Be The Change You Want To See In Your Marriage

Marriage Monday

Mark: “I’m just tired and I want to be done.” I’ve heard that from two long-married, currently separated couples in the last month. I understand those feelings. I was there seven years ago, too.

Jill: That’s really how the slow fades work. We put up with things, minimize them, sweep them under the rug, don’t really resolve conflict, resist asking for help, and tell ourselves “it isn’t worth it.” Add to that our tendency over time to only see what our spouse doesn’t do–which causes us to be blind to the good they bring to our life–and we’re set up for “being tired and wanting to be done.”

Mark: Being done isn’t the answer though. You’ll simply leave one relationship filled with challenges and likely someday enter another relationship filled with challenges. When any two people try to build a life together, it’s hard!  Another relationship isn’t the answer because it will take about 2.5 years (according to research) for you to find yourself just as frustrated in the new relationship as you were in the old.

Jill: So what’s a person to do when they’re “tired and ready to be done?”  We need to BE the change we want in our marriage.

Be kind. Feel like your spouse isn’t treating you kindly? Take a look at how you’re really treating him/her.  Be the kind you’re looking for.

Be attentive. If your spouse isn’t “meeting your needs” dig deep and really look at what you’re bringing to the game. Are you attentive to the things that truly are important to him or her? Be the attentive spouse you’re looking for.

Be faith-filled. If you long for spiritual connection with your spouse, take an honest evaluation about whether you’re walking by faith way more than walking in anger, walking in blame, walking in shame, or walking in criticism.

Be grateful. If you’re feeling taken advantage of or not valued, take a hard look at where you focus your thoughts about your spouse. Start a list today of all the positive things your spouse brings to the marriage.

Be humble. Are you waiting for your partner to apologize? Determined that you won’t apologize one more time until he or she does?  We’re responsible only for the messes we make. Even if you make 5% of the mess and your spouse makes 95% of the mess (from your perspective), then you need to clean up your 5% regardless of whether your spouse tends to his or her 95% or not.

Be compassionate. Instead of seeing your spouse’s issues as a personal offense to you, see them as a representation of his or her blind spot or lost-ness–especially if he or she isn’t walking with Christ.

Be willing to ask for help. Stop trying to put the pieces back together alone. And if you’re the only one who seems to be willing to tend to the broken pieces then get yourself in counseling, or working with a marriage coach, or digging into your own “junk in the trunk.”  You’ve probably been carrying stuff from when you were 12 into your adult years and ultimately into your marriage. It’s time to stop dragging all that around and letting it poison the relationships that mean the most to you.

Mark: When we dig into God’s Word we don’t see quitting as an option. Instead we see commitment,  long-suffering, and perseverance being what God calls us to. He doesn’t say that it will be easy…He just promises we won’t walk it alone.

Jill: It’s okay to feel tired and long for something different than what you have. Recognize, however, that you can change that today. YOU can be the change you want to see in your marriage.

Why We Choose Samaritan Ministries

As a double entrepreneur family–both Mark and I have our own small businesses–health insurance is not a given.

When Obamacare became available we bought a policy through the marketplace. We quickly learned, however, that the “Affordable Care Act” was anything but affordable. Insuring Mark and I and our college student son required a $1500 monthly premium for a high deductible health insurance policy. Instead it should be called the “Accessible Care Act” because it did indeed cover pre-existing conditions like breast cancer which I battled in 2013 and 2014. For that we were grateful.

As we were considering our options we kept hearing about a health sharing program called Samaritan Ministries. I couldn’t imagine not having health insurance. To me that was like not having car insurance or homeowners insurance! You have to have health insurance! Yet, health insurance was becoming unreachable to us financially. We finally decided to do our research and ultimately chose Samaritan Ministries as a different way to do healthcare beginning in January 2016.

I’ve waited to share about our health sharing decision until now because I wanted to get time and experience under our belt. I won’t recommend something until I’ve used it long enough to feel comfortable with the resource or product. We’re now finishing up our second year with Samaritan Ministries and I can wholeheartedly say that this is our new normal for managing healthcare expenses.

Here’s how it works: The first $300 of any health incident is covered out of pocket–kind of the same concept as a deductible. (That first $300 can also be shared if you secure a discount for services. For instance, if you have a $3000 medical bill and you ask the provider for a cash pay discount and they give you a 10% discount for cash pay, your $300 responsibility has been eliminated by the discount you negotiated. Our experience, by the way, is that most providers offer anywhere from a 20%-50% discount for cash pay.)

Expenses above the $300 are shared with other members. So every month we pray for and send our $495 share directly to another member who has a healthcare burden that is being shared. ($495 is the share for a family of 3 or more. When Austin gets married in December, our share will reduce to $440/month for the two of us.) One month out of the year our share goes directly to Samaritan to cover administrative expenses. The other 11 months our share goes directly to another member who has a need. Samaritan matches the needs up with the shares and tells you who to pray for and send your money to each month.

Mark and Austin only have Samaritan membership. Due to my breast cancer history, we choose to carry a high deductible health insurance policy on me only and I also am a Samaritan member. We choose to carry health insurance on me because Samaritan will not share any expense related to a pre-existing cancer diagnosis until you’ve been treatment-free for five years. I have one more year and then I’ll meet that requirement.

I can’t wait until I can drop my health insurance, but Samaritan can be used alongside health insurance. In fact, when we were trying to decide what to do, I called Samaritan with some questions. They informed me that if I did health insurance plus Samaritan, it was likely that in most situations, Samaritan shares would cover any health insurance deductible I would have.

Indeed that is exactly what has happened. I had rotator cuff surgery earlier this year. With my $6000 deductible, we were looking at $6000 of out-of-pocket medical expenses. As the bills came in for my surgery and follow up physical therapy, every penny of my deductible was shared by Samaritan members. I had no out-of-pocket expenses. We didn’t even have to pay the first $300 because the insurance discounts reduced that (most providers give insurance companies pre-negotiated discounts on medical costs).

Even if there is an expense that doesn’t qualify for being shared (such as a pre-existing condition, orthodontic work, oral surgery, etc), you can submit those things as a Special Prayer Need (SPN). Each month we’re assigned one special prayer need that we’re asked to pray for and given the opportunity to voluntarily donate $20 or $25 to if we’d like. If every person who gets that SPN is able to also donate the suggested amount, the entire financial need for that unsharable medical expense will be met for the member! We could choose to manage our risk of breast cancer recurrence through the Special Prayer Need option, but we’ve determined carrying a high deductible traditional health insurance policy is our best strategy for one more year.

This year Samaritan introduced a new level of membership. What we have is Samaritan Classic. They now offer Samaritan Basic which comes with a lower monthly share amount and a higher threshold amount that is your responsibility before a need can be shared.  We’ll probably stay with Samaritan Classic, but for some folks Samaritan Basic is just what they need to make healthcare even more affordable. Oh and by the way, healthcare sharing members are exempt from the federal requirement to have insurance or pay a penalty-tax.

We’ve been so pleased with our decision to leave behind health insurance, replacing it with a health sharing plan. If you’re struggling with affording health insurance and are looking for a different way to handle your healthcare needs, we highly recommend Samaritan Ministries.

As of September 2017, more than 229,000 Samaritan Ministries members share over $25 million per month in medical needs directly, one household to another, without using health insurance. It’s a healthy, stable, Christ-honoring ministry that has figured out how to harness the power of community!

If you’re thinking about making a change and have any questions, please ask! We’d love to help you determine if this could be a good option for your family.

And if you decide to make the switch…tell them the Savage’s sent you! We LOVE knowing when we’ve helped someone along the #LivingWithLess journey!

Better Together For Over 35 Years

Last week was a first for me. At age 53, this was my first-ever, week-long girlfriend trip.

If you’ve read my Better Together book you know that finding my mom tribe has not been easy for me. Growing up I had far more guy friends than girlfriends. I just found guy friendships to be a bit less….complicated, you might say.

My sophomore year of high school I decided to try out for the school musical, Fiddler on the Roof. I ended up getting the role of Hodel…one of the daughters. That was when I met Jody, Lora, and Julie. Jody and Lora were my “sisters” in the musical, Chava and Tzeitel. Julie played our “mother,” Golde. Those three girls were seniors…two years older than me, but we became fast friends. When they graduated several months later, I was left behind to navigate two more years of school without my newfound friends.

circa 1979 L-R: Jill, Julie, Jody

We stayed in touch over the years, Jody serving as the maid of honor in all of our weddings! To celebrate their 55th birthdays we started planning a girls trip last year (this is where being two years younger is a benefit–my 55th birthday is still two years away!). We set our sights on a week on Okaloosa Island (near Ft. Walton Beach, FL) in my parent’s beautiful condo that they rent out.

Two weeks ago, we drove down to Florida…a 14-hour one-day drive. We discovered, by the way, that when you’re traveling with four mid-life mamas, a longer rest area stop may result in at least one of you needing to go to the bathroom once again (like 10 minutes later!) before piling back in the car!

With my introvert personality, I was a little worried about being in a group setting all week, but we talked about those kinds of needs right up front so nobody would misread any of our needs for space.

We laughed, talked, cried, and caught up with each other’s lives.  Relaxed conversations with no time limitations were plentiful, opening the door for a depth of conversation you just can’t have when you meet occasionally for coffee.

Personally, the theme for the week was rest and I read three books along that theme. Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton, An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling, and Come Closer by Jane Rubietta.  The Ruth Haley Barton book is one I’ve read several times. It always reminds me to stop doing for God and focus on being with God. Such a good reminder for my high-capacity-achievement-oriented personality!

This was a first read of An Unhurried Life and wow, I love this book! Such a powerful reminder of the need to put “hurry” to rest for good.  Jane Rubietta’s books are always favorites of mine! She takes you by the hand to sit at Jesus’ feet.

I’m a huge advocate for getaways. I believe it’s valuable to do a personal getaway every once in a while. (My friend Julie told her husband she wanted 24 hours alone in a hotel for her birthday–Go Julie!) I think it’s incredibly valuable to do marriage getaways. But my recent week in Florida really helped me to see the value of getting away with girlfriends in some way. Maybe it’s attending a conference together (ask a friend to join you at one of the upcoming events I’m speaking at in Springfield, IL, Atlanta, GA, or Chicago, IL!). Maybe it’s just hosting an overnight with a girlfriend while your hubby is out of town. Maybe it’s a long-planned girlfriend week away.

Taking care of yourself is never convenient. It takes effort, sacrifice, and planning to make it happen, but it’s definitely worth it!

 

 

Surprise or No Surprise?

Marriage Monday

Mark: One of the ways Jill and I are different has to do with surprises. I love surprises. Jill….not so much.

Jill: If you’ve taken our free No More Perfect Marriages E-Challenge, you’ll take a quiz that helps you determine if you’re spontaneous or structured.  Mark is spontaneous and I am structured. Often folks who are spontaneous love surprises and folks that are structured do not like surprises.

Mark: This is important to understand. If you’re spontaneous and think a surprise birthday party would be a great gift for your structured spouse, you might stop and think again!

Jill: At the same time, if you don’t like surprises but your spouse does like them, you need to step out of your box and make surprises happen!  That’s what I did this past weekend.

Mark: Jill was speaking in St. Louis until Saturday afternoon. We had decided that we would take a little 24 hour getaway in the area before we returned home Sunday night. Jill said she’d explore possibilities and find something.

Jill: After asking Facebook friends for ideas of places to go, I learned about Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton, IL.  It looked like a great place to explore so I decided to search for AirBnb’s in the general area. I ran across a unique place to stay: a 1960’s Shasta camper on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Mark: I love to camp. I particularly love to camp on water, however, our camper that I inherited from my dad bit the dust several years ago.

Jill: I don’t particularly enjoy camping. We live in the middle of the country where it’s quiet and private. Honestly when you camp, you’re often in campgrounds right on top of other campers. It’s like living in a busy neighborhood which I don’t find relaxing at all.  But when I saw this unique place, I thought, “THIS IS IT! MARK WILL LOVE THIS!”

Mark: Jill said that she found a place, but it was a surprise. I thought that was great and I couldn’t wait to see what it was.

Jill: When we arrived, Mark was soooooo surprised and so blessed! This was exactly the setting he loves and hadn’t had in years.  And honestly, I found it very relaxing because the campsites were secluded away from other campers.

Mark: I loved it! I loved that Jill knew me so well. I knew that she did something out of her comfort zone. And I loved that she surprised me!

Jill: Do you know if your spouse likes surprises or not?  If you don’t, then have the conversation today! Talk about it and discover something new about it each other.

 

Lessons from a Day of Travel

This guy.

Last night he was a champ. When my flight was delayed leaving Florida and I texted him that I worried about making my connecting flight in Atlanta, he immediately pointed me to Christ with a simple text that said, “God’s got this. I am praying.”  I needed that reminder in that stressful moment!

Then when I got to Atlanta and found I did indeed miss my flight, he stuck by me. Delta gave me a hotel voucher and I asked about getting my checked luggage. They said I could request it and get it in 35-40 minutes. It was already 10:30 pm but I decided to go ahead and request it. It actually took a little over an hour to get it but I was never alone in the waiting. Mark stayed connected the whole time.

When I got my luggage and went out to catch the hotel shuttle, I watched it drive off before I could get there. When I went to the pick up area, I learned that after 11pm, the shuttles no longer came every 15 minutes but now every 30 minutes!  A kind driver from another hotel asked me who I was waiting for. I told him and he confirmed it would be another 30 minutes. He said, “I can drop you in the gas station right by the Crowne Plaza Hotel if you want to hop on my shuttle because I’m driving right by there.” He explained that they would frown on a Candlewood Suites shuttle pulling into the Crown Plaza Hotel, but dropping me off right next door would work and it was just a walk across the parking lot to the hotel. I was so grateful for his kindness and I could tell Mark was praying!

Sure enough, he dropped me off right next to the hotel and I just had to walk across the parking lot, arriving 30 minutes earlier than I would have if I’d had to wait for the other shuttle to pick me up and drop me off. Considering it was nearly midnight, I was grateful for this man’s generosity to add me to his shuttle when he had no other reason to do so but just caring for another person.

Just knowing I wasn’t navigating all of this alone really made a difference for me! Mark is usually asleep by 10pm so I knew this was a sacrifice for him staying up with me, supporting me with his “presence,” encouragement, and prayers.

When I arrived home today, he met me with flowers….my favorite, roses! I nearly cried!

This whole situation was a reminder to me of several things:

  1. Sometimes we can’t be physically present with a loved one, but our “virtual” presence can still be powerful. Just knowing someone is praying and staying engaged through a challenging situation can make a huge difference. I certainly felt that with Mark last night!
  2. Prayer is a powerful tool. I truly believe that kind shuttle driver was moved to generosity by the power of prayer.
  3. Flexibility is an important trait in this journey of life. All around me folks were getting so angry at the situation. However, we were delayed because of a tire with a cut in it! I certainly don’t want to land in a plane with a bum tire!  While I was disappointed in my delay arriving home, I found it much less stressful to be flexible than angry.
  4. Kindness can be key to getting good customer service. When I interacted with the gate agent today in a very kind manner she told me to call and ask Delta for a travel voucher for the inconvenience. I honestly would have never thought to do that since they put me up for the night in a hotel and rebooked me on the next flight out. Today when I kindly called the airline to ask about a travel voucher or they’re willingness to replace the award miles I had been traveling on, they very generously offered to put 9500 miles back on my account. I was very pleased with that!
  5. We need to keep an eye open for ways to serve. As we share in Better Together, “God will use you to help, encourage, and care for others if you’ll keep your eyes open to see the need and your heart available to meet the need.” I believe that shuttle driver did just that!

What about you? What “life lessons” have you experienced in a challenging situation?

Staying Connected While Apart

Marriage Monday

Mark: Jill had a unique opportunity for a girlfriend trip to Florida this past week so we spent the week apart.  When one of us travels, we’ve found it very important to have a plan for staying connected.

Jill: As a recovering avoider, I have to work to think about staying connected. I have a low personal need to touch base when we’re apart. I know Mark will be there when I return and trust that we’ll catch up then.

Mark: For me, however, staying in touch daily…if not several times a day…is important to me. I need that connection. I like to know what’s happening in Jill’s world and I like her to know what’s happening in mine.

Jill: Connecting more often is in the best interest of our marriage, so that’s where we’ve landed in our plan for staying connected while we’re apart.  Here are the strategies we use:

Text: We text throughout the day just letting each other what’s going on in each other’s world.

Bitmoji: The Bitmoji app on our smartphones let’s us send quick messages back and forth in a fun way.

Phone: If it works for our schedules, we try to talk or Facetime each day.

Pray: We pray for each other intentionally while we’re apart.

Pictures: We text pictures of what is happening in each of our worlds.

GIFs: Sharing GIFs is fun way to bring a smile to each other’s face. One of the friends Jill was away with, her husband was the GIF king during their trip. When she mentioned to him they were going shopping, he sent a hilarious shopping GIF. Whatever they were doing, he found a GIF to match it. It was a great way to stay connected.

Mark: It’s likely that in your marriage, one of you desires to stay connected more often when you’re apart and one of you doesn’t think about it as much.  The most important thing is to agree upon a plan of connection and to make that plan a priority.

Jill: If you’re the one who needs less connection, you may have to do some very practical things like set a timer on your phone or make a calendar reminder to prioritize connection.

Mark: Staying connected is valuable even throughout the workday, but it’s even more important when you’re apart for a longer timeframe.

What about you? How do you intentionally stay connected when you’re apart? 

It’s a Daily Decision

Marriage Monday

Mark: It happens every time we travel. I throw clothes in a suitcase and walk out the door. For Jill it’s not that easy. She has a list she wants to do before we leave: water the flowers, run the vacuum, fold the laundry, and sometimes pay a few bills. That difference used to drive me crazy. These days, however, I go into those trips with a better appreciation for the details Jill thinks about. It is nice to things in order. I make a decision to accept her desires to get these things done. Most often, I’m able to help her with the list so we can get out the door a little sooner.

Jill: It happens every time we go somewhere together. I’m out of the car and in the building before Mark has even exited the car. During the summer months, I make myself wait for him, but during the winter when it’s freezing cold outside, I wait inside where it’s warm!  My default speed is fast and furious. I think with anticipation before any transition—even getting out of the car. Mark’s default speed is slow and steady. He thinks in the moment and is rarely in a hurry. That difference used to drive me nuts. These days, however, I make a daily decision of acceptance. This is who he is…this is who I am…neither is right or wrong…just different.

Mark:  We don’t always do it well. Sometimes I forget that Jill’s going to have that list in her head and I start to get frustrated that we can’t just leave. Sometimes she gets tired of waiting on me. But we’re working to increase our awareness of these differences and choosing more often to use our God-tool of ACCEPTANCE.

Jill: In our book No More Perfect Marriages, we talk about the seven slow fades and the eight God-tools that stop those fades from pulling us apart. The slow fade of disagreement is stopped by the God-tool of acceptance. Of course, acceptance isn’t the God-tool we need to use when sin is happening. Acceptance is what we need to use when we’re dealing with differing approaches to life that tend to frustrate or irritate.

Mark: We’re constantly bumping into our differences. When our differences clash we tend to do one of two things: we reject or accept. When we reject, we usually work hard to change our spouse into who we want him or her to be. I spent years trying to change Jill. My disapproval of her fueled my discontentment, engaged the slow fade of not accepting, and pulled our hearts farther from each other.

Jill: The Bible tells us to “Take our thoughts captive…” and this is exactly what we have to do in order to use our God-tool of acceptance. We have to be willing to do a ruthless self-evaluation and be willing to call out criticism, judgment, rejection, and control. We have to be willing to call a spade a spade. No rationalizing. No explaining it away. We have to take off the old relationship-damaging attitude and put on the new relationship-building decisions of acceptance.

Mark: It’s a daily decision. Sometimes it’s an hourly decision. But when we use our God-tool of acceptance, it makes our marriage an emotionally safe place to be. Not only that, but it makes us a much better person to live with. One who cares, is kind, and more accepting to others in general.

What about you? Where do you need to make a daily decision of acceptance? 

P.S. We just released a new marriage resource to keep the flirty fun in your marriage! Check out the Flirt Alert!

A Death We All Need to Experience

#MarriageMonday

Mark: I remember when I first became a Christian, I heard about the concept of “dying to self.” It was often used to describe those times when we wrestle with God between doing things our way versus doing things His way.  It was “dying to self” that motivated me to stop partying and stop smoking cigarettes some 37 years ago when I said yes to Jesus. I had no idea, however, how much marriage would uncover how much “self” still needed to be put to death.

Jill: I would agree. And I think parenting is a close second for providing that “refining fire” that reveals the places “self” reigns and needs to be put to death. Marriage, however, gets the number 1 spot because we’re having to navigate life so closely together that our “selves” just keep bumping into each other.

Mark: Have you ever found yourself mumbling under your breath about something your spouse did? Well that self-righteous mumbling is your “self” raising up.

Jill: Have you ever found yourself thinking that your way is the right way? That pride is your “self” raising up.

Mark: Have you found yourself thinking about someone outside of your marriage? That lust and temptation is your “self” raising it’s ugly head.

Jill: Do you more often think of what your spouse does wrong than what he/she does right? That critical spirit is your “self” that needs to experience a quick death.

Mark: Do you control situations with your anger? That’s a red flag that your uncontrolled “self” needs to die.

Jill: Do you disregard or minimize concerns your spouse expresses?  It’s time to raise the white flag and surrender your “self”ishness that explains away the concerns and responds with defensiveness.

Mark: My affair was the epitome of “self.” Oh I wanted to make it all about Jill, but that was a smoke screen that kept me from looking at me. Sure Jill had some changes to make just like I did, but my “self” was most definitely leading my thoughts and decisions.

Jill: It seems that nearly everyday God shines a light on some way I need to die to myself. Sometimes it has to do with my thought life. Other days it has to do with my temptations. Sometimes it’s my attitudes or my actions. When we die to self it means we set aside what we want in any given moment in order to do what God wants me to do. It also means that we value others as much as we value ourselves.

Mark: When we die to self we’re no longer obsessed with having things our way. Our marriage improves because we no longer bring selfishness, control, and even addictions to the table. Conflict doesn’t go away because you’re still two very different people trying to live life together, but conflict does decrease because we’re no longer lobbying to get our own way or controlling to make sure things go the way we want them to.

So what do you need to die to? Where is your SELF causing pain in your marriage? Where do you need to stop pointing the finger at your spouse and start looking at what part of SELF you’re bringing to the party?