Alabama United Methodist Church. Alabama, NY.
8 bridesmaids in 8 different colors. Gardenias in their hair and parasols in their hands.
8 groomsmen in white tuxedos with colorful vests and bow ties that matched the popsicle colors of the bridesmaids.
My girlhood dreams were about to come true. I had met my prince charming with sparkling blue eyes, a southern accent and a call to ministry. My life was complete.
I’ll never forget walking down the aisle on that 90 degree summer afternoon. There was no air conditioning in our colonial church building and the sweat was running down the back of my perfect dress.
I looked at my dad’s face and he had a single tear rolling down his handsome cheek.
He gave me to the man who would protect me, provide for me, love me, encourage me and sacrifice for me.
Little did we know that life would not be perfect … our love would be challenged but it would endure … and that our faith in the God of our parents would be enough. Our faith would always be more than enough.
On that day, July 31, 1977, there was no possible way that Craig and I could comprehend the devastation of losing 5 babies … the financial challenges that would bring us to our knees … a depression that paralyzed me for nearly a decade … and the gut-wrenching, painful challenges of ministry.
On that day, July 31, 1977, there was no possible way that Craig and I could comprehend the unspeakable joy of raising 5 healthy children for the Kingdom of God … that we would see the provision of God time after time after time … that the power of the Word of God would deliver this wife from a deep and dark depression into the joy of His presence … and that the genuine call to ministry at this moment in history made life worth living.
What have I learned in 36 years of marriage? Lessons that could fill at least one book and probably more! However, in honor of our 36th anniversary, I’ve decided to limit my list to the 36 top lessons that I have learned.
These are the lessons would I like to share with all of the brides of 2013 … and anyone else who would care to listen.
36 Lessons from a Marriage that Is Going the Distance
1 – It really is more fun to forgive. The first one to forgive always wins. Always.
2 – Marriage is the greatest lesson in dying to self that you will ever encounter.
3 – He wasn’t made for you … you weren’t made for him … but you were both made for Christ.
5 – Marriage does not make you happy. Only Jesus can make you happy.
6 – Kindness is the greatest gift you can give your spouse. Kind words, kind actions, kind heart attitudes are the most valuable commodities in building a relationship that will go the distance.
7 – Be faithful not only in your actions but also in your words and thoughts. Never use the words “divorce” or “separation”. Never think to yourself in a fit of anger, “Well, I’m just going to leave him.” Faithfulness begins in your mind and is out-sourced to your words and actions.
8 – If you want to build a great marriage, be a servant. Never underestimate the power of serving your spouse day after day … week after week … year after year.
9 – You can’t afford NOT to go on dates. Go out for coffee. Switch baby-sitting duties with another young couple who can’t afford a babysitter. Play tennis. Go for a walk. Go to the library and read magazines together. Pack a picnic lunch and take a ride through the country. Dates don’t have to be expensive to be valuable.
10 – Never talk about your spouse in a negative manner in front of your friends, your children or your parents. Always say positive, encouraging things about your spouse in his presence and behind his back.
11 – Find an older couple who can mentor you through life’s issues. Invite them into your home for dinner. Ask them questions. Ask them to speak into your life and into your marriage. Imitate their strengths.
12 – Don’t complain and whine … that’s what toddlers do. If there is an issue with which you need to speak to your spouse, do it in a kind, respectful manner.
13 – Choose a song that is “your” song. Ours is, “Through the Years” by Kenny Rogers. Every time I hear it, my heart melts all over again.
14 – Pray together. Pray about your finances and your children. Pray about your destiny and your health. Pray that your minds would stay sharp and alert in all the years to come. There is power when a couple who is committed to Christ is also committed to the power of heartfelt prayer. Mountains will move and hell will shake as you and your spouse hold hands and agree in Jesus’ Name!
15 – Celebrate life! Don’t be so serious that you become a kill-joy. Plan a family picnic and play patriotic music on the Fourth of July. Make a list of blessings and talk about them the entire month of November. Write him a poem for Valentine’s Day. Have the entire family participate in a March Madness Bracket and give an annual prize to the winner.
16 – Create a budget, prayer over it and stay on it. This will eliminate so much stress in the years to come.
17 – Hold hands.
18 – Do something special every year on your anniversary. Don’t let it pass by unnoticed. Go out to dinner. Look at your wedding album. Call the people who were in your wedding and reminisce together.
19 – Read at least one book together every year and talk about it.
20 – Tell your children what you appreciate about their mom or dad.
21 – Choose a scripture that is “your” scripture. Ours is – “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” – Psalm 27:4
We first read that Scripture over breakfast one morning in the college cafeteria while we were dating. That scripture was on our wedding invitation and continues to give us focus as to the purpose of our life on earth.
22 – Turn nothing into something. Make a special meal “just because”. Serve him breakfast in bed for no reason at all. Linger over a cup of coffee and listen intently to the cares of his heart.
23 – Turn something into nothing. When he is driving you crazy, minimize it. When he hurts your feelings, bless him abundantly!
24 – Buy him a gift for Christmas. Craig and I went many, many years without buying one another Christmas gifts because we were so focused on our children. How I regret it! You don’t have to spend a lot to make it meaningful. Buy him a gift card to his favorite coffee shop. Buy him a t-shirt with his favorite team’s logo on it. Buy him tickets to the new movie that just came out.
25 – Say “I’m sorry,” even when you don’t think that it is your fault. When those 2 sincere words come out of your mouth, it diffuses the tension and erases the guilt in the atmosphere.
26 – Say “I’m sorry,” when it is your fault. Say it quickly and humbly.
27 – When you are frustrated with your spouse for a minor offense, remind yourself of something that you are thankful for in his or her life. Don’t rehearse and marinate in the daily little frustrations but spend more time being thankful for who they are.
28 – Tell your children the story of how you met and why you feel in love with their dad.
29 – Remind yourself that God has entrusted you with this human being’s self-esteem, the peace of their days, their home life and their heart. God trusts you enough to allow you to partner with another human being in this treasure called “life”.
30 – Never, never, never, never give your spouse the silent treatment. It’s cruel.
31 – Read the Bible together and separately. Share with your spouse what you read in your quiet time that morning. Read the Bible together as often as you can. The Word of God truly works a miracle in marriage.
32 – Listen more than you talk. Ask your spouse probing and interesting questions to draw him or her out.
33 – Never make fun of your spouse in public or in private. It’s humiliating.
34 – Never correct your spouse in public. It’s humiliating.
35 – Do something in ministry together. Go on a missions trip. Teach Sunday School. Go to the nursing home and visit the patients. Volunteer to clean the church together. Have a missionary family in your home. Go to the City Mission on a holiday and serve meals. The possibilities of ministry are endless!
36 – Say, “I love you” every single day. Say it when you are frustrated and mad. Say it at night and in the morning. Send your spouse an e-mail with the words, “I love you,” in it. Send him a text message with the words, “I love you,” in it.
Craig … just wanted to let you know how thankful I am for the man and husband that you are! Let’s do 36 more years together!!
36 LESSONS FOR A MARRIAGE THAT GOES THE DISTANCE!