16 Lessons Learned in 16 Years of Marriage

www.amandajanebrown.com

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!

What’s Christmas Without a Hissy Fit?

WhatsChristmasWithoutaHissyFit
It’s Christmas Eve morning here in Mississippi.  The pinnacle of the days leading up to Christmas.  Christmas week is always special, yet there is a bit of little girl left in me that longs for these “magical” days to feel the same as they did when I was 7.  But lo, we grow up. Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram and even real-life people lead us to believe that Christmastime (and life in general) can be right up close to perfect if we had that house or this job or those kids or that spouse or these talents or gifts.  Liars. Christmastime can be a pressure-cooker for “creating the magic, making lasting family memories, and setting the perfect Pinterest table.”  Jesus gets thrown out with the bath water.

Our memory-making family time got interrupted pretty abruptly last night. We loaded up to go look at Christmas lights around Oxford.  Fun, Instagram-photo-opp, obligatory Christmas activity.  20 minutes in, we had stopped the car in the Tri-Delt House parking lot, taken away all electronics from the kids til they graduate, and sufficiently ruined any magical, memory-making mood we’d dreamed of an hour earlier.  Christmas Hissy Fit begins. Pulling into the driveway, slamming car doors for good measure, I felt defeated, frustrated, and like a fraud. Indeed, without Him, I am all of those things. But Christ…

I read the following just yesterday. It is out of Paul Miller’s A Praying Life and quotes John of Landsburg’s (a sixteenth-century Catholic monk), “A Letter from Jesus Christ.”  He is imagining Christ speaking personally to us:

I know those moods when you sit there utterly alone, pining, eaten up with unhappiness, in a pure state of grief.  You don’t move towards me but desperately imagine that everything you have ever done has been utterly lost and forgotten.  This near-despair and self-pity are actually a form of pride.  What you think was a state of absolute security from which you’ve fallen was really trusting too much in your own strength and ability…what really ails you is that things simply haven’t happened as you expected and wanted.

     In fact I don’t want you to rely on your own strength and abilities and plans, but to distrust them and to distrust yourself, and to trust me and no one and nothing else.  As long as you rely entirely on yourself, you are bound to come to grief.  You still have a most important lesson to learn: your own strength will no more help you to stand upright than propping yourself on a broken reed.  You must not despair of me.  You may hope and trust in me absolutely.  My mercy is infinite.”

Christ’s Truth endures the centuries and was the same for a Catholic monk in the 1400’s and a Mississippi mom in 2014.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  The reason we celebrate Christmas is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God’s mercy and love and grace and pursuit of us is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  What a relief.

As I write this post, the phrase “Not I, but Christ” floods my mind over and over. I googled it to make sure I wasn’t just making it up.  It’s from Galations 2:20. (Don’t you love how when His Truth is buried so deep in our souls that it just appears out of nowhere when we need it most?) I stumbled upon a beautiful hymn, and again, voices from long ago couldn’t say it better. Written in 1891 by a woman named Ada Whiddington.  I wonder what life circumstances led her to pen the very words that I can relate to perfectly 125 years later, raising kids and living a comfortable suburban life in Oxford, Mississippi.  The heart cries of all who love Jesus are the very same yesterday, today, and forever.

Not I, but Christ, be honored, loved, exalted;
Not I, but Christ, be seen be known, be heard;
Not I, but Christ, in every look and action,
Not I, but Christ, in every thought and word.

O to be saved from myself, dear Lord,
O to be lost in Thee,
O that it might be no more I,
But Christ, that lives in me.

Not I, but Christ, to gently soothe in sorrow,
Not I, but Christ, to wipe the falling tear;
Not I, but Christ, to lift the weary burden,
Not I, but Christ, to hush away all fear.

Not I, but Christ, in lowly silent labor;
Not I, but Christ, in humble, earnest toil;
Christ, only Christ! No show, no ostentation;
Christ, none but Christ, the gath’rer of the spoil.

Christ, only Christ! no idle words e’er falling,
Christ, only Christ; no needless bustling sound;
Christ, only Christ; no self important bearing;
Christ, only Christ; no trace of I be found.

Not I, but Christ, my every need supplying,
Not I, but Christ, my strength and health to be;
Not I, but Christ, for body, soul, and spirit,
Christ, only Christ, here and eternally.

Christ, only Christ, ere long will fill my vision;
Glory excelling soon, full soon I’ll see—
Christ, only Christ, my every wish fulfilling—
Christ, only Christ, my all in all to be.

Merry Christmas, friends.  I pray for my readers, I really do.  For whatever place you find yourself in this Christmas, I pray you will lean in to the One who we can trust and put our hope in.

Getting Back to Normal

HeMakesAllThingsNew
Hey there!  It’s been quite a while…I’ve sure missed being here and look forward to being back!

2013 was all over the map for me, literally and figuratively.  Indescribable joy, then grief. Sure and confident and prayerful in big decisions, then unsure, scared, and frighteningly far from God. Marriage connected and clicking, then disconnected and discombobulated. Expectant and proud and loving as a mama, then hopeless and discouraged and harsh. Satisfied, at-peace, and ever-so-thankful to be back in Mississippi, then grieving, restless, and overwhelmed over leaving Arkansas, especially as I watched my oldest children weep before bed.  Connected and filled up in friendship, then lonely and longing for connection.  Deeply satisfied in my work through the blog, then feeling like a fraud because my house was gross, dinner had consisted of frozen waffles and pizza for untold days, and a spirit of discord loomed in our home.  The roller coaster of the mind.

But alas, the start of a new year.  I know, I know, it’s already March, but nevertheless, 2014 has been a fresh start in so many ways…the hope of settledness that my heart has longed for here in Oxford after leaving our life in Arkansas.   I love the start of a new year.  And whew, am I glad it is here.  After renting for many months with all our “things” in storage, we bought a home, and my heart rejoices having our bed, our dishes, Lainey’s kitchen and costumes, our swing set, books, McCarty pottery, our bikes, favorite blankets, winter clothes (that we didn’t pack!), and Annie Sloan painted furniture…all the things that make us “us.”

We’ve also had a pretty emotional transition to a new town, a new house, new schools, new friends, new church, new, new, new.  And “new” gets old.  In addition this year, parenting has been particularly hard for me.  Unforeseen challenges that we’ve faced that have sapped me of energy and joy, yet a new year brings the reminder that God has not cut me loose to do this thing on my own.  Eternally grateful for that promise.

One of the biggest holes in my heart over these last months is being away from the blog…creativity, cooking, and most of all, the community.  Yet…my family needed me to take the break, not to mention every supply that I used to create a blog post was in storage…craft supplies, cookware, dishes, everything.  And although it is always fun to find out another family’s favorite recipe is from the blog, I’ve learned over the last year that there are seasons when I have to pull back and give everything to my people at home.  

Rest assured that easing back to the blog does not mean I’ve “arrived” as a parent of a middle-schooler (hardly), or that my house is decorated or even clean, or that there aren’t days I still struggle.  I simply want to get back to doing something I really love.  And God, in his gracious love for me, has granted me a *few* successes with my 7th grader, I’m tired of waffles and pizza, and I simply miss blogging as a hobby and part-time work.  My people here at home love the blog, they love the food that appears when I post recipes, and they love random holiday decorations:).  It has become their normal…so I am ready to get back…to normal.

So thanks for sticking with me.  And if you have a favorite recipe or seasonal decor idea you’d love for me to share here, please contact me!  I’m in the process of collecting fresh ideas and content, and readers and friends like you are who have the best input anyway!

Love,
Amanda
HeMakesAllThingsNew

 

 

When Life is Just Plain Hard

I have started this post a million times in my head.  I keep thinking about all the Easter posts that need to be written, the projects that need to be finished, the photos that need to be taken…but I cannot do it today.  Or probably tomorrow…you get the picture.

Pretty much nothing has gone right this week.  If I weren’t so frustrated and frankly, a little mad about it all, I’d probably laugh at what all has transpired, because I couldn’t make this stuff up.  I won’t whine and bore you with the details.  People I know are facing much bigger battles like cancer and divorce with great strength and courage.  Yet my heart still feels weary from our circumstances.

And though nothing in me wanted to, I opened up Jesus Calling today, and like always, He met me right where I was…

Jesus Calling, March 6–“Continue on this path with Me, enjoying My Presence even in adversity.  I am always before you, as well as alongside you.  See Me beckoning to you: Come! Follow Me.  The One who goes ahead of you, opening up the way, is the same One who stays close and never lets go of your hand.  I am not subject to limitations of time or space.  I am everywhere at every time, ceaselessly working on your behalf.  That is why your best efforts are trusting Me and living close to Me.

I keep hearing this song and boy, do the words resonate with me.  I’ve even uttered a few of them to a friend and to David this week…”wondering if He’s even here, doubting His love, believing He’s not enough.”  I’ll leave you with the song and the words…perhaps you can relate.

Hoping to be back with a fun Easter post later this week…project is complete, but my little family needs me more right now.  Thanks for stickin’ around.

I’ve been the one to shake with fear
And wonder if You’re even here
I’ve been the one to doubt Your love
I’ve told myself You’re not enough

I’ve been the one to try and say
I’ll overcome by my own strength
I’ve been the one to fall apart
And to start to question who You are

You’re the one who conquers giants
You’re the one who calls out kings
You shut the mouths of lions
You tell the dead to breathe
You’re the one who walks through fire
You take the orphan’s hand
You are the one Messiah
You are I am
You are I am

I’ve been the one held down in chains
Beneath the weight of all my shame
I’ve been the one to believe
That where I am You cannot reach

The veil is torn
And now I live with the Spirit inside
The same one, the very same one
who brought the Son back to life

Hallelujah, He lives in me
Hallelujah, He lives in me
Hallelujah, He lives in me
Hallelujah, He lives in me

Decorating with Maps

A few months ago, I pinned a State Map project from Kayla Danelle, and recently decided that instead of admiring the pin, I would make my own!  I absolutely love Kayla’s spin on decorating with maps and take zero credit for her terrific idea!  Thanks, Kayla!
 Conveniently, David and I have lived in exactly three states, and I found this “floating frame” at Target.  It is roughly 28″x14″.  Michael’s carries one, as well.

Supplies needed:

Floating frame
Good quality paper or photo paper
Exacto knife (optional)
Scissors
Red Glitter paper (optional)
Glue
Double-sided tape

  Free, small, state maps were not as easy to find as I first thought, so to save you a little time, you may click HERE to access all 50 states!  **This link allows downloads to a PC only, not Mac.  I’m currently looking for a Mac-compatible link.  (The original link from years ago is no longer available).

To make my maps a bit larger, I printed them at 110%.  You may want to test print to check size, especially if you are using a differently sized frame than this one.

Carefully cut out your states.  If you live in a state bordering the Mississippi river or the marshes of Louisiana like mine, you will need an Exacto knife;)  

If desired, cut out tiny hearts and glue them on the cities you’ve lived in!  Allow glue to dry completely before framing!

Measure and position the maps in between the two pieces of glass, securing with double-sided tape.  Reassemble the frame, and you are finished!
Simple, affordable, personalized art that is fun for the kitchen, a playroom, a hallway, or an office!
Thanks again to Kayla Danelle for this awesome idea!