One Guiding Story that will Impact the Story of Your Marriage

One Guiding Question that Will Impact the Story of Your Marriage

My parents and my husband Calvin’s parents met for the first time over a lobster dinner, two nights before our May 12 wedding. That was thirty-two years ago, but I still remember my apprehension. Our two worlds were colliding there at my mother-in-law’s sprawling dining room table.

If you had asked me then, I’d have had plenty to say about marriage. At twenty-seven, I’d seen enough terrible marriages to have inspired a holy fear of “doing it wrong,” sentencing both of us to a life of joint misery. As a single woman, I had done extensive “field research”–even though I had never really expected to be married.

What Story Do You Want to Be Able to Tell?

Many years later, the cross-country road trip we took with four kids, a mini-van, and a big tent would furnish one crucial guiding principle for a successful marriage. About a third of the way across the country, weary of feuding brothers in close quarters, we were ready to throw in the towel and come home. One thought sent us westward with renewed resolve: What story did we want to be able to tell about this trip when it was all over?

Did we want to remember the trip as an abandoned dream? As it happened, we actually made it! We put up with each other, we saw a lot of beauty together, and now, our roadtrip becomes a better memory every year.

I’m thankful that it’s a memory of persevering with one another in hope rather than giving up and embracing failure. And so the question emerged, and it’s still with me: What story do you want to be able to tell?

Of course, at that time I had not formulated any guiding questions. I was fully immersed in the crisis of the moment. And certainly, the principle was no where to be found in the mind of that up-tight bride the day we recited the vows that made us “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7).

Decide Today!

Marriage is a gift I had neither the optimism nor the good sense to pray for, but thirty-two years into the project, I’m still asking myself the same guiding question: What story do you want to be able to tell?

I’ll offer it to you now in the form of some very specific goals:

Do you want to hold the trust of your husband’s heart? Decide today that you will not berate him, talk down to him, complain about him, or betray his confidence. Treat your husband as if he were your “neighbor” as Jesus defined the term in the Gospels.

Do you want true intimacy with your husband? Establish a climate of total honesty with no secrets or shady behavior. Pray together.

Do you want to have an easy rapport with your husband after the kids have moved out? Start today by having open conversations during which you both talk and listen. If there’s a complaint or correction on your tongue, ask yourself if it really deserves airtime. Bend over backwards to find common interests and shared passions–even if it means someone has to learn a new hobby or skill.

Daily Grace for Your Marriage

As “heirs together of the grace of life,” you are both recipients of the very thing that will lubricate the relational gears that make life together possible. Here on this country hill, grace continues to facilitate the merger of two very different people who came to marriage from two very different backgrounds. So I’ll continue to ask the question: What story do I want to be able to tell?

And then I’ll look even further ahead and ask: What story do I want my kids and grandkids to be able to tell about our marriage? When their marriages hit a rough spot, I want them to remember that we persevered through financial pressures, health challenges, family crises, and the sandpaper of every day life. I want them to remember that we loved one another well, that we have been a united front and a refuge for them.

As we celebrate thirty-two years together next week, what advice do you have for us?
What goals do you have for your own marriage and what seems to be working well for you?

I think it’s worth saying here that marriage is nothing like what I expected it to be.
It’s infinitely better.

Marriage is a gift I had neither the optimism nor the good sense to pray for, but thirty-two years into the project, I’m still asking myself the same guiding question: What story do you want to be able to tell?

And Now Let’s Talk Books…


I’ve never had a big brother, but if the role were subject to referendum, I’d vote for Bob Goff in a heartbeat. The truth is that I have purposely avoided Goff’s work until now, having consigned it to a genre I’ve named “perky self-help books.” It wasn’t until I heard him interviewed on the Welcome Heart podcast that I realized I might be missing out on a good thing.

One glorious discovery from Undistracted is that it’s not only NetFlix or the daily Wordle that’s stealing our attention from what’s important. A distraction is anything that keeps me from doing what I was meant to do–to “live a life loaded with legacy.”

I was delighted with Goff’s suggestion that I could actually “dazzle God” somehow with my little life, and I thought, “He’s right!” God is dazzled when his children “open the unique gift God wrapped” in us; when we “stop thinking we need a different ticket from the one [we’ve] already got”; when we “find the work he has given [us] and do it until the job is done.”

Perhaps the biggest gift from Bob Goff’s story is that he knows when to quit, and he’s not afraid to do it. He left behind a successful law practice to pursue his passion for encouraging people. When he became a grandfather, he cancelled seventy-two speaking engagements because he didn’t want to miss a moment with those priceless grandkids. This feels so affirming to my own personal choice to work as a substitute teacher instead of getting a “real job”– just so that I can be available to my kids and grandkids.

Perhaps most important for the evangelical community of my heart is this: “Most disagreeable people out there don’t think they are mean. They think they are right.” Whether or not you already have a big brother, you will benefit from Bob Goff’s warm counsel and engaging stories.

Holding You in the Light,

It’s not only NetFlix or the daily Wordle that’s stealing our attention from what’s important. A distraction is anything that keeps me from “living a life loaded with legacy.” @bobgoff #Undistracted via @ThomasNelson

A New Free Resource…

Curiosity has been my strange companion since my recent diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease, so I’ve created a resource to invite you into curiosity along with me! God is not some grumpy parent, silencing his children and condemning our questions. 

This line of thinking sent me on a biblical scavenger hunt for questions posed by the Bible’s authors. What were they asking and how should this affect the questions I’m asking and the way my curiosity is framed?

To receive your copy of “Half a Dozen Biblical Questions for Entering (and Enduring) Hard Times” simply enter your email and then click on the button below…

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Many thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.

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53 thoughts on “One Guiding Question that Will Impact the Story of Your Marriage”

  1. Happy Anniversary, you did good! 🙂 And I might add Happy Mother’s Day!
    My hubs and I have had an ongoing joke between us. He says, I am the best! And then I reply “So Far!” Turns out the best glue to keep a marriage together is a sense of humor. 🙂

    I wrote a song for our 35th

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh…
      So beautiful, and just perfect really. My favorite line is the one about having a history together.
      You have a sweet singing voice. And apparently no end to the creative things you can do. No wonder those grandkids of yours are so above average…


  2. That’s an excellent question to guide our decisions in “those” moments–What story do we want to be able to tell about this? How do we want it remembered? Thanks for sharing that.

    We’re 10 years ahead of you, but I can’t say we’ve developed any overall guiding questions–at least not that I can think of. Well, one comes to mind now. When I get irritated about something he’s done, I try to turn that around and ask myself how I would want him to handle it if I had irritated him. He very rarely reacts to such things in a negative way, and that’s usually when he is under pressure from other sources.

    I’ve had a similar feeling to yours before reading Goff. I’ve not read him yet. Maybe someday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I feel so validated in my Goff prejudice! Maybe it was the balloons all over one of this books. It was a great gift to be WRONG!

      And I really like your thought process in dealing with the minor scuffs. Overlooking an irritation seems to be the big assignment in these years past the midpoint!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations to you both, Michele! In our now 38 years together, I’m not sure Jim and I have had a guiding question…but somehow looking back I see the script that’s been written far exceeds anything I might have imagined. God has given us more than we knew we needed in giving us each other. And I think I grow more grateful with every age and stage that comes. In staying committed through thick and thin when the feelings ebb and flow we give our children a rare and precious base for their own marriages. This has been a big piece of the conviction that has held us together, as we’ve seen in played out in our own parents’ long committed though imperfect marriages….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great point, and really, who doesn’t live within an “imperfect” marriage? I become more grateful every year for our marriage, for my husband’s long suffering, and the history that has formed us TOGETHER.
      Wow, 38 years is a great accomplishment!


  4. Happy Anniversary! This is a great question. I’m divorced, but thoughts fill my head of if I knew then what I know now, or I should say who I know now. I regret being a lukewarm Christian back then. I didn’t seek him in the every day then like I do now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Happy Anniversary to you both! We hope you have a wonderful day. I love the sentiment behind ‘what story do you want to be able to tell?’ It’s a fantastic one to apply to all sorts of situations 🙂 Thank you for joining us for the #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Michele, such a beautiful and practical post. My hubby and I are married 34 years in July. But we are always in need of more grace, more patience, more Godly advice, more more more, in order to continue on and grow. Great post. I’d love for you to pop over to my new blog. Yes, I am blogging again. 🙂 I’m visiting today from Joanne’s bloghop. Great to connect again (although we are friends on fb 🙂 )
    God bless
    Tracy (

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think that is such a helpful guiding question for many situations. I heard a talk many years ago that spoke about that in relation to David hiding in the cave from King Saul and choosing not to kill him: what story did he want to tell about how he became king? Considering that question prompted me to make a difficult choice and I’m very glad to look back on the story I’m able to tell as a result.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. extensive “field research”?!

    You’ve got the best combination of deep biblical wisdom, practical know-how, and that wonderful wry humor, friend. I always learn much at your feet.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Happy anniversary! Marriage is wonderful but also a huge responsibility so you should always be absolutely sure and think about the future as well as the present. Thanks for linking up with #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Having a focus for marriage and family really is important. I enjoyed reading about your experience.

    Featuring you this week!

    Ridge Haven Homestead

    Liked by 1 person

  11. From a writing standpoint, loved “will lubricate the relational gears” and “the sandpaper of every day life.” Beautifully written and so glad you are digging down, perseving through the rough spots and sharing the deeper joys of living your days together as husband and wife.


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