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lori & steven mcclure

helping you write a better love story

Words for My Steven

20150915_175521When my eyes met yours, your lips curled into a restrained smile I can still see forever etched in my brain. Your eyes lit up, and my heart did, too, because you were my gift. You’d been sent to save me, to see me, to know me, to love me like no other had.

And you did.

You jumped into loving me with all you have as it if were your only job, and you’ve done it fiercely and completely and without reserve for every moment, second, and minute of every day.

How you do it I don’t know except for the grace of God giving you strength to love me as a sign to me I’m not forgotten. I’m never alone. I don’t have to earn God’s love or your love.

It just is.

Your love has covered me like a blanket on a cool day, and it has sheltered me from life’s storms. Yes, you cover me. When days are hard and when life weighs us down, you push through all that tries to separate us, and you pull me to you, refusing to let space divide us.

You continually choose to serve me, to give of yourself in a way that seems superhuman, and in a way, it is because only God1959340_790686210991913_3036767981389027569_n could give you that kind of love to share.

So, on this day, I celebrate you and the gift you are to me, to our children, and to the world. You are the kind of person who inspires poems and songs, and somehow I’ve been blessed to share my life with you.

Thank you, my love, for choosing me. I am thankful for you.

I love you, and I always will.

Happy Birthday.

L.

The Emotional Affair: When Sex isn’t the Only Infidelity in the Room

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Infidelity gets people talking faster than almost any other topic. A couple who’s been married for ten years and still divorces due to unfaithfulness strikes a chord in us all (a moment of silence for Ben and Jen, please).

What happened? How did things go wrong? Who’s to blame?

Could it happen to us?

Sure it could.

According to the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, in 41% of marriages, one or both partners admitted to emotional or physical affairs. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

Nothing happens in a vacuum, and our choices always lead us to a specific outcome. The shock of infidelity sends us reeling, but the truth is, most people don’t meet a stranger and hop into bed with them. No, infidelity is more often the sum of a series of tiny decisions that culminate in an affair.

Speaking of which, what constitutes an affair?

Affairs don’t automatically equal sexual relationships. Emotional affairs are just as damaging (some would even say more so) as physical affairs. In this brave, new world in which almost every person has more than one social media account (not to mention more than one way to keep those accounts hidden), it’s a wonder the percentage isn’t higher.

Is there hope?

Of course there’s hope. But in this case, where there’s hope, there’s work.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Are you and your partner transparent when it comes to social media?
  2. Do you have any secret accounts?
  3. When an old flame or friend contacts you, do you share that information with your partner?
  4. Do you experience a mild (or not so mild) sense of panic when your partner grabs your phone?

If any of your answers give you pause, it might be time to rethink your online habits.

Easy Fixes to Try:

  1. Talk. To each other.
  2. Ask non-accusing questions. “I feel like a distance has grown between us, and I want to fix it,” is better than, “Why have you been so distant lately?”
  3. Answer questions honestly. Doing so will help to create a trusting environment conducive to open sharing.
  4. Don’t hide information from your partner.

However, if one or both of you is resistant to sharing, consider tackling secrecy issues with the help of a counselor.

Remember:

Nothing in the digital age is ever really done in secret (Hello, Ashley Madison!). You’re fooling yourself if you think you won’t eventually get caught. Rekindling an old friendship can be fine as long as boundaries remain in place and you’re open with your partner about the relationship.

If you feel tempted to hide your behavior, chances are good you’re headed down a dangerous road. Don’t let a bunch of tiny texts, emails, and instant messages lead you straight into infidelity  — emotional or otherwise. Choose open and honest communication instead.

Amy L. Sullivan and the Gutsy Girls Series Launch

Any woman who’s had a mean girl experience (even as far back as those junior high days) can attest to the potential pitfalls inherent in bonding with women. I still struggle in my relationships with other women sometimes.

So when you find women working to spread love and encouragement to other women and girls? It’s hard not to get excited about that kind of positivity.

One woman who is working to encourage women and girls just so happened to be around in my life when mean girls also swarmed. This girl picked me up when their words crushed me, and we realized early on that life would be bigger than junior high drama and prank calls.

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Fast forward to a life where junior high is a distant memory, and Amy L. Sullivan is promoting a message of strength with her #StrongGirlsCan and #Raising Girls campaigns. Her new project, Gutsy Girls: Strong Christian Women Who Impacted the World, is a book series for young girls to empower them on their journey to serve others. Book one in the Gutsy Girls series is about Gladys Aylward, an unlikely missionary to China.

Readers will journey with Gladys as she discovers her purpose while also learning that no one is too ordinary to serve. In a world where women are still pitted against each other or boxed into specific categories of service, the Gutsy Girls series will help young girls realize their strengths instead of their limits.

If you’ve got a youngster in your life, the first Gutsy Girls book goes live this Monday, September 21, 2015. Mark your calendar, so you don’t miss out on the freebies Amy is giving away to those who preorder and order in the first few days of release.

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Discover more about the first Gutsy Girl in Amy’s series, Gladys Aylward, now.

Everything can Change in a Moment

umbrella-11Everything can change in a moment.

I’ve been thinking about this idea ‑ not in the context of getting some really great (or really terrible) news, but as it pertains to the way things go in married life.

It’s funny how one careless phrase, one untethered word, or even one wayward glance can (in an instant) ruin a meal or a day or a marriage. For me, it’s a terrible and daunting thing to think that what started as a joke in my head can turn into a weapon once the words leave my mouth.

Everything can change in a moment.

The good news is that truth works both ways. In a blink, we can wound and tear down and diminish, yes, but we can also in the very next moment heal and build up and add to.

We can follow up a comment we shouldn’t have made . . .

  • “Why do you always?”
  • “I wish i’d never”
  • “You used to be . . .”

with one we should . . .

  • “I’m sorry.”
  • “Please forgive me.”

Looking back on our years together, I’m quick to remember all the times things went from zero to devastating in a matter of a few seconds or moments with foolish words. I do well, however, to also remember all the times things were made better by an apology, a hug, a quick and sincere admission of fear or doubt or anger or caffeine withdrawal (it’s a thing).

Everything can change in a moment.

Sometimes this truth hurts. Sometimes this is a heavy and hard reality of life together. But fear not, for just as quickly as a tear can fall, a smile can break, forgiveness can be sought, and forgiveness can be given. Hope can be reborn.

Love can live. Again.

Happy new year, from us to you.

– s.

Answers from Jen and Craig Ferguson: Pure Eyes, Clean Heart

We are pleased to introduce you to Jen and Craig Ferguson who recently wrote Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography. I first met Jen through the blogging world, and she has been kind and gracious to me ever since. I am excited about Jen and Craig’s book because I know the intent behind it is to help couples find hope, and Steven and I are all about sharing hope.

While pornography and sex addiction are a growing reality in our culture, the topic is uncomfortable for many to talk about. So, where can you turn for help if you need it? Jen and Craig have been there, and they have bared their souls about their difficult journey to help others realize they are not alone. I had the chance to ask them a few questions about their new book, so enjoy getting to know them before you check out Pure Eyes, Clean Heart.

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Jen, I feel like you’ve really chosen a tough subject to tackle in your first book. How did you and Craig find the courage to open up about such a personal struggle?

You know what’s interesting? I think I wrestled with God longer than Craig did when it came to deciding to write this book. It took me about ten minutes and it took Craig about five. Why? We just realized the amount of pain and shame we had worked through alone, and we didn’t want other people to experience that same journey. There are very few people willing to talk about porn – much less addiction – in the church. But hiding it all only gives more power to the shame, and subsequently, the enemy.

Did we have a time of anxiety about what people would think? Yes. But we both knew this was something God really wanted us to do. We had to let God’s voice speak more deeply and powerfully into our lives than the anxiety and worry.

Craig, are you afraid people will view you differently now, and did you worry about what others would think once they read your book?

I thought about that a lot as we were going through this process. I had the same questions you mention about how I would be perceived at work, church, among my friends, and by my family. It wasn’t a decision I entered into lightly. However, after prayer and reflection, I was left two choices. I could either give into fear and give up the idea of writing the book, or I could trust God and allow Him to work His will through me and the book. You can see which choice won out! I have a real peace about it now. I know that God wanted us to write this book. He wanted it to get published, and He will continue to be with us no matter what happens.

Jen and Craig, sex addiction is growing exponentially each year. Do you think there is hope, or do you think our culture is too far gone?

We believe that nothing is too big for God’s redeeming power. There is always hope, and we spell this out very clearly in the book because it’s spelled out very clearly in scripture, especially in Hebrews 6: 13-19.

Here’s a little excerpt from the book (pages 108-109).

“Our process of recovery is subject to human nature (i.e., sin). But God’s promise of hope is not. God’s character does not change based on our performance. This means that He will not change His mind about offering us hope. In fact, not only does He not change His mind, He has set it up so that He cannot. His perfect nature will not allow it. In Jeremiah 29:11–13, God says He knows the plans He has for His people, and He says, “… they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” In this passage, God is speaking to the Israelites who have been exiled from their land and held captive by a foreign king. God is promising them that despite their bleak situation and their lack of vision for how to get out of their current circumstances, He is going to bring them back home. Pornography is this foreign king holding your marriage captive, but God has plans to bring you back together to wholeness, for your home to be a place of safety. He gives you hope to hold onto until this deliverance becomes your reality.”

Jen, what would you say to the wife who is struggling alone right now even as she reads your words? What would you tell the person afraid to speak up about their secret struggles – whatever they may be?

Shame and fear will always fester in the dark. When we speak about our sin, we expose it to light, which means we expose it to Jesus (see John 8:12). In the book, we discuss why it’s important for both the husband and wife to be open with each other and be open with a safe group of people who will provide comfort, wisdom, and encouragement. The burden of pornography is too heavy to bear alone.

Craig, what would you say to the husband who feels trapped right now? How can you offer hope to the person who feels trapped in a cycle it seems impossible to break?

I would tell him first that he is not alone. Obviously, God is there and wants him to be healed. The first thing I would tell him is to pray. Jesus wants to heal us, but he won’t do it without our permission. Ask and receive.

Also, I would tell him that he is also surrounded by men who also struggle with pornography. We mention this in the book, but one of our greatest weapons against the enemy is the gift of speech. What gives pornography power is the inherent shame and secrecy that is associated with it. We need to talk about this. We need to bring it into the light and expose it.

Finally, I would encourage him to talk to his spouse. I would highly recommend that he be honest and open with his spouse. This is not a time to be timid! Be humble, open, loving, and patient. We have to allow others the time to grieve and allow them to help us.

Jen, can broken trust in marriage be mended?

Yes. It takes time, hard work, and a lot of surrender. When I first started confronting Craig with the porn issue, I spoke a lot in ultimatums like, “I’ll never be able to trust you again!” That then morphed into, “When you start following the rules, then I will trust you.” Finally, this turned to, “We’re both broken people who are trying to let God heal us. Let’s trust Jesus and see where we end up.” We need to remember that engaging with pornography is no worse than any other sin. As a society, we make a hierarchy for our sins, but in God’s eyes? A sin is a sin. It’s still separation from God. My attempt to control the situation was causing just as much separation from God as his porn use. I strapped on a label of “healer” that clearly was not my role. Once I was able to let go of control and let God lead this process, I was able to recognize where I could actually be helpful and not a hinderance.

Jen and Craig, why should readers pick up your book? How do you hope it will help them in their life journey?

In our book, there are no easy answers. There’s no quick fix. But what there is is hope. And two people willing to bare their souls and walk the path with them. We share how our relationship with Jesus is really the core of our healing as well as how the community around us is vital in keeping us healthy.

There’s also a lot of information – secular and theological – about topics every marriage faces: the intention and purpose of marriage, forgiveness, dealing with anger and control, and roles of each spouse. Even if your marriage isn’t threatened by porn, it might be threatened by another addiction. You can apply some of the same strategies we used to your own personal situation.

Thank  you so much for your time, Jen and Craig! If you’re interested in reading more from Jen and Craig, be sure to pick up Pure Eyes, Clean Heart. You can also take a look around Jen’s site, The Soli Deo Sisterhood, for tons of inspiration on everything from adoption to grieving.
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Jen Ferguson is a speaker and host of an online women’s community called Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood. Craig Ferguson is a manager at a consumer electronics corporation and the involved father of two little girls. Craig and Jen reside near Austin, Texas, where they are happily married and thankful for God’s ongoing work in their lives.

Bring the Noise(trade) …

 

Hey everybody. Just a few points of interest from us to you:

First, there have been some inquiries about a hardcover version of our book, and it’s coming. The process is a bit more involved than what’s required for an ebook, so bear with us. But it’s coming. Brace yourselves.

Second, our book is still totally and completely and wonderfully available for purchase over at Amazon. We’d love for you to go buy a copy, and then buy one for your friend, and then feel led to buy one for your pastor, and then have your pastor feel led to buy a copy for everybody in your church, and then have your local news do a story on how every marriage in your church – nay, your community! – has been saved, and then do a quick spot on Ellen and then have her give away a copy to everyone in her audience, and then have like 30 million people buy our book and then have people call it “the Harry Potter of marriage books” (though i don’t know what that would even mean) and then take the royalties from all that and go live at disney for a year…

But,  even more than all that, we would love it if you or someone you know (or someone you don’t know) could be helped a bit by reading about where we’ve been and how we got to where we are. And so to that end, we’ve put our book on Noisetrade, which means you can download it for free, and then point other people to do the same. [The site will ask you if you want to leave a tip, and if you do then great (God said for every $100 you give you’ll have ten extra years of good health.) (No, he didn’t.), but if not that’s totally fine, too.]

And last,

we just want to say that in a world where the tools for creative distribution are becoming more and more egalitarian, we know you’re asked to watch/read/comment/share something every 1.2 seconds. And we know that can get old. Thanks for being patient with us and allowing us to intrude upon your day for even a second or two, and in all things,

be well… – s.

Oh, and Here’s Why …

Lori and I wrote a book. If you’re reading this, you probably already knew that. In the week since it was published (as an ebook for now – softcover is in the works), she and I have talked a good bit about how to get the word out, how to increase sales, and how to heighten awareness – the whole bit. If you’re a part of our social media universe, then you’ve no doubt seen our attempts in this vein. We’ve tweeted and posted, and this weekend we even took some new pictures for our Facebook page. If being a gorgeous couple translates to book sales, our next stop is the New York Times.

lori & steven mcclure

What we haven’t really talked about – outwardly anyway –  is why we wrote the book in the first place. For me. that’s really the best part. Over the course of 17 years, if we’ve learned even one thing (and hopefully, if you read the book, you’ll believe that we actually learned 15 things), it’s that life together can be really, really, hard. We believe the things that matter most sometimes require the most work.

In short, as Lori put it, love is a fight. But it’s worth it.

What’s more, we truly believe there’s strength to be gained from sharing the ups and downs of our journeys one with another. Christians today love to talk about where we’re going but are all too often afraid to talk about where we’ve been. We celebrate the overcoming, but shy away from an honest look at what we’ve had to come through. All of this celebrate-the-victory-and-ignore-the-battle stuff can have an alienating and isolating effect. We begin to despair. Life can be hard, and with that realization sometimes comes hopelessness – especially when you believe you’re the only one who is struggling.

Trust me. You’re not.

We’d love for you to buy our book and read it. man, that would be awesome. But if you never do, that’s fine, too. Know this. Love is hard, but it’s worth it. And you’re not alone …

It’s Here: 15 Ways to Make Love Impossible

It’s here!!! It’s here!!! 15 Ways to Make Love Impossible is finally here.

And guess what? For the price of one of those fancy coffee drinks, you get to read all about our neuroses, which should leave you feeling pretty good about yourself.

Honestly, we’re having a lot of fun with all this. But you should know a couple of things before you dive in:

  1. We appreciate all the support. We didn’t expect so much of it to come pouring in, so thank you!
  2. A special thanks to those who read our words before they were a book and offered suggestions well over a year ago. You helped us chop and trim and make things better.
  3. You’re going to find mistakes. Since we self-published on a limited non-existent budget, we’ve done the best we could with what we have. We genuinely believe it was better to let the book go out into the world now rather than waiting for perfection. We’ve definitely learned a lot, and I’m sure we’ll find cringe-worthy errors along the way. Or you will. But we’re good with that.

And from Steven:

A couple more things you should know as you prepare to have Your. Entire. Life. Changed. Forever. And Ever.

  1. God wants you to buy our book, and buy a copy for everybody in your prayer circle/growth group/accountability circle. Today. (That’s not true.)
  2. What is true is that Lori and I believe we’ve been called to share a bit of our journey together with you, whoever you may be — not because our journey is better than yours or because it’s funny or awesome or, heaven forbid, because it’s Christian. Simply because, at least at some point along the way, our journey may look like yours. By God’s grace, perhaps you can learn from our mistakes or be comforted in shared failures or find hope that the difficult times don’t have to be the end of the story.

We’re not called to compare our lives but to share them and find strength and hope in the sharing.

15 Ways to Make Love Impossible
15 Ways to Make Love Impossible

(click on the title below to see our book baby on Amazon)

15 Ways to Make Love Impossible

Thanks again, everyone!

We appreciate you all!

Sneak Peek at 15 Ways to Make Love Impossible

Our book is almost ready. Here’s a sneak peek at the cover …

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And here’s a little excerpt for you …

Introduction

“Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present to live better in the future.”

~ William Wordsworth ~

I met him in Dr. Riggins’ Educational Psychology class in my junior year at Lee College. I noticed him, but then I kind of forgot him. I remembered him again when several girlfriends and I brainstormed date possibilities for each other, but I chose him for someone else.

Test time rolled around, and I needed help. Steven’s smiling face popped into my head, so I called him.

“Is Steven there?”

“Who’s this?”

“Just a friend from class.” Awkward pause and then, “Can I speak to him?”

“Yeah, hang on.” I heard muffled talking and teasing, and then he spoke.

“This is Steven.” His friendly voice warmed my insides and calmed me in a moment. We chatted about tests and notes and class for about a minute and a half. I thanked him, hung up, and didn’t think of him again until he called me several weeks later.

“Hello?”

“Is Lori there?”

“This is Lori.”

“It’s Steven … from class. Do you remember me?”

“I remember you.” My stomach dropped a little as I wiped down counters in the dirty kitchen I’d decided to clean while my roommates all enjoyed more exciting Friday night plans.

“Do you like basketball?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Do you want to go to a Hawks game with me?”

“When?”

“Now.”

“Now?”

“Yeah, now.”

“I’m a mess.”

“Are you dressed?”

“Yes.”

“Then you look great.”

How could I say no? We’d only talked for a few seconds, and still, he surprised me. He stood out like a splash of color in my gray world. He did take me to a Hawks game (along with a crew of kids from the Boys and Girls Club we chaperoned), and we discovered each other that night in a noisy stadium filled with cheers and bright lights.

Every stolen glance, every half-smile, and every word batted back and forth sealed the deal; the search for love ended in Atlanta. We’d found each other. Strange and comforting and wonderfully odd all in a moment – to have the question answered instantly. We matched, and every corny, hokey, romantic cliché made sense. In each other, we’d found home. We belonged together, and I’d never belonged to anyone.

A few weeks later, as we danced in a wet drizzle under night skies, he asked me in between rain-dropped kisses to marry him. I said, yes. That was the romantic proposal with no one around, the one I kept secret from the rest of the world because they’d find our love crazy.

We danced to music only we could hear because we lived in a world only we could see. Love has a way of isolating in the most beautiful kind of bubble. Not a lot can beat the beginning of love in all its passion and purity.

Later, there was a public proposal surrounded by my college choir complete with live piano music. I said, yes, again to the backdrop of echoed, girly awws. I nodded and leaned into his arms, the safest place I’d ever landed. A few months later, we were man and wife.

This is often where the story ends and the happily-ever-after music cued to make us believe forever happens with peace, love, harmony, and perpetually smiling faces.

It doesn’t.

I’m not saying love is impossible or fleeting or unattainable. Quite the opposite. Love is real and wonderful and absolutely possible. However, love requires a significant amount of fight on behalf of its participants. If you’re not willing to battle for it, I’d suggest you skip the obligatory hoopla where you spend thousands of dollars on a wedding, and go straight for the parting of ways. Grab a spoon and some ice cream, and get yourself a few good friends to travel through life with. Don’t go the love route if you’re not ready to fight.

I found my one true love in the parking lot of the Boys and Girls Club in Cleveland, TN. I found him, and I still tried to kill the love he brought. I tried to dodge it again and again and again until I realized it was real; the bottom wasn’t going to drop out. He was the love, and he wouldn’t be stopped. He couldn’t be stopped.

So, if you’ve found your love, may I suggest you learn from my attempts to kill it? Do the opposite of what I did. Perhaps I can save you a few headaches, heartaches, and tears along the way.

Here’s to the messiness of letting your love live because giving love and getting love? It’s not impossible. It just feels like it sometimes.

Steven’s Side

I remember everything happening in pretty much the same way except there was a party at a friend’s house in between the first phone call and the basketball game invite. From that night, I remember her dress, and more to the point, how good she looked in it. She was cold, so I offered her my jacket. First, because my dad taught me to, and second, because some other guy’s dad might’ve taught him the same thing, and I sure as hell didn’t want her to wear his jacket.

The night of the basketball game sits in my memory as a series of snapshots, vignettes, and moments stuck in time — moments burned into my brain and heart and soul. I remember the second when I knew. I knew I had finally found a heart to call home — a safe place to fall — as Dr. Phil is fond of saying.

I walked out to the parking lot to meet her as she arrived, and she came striding around the Club van. I saw her face, and I was born again. She smiled this odd sort of embarrassed smile. What did she have to be embarrassed about? Then, she dipped her head down slightly. I’m pretty sure I lost consciousness for 30 seconds or so. She was and is the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen, the kind of pretty that immediately makes you realize you’re overweight and your nose is disproportionately round on your face.

I remember the van ride to the game, how I kept telling her who sang every song on the radio, unable to control my strange compulsion. I remember taking kids to the bathroom at the game, looking back up at her in her seat, and smiling, dreaming, floating. I remember talking about getting tattoos on the way home from the game, and I remember thinking about her getting tattoos and places on her body where she should get tattoos. And then I remember thinking it would be wise to save those thoughts for a time when I wasn’t responsible for the lives of 12 fifth graders.

In quick succession it all happened: confessions of love, a proposal, a marriage, a (sort of) honeymoon, and life together in married housing at school.

It’s important for me to be clear on this one matter. At different times through the years, both of us have been difficult to love. Wittingly or, much more likely, unwittingly, we have behaved in ways which were deleterious to our love. Suffice to say, as she did so well, love is a fight — a real and raw and ravaging battle. It is, however, worth it.

Worth it in every way.


Hello, Again . . . Again.

Once upon a time, we wrote a book. We submitted it to a contest, which led to an awkward meeting with an agent, which led to a decision not to pursue traditional publishing.

We’re not interested in trying to sell people on our message. We’re not worried about making ourselves into a brand.

All we want is to tell our story.

Now, we’re doing things our way. We’re self-publishing and excited to get our little project out into the world. And if only five people read it? We’ll still be happy.

For real.

Our book, 15 Ways to Make Love Impossible, is coming soon. Here’s a re-introduction since it’s been awhile.

Remember us?

 

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