Proverbs 16:9 A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs His steps.
It was 38 years ago this month that Lanny and I met at his parents’ place in PA. Three years later on December 15, 1984, we would stand face to face and say, I do.
Let’s face it. We all marry expecting to experience joy together. I entered marriage with a desire to belong. My husband would love me forever and spend every waking moment with me.
I know you all are smiling. Our story has a redemptive ending.
Deeply scared with a sense of abandonment and attachment pain after several years of being raised at a military-style boarding school I dreamt of having a family of my own. I imagined my husband would marvel at my abilities and my children would long to explore the world with us. We would be together and that’s all that seemed to matter to me at the age of 21.
I had a clear call on my life or so I thought and had communicated it to Lanny. Prior to marriage, motivated by fear of anything going against this call, I let Lanny know my calling and hoped he had the same vision for his life. We joined our lives longing to serve God.
Fourteen years into our marriage we found ourselves back in PA after several years on the mission field. We had served with Youth With A Mission in Belize, Central America for six years where our oldest son was born in 1988 and then another couple years in Papua New Guinea with Ethnos 360, where our youngest son was born in 1996.
We came home exhausted and beaten down. The joy in our marriage was gone. Our desire to serve others remained but the energy and excitement we once shared together were missing. For the next sixteen years, we would remain in PA and raise our two boys while we stayed plugged into the local church.
Have you ever woke and wondered how you got where you were? 2011 was that year for me. I was still married to my love. Our boys were growing strong in stature. We had much to be thankful for. I was empty.
After sustaining a neck injury in February 2011 my body ached with pain. Unable to do much of what defined me I questioned my purpose. Our marriage lacked joy. I had lost hope that it would last once Karson was grown.
What changed? I realized I could no longer control Lanny nor could I control our boys. Letting go is not easy unless you place your trust in someone other than yourself. I cried out to God. My cry was, “God, I need your help.”
Our story is not finished being written. We have learned a lot as we journey together.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plan I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.
Recently we were introduced to a very small yet powerful marriage book, The 4 Habits of a Joy-Filled Marriage by Marcus Warner and Chris Coursey. We were able to join an online study group through Deeper Walk which helped us to implement 4 habits to strengthen our relational bond. I recommend this book and on-line groups to anyone married and looking to shrink the joy gap in their marriage.
Joy Gap/joi gap/ 1. The length of time between moments of shared joy.
The 4 habits are:
- Play together
- Listen for emotion.
- Fill your marriage with joy through appreciation.
- Nurture a rhythm-rest together.
To shrink the amount of time between moments of joy in our marriage we have begun a new habit together. As we cuddle in bed, we take time to appreciate each other. We share three things we appreciate about the other and why. We take time to express how this memory feels in our bodies. We notice our breathing, our heart rate, and any muscle tension as we speak and listen to the other.
We close our eyes and thank Jesus for His presence and all He enabled us to share together.
Last night as I lay in bed, I told Lanny I appreciated:
- His persistence as he labored to get our appliances fixed. (we lost four circuit boards in the last storm disabling our furnace, refrigerator, dryer, and dishwasher.) He’s fixed two and has two to go. I reflected on his efforts bringing me security and how his actions speak love to me.
- I thanked him for the work he had done on our hallway walls in preparation for painting. His efforts providing us a beautiful home brings a smile to my face, my breathing slows.
- I thanked him for the kind words he spoke to me and his attuning presence. I reflected on how I sensed I was not alone and that we are one in Christ.
What do you appreciate about the ones you love? Do you think an exercise of appreciation would help elevate the joy level in your home? What are the ways you have shown appreciation?
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