reservations at!! It was Valentine's weekend, after all.. and what better way to celebrate the end of our wonderful weekend away than with a feast of all feasts?!

We went to Fogo de Chao for our first time. Wade couldn't wait to try all their different meats, while I couldn't wait to eat off of their Market Table, which was a huge assortment of fresh and exotic fruits, vegetables, salads, cheeses, and charcuterie (Wade's word, ha!).

Umm, this is my plate.  Plate number one.

The other side of said plate.  Ha!!  God's food is just so gorgeous and so delicious.. I could not eat fast enough!!!

I couldn't believe how quickly I filled up.. two plates of fresh fruit and veggies will do that, I guess, ha!!  Here is plate #3!!

Oh, yes!!  And everyone got garlic mashed potatoes, caramelized bananas, crispy polenta, and soft, cheesy rolls!!  One of the waitresses was a genuine Brazilian and kept coming over to tell us about the traditional foods we were eating from her country.. I absolutely loved hearing about it all and I think she appreciated how interested we were, ha!!

Wade ate like 2 broccoli and said, "They aren't fooling me!!  I'm here for the meat!!" Hahaha!!
 

Wadie loved getting to taste all the different options!!
Some of our sweet friends knew we were planning a trip to Fogo de Chao and surprised us with a big gift card.. it literally brought tears to our eyes.  Thank You, Lord, for sweet friends and wonderful weekends away.


We got back to town around 7 Saturday night and went right away to pick up the kids.  We were SO GLAD to see them!!  While the quiet and rest was nice, it's always good to be back altogether again!!  And we had brought prizes with us!! :))

Everyone got new cups from the Disney store..

And goodness, you would have thought we had handed them the moon.

As I was unpacking, I pulled out those precious tickets, my pages and pages of notes, and our new book.  I never want to forget that weekend away with my Wadie.  He's an easy man to love.  I do believe the Lord made us specifically as a counterpart for each other.  We can do more for God's kingdom together than apart and that makes all the difference.
I have a handful of friends that have shared how they have never had a fight with their husbands,  never had a serious disagreement or had anything incredibly difficult come up in their relationship.  While that sounds so nice, I sense that it is only when you have walked through the fire together that you can be truly refined.  There is something profound about the way our sorrows, arguments, and hardships can bring us together, make our marriages stronger, and cause our love to intensify, if it is allowed to.  I want to enjoy this 'dance of grace' with Wade for as long as I live. While we aren't perfect, we do have disagreements, and we have worked through some of the hardest times we've ever known, there is no greater friend, no closer companion, no one who can quiet my soul with his gentle kindness more than my Wadie.  He is a reflection to me of my ultimate Bridegroom, the greatest Friend, and the sweetest Lover of my soul.. Wade causes me to appreciate Him all the more.

When I think of the less obvious ways that Wade shows his love for me, it doesn't take me long to come to tears..  They flow through my mind as quickly as blood flows through my veins.

Love is cooking dinner after work for 10 weeks straight while your wife makes it through that first trimester.
Love is buying her the deck furniture she adores, even though there's plenty of cheaper options.
Love is changing that awful diaper, brushing all those sets of teeth, getting everyone dressed and fed and in the car for church so that your wife can spend those extra minutes by herself to get ready.
Love is planning, booking, and making a weekend away with her a priority.
Love is long car rides in comfortable quiet, or serious conversations, or inside jokes only the two of you know.
Love is having 4 babies and still desiring more, because you can see past the trenches of now to the lifetime of goodness ahead.
Love is a million little things and lots of big things, important moments and silly moments, trips around the country and trips around town, errands and date nights, birth announcements and tee ball games, late night red box runs and early Sunday morning church services..
Love is knowing that this friendship, this life together, this marriage is a gift, divinely given.
 Love truly is a mingling of souls.

4 comments:

  1. You oughta send this blog post to the chandlers!! 😘 I enjoyed this so much. Glad you got to experience Trader Joe's. I like how Trader Joe's is smaller and not nearly as overwhelming as IKEA. About the part regarding couples who never disagree- Derrick and I joked this weekend that Mac won't be one of those kids who say they never saw their parents argue πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

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  2. Hahaa, Alice'!! Yesssss, I know what you mean!! I'm just so glad you made it all the way to the end of this post, it was a long one, ha!! So glad you enjoyed it.. we should all plan a trip for their conference next year!! ;) Just saying!!

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  3. Yayy!!! Lis this will be one of those post you will love all the yrs!!! So sweet and so much fun!!!!!

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From childhood friends to high school sweethearts, and now newlyweds and brand-new parents, Wade and I can only thank Jesus for His incredible blessings. Our three children are the ULTIMATE gifts from God and we pray that our lives glorify Him. He is our everything.