“You’ll have to check your luggage in at the airline counter inside,” the curb-side porter said. Another cancelled flight. Another delay. Exhausted after leading a weekend seminar, we were very ready to get home. We looked at each other and sighed. “Are we having fun yet?” Dave asked.
Fun wasn't exactly how I (Claudia) would describe this rather frustrating situation. Besides, it was my birthday, and I wanted to celebrate it at home. Now we were going to be several hours late getting there. Unfortunately, airport delays are all too familiar for us. Leading seminars around the country, cancelled and delayed flights just come with our job. But that day it was more exasperating because it was my birthday. I was tired and just wanted to go home.
Finally we boarded another flight . . . and sat alone. On top of everything else, they couldn't give us seats together. I silently asked, “Why today, of all days?” Then, just as the plane started racing down the runway, I heard an almost audible answer, Why not today? Then silence.
“Because it's my birthday! I want to get home!” I silently argued.
Then God reminded me, If life were totally predictable—totally on schedule—think how boring it would be! Delays, change of plans and cancellations are part of the fabric of life. My child, relax. Trust Me. I hold the master plan for your life. Flights can and will be cancelled and delayed, but I will never be late or forsake you. Trust Me with your life . . . trust Me with your marriage . . . trust Me today with your birthday.
The plane left the ground and climbed through the clouds into the brilliant rays of the sun. I pushed the seat recliner button, put my head back, and relaxed. If airport delays were just part of life, perhaps I should embrace them. After all, the flight, though a rescheduled one, was taking us home.
Soon we would be sitting side-by-side on our screened porch. There would be plenty of time to celebrate our unpredictable—and definitely not boring—life, to celebrate our marriage, and at long last, to celebrate my birthday. I decided to relax. After all . . . I would have a whole year before turning another year older!
Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. JOSHUA 1:9
We met Carlos and Genie at our church’s mission conference. Their enthusiasm, energy and sheer joy of living drew us to them. Parents of two young daughters and missionaries in Mexico, they were interested in helping marriages and families. They were especially fascinated with our concept of 10 Great Dates®.
So you can imagine our shock when the next November we received a letter from Carlos telling us that Genie had died suddenly of meningitis. Now, his life was turned upside down—he was alone with his two young daughters.“When we get back to Mexico,” Carlos told us, “we will start our own 10 Great Dates group.” Assuring us they would stay in touch, we said good-bye, looking forward to hearing from them in the future.
As our mission conference rolled around that spring, we wondered if Carlos would be there. He was, and he sent word that he wanted to talk with us. We’ll never forget that conversation.
Carlos told us how he and Genie started their own Great Dates group and how they kept each other’s children so each couple could have their dates. It really worked! Their dates were fun, refreshing and reenergizing for their marriage. Then he told us about the last week of Genie’s life.
“That week it was our time for others to keep our children. So on Sunday we had our Great Date. We walked and talked and just enjoyed being together. The next day I left for an out-of-town conference. When I kissed Genie goodbye, I had no clue it would be that last time I would hold her in my arms. Soon after I left, she became ill and in a matter of hours she was gone.
“Tell other couples,” Carlos told us with his voice breaking, “not to take each other for granted, to seize the day, to take time for their marriages now. You just don’t know how long you will have with each other.”
Our eyes filled with tears. We thought of the past week. We had been busy. Too busy. We had missed our weekly date. Then God seemed to whisper to us . . . Seize the day for your marriage! Not tomorrow, not next week, next month or next year! Seize the day today!
Fortunately, our story has a happy ending. Carlos came back to the United States with his two daughters. Time heals. Life goes on. Sandy, another missionary who also had a heart for Mexico, entered his life. Love blossomed. Now, back in Mexico, Carlos and Sandy are partners in marriage and ministry and parents to the two girls. They have regular dates. They work at keeping their own relationship growing and fresh. They keep on “seizing the day!” Can we do less? Heaven forbid, but it could be all that we have!
See each morning as if it were the morning of the very first day; treasure each day as if it were the evening of the very last day. ANONYMOUS
Follow the Light
by David & Claudia Arp
May 18th, 2017
What should have been a lovely drive through the Austrian Alps was not. Instead we could see nothing—just miles and miles of fog. We had looked forward to driving back to Zurich, Switzerland, to catch our ten-hour flight home, but we had not anticipated this fog.
by David & Claudia Arp
Then, near Innsbruck, the dreary sky hiding the Alps gradually became brighter and brighter, and in one magic moment the fog at the very top of the Alps broke. We could finally see the tip of the Alps. The next moment they disappeared—as if they were playing hide and seek with us. Fog. Alps. Fog. Alps.
How breathtaking it was when the fog lifted and we could see the majesty of the Alps! How disappointing when the thick fog reappeared! But isn’t this how life is sometimes? Or even, on occasions, our marriage? At times we see so clearly the beauty all around us—and at other times we only see the fog. Yet, like the Alps in the fog, the beauty is always there whether we can see it or not!
As we continued to drive toward Innsbruck, we talked about times we have felt close to God and other times when we felt only distance. And then God seemed to speak to our hearts: Like the Alps, I am there even when you don’t see Me! Trust Me in the foggy times as well as the sunny times in your life and in your marriage.
Oh, if we could only remember this lesson—especially when we’re in a fog of discouragement. God is there in the foggy times just as He is there when all is sunny in our lives. We need to trust Him both times.
And then as we approached the outskirts of Innsbruck, the sun suddenly broke through. Suddenly, we were surrounded by God’s majesty—360 degrees of magnificent stately Alps! We promised each other we would remember this day and in those times when fog reappears, we will remind each other that in the midst of the darkness and dullness, God is still there—even when we don’t feel His presence! His love and protection—more majestic than the Alps—surrounds us!
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
So the Lord surrounds his people both now and forever.
April 27th, 2017
Sitting with our friend, Vera Mace, on the screened porch at her home in Black Mountain, North Carolina, we commented that she and David must have enjoyed rocking on their porch and looking at the magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains.
Vera chuckled. “Eventually we did, but we almost didn’t have a screened porch! You see,” she continued, “we didn’t agree on how to go about it. The problem was that David’s favorite tree was right here in the middle of where the porch needed to go. I wanted to cut it down. David didn’t. I still remember the conversation:
‘Vera,’ David said, ‘how could we even consider cutting down this tree? It’s older than we are!’
‘If we want to build our porch,’ I replied to David, ‘the tree will have to go. There simply isn’t another spot for it.’
“Back and forth we went, each desperately wanting our own way. Finally David capitulated. Giving me a gift of love, he said, ‘We shall cut down the tree. You shall have your screened porch!’”
Did David ever regret giving in to you?” I (Claudia) asked.
Vera laughed, “No, not at all! You see, when the tree came down, we discovered it was hollow. The inside had rotted away. It was good riddance! And if David had insisted on keeping the tree, in its weakened state, a wind storm could have blown it over on our home.”
Then we realized how that tree is like marriage . . . selfishness leads to decay; deferring to the other leads to blessing.
Just as Vera and David’s tree appeared to be fine, our marriage may look great on the outside, but if we selfishly demand our own way, our marriage will decay on the inside. Over time, our relationship can become hollow, weak and rotten. But when we defer to each other, we strengthen our relationship.
Years later when we remember Vera’s tree story, we are challenged to work on our marriage—to cut down our own trees of selfishness and to defer to the other. Then we can help other couples build better marriages, and hopefully in the sunset of our lives, we will also enjoy rocking on our own screened porch.
What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other? GEORGE ELIOT
April 20th, 2017
We sat in city traffic anxious to get home. The next day we were leaving for a series of conferences, and once again we were in the panic mode—too much to do and too little time!
Why do we always do this to ourselves?” I (Dave) asked.
Staring at the brake lights of the car in front of us, I (Claudia) replied. “I don’t know, but I do know something has got to give. We simply can’t keep us this pace!”
About that time on a voice in our car asked, “Are you experiencing ‘fast-lane stress’ in your marriage?”
We looked at each other and in unison said, “Yes!”
The radio spot that day seemed customized for us. We continued to listen. “If you’re experiencing fast lane stress, here’s a tip for you. Sit down and make a list of all the things you need to do. Then prioritize your list. Put the most important thing first and start there. You may not get everything done in one day, but you will go to bed at night knowing you have invested your time in doing the most important. Think about this—life is too precious to hurry through it.”
The last seven words changed our day. It was as if God audibly spoke to us . . . Dave, Claudia, your lives are too precious to hurry through them! Slow down and trust Me!
As the traffic began to move once again, we knew what we needed to do. We drove straight home and over two cups of coffee we made our list and prioritized it. Then we divided the most important things that needed to be done before we left the next day.
The results? We didn’t get everything checked off our lists, but we stopped hurrying. On that day we realized just how precious life is and how much we valued our marriage. And we vowed in the future when we get in a hurry to remind each other to slow down. By the way, what we heard that day on our car radio was our own two-minute program, The Family Workshop, and the couple we were listening to was ourselves! Sometimes we even take our own good advice.
We may run, walk, stumble, drive, or fly,
but let us never lose sight
of the reason for the journey, or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way. GLORIA GAITHER
The logs in the open fireplace crackled a warm welcome to the guests who had assembled to celebrate the union of Marcy and Tim. Outside the snow continued to fall. The ambience of the old hunting lodge on this cold winter day was a wonderful setting for a wedding reception.
The small, intimate ceremony, completed just a few minutes earlier, had reaffirmed that God is the one who created the holy state of matrimony. Vows spoken. Two lives joined as one. Two hearts fused together in love. Now the celebration.
In the background the musical notes of a classical guitar and violin filled the room with romantic cords. Each instrument complemented the other. Wonderful two-part harmony! And then God seemed to whisper . . . Marriage is a two-part harmony—each has your own notes to play. Play them in such a way that you complement and harmonize with one another.
What a beautiful picture of a marriage! Two lives harmonizing together to create a new entity—a marriage. But too often we want to play our own song without harmonizing with the other. Or we want to be our own voice rather than blending together as one. Yet in a duet each seeks to enhance the other so that together the music is more beautiful than it would have been with just one playing or singing alone.
In a harmonious marriage there is no room for competition or tooting your own horn. Competing is the opposite of harmonizing. If we’re playing in harmony, it means we mutually respect each other and our unique gifts. It really is like we are two different musical instruments playing different parts. With God’s grace we can continue to make beautiful music together!
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. PHILIPPIANS 3:3
We were desperately in love . . . young love, true love, filled with deep emotion. I (Claudia) was a freshman at Maryville College, which was located on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains. I (Dave) was in my second year at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Ga. Two hundred miles apart! But we remember one time when Dave drove up for the weekend. Time for just the two of us! Time to be together.
Slipping away from the college campus, we drove to Cades Cove in the heart of the Smokies. And on that day we visited the past—others’ past. Cades Cove, untouched by “American progress,” is a tribute to the first families who settled there so many years ago. We imagined the young couples, in love and struggling for survival in the beautiful but isolated valley. We stood together in the Primitive Baptist church and talked about how someday, we would speak our marriage vows in the little Methodist church in Ellijay, Georgia, where Claudia grew up.
Now, decades later we revisited Cades Cove. We went back to the Primitive Baptist Church and once again remembered those lovers who went before us. We remembered our own wedding day now so many years ago.
We talked about the future and wondered what the future would hold for our grandchildren. Would they ever experience the quietness and peacefulness of Cades Cove? Our world had become more complicated. Life was anything but primitive. How would they fare? And in the middle of our memories and fears for the future, God spoke to our hearts, Never forget your past; let it enrich your present, but you must trust Me for the future. I am the same, yesterday, today and forever.
And then we began to realize, the future—yet to be written—is in God’s hands. Future generations will have their own unique love stories to write. But the greatest love story of all—God’s love for us—will be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Each happiness of yesterday is a memory for tomorrow.
GEORGE WEBSTER DOUGLAS
The illuminated seatbelt sign reinforced what I (Claudia) already knew—we were flying through severe turbulence. I checked the security of my seatbelt. When the weather is sunny and the winds are calm, I like to fly. But on days like this one, I’d rather have my feet on the ground.
And how was Dave handling all this turbulence? Looking over at him, I was simply amazed. He was actually sleeping! I desperately wanted to wake him up. What if it got worse? What if we hit wind shear?
As I tried unsuccessfully to relax, I began to think about how flying in planes is similar to building our marriage. Over the years of our marriage, we’ve lived through turbulent times. Every marriage experiences turbulence. Of course, you want to avoid severe and extreme turbulence if at all possible. And while some marital turbulence can be avoided, at times you simply must fly through it. Unfortunately when some couples experience problems, their marriages crash and burn. We’ve dedicated our lives to helping couples avoid martial disasters—so what could I learn from this mental exercise?
About that time the pilot came on the loudspeaker and said, “As you are aware we are experiencing turbulence. For the next few minutes it will continue to be bumpy, since we are flying right on top of the clouds.” Oh, I thought. On top of the clouds! I began to relax a little bit now that I knew to expect a few more bumps. And with each bump, I tried to picture our plane skipping on the top of the clouds.
Suddenly I understood: it is possible to handle your fears of flying in bumpy weather or even turbulent times in a marriage if you know they are coming and if you stay on top of them!
The key is to stay on top of the clouds! Later, when Dave woke up (refreshed and unconcerned) I told him about the turbulence he missed and the pilot’s comments and my analogy. Our conclusion? The only way to avoid turbulence in marriage is to stay on the ground and go nowhere. And there are those static, boring marriages that do. But for couples who realize a little conflict is a given and who want to fly through it, their love for each other can grow. As our plane finely landed, we agreed we wanted to continue to grow through our own turbulent times. And from now on, when I’m faced with a rough flight, I’ll try to stay on top of the bumps!
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. ISAIAH 26:3
Jeanie smiled at her husband, Dave. “From the beginning of our marriage, we’ve had fun together. Even when the children came alone, we still managed to find time for each other.”
“Not as much time as before kids, but we always found some time,” Dave added. “And that didn’t end when we entered the empty nest. We simply filled our nest with bunnies!”
When we visited in their home, sure enough, rabbits were everywhere! They even have four stuffed bunnies who travel with them. But their fun relationship is about more than bunnies. That’s just the beginning.
Jeanie told us. “For years we’ve had pet names for each other—not just two or three—we have hundreds!”
“What’s your favorite?” I (Claudia) asked.
She answered with a smile, “Lover Bunny.”
They also have special kisses. They send each other love letters. At airports they fake good-bye kisses and then get on the plane together. And at the grocery check-out counters, Dave often asks Jeanie to marry him all over again.
Their light-heartedness influences other areas in their relationship—even areas of conflict. Years ago they came up with the ten-minute silence rule. At any time, either can call for ten minutes of silence. If the nonverbal is a problem, they also have an out-of-sight-for-ten-minutes rule. This helps them calm down and get things back in perspective.
What has kept this couple’s fifty-plus-year marriage happy and delightful? In our hearts we know their secret . . . and then we heard the confirmation . . . Fun and laughter is a key to a great marriage . . . Couples who play together, stay together!
And Dave and Jeanie are the living proof!
If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.
HERODOTUS, THE HISTORY OF HERODOTUS,
by David & Claudia Arp
February 16th, 2017
Time—what is it? Sixty seconds makes a minute, minutes turn into hours, and hours into days. Time zips by almost unnoticed. Then something happens and time seems to stand still. Life is never the same again.
It was one of those phone calls you dread. Lillian, Dave’s mom, had suffered a stroke. In the next few weeks as she lingered between life and death, time stopped long enough for us to reflect on this remarkable woman and the seasons of her life and marriage.
Dave’s parents were married for fifty-five years. As we reflected on their years together, we thought about our own marriage and a challenge . . . Are you being good stewards of the time you still have together? How are you investing your marriage moments?
Each season of marriage comes with different stress points and challenges. The casual discovery days of the first months and years accelerate into the hectic parenting years and on into the empty nest and the retirement season of life. The years quickly race by.
As we considered my parent’s fifty-five year marriage, I (Dave) remembered how, when I was a young boy, my parents from time to time would go off alone together. As a teenager, I’d catch them hugging and kissing on the balcony. I remembered how as empty nesters, they were each other’s best friend. Throughout the seasons of their marriage, they took time to love each other.
Now Lillian is gone. We realize anew that our marriage is time-bound and someday we too will be parted by death. We ask ourselves, are we being good stewards of the time we do have?
THE TIME IS NOW
If you are ever going to love me,
Love me now, while I can know
The sweet and tender feelings
Which from true affection flow.
Love me now while I am living.
Do not wait until I’m gone
And then have it chiseled in marble,
Sweet words on ice-cold stone.
If you have tender thoughts of me,
Please tell me now.