Exactly What We Needed
About the Guest
Looking for a way to improve communication in your marriage? On today's broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Christian singer and songwriter Sara Groves, and her husband/manager, Troy, about the impact the HomeBuilders Couples Series had on their marriage.
Looking for a way to improve communication in your marriage?
Exactly What We Needed
Sara: The very first one we did was about becoming one, and that principle, to me, that laid a foundation for our marriage that I believe is saving us now in what we're doing; the principle that when I hurt him, I hurt myself. That's principle was awesome, and we were just a teacher and a radio advertising salesman at the time. We had no idea what God had in store for us, but those classes were really foundational.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 30th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Today we'll hear how Sara Groves got her marriage groove back – or – something like that.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. Have you ever wondered what would happen if – well, just take this scenario – you're an elementary school teacher, you know, you teach kids all day in the classroom and go home at night, and you play around on your piano, and you write some songs, and you sing them for some friends at church, and they go, "Those are really good," and somebody says, "You ought to record those," and so you do, and pretty soon people are saying, "How can I get more copies of that," and, all of a sudden, you're going, I don't know that I can keep teaching because people want me to come play my songs at their church, and what do I do now? Do you ever wonder what would happen if that was –?
Dennis: I've really never consciously had that thought, Bob.
Bob: You don't lay awake at night wondering about that?
Dennis: I've never written a song, nobody has ever asked me to sing one, Bob.
Bob: I wrote a song in the 9th grade, so I used to lay awake dreaming about that that kind of thing.
Dennis: You have dreamed about this?
Bob: Nobody ever called and said, "Can you come play it at our church" or anything like that.
Dennis: But we have someone in the studio today who has done that.
Bob: We described her scenario – is that pretty close to how it happened?
Sara: Pretty close. I was at the high school, I was teaching 10th grade, and, yeah, it's a pretty unbelievable story.
Dennis: Well, that's the voice of Sara Groves and she, along with her husband, Troy, join us on FamilyLife Today. Troy, Sara, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Sara: Thank you very much.
Troy: Thank you, it's great to be here.
Dennis: I want to hear the rest of this story, though. You were actually teaching the 10th grade and what subject?
Sara: History and English, and I had great students, I loved what I was doing. I taught for three years right out of college, and a girlfriend and I were doing Fellowship for Christian Athletes. We were helping out with a group there at the school, and she knew that I wrote music, and she just – she's still my best friend and just a great support in my life, and she said, "Why don't you put a band together, and we'll do a fundraiser? We'll have pizza, and kids will come to make fun of their history teacher in a band," and, you know, so we – I threw together a band. I actually, had friends that were already in a band, and they learned maybe five songs. We did a little set.
So kids – a lot of the students that came out were not part of the group. They were my students from school, you know, and they thought it would be so funny to see me in a band and check that out.
And I had a girl come up after the concert – Troy and I were at the back of the room, and I knew her story. I'd talked with her after class many times. She and her mom were involved in Wicca, which is a witches' convention, and her brother was a drug dealer, and she had a lot of difficult things going on at home, and she said, "Ms. Groves, do you have a tape or anything I could take home to my mother?"
And I think I had not ever seen the purpose of my recording something. I had real low self-confidence as far as sharing the music. It felt very personal, it didn't feel like something I needed to be broadcasting to the world.
When we got in our car that night – Troy is really the heart of what we do today, because he just said, "What an opportunity, if a student would take that into their home, let's do this. Let's go for this."
And Troy and his dad really were the organizers behind it. I was full of fear and apprehension and don't's and can't's, and he and his father were filled with hope for me, and he really had a vision for what I would be doing now.
Bob: So you didn't dream through high school and college that someday you'd be playing in front of thousands of people and singing your songs and sharing your music?
Sara: Well, like any little girl, I sang into my hairbrush in the mirror to Amy Grant and did dance routines to every song on there, but my parents are both educators. My mom is an elementary school principal, and my father teaches at the college.
So, for me, it was kind of like normal people don't do that. You know, some very special person gets to be that kind of singer or gets to do that, but a normal person goes and teaches high school and so when I started saying, you know, "I'm going to go travel and form a band" – that was equivalent to saying I was going to be a belly dancer or something like that. You know, I just – normal people just didn't do that.
Dennis: Troy, when you encouraged her to start singing, did you have any idea that someday you would be managing her career?
Troy: Not the slightest thought of that.
Dennis: So you didn't have that big of a vision for it?
Troy: No, no, I felt like if we got invited somewhere to maybe she could do a song on a Sunday morning, maybe we'd have something at the back table available that people could take home with them, and that was kind of the original purpose, and we ended up doing that for a while – about a year or so. It was just one thing a month here and there and maybe two or three, and then it just kept snowballing.
Dennis: And you made a CD that was called "Conversations." Is that correct?
Troy: Our first CD was called "Past the Wishing," and it was an independent release, which we sent out letters to friends and family much like you would if you were going on a missions trip, and we said, "We think this is something the Lord wants us to do. Send what you can. If you can't send anything, just keep us in your prayers," and we ended up raising about $12,000 through that, and people in the church just really got behind us – our home church in Minneapolis.
So blown away by that, we felt like this is where the Lord wants us to go. We got a batch of 1,000 CDs. We thought maybe we'd be giving them away for Christmas presents for the next 20 years …
Sara: I thought, for sure, we'd be using them as coasters.
Troy: Coasters around the house. But, little by little, we continued to reorder and travel and more and more and it just blew us all away.
Bob: That started happening for you and, obviously, you were at a point where, "I can't keep teaching high school and doing this simultaneously." There was at least some fork in the road where you said, "Do we go in this direction?"
Bob: And I think most people think, well, when you get to that fork in the road, you go, "Well, sure you do, I mean this would be great." But it's kind of a sobering thought to step out in that direction, wasn't it?
Sara: It was a very difficult, probably, absolutely, the most difficult decision. A lot of songs came out of that time in my life. "Hello, Lord," came out of that, "Cave of Adullum" came out of that time just saying, "Lord, I want to do the right thing, and I can't hear You." I mean, I was having a really hard time knowing exactly what I was supposed to do because the high school is such a mission field, and I felt like I had been called there, and yet these doors were opening up.
Two weeks after "Past the Wishing" came out, we were flown down to Nashville by a major label. They rolled out the red carpet for us, and they were wanting us to sign with them, and this is when Troy, I believe, stepped up. I mean, it was really unbelievable, because he – the both of us, we were in a foreign country, and he learned the language. He bought books, he just dove in 100 percent, and I believe, and I think he would agree, he found his calling.
I mean, it was amazing. I had already known kind of my part of the call, but this is when he stepped up, and that happened for him, and he just became our defender for our family, you know, to try to figure out what was right.
They were wanting me to go out on the road. They would have asked me to go out by myself. You know, they would put a band together for me and, up to this point, like he said, we'd been going to together. I didn't feel like I could do this by myself without his support. I didn't want to. And we were actually at a FamilyLife conference when we had this very discussion.
We went to the Marriage Conferences, and we were saying, you know, this seems like the opportunity of a lifetime to sign with a major label. It seems like all the right things are in place, and yet in our hearts we knew it was not right for our marriage, it was not right for our family, and we said no, not knowing that that door would ever open for us again. And it was very difficult and very painful but the minute we said "No," it was just like, ahhh, the release and the relief and the answer to prayer was just instantaneous. We knew we had made the right decision.
Bob: Troy, what got you to one of the Weekend to Remember conferences in the first place, do you remember?
Troy: We knew that it was coming to town because we were in a weekly marriage newlyweds class, and they had passed out flyers, and we were going through the Homebuilders series and had been for three years at that point.
Bob: Now, how did all that get started? As soon as you got married, you were in the newlywed class, and they were using Homebuilders?
Troy: The class started the week after we got married, the 21st of January, 1995.
Dennis: You were still on your honeymoon.
Troy: Oh, yes. We had just gotten all her stuff moved up from Missouri, and we were settling in our apartment in Minneapolis, and the church I grew up in had started this new newlyweds class, and we were going to go through the series, and we got to the end of that one, and we went on to the next one and the next.
Dennis: Well, I want to stop you there. Why would you two join a class as newlyweds? I mean, usually, newlyweds think they know it all. I mean, "We can conquer the world, we're newlyweds." Something moved you to want to set aside time on a regular basis to study the Scriptures and to get a blueprint for your marriage.
Sara: Yes, absolutely. You know, first year – sometimes they're great, sometimes they're hard. I moved away from my mama and my dad, and I was up in this – again, in a foreign country, up in Minnesota, and we just found a lot of normalcy in the classroom – things that would happen. We'd have a fight, and I would feel like I didn't have a friend in the world, you know, or I would feel like it was way bigger when we'd have a fight in my own personal mind if I kept that to myself.
Well, we'd get together every week with 15 other couples who were having the same exact experiences, and we would talk about those things and talk about better ways to respond, and it just – for me, it took me out of a place of despair, like, if we'd have a fight, "This is the end, what have I done, you know, what are we doing," and everyone does this. Everyone goes through this, and now this is completely normal.
Dennis: Instead of feeling like you're the only people on the planet, the only newly married couple who have ever had an argument in the first month of your marriage.
Sara: Oh, yes.
Dennis: Now, all of a sudden, you've got a circle of couples all nodding their heads saying, "Yeah, that was us last night."
Sara: And not just that, but, and I'm not saying – the principles in the – the very first one we did was about becoming one, and that principle, to me, that laid a foundation for our marriage that I believe is saving us now in what we're doing, we could be divided. There are so many things trying to divide us.
But the principle that when I hurt him, I hurt myself, and if I'm working against us, I'm working against myself, and it's only, you know, we are one person now. That principle was – it was awesome, and it's been, I think, on many levels, that class – we had no – we were just a teacher and a radio advertising salesman at the time. We had no idea what God had in store for us. But those classes were really foundational.
Bob: You both grew up in homes where you saw pretty good marriages modeled.
Bob: So you didn't come with a lot of heavy baggage, like some couples do, to a marriage, and yet, still, the systematic understanding of biblical truth on marriage – most couples go a long time in a marriage before anybody ever opens the Scriptures and talks about Genesis 2 and talks about this whole idea of becoming one.
I think the fact that you were with other couples who were willing to raise their hand and say, "We had a fight this week, too." That transparency is critical, isn't it?
Troy: Oh, yes, definitely. And we weren't going to have a strong marriage just because our parents had a strong marriage, either, and we understood that through year one. But week after week, when we'd come together as a group and flesh it all out and laugh and laugh and laugh about it.
Sara: One of my favorite conversations ever was about honeymoon expectations. It was so great, because we all just admitted that, you know, you have all these – the woman wants this totally romantic – I mean – the poor guys. What are they going to do? They're set up from the beginning, you know, you expect all the most perfect things and then you're just bound to have something go wrong, and the stories that morning. We were just – I mean – I still remember that. We just were splitting our sides.
Troy: The sandwich.
Bob: Wait, wait, wait, the sandwich? What about the sandwich?
Dennis: Yeah, what's with the sandwich?
Sara: That's my own personal story.
Dennis: Well, you're turning red, so it must be a good one.
Sara: It's a good one. You can choose to air this or not, but I'll tell it. I don't mind telling it. I had a girlfriend that got married just a couple of months before I did, so she was my only template. And she had gone out and bought these basically a seven-day honeymoon. She had seven little outfits, you know, and so I had done the same thing. I was just going to be as cute as I could be, you know?
So we were on our honeymoon, you know, and we would be – he'd start to be romantic, and I'd say, "Wait right here." You know, I'd take off for an hour getting ready for this romantic moment. I'd just kill the mood, you know?
So while I'm in there getting ready, he ordered a sandwich, you know?
Troy: I turned on the basketball game.
Sara: And turned on the basketball game. So when I walked out – again, now, my expectation is extremely high. I'm expecting him to throw the sandwich across the room, like, who would want to eat at a moment like this. You look just ravishing, and at least turn off the game, you know? He looks up, "Hey, how are you doing?" and he takes another bite of his sandwich, and that didn't take much, and I just blew.
Dennis: He didn't even mute the sound.
Sara: Well, he didn't get much, he didn't get a chance to. I mean, the second I walked out, you know, I just started, you know …
Dennis: Troy, Troy.
Troy: It was day 4, it was the fourth outfit …
If you know what I mean …
Bob: And it had taken an hour – it had taken an hour to get the outfit on.
Sara: I know, and he was hungry, and so I start saying, "Do you think I wear this because I like it?" You know, I was just freaked out on him and, poor guy, and so we just had a ball that day talking about all the expectations.
My mom called me right before Easter. We got married in January, so right before Easter she called me. Now, she knows me really well, and she said, "Sara, I do not want to get a phone call on Easter morning crying about how he did not get you this and he did not get – and there was no basket," and she said, "You tell him right now what kind of basket you get, what kind of candy you have in it" – because my mom is a real – she does traditions. Our family does traditions.
So she said, "You do not set him up like that." She said, "You tell him, 'This is what I need from you.'" You know, so that was our first Easter.
Bob: And did you come through with the basket?
Troy: Did I come through?
Sara: You came through.
Bob: He's a man who can follow instructions, right? I have, as I've listened to your music, you are pretty emotionally transparent. You just kind of – well, you'll tell the sandwich story, you'll tell whatever story, right?
Bob: In your songs, you just lay it out there.
Bob: Is that scary?
Sara: You know, I feel like, early on, the more honest I was in music, the more people would respond to that. Those things are universal, and so I feel like when I'm honest about where I am in my faith and my relationships and that, there are songs, though, that you'll never hear. I have books full of even more personal songs.
Bob: But a song like "Fly," which is a song – you're kind of coaching your husband through that song a little bit, aren't you?
Sara: Yes, it's a celebration of the subtle things, of the little things, and I'm very fortunate because I have a husband who – he doesn't just provide a car and roof over my head. He loves me at the core of who I am and has come up alongside me.
But, like any marriage, I think your family is the first to kind of forget you're there or to – you know, how you kind of get going through the motions, and the song is a reminder that when you love me there's nothing I won't try, and that's really what's happened here.
Really, the success of what's happening with this music is with us. That is the success. I would not – I say this and I don't just say this, but I would not be doing music today if it wasn't for our partnership, our marriage, and they way he came up and hoped all things for me.
[Sara sings "Fly"]
Bob: Tell a husband, because you just did in this song – tell a husband what it means to a wife when he fixes his attention and his affection on her.
Sara: Oh, there's nothing like that. I mean, we've had this conversation a lot over the last five years. Like I said, the Easter basket, you know, these are things that are important to me. These are the things that mean more, and I have to say that Troy has a tremendous example in his parents. His father is so tender to his mother, and he is like that to me. He is tender to me, and I just see so many couples that don't respect each other anymore, and they've taken each other and the value of that person, just the value of that person, they've taken that for granted.
And I feel like there is nothing more invigorating and more nourishing to a marriage than couples who see the value of their mate. And on my side of it, I'd cherish a secret, and that secret is no one knows, no one in the world knows how hard Troy works on our behalf, and that's a very precious, precious thing to me, because we are truly partners in what we do, and I would not be able to do this by myself, and the Lord knew that, and I know we're called. I know that we're called, because we are called together.
God maintained our family. If this call had cut into our marriage or cut into our family, I don't believe it would have been from God. But He maintained our marriage in it.
Bob: Troy, some of what you learned in those early years of marriage in those Homebuilders classes about protecting and caring for your wife – those lessons are being fleshed out today in a way that is strengthening who you are as a couple.
Troy: Yes. We had no idea during those first three years of marriage – it was weekly marriage counseling – group marriage counseling, and it was more than just a Bible study or a class. It really, really laid an amazing foundation for what we are ending up doing together.
Dennis: You keep referring to the foundation, and I keep thinking of Matthew, chapter 7, where Jesus talked about there being two different kinds of foundations – one that was a house built on sand and another on a rock.
And what I heard you saying is that in that first year of marriage you both found the rock, you both obeyed His Word and made some decisions early on, some really tough decisions, some hard decisions, that were value-based out of the Scriptures that now, eight years later in your marriage, you're still going to the bank on those decisions.
Troy: Oh, absolutely.
Bob: You hear this, and you think to yourself don't you wish every married couple in America had as the first two or three years of their marriage.
Troy: We tell everyone we meet – I mean, as far as newlyweds and people, we say if your church doesn't have a newlyweds class, maybe you guys could start one and ask a mentor or another married couple to lead it and grab these Homebuilders series.
Sara: I want to make something clear. We've struggled a lot with what we do and everything, but I feel like we have the tools to do the right thing, and that's ultimately been the greatest gift of what you guys do, what you've given to us, is that you equipped us with a language to be able to communicate about, "This is how I feel and this is what this means to us." And that was invaluable.
Dennis: And when you speak of a language, you're talking about a vocabulary of how you resolve conflict.
Dennis: But without that vocabulary, that language, people get paralyzed.
Dennis: They start sinking into the sand, and their house begins to perish in the midst of the flood.
Bob: It really doesn't matter whether you've been married a month or a decade or 50 years. That language is part of what every couple needs.
In fact, just having somebody set you up to talk about these things, introducing the subject and kind of prompting the communication. You know, you think about the Homebuilders Couples Series that we've created here at FamilyLife – there have been tens of thousands of couples who have gone through this material, and that's what it's done for them, whether they're newly weds or they've been married for an extended period of time.
We've got information on our website at FamilyLife.com about the Homebuilders Couples Series, and during the month of August, we're making our Homebuilders study guides available at a reduced rate, because we're hoping that this fall there will be a number of couples who will get involved in a small group and will use the Homebuilders study material, whether it's an existing small group that you've got as part of your church, or just a group of friends you'd like to pull together, have a potluck dinner every other week, and go through some marriage topics together.
Go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and get more information about the Homebuilders Couples Series. There are several different subjects available in the series, and you'll find the information about them online at FamilyLife.com and, again, if you order during the month of August, you'll be able to save money on the study guides. All of the details are on our website at FamilyLife.com.
When you get to the home page, you'll see a red button that's in the center of the screen, actually a little in the lower right-hand side of your screen. You click that red button that says "Go," and that will take you to an area of the site where there's more information about Homebuilders. You can order studies online. Again, the website is FamilyLife.com.
You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, and we can have someone on our team answer any questions you have about Homebuilders, the different studies that are available, or how you can get a study guide sent to you.
Well, tomorrow, Troy and Sara Groves are going to be back with us, and we're going to talk about how the decisions that you make in your marriage today will have an impact not only on your marriage but on your children, on your children's children, on your children's children's children, and so on – you get the idea. We'll talk about that tomorrow, I hope you can be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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