Leave and Cleave “Your New Identity”

A big part of the transition of marriage involves developing a new identity. Not like, I’m going to be Jada and you’re going to be Will. But more like, though I love my family, YOU are now my family. This takes some obvious reframing when it comes to things like how you spend holidays and which traditions you will uphold. But I believe there is an internal reframing that must occur also; like, “Are your parents REALLY my parents? Will your siblings ever feel like MY siblings? Will you be friends with my best friend?”

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

Leaving and cleaving can be tricky. Leaving implies us literally leaving our parents, our first source of love. And cleaving instructs us to be joined together “as one” with our spouse, someone we are learning how to love. Being joined with our spouse says, “Your people will be my people and your God will be my God. Leave your peeps, embrace mine, but cling to me so we can be one. I’ll embrace your family as my own and you will embrace mine as yours.” To mesh with one’s family it is important to spend time with the family. But in order to get to know your spouse, it’s important to spend time apart from others so you can acclimate as husband and wife and develop your new identity as a couple. It can almost feel like a mixed message.

Is Genesis 2:24 saying, “Separate (from your family), connect (as a couple) and build your own family? If so, what do familial relationships look like now? What if both Mother in-laws wish to host Christmas dinner and it’s equally important to husband and wife. Do you decline both invitations and celebrate alone or do you explain to both sets of parents that you’ll be alternating holidays? Both those suggestions are a fair compromise, but what is really taking place in your heart while making such decisions? Are you complying to appear like you’re a good sport, while internally resenting everybody, feeling like you’re taking one for the team? As you adjust to this new idea of becoming one with your spouse you may at times feel like you are losing your own identity in the process.

You can either view your circumstance like you are losing your identity or gaining a new one.  I’ve been married for 19 years now and although I have a healthy marriage, I just realized this year that when I chose to leave, I did not choose to cleave. My bank account, zip code, dwelling, and even my last name changed but deep within, there were hidden things that remained the same. One of which was, my Dad was my Dad. Although my Father-in-Law is a man in which I have boundless respect and honor for, he was not my Dad. I have used so many tactics over the last two decades to keep from calling him “Dad,” it’s really quite ridiculous. He’s been affectionately called, “Mr. Poplar, Grandpa, Melvin Poplar Sr. My Father-in-Law.” But not until 3 weeks ago did I refer to him as “Dad.” That might seem trivial to some, but to me it was huge. It was hard, but I did it, and I’m glad I did! (Even though it was in a text message. I felt a significant shift.)

I met my husband when I was 16. My Daddy died 9 years before. A lot takes place in a girl’s life between the ages of 7 and 16, but one thing that didn’t change for me was that I was a Daddy’s girl at heart. I was so young that my “Daddy” was just that, “Daddy.” He died before I ever reached the stage of even referring to him as “Dad.” I’m 40 something and in my mind, my Dad is still my “Daddy.” I think the little girl inside of me was not willing to relinquish the space in my heart that was reserved for my Daddy. Rather than seeing how God gave me another Father figure, the little girl inside of me felt like if I embraced my husband’s Dad, then I would be letting go of my own. Letting go of his legacy, his love, and his life.

It never dawned on me that God gave me a new family and Father so that I could receive love, embrace legacy, and celebrate life. Grief kept me from cleaving to my husband’s family, and grief is what drove me to embrace them as my own. After my Daddy died we stayed in touch with our local relatives, but we had no contact from his family in his State of origin. My Dad was the youngest of my grandfather’s children and I’m the youngest of my siblings. I have now lived in that State for the last 16 years and as we travel throughout Alabama I would often grieve the thought that I could have family in the cities we were in and not even know who they were.

I know this is going to sound all the way crazy, but the movie Black Panther heightened this grief all the more. I identified more with the supervillain, Erik Killmonger, as I felt displaced from my people and jealous of my husband’s rich cultural heritage. His family’s genealogy made me jealous because I could not trace my history past my grandfather. Part of me would take pride in the fact that my children gained this wonderful legacy, but the other part of me felt discouraged and displaced and my heart ached for something deeper.

The day after calling my Father-in-law Dad and deciding my husband’s history was my own and his people were my people, I logged on to Facebook and saw where my first cousin had posted an obituary that her brother found on a genealogy site. The person who had passed was “James Burton Sr.” from Montgomery Alabama. I started combing through the names of his family members, entering them into the Facebook search bar and noticed that I had mutual friends with one of the women that I found. I contacted that friend via text and within hours I was on the phone with my newfound family member. It was surreal. Her father who had just passed away days prior was my grandfather’s nephew. To think all these years had gone by of me fearing that cleaving to my husband’s family would lead to loss and it led to such great gain.

Is there an area in your life in which you know you either need to leave (your family) or cleave (to your spouse)? Your circumstance might be totally different from mine but you are keenly aware that there is something that you’ve been holding back? You could be hindering the oneness God has designed for you and your spouse to experience.

Parents aren’t the only ones you may have to leave. Before marriage, you may have had friends with the opposite sex. Within marriage, it’s important to leave those friendships and foster friendship with your spouse. Your spouse should be your best friend. So in some cases, even BFFs have to renegotiate the terms of their friendship. Friendship is important, but being friends with your spouse needs to take priority. I’m not saying you can’t cultivate friendship with others, I’m just saying you can’t really fully connect with your spouse if your focus is always connecting with others.

You are no longer Single, so why live like a Single person? If you are a couple, then it’s important to leave behind Single mindsets. This isn’t something you have to announce to others, it’s an internal shift that takes place within that will be reflected in your priorities. My prayer for you is that you release what needs to be let go of so you can embrace that which will cause you to cling to your spouse. Your new identity doesn’t have to erase who you were it should enhance who you are becoming. 

 

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What are some areas in which couples generally struggle when it comes to leaving and cleaving?

Have you found yourself in an identity crisis at any point along your marriage journey?

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Real Love

Our oldest daughter recently had the pleasure of attending the 35th Annual Fun-Set Social and Charity Club Beautillion Ball. She was an escort for a friend who was a beau in the ball. The Beautillion season highlights the success of young African American males.  Beaus attend seminars with a focus on spiritual, social, educational and economic growth. The annual Beautillion Ball is a culmination of educational activities and fun.

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We were honored for her to be invited, but we were even more excited to get to attend with her. My husband is a hardcore helicopter parent, so having a valid reason to be present was right up his alley. We have a great rapport with the young man who invited her and we’ve been friends with his family for over a decade. But she’s his baby girl, and he delighted in being right by her side. The way my husband assisted our daughter with her dress, watched her on the dance floor and pulled out her chair when she would sit reminded me of so many of the reasons I fell in love with him.

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Not only did Trinity look like a princess she was treated like one by both her date and her dad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently someone heard me and my husband’s testimony of secondary virginity and thought it wasn’t “real”. They weren’t implying that it was too fanciful. They were insinuating that it wasn’t “real” like, “BIG DEAL, who cares that you had sex before marriage and chose to practice abstinence while you were pregnant.” And all I could think of was, “God cares.”

Sometimes when people say things like, “I’m just being real.” What they really mean is that they are being “real” carnal. If people can’t receive from you because they don’t perceive you as being “real” don’t compromise your values, lower your standards, or remove healthy boundaries because of their opinion. The truth is, they may have a problem with your testimony because it highlights that God is real. It’s their brokenness that keeps them from celebrating how God’s REAL love has made you whole.

 

 

Real Love

 

He treats me like a princess because I’m a daughter of the King.

There’s no need for me to be stressed because I am his Good Thing.

He’s my Knight in Shining Armor the one who makes me brave.

You might wonder how he does it, it’s all because he’s Saved.

When a man is in love with The Lover of his Soul,

His love won’t leave you broken, it will only make you whole.

He can’t see you as royalty if he doesn’t seek the King.

If he does not honor God he won’t know you are a Queen.

Don’t settle for a boy when you can have a Prince.

Set your standards high and do not straddle the fence.

Boundaries keep you safe, they prevent you from a fall.

Your body is a temple protect the palace walls.

Far above rubies, more precious than silver and gold.

Why settle for lust filled fragments when real love can make you whole?

© Toya Poplar 2016

 

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Photography by Tim Gentry

If you want to hear, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” Keep doing well and stay faithful to God’s Word.

Marriage is our ministry but purity will always be our passion. If you ever need someone to share the message of how powerful purity is, connect with us. We believe that purity empowers you to plan your future without looking back at your past. And we know from experience that it’s never too late to wait.

Date Night Ideas

Why date night? Because you both work hard and deserve to play hard.  Date night is a scheduled break to keep your lines of communication from breaking down. It’s a time to dream, plan, and create together. Date night is a way of saying, “You are a priority to me.” Date night can be fun, productive, romantic, or silly. But being intentional about date night is a serious matter. Why date night? Why work? Why gym? Why chores? Because they are all important to the overall health of your marriage and family.

Date nights serve several purposes but one that is most important is fostering a feeling of lasting love. Being deliberate about date night is a simple way to invest in your marriage that yields great reward. Dating your spouse is a wonderful way to decompress from stress and strengthen your commitment to one another. Date nights give you something to look forward to and are a great way to share new experiences with your spouse. Below are a few date night ideas.

 

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If you don’t currently have a weekly date night here’s your chance. Grab your spouse and follow the steps below.

  1. Agree on a night of the week or day of the month to have a standing date night. 
  2. If you have small children, select another couple you could swap date nights with. (If you don’t have small children, pay it forward by offering to babysit so a couple can have a standing date night.)
  3. Create a plan by listing restaurants, local activities, and landmarks that interest you. Take turns with your spouse. Keep it handy so you are never at a loss for things to do.
  4.  Create a date night budget.
  5.  Ready, set, DATE! Be READY on time. SET boundaries with technology. (Take your date night selfie but wait to post. That way you can focus on being present and loving your spouse well.) DATE keep your word. Bear in mind that everything else you do in life like work, fitness, church activities, get done because they are standing activities. Date night is equally important.

What are some of your favorite date night ideas? Please share in the comment section below.

One of our favorites is playing the “Ungame for Couples” while waiting for dinner at a restaurant. It’s a non-competitive game that encourages listening.

 

Boundaries in Marriage

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On December 17, 2018, my husband and I will celebrate 19 years of marriage. It blows me away that we have now been married for longer than we had been alive when we met. As a high school junior and senior we became besties. 25 years later we are still fostering friendship. We’ve made it our tradition to not just celebrate our anniversary, but to celebrate the covenant of marriage.

In honor of our anniversary, we use to host marriage enrichment events called “Covenant Parties.” A Covenant Party was a reception like evening filled with sharing, dancing, dining, communication games, and a vow renewal ceremony. As much as it seemed special when we first began hosting, with each passing year, the word “covenant” sounds more and more antiquated. The more old school it may sound to the masses the more meaningful it becomes to me. Modernization might be great for marketing but often diminishes meanings that we need to be reminded of.

There’s a scripture in Proverbs that says,

“Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.” (22:28 NKJV)

This is referring to land markers which were pretty important in biblical times. A stone indicated where your property ended and where your neighbor’s started. Removing a landmark was a way of stealing property. Can you imagine what it would feel like if your neighbor changed your property line? The results could be costly and your rapport with your neighbor would be changed forever. When sacred concepts lose their meaning, I believe the enemy gains ground, and we lose territory.

Take notice of the two signs below.

PrivateProperty

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There is a big difference between private property and a public park. Private property implies that the land belongs to someone, and they have reserved it for their own private use. Public access indicates that the area is open to the public. In marriage, It is just as important for husbands and wives to have clear boundaries as it is for a landowner to have proper signage posted. My husband and I set clear boundaries early on in our relationship and the more words like “covenant” seem to have lost their meaning the more meaningful words like “boundaries” have become to us. Boundaries preserve what is good and protect from what is toxic. Affairs are not intentional, but being intentional about setting healthy boundaries can help safeguard you against an affair.

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Early on in our marriage one of our favorite couples asked us an interesting question. They said, “Do you all love each other enough to share if you ever found yourself having feelings for someone else?” That question led to us to do 3 key things if we ever found ourselves feeling chemistry with someone other than our spouse.

  • See it

  • Say it

  • Be set free

When we confess our faults and feelings to our spouse we can expose the enemy and safeguard our marriage against temptation. Below are a few questions you and your spouse can answer to aid you in the process of setting healthy boundaries in the 5 highlighted categories. (Think of preferences, pet peeves, pitfalls, and triggers in the following areas.)

1.  What boundaries would you like to see your spouse have at work?

2. What boundaries would you like to enforce amongst friends?

3. What are some ways to set physical boundaries?

4. What are some necessary emotional boundaries? (Guard your heart.)

5. What are some boundaries to implement with strangers?

This year we will celebrate our covenant by sharing tips, tools, and testimonies that will help you build your marriage on a solid foundation, nurture lasting love and connect with other couples. We hope you find this information useful. If you like it share it with your friends and invite them to connect with us on Facebook

 

Scott & Shelton Oakley Hersey Revisit Their Vows

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To Have and to Hold

The quality that Scott has that makes him exclusively hers is his attentiveness. She describes him as having a unique blend of serious and silly.  “Scott is consistently attentive to me and to others, always looking for small ways to serve that most people might never notice.”When Shelton is in Scott’s arms, she feels beloved, home, and seen.

For Better or for Worse

One of the areas that Scott and Shelton feel they can do better in their marriage is through not reacting emotionally to the other’s state of being. “When one of us is sad, frustrated, tired, or insecure, the other can tend to mirror the same emotion. It has been something we honestly weren’t aware of at the start of our marriage and sometimes occasionally only saw it as a strength.” They’ve discovered that there are times in which this tendency is a good thing–when it promotes empathy and sensitivity. “Often times, however, this lack of emotional detachment has kept us from many healthy paths including seeking and speaking truth about who we are in Christ and the promises of God we can rely on.”

When asked about the worst year of their marriage Shelton and Scott respond with “Can we say the worst (or hardest) year and a half?”

As missionaries living in a South African township, The Hersey’s went through a period in which they had to balance full-time ministry, full work schedules, a growing social enterprise business, friends experiencing deep trauma, and their own mental lows. During this same period, they transitioned from South Africa to Boston, all the while facing consistent illness and infertility.

“There was so much to do, so much loss in the massive transitions and struggle with infertility and illness, and each of us had our own journeys of grief and healing to walk through. We had been married for three years at this point, we were exhausted and well past our breaking points and did not understand very well how deep our emotional lows were and how much we were trying to sustain ourselves on our own strength.”

Through consistent tears, moments of irritation and anger, little to no energy, and loneliness they came to understand long-suffering in marriage. They saw the beauty that can come from sticking by one another and trusting God’s promises. They had to mourn the end of one season while embracing the beginning of another. “We needed rest, perseverance, counseling, acceptance of one another, healthy detachment from each others’ emotional ups and downs and the type of healing that only comes over time cloaked in grace.”

For Richer or for Poorer

Shelton & Scott see their marriage as being rich in laughter, long-suffering, friendship, understanding, faith, intimacy, and growth. They enjoy learning from one another and growing personally and together.

When there is poor communication between these two they share, “Our tendency when we poorly communicate or don’t communicate is to make assumptions… Assumptions about what the other is thinking, doing and not thinking or doing that we feel they should be considering… and assumptions about each other’s motivations.”

Through Sickness and in Health

The Hersey’s are far too familiar with sickness. “This past year, we journeyed through the illness and passing of Scott’s father. Watching Scott’s dad struggle and pass from this life to the next was so painful, especially for Scott. Meanwhile, we continued to struggle with infertility and grieve through the process of unsuccessful fertility treatments. Again, the two of us were faced with another wilderness period of grief, each of us expressing it so different than the other. We longed for a lighter season of healing and regeneration. This time, we clung to God, sought joy and gratitude of each other, held a new perspective of the preciousness of life, and gave each other the acceptance, space, support, and grace we both needed to freely grieve and heal. We discovered amidst this wilderness season that regeneration was happening all along.

The way the Herseys maintain the health of their marriage is through communication. “We try to be aware of our own pain points when they’re triggered so we can speak God’s truth to ourselves and to each other. We create fun moments, romance, memories and conversations through which to connect in new and diverse ways. We rely on community and share openly about our marriage: the struggles, the different seasons, the help we have gratefully received, the love, fondness, respect and admiration we have for one another. We speak well of each other to others, conscious of building each other up and not tearing one another down.

To Love and to Cherish

Shelton’s perception of love has not changed much since before she married, but her understanding of what it means has deepened. “One perspective that has changed is what love in action means. I have had to learn a LOT about what this means for Scott and also for myself. Love for us means:

  • Prioritizing time together. 
  • Extending an extra measure grace to each other. 
  • Acknowledging what Scott says he needs.
  • Supporting each other in every season. 
  • Celebrating small and big “piles of stones” (or markers of God’s faithfulness.) 
  • Laying down our individual life visions for a God’s vision for “us.”
  • Embracing a unified vision that is about our journey toward wholeness. 

Scott cherishes his wife through encouraging her. Through his words, small notes, texts, emails and choosing to be present. He supports her in various areas of work and community commitments. He contributes to her gifts and passion. “My favorite is when he out of the blue says to me, “I’m so proud of you, Shelt,” or sends me a text that says, “I love you, and I see you.””

Til Death Do Us Part

When asked how the thought of death makes Shelton appreciate her husband she responds, “It is strange. Even though I only met Scott at age 25, I now cannot imagine living this life journey without him. In fact, looking back, it feels as if he was a small part of me all along. Perhaps this is because God has intricately used Scott to shape me more into my whole and true self. I always tell people that in being married to Scott, I have grown into the person that God created at my very inception; through him, my brokenness has given way to a more centered soul rooted in Christ.”

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Something Old Something New

Scott’s old school advice can be found in John 15:13, he quotes,

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay one’s life down for another.”

He goes on to share, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

  • Seek the interest of your wife before your own interest
  • If your wife wants to connect with you in a way that doesn’t interest you, lay down your interest and choose to connect.
  • Enter into conversations and conflict that you don’t think is a big deal or worth a conversation but it’s important to your spouse to engage and grow.
  • Listen to understand.
  • Buy a less expensive car (or something else) because your together-values are to be frugal and generous with others.
  • Put down your work (or turn off the t.v.) and go to bed with your spouse as much as you can (ending the day together is a great rhythm!)
  • Conserve energy throughout your day to have the peace and presence to go on a date night or to help serve alongside your wife in daily family routines.

His new school advice is to, “ Be aware when to HALT(!) a conversation. In other words, don’t enter into a serious conversation if either of you are feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (HALT). Take some space–even if it means going to bed, taking a walk or going about your day while you’re still feeling a few of these things–so you can come back to each other and the conversation in a better, more whole place.”

Something Borrowed Something Blue

Some borrowed advice that has greatly impacted Scott over the years is, “Intentionally discover and seek out the unique ways your wife receives love and keep exploring new ways to speak her love language. Keep in mind that your wife’s love language might (and will) change from season to season in life. Your wife is in the process of constantly changing… So take the time and give energy to continually get to know her, always holding her with sacred curiosity.”

Scott’s bonus advice is to “Have fun together! Seek out fun, adventure, and new experiences, and pursue enjoyment of one another in little and big ways!” He suggests that couples celebrate as often as they can.

The question Scott would like his wife Shelton to answer is, “In what way do you feel you most need to be consistently pointed to God?”

Shelton’s question for her husband Scott is, “What do you dream over and for us?”

When asked if they had the chance to do it all over again would they, Scott replies, “I would have been more consistent about walking with other men through the marriage journey. We have had some very important and intentional voices speaking into our marriage, and some of the most important pieces of vision and health in marriage have been heavily influenced by our mentors and those with an intentional presence in our lives. I would have tried harder to be more consistent about these connections in difficult seasons as well as find new mentors from whom to receive encouragement.”

Shelton’s response to doing it over was, “Earlier on, I would have lowered my super-high and unrealistic expectations of Scott and our marriage (an expectation of perfection that I didn’t realize I had until a few years into marriage). I like the hopes I hold for us and that we hold together. I am enjoying the plans we make that are cloaked in God’s grace and vision for our wellness, not in my own expectation. I know I have a long way to go in this area, but I hope we can continue to see our marriage even more through the eyes of God’s delight in us so that all we do and say to one another might derive from a place of inspiration, not expectation.” 

For the reader: If you would like to ask this couple a question or offer a word of encouragement, please do so in the comment section below?

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Take a Leap of Faith

“This is why I write to remind you to stir up the gift of God that was conveyed to you when I laid my hands upon you. You see, God did not give us a cowardly spirit but a powerful, loving, and disciplined spirit.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (VOICE)

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Take a Leap of Faith

Don’t be discouraged.  

The Devil’s desire is to distract you.  

Though your dream is delayed it is definitely not denied.  

Do you hear that sound?  It’s a song of deliverance.  

God rejoices over you with singing and quiets you with His love.  

When all hope seems lost, start looking to the hills.  

Your help comes from Heaven and Heaven’s hope will not fail.  

You are closer than you think.  Keep moving forward.  

Though you feel forgotten, you are still the apple of His eye.  

When your heart has shattered into a thousand tiny pieces is when God is most near, though He feels so far away.  

Cling to the truth when fear is all you feel. Close your eyes to life’s lies and take a leap of faith.