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About Amanda Brown

If you are new to AmandaJaneBrown, I would love for you to subscribe for free updates! You can subscribe via Email or RSS Feed. I would also love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for stopping by!

One Teen’s Love for People and Missions

One little girl's love for people that has grown into a love for missions

Back in December, our oldest child walked in the house announcing that she wanted to go to Kenya this summer. My knee-jerk response as I unloaded the dishwasher was “ummm…let me think about it…no.” Crushed spirit, frustrated dialogue, closed bedroom door. Maddie, like many teenagers, is prone to presenting massive ideas to us with very few details. The Kenya trip was no different. Thankfully, a short time later, we were introduced to The 410 Bridge.  A local business owner is leading a team out of our hometown to Karogoto, Kenya in June. Quickly, we realized we know many of the participants personally and trust them to take care of our girl. I can breathe now.

Later that night, I laid in bed still wondering if Maddie had lost her mind asking to go on a $4000 mission trip. David lovingly reminded me that for Maddie’s entire life, she has been exposed to and knows personally, real-life missionaries. Heck, David was a missionary in Croatia with Cru! Maddie knows families in full-time ministry. She keeps in touch with college students from Pine Cove and YoungLife who are making intentional decisions to invest in the lives of others. Not to mention the countless people whom she has witnessed love and serve Jesus so well in our church families over the years. No wonder it seems natural to her. What we have prayed for, for our children to know Christ and to love others, has taken root and begun to grow.

As a mother, there are moments in the journey when all of a sudden we wake up one day and our children have moved to a new season of life without us even noticing. The passage into maturity, no matter what the stage or skill, is bittersweet. Moms prepare for months and years to launch a child into a next stage. A big potty or a big bed, kindergarten, overnight summer camp, middle school, high school, a driver’s license, or college.

This past year has been full new seasons for Maddie, and thus for me. Driving, traveling out of the country to Honduras, taking the ACT, starting a small photography business, and putting her entrepreneurial gifts into action as she raises the needed funds to go to Kenya. She helped design and is selling the t-shirts pictured below! Like always, the transition to the next level of maturity seems to come out of the blue. Yet, in retrospect, the growth has been taking place for a very long time in her heart.

I gave a lot of thought to what David said that night, and a beautiful picture began to take shape as I placed all the mental puzzle pieces together. Maddie has always been a little girl with a big heart for people. Suddenly, I remembered the following post I wrote in 2012. It captures the essence of Maddie’s love for others that continues today.

Originally posted August 7, 2012:

August 7, 2012 was an ordinary summer day for us in Arkansas. Stay-at-home mom, three young children home all day, dreadful temperatures and a growing list of errands I was avoiding with said three young children.

Reluctantly, we headed out and our to-do list slowly dwindled as we made stop after sweaty stop. A red traffic light slowed our car to a stop at a familiar corner in west Little Rock. And there he sat.  A tattered, handwritten sign simply read, “I need help.”   

My tender, yet fierce 11-year old inside our air-conditioned car begged me to empty coins into his hands. I suggested to her it may be a better idea to offer a meal or a cold drink. Like I always said. Yet…I had never stopped to offer a meal or a cold drink to anyone.

Routinely, similar souls sit at another red light in town where I turn towards the mall to shop for overpriced eyeshadow. My heart aches for them. And still…I avoid eye contact and turn up the music.

Back to West Little Rock in August 2012…we pulled away as the light turned green, and a decision loomed. Keep driving home or go back. Nervous blood pumped hard through my veins as we exited the parkway into a gas station. Looping back around, I prayed silently that traffic would allow us to stop close to the man who sat baking in the Arkansas sun. In no coincidence, traffic stopped us eye-to-eye.

This time I turned the music down. “Sir, would you like some cold water?” I nervously inquired. He ambled over to the window, took the water from Maddie’s hands, politely declined the Gatorade (notable, seeing how desperately hot he was). He thanked us profusely in a cadence revealing a lifetime of disability.

In the short seconds before the light glowed green, he eagerly gulped. He leaned his head forward and down and let the rest of the bottled water rush over his head and neck.

And Maddie wept.

My strong-willed, yet ohso-tender-hearted child literally was the hand of Jesus reaching out a car window to meet a real, felt need. I cannot help but be reminded of how many times I cry out those exact words. “I need help!” Jesus has lovingly answered my cries for help in unique and unexpected ways over the years through real people offering real help. He is El Roi, the God who sees me (Genesis 16:13).

It was a remarkable day. Not because we gave water to a man who needed help. It was remarkable because we realized what we’d missed all the times we didn’t.

One little girl's love for people that has grown into a love for missions One little girl's love for people that has grown into a love for missions

 

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Green Beans with Bacon

There are 2 million ways to cook green beans, and green beans with bacon is a family favorite around here. They are packed full of flavor and transform the blandest of canned green beans into true comfort food! Green Beans with Bacon are so easy to throw together, too. These green beans can be assembled ahead of time, making them perfect for a busy weeknight or to take to a friend alongside a main dish.

Easy Green Beans with Bacon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Green Beans with Bacon

3 cans green beans
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
Real Bacon Bits (Oscar Meyer) near salad toppings
 

Drain the green beans. Place green beans in medium bowl. In a separate small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave. Next, add the brown sugar to the butter and stir til combined.  Pour butter mixture over the green beans. Stir gently to coat the beans. Transfer the beans to a glass baking dish. 

Lastly, sprinkle the desired amount of bacon bits over the top of the green beans. Cover with foil and bake at 350° for about 30 minutes. 

This easy and delicious green bean recipe came from my late grandmother’s sweet neighbor, Miss Betty, who is like family to us, in Woodville, Mississippi. Like so many of my recipes, this one brings back memories every time we have green beans!

Ham and Swiss Quiche-Leftover Ham Recipes

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Wondering what to do with all the leftover Easter ham?  This Ham and Swiss Quiche is a perfect breakfast, lunch, or dinner and is quick and easy to throw together!  Enjoy!

Ham and Swiss Quiche

Preheat oven to 350°.

1  9-inch pie shell
1 ½ cups chopped ham (if buying at deli, ask for 2 thickest cut slices)
1 1/4 cups freshly grated Swiss cheese (fresh vs prepackaged makes a big difference in flavor)
1/4 t. dried basil
1/4 t. salt
5 eggs, beaten
1 cup skim milk (for richer quiche, use whole milk or half and half)
sprinkle of dry mustard

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and pour into pie crust. Place quiche onto a cookie sheet to collect any spills while baking. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes to one hour or until top is light brown.

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Printable Recipe

 

How To Spray Paint Brass Hardware

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This tutorial is way overdue, but recently, my Craigslist Hutch Makeover went crazy over at Hometalk and on Pinterest, and I realized I never posted how to spray paint the brass hardware with oil-rubbed bronze spray paint!  So several years (yes years!) later, here is how to spray paint brass hardware.

Below are the Before and After photos of our Craigslist Hutch Makeover, and you can clearly see what a difference a little spray paint can make for brass hardware!
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Supplies Needed:

Dropcloth or large piece cardboard
Steel Wool, Grade 000
Toothpicks (for swing pulls like these)
Spray Paint Gun
Metal Primer (Rustoleum)
Oil-Rubbed Bronze Spray Paint (Rustoleum)

*The oil-rubbed bronze that I used is a paint/primer combo. You can skip the primer step if you use this product, but I wanted the assurance of good coverage after my first attempt failed.  (See below).
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An inexpensive spray paint gun like this one below will ensure even coverage.
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First, sand your hardware with Grade 000 steel wool. You do not have to remove every tiny bit of brass.  The goal here is to remove the top coat and to scratch it up a bit so the paint will stick better. After sanding the hardware, wash with warm soap and water and allow the hardware to dry completely.
Spray Painting Brass Hardware 4
To show you exactly what will happen without sanding first, see the photo below of the oil-rubbed bronze paint sprayed directly onto unsanded hardware! Fail! I did some research and started over.
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If you have “swing pulls” like these, you will need to secure the handle in mid-air so the spray paint will cover the entire piece! Pull the handle out and insert a toothpick to keep the handle upright. You are now ready to paint!

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Attach the spray paint gun to the primer can. Spray the first side of the hardware with primer according to the directions.  Be SURE to follow the directions, allowing the specified amount of time for drying.  Repeat process for the opposite side.
Spray Painting Brass Hardware 5
After the primer has dried for the specified time, spray the hardware with a first coat of oil-rubbed bronze.  It has been a while, but I know I painted at least two coats, allowing the paint to dry for the specified amount of time listed on the paint can.
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To be on the safe side, I allowed the hardware to “cure” for 2-3 days before re-installing onto the hutch.

Be sure to check out the full Hutch Makeover with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint!  Happy painting!

Easter Cross for the Front Door

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It’s finally spring here in Mississippi, and we’ve gone straight from snow and ice to tulips and perfect temps. With Easter around the corner, our naked front doors desperately need a fresh look for spring. Oxford has zero craft stores (or a Target! I know, how do we survive?) to browse for ideas, so I’m constantly on the lookout for inexpensive online decor and supplies. In my recent search, I found that Trendy Tree sells these fabulous moss-covered grapevine crosses in addition to many other wreath bases for nearly every occasion! The prices can’t be beat.

These crosses would be beautiful dressed up with spring florals and ribbon, but I decided to create a simple Easter front door this year. I’m even tempted to hang one over my dining room mirror for Easter lunch.

All you need is the grapevine cross, florist’s wire, wire cutters, ribbon and fishing line for hanging.

The cross comes in two pieces.
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Easily secure the two pieces with florist’s wire. I wrapped it a few times diagonally, going both directions, as shown below. Snip the excess wire once the cross is secure.
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Using this bow tutorial from On Sutton Place, I tied a pretty bow with spring ribbon and hot glued it to the very top of the cross.
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Simple and exactly what I was looking for to welcome our guests over the next several weeks leading up to Easter.
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Easy Weeknight Spaghetti

Easy Weeknight Spaghetti

Easy Weeknight Fancy Spaghetti

Simple spaghetti tends to be a go-to, weeknight dinner for most families, and if you are like me, spaghetti in the regular meal rotation starts to get intolerable boring. Easy weeknight spaghetti remains on our rotation because my all people will actually eat it, and any mother knows that is a feat in itself. Years ago, an Arkansas neighbor shared Taglierini Alla Chitarra with us, and this heavenly version of spaghetti has remained a weeknight and a “good-enough-for-company” favorite.

The star of this fancy weeknight spaghetti (Taglierini Alla Chitarra) is thinly sliced pancetta, aka Italian bacon. Pancetta is paper-thin meat in the deli section of your grocery store, sold prepackaged (vacuum-packed) or sliced fresh at the counter. If purchasing at the counter, ask the attendant to slice it as thinly as possible. Prosciutto can be substituted if Pancetta is not available. I do not recommend the prepackaged cubed version of either meat, as the taste/consistency is lacking.

Another note: Pecorino Romano from the deli may only come in portions larger than 3 oz, but you’re actually buying enough for a few meals if you freeze the unused cheese for later.

Taglierini Alla Chitarra/Easy Weeknight Spaghetti

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
7 oz Pancetta, cut into julienne strips (can substitute Prosciutto)
28 oz. can peeled, crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (can substitute 1/8 cup dried)
Ground black pepper
3 oz. Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated (can substitute regular Romano)
Fresh Parmesan cheese wedge (topping)
Pasta-Barilla Spaghetti alla Chitarra or Angel Hair
Large saucepan with top

Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and Pancetta and brown for 10 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, pepper and Pecorino. Simmer, covered, over very low heat for one hour.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Serve red sauce mixture over cooked pasta and sprinkle with *grated Parmesan cheese. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

Freeze any leftovers you do not use.

Easy Weeknight Spaghetti

Easy Weeknight Fancy Spaghetti

*This Microplane Zester is the perfect kitchen tool for finely grated hard cheeses. Place on table for individual use.
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Printable Recipe

Linking to: Weekend Bloggy Reading

 

 

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Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cake

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With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cake is the perfect green treat!  This cake is much like a traditional chocolate chip pound cake but with a hint of pistachio and almond. The pistachio pudding mix gives the cake a green color, and the flavor is subtle and delicious! This recipe came from an Arkansas friend during our newlywed days, and the cake is always a hit wherever I take it!

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cake is super simple to throw together. Basically dump the ingredients, mix, and bake!

Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cake

1 box Pillsbury white cake mix with “pudding in the mix”
1 box Pistachio pudding mix
1 t. almond extract
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup water
2 eggs
12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
Baker’s Joy baking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips with a mixer.  Stir in chocolate chips. Spray a bundt pan with Baker’s Joy and evenly pour in batter.

Bake 40 minutes.  Check to see if knife comes out clean and add a couple of minutes to bake time if needed.

Turn out onto a cake plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.
Printable Recipe
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Linking to:
Tidy Mom, Weekend Bloggy Reading, The Freshman Cook, Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons, Diana Rambles

Popcorn Wreath Tutorial

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Our baby turned 7 last week, and in lieu of a sleepover, we met in the middle and celebrated with a Popcorn and Pajamas birthday party. These adorable Popcorn Wreaths greeted our guests at the front door! We cloaked the wreaths in hot pink ribbons to match our party theme, but imagine how pretty these would be at Christmas with the addition of cranberries and Christmas ribbon! They’d also be terrific with traditional red, black, and white accents for a movie-themed birthday party!

The Popcorn Wreaths were very easy to make, and kids can help with assembly, too! We have double doors, making our project a bit time consuming, but one wreath did not take much time.  Here’s how we made these…

Popcorn Wreaths

Supply List: (makes one Popcorn Wreath)
1 sheet foam board (or large cardboard box)
Pencil
Electric Knife or X-acto knife
Popped popcorn (about 2 microwave bags or pop your own kernels)
Hot glue gun/glue sticks
Ribbon for hanging
Florist’s wire for hanging

First, trace a circle onto the foam board. Mine is about 16 inches.  Trace a smaller circle in the middle.  The small circle shown is about 6 1/4 inches.  If you have a very wide front door, you may want to enlarge these measurements.

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Cut out the wreath form.  My electric knife is as old as the hills and works like a dream for cutting foam board!  An X-acto knife works well, too, just be careful that you are working on top of a safe surface!
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Begin arranging the popped popcorn onto the foam board.  I found it was easiest to apply the hot glue to the foam board and then add the popcorn.  If there was an odd spot to fill, it was easier to apply the glue to the popcorn and stuff it into the spot.  Play around with it to see what works best for you!
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Below is the inside of the wreath where the foam board was showing more than I preferred.  We added a bit more to cover this area, and we added popcorn on top of popcorn to fill in spots elsewhere, making sure every inch was covered.
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Loop a wide ribbon around the wreath and add an extra bow to the top, if desired.  You can secure the bow to the wide ribbon using florist’s wire.  Create and secure a small loop of wire for hanging onto a nail or wreath hanger.
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Our Popcorn and Pajamas welcoming committee!
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The Popcorn and Pajamas party was a hit…here are a few pics from the party. Praise the Lord for my 13-year-old and her friends to help manage the chaos at the party!
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Popcorn and Pajamas Party
A precious cake from Lisa Whitehead in Oxford, MS.
Popcorn and Pajamas Party
Sweet girl loved every second of her party…
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These cute bags were 10 for $1 at the Dollar Tree!
Popcorn and Pajamas Party
These decorations would be perfect for any movie-themed party for a boy or a girl!

Have a great weekend!
Linking to:
Tidy Mom, Pin Junkie Pin Party

22 Wreath Ideas for Every Occasion

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Wreaths, wreaths, and more wreaths! If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know my affection for seasonal goodies for the front door! Recently, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Hometalk to curate a collection of wreath ideas for every occasion! Folks have made wreaths out of just about everything, and I was amazed at the creativity and unique twists on traditional wreaths! The curated board includes the full list of wreaths and their individual supplies, tutorials, and additional photos!

While most of the wreaths I chose to showcase are occasion-specific, there are a few that certainly can be made and displayed year round!

If you are not familiar with Hometalk, it is a site dedicated to all things home decor and gardening.  You can easily browse through endless ideas and be inspired by some seriously talented folks!  Many of the Before/After photos will blow you away and inspire you to create! One of the best features of Hometalk is that you do not have to be a blogger to submit your own ideas and photos, so be sure to check it out!

Head on over to the Wreath Board to get some wreath ideas!
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16 Lessons Learned in 16 Years of Marriage

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2015 marks 16 years of marriage for me and David, and as a 23-year-old naive bride in 1999, I assumed that people who had been married for 16 years and were 40 years old were wise in all things marriage, parenting, and life. (Insert hysterical laughter) Fast forward to January 2015. I am turning 40 soon, and Lord knows David and I don’t have marriage or parenting or life figured out.  Just ask our teenager.

There is a very real, societal war being waged on marriage today, and in light of our own family histories, we have been careful to guard and invest continually in our relationship, and it has made all the difference.  Marriage is sacrifice, hard work, and countless small, repeated decisions to keep loving when it’s easier to just quit.  In the words of my dear friend, Julie, from Pine Cove Family Camp, “We fail, get back up, fail, try again, love some more, forgive some more, and the very thing that brought us together (Christ) is what keeps us together.”

There is no shortage of “marriage advice” out there, and you’ve likely read alot of it. While that advice can at times be helpful, we have learned that the most important thing to keep in mind is that grace is the name of the game. Different seasons of marriage and ever-changing schedules require couples to make adjustments often. Over the last 16 years, we have learned a lot as a couple. This is not a list of rules or a secret formula to a happy marriage, just a few things to keep us going, growing, and thriving as a couple.

1. Recognize that your spouse is not Jesus, and he/she did not come to save you.
The pressure to be someone’s “savior” is far too great to bear. I vividly remember in late college after a painful end to a relationship, I wrote in my journal, “God, You are Enough.” This marked the beginning of a spiritual and emotional paradigm shift that has been key in our marriage. From the beginning, David was free to love me well without my expectations of him being everything I needed to survive.

2. Go to bed at the same time. Sounds silly, but it’s proven to be key for us.  Many days, this is the first opportunity we have to actually talk.

3. Do not speak poorly of your spouse to others.  Have a couple of safe friends to be transparent with about your marriage, but choose wisely.  There are those who will spur you on to love your husband well, and those who will not.  There is no room for public criticism of your spouse.

4. Go on a date at least once a month. Finances, babies, fatigue, kids’ activities, and just life can really put a wrench in this one. Breakfast or lunch dates can stretch the budget and accommodate schedules, too!  To keep it fresh, a date idea we are currently loving is to eat at every restaurant in Oxford.  Oxford, Mississippi is a small, but culinary-rich town, so we are slowly working our way through our own “hometown food tour!”

5. Be the first to ask for forgiveness. This is difficult for most folks.  Being willing to admit and discuss how you may have hurt your spouse can open up the floodgates, yet can lead to genuine reconciliation rather than ignoring issues that will eventually resurface again and again.

6. Laugh a lot. Life is hard.  There’s an awful lot of pain and suffering on the news, on our Facebook feeds, on church prayer chains, and in our own homes and families. Kids have definitely helped foster humor in our home. Sometimes you just have to laugh to avoid crying!  Thankfully, David appreciates my mildly inappropriate sense of humor, too;).

7. Figure out your spouse’s love language, then speak it!  “Love Language” is how a person expresses and experiences love. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is an easy must-read.  After reading it, you will be on your way to filling your spouse’s love bank, yielding far greater returns than you can imagine!  Do a quick assessment!  Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch.  Chances are, you have a good idea off the bat.

8. Find a married couple who is a stage or two ahead and befriend them! We’ve known a few of these dear friends and mentors over the years, and their wisdom and encouragement continues to leave a legacy in our marriage.

9. Read a trustworthy book on marriage once a year.  While real-life mentors are invaluable, they are not always available. Trusted authors have been excellent “mentors” to us over the years.  We’ve read a few of these books simultaneously, which has helped us grow closer and has exposed areas that need some attention.
Messy,Beautiful Love by Darlene Schacht; His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley, Jr.; Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggrichs; Sheet Music by Kevin Leman; For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn, Sacred Marriage by Gary L. Thomas; Team Us:Marriage Together by Ashleigh Slater

10. Get away once a year for a night or two without kids. For some, this is nearly impossible financially or logistically. It was for us for a long time.  If you can swing it, it is a great time to recharge and spend time together without the demands of home life. PS…if you live within driving distance of Oxford, Mississippi, plan a weekend to visit with your spouse!  It is a fabulous weekend getaway! Head over to VisitOxford to take a peek!

11. Once a year, do a marriage “check up.”  Typically, this conversation starts for us at Pine Cove Family Camp where, during the week, they provide the questions and build in time for couples to go through them. Long after camp is over, we are finishing this conversation. These talks can lead to hard conversations, yet they are so life-giving in the long run. Here’s an idea for starting this conversation in your own marriage…take some time to journal the current highs and the lows in your marriage and share it with one another once a year.   

12. Call or text at least once a day from work to check in. Calls aren’t always feasible, but both keep us connected despite busy schedules.

13. Assume the best of your spouse.  Don’t keep score.  Never hold a grudge. We are on the same team! Keeping a running tit-for-tat list of who’s done more with the kids, home, and work, breeds resentment, discontent, and distance. One way we avoid this is coordinating calendars to schedule personal time. I look forward to an occasional Saturday alone, guilt-free, knowing David is with the kids. I can shop and relax knowing that he won’t hold that time against me.

14. Spend time together doing a shared activity.   This can be recreational activities like exercise, sporting events, or other hobbies. Or just spend time at home watching your favorite Netflix shows! We try to cut off homework help and have the kids finished with lunch prep by 9pm. While it’s not always possible, it does communicate to the kids that our time together is important, too.

15. Pray regularly for your spouse! We have the privilege of knowing tiny, intimate details of our spouse’s life, whether it be emotional, spiritual, physical, or work-related! We can pray for them like no other person can and see God work “behind the scenes.”  Pretty cool! Kat Lee’s Praying for Your Husband Calendar is a great guide!

16. Your marriage is a testimony to those around you, kids included.  Kids see the good, bad, and the ugly in our marriages. We long for our children to know that our marriage is a priority and that we are committed to following Christ and loving each other well, above all else.  Prayerfully, this will translate into their own lives and marriages one day as their time in our home becomes a cornerstone for their future relationships.

Marriage is hard, but investing in it can lead to a healthy, thriving relationship no matter what life throws us.  Here’s to the next 16!

Leave a comment and share your ideas!