Seth & Kathlyn Wade

Wade-1Understanding the meaning of “Covenant Marriage” as opposed to looking at marriage as a legal contract has really helped our marriage become stronger, even through some of life’s tough circumstances.

We met Phil and Cindy Waugh in the spring of 2007 as two college students, getting ready to graduate. We were newly engaged and excited about beginning our life together. We had known each other since high school and we had a peace from God that we were ready to step out in faith and unite together as husband and wife.

Unfortunately, we had several obstacles that became a huge distraction from what should have been a very joyous time in our lives.

We are so grateful for the Covenant Marriage Movement and for Phil and Cindy Waugh and their prayers, words of encouragement, and Biblical guidance. Looking back at that time in our lives, we don’t know what we would have done had it not been for them!

We had a difficult family situation that left us feeling abandoned, betrayed, confused, and under Satan’s attack. We had prayed over our relationship and had asked for God to direct us in our paths and we had full faith that He was leading us to be married, but when opposition came our way, our minds became overwhelmed with fear and confusion.

Right when we felt as though things couldn’t get any worse, the Lord led us to the Waugh’s and The Covenant Marriage Movement. Through weekly counseling, we were able to sort through our confusion, spend time with the Lord, and clear our minds so that we could hear God’s truth through all the noise.

I am beyond happy to say that we recently celebrated five years of marriage. Over the past five years, we have joined the military, moved five times, added two wonderful children to our family, and made it through a deployment, and all the while God has been faithful. We look at our marriage as a gift from God. Our union is so much more than the piece of legal paper that states we are married. We prayed over our marriage and we have prayed daily that God would give us the wisdom and love to keep our covenant sacred before Him.Wade-2

We do not take our marriage lightly. We are military, and military has an even higher rate of divorce than the civilian world. Sadly, we have watched many couples separate and divorce. It’s the world we live in, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We have been through rough times in our relationship, but our commitment to God and our covenant to Him and to each other, through thick and thin, good times and bad, has been strong enough to overcome the darts Satan loves to throw in the path of married couples.

The Covenant Marriage Movement has been a blessing in our lives. It has helped us to stay the course. We look back at the Godly counsel we received from the Waugh’s and we are so blessed that God placed them in our lives, at the exact moment we needed them the most. Their ministry has been a huge blessing to our marriage and our family and has helped us to treat our marriage as the sacred covenant God intended it to be.

Bethany & Nathan Gaddis

Gaddis-2It is commonly said that hindsight is 20/20, meaning after you get through something you can more clearly see the reasons why it happened in the first place. But it’s important to add that knowing the ‘why’ behind a particular situation doesn’t reduce the hurt you experience or remove the scars you receive in the midst of it. Even still, having a purpose for that pain is one of God’s most gracious gifts to us.

Our relationship began like so many others, as college students. Nathan pursued me with great fervor and charm while I was very cautious and skeptical of his affection. It became clear to me that he was indeed the man God had ordained for me to marry so I threw caution to the wind and let my heart dive in completely. Our perfect romance lasted for about 6 months before we broke up, only to be rejoined again 2 years later. We remained friends during the interim but it was a difficult season because Nathan was dating while I was waiting. When we did prayerfully start seeing each other again, our relationship was on a one-way track toward marriage. During that time we sought pre-marital counseling with Phil and Cindy Waugh of the Covenant Marriage Movement. They walked us through the art of communication, the pitfalls of unrealistic expectations and even helped us deal with some of the skeletons in our closets. I came from a divorced home and I was a young Christian at the time so I was determined to do this marriage thing the right way! Needless to say it was a tremendous resource to us during that developmental time. We finally said our “I do’s” on a beach in Hawaii in February 2003. It was a magical day and I knew full well that I was marrying the right man for the job of loving complicated, mysterious, little me.

Life as a newlywed was awesome! We had our little spats about taking out the trash or picking up clothes from the floor but all in all we were very happy. Sooner than we had planned however, we became pregnant. The decisions surrounding this startling news caused us to grow up fast because we were in no way in a good enough financial position to start a family. Heck, we didn’t even have health insurance! As a result my husband decided to make a career change so we could have a dependable income and I could stay home with our son.

As our life together plugged along, I settled into thinking that our marriage was almost perfect, until one day my husband came home early from work for no explainable reason. He was acting strange but I went along with my daily busyness then settled our son down for his nap. I went into our room to take a shower and when I was finished my husband said he needed to talk. I could tell it was serious so I wrapped a towel around me and sat on the edge of our bed as he began to weep. I grabbed his hands in mine and through his tears he explained that he had been having an inappropriate relationship through email with a woman from his past. As I listened to him talk my body went numb. Literally at my most naked and vulnerable state, Satan entered into the picture and started whispering his lies to my heart: “I told you you weren’t good enough for him. You are worthless. He doesn’t love you. You can’t trust anyone.” and so on. After my husband finished his confession, the Holy Spirit must have taken over my lips because out came the words, “I love you.” I then asked Nathan if I could be alone, which of course he understood and left the room. I mustered just enough strength to walk into the closet where I collapsed on the floor and began wailing for hours. I had never felt so empty. Everything I thought and felt about my relationship with the love of my life was now in question and I couldn’t handle all of the uncertainty. I was so angry and hurt and I didn’t know where to go from there. The only thing that motivated me enough to get off that closet floor and come out of our bedroom that night was the thought of my son needing me to still be his mommy.

For the days, weeks and months after, Nathan and I functioned as a couple and as parents side by side but there was a great distance between our hearts. We called upon our pre-marital counselors once again and via Skype began having weekly sessions with them to talk through the details, restore our priorities and make attempts at refreshing our love for each other. The principles of our covenant pre-marriage training were forced to be put into practice because the rubber had hit the road. This situation became our chance to prove whether we meant our vows or not. I confided in and sought accountability from a friend (as did Nathan) and through prayer, scripture and the words of another book I was reading through at the time, we began to heal.

Gaddis Family-2I go into a lot of detail about this part of our story because it was the turning point for us. This was that “hindsight moment” I talked about that made no sense at the time but continues to be a mile marker for us to look back on as the place our marriage really began. It was during that season I realized I had placed my husband on the throne of my heart and that was wrong. Nathan can never meet all of my needs. He does not hold the key to defining my worth or carry the responsibility of giving me value. He was never created to. God alone is the Lover of my soul. While I was learning that lesson, Nathan’s relationship with God grew to a new, more real and personal depth because he had learned that nothing in this world can satisfy other than the love of Christ. He saw how quickly the enemy can enter in, if he has a foothold, and tear apart everything you know and love without you even realizing it is happening. He also woke to the reality that his family is worth fighting for. It was a terribly painful path he had to walk through as well. Like Kelly Clarkson chants in her song Stronger, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and stronger our marriage became. It had to! Life wasn’t done with us yet!

Since the “reboot and restructure” phase we experienced early in our marriage, we have added two more children to our family and have yet another on the way. Parenting four children alone brings challenges to a marriage but add to our boat that our youngest daughter joined us by way of international adoption about 2 years ago and the strain placed on our home life is tremendous. The unique relational and developmental needs she has require a specific parenting style that doesn’t come naturally to us and has been difficult to maintain on a day to day basis. So much so that about six months after her arrival, I experienced PADS (Post Adoption Depression Syndrome). It was a time when what I was thinking and feeling was so dark and heavy that the most courageous thing I could do each day was to put my feet on the floor and get out of bed. Producing actions of love toward my husband and children was utterly impossible. I was a blob of negativity and could find no way out of my black cloud. So for a while Nathan was bearing the brunt of our marriage, family and ministry life. You see it’s not always 50/50 in marriage. Sometimes its 80/20 or 100/0 but when you understand that, you are more willing to take your turn because there will come a day when you need to be the one held up instead. The greatest battles couples are going to face in marriage aren’t with each other but for each other.

Something we’ve intentionally made clear to our kids is that our marriage comes first. Because the strength of our marriage is the foundation of our home, it had better be solid and continuously growing to be able to bear the weight of our ever changing and always demanding life. I can remember a time not too long ago when everything around us was dysfunctional and all we had to hold onto was each other and our faith. I can’t imagine surviving, let alone thriving, after some of the caves we have been called to walk through without the security we have now in our covenant relationship to each other.

In February we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary. During those 10 years we have moved 7 times, had 4 children, served in 3 major ministry positions, and have experienced countless other mountaintops and hurdles along the way. Our marriage is stronger than it’s ever been because of, not despite, the valleys we’ve been through. The scars are there but only remind us how far we’ve come and how faithful God is. We don’t know what is around the next corner of our life but we confidently put one foot in front of the other knowing that we will get through whatever we have to face together. And that makes all the difference. That is a covenant marriage.