Kids Aren’t the Priority. Marriage Is.

My newest piece is up at RELEVANT Magazine–a piece about how to cultivate a healthy marriage after kids come along. It’s something I’m passionate about, both personally and culturally, and I’ve written about it for Today’s Christian Woman, as well. Read the start of the article below:

Keeping Your Marriage Healthy after having kids....so important!

 

I was concerned that becoming parents might weaken our marriage. I wasn’t afraid that it would ruin our marriage. Michael and I had made promises to God and each other to stay the course, come hell or high water. We also had—and still have—a deep friendship and camaraderie in our relationship. But I was, admittedly, nervous that having a child might throw some of that off-kilter—that, perhaps, adding another human being in the mix might strain our connection and closeness.

And you know what?

It did.

Our daughter was born on our seventh anniversary, and her birthday has become symbolic to me: Those things that were solely about me and my husband—the things that used to be just about us—those things have shifted. Even our marriage—our very anniversary—is shared, now.

And that’s a good thing.

Because although it feels like it might rub me raw some days, getting to be a parent is a gift. God’s word unabashedly declares that children are a blessing from him (Psalm 127:3-5), that each child is intentionally created by God (Psalm 139), and that children show us a picture of what it means to be great in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:1-3). I believe in the Bible. And I also believe my experience—my daughter is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.

But being a parent is also a gift because it can strengthen our marriages, if we are intentional about growing as parents and spouses. Growing as parents without growing as spouses is putting the proverbial cart before the horse, and both the marriage and the parenting will suffer. But the opportunity to grow as friends and lovers—as husband and wife—as we are parenting? This is a truly good gift.

Here’s how to be purposeful about growing as spouses even as we parent those small humans who are making lots of noise in the house:

Make Time Just for the Two of You

Yes, it’s going to be a lot harder to get one-on-one, meaningful time together now that you’re parents. But do it anyway; your marriage is worth it.

When Michael and I were dating, engaged and then married before becoming parents, we had so much time to be together. Time to explore the arboretum. Time to talk over long meals. Time to see movies and sleep in. Now, as parents (and remember, we only have one right now; God bless all parents of multiple children. Amen.), a lot of our time is spent doing parent-y things: feeding our child, playing with our child, reading to our child, bathing, cleaning and clothing our child. Her schedule shapes a great deal of what we can and can’t do.

So we have a weekly date night. Sometimes we get a sitter and go out. Sometimes we talk and eat ice cream and watch a movie at home after she goes to bed (Alleluia for the 7:30 p.m. bed time). But we are consistent about making time to meaningfully connect so that we can operate as friends and lovers … and not solely as parenting partners.

Serve Your Spouse, Not Just Your Kids

Before children, it’s just easier to care for our spouse—to stop at the store and pick up a favorite cereal when we’re running low, or to refill the gas tank in the car before it drops to E. But when the days fill up with attending to the basic needs of children, we can get worn out with serving anyone but ourselves.

The gift in this, though, is that parenting reminds us in fresh ways that it’s not all about me. Caring for one or two or 10 little humans forces us to put the needs of another before our own—often to a degree that we’ve never had to experience before. Waking up 10 times in one night? Sure. Making meals and washing clothes for kids who don’t have the fine motor skills to do it for themselves? Of course.

But if we’re so exhausted by serving our kids that we can’t—or won’t—serve our spouse, we’re headed down the wrong path. We may not be able to fill up the gas tank on a whim or pick up roses on the way home, but we can still serve our spouse in simple, thoughtful ways through the week. A note left on a dashboard, the offer to take the kids while she gets a night out, or the willingness to clean the dishes—these little acts of service help keep marriages healthy in the midst of exhausting days and years.

Read the rest of the article here, at RELEVANT!

Related post: Connecting After Kids

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4 Questions to Ask When Making a Big Decision

In a season where our little family is making some huge decisions that are going to affect the rest of our lives, I’m thankful that we had an intentional process that we walked through before making those big choices. I’m sharing my newest piece over at RELEVANT, about the four questions to ask when it’s time to make a big decision. Here’s the start of the article:

4 Questions to Ask When You're Making a Big Decision. This is so good!

This summer, my husband and I will pack up all of our things, strap our daughter in her car seat, and drive to a different state—a state where we currently have no jobs, no housing and no community. Why? For my husband to pursue a graduate degree.

Are we crazy, stupid or silly to be leaving established jobs, a strong community and a house we own for my husband to pursue a degree?

Maybe.

Or maybe we’re following God.

By faith, I believe we’re doing the latter—I believe that this step we are taking is actually a response of obedience to God. Still, from the perspective of those who don’t know us, our choice to move may seem ridiculous or even irresponsible.

But how we got here was anything but irresponsible; we took practical, intentional steps to make this decision to move. We sought God’s voice and direction in multiple ways by involving our church, our friends and our families in the decision-making process. And we believe that the steps that we have taken helped us discern God’s will and hear His voice in the process so that we can move to a new city this summer with confidence and hope.

It is in big decisions like these—decisions regarding calling, career, community, marriage—that we need clarity regarding how we can hear God and seek to determine His will for our lives. There are no hard-and-fast rules from the Bible regarding how we make decisions: We don’t always put fleeces outside, we don’t always fast for three days, we don’t always see a burning bush. Similarly, God does not always speak to us the same way—He can speak through multiple people, experiences and interactions.

When it’s time to make a big decision, here are four questions to ask as we seek to hear how God might be speaking through several of those avenues in our lives:

1. What Does the Scripture Say?

While the Bible doesn’t tell us specifically to take one job over another or marry one person instead of another, the Word does have tenets that can—and should—guide these types of decisions. For example, the Bible cautions us to keep our minds fixed on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Will the job that you are considering help you live a life of truth, honor and purity? Will that person you are thinking about marrying help you praise God and live a commendable life before Him? We need to keep the Word of God at the center of our discussions about the decisions in front of us—it is meant to be our plumb line and our source of wisdom and truth in all things.

2. What Does Our Community Say?

As Christians, we are meant to live in a broader community of fellow believers whom we worship with, spend time with and do the work of the Kingdom with. In all of its various permutations around the world, this is Church—all of us with various gifts and abilities that build up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).

Those around us who are fellow believers carry the Spirit of Christ within them, and they can often see our lives, personalities and tendencies more clearly than we can see them in ourselves. We need to invite others into our decision-making process, prodding them to ask the tough questions we shy away from—questions about motivation and calling. We also need them to offer encouraging words when they sense that we are moving in the right direction.

If your close community senses health in your dating relationship, ask your friends if they think marriage with your significant other would be wise—and then also ask why. If you are considering pursuing a degree in hotel management, ask your close friends if they see the skills and gifts in you that would enable you to do that job well. To receive their feedback will require humility, and it may also protect us from unwise decisions.

To read the other two points, check out the rest of the article here, at RELEVANT!

 

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If this blog post was encouraging to you, I would be honored if you would consider partnering with me as a writerClick here to read more!

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