Rediscovering Pure, Simple Love

It feels like spring. It’s early Sunday morning, and I’m wide awake thanks to this feisty baby in my belly and crazy vivid dreams. The windows are open. The air is warm, but there’s a cool crispness and thickness to it that tells of the rain and freezing temperatures that are on their way. I’m sad this warmth will be gone soon as I anxiously await the more consistent warmth of spring, but I’m thankful for these few days of relief from the chill. Rumor has it there are more to come this weekend. Every warm day is a reminder that Baby B will be here soon. Although my due date is still 3 months away, I know those weeks are going to fly by and before I know it, our beautiful bundle will be wrapped in my arms. Speaking of kids, Ashlynne has been gone the last two weekends. Last weekend she was at church camp where she got to experience true fellowship with other young believers. This weekend is her time with her mom. We’ve missed having her here, but Casey and I really needed these last two weekends to ourselves.

It’s no secret that we’ve been pretty disconnected and really struggling to find a way to continue to make our marriage a priority while focusing on becoming parents to Ashlynne. We’ve done a pretty decent job (praise God!) with the latter, but the former has suffered greatly. All of our disconnection and frustrations came to a head again last weekend. Finally some time together to talk, which meant stepping into the puddle. Both angry and hurting, it didn’t go well. In fact, it went so bad that I didn’t know what else to do, but run away. I disappeared to the local park and journaled for 3 hours straight while soaking up the sun. I was thankful to be alone and thankful for the sun. Not just because I needed its warmth, but because it gave me an excuse to wear sunglasses which was a much-needed shield for my tears.

I poured my heart onto the page and sorted through months, maybe even years, of heartache, anger, and disappointment. It was brutal and left me with only one thing – prayer.

There was nothing else to do, but pray.

Eventually hunger called me home, or maybe it was the middle school boy’s birthday party that was slowly taking over the picnic tables surrounding me. Either way, I arrived home to find Casey on the porch with his friend, Ryan. I hid inside until Ryan left and Casey and I were alone again. He’d been complaining a lot lately about not hearing my heart so I made the decision to let him read what I had journaled. Maybe not the best idea I’ve ever had, but it seemed good at the time. He immediately disappeared to read through my multiple pages of pain as I prayed he would see my hurt and not his own inadequacies. What’s that thing about God not answering our prayers how and when we want? This was one of those times.

His heart was hardened to my pain and focused on what he did “wrong.” So naturally, he wrote me a letter about all the things I’ve done wrong and all I heard was “you’re a terrible wife.” Ouch! Yeah, no healing there folks. After reading his letter we talked a lot about the word LOVE and what it means. Casey defaulted to…

“What do you want me to do? What does love look like to you? Let me know and I’ll fix my checklist because I thought I was doing a good job.”

The problem is that love does not equal service or a list of to do items. It doesn’t fix pain. It joins it and sits right in the pit with it.

Even more, you can’t fake the heart behind it. As long as doing the dishes is a chore or a box on the checklist that’s the perceived gateway to physical intimacy, it can’t be called love. The most frustrating part of all this is that I think all of our counseling has made love a complicated word for us. But it was so easy, so natural when we were dating. No one had to give us a checklist or game plan because our loving actions came from an overflowing of our hearts.

It was our desire, not our duty, to love one another well.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful for all of our counseling. It has been and continues to be invaluable to us when it comes to emotional healing, communication, and conflict resolution, but a side effect is that it made love, pure and simple love, complicated.


Although that Saturday was difficult, we stepped way down deep into the mud and eventually found each other there. And amazingly, we stopped trying to dig our own way out or bury the other person deeper; we simply joined hands and sat there together. Messed up. Muddy. Stained. Helpless. Crying out to our Loving, Almighty God to restore our love for each other and help us make our marriage a priority again.

Ultimately, we came up with a game plan for recognizing disconnection and gave ourselves permission to stop everything to reconnect, and we started first thing Sunday morning by (Gasp!) skipping church to give us a little extra time together before Ashlynne returned. (Yeah, I know. We’re big time sinners.)

That was not how I wanted to spend our weekend alone, but we have reaped the fruit of reconciliation throughout this week through intentional connection, prayer and small moments that are full of love. This weekend was our first alone time in a while that wasn’t consumed by disconnection and repair. This weekend we saw how God had pulled us out of that mud pit, and we basked in the sun’s rays. Nothing fancy. Nothing even planned. Just pure, simple love.

You know the greatest part about all of this? The most amazing part?

It’s not that our marriage has yet again been renewed, it’s that a Mighty King that conquered the grave loves us enough to care when we’re stuck in the mud pit. And instead of standing high and mighty over us, condemning us for not being vigilant enough to avoid the hazard, He humbles himself, pulls up his stark white pants and steps into the mud with us, leading us out and then washing us clean on the other side. He could have just left us there. He could have given up on us.

“They’re in that mud pit again? Good gracious! When will they learn?”

But He loves us more! No, we don’t deserve his recue and there’s nothing we could do to earn it. Yet he simply waits eagerly by for our cry for help and then joins us in our mess. Now that’s a Savior! Yes, that is pure, simple love.


Originally written on March 2, 2014.

99 Days to Go!

Baby is doing well and moving more and more everyday. I love getting to feel him/her kick around in there, but I’m sure I won’t be saying that much longer. It’s probably about 1.8o z and 14 inches. These days I’m spending a lot of time at the doctor. I was supposed to be going every 4 weeks, but lightheadedness and an extreme drop in potassium (compared to my typical, concerning high potassium) has me in and out all the time now. I’m even going to a nephrologist to have my kidney’s checked. The will mean I’ve seen pretty much every speciality at Vanderbilt – endocrinology, cardiology, neurology, nephrology, gastroenterology, and gynecology. There can’t be many more -ologies that I’m missing.

The good thing is I get to see baby more often. The other day they were listening to baby’s heartbeat and it dropped suddenly. They did an emergency ultrasound. Everything was fine (praise God!), and I got to see baby playing around. Baby was sitting folded over like it always is so I couldn’t see if it was a boy or a girl. That means I got to watch and even got more pictures to bring home!

I have another appointment the first week of March and they’ve scheduled another ultrasound so I’ll get to see our baby again! Only 99 days to go until 40 weeks! You know, it almost doesn’t seem real. We are collecting baby stuff, but it just goes right into a box. We haven’t done anything to the nursery because we don’t have one. We are trying to move. We need more space for our growing family. More to come on that! 

Originally written February 17, 2014. I’ve been sick for the last few weeks, but I’ll be catching you all up soon! 

The Wednesday Wife: Heidi Barnes

There are some people in life that cross your path only briefly, but you feel eternally connected to them. This week’s Wednesday Wife is one of those people to me. I met Heidi when I was on mission in Europe. She was our fantastic host in England, and it’s her fault that I now crave clotted cream on a regular basis with nothing in the States to satisfy me.

I was so excited when Heidi answered my recent cry for Wednesday Wife submissions. Her story is a hard one to read, but I’m sure an even harder one to tell. I’m thankful for her honesty about her depression, her thoughts about leaving, and how it all started with a delivery gone wrong. Her story is a must-read for all of us!

Please remember that when we share like this we are leaving ourselves vulnerable. This is our chance to love on Heidi. Please make sure to leave a comment thanking her for sharing or letting her know how her story has encouraged or comforted you.

Heidi Barnes married her husband, Brad, on May 7, 2006.


1) Tell us your courtship story. How did you meet and end up married?

Brad and I met online. Yes, one of those “romances”! My friend talked me into signing up for, and, after chatting with a few different guys, I started talking with Brad. He decided to contact me because he saw that I did humanitarian work in the former Soviet Union and he had just returned from that part of the world as part of a trip he took literally around the world. After we had sent a few messages back and forth, we talked on the phone one night and found we had even more in common. He asked me on a date and we went to an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game. Neither one of us really liked baseball, but I have to say a baseball game really is a good first date. The game is slow enough to sit and talk, but if the conversation lags, there is a game to watch. He took me home that evening and met my brother who I was living with at the time. They hit it off because Brad was Air Force and my brother had recently left the Marines. Brad says he was walking on Cloud 9 as he walked to his car that night, but I was hesitant. See, just a year before I had been engaged to a longtime friend who ended up cheating on me with one of my girl friends. But I kept talking to and seeing Brad.

One weekend I was leading worship and music at a women’s retreat in the small town Brad lived in. He came and helped me set up and get the sound issues all worked out. He even came back one evening to hear my mini-concert – him and 73 women in one room! After that weekend, I knew he was the man God had in mind for me all along.

Our first date was September 23, 2005, we were engaged December 9, 2005, and married May 7, 2006.

2) On your wedding day if someone had asked why you were getting married, what would you have said?

I was 31 when we got married and before I met Brad, I dated all different kinds of guys, and as much as I wanted them to work, the really serious relationships ended horribly. But, like I said earlier, after I saw Brad support me doing something I absolutely loved to do, God flipped a switch in me. I just knew he was the one for me – that simply put.

3) If someone asked you today why you have stayed married, what would you say?

This May we will celebrate 8 years of marriage, and they have been a far-from-boring 8 years. From the Air Force moving us all over the world (South Korea, Ohio, and England, then back to Ohio) to having kids and traveling, we have found adventure every step of the way and we know God brought us together to be life-helpers.

4) Do you have children? If so, how has having children affected your marriage?

We have two children: Jacob (5) and Ashley (4). As any parent will say, kids take a lot out of you, but my health and my delivery of Ashley affected our marriage even more than just being worn out from having small children.

5) What has been one of your greatest trials in your marriage and how did you all overcome it?

We have always said our relationship and marriage have been pretty easy compared to other couples we have met, but we’ve been tested in the area of intimacy, all stemming from the birth of our second child.

I was induced for the births of both of my children. Jacob’s birth was long — they started the induction on a Monday night and he was finally born at 1:30 AM that Thursday – but I bounced back pretty quickly.

We decided to get pregnant pretty quickly after Jacob due to my health and age, and 21 months later I was sitting around waiting for my induction date to arrive. A week before Ashley was to be born, I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. I was hospitalized for a couple of days to monitor the baby and to make sure my asthma was under control. The next week, my doctor decided to induce me a day earlier than scheduled because my blood pressure meds weren’t working well. Labor went much quicker and we thought it would be an event-free delivery. Not so.

Without giving too much detail, my delivery included: being put on magnesium due to my blood pressure, which made my limbs very heavy; the epidural was not working; and, Ashley was trying to come out “sunny-side-up” and they couldn’t get her turned. I begged for a C-section, but the doctors decided to use forceps. Ashley came out fine, but I was physically and emotionally scarred. I was afraid to hold her due to the heaviness of my arms, and the nurse was pushing me to nurse Ashley, but I wasn’t completely sold on doing it this time around. The next few days were fine though. I went home after two nights in the hospital and started working through the postpartum.

A week later I ended up back at the hospital because I was hemorrhaging and I had a D&C and a blood transfusion. I went back home after a night or two in the hospital and began again going through the healing process.

A few months later, I started having what I called “issues.” I worked with a uro-gynocologist and a proctologist to figure out what was wrong. Just when they decided I would need surgery, we received orders to England. I became depressed. I didn’t want Brad to touch me because I always felt unclean and I began to pull away. I was upset thinking I would have to go through all the exams again at our new base, but God really protected me from that and put me with an excellent doctor who looked at my previous doctors’ input and scheduled me for surgery without having to go through everything I was already put through.

Before and after the surgery, I found I would get very angry when I would hear women talk about their “easy” births. I tried not to share my horror story with those who were pregnant with their first child, and I would get mad when women would tell those same women about how great it is to go through such a wonderful event. (To be honest I hated being pregnant, and I still get a knot in my stomach when I hear people say this.)

One day while the kids were napping and I was in the backyard of our beautiful English home, I hit rock bottom in depression and I wanted so bad to just leave – leave my kids and my husband. I knew in my heart it was an irrational thought, but a great deal of my being couldn’t handle it anymore. I prayed so hard that afternoon, but the feeling wouldn’t escape me. A day or two later, Brad and I were arguing about something as we stood in the kitchen and I just broke down crying and told him what had happened in the backyard. He was very quiet for awhile and then said to me, “Heidi, you have PTSD. I have seen these emotions and actions from those who come back from deployment.” Once he said that, it felt like a burden was lifted. I could put a name to what was eating at me and why, and I felt I could finally move forward. I spoke to my doctor about the depression and she also diagnosed me with PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder).

Ashley turned 4 on March 24 this year, and I am still working through the depression and adjusting meds, but God has brought Brad and I a long way with a better understanding of each other and what we both need in a marriage and in life.

6) What has been the most challenging aspect of being a wife?

Being a wife can be difficult, but being a military wife can be even more difficult. Thankfully God prepared me throughout my lifetime without me being aware of the tools He was giving me. I rely on my husband as a partner in life, but God has made me comfortable being independent while Brad is gone for weeks at a time. We have found what works for our family with our lifestyle. We are in transition again now that Brad is retired and we have settled down, hoping we don’t have to move again. We are excited for this new adventure.

7) How has being a wife changed you?

Brad and I got married what some may consider as later in life. I was 31 and Brad was 28. It was an adjustment for both of us to rely on another person, but we are better people. I no longer have to figure out the finances by myself (I’m HORRIBLE at that), and he doesn’t have to worry about keeping a household going.

I have found that I can be vulnerable around others because I don’t have to stay strong to get through the day, a week, etc., because I know someone has my back.

8) What does date night look like for you?

Before we had kids, we decided we would have a weekly date night. Once the kids came along, we found a date-night babysitter and have tried to keep to this schedule. Date night isn’t always a dinner and a movie, but usually a quick bite to eat and a run to the grocery store. We can enjoy each other’s company without little voices griping and wanting this and that.

9) What are the top three things/people that pull you away from or compete with your marriage? How do you deal with them?

At the beginning of our marriage, our parents would try to pull us away from each other. I don’t think they knowingly were doing it, but I find it a blessing that we were in Korea during this time because it was easier for us to keep the distance. We all needed to adjust to married life.

Kids are always wanting individual attention and can wear a person out so much that there isn’t enough energy to give to the other adult in the house, but I have a wonderful husband who is an awesome dad and is very involved with the kids. We are teaching them that mommy and daddy need some quiet time just like they need quiet time.

I think the Internet, TV, hobbies, etc., can compete with marriage. We are around people who want our attention all day, in the evening it can be easier to vege in front of the TV or sit mindlessly trolling the Internet or work on whatever crocheting project I have going. Thankfully these things have not worn away at our relationship and we will playfully tell the other, “Pay attention to me!” when we feel we need the other’s attention.

10) What role has community played in your marriage?

God has brought some awesome couples into our lives over the years. We have seen how God has strengthened their marriages and have learned from them. And now that we’re parents, we have taken some of the things that have worked for others and have applied it to our lives (ie., date night and discipline).

11) What’s one thing you wish someone had told you before marriage?

I’m sure someone told me this but it didn’t register at the time: I am in awe of how close I can be to this one person and how well we can make it through life with that someone when God has brought us together. We find our relationship natural and easy, and I have never had that with anyone else in my life.

If you have one final thought or piece of advice to share with current or future wives, what would it be?

If I had one final thought it would be to remember that your spouse is also a work in process. I have had to remind myself that he, too, is not perfect, and I can’t expect perfection from anyone. All I can do is love him and follow what God has asked me to do, which is love God and love people – including my husband. Crazy as it sounds, it can be hard to remember to show love to those you are around the most.

Will You Be Sad With Me?

You’re probably here looking for this week’s Wednesday Wife post, and I’m sad to say, there won’t be one. Not because I didn’t have time to get one up or because we are taking a week off. It’s because I’m out of wives. That makes me sad.

Will you be sad with with me?

Sad enough to share this Become a Wednesday Wife post on your Facebook page, Twitter account, Pinterest, and anywhere else you can think of?

Sad enough to pray about which friend of yours God might be calling to be a Wednesday Wife?

Sad enough to consider becoming a Wendesday Wife yourself?

Together, we’ve shared some incredible marriage stories on this blog over the last 3 months, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want it to stop here. I know there are so many more women out there that need to share and thousands more that need to hear.

We are not alone in this. Will you help spread the word?

The Wednesday Wife: Ginny Smith

There are some people you have the pleasure of meeting in life that you wish everyone had the chance to meet. Stan and Ginny are that couple for me and Casey.

They have spent most of their married life serving the Lord both in the US and overseas, and have some incredible stories from their journeys. Although their service to and love for the Lord is beyond admirable, it’s their selfless, sacrificial love for each other that is the stuff of fairytales.

I feel so honored to be loved by Stand and Ginny, and to have the gift of soaking up their wisdom as I watch them do life together.

Please remember that when we share like this we are leaving ourselves vulnerable. This is our chance to love on Ginny. Please make sure to leave a comment thanking her for sharing or letting her know how her story has encouraged or comforted you.

Ginny Smith married her husband, Stan, on December 15, 1956. 


1)  Tell us your courtship story. How did you meet and end up married?

I was in my senior year of high school and a day student at a Christian school, Wheaton Academy. The school also had boarding students, many of whom were missionary kids. It was my 2nd year there after attending a public high school my first two years. I was a Christian and I believed God had called me to be a missionary since I was 12 years old.  When I heard that there was a new boy, a boarding student, in our class, and that his parents were missionaries in Vietnam, I was very interested. When I heard their names, I realized I knew about them and was in possession of material his mom had written on their experiences. I was interested to meet Stan Smith. Then I saw him and I was even more interested – handsome with big blue eyes and dark hair!

To make a long story short – he asked me out to a school roller skating party and that was it! We dated for four years as we both attended Wheaton College.  We got engaged our junior year and married our senior year, as we wanted to take some missions and Bible courses at Moody Bible Institute after we graduated.  They had a rule that you must be married at least six months if you wanted to attend as a married couple and we didn’t want to wait another year to get married as we had already dated for four years. We were 21 years old!

2)  On your wedding day, if someone asked you why you were getting married, what would you have said?

We believed God brought us together, we loved each other and we were both interested in missions. We never had any doubts about it.

3)   If someone asked you today why you have stayed married, what would you say?

Love for God; love for each other; love of ministering together; love for our children; facing the “storms” in our lives together and seeing God intervene and answer prayer; seeing our love for each other deepen as we have grown older.

4)  Do you have children? If so, how has having children affected your marriage?

We have four children, which now includes their spouses and 15 grandchildren. They have been a wonderful supplement and blessing to our marriage! Parenthood comes with difficulties and challenges, but God has been faithful in seeing us through each one. I would say that the positives of being a parent far outweigh anything negative.  These challenges continue as we interact and pray for our grandchildren.

5)   What has been one of your greatest trials in your marriage and how did you all overcome it?

Probably some of the issues that developed early in our marriage on my husband’s side of the family and how that affected him and us. As a wife, I hurt for him because he was hurting, but he had to work it out with them.  It eventually came to a somewhat peaceful conclusion.

6)   What has been the most challenging aspect of being a wife?

I have loved being a wife! Because we met and married young I didn’t have many challenges in this area. I had never had a life on my own, as I lived at home while attending college. So I went from my parent’s home to our home as a married couple. Since we were both still in school, and also working part-time jobs, we shared household chores so we would have time to do homework! I had and have a wonderfully helpful husband!

After being married about 4 years, we began ministry together overseas. We each were involved in different aspects of it, as we have different gifts. In the 60’s women were often seen by some as just the wife of the missionary and not a missionary in her own right. Sometimes the wives were looked at as unimportant, except for her role as wife and mother. However, single women were valued for their contribution to the overall ministry. This attitude of others was at times difficult for me to deal with. My husband never saw it that way! He always encouraged me to use the gifts God had given me.

7)  How has being a wife changed you?

Since I went from being single to being married 57+ years ago, I really don’t remember too much about the changes. I would say that we kind of grew up and matured together. There were some interesting “discussions/arguments” through which we understood more about the deeper thoughts and feelings we both had. Even after dating for four years, there are different dynamics when you actually live together. Also, since I was the oldest of 3 children – my brother was 5 years younger and my sister 3 years younger – I was used to frequently being in charge. My mother jokingly warned my husband that I could be quite “bossy” so watch out! So that was a big change.  I still deal with some aspects of that – just ask my husband!

8)  What does date night look like for you?

This concept was not even talked about “in our day”! When we were overseas and our children were small, we had household help so we would have someone to care for them when we occasionally went out to eat together.  We didn’t do it often as I didn’t like leaving the children. We were busy in ministry during the day so the evening was our time with them and each other.  As the children got older we would sometimes go to a movie or out to eat.  But more often than not, the whole family would go out.  Then when the nest was empty (which was sad!), and we were both working at the mission here in the US, we would go out to eat and/or to a movie more often.

9)  What are the top three things/people that pull you away from or compete with your marriage? How do you deal with them?

In this stage of our life this is really not an issue.  We do many things together. When we were younger I would say it was:

1. Our children and all their needs:  My husband had to help me more when he was able, so that we could have more time for each other.

2. My ministry involvement: I had to cut out some things in my schedule, especially after my husband reminded me at one point with “Don’t forget about me!”

3. Being separated from each other: During furlough in the US my husband had to be away weeks at a time on speaking tours with our mission. I couldn’t go because of our children. The separation was very hard on me and our marriage. I was fortunate that we were near my parents who could help me. The mission later changed this program because of the difficulties it caused for the wives and children.

When we were overseas he had to travel a lot because of his responsibilities of overseeing other missionaries. This was hard as well, and I missed him terribly.  One thing I always did when I knew he would be coming home that day was make sure I looked nice to welcome him – some makeup as well as a nice outfit! Being in very hot climates with no air-conditioning, we women would be wearing the coolest things we could, which were not necessarily very attractive!

10)  What role has community played in your marriage?

Most of the first 40 years of our marriage was lived in community: Married couple’s dorm at Moody Bible Institute; 8 months at the headquarters of the first mission we were with where we lived in a dorm and ate in community; large group of missionaries on the field in both countries we worked in; the group we worked with at the mission headquarters in the US. I don’t think it ever really affected our marriage negatively. When there were differences of opinion in the group, as husband and wife we were usually on the same page.  It is difficult to remember at this stage of my life!

11)  What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you before marriage?

At this point in my life I really can’t think of anything! I might have been able to in the early years of marriage but that is a long time ago!

12)  If you have one final thought or piece of advice to share with current or future wives, what would it be?

Don’t get married thinking that you are going to change one or more things that you don’t particularly like about your spouse! You should be able to accept him for who he is when you marry him. Not that there won’t be changes for the better, but that is God’s job, not yours, in his life and yours as well.