Gary and Beth have been married for 27 years and have three sons—the youngest of whom just left to for his first semester of college this fall—so they are almost empty-nesters! They live in Edwardsville, Illinois about 30 minutes from downtown St. Louis, Missouri where Gary is the Pastor of Care and Recovery at their church. Beth works as a certified life-coach with hoperenewedcoach.net and blogs over at messymarriage.com where you can occasionally catch a post by Gary as well.
How did you first meet?
At college – I (Beth) saw Gary around campus and thought he was cute, but didn’t have the nerve to go up and talk to him. After a while my friends started a running joke about my crush on Gary and how they would help me “capture his heart.” They dubbed these efforts “Operation G.” My friends even bought me a t-shirt with “Operation G” on the back for Christmas that semester! “G” was eventually tipped off and did ask me out—although given my Stud-Stalker ways—it’s a wonder he ever did!
What was your first date and what encouraged you to keep dating?
We went for dinner and as we began to get to know one another, it became apparent that we had a lot of the same convictions and relationship desires. I think that drew us forward, wanting to explore our shared passions and beliefs together.
What was your most meaningful date and what made it so meaningful?
It was probably one that I planned for Gary several years ago. I started out by giving him clues that would lead him to certain places around town. Each place had some kind of connection to a special memory for the two of us. Once we’d make it to our next location I would reveal the significance of that spot (if it wasn’t already apparent). Then we’d take a moment to talk about that memory or do something like look at a photo album with pictures of that particular time, etc. On our final stop, I read Gary a letter that summed up my feelings for him, our marriage and the memories we’d reminisced about that day. It was a great day and great way to celebrate the many memorable moments we’d shared over the years.
How do people describe you as a couple?
We are a couple known for our transparency and willingness to reveal any momentary messiness in our lives and marriage—sharing gladly about how God has redeemed those messes in our marriage. We’re also known as a couple that takes an entire day each week to be together, topping the evening off with a date. In fact, we are envied by our friends for the consistent commitment to dating we’ve had over the years.
What’s one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a couple and how has that challenge affected your marriage?
We started a mission church early in our marriage when we were in the thick of our “messy marriage years” which translated into “messy ministry years” as well! Through the years, we’ve remained in the ministry (just not as church planters). And we believe God has used the challenges that come with the territory of ministry to forge a stronger bond between us, than if we’d coasted down the marriage highway. It’s like ministry either breaks you or refines you as a couple.
How would you encourage other couples that may be facing this challenge?
We have such a huge heart for couples in ministry who also have messy marriages. We know the pressures to be “perfect” or to at least appear “perfect.” But we’d encourage ministry couples to chuck “the pedestal” and pedal as fast at they can to a good, godly counselor. Once they get there, they must not be afraid to be vulnerable, humble and proactive with each other—building this all on the foundation of Christ’s love and truth.
What are some of the best marriage resources that have helped you build a better marriage?
Wow! There are so many! First of all, the Bible has been the foundational book we look to for marriage guidance. Beyond that, I’d say a few that we’ve really appreciated are: Boundaries in Marriage, Emotional Fitness, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Doug Weiss’ Intimacy, How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong, just to name a few.
Tell us about an “Aha!” moment that you have had in your marriage and how that has helped you become a better spouse.
Beth’s perspective – I remember my husband looking at me after the umpteenth time I’d gotten upset with him, (usually about something minor) and asking me, “Beth, why are you always so angry with me?” I’m sure he’d asked me that before, but for some reason God would not let me ignore or deny it on that day. I realized I had a responsibility to be a loving wife and not just wait around on Gary to be the loving husband.
Gary’s perspective – It was when we utilized the Scazzero’s “Ladder of Integrity” to process a hurt that Beth had experienced recently. The reflective listening component really helped me to not feel compelled to immediately state my case while Beth shared her feelings. It was like it got me out of my “own story” and more fully into her’s—giving me the ability to offer Beth the empathy she deserved.
When you think about your future together, what are you most excited about?
We hope to do more marriage-related ministries together. Thankfully, God has been opening doors for this over the past few years and it’s been so gratifying to as well as unifying for us. Who knew that God could take us from a “messy marriage” to a “meaningful marriage and ministry”—redeemed from those very same messes?!
What is your idea of the ideal date?
It would have to involve good food for sure! We also love to do relaxing and fun things like taking photos as we explore through our camera lenses a beach, a hiking trail, a small town or big city, etc. Another treat is getting to go for a weekend away with our longtime friends, Kelly and Nickie, who are a couple that we always have a blast with!
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