My First Big Lesson About Marriage

I love going back in time, whether it’s through my old journals or blog posts and being reminded of the things that I was learning and grasping. Isn’t it disheartening how easily forgotten some of the big truths discovered throughout our lives are? I was reminded today, in the midsts of diaper changes, meltdowns, playdates and spit-up, of one of the greatest truths I luckily learned earlier on in my marriage. Within 6 months of being a married gal, nearly 6 years together with Ben, I learned the first big lesson about marriage: My first ministry is my marriage and husband. I had to learn that being intentional about spending time with my husband was important for our intimacy, friendship and general kindness to each other. This is still so very true, now that we’ve thrown kids into the mix. My heart could burst with the amount of love and joy my babies bring me and I know that to be true for Ben as well. That does not change the fact that even now, my first ministry is my marriage. Enjoy the revelation I discovered from a post dated back from January 2013, a short year and a half as a married person.

***I’m happy to report that we have had some really great vacations since this post***

Repost from January 4, 2013

penn-valleyPenn Valley, CA

Ben and I just got back from our first vacation since our honeymoon a year and half ago. We were more than excited to have a break from our routine to spend time with family and get the chance to rest – TOGETHER.

One thing I’ve discovered this last year and a half of marriage is that vacations are few and far between when work days are Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. Sure, we could take a couple weekdays, but when your job produces a “product” that resets every 7 days, there seems to be a sense of anxiety trying to compile a shot list for someone else while you try to take a few days to rest and relax. Not to mention most people we’d love to see or visit on vacation would have to take work off during the week to see us – it complicates things for everyone.

I’ve had the pleasure of working for South Mountain Community Church for 3 and a half years as the Elementary Director and my job taxes not only a physical exhaustion but an emotional exhaustion… and I LOVE it. I feel like I’ve really put some hard work in when I’m drained – call me crazy. I love what I do, so I spend a lot of time examining the processes I’ve put in place, asking questions like, “Is this helpful for the kids?” “Does this value my volunteers?” “Does this help us work toward our mission and values?” Vacations are the last thing on my mind until I find myself breaking at the seams and curled up in a ball in the corner. In all honesty, I spend the time I should be recharging thinking of work and what I might have forgotten or wondering how it’s going.

Before I was married, this kind of devotion and passion felt great. It actually produced energy and recharged me and I wanted to be at the forefront of it all. After Ben and I got married, we soon realized that we were way over our heads on the “two becoming one” aspect when it came to schedules, margin and time management. Ben and I dated for 4 years before we got married and served together in high school ministry for a few of those years together. We often heard, through working at a church and serving, the ol’, “We can’t serve anymore; we really need to work on our marriage and spend more time together.” We both secretly judged those people for being lazy and giving a hands-off kind of excuse. Who were we to say anything about anyone else’s marriage? I thought to myself, “You sleep next to each other, you wake up next to each other, how can you spend any more time together?” We simply saw it as the easiest way to get out of a commitment of lock-ins and dealing with 16-year-old’s drama.

Ben and I were also very intentional about our priorities as a dating couple. We agreed that in a God-honoring marriage, the husband was designed to be the leader of the family, but in our dating life, I wasn’t looking for him to lead me as much as I was looking for him to lead himself. If he could do that, I could be confident that one day he could lead me. We agreed that our friendships were important and that “checking in” wasn’t going to be a habit in our dating life. We spent a lot of time with friends separately and together. Building these kinds of habits created an interesting discovery after we tied the knot. We realized that everything we were doing to honor Christ in our dating life was the exact opposite of the kinds of habits and priorities we should be practicing in our married life. We should be having sex, we should be placing each other before anyone else, including our separate families and closest friends. Ben’s new role was to lead our family and my new role was to let him. There were no longer any emotional or physical boundaries. It was AMAZING, but after 4 years of getting into a groove we, all of the sudden, needed to flip a switch. I could hear myself saying, “We really need to work on our marriage and spend more time together.” It turns out that sleeping and waking up next to each other just doesn’t cut it.

bennicolevacation

In the first 6 months of our marriage there wasn’t a single night of the week we didn’t have something scheduled, let alone a date night of any sort. The oddest part for me was feelings of discontentment when before this busy lifestyle was what fueled me. I began feeling like I had a roommate instead of a husband and I couldn’t understand why. Then I learned the first big lesson about marriage: My first ministry is my marriage and husband. I had to learn that being intentional about spending time with my husband was important for our intimacy, friendship and general kindness to each other. I looked at the way I purposely worked out the kinks in my Sunday School program and the amount of time and effort I put into my volunteers was not nearly the amount of energy I was spending serving, loving or even getting to know Ben as my husband. This last year and a half being married and working in ministry has brought the veracity that I cannot do everything I once did as a single gal. My biggest struggle has always been, as my mom would say it, “burning the candle at both ends” and I believe that this is just one more way God has used Ben to show me an area in my life that He can grow so that I can be a better servant of Christ.

So, here’s to more vacations in 2013!

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. John 15:1-4

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