Tag Archives: marriage

“In The Presence of My Enemies”: thoughts about Gracia Burnham’s book

Colette Fabry, Co-Author of awriteheart.comI’m always in the middle of reading a book, and every so often I come across a really great one. This past week I read Gracia Burnham’s book “In The Presence Of My Enemies”, the true story of her kidnapping by a terrorist group in the Philippines. She and her husband Martin, along with several others, were taken hostage in the middle of the night and kept in torturous conditions. Sadly, after 1 year and 11 days, Martin lost his life during a rescue attempt by the Philippine army. They had survived 16 gun-battle rescue attempts, and on the 17th the Burnham’s were shot, she in the leg and he in the chest. The book kept my interest with every single word and I had a hard time putting it down.

Gracia and Martin experienced a living nightmare. While most Americans were trying to make sense of 911 and the craziness and sadness of that, these two missionaries were in the middle of the jungle wondering if they would ever get home to their three children. Reading this book, I saw such real Christianity lived out. Not many people can say that they experienced anything near this kind of horror. But people do live out difficult trials and can learn from Gracia’s insight – I know I sure did.

Her words taught me that…

The toughest of times have the ability to strengthen relationships.

I noticed something pretty amazing about Martin and Gracia.  During the most difficult times they learned to rely on each other. Instead of turning on each other in frustration and fear, they helped and comforted each other. They shared a toothbrush, learned to sleep leaning against one another and continually watched out for the other. They didn’t let this awful trial come between them, but instead, they learned to work together and allowed it to strengthen their marriage.

My heart sunk to the bottom of my toes. Everything we owned in this life was back there in that backpack. The sheet we pulled over us at night, my long sleeved shirt, our toothbrush…A horrible wave of guilt swept over me. How stupid of me. I just lost it all. ‘ Oh Martin, I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry!’ I cried between sobs. My husband did not reproach me. He just quietly answered, ‘You know honey, we’ve got to save our energy for walking. I forgive  you. And you need to forgive yourself. Its going to be ok.'” ~Gracia Burnham

During difficult times it’s wise to know when to speak and when not to.

When either Martin or Gracia wrestled with discouragement and despair, the other gently listened. They just let the other feel whatever it was they were feeling and didn’t jump right in to fix each other with words; I’m sure they barely had the energy or even the ability, but nonetheless, they just loved each other through their feelings. When Gracia spent several days crying, Martin let her. He held her and he wiped her tears or let her sit by herself. He knew that she had to work through things on her own. He realized that he couldn’t heal her heart, but that he could support it.

[pullquote type=”right”]The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…Proverbs 37:23[/pullquote]” ‘Oh, I’m not giving up my faith’, I’d tell Martin.  ‘I still believe that God made the world, He sent his Son, Jesus, and Jesus died for me… I’m just choosing not to believe the part about God loving me. Because Gods not coming through.’ …I was really mad at God. After about three days of living with this torment, I was totally miserable. When I wasn’t at the river crying, I was in the house crying. Martin learned not to say anything, because he knew this was something I had to work through myself… I knew that I had a choice. I could give into my resentment and allow it to dig me into a deeper and deeper hole both psychologically and emotionally or I could choose to believe what Gods word says to be true whether I believed it or not.  This was a turning point for me…I simply gave in and handed all my pain and anger over to the Lord right then and there….From that day on, the Lord somehow let me know in my spirit that he was still faithful.” ~Gracia Burnham

 Trials are meant to strengthen our faith.

I felt Gracia’s struggle and if I were her I would wonder: “Why would God allow this? Where is He? Does He even care about me or even know where I am?” She had to wrap her brain around her faith and what it looked like before her abduction, versus what it looked like in captivity. Trials do this to everyone, especially if you are being held against your will, hungry, tired and thirsty. She chose to believe Gods promises such as,  “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. Not because she felt the truth of those words right then, but because God can’t lie.  She learned that God walks through hard and difficulty with us and doesn’t rescue us immediately from trials. He supplied so many needs and Gracia began to be thankful for each one. She told one story about a care package miraculously finding it’s way to them. Gracia watched as their captors rummaged through the box before giving it to them, helping themselves to a package of candy bars. She was angry. She was happy to receive the soap and peanuts and all the wonderful supplies in the box, including a new pair of Martin’s prescription glasses…but she was so mad about the stolen candy bars. God worked in her heart and she changed her attitude to one of thanksgiving. So many of us do the same thing…focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do. Reading her raw struggle was awesome and such a valuable lesson.

[pullquote type=”right”]Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding. Proverbs 3:5[/pullquote]”We began making little piles of all the wonderful things.  But at the same time, we couldn’t stop thinking about those Snickers bars. The bounty we had wasn’t quite enough somehow. And then we looked at each other and said, ‘You know, this box has arrived from our mission out of nowhere–and we’re complaining about what the Abu Sayyaf took? We should be rejoicing in the Lord’s goodness.’  We decided we needed to share. Martin began going from group to group giving…We had asked the Lord earlier in the month to send us something nice for Thanksgiving and realized something incredible: It was Thursday, November 22– Thanksgiving Day!”  ~Gracia Burnham

 The picture is always bigger than what we can see.

Although Gracia would never have chosen to go through what she did – to enter into such suffering and the heartache of losing her husband – through her very words I was able to see part of a bigger plan. Deep in the jungle, amongst 50+ terrorists, men who may have never heard the name of Jesus, Gracia and Martin shared the gospel.  They lived it and spoke it in the midst of the most horrendous trial.  Gracia taught the other hostages the words to “How Great Thou Art” and they sang them while the terrorists listened. Martin had several conversations with others about God and in his kind and gentle way he was able to share Jesus. I know that when this couple gave their lives to be missionaries they never imagined that this was how they were going to be used.

“…I was able to harmonize while we sang the song (How Great Thou Art) every day and sometimes several times a day. The Abu Sayyaf never hissed at us for singing it….More than once Martin said to me ‘Maybe God has us here just to praise him in this very dark place.'”  ~Gracia Burnham

We are stronger than we think.

Gracia never thought in a million years that she could endure what she did…walking miles with no food and sleeping night after night in mud…being bitten by bugs, filthy for weeks at a time, separated from her children…the fear and terror of being shot at, running for her very life, living with out the basic essentials,  the humiliation of having to go to the bathroom in front of strangers and the heartache and shock of watching her husband as he was shot and as he took his last breath on this earth. But she did it. And she did it well!  What an amazing example of strength and resilience.

I looked back at where Martin still lay. The red spot on his shirt was larger now. His complexion was pasty white. And then I knew–the man I loved more than  anyone in the world was gone. I wanted the world to stop in that moment, to reflect on my dreadful loss, to mourn the senseless death of my wonderful husband. Unfortunately, the circumstances demanded otherwise.  I had to think about getting myself off this mountain alive.” ~Gracia Burnham

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After reading her book, I want to hug Gracia Burnham and give her a life supply of candy bars!  I can’t wait to read her next book, called “To Fly Again”  I have no doubt that she did!  Through the pages of her book I feel as if I know her, that she is a kindred spirit.  Her story glorifies her God, and my prayer is that yours and mine will as well.

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]This is my story, this is my song, Colette[/custom_headline]


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With each post we have published in July, Colette has added ONE MORE of her FAVORITE THINGS to this month’s giveaway! 

As of this post, the giveaway includes:

Godiva Chocolates,
a SURPRISE gift from Anthropologie,
Dunkin’ Donuts coffee,
Victoria’s Secret hair spray and leave-in conditioner,
a lilac scented Yankee Candle,
a beautiful salad tong set from anthropologie,and
“In the Presence of My Enemies” by Gracia Burnham!


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how to win, EVERY TIME, when arguing with your spouse!

Colette @ awriteheart.comThe arguing was intense.  Back and forth, tit for tat, louder and louder.  I, the counselor, abruptly stood up and excused myself from the room. Thankful to be out of their boxing ring,  I stood at the bathroom sink, splashed water on my face and decided that I would go back into the room and say these words: ” This session is over.  It is evident that neither of you want what is best for each other or your marriage.  There is no hope for you as long as you keep fighting and demanding the other to change in order for you to be happy.   When you can clearly look at yourself and die to the ugliness that rises up in you…when you  allow that to die…then your marriage stands a chance.”  I took a deep breath, returned to my chair and spoke those exact words.  There was an awkward silence when I finished.  (See their response towards the end of this post)

As long as we are in relationship with anyone, disagreements will occur.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to win an argument; to have their points heard and validated…to be right.  And who doesn’t love to do the victory dance after the actual win, even if only in our heads. Yep, we just love it!

I want to share with you how to WIN when disagreeing with your spouse.  Every single time.  At every conflict.  Always.

Listen to your partner.

Listening doesn’t mean that you have to agree with what is being said.  It’s an important skill in productive and positive communication.  You may be surprised at what you hear. And if not surprised, you will at least hear the heart and opinions of your loved one.  And, that matters. Truth is, you will win when you listen.

Be kind always.

You can disagree and still disagree kindly.  Words have the power to bring life or death to people and situations. Words said in anger can poison relationships and do a lot of emotional damage.  If you lose someones heart, you have lost.   Kindness always wins the respect of others.

Say yes when you can.

If you can possibly say yes and concede to your partner, do it.  Weigh the importance of what you’re fighting over.  Saying yes to your spouse will be a win by gaining a deeper, more intimate relationship.

Control your emotions, actions and behavior.

The focus should never be on controlling your partners emotions, actions and behavior. Win control over your own flesh and you will win more than just an argument.

Treat a disagreement as a discussion.

A disagreement is not a debate where points are scored.  It is not a competition and it is not talking someone into your way of thinking.  It is positive, respectful communication where relationship should end strengthened.  Win every single time when you discuss issues.

Respect the person that you are disagreeing with.

Always. Respecting other people wins integrity and shows great leadership skills.

Be hard on the problem and soft on the person.

In fact, separate the person from the problem. Become a good problem solver. The goal is to work towards a peaceful resolution.  Good problem solvers always win

Die to the ugliness of self.

Everyone has it in them…ugliness.  Its the nastiness that rises up inside each one of us when we don’t like what we hear and when we demand our way.  Your way may even be right.  But what rises up in you may not be.  The ugliness of self is the opposite of the fruit of the spirit and the list looks like this: fighting, self centeredness, short tempers, pride,  sharp tongues, meanness, rude sarcasm, silence and rejection. When you see that in yourself, learn to die to it. Do not let it rule you.  When we allow the Holy Spirit to rule us, we win big!

Refuse to argue over opinions.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. When we allow others to have their own opinion, we win.  Only God can change a heart and give true perspective.  Understanding when to stop an argument takes wisdom.   Developing this takes the grace of God,  determination, maturity and practice but once we allow the Holy Spirit to masters this in us, we most definitely win.

Disagree until you agree.

Take time to make decisions together and again, if you can possibly give in, give in. If you can compromise, compromise. Remember, there is an answer to every problem. Maybe not one you’d prefer to choose, but a solution nonetheless.  There are times when I say to clients, ” you have no great options but you still have options”.  Winning happens when we choose patience and wisdom over rash decision making.

Choose peace more than your need to be right, more than your ego and more than your self esteem.

I use this statement a lot.  I wish I could give credit to the brilliant person who wrote this but I have no idea who they are.  Getting pride and self out of the way is difficult.  Most fights don’t start out as fights.  Fighting occurs when there is the crazy need to prove and be right, when ego is wounded or puffed up and when you feel as if self esteem is on the line.  The problem gets lost and craziness takes over.   I understand the importance of making decisions but choosing to handle them maturely and with peace is the biggest win!

In the end of life so many things that people argue about won’t be worth a hill of beans. My very first argument with my new, 21 year old husband, was 35 years ago and over furniture. Stupid, ugly furniture that no longer even exists.  I realize that there are times when disagreements are bigger than furniture. But so often they are not.  They are over things that just don’t matter.

The couple above had this to say when asked to write a paragraph for this post

We will never forget that day two years ago.  We were presented with truth.  The truth of our selfishness.  Our marriage motto became “die to self” until it was second nature.  Our marriage and communication became sweeter and sweeter and we honestly just stopped fighting. We learned to quickly diffuse any fight by this mindset and we stopped playing the blame game.  I cant imagine what our life would be like now if that session hadn’t ended in such honesty. We were faced with a shocking wake up call. It was what we needed to hear and we will be forever thankful. – N & C

I deal with many couples who have been in battle with one another over and over for years.  Spouses may win individual battles by yelling the loudest, making a better point in anger, by verbally slamming their spouse and giving it to them good.  Yes, they may have won the heated battle but in the end they don’t really win.  They end up losing.  They lose intimacy, relationship, trust, productive communication and many even lose marriages.  All because too many battles were unfairly fought when really, they never had to be fought at all.

So, if you really want to win in an argument with your spouse,  you can choose to win.  It will take losing battles to win.  It will definitely take learning to problem solve with maturity and wisdom.   But I can promise,  this type of problem solving is a win-win for everyone!

Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honour, preferring one another;

[custom_headline type=”right” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]They will know we are Christians by our love, Colette[/custom_headline]

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five ways to know your spouse is repentant after infidelity

Colette @ awriteheart.comIt felt as if I had entered a privileged, sacred moment and that I did not belong. I watched as this big, strong young man got onto his knees in the counseling room. He crawled over to his wife. The tears were running down his cheeks and with sincere apology and repentance, in body and in voice, he begged her for forgiveness; for the infidelity, for not putting her first, for not loving her like she deserved.
She wasn’t expecting this brokenness. She had never seen it. She looked up at me as she held his head on her lap. Panic and fear filled her voice and she asked “How do I know if this is real?”

It’s almost easier to deal with someone who is not repentant. It hurts but it’s pretty much cut and dry. But what about when your spouse commits to change and is truly repentant? I will say this with boldness: all broken marriages can be reconciled through true and sincere repentance.

All people can be sorry but not all people are repentant. How do you know if repentance is real?

  1. Behavior changes. A person who is sorry and wants to change does. A truly repentant person does not go back to the old way of doing things.
  2. There are no more secrets. No passwords, computer, whereabouts are off limit to the spouse. Nothing. Trust is rebuilt by being open about everything.
  3. Repentance is evident every day. It looks like this: Kindness always. Kindness no matter what. Kindness with patience.
    Saying the words “what do you need me to do?” to your spouse and living the answer out. (Come on, wounded spouse, the request must be doable and legal! )
  4. Patience and Love prevails. It takes a while to rebuild. A repentant person will patiently and lovingly continue in 1-4 indefinitely. No time limits. Not from a “have to” mentality but a “want to” mentality. Patience and love describe good relationships.
  5. A repentant spouse will be open to wise counseling. Couples counseling is usually very important in order to rebuild. It helps figure out what happened and how to prevent it. Often wounds are deep and can cause skewed perceptions. A trusted third party can gently walk people through the process of healing.

[pullquote type=”right”]God the Father is the glue that holds a marriage together. [/pullquote]I recently heard the words “children are the glue that hold a marriage together”. I disagree. God the Father is the glue that holds a marriage together. It is God who gives us the handbook for successful relationships, for instruction on how to forgive, what it takes to be a loving, kind and patient partner. He sets the standard for unconditional love and reconciliation. He shows us how and it is God who gives us the ability to do what is required. God through Jesus set the example as this: He is slow to wrath, He separates the person from the sin, His only condition is faithfulness and even then the door is always open for repentance, He is long suffering and so very patient. He is forgiving and kind. He is an amazing model to his bride, the church.

One of the most beautiful verses in Scripture is Isaiah 61, verse 3: To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. It’s a prophecy which tells us why Jesus will come to earth. Then in Luke 4, Jesus himself quoted from Isaiah 61 and said “This day is the Scripture fulfilled…” One of the reasons the Messiah came is to create beauty from ashes! How is it even possible for anything beautiful to come from ashes?? Well, a destroyed and completely broken marriage can become whole, loving and functional again. It’s a promise and it comes through true repentance which lays the foundation for true forgiveness. That is beauty at its best!

~He Makes Beautiful Things, Colette~

Warren & Melissa

white flag

Melissa @ awriteheart.comThat’s me in that photo above, but in reality I’m not very good at being married. I know that some of it is because of past circumstances, but I also know that some of it – a lot of it actually – is just me. I’m an arguer. My job as a critical care nurse has honed my reasoning skills to a lethally sharp edge, and I have the fortunate and unfortunate ability to develop a court-case-style presentation of my thoughts in 15 seconds or less. Pretty impressive, you say? If you were my patient in the hospital you’d think it’s fantastic, but you can imagine what my husband thinks of this amazing talent of mine. He says I should have been a lawyer, and I don’t think he means it as a compliment.

For these past seven years I have struggled, and I continue to struggle. It is hard for me to stop and breathe before I speak; it’s hard for me to pray for words before I give my own; it’s hard for me to love someone over my own self and to take care of that person’s needs before my own. Paul writes in Romans about wanting to do right but then doing wrong anyways, and that passage resonates with me…I know in my mind how I should love, but I don’t actually do it.

We all have something, don’t we? That thing we can’t seem to get past.

[pullquote type=”left”]Whether I deliver on my end or not, He delivered on His…[/pullquote]God showed me something recently that I’d never realized before. At Calvary, Jesus conquered sin – my specific sin. Whether I deliver on my end or not, He delivered on His and I am free from this sin’s power and this sin’s penalty. I am free of it in light of eternity because of the cross. I rely on Christ for that – I rely on Him for salvation and eternal freedom from sin’s penalty because I know I can’t possibly achieve it. But somehow in the depths of me I believe that I can conquer my own issues here and now.

How do we typically deal with changing ourselves? I think that many times we try to control our behavior. I “make an effort” to be more patient; I “try” not to be abrupt; I “refrain” from saying those things I know would be hurtful. And on so many levels I consider those to be successes. But if I continue to simply modify each behavior, no real change will ever happen in me because it’s just behavior…and eventually the heart in me that caused the behaviors in the first place will rear its head and cause some other sin, because WHO I AM never changed.

[pullquote type=”right”]Repentance and striving toward a godly life isn’t a task to complete, but a transformation to be made – a transformation that only He can complete in us. [/pullquote]The real answer to change is not control but surrender. I gave my life to Christ upon my salvation, but it can’t stop at that. The surrender of my unclean heart and my sins has to continue throughout every minute of every day of my life so that my heart can conform to be more like His. Repentance and striving toward a godly life isn’t a task to complete, but a transformation to be made – a transformation that only He can complete in us. Christ was the only One who could conquer sin at the cross, and He’s the only One who can conquer sin now.

My marriage has a purpose in my life, and so does whatever your “thing” is. God is showing me more about my own heart through my marriage than through anything else; He shows more of His character to me through my marriage than He has through anything else; He gives me a story to tell through my marriage that could not come from anywhere else. My marriage is tough so that I can surrender myself more and more to my Savior…so that I can testify to who He is and what He can do.

If I control, I feebly attempt to save myself. But if I surrender, He is the Champion of the story. And THAT is a story worth telling.

~Needing Him every minute, Melissa~