One of my favorite parts of being married to a pastor is the opportunity to do pre-marital counseling for young couples preparing to spend the rest of their lives together. I love it, because it gives my husband and I the chance to share how God has been faithful in our marriage and it forces us to evaluate our own relationship and look for any areas that we might need to work on.
Today we are celebrating twenty years of marriage and while it seems like these years have passed in a flash, I am aware that this is a significant accomplishment in a society that is rampant with divorce and broken relationships.
What makes a marriage last? And an even better question—what makes a marriage great? Here are some lessons my husband and I have learned along the way that has allowed us to fall more in love with each other through the years.
1. Marry your best friend. Before Dave and I started dating, we spent hours talking and getting to know each other. By the time he told me he liked me and wanted to pursue a relationship, we already knew all that we needed to know about each other to have a relationship that would last. We knew that we genuinely enjoyed being together. Our conversations were stimulating, so we anticipated the next time we could talk together. We weren’t trying to impress each other, because we understood that we needed to be real with one another if we wanted a relationship that would last. He had become my favorite person, so when I walked down the aisle, I knew I wanted to be by his side for the rest of our lives.
2. Hold expectations loosely. Unfair or unmet expectations in a relationship can be the biggest source of angst and frustration. If you expect your husband to bring you flowers, but that is not his thing, you will be frequently disappointed. But when you let go of expecting your husband to be _________________ (fill in the blank), you are able to see how he does show love and you learn to appreciate those gestures even more than the flowers or gifts.
This has been a big one for me and honestly still one that I struggle with on occasion. But I have learned to communicate clearly if something is important to me (he can’t see my thoughts after all!) and I have also learned to be grateful for the myriad of ways he shows love to me and to our family.
3. Get used to disappointment. Coupled with holding expectations loosely is understanding that life is full of disappointments. Life is not ours to control which means it will probably rain when you want sunshine and someone will get sick at the most inconvenient time. If you expect life to work perfectly, than you will constantly be flirting with discontent and dissatisfaction. Both of these feelings can lead to broken relationships if they are not dealt with.
When you are willing to go with the flow when disappointment creeps in, you will find beauty and joy even in the worst situations and as a result, you will be drawn closer together in your relationship rather than being torn apart.
4. Have separate interests. Couples often make the mistake of thinking that in order to have a great relationship, they need to enjoy everything that their spouse enjoys. The opposite is true. It’s in pursuing personal interests that shared interests are even more enjoyable. We are all unique individuals. God has designed us that way for a purpose. When we are living out our own purposes, we are able to appreciate and celebrate our spouses interests as well.
5. Celebrate your spouse’s interests. There are many interests that my husband has that I do not understand. He enjoys computer coding and has learned different computer languages. He gets excited when he can rewire a circuit (okay, I concede. I cannot even speak intelligently about the things he is passionate about!). But what I love is that he gets excited about these things and while I don’t understand most of what he shares about these particular passions, I am always drawn to the passion in his voice and the excitement in his eyes and as a result, I want to encourage those passions! He loves that I encourage him to pursue his interests AND he loves that I have interests of my own (even though he doesn’t always understand my interests either!), because we are both growing in knowledge and in passion. We are not waiting for the other person to fulfill the need we all have for purposeful living.
6. Marriage is not dependent, but interdependent. This is a big one. Contrary to a popular opinion, love is not meant to complete you. When Dave and I got married, I had learned already that I needed to hold him with open hands. He has a lung condition that while it is not life threatening, it has taught us that life is but a breath and it is not ours to control. So while we are dependent on each other to a point, it is not the dependence of our identity, our security or our wholeness. Those things can only be found in Christ. What we have found is that when we allow Christ to be our refuge and strength, we are able to depend on one another in a healthy way.
7. Allow difficulties to bring you closer together. Dave and I have faced several hard and even devastating life events through the years, but each one has pulled us closer together. I believe the reason for this is that we have never judged one another for the way we have dealt with grief or loss, but we have also been able to challenge each other to walk through difficulty and not become a victim of grief.
8. Dream together. While both partners are unique individuals, it is crucial to have shared purposes and dreams. We call our list “Dayedreams” and on that list are separate and joint dreams we have for our lives. It’s part of being best friends. Having places that you want to visit together or experiences that you want to share keeps a relationship exciting.
9. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. This is the antidote to disappointment or hardship. Make the most of every situation. When we found out I lost our first baby, our almost immediate response was to plan a trip to Hawaii. Early on in my pregnancy friends had invited us to join them while they vacationed on the Big Island, but we had to say no because I would have been seven months pregnant. That remains one of the best decisions we have ever made and I am so grateful for a husband who is willing to “make lemonade” with me.
10. Fight well. The more different you are as individuals, the more you will have potential for arguments. Rather than trying hard not to fight, it’s important to figure out how to disagree with the purpose of resolution. If you allow disagreements to simmer in an attempt to keep the peace, you will eventually blow. It’s better to express frustrations and work through them together.
The difficulty and challenge here is that this requires humility and submission. It requires an ability to admit wrong. And it requires a commitment on both sides to fight for unity and love in the relationship. This is tough, because you can’t make the other person demonstrate all of these qualities—you can’t even demonstrate them yourself without God working through you! But this should be the goal of every married couple, to fight well by pursuing unity and love.
11. Love God with all of your heart. If I were sharing lessons learned by order of importance, this one would be number one. Love for one another can only be as strong and deep as our love for God. The more we love Him, the better we are able to love others. So in order to love my husband well, I must pursue knowledge of God and to allow Him to transform me.
One of the greatest gifts my husband gives me is unconditional love. He knows my faults, my failures, and my sins more intimately than anyone else (except maybe my children who are privy to my failings on a daily basis!), yet he loves me. It’s pretty incredible really. But I am able to recognize the significance of that love because I have learned of the unfailing love that Christ has for me that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me. (Romans 5:8) And I desire to love Dave with that same love. Unconditional. Unfailing. Always and forever.
12. When you are both pursuing Christ, you will be drawn closer together. It’s inevitable and it is sweet. Marry someone who wants to know Jesus. It is the best gift to give to one another. I have been dwelling on this verse all year, since “light” is my one word for the year- “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 (ESV) I can speak for the veracity of this verse, because I have seen the evidence of this in my marriage. As Dave and I have both pursued a relationship with Christ separately, we have been drawn into deeper fellowship with one another. We have also learned that we don’t have to be afraid of confessing our sins to each other. When there is the assurance of forgiveness and change on the other side of that confession, there is no fear.
13. Have fun together. Life is tough and it is good to take it seriously and to live with mutual intention. But because it is tough, it is equally important to be deliberate about having fun together. For us, this looks like picking TV shows that we watch together. Or cooking a meal together. Or playing Dutch Blitz with friends. Or going out for coffee. Or discussing a great book. Find the ways that you have fun together and make them a priority.
14. Don’t compare your relationship with any other couple. This is a danger zone for so many of us and it has the potential to ruin relationships. Every single couple has challenges that they face, but often you only see the great parts of relationships. Don’t compare your reality with someone else’s highlight reel. Every marriage will look different because it is made up of unique individuals. It’s not supposed to look like anyone else! The grass is NOT greener on the other side.
15. Understand that marriages go through seasons. Job changes, new babies, issues with kids, elderly parents and loss of loved ones can have huge effects on a marriage. Knowing that these things might cause distance in your relationship is important, because then you can figure out ways to reconnect without becoming bitter against the other person. Maybe they didn’t respond the way you expected them to or they weren’t there for you in the way you needed them to be. Don’t make the mistake of holding this against them. Instead, allow it to drive you to deeper discussions on what you need from one another.
16. You’re marrying a sinner. Dave will often say this at weddings he officiates and people laugh, but it’s such an important lesson to understand! You are not marrying a perfect person (neither are they!). You are both going to mess up, but when you know this, you can offer forgiveness and grace. You shouldn’t be surprised when the other person messes up, but by being a safe place where your spouse can confess sin, you can be part of the redemption process that God is working in each one of us. And rather than that sin driving a wedge between you, it can draw you closer together.
17. Figure out how your spouse gives and receives love. If you haven’t read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, I would highly recommend it. If you don’t know how your spouse receives love, you might think that you are doing everything possible to show love and then be frustrated that they’re not getting it. And all the while, you’re missing the thing that actually makes them feel loved. When we were first married, I thought that gifts were my primary love language, but over time, I have realized that I long for quality time and words of affirmation. Gifts are special and appreciated, but are not as important to me (I think part of that goes back to the “holding expectations loosely” lesson!). For Dave, he appreciates acts of service. Knowing this can save you lots of frustration. If you desire to love well and to be loved well, you need to understand the best way to do this for your spouse.
18. Sometimes you need to let the sun go down on your wrath. Ephesians 4:26 commands us not to let the sun go down on our anger and I do not want to disagree with scripture, so stick with me. When you are angry with someone, you are not supposed to sin in your anger against them (also in this verse). If you are allowing your anger to cause your thoughts to turn into bitterness against them or if your anger is causing you to gossip about your spouse, then you are sinning against them, so the point of this verse is to make sure you are not allowing sin to grow in your heart. In other words, don’t allow too much time to pass before you make it right.
But there are times in marriage when you think you are angry at your spouse, but really you are just exhausted and need to sleep. We learned this early in our marriage. We had an argument over something that we have both forgotten what the actual issue was and Dave had learned that I needed space in those times, so even though he prefers to talk about things right away, he gave me time away. He waited and waited and finally came to our room to check on me and I had fallen asleep! We were able to laugh about it and discovered that we no longer had anything to argue about. There are legitimate times when arguments need to be discussed, but there are other times when it really is just something you need to personally get right with the Lord. Learn to know the difference!
Dave has also learned in our marriage to remind me not to make rash decisions or to make major decisions when I am emotional. There are times when I need to wait on making decisions until I can think about them rationally and I am so grateful for a husband who is able to recognize this in me and challenge me when he sees my emotions getting the best of me. Sometimes you just need to sleep on those emotions and see how you feel in the morning!
19. Be intentional about making time for each other. Some couples do this by setting aside a weekly date night. I think this is a wonderful thing, but it hasn’t worked well for us. Dave and I are both spontaneous people, so we struggle with planning ahead. What has worked for us is to have lots of things we enjoy doing together and then do one of those every single day. Intentional time doesn’t have to be grand or expensive. It can be watching a show together or talking while you do meal preparation. Find simple, daily ways to connect with each other if you are the spontaneous sort. And if you are more of a planner, plan those date nights and make sure you follow through.
It’s a sweet thing to get to our 20th anniversary and have so many special memories and inside jokes that only we understand. Our son told us about playing a game on a playground with friends and as he talked, we were reminded about the first time we noticed each other as twenty-year-olds. We were playing on a playground with friends and discovered that we were both playful and competitive in a fun way. I was able to tell my son that that was when I started falling in love with his Daddy. He couldn’t believe that we played on a playground at the age of twenty, but I hope he will be able to have those kinds of stories to pass on to his kids too!
20. Never stop working on loving well. Romans 12:10 says that we are to outdo one another in showing honor. I love this challenge. When both spouses are seeking to outdo each other, not in a competitive way, but genuinely seeking the best for the other person, there will be an intimacy and a joy in marriage. We should never stop growing in our love for each other.
To my dear husband,
Thank you for loving me so well and for consistently pointing me to Jesus. Our life together has been truly joyous—even our difficulties have served to change us and draw us closer to each other and I am so grateful for this. I can’t imagine going through life with anyone other than you and I am so incredibly blessed that God brought you into my life. Thank you for pursuing your own passions and for supporting me in mine. Thank you for all of the adventures we have gone on together and for the quiet moments sitting by a campfire that have been equally wonderful. You are a treasure to me and I am so glad that I get to call you mine.
Happy 20th anniversary! Here’s to the next twenty and beyond.
All my love,
I’m feeling nostalgic today.
A few weeks ago, I started running and working out consistently again after nearly two and a half years of only sporadic exercise. This morning, as I searched for workout clothes, I discovered that all of my usual go to athletic items are in the dirty clothes pile. But not working out, because I don’t have any clean workout clothes is not an option right now (it’s an excuse that I have used too frequently of late and I am DONE with excuses!) So I dug down deep into my dresser drawers and found a pair of sweatpants from my high school days—complete with “TVHS Bulldogs” printed on the leg. It seemed necessary to put on my “Seniors of ’93” t-shirt to wear with the pants.
It made me laugh! Twenty-five years later and so much of me is just an older, more experienced and heavier version of my eighteen year old self. I put my hair up in a pony tail and felt like the teenager I was all those years ago.
I’m not sure how she was able to take me seriously dressed as I was, but my fifteen year old daughter started a conversation about what she wants to do with her future. Dressed as my younger self and giving college and career advice was a weird combination, but it forced me to be introspective and contemplative. What would I tell my younger self if I had the opportunity to step back in time? Here’s what I think I would say…
Dear Younger Me,
It amazes me that you already know what you want to do with your life, but please don’t be embarrassed that it doesn’t feel well defined. You were not meant to be a teacher or a nurse and that is perfectly fine. You will be most fulfilled when you are seeking to be faithful to what God calls you to do. Don’t ever try to live up to expectations that people set for you if they are contrary to what you know God is leading you to do. But do listen to the advice of others who are seeking God’s glory. You don’t have to worry about not knowing the difference. You’ll just know.
You have had some people tell you that it’s not a good idea to take a gap year. They’re wrong! I’m so glad you know it. Taking a year off between high school and college will be one of the best decisions you will make.
You’ll be tempted to go to a different college because of young love. Don’t give in to that. Always, always, always seek to follow where God leads you and don’t follow a boy until you marry him (then definitely go wherever he goes!).
I know there are times when you read scripture and it doesn’t seem to be relevant. It will be easy to not be consistent in spending time in God’s Word. Do it anyway. The time that you spend poring over scripture and memorizing verses will be a blessing for the rest of your life. You will be amazed at how God will use that time you spend now at the most unexpected times later. There will come a day when you will truly understand the importance of saturating your life with truth, so keep reading and keep pursuing Jesus.
You don’t have to have all of the answers now. In fact, you shouldn’t. There are some things that can only be learned by going through different situations and experiences. Keep spending time with older and wiser women. Don’t ever stop learning from others, because you will never get to the place when you don’t have any more to learn. This is part of what makes life so exciting and abundant!
You think that you understand grace and humility. You don’t. You have so much to learn, but that’s okay. It’s going to be a lifelong journey of learning to depend completely on Christ. And it will only be through your recognition of the depths of your sin and failures that you will be able to see that grace IS amazing and humility is the only way anyone is able to stand. I’m excited for you to learn these lessons. There is a richness and joy that you have yet to experience.
You have already memorized Galatians 1:10 and you will want to only seek God’s approval, but you will continue to struggle with people-pleasing-probably for the rest of your life! The harder you try to win the approval of others, the more some will dislike you. This will be painful and gut-wrenching, but nothing else will make you cling more to Jesus than these relationship struggles. For this, you will be grateful. It will be a hard road, but you will learn that it is more important to please God than it is to win the approval of the masses (or that one person you just can’t seem to please!).
You will be surprised at where your passions lead you. Those seeds that have already been planted deep in your heart—your love for other cultures, for people, for children, for writing, for travel—God will take all of it and use it for His glory. And you will get to sit back and watch amazed at what He is able to accomplish through you. So allow Him to do what only He can do. Don’t worry about rushing it. His timing is always perfect. He is always faithful, so you never have to doubt!
The best advice I can give you is to love God with all of your heart and then love others out of the overflow of your love for God. Don’t get that mixed up. Your love for others can only be true and pure when you love God first.
You have your whole life ahead of you! It’s a good one. Enjoy the journey!
Your Older Self
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize! 1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV
When I first memorized this verse as a teenager, I thought it meant that I needed to try to be first in everything I did. Of course as I have matured, I have realized what this verse really means— to work hard at all that I do as working for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23).
But recently, I was struck with the beauty of this concept in view of community. I was reading with a group of women and as we looked at different verses in scripture, I thought of a glorious illustration that hit this point home for me (I have told you before that my life is a series of sermon illustrations!!).
We looked at these verses from 2 Corinthians 3:
We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. -verses 4 and 5 NLT
And then some of my favorite verses in scripture found in Hebrews 12:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. -verses 1 and 2 NIV
As we read all of these verses, I imagined that I was an Olympic athlete (my imagination is huge!). I had qualified for the final race, not because of my great running abilities, but because God put my name on the list. As I ran to the finish line of the race marked out for me, running as if I would win the gold medal, the stands erupted with cheers and shouts from the great cloud of witnesses who had come for the sole purpose of cheering me on. I ran like I had never run before!
Because I might be just a little strange, I could feel my excitement welling up within me as I grasped a concept that had eluded me for quite some time. Several things stuck out to me. First, we are not supposed to be competing against anyone else. The race marked out for us means that we each have our own race to run. What I have been called to do will look different from everyone else. No one else has been called to be the Mom of the Daye kids living in my home. No one else has been asked to be the help meet to the Senior Pastor at Orchard Community Church. No one else has been uniquely gifted with my personality, my abilities, my passions, or my idiosyncrasies. And this is true of everyone. So when scripture tells us to run in such a way as to get the prize, it’s because we are all running our own race and we’re supposed to run it with diligence and perseverance. Running OUR race well should inspire and encourage others to run theirs well. It’s not meant to be a competition, because we are all running different races.
One thing that always makes me a little sad when I watch the Olympics is all of the athletes that make it to the games, but don’t qualify for the final round. I would imagine that would be incredibly disappointing— to make it all that way and then not be able to compete. But in the race of life, we are all qualified in Christ! When we believe in Him and trust in Him for salvation, we can run whatever race He has called us to with confidence. We are qualified! We don’t have to keep earning our place in each new race. Our place has already been established through the work of Christ on our behalf.
So we have been qualified for the race marked out for us and we are to run it to get the prize, but this is not meant to be a solitary effort. We are to be encouraged and celebrated by others who are watching us run our race and we are to do the same for others with equal vivacity and generosity. This picture is so beautiful to me! For many years, I have held tight to the mantra “Celebrate more, compare less”. It is a beautiful way to live, one that brings great joy when I remember to live it out. We’re not supposed to compare ourselves to others because we all have different races to run!! But if we were all celebrating one another (building up and not tearing down! Ephesians 4:29), the race marked out for each one of us could be run with joyful hearts, free of comparison and competition.
This is exciting for me, not just for the implications for my own life, but for my children as well. There have been times in their lives when they have been compared to others instead of recognized for their own race that they are running. These times were deeply hurtful, but were an indication to us as their parents that we needed to surround our kids with the right kind of crowd— the crowd who understands that we are all running our own races which means we don’t have to be threatened by anyone else’s success or achievements, but instead we get to cheer everyone on. Seeing my kids thrive in environments that value everyone’s race marked out for them has been beautiful. As thankful as I am for this, I am also grateful for the difficulties that they have had to walk through. Because the truth is, most people don’t live this way. They are still stuck in believing that winning the prize means that you have to be first (which means that you have to tear others down in order to achieve your goals). My kids will continue to face crowds that will not cheer them on and will not value them, but they know the difference now. And I pray that they would be the ones cheering others on and throwing kindness like confetti.
And I pray that they would run like they have never run before.
Twenty-five years ago on June 7, 1993, seventy-two teenagers graduated from Tri-Valley High School, a school nestled in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. I was one of those graduates and while I hear many people describe their high school years as the worst time in their life, for me it was a magical time. I loved my friends and peers. The faculty was inspiring (mostly!). The opportunities were plentiful.
Turns out it was a great time of preparation for my future.
In the 1993 yearbook, the seniors had an opportunity to share pet peeves, ambitions, activities, and embarrassing moments. As I reminisced about graduation day all those years ago, I read my ambition as an eighteen-year-old. This is what I wrote:
To go to Moody Bible Institute, serve God, and change my world.
It’s pretty amazing to me to consider that to some degree I have achieved those goals that I set so long ago. I wonder how many of my classmates would be able to say the same. As I look back on my life, I can clearly see the defining moments in my life. One of those moments was on a missions trip to Australia the summer before my senior year of high school. I read Psalm 139 every day while I was on that trip. On one of those days after reading scripture, I wrote in my journal that I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to serve God and Moody seemed like the best place to pursue that desire.
There have been times along the way when I have questioned my purpose (if you have read my blog for any length of time, you know I have done this a lot recently!). But reading my eighteen-year-old ambition reminds me to keep moving in the same direction. To keep serving God. To keep changing my world by being faithful in loving my children and impacting others for God’s glory.
As I paged through the yearbook, so many memories came flooding back. One of those was a National Honor Society Induction Ceremony. For some reason, we didn’t have a speaker, so a week before the ceremony, I was charged with asking my Dad if he would speak. I will never forget what he talked about- it was that memorable for me. “Whatever gets your attention will get you.” His words have been a nudging reminder when I was tempted to go my own way, to possibly not go to Moody, to compromise what I believed in. I have not led a perfect life by any stretch, but his words have been an anchor reminding me to make sure my attention is focused in the right direction. Seeing a picture of me sitting beside my Dad and my Mom in our high school cafeteria is so sweet to me.
I was reading in Proverbs recently and these verses stuck out:
Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.
Buy the truth and do not sell it—
wisdom, instruction and insight as well.
The father of a righteous child has great joy;
a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.
May your father and mother rejoice;
may she who gave you birth be joyful!
My Dad wrote in his Bible that his daughters have brought him great joy. I know that my Mom feels the same way and this is one of the biggest blessings in my life.
Twenty-five years since high school graduation and I have never regretted pursuing the goals and ambitions I set for myself! I’m so grateful for parents who faithfully pointed me to Jesus, for teachers who challenged me and saw potential in me, and for friends who loved me well, idiosyncrasies and all.
I had the opportunity to contribute a writing piece in our yearbook. It seems appropriate to end this post with my words from a quarter century ago…
So many memories have been firmly established in our hearts and our minds since we, the Class of ’93, first stepped into these halls of truth and knowledge six years ago. We were all small and scared then and there was seldom a time when we didn’t run to class. As time went by, we grew close to some people but seemed to drift away from others. Each of us has a different course in life. For awhile, we seemed to be divided for undefinable reasons, but as we matured, we realized that no matter how unique we were, we were still a part of the Class of ’93. Perhaps we are not the best or the brightest class to ever walk through these halls, but we are still unique individuals that can make a difference in our world. Some people say we are naive; I say we are blessed. We have received a good education and have made many lasting friendships. If man is truly a product of his environment, then we can be thankful that we have been a part of Tri-Valley High School.
Now as the sun creeps up on another era of our lives, let us always remember what we have learned. Let us remember to put others before ourselves. And let us remember that as soon as we stop learning from our mistakes, that is when we stop living.
God bless us, everyone!
Happy twenty-five years, Class of ’93!!!!