books

Books For the Purposeful Mom

Affiliate links may be used in this post. You can view our full disclosure here.

It was time for the kids’ dental checkup and cleaning. We sat in the crowded waiting room- daughter at my side, son on my lap.

Because I have gotten through a few books from my list to read this year and am currently on my next book, Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford, I was encouraged and determined not to take out my phone to check my texts, Facebook, or Instagram feeds.

Instead, we just sat there. Me with my daughter at my side and son on my lap.

But then it dawned on me. I might as well just pull out my phone. I’m not interacting with my children at all! The only difference between me and every other parent in this room is that  I don’t have my phone in hand.

Our first influence as believers should always be God’s Word, the Bible, but he also has given others wisdom to share with us- not inspired wisdom, but useful wisdom. Because of the books I have chosen to read this year, my thoughts and actions have lined up more towards being  purposeful. I have gathered fantastic ideas that I keep in my mommy-mental arsenal that I can reach for at a moment’s notice.

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“I spy something red,” I said.

Both kids went from a slightly slumped position to sitting at attention, giving the room an instant visual scan.

“Is it on the wall?”

“Yes,” I answered, fixing my eyes on the beach ball painted in the center of the beach mural on the accent wall.

For 30 minutes, we played “I Spy.” We laughed that we had looked past the green sign that had been spied on the glass door to the green walls beyond, groaned at not being able to see the obvious orange piece of paper on the floor, and called a “give up” when we thought we named everything in a given color.

If you are looking for a book or two to help you be a more purposeful mom, here are some of my personal recommendations.

Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters! by Rachel Macy Stafford.

books I have been able to relate to every word Rachel has written, and I am finding myself laying my phone down for longer periods of time. In this world of technology we live in, it is important for us to be reminded of the value of the real over the virtual.

On of the best things about Rachel is her ability to make her time with her two daughters meaningful while being a full-time working wife and mother.

Hands Free Life: Nine Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, and Loving More by Rachel Macy Stafford.

booksThe sequel to Hands Free Mama, is next on my list. Since I was given a bookstore gift card for Christmas, I knew this had to be added to my “Must Read List” this year.

Rachel also has a brand new book out, Only Love Today, which I cannot wait to get my hands on.

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist.

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This book really moved me in a way that many books haven’t. When you find yourself always being pulled in different directions, it can be hard to be present in anything you do. Shauna is very real about her own personal situation and how pulled and frazzled she felt, and what she needed to do in order to be present with her family instead of saying “yes” to every opportunity that came her way.

Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner.

booksOur time is always being taken away from us. Whether we work outside of the home or we are stay-at-home-moms, everyone wants to get their hands on any little bit of spare time we have. We feel like we are always on the go and there is never any time for us to just stop, slow down, and put our feet up. After hearing Erin Loechner speak about her book on a podcast, I knew I needed to add this book to my “Must Read List.”

Erin wrote this book, not as someone who has found the formula and has arrived, but as someone who recognized how fast life was going and decided to chronicle her journey to slow down.

The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally Clarkson.

booksSally Clarkson goes through the calendar year and gives moms ideas to focus on each month. Not necessarily how to make each holiday “the best one ever,” but how to focus on one aspect of each family member’s needs one month at a time and how to make home feel like home each month.

Each author definitely has their own distinct style, which I like. Each author speaks from their own experiences, giving them the credibility to speak on their topic. Each author focuses on a different area of focus.  And in their own ways, each author has encouraged me in my journey to be more purposeful with my family.

Are there any books you are reading which have helped you approach life in a more purposeful way?

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legacy

The Original Purposeful Mom and Her Legacy

We as mothers hope to one day leave a legacy.

It drives us to do what we do, day in and day out. It’s why we make the choices we make on a daily basis. It’s why we get up every morning to face the challenges of the day again. Because one day our children will grow and become men and women who will either carry on our legacy- the core values we have spent our lives instilling in them in every way we could- or choose a path of their own.

Purposeful Moms would not even be here if not for a woman that God entrusted us to many years ago.

Let me introduce you to the original Purposeful Mom and the legacy she left behind.

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Her name was Ana. And she was gorgeous.

That’s not just my biased opinion either. As a teenager, she was super thin, had long, straight, bottle-blonde hair, and big brown eyes with lashes that went on forever. One day, as she was walking home, a gentlemen with a business card approached her. He told her that he was a modeling agent and his models would be featured on television that evening. He gave her the time, channel, and business card and went on his way. Ana went home that evening and turned on the TV. As she watched, she felt in her heart that she had a turning point choice to make. She could either choose to serve God with her life or choose to live a worldly lifestyle. That night she dedicated her life fully to Christ.

Her legacy taught me to always choose Christ and service to him.

Mom kept her make up very simple. Her beauty made cosmetics pretty unnecessary. But she always wore mascara. The mascara made her long lashes (which our children have inherited) more defined, and caused her beautiful brown eyes to stand out (Faye inherited her eyes). One evening as she was worshipping in church, she felt the desire to weep before the Lord, but she was afraid to because the tears would cause her mascara to stream down her face.  That night she vowed before God that she would never wear mascara again because she didn’t want to allow anything to stand between her and the worship of her God.

Her legacy taught me to care more about my relationship with God than how I look to others as I worship him.

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When she began dating my father, she chose to hold herself to God’s standard of conduct rather than society’s standard. Her purity of conduct not only carried her through her dating years but kept her faithful to her marriage vows.

Her legacy taught me to put Christ at the center of my dating relationship and marriage.

Before she married my father she prayed. She told God that she only wanted to marry my father if that marriage would be blessed by Him. As she prepared herself for her wedding day, she saw a tract in the bridal room of the church. The words on the tract said, “I will bless your marriage.”

Her legacy taught me to take my marriage to God before and after my wedding day.

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As a young couple trying to make ends meet, my parents had a strict budget to live on. They only had so much to spend on groceries per week. But one day, their church was having a get together and asked them to provide the milk and coffee for the evening. My parents knew that by doing this, they would not have enough to buy meat for themselves for the week. But they bought the milk and coffee anyway. The night of the event, the weather turned bad and the event was canceled. Someone from the church called my parents and told them that the meat that had been purchased by the church would go bad before the event could be rescheduled. They were asked if they would like to stop by and pick up some of the meat to take home for themselves.

Her legacy taught me that by giving to the Lord, He would always provide for my needs.

My father played in a band in his younger days. One night, as he my mother and his younger sister were walking back to the car, a man attempted to mug him. The man told the gals to stay quiet and no one would get hurt. My mother pointed her Bible at him and began shouting, “I rebuke you in Jesus name!” The man lowered his knife, took $5 out of my dad’s pocket, and took off running.

Her legacy taught me to call on the name of the Lord in times of trouble.

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My mother prayed for us before we were born, after we were born, when we were sick, for our future husbands, and for our well being.

Her legacy taught me to take my children before the Lord at all times for everything.

Mom taught us God’s Word on a daily basis. Until the day before my wedding, she would sit with me at the breakfast table and teach me a lesson straight from God’s Word.

Her legacy taught me that teaching my children God’s Word was my responsibility, not the church’s.

Today makes nine years since my mother passed away, yet her legacy lives on. It lives on in her daughters.

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As a Purposeful Mom, I pray that one day I leave a legacy for my children.

A godly legacy.

A legacy that will lead them to the throne of God on a daily basis.

That is a true legacy.

legacy

Dear Newlyweds, Be “Ring Polishers”

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3 NIV

Dirty dishes, soapy residue, cleaning chemicals, lotion, Playdoh, and sand…. My wedding band (the most precious piece of jewelry I own) has been through it all.

I remember the night I received the first half of it… It was our private engagement at a very special restaurant called Berns’ Steakhouse, in our own privately enclosed booth of the Harry Waugh Dessert Room.

It was Valentines Day 2010.. And I had a feeling this would be the night my amazing boyfriend would propose to me… (But, of course, I didn’t let on that I knew. )

Yes, I was aware from my own inquisitive probes that he had already requested permission from my dad to marry me… And with him having previously asked me to look at rings for ideas as to my preference, I knew it was only a matter of time before we would be engaged.

Jim was not content, though, with my preference in a ring. To him, the one I chose was just “plain vanilla” and he wanted it to be way better and have “sprinkles” as well.

That evening as we sat across the table (with me awaiting my Macadamia nut ice cream and Jim his creme brulee dessert), Jim got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife.

He pulled out the most beautiful ring, which he had personally chosen for me- the one with the sprinkles- and, of course, I gladly accepted.

It is a request, I will cherish forever.

That evening at my sister’s home, after Jim had dropped me off…and after all of the excitement of knowing I would soon be Mrs. Adams’… I sat on my bed admiring my ring.

It was beautiful.

When the light hit the diamonds, they sparkled so beautifully every which way.

It was absolutely gorgeous.

And more importantly, it was symbolically the promise that I was now in the process of fully belonging to someone forever.

It’s so amazing how every once in a while the memory and feelings I had from that special evening of admiring my ring alone in my room tend to return to me…

No, it’s not an everyday occurence… But  do you want to know when those memories do reappear?

It typically happens after I’ve cleaned my ring.

Yes, just as smells and songs take people back to certain times or events in their lives, seeing the sparkle in my ring literally brings me back as well.

But you know what…..

The messes of everyday life often get in the way of the sparkle of my engagment ring/wedding band… The dirty dishes, the soapy residue, the sand, the playdoh… All of those things.

It isn’t always easy to see the rainbow of colors that love to glimmer when I turn my ring this way and that on just any given day.

No…It takes a toothbrush and a cleaning agent to get my ring to sparkle again as it once did the day I first received it.

And you know what…. Life in marriage can be that way too.

Work, chores, routines, financial hardships, children, reponsibilites, school, health issues, activities, etc… All of those things are a part of life on this earth, and they can often “fog up” the “sparkle” couples  once knew when their life together first began.

Sadly in our day and age, though, rather than taking the time to “polish”, give better attention to the marriage and find the sparkle once again, couples these days sometimes choose to sling their own “mud” on the “ring”. They begin taking each other for granted and begin showing signs of disrepect toward each other both in private as well as in public. They unfortunately have lost the value they once placed on each other and may even venture as far as to toss away “the ring” in search of the “sparkle” in a new relationship.

You don’t have to look very far to see this.

In fact, the cashier’s aisle at the grocery store is just one proof of this. It’s a relationship graveyard.

No, it’s not enough anymore these days to just have magazines dedicated to fictional Soap Opera dramas. Rather… Beside these you will find very REAL  ones that expose the lives and broken relationships of the most beautiful people in entertainment.

The tragedy and ugliness of broken relationships is shared all over magazine racks and online.

I don’t which behind-the-scene “exclusive” interviews are true or not. And it doesn’t matter. The sad reality is….Another beautiful relationship  that should have lasted “bites the dust”….

Whatever happened to “In sickness and in health? Till death do us part? Before God and this company of witnesses?”

Were these vows meant to be merely poetic lines shared with the “hopes” that they would be kept?

No.

These vows were meant to be upheld.

And yet couples need to be reminded at the very start of their marriage that throughout their life together…

Through the mundane…

Through the hardships of life…

Through thick and thin…

It is each spouse’s job to be a “ring polisher”… 

Yes, there will be days when the excitement of being newlyweds subsides and everyday life kicks in…

When there’s laundry to be done…

When the bills pile high…

When the car breaks down…

When there’s an unexpected job loss…

When you have a noisy house filled with little people…

And a floor littered with toys …

When the date nights grow fewer because things have become tighter  financially…

In all of the clutter and fog of life…

Remember to clean your ring.

The sparkle is still there…

But throughout the marriage it takes faithfulness, love, and a strong commitment to God and each other to continually keep that sparkle shining at its brightest.

No diamond ring ever gets tossed when it loses its sparkle… Rather, one who values his/her ring will take the time to get it polished and cleaned in the most gentle and effective ways.

And You, Dear Newlyweds… Must always remember that.

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Here’s a small slideshow that I made back in 2010 of our engagement. If you click the link, it will take you back to that special day with us! http://www.smilebox.com/playBlog/4e4455774e6a41334d6a6b3d0d0a&blogview=true

 

 

invest your marriage

Investing in Your Marriage Without Spending a Fortune

You know how it goes.

Wedding day comes and you are ready to spend your life with this man who didn’t just steal your heart- you gave it to him willingly. You dream of the impromptu dates that will occur- a late night run to Starbucks to get coffee because really who needs to sleep! In your mind’s eye, you imagine talking deep into the night and waking up fully refreshed the next morning.

You plan weekly date nights. Since you are both working, you think nothing of the cost of going out for a sit down dinner weekly. You’re in love and nothing else matters.

invest your marriage

Then one afternoon a few years into marriage, you wait for your sweet husband to come home from work so you can give him the news you were both hoping for. You’re pregnant!

Once the baby comes, you determine to not give up on your date nights because connecting with each other is important…. but you can’t go out weekly because the budget won’t allow it. Your income may have been cut in half and now there is one more person pulling from it.

So what do you do?

Committing to our marriages is so important. Marriage takes work and time.

Is it possible to getaway from it all without breaking the bank?

When you add up the cost of babysitters, dinner, a movie, maybe a coffee and dessert, it can put a real dent in the budget and your attitude about date night.

invest your marriage

Or you can get creative!

My sister, brother-in-law, husband and I have figured out an arrangement that works for us.

Every other month we get a weekend.

This past weekend was Brian and my weekend. Faye and Jim had our kids from Friday thru Sunday, and Brian and I had the weekend all to ourselves. Next month, we will watch my nephew, and Faye and Jim will have their weekend.

This is the time we can go out to a leisurely dinner together. We can leave our county and head into the “city” for more options. Because the kids are with Faye for the weekend, we don’t have to rush back to relieve the babysitter.

Babysitter= Free

One of the things we enjoy doing on our weekend is seeing a movie. Theaters are always an option, but we have found a way to keep those costs down, too. Have you checked your debit card points? Our debit card had been earning us points that we didn’t know about. When I stumbled onto this, I discovered that we could purchase movie tickets with our points.

We also keep track of which movies are being put on Amazon or into our local Redbox kiosk. My husband gets coupon codes sent to his email (for Redbox), so we are able to rent a movie and enjoy it from the comfort of our own couch and our kitchen is our concession stand.

invest your marriage

Movies= Free or cheap

One of our favorite things about our weekends is the rest factor.

Because the kids are being cared for elsewhere, I can sleep deeply, not having one ear and eye open (moms can relate). No one wakes us up early. We sleep in, and we are fully rested when our children return to us.

Nightly accommodations= Free

We are homebodies. Although we enjoy an adventure, rest and relaxation means staying home in our pjs and chilling. We eat what is in the fridge, freezer and pantry. Going out to eat for at least one meal on our weekend is part of the fun. Sometimes we have gift cards which help keep costs down significantly, other times we don’t.

Food= almost Free

On Sunday, whoever is watching the children returns them. The one receiving the children prepares dinner for all to share. We sit at the table, share our weekend adventures, listen to the kids retell the fun they had, and feel full in our hearts from a hearty weekend investing our marriage.

Investment in our marriage = Priceless

invest your marriage

We look forward to this time every other month. It is refreshing for us as a couple and as parents. The time it gives us to pour into each other and ourselves personally is so necessary but so often neglected. We are able to pursue our hobbies without feeling mommy or daddy guilt. “Mom and Dad” talks to decide the direction we want to go with the training of our children, to figure out what has worked and what needs to be adjusted, and to encourage each other on parenting successes are possible without interruption. We are able to establish short term personal, marital, parental, and financial goals since we can reevaluate every other month.

As a couple, find what works for you and is safe for your children. Investing time into our marriages and being responsible parents are crucial for our families.

There are ways to invest in your marriage without spending a fortune. Sometimes, you just have to be creative.

invest marriage

lesson-termites-nest

The Lesson from the Termite’s Nest

Song of Solomon 2:15- Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

A few years ago, my husband and I went on a cruise. One of our stops was Playa de Carmen, Mexico.

As we walked for what seemed like forever to the bus that would take us to the Mayan Ruins of Tulum, Brian and I noticed that all of the trees were painted white from the ground to part of the way up the trunk.

lesson-termites-nest

At first I didn’t think anything of it, but as we drove through the city, we noticed that EVERY tree had been whitewashed. I just chalked it up to “that’s just how they do it here” and didn’t think anything else of it.

Until……

We finally reached our destination a little more than an hour later. As were walking the mile and a half from where our bus dropped us off to the entrance of the ruins, Tour Guide Juan stopped us and had us look over into the trees.

He continued, “Did you notice that all of the trees in Playa de Carmen were whitewashed from the ground to halfway up the trunk? There is a reason for that. You all know termites eat wood, but something happens to their bodies when we take a mixture of limestone and water and paint our trees. As the termites begin climbing up a whitewashed tree, the temperature of their bodies rises and they burn up. If we didn’t whitewash our trees in Playa de Carmen, you would see termite mounds like this one everywhere.”

We went on into the ruins and I forgot all about the termites, whitewashed trees, and the vendors we would have to push through a second time as we made our way back to our bus.

lesson-termites-nest

As we were leaving the ruins, I saw this termite nest (pictured above) and something hit me. With all of the green around, the tree hosting this nest had no healthy foliage on it. The tree itself could not grow while something was sucking the life out of it. It could only die.

Our homes, families, and lives are living things. Satan wants to destroy those things. If he came with a hack saw, motorized saw, or ax, we would recognize him immediately and protect those things that are so precious to us.

Instead he comes into our lives as a termite- something so tiny that we would not even notice it or recognize the harm it could do (overly busy schedule, television, Internet, food, harmful relationships, etc.). He comes as a termite that doesn’t mind how long it will take to suck the life out of us. He comes in the form of a thousand little things that slowly drain our will, desire, and ability to fight back. Before you know it, there is no life left in you.

We need a whitewash!

We need to take preventative measures before those little termites even have a chance to climb into our lives.

We need to set time alone for ourselves with the Lord and His Word.
We need to set boundaries.
We need to learn to say “no” to things that take our time away from what is important.
We need to invest time in our marriages and children.
We need to let go of the desire to have more and be content with what we already have.
We need to be willing to let go of some of our material possessions that bog us down.

It is possible to remove the termites once they have made a nest, but it is hard work and, in some cases, can be costly. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

lessons-termites-nest

That day, Brian and I made some wonderful memories at the Mayan ruins, saw some amazing structures that have lasted a thousand years, saw the bluest water on the coast of Tulum, and took some amazing photos.

But I think the one thing that will never leave my heart from that day was the lesson I learned while looking at a termite’s nest.

I pray I never forget what it looks like. I want it to be a constant reminder to me that I need to keep my “tree” whitewashed.

This post was originally featured on my previous blog The Joy of Homemaking.

football

Don’t Be a Football Widow

Affiliate links may be used in this post. You can view our full disclosure here.

football-widow It is coming up very quickly!

What is IT, ask?

Football season, of course!

If your husband is like mine, then he starts gearing up for football season in April when the NFL holds its 3 day draft. He is on at least one or two Fantasy Football leagues, watches footage on his favorite players and the draftees as everyone is in training camp, and takes special notice of how these new players will work well with the veteran players….

or it might be that my husband is the only one like this……

So what is a girl to do?

I have two choices. I can sulk, sigh, pout, plan events on the days of his much anticipated football related events, and treat him and his hobby like they are worthless or….

I can join him!

That’s right, ladies! You heard me!

Join him!

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Usually, I sit with him (or do something in the living room where our main TV is) during the 3 days of the NFL draft (after the kids have gone down for the night). I enjoy the back stories of the players, the red carpet walk, and I cry along with them when their lives change because of one phone call.

I help him host the Fantasy Draft at our home every year. I enjoy opening our home and turning our dining room and living room into a war room for 4 hours. Picking up the pizza and helping with the flow chart has been my job since I was pregnant with Addie 9 years ago.

I have found the dates for the free evening practices at Raymond James Stadium so we can go as a family (all of us sporting our Tampa Bay Buccaneers colors).

football-widow

I try to watch the televised games when I am not rounding up one of our stray Buccaneers, or I give him the time and space to watch without interruption.

We make an event out of the Superbowl, whether our team is there or not.

I have even joined all female fantasy football leagues in the past.

Why?

I-refuse-to-be-a-football-widow

Oh, darling! What a fabulous question!

Because……

……this is the one thing that my husband enjoys as a hobby (and believe me, there are worse things out there that he could be involved in).

……he is self-sacrificing for his family and only asks for the 16 games in the fall to enjoy (5 months of football season….. only Sundays…… some Monday nights…… occasionally Thursday nights….. but at least he is home!)

……I love him, and I want him to know that I love every aspect of him (he is absolutely brilliant and has such a sports mind. He amazes me!)

There are other ways to make football season memorable and fun for you and your honey. If you have never been there, check out the Dating Divas website. It’s full of wonderful ideas for keeping you close during football season.

Make this his best football season ever.

He will thank you for it.

Originally posted here at The Joy of Homemaking.

12-principles-for-12-years-of-marriage

12 Principles for 12 Years of Marriage

(Affiliate links may be used in this post. You can view our full disclosure here.)

12-principles-for-12-years-of-marriage

This weekend, Brian and I will be celebrating 12 years of marriage. (You can read about our engagement here and our wedding here and here.)

In those twelve years we have experienced major purchases, the loss of close family members, the births of two children, personal growth, spiritual growth, job changes for me, and finding true, meaningful friendships with others.

Obviously, there is no such thing as a perfect marriage (and if anyone says they have one- they’re lying!), but we have had a great marriage.

I began thinking about what are some basic principles in our marriage that have helped us in our relationship with each other.

Jesus is the center of our relationship- Early in our marriage, our young couples Sunday school teacher taught that the marriage relationship is like a triangle. Each point on the triangle was one of the three members in the relationship- God, your spouse, and yourself. The closer you both move in the direction of God, the closer you get to each other.

Try it! Get a paper, write down the three names in your relationship (with God being at the top most point, put your fingers on the names of you and your spouse and move toward the top point. Cool, huh?

Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (NASB) If we seek Jesus above all, all of the other things in our lives (including our marriages) will fall into place. Will it always be cake walk? No. But having Jesus at the center will keep all of the pieces in place.

Permission to ask each other the hard questions- One of the foundations of a good marriage is trust. Sometimes, in order to establish that trust, we have to ask the hard questions, not  just the surface questions. Questions that deal with integrity, faithfulness, and the heart. All the way back to our dating days, we gave each other permission to ask the hard questions. But if you are going to ask hard questions the next principle has to also be established….

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Total and complete truth and honesty- When asked a hard question, our rule is that complete truth and honesty has to be the answer. After twelve years of marriage, we have established a firm foundation in honesty and truth. We have also learned how to respond to each other in a way that there is no apprehension in being completely honest. (It also helps to have married someone with a predisposition to being truthful. For any Divergent fans out there, Brian would totally be Candor! The jury is still out on which faction I would fit into.)

Full support of each other’s endeavors- Our spouses come to us with things they enjoy doing. Sometimes, our spouse wants to go out on a limb and try something new. Supporting our spouse and their endeavors is crucial.

Brian loves sports. When we were dating he was part of a softball team. While we were engaged, he played basketball with a league (and won the championship I might add). When we were first married, he played basketball in our church gym with some of the other guys. After we had Addie, he rejoined a softball team. He has been a part of Fantasy sports leagues for as long as I have known him…. and I have supported each of these. But I have found that supporting him  does not mean we stay in that place forever. Because he has the space and freedom to enjoy these, when he feels the time has come for him to hang it up, he does. I don’t have to tell him to. I don’t have to push him to.

In turn, when a few years ago I was asked to be the interim Children’s Ministry Director at our church, I had Brian’s full support and backing. He jumped in and helped me with chores that had always been “mine” so I could effectively do what I needed to do without worry about my house duties.

Having “our thing”- Do you and your spouse have a “thing”? Something specific to you? Something you enjoy doing together? Brian and I enjoy closing the evening by sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee while watching a show on Netflix. We like to do series shows because we get invested in the lives of the characters (and, yes, I always cry when the series ends). During the shows, something we see may trigger a thought that leads to a conversation. We keep the remote between us so either of us can grab it at anytime, pause the show, talk/laugh/remember something from earlier that day with the kids or work, and then get right back into the show. It’s our thing.

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Communication- Communication is more than just talking about your day. As Peta tells Catniss in Hunger Games: Catching Fire, “Friends talk about the deep stuff.” How did something make you feel? Did you read or hear something that made you think? Do you have plans, goals, or ambitions for your family? Is there a direction you want to go, but you need support? These are all questions that can get you started in communication. Just don’t ask them during a sports game… or when he’s really hungry.

We have begun working on communication skills with our children. At dinner we play a game called “High and Low.” We go around the table and each person has to share their “high” for the day and their “low” for the day. That jump starts us into asking deeper questions and moves the conversation further.

And if you are really at a shortage for ideas, you can always take Peta’s cue and ask for a favorite color.

Respecting each other’s role in the relationship- Brian works full time outside of the house, I am a full-time stay at home homeschooling mom. Brian brings home a paycheck, I am investing into the lives of our children. We have chosen these roles for ourselves, and we respect the role we each play in our marriage. No one is looked down on for not bringing in a paycheck, and no one is more revered for bringing home the bacon. Each role is respected…. and when necessary, we gladly help the other in any way we can.

Respecting each other’s convictions- Marriage is made of two people from two different original families with two different sets of convictions. Regardless of whether you agree with the convictions your spouse came in to the marriage with, respecting those convictions is important. Convictions are deeply embedded feelings of right and wrong, and telling someone they are silly to hold a conviction is wrong and definitely not going to build your relationship closer. If anything, it will push you apart.

I came from a home where going to the movies was not permitted. My parents had their reasons for making those rules which I completely understand and respect (they grew up in a time when movie theaters were used for making out in and wanted us to avoid seeing that). Because of those rules, Brian and I did not go to the movies while we were dating even though Brian had no problem with movie theaters. He completely respected the convictions of my family and never questioned them. It took several years of marriage and God establishing my own personal convictions in my heart for me to say it was okay for me to go to the movies with my husband. But I am thankful that there was never any pressure from him to change my convictions.

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Always looking out for one another- We each know our spouses strengths and weakness better than anyone else. We know if they are biting off more than they can chew. We know if they are spreading themselves too thin. We know if they are allowing themselves to be a doormat. It’s our job to look out for each other.

Beyond supporting each other, we have always been a sounding board as well. I would remind Brian that as much as I loved watching him play sports, he needed to pull back a bit of the enthusiasm. Pulling hamstrings, spraining ankles, and popping his neck out of place (all things that really did happened) did not allow him to fulfill his responsibilities to our family. In turn, when I make too many plans, Brian reminds me to pull the brakes and plan a few days where we do not leave the house to get the rest the kids and I need.

Freely giving grace- There are going to be days when things don’t get done, when the grass gets too tall, when it has been so busy there are no clean towels, when dirty clothes are left on the bathroom floor,  and when take out needs to be picked up. And that is where grace comes in. Grace doesn’t nit pick at what wasn’t done. Grace looks at what was done.

Grace sees the husband who works hard everyday, who comes home exhausted, and lets his kids jump on him.

Grace sees the wife who has taken her kids out of the house for the day, who has given them new experiences to put under their belt, and who still completes the bedtime routine even though she just wants to put her feet up.

We all need grace.

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Laughing/having fun together- Can you laugh with each other over the smallest thing? Can you have fun with each other anywhere? Can you turn an evening at home into an adventure?

We have had progressive dinners around the house.

We have laughed hysterically over the no clean towels incident mentioned above.

We have pulled out plastic hangers, pretended they are bows and arrows, and chased the kids around the house while shouting Robin Hood quotes.

We have made popcorn, rented a long awaited movie, and created a date night for ourselves.

We have pulled up carpeting (and laughed), rearranged furniture, and turned it into an adventure.

We have looked for all of the loose change in our home and cars and gone on a date with just that and discovered how creative we could really be.

Spending quality time together without the kids- Children are a blessing. Always. But one day our children will grow up and leave us. Will you be left with a stranger or with your best friend?

Growing up, my parents always went away once a year by themselves. Sometimes it was for a weekend, sometimes it was for a week. But they always spent time together without us. And Brian and I have followed suite.

Now, you don’t always have to go away. Having a date night works. If you can’t pull off getting a babysitter,  you can spend time together at home, too. One of my favorite sites for at home date night ideas is the Dating Divas website.

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And because the day after our wedding anniversary is the 13th anniversary of our first date, here is a bonus principle.

Don’t allow friendships to replace the deep relationship that should be shared with your husband- Friendships are valuable. Friendships are important. But don’t ever allow a friendship to replace the relationship you have with your spouse. The relationship you share needs to be protected, cherished, and valued more highly than any other relationship you have.