FamilyLife Today® Podcast

From Mess to Mission

with | May 22, 2020
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After dating only five months, and finding out they were expecting, Tim and Kathy Bush got married. They admit they had more lows than highs over the first 27 years of marriage. When Tim's brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, and his nephew committed suicide, Tim's life began to spiral downward. It wasn't until a friend encouraged him to read the Bible each night with Kathy, and to abstain from alcohol, that their marriage started to take an upward turn. Hear them tell how they went from being self-focused to experiencing a Christ-focused marriage.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

After dating only five months, and finding out they were expecting, Tim and Kathy Bush got married. They tell how they went from being self-focused to experiencing a Christ-focused marriage.

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From Mess to Mission

May 22, 2020
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Bob: Tim and Kathy Bush’s marriage was a mess for a lot of reasons, but Kathy says one of the reasons was because of alcohol.

Kathy: We were so mired in sin that I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t/I never understood the Bible; I would try to read it. We finally said, “Let’s quit drinking for one month”; and in that month, as we quit drinking and we were reading the Bible, things were starting to change. We sat down with a piece of paper at the end of the month and wrote the good things about not drinking and the bad things about not drinking. We couldn’t find anything that was bad about not drinking; things were so good. We decided we’re just not drinking. We haven’t drunk, now, for nine-and-some years; and it just keeps getting better.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, May 22nd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at We’re going to hear today how God got a hold of Tim and Kathy Bush’s marriage and changed them from being a mission field to being missionaries. Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Our listeners are going to get to meet a couple of friends of yours today, right?

Dave: Yes, Tim and Kathy Bush.

Ann: We love these guys. They have an amazing story—good friends.

Bob: They do. Tim and Kathy live in eastern Washington.

Dave: —been to their house many times.

Bob: And you’ve done events that they’ve brought you in to speak at. It really is a remarkable story because—

Dave: Oh, unbelievable story. They came up to us on the Love Like You Mean It® cruise. We had never met them; they came to our autograph table. I’m sitting there, like, “Nobody wants our autograph.” He walks up and goes, “Yes, I don’t want your autograph; I don’t care. But I want you two to come to our church and do a marriage retreat for us.” We ended up doing three or four in a row—

Bob: Wow.

Dave: —for years. Here is the thing about them. They are not about their marriage. They are about telling God’s redemptive story in their marriage to impact others, and they are impacting thousands.

Bob: They are a couple, who have gone from the worst place you can be in a marriage—

Dave: Yes.

Bob: —to healing to ministry.

Dave: Right.

Bob: In fact, here at FamilyLife®, we’re hoping that more and more couples, who have been in bad places, can get to healing—that’s what we are all about—but we don’t want you to just to stop there. We want you to take your healing—you mentioned this a few days ago when we were talking: 2 Corinthians, Chapter 1—

Dave: Yes.

Bob: — “Comfort others with the comfort you’ve received from Christ.”

Dave: Yes; in some ways, when God blesses you, I think rarely does He just have you in mind.

Bob: Right.

Dave: He wants us to be a blessing to others, and that’s what Tim and Kathy are doing.

Bob: Let’s meet Tim and Kathy, hear their story, and hear how God is using them in the lives of others, not just in eastern Washington, but all around the country.

[Previous Love Like You Mean® Cruise Interview]

Bob: So how long into 37 years of marriage before you went, “Oh, this is going to be more challenging than I realized”?

Kathy: I was going to say, “Yes, the first night.” [Laughter]

Bob: The first night?

Kathy: On our honeymoon, yes—[Laughter]—the very first night.

Tim: I was sure we made a mistake. [Laughter]

Kathy: I second that.

Bob: So the first night, both of you were—

Kathy: Yes.

Bob: —in isolation?

Kathy: Yes, so we—I was 18; Tim was 20. We got pregnant, and then we got married; so we only knew each other for five months?

Tim: Five months and five days, from our first date,—

Kathy: Yes.

Tim: —we got married.

Bob: Was there something particular the first night that made you go, “This is going to be hard”?

Kathy: Yes; Tim—we went to the beach—and Tim got us a room with a kitchen. He thought I was going to cook. [Laughter]

Tim: I did buy food. [Laughter]

Bob: Okay; well, I can see why this got off track. [Laughter] As you look at the first 20 years of marriage, would you say, “Roller coaster/highs and lows,” or would you say, “More dips than highs”?

Kathy: I would say more dips than highs for 27 years.

Bob: —27 years?

Kathy: —for 27 years, yes.

Bob: Did you know your marriage was not good?

Tim: I would say I thought it was great, because Kathy had everything she would want. She had new cars, new houses; we went on vacations. We had some great experiences as a family. I mean, what else could she possibly want?

Bob: But didn’t she ever say, “This is—I’m not happy”?

Kathy: All the time, yes. [Laughter]

Tim: I never heard it that way.

Kathy: He would ask me, “What can I do to make you happy?” I couldn’t tell him; I didn’t know. Throughout this 27 years, we were in and out of counselors. We were/we were doing everything we could; we were searching. There was drugs and alcohol; there was infidelity. There was—

Tim: —on both sides.

Kathy: —on both sides. There was never a day that we both said we wanted a divorce.

Tim: My mom was married nine times; and two of her husbands abused me/put me in the hospital from beating me. Then, when I was 12, one of those husbands told her he wouldn’t marry a woman with kids; so she gave me up to my grandparents.

Bob: Wow.

Tim: My pop was a player; he had girlfriends. From a 12-year affair, he divorced my grandma then after 37 years of marriage when I was 18. Needless to say, I was not marriage material.

Bob: You didn’t have a model.

Tim: I did not have a model.

Bob: You didn’t have anything. And you didn’t have much?

Kathy: I had—my parents were long-term married.

Bob: Right.

Kathy: I would say I was raised going to church—

Bob: Okay?

Kathy: —but it was only on Sundays. I never saw my parents open a Bible. We prayed at meals. There were seven kids. I was raised where there was no talk of college; there was really no talk of future. It was, when you turned 18,—

Bob: —you get married.

Kathy: —you get married when you find a man. I found a man/I saw a man; and he had cars, and money, and a house. [Laughter] You know, I thought that was it; I thought that was going to be the ticket.

Bob: What brought the turning point for you guys?

Tim: The turning point for us—we had, in 2008—still not Christians—we were going to church 1.3 times a month, like a lot of people do.

Bob: Right.

Tim: We had gone through a time when the economy was starting to change, I saw in 2008. I had five businesses; a couple hundred employees. I noticed that my brother Ned, who was 43 years old at the time—he was/he was in this thing that I was doing: a construction company called Bush Construction. We were going to build my own kingdom here on earth; that’s what my plan was: a hundred buildings in ten years; millions of dollars we were going to make.

I noticed that my brother had a limp, and that limp turned into his hand falling off the computer, to it turned into his foot falling off the left driver’s pedal. About three weeks later, we found out that it was Stage 4 Glioblastoma; and they said, “Ned, you’ve got anywhere from a few months to, maybe, a couple of years to live.” That was in July of ’08. During that time, I started drinking a lot heavier than normal; and my brother never worked anymore. He had a wife and a six-year-old daughter.

And then, about two months later, our nephew — he took his life.

Bob: Oh man!

Tim: At his funeral, I felt myself getting sick to the point, where I was having anxiety/couldn’t sleep. In the month of December of ’08, I say I never even slept a minute the whole month.

Kathy: At this time, this husband—who controlled everything, including me—all of a sudden, I saw this change in him, and he had no control over anything. I remember a moment—because our parents kind of lived/they knew all the stuff that was going on—I remember my mom coming over. She—Tim was having anxiety—and she asked me how long I was going to stay with him, because she knew our history. There was something in me that I saw this change in him; and it was like: “I’m going to stay. I mean, something is different here.”

Tim: What I saw from Kath at that point—she came up in the bedroom; and she said, “I want you to know what Mom just said. Mom just said that I should probably leave you while the going is good.” She said, “But I want you to know, if we lose everything we have, I’m not going anywhere.” Really—I’ve got to tell you—for the very first time in my life, I felt unconditional love. That was huge for me.

We’re into ’09 at this point, and I’m on some heavy-duty drugs from a doctor this time; but I’m also taking other drugs, and I’m also drinking heavily. I’m starting to read the Bible, like 70 pages a night, and getting nothing from it in my mind.

Bob: Imagine. [Laughter]

Tim: Yes, yes. [Laughter] So, my brother dies on February 28th. He didn’t even last six months. He died on February 28 of 2009, and we went to Mexico.

Kathy: He’s got a really good friend in Mexico that actually came to me and said, “Kathy, is Tim okay?” I’m like, “No, he’s not okay. I don’t know what to do”; he had asked his friend to get him some pain killers.

This guy that Tim had talked to—he had asked him if he was reading the Bible. He told him, “Why don’t you slow down and read a Proverb a day?” We got home from Mexico, and Tim asked me if I would start reading the Bible with him and read a Proverb a day.

Tim: We started reading a Proverb every day and then a Psalm a day. Then we started reading the New Testament. Well, then, I was going to a pastor at our church for grief counseling. He’s the same guy that led my brother through his death.

After four or five times [of counseling], he comes in; and he closes the door behind me. He says: “I need to talk to you about this; I could lose my job over this. You need to get out of this church. You need to go find yourself a Jesus-loving, Bible-teaching church. The Lord has got a calling on your life, and it’s a big calling. It’s not here; you’re not going to find it here. You need to get out of here.”

Bob: Wow!

Tim: I went home and told Kath, “What do you think about looking for another church?” She goes, “I’m in; let’s do it.”

Kathy: Then, at that point, we decided/we finally said, “Let’s quit drinking for one month”; and in that month, as we quit drinking and we’re reading the Bible, things are starting to change. We were so mired in sin that I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t/I never understood the Bible; I would try to read it.

But as we’re reading it, I mean, I’m just feeling this huge change; I’m feeling light. We sat down a month later, after we had spent—and we were reading a Proverb; we were reading Psalms—we started reading the Gospels, and we just were like hungry.

We sat down with a piece of paper at the end of the month and wrote the good things about not drinking and the bad things about not drinking. We couldn’t find anything that was bad about not drinking; things were so good. We decided, “You know, we’re just not drinking.” We haven’t drunk now for nine-and-some years.

Bob: Wow.

Kathy: It just keeps getting better.

Tim: We’re not drinking now. About three months, we go to a Kenny G concert. I realize I’m still full of anxiety—not as bad as I was—but still not drinking and still reading God’s Word. Well, then, we went to a Christian concert; and we didn’t know it was Christian. It was a Christmas concert, and literally, that’s/we got saved; got baptized the next year. The Lord had a plan/that calling we figured out.

Bob: Yes, that transformation in your lives led to a reprioritization of everything about your lives that has led to an engagement in ministry, where our paths have crossed and where we’ve been working together. This burden started—you wanted to help other couples, who were in distress the way you’d been in distress—and part of it was because people were seeing a change in you—

Kathy: Right.

Bob: —and come, say, “What’s going on?” Tell us a little about that.

Kathy: We were going to this church; we’re starting to serve. Tim starts talking about sharing our story and helping other couples. I’m a little hesitant because I didn’t want to get up in front of people and share. We did/we did our first class—a marriage class. I told Tim: “Okay; I will sit there with you. You can do it; you can do all the talking. I’ll sit there.”

I sat there the first night, and we got in the car that night. I started telling him what he should have said and what he needs to say in the next week. [Laughter] I kept going on and on. I finally looked at him; and I said: “You know what? I can talk! I’ll start talking.” [Laughter] So I started talking, and that was the start of marriage ministry.

It got/it got more and more that we were doing more and more marriage stuff. We got called to a bigger church, and he really wanted to grow it. My thought was: “Okay; if we’re going to do this, we need to get some training.” So I googled, “Marriage conferences/Christian marriage conferences”; and that’s how I found Weekend to Remember® six years ago; I signed up for that. Then I found the cruise, and I signed up for that.

Tim: The reason—what really drove us to marriage ministry, even go deeper—is we went to a Catalyst Conference, actually. Craig Groeschel said, “I cannot believe how, in the church—how messed up people are,” meaning that there was infidelity in churches and by the leadership. They’d gone through it and were sharing about it. It’s in Stepping Up®, Week 5, by the way.

Bob: Yes.

Tim: So we/I was really committed to bringing it to the church and bringing it to leadership. We had this all planned out: man plans, and God laughs.

We go to this Weekend to Remember thing, and we find this thing called the Art of Marriage®
[FamilyLife video series]. I called our senior pastor; I said: “Dave, I think this is a God-thing. There is something here that I think we should be using and not what we were going to use. I just think—what do you think?” He said: “Well, if you think it’s a God- thing, so do I. Let’s just do it.”

We brought bags of stuff home, including the book, Stepping Up. It’s really changed everything in the trajectory of what we’ve done and how we’ve done it, and how the Lord has worked in it, and blessed it, and continues to bless it. That’s that.

Bob: You guys have started doing regular Art of Marriage events and classes, right?

Kathy: Right. Yes, we mainly do the small group six weeks; we do it as a large group. The first one we did was—you’re the number guys—how many people?

Tim: We had 61 couples the first time.

Kathy: —61 couples the first time. Then the room wasn’t quite big enough so we kind of condensed it. What we do is: we set it up in small groups, like a date night; and we have dinner. Then Tim and I will share bits of our story. Then we add—we kind of modeled it off of Weekend to Remember with the videos; it’s like two-and-a-half hours. There is childcare provided. We have ongoing/we do that a couple times a year. We did it three times the first year.

Tim: We’ve also done the day-and-a-half. We condensed it down to one day, and so probably close to 2,000 people.

Bob: Wow. You’ve done it, not only in eastern Washington, but you’ve been places all around the country.

Kathy: Yes; our kids were in Aiken, South Carolina; so we went down to Aiken and did an event.

Bob: In fact, tell them how the Aiken event happened.

Tim: So the Aiken event—this is—I just told Bob this; he just heard it. I/we were in Aiken, seeing our kids. I wanted to see the pastor and tell him what we did. He walks into Starbucks; and he said, “I’ve got five minutes.” “Okay.” I told him what we did; and he said, “Okay; so, what’s it cost?” I said: “Well, we don’t charge; God redeemed our marriage, and we don’t charge. We could never charge for it.”

He started weeping; he said, “My associate pastor and I, just last week, were saying, ‘We have to do something for marriages; we just don’t know what to do.’ The worst part is we have no budget for it. That was just last week—prayer answered.” Anyway, 30 minutes later, we were planning—after that five minutes got up—we were planning an Art of Marriage. There [were] a hundred couples there. Last I heard, they still have a marriage ministry going on in that church—

Bob: Great.

Tim: —from that one Saturday we were there.

Bob: You have done Art of Marriage. Then you started taking guys through the Stepping Up video series.

Tim: —around 600 guys through Stepping Up. It’s really easy to do that.

Kathy: I love the Stepping Up thing. Well, first off, did you/did they get any pictures of the building?

Bob: We haven’t gotten to the building yet; we’ll get to the building.

Kathy: Okay. Because of the building that’s been built that—

Bob: We’ll do it now.

Kathy: Yes, yes.

Bob: So you built basically the ultimate man cave—

Kathy: Tim built a man cave.

Bob: —the war room.

Kathy: Yes; it’s got some old cars in it, and Tim has groups of guys in there. He’s got, now, a core leadership group that he—well, he started this—this is funny, because he started it. We’re going shopping at Costco, and he’s buying all the food. The next week, we’re at Costco, buying all the food. I’m like: “Why are you buying all the food all the time?! Why don’t you delegate this to the guys?” He gets all the meat for the guys; then they bring all the chips and everything guys want.

What I love about this/what I love about this is I think it’s a precursor to Art of Marriage because, on Week 8?—

Bob: Yes.

Tim: —I bring my special guest in/the secret weapon.

Kathy: —he brings me in. I get to tell the guys how cool it would be if they invited their wives to Art of Marriage. I think that’s the way it should be. Instead of being in a church, announcing Art of Marriage, and the wife going like this [encouraging husband to go]; you’ve got these guys that have been learning how to step up. Now, they are going to invite their wives to Art of Marriage. I love what he’s doing at the war room with them.

Bob: As you look at taking 600 guys through Stepping Up, taking thousands of couples through Art of Marriage, now, you’re starting to take people through Art of Parenting®. Like I said, this has reprioritized your life. Tell me what the last six years have been like for you guys.

Tim: For me, they’ve had a lot more, well, Christ-centeredness in everything we do. We’re doing everything with Christ in mind instead of self. So, it—it’s just much more powerful.

Bob: Kathy, what has this meant to you?

Kathy: Oh, well, it’s just—since the last six/seven/eight years?

Bob: —six years, yes.

Kathy: Our lives just totally changed. I mean, a lot of—some people will ask me, “How can you share what you share?” It’s like, “Well, we’re just not those people anymore”; so we can share, and people can come to us and share their stories.

We know that there is hope. We know/and I know, when I sat in Weekend to Remember, it was the first conference I went to that it validated that: “Hey, we’re doing the right thing.” We knew that the answer to a great marriage is Jesus, and we had found it. It was just reaffirming that we are doing the right thing.

Bob: Don’t you guys love stories like this? Isn’t this amazing? [Applause] Thank you.


Bob: Well, again, we’ve been listening to a conversation with our friends, Tim and Kathy Bush.

Ann, as she was talking, I’m thinking of the listener, who is going, “I could never be as transparent about the mess of our past; because it’s still too embarrassing, humiliating, shameful,”—all the words you’d attach to it. You’ve felt some of that, but you’ve found your way past it to be open and transparent about your own marriage difficulties.

Ann: And I know Kathy well—and I know, even with me—when God takes our mess and He transforms it, it can become our message. So you’re not embarrassed to say, “This is what happened to me, because God has done a real miracle and transformation in our lives.”

For Dave and me, it really has changed everything. Even sitting with Tim and Kathy at their home, this was so fun; because they were like, “Hey, we want you guys to be a part of our lives; so come and spend time with us.” Every morning, we’d sit and we’d talk to God; we’d pray and we’d have our devotional. Remember that? It was so fun!—because they are living it out every single day.

Dave: Yes, I’ve got to tell you—Tim and Kathy—they are a breath of fresh air, because they are so honest. You can see where they’ve been, and you can see the redemptive resurrection power of God in a couple’s life. That inspires others to think, “We can have hope.”

Bob: Yes, think about this: “What if a thousand people listening would say, ‘We’ve got a mess’?”—because, like you said, Ann, if you’ve got a mess, you’ve got a message—what if they would say, “We’ll find some way to connect with other couples; and together, we can work on our marriages”?

You guys just finished up last night, Session 2, of the three-week Vertical Marriage online small group that you’ve been doing. Anybody can do that; you can set up an online small group and get together, virtually, with people. Actually, Step 1 now/I’m hearing people say, “Step 1, in starting to reengage with church, is to do a small group meeting with ten or fewer people in a living room, appropriate distancing.”

Get a copy of the Vertical Marriage® video series or the Art of Marriage or Art of Parenting—the resources we’ve put together, here at FamilyLife®—and get some other couples together and say, “Coming out of what we’ve been going through,”—and let’s hope we’re coming out of it, right?—“But coming out of everything here, we need to make sure that the foundation is strong/that our marriages are strong as we go forward.”

Go to for information about the Vertical Marriage video series with Dave and Ann Wilson, about the Art of Marriage, about other resources we have available, here at FamilyLife, and think about how you can do what Tim and Kathy Bush did and just start to engage with others and say: “We have not done this perfectly. We’re still not doing it perfectly; but we need help, and we need other people around us. We think it will benefit all of us if we do this together.”

Again, go to our website,, for more information on the resources we have available. If we can help you somehow know how to set up a virtual small group, we’d be happy to do that. Again, information is available, online, at; or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

And we want to ask you one other thing; and that is, “Can you help us over the next seven/eight days?” Here, in the month of May, we’ve had friends of the ministry, who have come to us and said they will match every donation we receive this month, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $345,000. As you might imagine, that’s a significant opportunity for us at a time when the money would be extremely helpful. If you are a longtime listener of FamilyLife Today, would you consider making a donation, knowing that that donation, right now, is going to be matched dollar for dollar?

Let me also add: if you are a regular listener, would you consider becoming a monthly Legacy Partner? Every Legacy Partner donation we receive over the next 12 months—if you are new Legacy Partner—your donation is going to be matched, dollar for dollar, for an entire year. And we’ll send you, as a new Legacy Partner, a certificate so you and your spouse can attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway when those begin back up. We’re planning to do that this fall, Lord willing; and we’d love to see you at a getaway; or you can pass on the gift card to someone else you know if you’d like to give the weekend away to a friend or to, maybe, one of your adult children.

It’s easy to donate or to become a Legacy Partner. Go to, and the information is available there; or call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. We can get you all set up over the phone. Anyone who donates today or becomes a new Legacy Partner, we’d like to send you, as a thank-you gift, a copy of Barbara Rainey’s new book, My Heart Ever His, a wonderful collection of prayers that I think you’re going to find very encouraging as you get this beautiful new book. Again, it’s our thank-you gift when you donate today by going online at or by calling 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Thanks, in advance, for whatever you are able to do; and thanks for helping us take advantage of the matching-gift opportunity.

Now, we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together somehow this weekend; and I hope you can join us on Monday. That’s Memorial Day, here in the United States. We’re going to talk about what a husband can do when his wife doesn’t trust him anymore. How do you build back trust when trust has been violated? Shaunti Feldhahn and Brian Goins are going to join us to talk about all of that. I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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