It’s a simple story really. There was a knock at the door. “Is Jess home?” We had just begun the teenage years and little did I know I was beginning my happily every after. From that day forward the chase was on. We laugh about it often. I was determined not to fall for him and he was determined to not give up. I would always critique his girlfriends and he would make sure I knew of his disapproval of my latest crush. We became close friends. It was not a love at first sight kind of love but one developed over years to stand the test of time.
One of our favorite stories involves a bet and a Hershey kiss. He often joked with me about what it would take to steal a kiss. His newest idea? If he scored 30 points at that nights’ basketball game I would give him a kiss. Confident he would never score that many points I agreed. After school he said, “I’ll see you at the game.” “Remember our bet.” I smiled and laughed it off.
Fast forward to the end of the game. 36 points! I’m pretty sure I rushed out of that gym as quickly as possible. Before math class started the next day I spotted him already in his seat. As I walked past, I placed a Hershey kiss on his desk. Uproar ensued!! I argued that he didn’t specify what kind of “kiss” and he assured me I would not get out of this bet on a technicality. He stole his first kiss that day at the lockers and he is certain that is why our romance began months later.
It was a beautiful time. A time full of fun memories, very few worries and dreaming about an amazing future together. We married after his first year of pharmacy school and moved to Birmingham that summer. We were 21 at the time. 11 years later and we are still happily married but that hasn’t been without hard work. Pharmacy school turned into school loans, a small rent payment into a mortgage, you get the picture. 3 kids, bills, long work schedules, hard times and good times all followed. Life is full of surprises some wanted and some, eh not so much. I have found marriage a lot like anything else in life. It is what you put into it. The harder you work in school the better grade you earn. The harder you work on the job the more recognition you receive. So is the same for marriage, right?
There is a book that states, “What if marriage was not intended to make us happy but rather holy?” I haven’t read the book but saw the quote on social media and it was an aha moment for me. So many times we get caught up in the chase of happiness and bliss. Always thinking the grass is greener on the other side. The perfect house. Perfect job. The perfect town. Enough money to go on that exotic vacation. The kids, the pet and the blissful marriage. Chasing after everything for the end result of MY happiness. But what if that happiness is found in the work, the grind, the good, bad and ugly? And the end result is not our happiness but rather our holiness?
It is not just marriage though, right? Take parenting for example. Does parenting always make you happy? Just asking that question is funny. When my son was 2 years old he was obsessed with Thomas the Train. He wanted to collect every train, track, sticker, picture, anything to do with Thomas. With an infant, 2 year old and 4 year old in tow I needed to make a quick run to the store on my way to my daughters dance class. As we entered I began prepping my son that we were not buying toys on this trip.
He agreed but begged to just look in the toy aisle. I know, it was a trap. But with too high expectations for my 2 year old I succumbed and off we went. Lets just say this experience ended in a wrestling match to the car, I ended up in tears and no groceries were purchased. #momfail Obviously, this did not make me happy but how did it make me holy?
That night I really did take the time to dig deep and think about ways to be a better mom and what message I wanted to send to my children. I did cry out to my God and ask “Am I doing this right?” I look back at that moment and smile. It was not as big of a deal as it felt at the time. Those moments, the ones where we are desperate, the ones where we fight together, learn together, change together is where the bond is made. Sure the fun times are wonderful but if you really look so are the hard ones.
That is not an example of a “real hard time” I understand. Trust me, I have my fair share of those as well. The fight to come out on the other side, the strength you find when you dig deep, the will you discover when your back is against the wall those treasures discovered only in the work of life not only make you holy but happy as well. When I look over the past 11 years of my marriage it is not just the easy times that make me happy but the peace in knowing that although hard times will inevitably arise, we have it in us to push through.
So lets find happiness in the work. Lets find joy in putting others before ourselves and see what happens. Whether you find the reason to put others before yourself from your faith, upbringing or something else I think we can all agree that it is an essential ingredient to becoming a decent and loving human being. Where can we learn this? How can we teach it to our children?
It starts at home. I don’t want to put others first just for show. I want to live it. In public and in secret. I want to show kindness and love to the homeless person on the street. Absolutely. But I also want to show that same love and kindness to the people who it is easiest to look over. The people right in front of me. People that I know their successes and failures. And even people that get on my nerves sometimes. I want my kids to know that we not only practice this in the outside world but also in our homes.
I know this has had more of a serious tone but I also wanted to share with you a fun idea to keep dating your spouse even after the I do’s. It is part of the “work” and putting our marriage in the spotlight every now and then. It is so easy to get caught up in all the tasks of the day that we often forget or push to the back the idea of maintaining that relationship we once had.
When Trae and I were first married we received a gift of marriage date cards. Each month we had two date cards. One that was geared towards the wife and one towards the husband. This was supposed to last a year with a combined date card on our one year anniversary. I liked the idea but wanted to change it up a little bit. The first change is to create your own. While many companies have this available to purchase I think it will be best if it is custom. Some cards may have a date that you simply cannot afford or maybe the date night is not something you enjoy.
So to start make 12 date cards that include something you will enjoy doing and have your husband do the same. You should be writing down date ideas for you not your spouse. Remember, it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Maybe one month is dinner and a movie or staying in an ordering pizza. The important thing is that is just the two of you and that you are doing something together. Mix it up though. Be creative and try not to repeat a date night. Also, on the date card include a topic to discuss.
This is your opportunity to share something a little deeper about yourself with your spouse or maybe it is an issue in your marriage that you are working through. It might be something fun or something more serious. Each card should look different. This is to avoid spending your date night talking about the budget or your kids’ extracurricular activities. Take the time to really get to know each other. We grow and change as individuals and it is important to communicate that with your spouse. Your card may look something like this.
October Date Night:
Date Night Idea: Play tennis and go out to dinner
Discussion: My goals and ideas for this blog
After you have completed your 12 cards, switch with your spouse. Now you have each others’ date cards. You will learn about the other person simply by seeing their ideal date nights. Each month you will have 2 date nights and you will be in charge of planning the other persons date idea. This is your opportunity to add some extras to the date to show them you are still interested and care. Maybe Trae knows of a purchase I’ve been saving for in regards to the blog and he surprises me.
Get the idea. Plan ahead and make it special. Since things are always changing you may want to only do 6 months at a time so that the dates and topics for discussion are relevant. Some dates may be easy and fun and others you may be working through something difficult in your marriage and it may feel more like work. Either way you are setting aside the time to focus on each other and the marriage that you are committed to.
Trae and I are going to start this in October and we would love for you to join us! You can read some of my favorite date ideas here. I’ll post an update later about how we are liking the idea. Do you have ideas to add? Let me know if you are going to try it to. I know it seems a little silly but like everything it is what you make it. Have a great week guys and I look forward to hearing from you!