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lori & steven mcclure

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Grace for Me and You

I am not who I once was. Neither are you.
And guess what?

You won’t be who are now in five years either.

We’re all growing and changing and learning and adding and subtracting from our lives every day. We pick up things we think are a better fit, and we discard things that used to fit but have grown snug and maybe a little itchy.

Life isn’t static.

Just like your favorite pair of jeans will inevitably become unwearable, some of your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs might become unlivable. And while that used to scare me, I now find it refreshing.

This is the point at which I apologize to my former youth pastor for looking past my self-righteousness masked as righteous indignation. There’s a special place for youth pastors who let teens work out their idealistic and misguided notions in real time. I thank you, Greg Linkous, for your unending patience. You put up with a lot of nonsense!

I’ve been thinking about writing and social media and how it’s extremely difficult for me to live out my writing life at times because I’m not who I once was. And for some, this is unsettling. They don’t like that I’ve done some rearranging.

In the early years, I lived for a hot debate about anything. Give me some room to breathe, and I could go back and forth with anyone of any age for any length of time battling out philosophy and religion and ethics. I ate it up.

But over the years, and along with the advent of social media, I lost much of my (well-meaning but misguided) spunk as opinions became weapons and misunderstandings became wounds. At the end of the day, none of it felt worthy of time and energy anymore. I began to recoil into myself, to enjoy anonymity and safety in the very few who knew me well enough not to discard me and our friendship if (and when) our thoughts differed.

Because isn’t that the problem? Our ideas and opinions and ideologies have become little more than reasons to divide instead of reasons to come together. We don’t engage in conversation to find middle ground and commonality. We engage in conversation simply to be heard and rarely to listen. We no longer want to grow. We just want to win.

And what good is any of that?

Here’s the problem. It’s the extremes we need to run from. There is healing in the balance — that beautiful balance of speaking and listening instead of always speaking or always listening. Behind every opinion is a human being who carries pain and passion just like you.

As I see it now, I have two choices:

  1. Retreat because I don’t want to deal with other people.
  2. Choose to try and live out the hard life of balance.

If I’m being honest, I retreat more than not these days because I don’t want to divide. I don’t want to alienate. I don’t want to defend what doesn’t need defending or berate when I should embrace. I don’t want to do any of the behaviors that build walls instead of tearing them down.

So, I’m trying. I am. I’m trying to push fear aside and speak when necessary and hold my tongue when it’s not. But I can guarantee you one thing; I will get it wrong.

When I do, will you pause before pouncing? Will you stop and remember that you once thought things you no longer think? Will you remember that we are all works in progress? Will you remember that we must act out of love more and condemnation less? Will you walk with me through this difficult world in which divisions are beginning to define us more than anything else?

I want to do the hard work, but you know what? It’s hard. It’s really hard. And I sometimes don’t want to do it.

But we must.

This is what I long for:

 

“There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.” –Brennan Manning

I promise to have grace for you, and I hope you can find some grace for me, too.

10 Date Night Ideas that Won’t Stress You or Your Bank Account

It’s that time again. Love Day: more commonly referred to as Valentine’s Day.

We’ve not been silent about the fact that we don’t often celebrate Valentine’s Day. Oops. However, we do celebrate our love every chance we get. It’s better that way for us. And while we’d recommend not putting off the expression of your love until another holiday comes around, we’d be silly to completely disregard a holiday known for love declaration.

In honor of Love Day, we thought we’d give your creativity a jumpstart. Looking for ideas? We’ve got a few to get you moving in the right direction.

May we present you with a handy-dandy PDF entitled . . .

10 Date Night Ideas that Won’t Stress You or Your Bank Account.

(Scroll down to get your freebie.)

While these may not be the most earth-shattering ideas, they can definitely be a good springboard for those of you who would be perfectly content to make the same plans with your significant other over and over and over (and over and over and over…!) again.

I get it. I really do.

But it never hurts to try something new, so make some plans.

Go on, now!

And don’t forget to come back, and tell us all about it.

Happy Love Day friends!

Happy, Happy Love Day!

Don’t forget to grab your freebie here =>> Date Night Ideas PDF

Is Selfishness Creeping into Your Relationship?

The Greed of SelfishnessIn a world where entitlement rages, it’s no wonder selfishness creeps into many areas of our lives. While we’ve all heard stories of entitlement in the workplace, we do well to remember that our personal lives are no less exempt from the struggle of serving self. If we’re assuming life should be easy all the time, rainbows greeting us at every turn, we’re sure to be disappointed. Relationships require work — work our selfish selves may be less than excited to do.

Selfishness at its core is the antithesis of generosity — a cornerstone component of any healthy relationship. Unselfish people look for ways to make other’s lives better, richer, and fuller — not smaller. Unselfish people seek to share life with their partners instead of forcing their relationships to suit personal desires alone.

What are Some Examples of Selfish Behavior in Relationships?

  1. Do you exclude your partner from decision-making? If so, explore the reason behind your unwillingness to share in life decisions. As uncomfortable as it is to admit, control could be the cause. Once you choose to enter a partnership with another person, you give up the right to act independently of one another. You’re free to let the world revolve around you, but don’t be surprised if you end up alone by refusing to let your partner share in decision-making that affects both of your lives.
  2. Do you consistently make plans that cater to your own wants and desires? When is the last time you planned a night specifically for your partner? A healthy relationship is one that allows for both of you to explore common and uncommon tastes and interests. Open your mind, and embrace change. You might even have fun along the way.
  3. Do you constantly seek to mold your relationship in your own image, or are you open to changing and learning from your spouse? Thriving relationships require give and take from both partners. If you find yourself continually seeking to change the behavior of those in your life, there’s a good chance you’re frustrating everyone around you — including your spouse. Take an honest look at your actions. Do you always push change on others while you stay the same?
  4. Do you keep secrets? Secrets big and small can damage a relationship. Secrets about spending, plans, emails, mistakes, etc., will eventually bleed a relationship of all health. One secret is too many. Tell it all. If you’re harboring secrets it’s time to do some serious searching within yourself. What are you afraid to tell? Why are you hiding?

A healthy relationship is a generous relationship, which includes:

  • Giving
  • Sharing
  • Compromise
  • Flexibility
  • Selflessness (Hint: birthdays and Christmas are only a start)

Where do you go from here? It’s time to talk about it, and here’s some inspiration to get you started.

Conversation Starters for Problem Areas:

  1. When you make decisions without consulting me, I feel devalued and unimportant. I need to feel like my voice is heard in our relationship, and when you don’t talk to me before making decisions, I feel powerless and frustrated. I don’t want to feel like I’m being controlled. I want to feel like I’m in a partnership.
  2. When you make plans without considering my interests and desires, I feel unimportant to you. I need to feel valued, seen, and heard in our relationship. I would love to share some of my favorite places and interests with you, so we can be more connected.
  3. When you try to change who I am, it makes me feel like you don’t love me for who I am. I believe it’s important to grow and change for both of us — not just me. I’d love to learn how to grow and change together instead of feeling like I’m your side project.
  4. When you keep secrets from me, it makes me feel unsafe. I have a hard time trusting you when you keep even small secrets from me. Why do you feel like you can’t share your life with me? How can we stop this behavior from damaging our relationship? Are you willing to stop keeping secrets?

Relationships built on selfishness may not be doomed to fail, but neither are they destined to flourish. Do the hard work of truly sharing your lives together. Is it easy? No. All the best parts of our lives require work — no matter what the internet says.

But is it worth it? Yes.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3

When Life is Stuck in the Valley and Your Relationship Feels Distant

Life is a mix of valleys and mountaintops.

Life is gut-wrenching one minute and exhilarating the next.

You’re on top of it all — unstoppable and unbreakable, and suddenly, you’re on a merry-go-round that won’t stop, holding on for dear life as the winds of life push faster and faster.

Life is hard — even cruel — sometimes.

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Since 2012, we’ve experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows as a family. Both of our children have experienced serious struggles both physically and emotionally since our move to the Cincinnati area. Every parent knows the sting of helplessness, watching a child struggle with no ability to make it better. It’s awful.

We’ve sat and cried with our children over long-term illness and emotional stress that’s taken its toll physically as well. We’ve prayed and talked and gone to the appropriate professionals as needed, but the truth is the road for both of my children has been long and winding and a little dark at times with no quick fixes to be found.

Why am I telling you this? Because I know we’re not the only ones who’ve experienced hardship. We’ve watched friends and family experience loss in many forms: death, divorce, unemployment, etc.

Life is a mix of valleys and mountaintops, and the whiplash of disparate experiences can take a toll on your relationship.

When your personal merry-go-round spins faster and won’t let you off, one of two things can happen to your relationships:

  1. You and your partner grow closer together.
  2. You and your partner grow farther apart.

Steven and I have been really tired at times throughout our family struggles. We haven’t always agreed on the proper course of action to take with our children. We’ve had some hard conversations, and it’s tempting to pull away when we’re scared and hurt and tired.

But we have also done the hard work of not giving up — which is sometimes a daily choice — of reaching for one another in the darkness.

Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a walk together when we’d rather zone out in front of the TV. Other times, it means we binge-watch to give ourselves a break from the stress of life.

Sometimes it’s speaking truth to the other’s fears, so we can snap ourselves out of the haze of deception. Other times, it’s watching Brian Reagan with the whole family to remind ourselves that fear is a bully and laughter can exist even when we’re walking through the valleys.

Maybe it means listening to the advice of friends and family or completely ignoring it.

When the storms come, fight to stay present. Don’t check out. Remember feelings can’t be trusted.

The same choppy waters you’re navigating will turn placid again, but if you jump out of the boat? You’ll be alone with nothing but a lonely swim to shore waiting.

Fight through the fear. Reach for your loved one when they disappear into the darkness. Reach with love and understanding instead of judgment and criticism. Put yourself in each other’s shoes and empathize.

The storms never last forever. Do everything you can to hold on to each while the thunder claps and the lightning flashes because it will pass, and you don’t want to be standing alone when the sun shines again.

What to Do:

The darkness of life won't last forever.When you’re afraid and defensive, take a deep breath before you speak. You might find that a hug accomplishes far more than a speech about your feelings. A simple I love you might accomplish more than another worn out diatribe.  

Listen and keep connecting even in small ways. Take a walk. Watch the sunset or sunrise, and remember that every season passes. Even droughts come to an eventual end.

Isaiah 43: 1-4 (MSG)

But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.

Cheering for the One You Love

This is me.

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This is also me.

fearless

This post is kind of about me, but it’s also about you and the one you love.

This childhood picture of me tells a story. The details behind that story aren’t essential, but their significance matters to me, and Steven knows it. He has listened to me talk about what this picture means, what it used to mean, and what it means for me now.

One thing I love most about Steven is that he never dismisses me. Ever. So when I show him childhood pictures of me and tell him what I believe God is showing me about myself both then and now, he gets excited with me instead of assuming I’m one small step away from traveling the world with this guy. (No offense, Jesus Man.)

 A Smily Guy Cheering for Jesus

In short, he cheers me on, and here’s an example of how he cheers me on.

Not long ago, he surprised me with a gift that signified all I’d been telling him about myself — about how I needed to shed parts of me that were broken and afraid and holding me back.

We’d been having conversations about how I let life change who I was in that childhood picture — a girl unafraid and barefoot who embraced life and loved every minute of it. The girl in that picture was full of excitement for each new day. She couldn’t wait to get outside and climb a tree or scale a jungle gym. She caught caterpillars and fireflies and roller-skated down neighborhood streets.

That was me.

I once lived to discover the possibility hiding in each day with a passion I’d since lost.

Maybe you can relate.

As life happened, I experienced tough times, and a heaviness crept close that I couldn’t shake. My heaviness became a dysfunctional best friend with whom it was time to part ways. I could feel God leading me back to my true self, back to that unafraid girl who was ready to take on the next challenge.

So, Steven came home from work one day, and he gave me this.

Sometimes cheering looks like this.

And, I cried.

I cried because he took all my words and listened to them. He heard me, and he took the time show me that he heard me. He found someone (Thank you, Chase Velarde!) capable of creating a visual inspiration to cheer me on my journey toward wholeness.

What did this picture say to me?

  • “I hear you.”
  • “I believe in you.”
  • “I’m cheering for you.”

So, while my husband IS amazing, and I don’t mind shouting about his amazingness to the world, I am sharing this with the hope of inspiring you to be amazing to the one you love, too.

  • We CAN create these moments for each other.
  • We CAN listen to each other.
  • We CAN inspire hope and cheer each other on as we journey through life together.

SO, What Now? 

Start here:

Listen to the one you walk through life with. Find ways to express your attention. Show your excitement. Believe in each other. Cheer for each other. Love each other.

And do it well.

Reflection:

Think about conversations you’ve had with your spouse.

  • What has he or she been saying?
  • What has he or she been feeling?
  • What does he or she need?
  • How can you support him or her?

Now do something.

Anything.

The important thing is to impart empathy and affection and connection. The goal is to express:

  • You are present.
  • You are listening.
  • You care.

Ready? Go, and try it out!

*Be sure to come back and share how you found a way to cheer your partner on. We’d love to hear all about it.

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.

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.

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!

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