About the Guest
"By the end of the night we were two broken people." Those are the comments of Sandy and Cheryl Spangler, a couple who found a new life together in Christ after attending a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember. The Spanglers talk about their new start and the miracles they've seen take place in the months and years since their first conference.
Sandy and Cheryl SpanglerSandy, a former construction worker, and Cheryl, former Nursing Director, share the trials of their first eight years of marriage openly and candidly. Sandy is still on staff at FamilyLife® where he and Cheryl have served for a number of years. (Cheryl went to be with the Lord in 2013 after a prolonged battle with cancer.)
Sandy and Cheryl found a new life together in Christ after attending a Weekend to Remember.
Bob: When Sandy Spangler showed up at a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, he wasn’t sure what to expect. But he sure didn't expect what he found.
Sandy: They were real people! Even though they were doing it God's way and trying to help us understand that there was a way to do it right, they were hilarious! They would talk about the dumb things that they had done in their lives and in their relationships. It's like no one had ever talked to me that way or shared truth with me that way.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, September 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Authentic and compelling speakers were not the only thing that took Sandy Spangler by surprise at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. We’ll hear more of his story today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. It was more than two decades ago—it was in 1989—Columbus, Ohio, in the fall. We were hosting one of our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaways—had hundreds of couples who had come to attend the weekend. We didn’t know it, at the time; but there was a couple in the crowd—Sandy and Cheryl Spangler—who had already been to an attorney. They were planning to end their marriage.
They had gone to see a Christian counselor—first, Cheryl—and then, Sandy. At the Christian counselor’s office, they’d seen a poster for the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. They decided—Sandy, somewhat reluctantly—that they would attend this weekend marriage conference. Really, the motivation was to be able to say: “Well, we’ve done all we can before we dissolve the marriage. We want to say we tried everything.”
This week, we are hearing Sandy and Cheryl Spangler share about the work that God did in their marriage at that conference, back in 1989. The interview we’re listening to this week is an interview that was recorded in 2005; but we’ve decided to re-air it this week in honor of Cheryl Spangler who, earlier this year, went home to be with the Lord.
We know that Cheryl would have wanted this to be a part of her ongoing testimony—that God did a transforming work—a redeeming work in her own life, and in her husband’s life, and in their marriage. In fact, Sandy and Cheryl came to work with us, here at FamilyLife, about a decade ago, and devoted themselves full-time to this issue. They wanted marriages to stay together and people to understand God’s purpose and plan for marriage.
While we pay tribute to Cheryl Spangler this week, we also want to let our listeners know that, this week and next week, you have an opportunity to sign up for a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. We are going to be hosting these in about four dozen cities, all across the country, this fall. You can sign up this week or next week and save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. It’s a buy one/get one free offer. You pay for yourself at the regular rate, and your spouse comes free.
If you’re interested in attending a weekend getaway—where, together, you can learn God’s design for marriage and, at the same time, have a fun, romantic weekend away together—go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says “Weekend to Remember”. All the information you need about when a getaway is happening in a city near where you live can be found online. You can register online. If you do, just make sure you type my name—type “BOB”—in the online promotion code box. That will qualify you for this special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners.
Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can register over the phone. Just mention that you listen to FamilyLife Today and you’d like to take advantage of the special offer. If you have any questions, we’re happy to answer those for you—again, at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, here is Part Three of our conversation with Sandy and Cheryl Spangler—who, at this point in their story, have already experienced their first night at a Weekend to Remember—and it is Saturday morning.
Dennis: What I wanted to ask, as you started Saturday, at the Weekend to Remember, where did you sit in the ballroom on Saturday morning?
Sandy: I think about halfway up, as I remember.
Bob: You moved up a little bit.
Sandy: About halfway.
Dennis: Bob, you’ve seen this at the conference.
Dennis: Couples start on the back row; and by the end of the conference, some of them have found their way to the front row.
Bob: Right. Well, and what I wanted to know—Sandy, you'd already said that if this thing got too preachy, you were out of there. Friday night—we try to keep things from being real confrontational or—we, actually, don't get into a lot of what the Bible has to teach about marriage on Friday night. We talk about what causes a marriage to disintegrate—Friday night.
But come Saturday morning, one of the first questions we look at is, “What's the purpose for marriage?” We start talking, right away, about God's design for the marriage relationship. By this time, 8:30 on Saturday morning, we're starting to talk pretty candidly about God. Were you thinking: "Okay, here is where it comes—I'm getting out of here soon,"?
Sandy: Well, I have to say, at that point in time, it was on my mind; but it was just that Friday night was so real, and it was so honest, and it did have some hope. So, I was willing to take a chance on the God that they were talking about—at least, to listen. I wasn't buying into this yet, but I was willing to listen.
Bob: And I do think one of the things that sets the Weekend to Remember apart is that, even when we do talk about God and the Bible, we talk about it in a way that is, again, pretty real and pretty—it doesn't feel like you're getting preached at.
Dennis: Well, it's highly personal.
Dennis: Each of the speakers are sharing out of their own lives—their own journey. Our speaker team is made up of a very diverse group of people who are authentic, and real, and who are meant to share about their own relationship with God, out of the Scriptures, but definitely from their own experience, as well.
Bob: Well, again, when we started things off Saturday morning—talking about the fact that God's purpose for marriage is that: we would mirror His image, we would mutually complete one another, we would multiply a godly legacy—and then, we talk about the fact that all marriages--there is an opposing force—that there's an enemy—that Satan is attacking marriages. That's pretty straightforward.
Were you open to some of these things that we were talking about on Saturday morning? Do you remember, Cheryl, when we started talking about Satan, were you going, "I never thought—maybe, that's a factor here."
Cheryl: I did. I was really hanging on every word that the speakers were saying. They just had captivated me. I was just there listening to everything. I didn't want to miss anything. I was laughing, and I was crying. It just was such a range of emotion for me. I didn't want to miss any of it.
Dennis: I was listening to you describe that—and I was thinking: “That's what you'd expect from somebody who goes to church a lot and who has a walk with Christ—but neither one of you were Christians. You didn't have an experience in church on a regular basis.
Bob: Had you been to church, at all, in your marriage?
Sandy: We got married in a church. [Laughter]
Cheryl: We got married in a church, and I went to church for a little while.
Bob: But for most of the period, Sunday morning was—read the paper and sleep late; right?
Sandy: Time to rest or work.
Dennis: The conference had to be an interesting experience because, as Bob says, starting on Saturday morning—it's like drinking from a spiritual fire hydrant. I've had people describe it that way. You just have this incredible deluge of truth that's practical—that's authentic. How did you handle it?
Sandy: Well, you know, it's a lot like what you said before—they were real people. Even though they were doing it God's way and trying to help us understand that there was a way to do it right, they were hilarious! I mean, they would talk about the dumb things that they had done in their lives and in their relationships. It's like no one had ever talked to me that way or shared truth with me that way.
Bob: You can sense, even as we're talking about it now, that things were starting to soften in your own hearts. You were hearing what the speakers were saying and acknowledging some of your own mistakes. You weren't pointing at each other and saying, "Oh, it's all you!" You were starting to say, "Boy, I've done some things wrong here."
And I know one of the things we ask couples to do on Saturday morning is to write a love letter to each other. Now, for a couple that has not had very many civil conversations for the last five years—
Dennis: And for an electrical contractor—a love letter?
Bob: How did that project go over?
Sandy: That may have been the most difficult thing that I've ever done in my life. [Emotion in voice] I had never written a love letter to anyone, but the amazing thing was that I really loved her. I didn't know how to express it. I didn't know how to say it; but when I sat down to write it, I could write it. That was a big turning point for me because I didn't think I had it in me to love someone because I didn't want to be hurt.
Dennis: Do you remember the dinner where he read you his love letter?
Cheryl: We had, actually, gone to dinner and spent more time talking than we had the first eight years of our marriage. We just talked about a lot of things—mostly, just about what we were learning at the conference because, for me, it was all brand-new. I had never heard any of that before. After dinner, we went back to the hotel room. It was then that we shared our letters with each other.
Dennis: So who started? Who did it first?
Cheryl: Sandy did.
Sandy: Yes, I did do it first; and I was scared to death. I was afraid that she would laugh. I was afraid that she'd reject me, but I did. I wanted her to know how I felt. So, I did—I read the letter—and I was amazed.
Cheryl: He had a hard time reading the letter. He, really, spent a lot of time in tears and just trying to compose himself so he could finish the letter. At the same time, I was in tears, as well. God was really doing something in our lives. By that night, we were two broken people. I shared my letter with him, as well; and we were committed.
Sandy: The interesting part, at that point in time, is—I really had no idea what to do. [Emotion in voice] I really didn't, but I must have seen it somewhere or heard it somewhere. So, I said to Cheryl—I said: "I don't know if it's true what they're saying; but if what the speakers are saying is true, and that this God that they've talked about can salvage our marriage and can save our kids, then, I'm willing to do whatever it takes. I think we should get down on our knees and pray and ask Him to do that."
I didn't know what to do, but that's what we did. That's really pretty much it. We just knelt beside the bed and said, "God, if You can do what they say You can do, then whatever it takes, from this point on, we're committed. We want You to be part of our marriage and to help us raise our kids. Whatever You ask of us, from this point on, we'll be willing to do, if You can do that." We had no idea what that meant.
Dennis: Cheryl, what were you feeling, kneeling beside a bed, with your contractor husband, who has just poured his heart out before you?
Cheryl: I was the most—happiest woman in the world because I think our relationship had been so superficial that I was finally getting to know the man that I really married. We were sharing things with one another and we were being honest. There just wasn’t anything that would make me happier.
Bob: You had just heard him express, in a letter, things that your soul had been longing to hear for eight years.
Bob: We asked you, if you wouldn't mind, to bring in your manuals, where you wrote those letters, back in 1989. Let’s do it in the order that it happened, back then. Would you mind, Sandy, reading for our listeners to hear, what you wrote to Cheryl that night?
Sandy: Sure, I'd be glad to.
My dearest Cheryl, I am so glad you came into my life. I am also so glad you were strong enough to make me realize I needed— well, we needed some help to make our marriage work. Probably, one of the wisest things we could have done was go through this weekend together, as we have.
I, especially, needed this time to bare my soul to you and to God so I can make an attempt to continue with my life in a direction that suits me and is best for God. I hope you can understand how difficult this is for me and how important it is for us to work together for I realize, now, I can't handle it alone.
I have to close now because I can't seem to see through the tears, but I hope you will always know how much I love you and how much I want to work to make this marriage work. I do love you. Sandy.
Bob: Wow. Do you remember when he read that to you? He was weeping his way through it as he read it; wasn’t he?
Cheryl: He was. It, actually, took him a long time to complete the whole letter. He stopped a number of times.
Bob: But when he said twice—there at the end: “…I love you… I do love you,” it had been a long time since you’d heard that.
Cheryl: It had been.
Bob: What did you write to him?
Dear Sandy, when we first met, the qualities that attracted me most to you was your carefree attitude. You never seemed to worry about things; and if you did, not for long. That was just the opposite of me. I thought you would rub off on me. You were fun-loving, and you made me feel important. We talked a lot, at first, and I thought it was great.
When I started to get to know you better, you were impatient with me and others around you. I had a hard time accepting that but I need to. I also must remember not to take things personally. I have my faults. You know them by now—especially, my directions. [I got us lost on the way to the conference.] You are starting to accept that aspect, but my so-called un-organization is not on purpose. I don’t think you accept me for that. I guess I’m just a little frazzled but I’m trying—at least, since I’ve been off work. I know there are no guarantees. All I can say is: “I’ll try.”
The last thing I’d like to say is that I respect you, now. It has been a long time coming—I realize—but I do. I believe in you, and I believe there is hope for you and I. I couldn’t say that a year ago.
So, we have come a long way this weekend. We still have so far to go, but there is a lifetime to do it in. I want our marriage to be good for us and our kids. I hope they can look back and think that we were good role models—so, we have a lot of catching up to do. In closing, I want to say that my love for you, now, is unconditional. I will work hard to continue that love. Yours forever. Love, Cheryl
Bob: Wow! You know, there is something about couples expressing to one another what we don't express to one another often enough. I think, not only does God delight in that, but God goes to work in the midst of that kind of conversation and begins to do a transforming work.
Dennis: Bob, the power of a well-spoken word is beyond description—just as the power of a negative word—a harmful word—brings death and destruction. As we have heard this week, when Jesus Christ enters a couple's life—their marriage, their family—He can bring about a new day, hope—a resurrection.
The issue is, “Will we take Him at His Word and will we embrace it, together, because it takes two to make a great marriage.” There has to be couples—with marriages like Sandy and Cheryl—who were on the brink of divorce. There are others who have marriages that definitely need some remodeling—refurbishing. And there are some marriages that are good marriages—that they just need to make them better.
The reason the Weekend to Remember is a great life-changing weekend is not because of the speakers—although, they are great—it's not because of the hotels—they're wonderful—but it's because the conference is based upon the Scriptures and the God that we speak about is alive. He is alive, and the tomb is empty. Jesus Christ can change lives.
Bob: The drive back from Columbus to Cleveland had to be different than the drive from Cleveland to Columbus; wasn't it?
Sandy: Yes—actually, we were excited to get home. [Emotion in voice] We wanted to share what we'd found with the kids. That was an interesting Sunday evening. We gathered Matthew and Michelle around the table. We sat down, and we tried to explain to them, in words, what we'd found—hope. We realized that we had some tools that we didn’t even know were possible.
As we began to share with them about that, Michelle was so excited! She was just—anything that could stop the arguing and the screaming—she was just really excited about that time. It was a great evening. Matthew was not as receptive. Matthew was 15. His response was one that said, "You'll really have to prove this God that you're talking about to me because I'm not buying it."
Cheryl: I would say—mostly, what I remember is the fact that we were two different people. We left and went to the conference one way, and we came back totally different. I think, just for our kids to see us and be around us, they knew that something had happened. There were a lot of years of bitterness and anger that was melted away on that Saturday night at the conference. So, Sunday, we had hope like we never had before. We had everything that we needed to do it right.
Bob: You know, we talked about the fact that you can't undo eight years in a weekend. There was still work to be done.
Cheryl: There was. We still spent the next year-and-a-half, actually, dating. We started all over again. He would call me at work and ask me out on a date. We really focused on each other for the next year-and-a-half as we put things back together.
Just within a few months of the conference—it was in a Homebuilders® group—we had a couple from our church—we had found a church and we had started going in that time—and asked them if they would lead this Homebuilders for us to be in, and they agreed.
Bob: That just helped reinforce everything you’d heard at the conference, and keep it fresh, and keep it right in front of you. But your kids had to see—over the course of the next year-and-a-half / two years—that God really had done a work in Mom and Dad’s life.
Dennis: What would Matthew say today?
Sandy: I think what he would tell you is that that may have been the first time in his life that he felt safe—as he began to see that what we said was what we were going to do. We were not going to go back. We made mistakes—and we didn't do everything right in that first year-and-a-half—and we still make mistakes.
Dennis: It’s a new day.
Sandy: It was. He was just—I wish he could be here to tell you. He would say that his life changed that day and that he felt safe.
Cheryl: It was years later until he came to Christ; but today, he is, actually, an elder in his church. So, the legacy that we have is just incredible.
Bob: Wow. You know, we don’t stop and think about how a decision we make today can affect, not just our lives, but our legacies. Generations to come are affected by the choices we make. To hear Cheryl Spangler reflect on her legacy—in 2005, as we’ve listened to Part Three of our interview with Sandy and Cheryl today—it’s even more poignant because, earlier this year, God called Cheryl home. She had a prolonged battle with cancer that she lost, earlier this year. We wanted to pay tribute to Cheryl for her years of service, here at FamilyLife, as a co-laborer with us. The best way we knew to pay tribute was to share God’s redeeming work in her life, and in her marriage to Sandy, and how God used the Weekend to Remember mightily in their marriage.
That’s one of the reasons why, this week and next week, we are making available a special offer to FamilyLife Today listeners. If you’d like to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway—if you sign up this week or next week—you can save 50 percent off the registration fee. You pay full rate for your registration; your spouse attends for free. It’s a buy one/get one free offer that we’re making. The offer is good only for FamilyLife Today listeners, and it’s good only this week and next week. We need to hear from you by next Sunday if you want to take advantage of this offer. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more about the Weekend to Remember.
You can register, online, if you’d like. If you do, all you have to remember is to put my name—just type “BOB”—in the promotional code box you see there. That will qualify you for the special offer. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We’ll answer any questions you have. You can register over the phone if you’d like. When you do, mention you listen to FamilyLife Today and you want to take advantage of the special offer. Just say, “Bob told me to call.” Again, you’ll qualify for the buy one/ get one free opportunity. Save 50 percent on your registration fee. We need to hear from you this week or next week if you want to take advantage of this special offer.
Now, tomorrow, we are going to visit the house of mourning, as Ecclesiastes tells us to do. We’re going to take you to the memorial service for Cheryl Spangler, earlier this year. You’ll get a chance to hear a son pay tribute to his mother. So, I hope you can tune in for that.
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 will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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