Just Thinking About Marriage

Yesterday, after listening to another marriage and family radio program I found myself so discouraged.  Discouraged…not because Chris and I have a bad marriage…but because our marriage is not the picture perfect ideal marriage that the experts tell us we should have.
That’s when God got a hold of me.  First He had me focus on Him…through worship and praise music.  Then God gently chastised me and reminded me to keep my eyes on Jesus.  That I need to look to God’s word and what He says about marriage…about being a husband and wife…and not seek man’s wisdom in place of God’s. 
Make no mistake…there’s good advice and suggestions in these programs.  Some of it is God centered and based on scripture.  But I think what Chris and I have been doing, by listening to so many programs, is over examining our marriage and holding one another up to man’s checklist.  Even if we passed one test…we’d fail in the others.  It’s a “no win” way to live and it’s no way to love my husband. 
It’s kind of like the garden we’ve planted.  If every day when I get home from work, I plucked the plants out of the ground to see how they are growing…they wouldn’t grow and thrive.  But if I tend them…water the plants, remove any pests and fertilize them…the plants will grow and be fruitful. 
Marriage programs can be like the big magnifying mirror that I use.  I may examine myself in the big mirror to address any unwanted issues.  But I only do it every once and a while…I don’t do it continually throughout the day.  Can you imagine me carrying around that big mirror and looking at myself throughout the day?  If I did that…I would be focused on all the flaws and imperfections all day, every day.  There is a time and a place for the big mirror and a time to put it away. 
Instead, I need to be examining myself in light of the magnifying mirror of God’s word.  I need to apply the God’s checklist against my own heart, thoughts, intentions and motives.  It’s there that God will wash me with His word…and reveal any wicked way in me. 
God is more than able to deal with both of us individually…I don’t need to play the Holy Spirit for my husband.  God is doing just fine on His own and He doesn’t need my help.
Maybe it’s time for us to enjoy one another.  For me to thank God for the husband that God has given me.  God has uniquely gifted and formed Chris.  I can be confident that He has given me a good thing and know that Chris is just the man whom I need.  Praise God!

Marriage & the Bride of Christ

If marriage is supposed to be a picture of Jesus Christ and the church, the bride of Christ…what does that mean for my marriage in everyday life?  How is that reflected in how I treat my husband?
In love…do I hope all things, believe all things and bear all things? 
Am I patient, kind and gentle?
Do I lay aside my prerogative and put my spouse first? 
Do I treat my spouse as though God the Father is my Father-in-law?
Do I show respect and honor?  Not only when my husband is present…but also when I’m out with friends?  Or do join in the conversation and bag on my husband?
Do I remain pure…in my thoughts and in my heart?  Or do I entertain lustful or adulterous thoughts? 
Do I pray for my husband every day?  Do I pray for my will or God’s will for him?
Do I encourage my husband’s relationship with God through Bible study, prayer and fellowship with godly Christian men? 
Do I build him up or tear him down?  Do I believe in him and his capabilities or do I only see that which is wrong?
Do I see him growing in Christ and encourage that?
Do I relax, trust and believe in my husband, confident that he is capable and able?
Do I believe in the permanence of marriage?  Just as God is a covenant maker and keeper…so too our marriage is permanent? 
Do I believe that our marriage is transcendent?  That marriage is bigger than us as a couple or us as individuals?  That it can be a tool in God’s hand to witness to the world?
I don’t know about you…but that seems like such an impossible list to live out because of my sinful human nature.  But praise God…He is patient and has given me His Holy Spirit.  Gradually, He is conforming me into the image and likeness of Christ.  When I resist it’s painful…yet when I yield it’s hard, but at the same time good.  When I have a set back and fall…He picks me up and sets me on the straight and narrow path again.  

(Note…picture is from our wedding pictures take by Sherry Hebestreit)

Leftover Love

Theirs was a leftover kind of love
Surely it didn’t start out that way
But before they knew it
All they had left at the end of the day
Was bits and pieces
Scraps from their day

The morning comes early
Goodness knows there is never enough sleep
One rises more easily
The other has a slow wake-up call
An extra cup of coffee
Helps them to keep running on empty

Soon they are off and running
Going their separate ways
There may be a text message
To say I love you
A phone call in the middle of the day
Just to check in

Their jobs are most demanding
Of time, energy and attention
Their very best is given each day
To a company of relative strangers
Of course there is shopping and errands
Necessary to run their household so efficiently

When they arrive home
There is much work that still needs to be done
Lawns to be mowed
Bills that must be paid
Cleaning and laundry
And a meal to prepare

They sit down at the table
Hold hands and say a grace
Both are so tired from their day
Conversation may not ensue
Sometimes they wonder
What’s it all for

Activities abound
Responsibilities call
Bible study, worship and prayer
Serving the body of Christ
It’s all good and yet…
With each demand…there’s a little less to give one another

A sense of accomplishment is never felt
For there are walls left unpainted
Boxes still unpacked
A garden that needs tending
Poems left unwritten
Books yet to be read

At the end of the day
Both fall into bed
With nothing left to give
Exhaustion lures one to sleep
The other reads to quiet the mind
Until a welcome sleep finally comes

In the middle of the night
They awaken ever so briefly
Look over at the one
To whom they pledged their life and love
And wonder…how can our marriage survive
On leftover love

Susan Bunts Wachtel
August 14, 2009

While I know our situation is not unique…we are finding it a challenge with the demands and necessities of life to find the time to spend together as husband and wife.

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Letter to My Niece…Betrothed

When I received the good news today that my niece is engaged to be married…I started thinking about all the things I’ve learned over the past year. The lessons are many from falling in love, to being engaged, planning a wedding, going on a honeymoon, starting a life together, packing, moving and buying a home to name a few.

So that I might pass along some of the things I’ve learned, remember where I came from and how far the Lord has brought me…I thought I’d write to my precious niece as she begins a new adventure in her life.

Our circumstances are much different in many ways. My niece is young and will soon be starting college. I on the other hand was 49 years old when I got engaged after many years of being single. But there are challenges both of us will face and nuggets of gold that we will find along the way. I don’t want to waste what I’ve learned through hard lessons or forget God’s faithfulness.

There is so much to tell…I hardly know where to begin. But I think I’ll start at the most important and critical element to brave any marriage. That is to make sure that as a Christian you are equally yoked with a fellow Christian. It makes all the difference in the world. At this point…I can’t even imagine what it would be like to marry an unbeliever.

I can’t tell you how often I thank God for the prayers He said no to. Those times when my heart went pitter patter and I prayed that this one might be the one I would marry, but God said “No”. Thank You Lord…for Your “No’s!

Marriage…as good as it is…is a whole lot of work. More than you can ever imagine. On occasion…I’ll have people ask me if it’s been hard being married after being single for 49 years. My answer and my husband’s answer is a loud resounding “Yes”!

Marriage is wonderful…and I thank God daily for my husband. But I’ve got to tell you…I’m glad I didn’t know just how much work it was going to be…otherwise I might have gotten cold feet. But I’m glad I was relatively ignorant because if I had waited too long I would have missed seeing God at work in our marriage and in changing and conforming both of us in to the man and woman He desires. Marriage is just one of the tools God may use to change us.

Because marriage is a lot hard work, that never ends, in the middle of deep, heartfelt emotions…you need to make sure that you are marrying a man of godly character. That godliness and character, needs to come from a man who loves the Lord, knows and seeks God. One who knows he gives an account to God for how he acts, what he says and even what he thinks in the inward part of his soul.

You need a man with whom you can pray…both together and individually. Someone who will be faithful to lift you up in prayer. Someone who has a tender heart for God and who yields to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t care if you are marrying one of the kindest, nicest men that you know. At the end of the day…you are marrying a human being. One, who just like you, is sinful and carries the baggage, pain and hurts that life throws at us. Those scars come out when we are tired, hungry, angry, hurt, lonely, insecure and prideful to name a few.

As husband and wife we see each other at our best and worst…and everything in between. We see each other without our game face on. It’s not long before you start to see the inward person that the world really doesn’t see.

I married a man who is one of the kindest, most humble and gentle men that I know. Yet I didn’t marry Jesus. But thankfully I did married a man who loves Jesus Christ and is growing in his relationship with the Lord. Likewise…my husband didn’t get a guarantee when he ask me to be his bride…that everyday would be a breeze. There are day I’m sure it feels more like he married a category 5 hurricane named Susan.

But the one thing that we do have is Jesus Christ at the center of our marriage. That means that we both have Jesus Christ within us. That God is at work in each of us conforming us into the likeness of His Son. We have the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin, guides and directs our steps as we yield to Him.

We both know God’s word and what He says about marriage. We hunger and thirst for the word of God which He uses to cleanse us and grow us as individuals and as a couple.

That only holds true if you are both believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even then…you are going to have your bad times. The times when you are exhausted beyond measure and so tired that you don’t even want to try anymore. That’s where prayer comes in.

God is so amazing and so faithful to answer our prayers. It’s amazing to see God at work in our relationship…as He works in both of us, helping us to yield to His will and plan.

As Christians…we have the firm foundation of God’s word. It’s unchanging and the Bible is the ultimate source of authority in our lives. We have our church and fellow believers who hold us accountable, who pray for us and encourage us in our marriage. We receive godly council from friends and family and from various ministries who share what God says in His word about marriage, family and relationships.

Marriage…I wouldn’t want to begin it or keep it without Jesus Christ at the center of our marriage. I wouldn’t want to be in a marriage with someone with whom I can’t share the most important thing in my life…my God and my relationship with Him.

Dear one…I pray that you too will have a marriage build on the solid, firm foundation of Jesus Christ. May He keep you and uphold you all your days. May your marriage be a reflection of Jesus Christ and His glory and love for and His bride, the church.

Love…Aunt Susan

July 7, 2009

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Chris & Susan…Becoming One

One of the fun things that my fiancé Chris Wachtel & I did in preparing for our wedding day was to put together a video of our lives. We stand amazed…as we look back and see how God concurrently and providentially worked in our lives to bring us together. We clearly see how He used events in our lives to shape and form us so that we are so perfectly suited for one another. October 4th, 2008 on our wedding day…this video will be shown at our wedding. We want honor and glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is the Author of our love story. We thank our family and friends for their love, support and prayers as we become one. Chris…I am so grateful that my hopes, dreams and prayers will be coming true with you…as we begin our new life as husband and wife on October 4th. May Jesus Christ be the Foundation of our marriage and first place in our lives. After Christ, may we put each other first. We fondly remember our parents who will not be here to share this day with us. We love you and thank you Leo & Ruth Wachtel, Frank Bunts and Gayle & Joseph Lorenat. I love you Christopher Leo Wachtel and can hardly wait to be Mrs. Christopher Wachtel!

Our engagement photo was taken by Sherry Hebestreit. Sherry does wedding photography in the Orange County area. We were very pleased with the work that Sherry has done and look forward to seeing the pictures from our wedding day.

Tell Tale Signs

The body of Christ

Suffered another assault today

By one who calls himself Christian

By outward appearances

The signs were all there

Indeed he put on a good show

In church each Sunday

With Bible in hand

He even shared Christ with those not yet saved

A fish symbol strategically placed on his car

A bumper sticker proclaiming

Know Jesus, Know Peace

But closer examination

By the One who looks upon the heart

Revealed a wolf in sheep’s clothing

Sacred vows made to love his wife

As Christ so loved the church

Were set aside and trampled underfoot

His children

Once beloved were now forgotten

In his quest for personal happiness

The Lord whom he proclaimed to love

With all his heart, mind, soul and strength

Was long forgotten as he raised himself in God’s place

Destruction and devastation lay in the wake

From the vehicles of lies and deceit

No concern is demonstrated for those he once claimed to love

Those who once admired the Lord’s blessings to this man

Stand with their mouth gapping

Poised and ready to utter the words hypocrite and liar

The witness for Christ

He so carefully sought to build and protect

Now lies in the heap covered by selfishness and pride

Oh Lord, even now we lift up this one so deceived

Like a lamb led to slaughter

So willingly he followed the father of lies

We pray for his salvation

Forgiveness for his sins

That without Jesus he will have no peace

Like the prodigal son

May he come to his senses

And return to the Father whom he once he loved

By Susan Bunts

September 26, 2008

The Heart of a Woman

Let me tell you a secret

Just between you and me

Share the heart of a women

And every girl’s dream

No matter if she’s a raving beauty

Or just a plain shy ordinary girl

The desire for a husband’s love

Runs ever so deep

Even those who are mentally challenged

Or those who have been deceived and bought the feminist lie

Have a desire to share their life

Know what it is to feel loved, honored and cherished

All too vividly

I remember the pain

Of a lifetime spent alone

With no end was in sight

Each passing year was harder

The pain was always there and cut like a knife

The rejoicing at the blessings of others,

Was followed by a tears shed in the solitude

It is with gratitude and thanksgiving I prepare,

To walk down the aisle

Veiled in white lace

Join hands with my love and say, “I do”

Even as I rejoice in God’s grace towards me

For love unmerited and undeserved

May I be humble and remember in prayer

The heart of the woman who still dreams of “that day”

By Susan Bunts

August 12, 2008

At no time have I been more aware of the ubiquitous desire of women to be married and be loved by a husband than when a precious friend who has the heart and mind of a child shared her desire to one day marry.

I spent far too many years alone. I had bought…hook, line and sinker…the feminist lies. You know the ones I mean. The line that “a woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle” or that “men and women are basically the same”. Yeah right! Anyone who has spent time with the opposite sex…knows darn good and well…that men and women are very different. It’s not something cultural…however culture may shape the way it’s expressed. But instead it’s inherent…those difference were built in by our Designer.

Those differences are not something good or bad. They simply are. One sex is not superior to the other. One is not good and the other a wretch. Instead God designed us to complement each other and to keep things interesting…and challenging…He made us very different from one another.

One of the most amazing things I’ve been aware of since meeting my fiancé Chris is that the loneliness and the emptiness are gone. The desire to be well known and well loved is being fulfilled…day by day.

That’s not to say…we don’t have our challenges. The differences inherent in our personalities and those between men and women present a challenge to our relationship every day. Add on top of that…the stresses of planning a wedding…and oh baby, baby you’ve got “stress”.

While it’s not always easy it has been wonderful to fall in love, grow in love, to be in love. There is something noticeably different that I can’t quite put my finger on. My sister Denise commented recently that I seem to be more peaceful. I think that’s true…the anxiety and concerns that I will I be alone for the rest of my life are gone. The questioning…am I so unlovable that no body will ever love me…has been answered.

While I know I’m a lot less than perfect…I am most grateful to God for bringing Chris. A man who is mature in his faith. One who sees my flaws but has been able to look past them to see something good that God has given me. He is willing to work through the uncomfortable challenges and differences in us. Working through those times…and coming out on the other side have helped us to become closer.

When my precious childlike friend commented that she desires to one day marry…it was so painful. When I turn and see so many wonderful women around me…women who are smarter or prettier or better than me in so many respects…when I see them in the same predicament that I was for so many years…it hurts. I hurt for them because the pain of unending singleness and lack of romantic love is still very fresh. I know it well and it left many a scar. Part of me is tempted to cry out “Why…I don’t understand it”.

Yet…I know in part it’s the consequences and outworking of a society that has replaced marriage and family…with uncommitted sex and self-fulfillment. The millions of single men and women who are alone and lonely have reaped the consequences that have come from poor judgment and sin. Even those who are not outwardly sinning and breaking God’s commands are bearing the brunt of the increasing tidal wave of consequences.

I am so grateful to God for acting on my behalf. Fulfilling my life long dream to be married. For going before both Chris and I…preparing us and fitting us so perfectly for one another. By His divine plan and providence bring two people who otherwise would have never met, much less taken a second look at one another and allowing us to enter into the covenant of marriage. How marvelous and miraculous are Your ways oh God?

God answered my prayer for a husband and Chris’ prayer to be stretched and taken out of his comfort zone…in one fell swoop…by bringing us together. By removing our impaired vision when we first met and allowing us to see one another’s heart. By moving and stirring in our hearts that could have so easily been hardened and settled. By holding our hands as we crossed a mighty river of fear into the unknown. By helping and guiding us to say, “yes God”, when we encountered the scary territories of trusting God and learning to trust each other.

Dare I think that my mighty God who had compassion upon me…He who heard my cries does not hear the cries of my sisters who remain single not by choice? Do I think that God will not be moved to go before them…and give them the desires of their heart?

God is no respecter of persons. What He’s done for me…He is more than able to do the same and mightier works than these…for those whom He chooses to act.

Thus…I must lift up my sisters in prayer. Those whose pain…I know all to well. I also know my God. I know firsthand the compassionate, mighty, out working of His plan according to His perfect will and timing.

Becoming One

It’s in becoming one,
Where we will learn to willingly surrender,
That which God will one day require of us.

It’s in becoming one,
We learn that submission and selflessness,
Are far superior to selfishness that the world inspires.

It’s in becoming one,
That we learn the eternal immeasurable value,
Of people and relationships over things.

It’s in becoming one,
We learn transparency and loving communication,
Choosing vulnerability and risking wounds from a faithful friend.

Oh Lord, may we realize,
That in avoiding selfless surrender,
We will only delay…even increase pain inherent in the inevitable.

Lord, may You bless and reward,
The fruits of our labor to become one,
Enable and strengthen us as we draw close to You!

By Susan Bunts
June 30, 2008

Dedicated to my love…Chris Wachtel…whom I will become one with on October 4th, 2008.

As we prepare ourselves to wed…we are not only amazed at how much work it is to get married but are becoming aware of just how painful that “becoming one” can be. Goodness knows that the sacrifices are many but the rewards are well worth it.

We contemplate the painful parting with things we once treasured and now find ourselves moving beyond our former lives. Forging ahead into “us” instead of “me”.

While at times it’s really hard…a reflection on the losses that so many people have experienced in recent days and weeks with the flooding in the Midwest serves as a timely reminder that which we may attempt to hold onto God may one day require of us. Will He have to pry it out of our tightly closed hands? How much better to come to Him with open hands and willingly surrender that which He has entrusted to us for a season.

In doing so…it is our prayer that God will reward and bless our willingly surrender to Him and His plan for our lives.