12 years of marriage + 4 kids = Joy unspeakable

Tomorrow my beautiful bride and I are going to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. With this day comes many memories of how we began. I first met Amy 17 years ago, we went on our first date 14.5 years ago, we had our first kiss 13 years ago (that first one took a lot of work, but it was worth it!), and a year later we tied the knot. Four short or long years later (it depends on who and when you ask), we had our first son Noah (8), then Mia (5), Halle (3.5) and Isaac (2). I am over grateful for the family God has entrusted to me and Amy.

What I don’t want to do in this post is to fool you with the title. These last twelve years have not been all pretty, fun-loving, full of joy years. We have had many hard years, sleepless nights, good fights, endless seasons of relentlessness, and plenty of “what the heck have we done!?” moments. Our twelve years of marriage and parenting could not produce joy unspeakable with out all the trials, battles, fights, and despair.

It’s actually those seasons and moments that define our marriage and family. I wouldn’t want “us” without all of the junk we have gone through. I also wouldn’t want all the junk we have gone through without the covenant commitment that Amy and I made to one another twelve years ago, one that we continue to renew day after day. And we definitely wouldn’t have made that covenant commitment to one another had it not been for a covenant keeping God who chased us down, saved us and sealed our salvation and identity in Christ alone. This is the anchor of our love and the reason why twelve years of marriage and four children later, we have joy that is unspeakable.

Just for fun (and because I can), I want to share ten things that Amy and I believe have kept our marriage fresh and healthy over the past twelve years. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a list that we keep perfectly. Instead, these ten things have been priorities to us and we have labored imperfectly over each one and ultimately trust the perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus for our righteousness and hope:

1. We both submit to a sovereign God and ultimately trust His will (whether it’s suffering or prosperity) for our lives and the lives of our children. This has removed a lot of questions, doubt, anxiety and frustration.

2. We have both committed to find our joy and comfort in God alone, not from marriage or kids. This is one of those things that we daily fail at, yet we daily come before God and ask for the eyes and heart to see Him as the comforter and source of joy.

3. We have both committed to being transparent with our lives. This is one of those freedoms you give up in marriage, only to gain more of a radical freedom that one could never imagine. Much like surrendering to Jesus, when a married couple surrenders their rights to living hidden lives, the freedom after that surrender is incomparable.

4. We both treat one another with dignity and worth. We do not slander one another, bad talk one another to our friends, or disrespectfully complain to other people about what we are or aren’t doing. We do not control one another to get what we want. When we do fail to honor this commitment, we openly confess our sin or call out the other person and practice open repentance with one another often.

5. We understand our God-given roles. We believe that God has given specific roles to the husband and wife. The husband is to be the head of his wife and is called to love her as Christ loves the church (which means he dies first). The wife is to submit to her husband in the way that Jesus submitted to the Father. The model of this perfectly loving and submissive relationship is modeled by God the Father and God the Son. Even though we believe in biblical submission of a wife to a husband and biblical love of a wife by the husband (as Christ loved the church), we do not hold any role higher than another role.

6. We make sure the kids know that Jesus comes first, then mommy and daddy, then them. This may sound weird at first, but the worst thing we could ever do for our marriage or our kids is to make them feel or think that they are the center of our universe. Our kids need to desperately see us place Jesus as the center of our universe, and then they need to see a mom and dad who love one another more than they love them. The fact is, our kids will one day grow up and be gone, but Amy and I will have each other long after that.

7. We are intentional with our time together. We went on consistent and frequent dates before the kids came, but after we had a couple of kids, the dates were few and far between. Even if we can’t get nights away from the kids, we intentionally planned evenings after the kids went down to invest in one another, care for one another, hear one another, and some other things that wouldn’t be appropriate to share here.

8. We surround ourselves with good friends. We both know that we were created to be in relationship with people and that we need other people to love on us, our kids, and to share life with. This has been something that we have worked very hard on. Community doesn’t accidentally happen. We have sacrificed a lot to let people in to our marriage and family in really vulnerable ways; but we know it has been one of the most healthy things for our marriage and family.

9. We are not yes people. Neither of us have ever been very good at agreeing to something if we really don’t agree with it. This could get us into trouble and it has during rebellious seasons, but it has also served to mature us and shape us in to the better parents, lovers, ministers and friends. We respectfully challenge one another in love and trust the Holy Spirit to ultimately change us and sanctify us.

10. We are in it for the long haul. Amy and I do not even mention the “D” word. There are plenty of hopeless moments in marriage, but we both know that we covenanted with one another and that we are committed to honoring and glorifying God more than being happy. The mystery of glorifying God over seeking our own happiness is that if our chief end is to glorify God in our marriage and family, then we will be the happiest we could ever be.

Thanks for partnering with me Amy! Here’s to another 12 years of joy unspeakable!

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