Traveling in the In Between




As a result of the response to Friday’s post, The In Between, I wanted to follow up with a few more thoughts on this topic.


I once heard a speaker say, “We all need to get through the swamp. The trick is to know where the rocks are.” That’s because he also knew that change is certain in life. That means we will go through a number of “in between” seasons. Such times of transition are pivotal because they tend to forecast how well we will enter the new season with its own tempos and rhythms.


Looking back over my shoulder some of those times in my life stand out in bold relief. There is that much clarity and almost a visceral response for these. Others are “normal development tasks” such as going to college, getting married, having a first child, and getting a first full-time job.


Of those that create almost an HD video experience, my husband’s deployment to a war zone while I was pregnant with our first child would likely top the list. Close behind it would be a season where both of my parents became ill and died within three months of each other. Their care and responsibility for a younger mentally handicapped brother fell to me. Others on the list would include the season when I was teaching full-time as well as being a wife, a mom, and going to graduate school part-time. Changing careers at 50 would be another. Each of these created an unsettling upheaval in the cadence that had been my life before it happened. Each also produced growth in every area of my life.


More than one factor will influence how we fare as we trek through the “in between”. The depth and breadth of our spiritual life will be pivotal. Another factor that will have a major impact is how close we are to our spouse and family. A third is the level of flexibility and adaptability typical for us.


If we have healthy relationships, we will enjoy time together with our closest family members and time apart. We will chafe a bit at change, but move forward. We will see possibilities for the next season. (How we balance that will affect the quality of closeness we experience.)


What do I mean?


If we are part of a family or relationship that is too close, we can become more dependent on each other. Any change in status of any member, any alteration in rhythms, might create fear or insecurity. These can open the possibility of using manipulation or guilt to return the family or relationship to the status quo. If there has been very little closeness, disconnection and more extreme independence will result.


Our flexibility will influence how you or I respond to any of this in the “in between”. By that I mean how well we manage and adjust to changes. That is even truer when our roles in the family or relationship change as a result of a normal developmental period, stress, or crisis. If there is a healthy balance between consistent stability and change, the “in between” or transition, then the person, relationship, or family will experience growth on the other side of it. They will discover the relationships have moved to a stronger, deeper level.


Letting go tends not to be easy. The familiar somehow comforts us and convinces us that our worlds are safer somehow. Letting go sometimes shows us our tendency to try to control our environment and those in it.


Traveling through the “in between” will be best accomplished with a companion, someone who has walked through, lived through such times. (They will know where the rocks in the swamp are.) Choosing the right companion will make all the difference.


As I look back over my shoulder, I see that I did not always choose the right companion when I was younger. Sometimes I relied too much on trying to be strong or even allowing myself to be weak. Sometimes I tried to avoid the reality of the change and other times I was too clingy with someone.


I have discovered the best companion to travel through the “in between” is Jesus. He has experienced what it is like and walked it out perfectly. He not only knows where the rocks are, He is the rock.


The key is what the quality of that relationship with Him was like before the “in between” arrived.


Stream at Blackberry Farm, TN

The In Between




In our family the rhythms of our lives are in the midst of change again. Change is always a part of life, but some changes alter more of the tempos and cadences we are accustomed to. When that happens it leaves us feeling a bit “at sea”, a bit unsettled until the new rhythms begin and repeat with regularity.


Our three oldest grandchildren have produced the shift this time. As a result, their families (and even we) are feeling the movement. None of the changes caught us off-guard, but gaining a steadying balance is still needed. Each of these grandchildren is PPP 024entering a new season, a new environment. Because they will walk through this one outside of home base it makes the ebb and flow of the rhythm less settling.


Our oldest granddaughter begins her life as a nurse. She has completed her BSN and then passed her NCLEX. In a few days she will begin a nurse residency program. Then in a month she will move into a condo on her own for the very first time. It’s an exciting time for her and we all look forward to see what will unfold in this new chapter. It’s time and yet the dailyness of her life will not be something her parents get to observe from the front row seats.


Her brother, our middle grandson, will leave for his freshman year of college in three weeks. We have celebrated him as well as he takes this next important step into adulthood and prepares for his future. We wonder how the Lord will work in this tender hearted young man’s life as he enters this new phase of his life. It is time and he is ready, but for his parents the rhythm of their days will shift. They will rejoice in this season of launching and yet feel pangs of missing the sounds and sights of both young adult children on a daily basis.


Thousands of miles away our oldest grandson, a college junior, is stepping into a different culture with a different tempo as he begins a semester abroad in Chile. He has wanted to do this for more than a few years. This opportunity excites him as he one day hopes to pursue some medical missions trips as a physician to other parts of the world. When we spoke to him before he left, he shared the excitement as well as the sadness of leaving the family he loves. For his siblings and parents, the shift while expected and planned for, can feel seismic.


PPP 013A new tempo, a new rhythm will begin in each place and each home and will become familiar, but for now it is not yet here. It seems as if life at present is in the “in between”.


Life in the “in between” strikes me as something we should be more accustomed to than we often feel.


You see, as believers in Christ, we are living life in the “in between” in many ways now. We are in the process of transformation, the molding of our character, and the altering of our thought processes to align more with the truth of the Gospel. We live in a topsy-turvy, chaotic, sin-riddled world where fewer things make sense every day. We are also living with the anticipation of the Lord’s return. We are “at home” here and yet “not home”. We are in the “in between”.


I think living life in the “in between” is something Christ experienced as well when He walked the earth. He experiences it now as He waits for the Father to send Him for us.


The “in between” shift is an assignment time, a learning time, a testing time, and a preparation for what is next. For however unsteady or unfamiliar the new rhythm may first feel, if our eyes remain steadily on Him the change will not upend us.


The Lord invites us to the “in between” because it is there we come to know Him and ourselves better.


Forest, Walland, TN


That Helps Explain It



In the last of this short series of how men and women are genetically hardwired differently, I want to look at some other aspects of those differences. As I do so (just as in the other two posts), please remember this is to help our understanding of how our Creator designed us, but it is not to decide one of us is better than the other. The exact opposite is true. It shows we were designed to work together and strengthen one another.


When I spoke about how a woman looks at the overview of a problem and a man breaks it apart in pieces and goes step by step, I see that clearly between my husband and me. I love my overview and really don’t want to often get bogged down in the step-by-step details. I am one of the gals who really don’t want to read the manual on a new gadget that will do just that! BUT, I need that in so many areas because my “big picture” overview can often miss some things.


My patience has grown over the course of our relationship because of this very aspect of my husband. I do a bit better within myself trying to do it, but he is very much ahead of me in this and I LOVE that he is. It’s how God hardwired and designed him!


Norm Wright and Gary Oliver also note that another area of difference is how we relate to the world and define ourselves as men and women (whether we are professional women or stay-at-home gals).


At the core of a woman is the tendency to be concerned for others and their needs, to look outward, to often be caregivers. As such, we tend to define ourselves through our relationships. That alone can help give us insight about why this area can be challenging, messy, heart breaking, wounding, and wonderful for us.


Our sweet husbands tend to be genetically made to be concerned with themselves first and others second. He also needs to see the value of relationships that are more give than take.


Then there is something else Wright and Oliver state:


“Women talk their way through things and men think their way through things. Talking is something you do with somebody. Thinking isn’t. It stands to reason that women are going to spend more time with others when they have something important to deal with. Women lighten their load by sharing the weight. We men tend to think it’s the manly thing to do to carry all the weight ourselves.”


I am guessing that we have seen more than a few examples of that as a common difference without realizing it is a part of our genetic makeup.


The areas of closeness and intimacy are near and dear to the hearts of most of us as women. Despite challenges in trust, many times we look for opportunities to share ourselves in many ways and think emotional expression is positive and healthy. That stems from the fact that the portion of the brain associated with emotions is larger in women than men. We can tend to experience a feeling and go with it as a result.


Our beloved men are sensitive, but may have more difficulty expressing those emotions as a result of that difference in brain structure. Men tend to think about what they feel and then take action to do something about it. That is one of the ways they can be helpful to us when we feel overwhelmed with our emotions about something.


We need them to hear us first, not try to fix us, but this difference about sorting out how to move forward can be a real help many times. We need to be patient and remember it is in his DNA to try to fix things when there’s a problem so how we communicate what we need and want is crucial.




If a man can remember to ask his wife what she would like—to be listened to, to be held, to be given advice—and then to remember that it may be different each time, it will go a long way to the sense of understanding both desire.


What each of us needs to remember is that we both can change. When a man discovers and recognizes something isn’t working, it is easier for him to change. That goes with the tendency to act in response to a feeling. It also relates to a value he has not to be seen as failing in his role with us.



As women, we tend to find change easier after we have been able to share our feelings, thoughts, and wishes without a fear of being invalidated. We want to feel as though we are not abandoned in the midst of what is going on within us and around us. The tricky part is that sometimes if we have not matured with our emotions and communication, that man who loves us so much can fear the flood of our feelings and words will engulf him.


Wright and Oliver’s book, How to Change Your Spouse Without Ruining Your Marriage, is chocked full of good information. If you want to check it out, you will likely need to look in the used book areas of your booksellers since it has been out of print.


Even though some of the points and information in this series may not have been new to you, I hope it will be helpful to recall that many of our differences were genetically designed to be different, that our brains are physically different as well. That doesn’t give any of us an excuse, but it can lead to greater understanding and acceptance. Certainly, the Lord has a reason for the design and perhaps it is about dependence on Him to bring oneness into our relationship.


“Yes, differences abound. Learning about them, learning to accept them, learning to work with them will help you discover what can be changed, what can be modified a bit, and what can’t.”   H. Norman Wright and Gary Oliver























































What Else Do I Wish I Had Known?



I promised you on Friday there were some more things I was going to share about the genetic differences in how a man and a woman’s brain are wired. I wish so much I would have known some of these before I was married. Of course Norm Wright and Gary Oliver’s book was written twenty years later. Even so, they were helpful!!


How often have you said that the man in your life isn’t listening? (I know! I know!)


Well, it turns out he might be, but he’s not ready to respond. Now there can certainly be many reasons, but here is a genetic one as well. When he looks at the problem the two of you are talking about, he is taking the issue apart piece by piece, one step at a time, to sort out his suggestion for a solution. He wants to structure the problem, take it by the numbers, while we are looking at the overview.


In the process, he will tend to exclude all the information he thinks is nonessential and focus on what he sees as the key. In the process his brain will shut out other possibilities and use a lot of his energy to stay in the position he has determined is key to the solution.


One of the things that can add to the time to reach a solution is the tendency of our female brain genetics to jump in and out of different topics that we might (or might not) think are related to the problem. It can be as easy as rolling off a log for us because you remember we are using both sides of our brain at once. We are not only looking at the tree, but also the forest!


Even though we both use both sides of our brains, each of us tends to prefer one side or the other and obviously believe it is better because it works best for us. As a result, we tend to approach everything that way, life and also work. We also determine those preferences fairly early in our lives and then do not change them throughout our lifetime even though we can develop skills for the less-preferred side.


I mentioned about our men using energy to dissect a problem or thing and for us jumping in and out of topics takes little energy. Well, energy is another area where our genetic makeup is different. Women have more energy than men, BUT men have more startup energy. You might say we can be more like Energizer bunnies while men use their startup energy and then need to recharge.


Wright and Oliver tell it this way about how our men recharge:


“A man goes on a personal retreat by taking a nap, resting, reading, or watching TV. He needs aloneness to recover his energy whereas women are capable of rebuilding energy while carrying on their normal activities.”


 Well, that explains a lot!


The truth is it relates to the genetic metabolic differences between men and women and how we use (or don’t use) our fat reserves.


Let me give you an example to help you see this even more clearly.


Let’s say that the two of you know that you need to clean out the garage. You’ve been putting it off because neither of you really want to do it. You finally set a date and time. Your husband will be looking at it and the various steps and pieces of it and actually looking at how long it will take and the energy needed to do it. We will just be looking at getting it done.


The day and time arrives and you might even let him give the direction and you both start in. The problem comes when you discover a set of lights for the lawn that are still in the box that you had wanted him to put out LAST year. In the middle of the project, you suggest to clean that spot out that he go ahead and do the lights. Sounds perfect to me, but not for him. It wasn’t on his radar screen and he wants to simply do the garage and then head for the couch to watch the game.


Sound familiar with maybe different details?


This business of his focusing on one-thing points to another thing we ladies miss. It is one of those things we need to know because of the impact it has on our relationship.


Since he focuses on one thing at a time while we may be doing several things at once, if we are doing several things at once and he wants to talk with us about something he will believe we are not listening if we are doing that or not looking at him. We may very well be able to listen to him while we make dinner or sort or fold laundry, but that isn’t the way his brain is wired.


Now just imagine how all this makes even more of an impact when the problem or job is difficult AND as we age. Research shows that men lose their physical strength and flexibility faster than women. How much? At age sixty, men will have 60% of those physical qualities they did at age 20, but women of that age will tend to have 90%.


Are you beginning to understand why I might wonder if God had a sense of humor in His design to pull us toward Him?


The next time I’ll share about differences about our needs for closeness and intimacy, relationships, emotions and a bit more.





What Makes Marriage So Challenging?



Last summer I wrote a short three part series on marriage. Without apology, as I look at the ongoing erosion of marriages (both Christian and non Christian) I feel led to revisit what I shared. I pray you find it encouraging and helpful.


I have often said in my counseling office that the Lord has unique ways to help us grow up and set aside our selfishness and self-focus that linger well into adulthood. What are they? The first is marriage and the second is parenting.


In the close confines of a home where two people are seeking to build a life together, the possibility of chuckholes, breakdowns, side trips, detours, and more seem endless.


Of course we fell in love and we seemed to get along well, had so much in common after what seemed like endless hours of talking. How hard could it be?


Clearly, we all had so much to learn!


If we are serious about making our union solid and sound, we can attend workshops and retreats or read any number of GREAT Christian books on marriage where we learn so many skills we will need. We learn about the differences in love languages and how we each view love and respect. We can put almost any topic or issue we face in a search engine and find resources a plenty. I know. I have some of the very best on my bookshelves from my 51 years of marriage and nearly 30 years as a Marriage and Family Therapist.


It seems many of them have some particular nugget I add to my toolbox as a wife (and formerly a counselor and mentor). Of course, the idea is to use them, right?


More than twenty years ago I came across one of those gems in a book written by H. Norman Wright and Gary J. Oliver. They have been around a bit and those who are not under a certain age have likely heard of them. I have been blessed to see and hear them in person on multiple occasions at conferences and workshops. They are real Christian men who have not only written great resources, but also needed to walk out what they knew as each have experienced great challenges and losses including death of a spouse, death of a child, and cancer as only a few.


In their book (How to Change Your Spouse Without Ruining Your Marriage) two chapters were unlike anything I had seen elsewhere. As I read them I could not help but think the Lord surely has a sense of humor because of how different He made us as men and women.



There is NO WAY this can work without His help!    


I want to share some of these differences with you in case you have not come across them. Even if you have not yet married, tune in because you will be way ahead of the game if you understand them. They will actually be helpful in any relationship with the opposite sex!


For a marriage to survive and thrive, the differences need to be understood, accepted, honored, and respected.


What we might miss is how many differences there are beyond anatomy and personality! Much of that starts with the differences in the brain!


We have all likely heard about left brain/right brain things, but I wonder if you are aware of some nuances of that that have an affect on our marriage.


As a review Wright and Oliver remind us:


“The thinking pattern of the left side of your brain is positive, analytic, linear, explicit, sequential, verbal, concrete, rational, and goal-oriented. The right side is intuitive, spontaneous, emotional, nonverbal, visual, artistic, playful, holistic, and physical.”


Before you start determining who is who in the relationship, keep reading…


We ALL shift back and forth between the two sides of our brain as we carry on our daily activities. BUT there are some genetic differences between men and women.


Curious? Here are some of the ways Wright and Oliver give us a glimpse of.


The brain of a man is organized and has a high level of lateralization and as a result they tend to shift farther left or right than we do as women. The brain of a woman is not as specialized and operates more holistically than a man. Even though our sweet man is able to give more focused attention to what he is doing, we as women use both sides of our brain simultaneously to work on a problem.


That always makes me wonder how much that affects our “discussions” when we try to do problem-solving together.


Surprisingly to some, women are genetically left-brain oriented and not so surprisingly tend to be more verbally skilled. A woman’s left-brain develops earlier and this appears to give her more of an edge in writing and reading.


For that man of ours, the right brain develops faster than ours as women and through his lifetime he will use that side of his brain to be more skillful in spatial areas. The downside for him is that a lack of socialization will many times result in the emotional intuitive side of him being more limited. (Remember this…. he is hardwired this way from the very beginning. It is his genetic makeup.)


The way the female brain has been designed by the Lord and how He has designed it to work (not as specialized) can give her an advantage and result in her being more perceptive about people than men do many times. Her brain works a lot like a computer that integrates a number of things at one time including reason and intuition.


Her other asset because of the design of the female brain is that how it works causes her to pick up more information through their sensitivities such as hearing, seeing, sense of taste and smell. (I sometimes wonder about that, as my husband’s sense of fragrances seems better than my own.)


How does all this get in the mix of problem solving? I am sure you are getting a sense it probably does. You might even be thinking of examples!


Over the next few posts, I want to share a little more about the differences in our brain and energy levels as part of our original design. It can take some of the tendency to personalize or blame our spouse.


That also causes me to wonder at the Lord’s potential sense of humor since these differences can certainly impact us!