10 Things I’ve Learned In 10 Years Of Marriage

I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was one of the most defining moments of my life. All the people that I cared for showed up (minus a few that hadn’t been born yet).   My best friend stood beside me. My hands were sweaty and my knees were weak. There was a harpist playing a beautiful melody as couples walked down the aisle dressed to the nines. And then the moment happened…the automated bells tolled and the doors swung open. There she was, my love, my dream girl, my to wife to be! I have never seen a prettier sight.  I was 23 and she was 22 (that seems awful young to me now).   We were two kids in love with a lot of dreams. I am usually not too nervous in front of groups of people, but I was really nervous that day. I answered the preacher and looked into her eyes and meant every word I said. That was an amazing day that I will never forget.

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From that day to this day seems like the blink of an eye. I have a belief that the more you are enjoying your life the faster it goes. We are 10 years into this journey together. I pray we have at least 40-50 more together.   Life has gone by at the speed of light and every year it gets better and every year it moves faster.   I wanted to take just a minute to reflect and share some lessons I have learned in the last 10 years with my amazing wife, Charyl.

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It gets better and things change. Our first year of marriage was not horrible but it was an adjustment. Every year we know each other better and love each other more.   Don’t give up. Maybe you are in year 1 or 2 and you feel like you have been tricked.   Stick with it. As you grow together you begin to grow together. The more life change you experience together the more you learn to trust one another.

Here are just a few of the changes that we have been through in 10 years:

We have lived in 7 different houses.

We have had 4 children.

I added between 20 – 35 extra pounds.

Charyl got more attractive (if that was even possible).

Together we have had 8 different jobs or career changes.

Our income has gone up. Our expenses have gone up.

We have had 2 dogs.

We have had 7 different cars.

We bought and sold a house.

I have infinitely more gray hairs than I had when we got married.

We have made more new friends than we can count.

I have been to 7 different countries.

Charyl started a very unexpected business that has become a career and ministry (Premier).

I have been a youth pastor, middle school pastor, young families and college pastor, senior pastor, and am currently the discipleship pastor.

Charyl went from RN to Jewelry lady.

We became special needs advocates (particularly for families who have a member with down syndrome)

Jesus has been with us every step of the way. He has never left us. He has never forgotten about us.

He has been most near when things have been most difficult.  

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Happy Wife, Happy Life (Or if you are a woman: Happy Man, Happy Land) – Maybe you have heard this statement, “If momma aint happy then nobody’s happy.” When Charyl and I got married my mother gave me some advice that I almost blew off at the time. She said, “Rick, your job is to help Charyl not be stressed.”   In the last 10 years I found this to be a peach on the tree of wisdom. I heard Tony Evans say that if you want to know where you are spiritually as a husband, then look at your wife.   She is a reflection of you.   I have found when I have not been the husband I need to be it affects Charyl. When I do not love, serve, and make time to meet her emotional needs then it affects everything else in our home. She is the heart of our home.   Husbands would do well to give great attention to the heart.   This is an area I hope I am growing in.

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Marriage Is Not 50/50 Or Even 100/100 – I believe the best marriages give all they can don’t expect anything in return. The best ratio would be 100/0 or 100/not my responsibility.  As long as you are expecting something in return you will struggle. Appreciate what your spouse does. Don’t act like what you are doing is harder or more important than what your spouse does. Never belittle them. Your job is to build them up and not tear them down.

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Time Is Short So Don’t Waste It. The first ten years have blazed by. Life has only picked up speed.   Take time each day to hug your spouse, kiss your spouse, pray with your spouse, and talk to them. Go Home! Work is hard and long. If you don’t go home then you will grow distant from your spouse. Date your spouse. Try to make a time weekly or at least a couple of times a month where you just focus on one another. Family time with the kids is vital but it is even more vital that you connect with one another in a setting where you can really talk with no stress and no distractions.

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Little Things Will Kill Your Marriage Or Make It Stronger – Most fights are over little things. He didn’t put is clothes in the hamper. She didn’t remember to get what you asked her to get at the store. Instead of flying off the handle, build a bridge and get over it. They are not perfect and neither are you. Growing your love for one another is also built on little things. Pick up flowers for no reason. Hold hands with one another. Leave notes for one another. Look for little things to appreciate in one another. When you see something, say something. Never let a complement go unsaid. Words have the power of life and death…particularly in a marriage.

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Marriages Are Not One Size Fits All – There are so many marriage books out there but your marriage is not like any of them. Principles can help but your marriage is like you…it’s unique. A system that worked for your parents may not, probably will not, work for you. Make your own normal.

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Your Children Will Bring You Together Or Push You Apart…You Choose Which.   Children are one of life’s greatest blessings. They can bring so much joy to your life and your marriage.   If you make your children the most important thing in your life then your marriage will suffer…it may even die. I have witnessed too many couples that had children and forgot about each other.   The best thing you can do for your children is having healthy marriage. Do not let your children drive a wedge between you and your spouse.

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Marriage Means There Is Someone With You At The Hospital. When you are a teenager, love and marriage is all about emotion and romance. Most of the romance revolves around attraction and the hope of a great sex life. This is all well and good but as your grow older you realize that there is nothing better than living with your best friend and knowing they will be there for you for better or worse, through thick and thin. Romance turns to something more beautiful called commitment.

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Find Something You Like To Do Together. We watch “Chopped” together. This is a cooking show that is on Netflix. My wife and I don’t watch much TV. We really don’t have time. But there is a brief moment at the end of most weekdays between about 8:30-9:30 that the kids are asleep and we still have enough energy to talk. We talk for a few minutes and then we watched Chopped.   We don’t say much. We might hold hands but it is the simple act of being in the presence of one another. Enjoy each other’s company.

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Without Jesus We Would Not Make It – Pray for each other. Worship together. Make church attendance a non-negotiable of your home. Have family worship time at the dinner table at least a few times a week. There is NOTHING more important in your marriage than keeping Jesus as the foundation. There are not many things that make us more like Christ than the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit through marriage.

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I Need Your Help With My Daughter With Special Needs

I have been a parent of a child with special needs for about 17 months now.   It has been a journey that started off as shocking. When our 4th child was born, we found out she was born with Down Syndrome (DS). Through our belief that every human life is made from God, in the image of God, and knit together in the womb by God, we knew a blessing had been given to us—but it was still a shock. When our tears dried and the dust settled on our new normal, we started to get to know our new little gift, our Joy.   While Joy’s health has been good, there are many challenges she faces that typical children do not face. There is the constant worry that we are not doing everything we can to help her development.   These are worries and fears we face with all of our children, but they are amplified with Joy. My greatest worry is for her heart.   Not her physical heart (thank God it is doing great), but for her soul, her emotions.

To say Joy has been a delight to our lives would be a dramatic understatement. She is a little sunshine to everyone she comes in contact with. Her siblings cannot wait to wake up every morning and hug her. They constantly fight over who gets to play with Joy. God did not make a mistake…He never does. He always takes what is difficult and, given enough time, He turns it into something very beautiful.   It is never in our time, but always in His.

Now, on to what I need your help with.

I do not need money to help with Joy (although therapies and doctors visits are very pricey.).   I do not need you to take care of her (although, if you want to watch her and the other three I am never opposed to date night with my wife). I need you to love her.   No, I mean really love her like a person.

One thing my wife and I have learned through this journey is that people are people no matter their physical limitation or intellectual capacity.   What has been heartbreaking is the colossal ignorance of society in general. As I look at the speck in society’s eye let me first say that this has been a log in my own eye that Joy is helping remove.   While I have always tried to love people, my comfort level with those with special needs has been limited. Most people are uncomfortable when they are around someone with special needs. They do not know how to act; they do not know what to say. The great irony in this is that while typical people can be very judgmental, those with special needs are mostly loving and accepting.   There is no reason to feel weird other than the fear of the unknown.

2 things I need help with:

It seems the answer to the “problem” of children with DS is making sure that you get tested while you are pregnant and have time to get an abortion. This is harsh but it is just the reality. Depending on the studies you look at, between 80-90% of children with DS are killed in the womb. My soul trembles at the joy and hope that is being stolen from our dark world. What a horrible thing that families would exterminate their children because they are different.   I need your help. If you are tested and the test comes back that it is probable that your child has DS please allow that child to have life. If you cannot handle the stress, then allow your child to be put up for adoption. I have been told that there is a waiting list of families who specifically want to adopt children with DS. Choose life.

The second way I need your help is simple–this: please love Joy like a real person! I know this may sound odd but it is something that bothers my wife and I. People with DS are just people! They may move a little slower. They may not be able to do higher levels of math and some of them may talk funny (For some people, this has to do with their hearing and the size of their tongue.) THEY ARE JUST PEOPLE! They love, they laugh, they hurt, they cry, they have dreams, they have ambitions and they have feelings.   I see so many posts and articles on the internet by well meaning people (many times I am tagged in these or they are shared on my facebook wall) that frustrate me.   Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.   I have seen a number of young girls with DS that may be asked out to the prom by a popular boy in school. The boy makes a big deal about it and it goes viral and makes everyone feel good that the typical popular boy takes out the sweet little girl with DS.   It is heartwarming and makes that boy feel like he is really making a difference. But I don’t think of it that way. I am that little girl’s daddy!   That little girl is not a puppy or a party favor. That girl has real feelings and emotions that, to me, are way more important than someone having a “photo opportunity.” I come home to that little girl who may be crying on her pillow because the boy who took her to the prom never called her again. She doesn’t understand why he won’t take her out again.   He had a great night and everyone applauded him, but my little girl is left with the feelings of inadequacy and hurt because she knows she is different. She knows she has DS and a typical boy would never care for her in that way. I used to struggle with how much my daughter would know. Would she be high functioning?   Now I struggle with a different battle. I am afraid she will know too much. I am afraid she will be too ‘typical’ and still have DS. I am afraid that she will feel the sting of being a young teenage girl that stops getting asked to hang out with the girls who were her friends when they were little.   I am afraid that she will not understand why she might not be able to get her drivers license when her brother and sisters did. I am afraid these and a hundred other little things that most parents don’t have to think about. I will do my best to help her through it. I know she is strong. I know she will bring light everywhere she goes. But I wrote this just to bring a little perspective to those of you who may not have a child with DS.

I need your help.   I need you to treat Joy and other people like her, like a person. Take time to remember that she has the same feelings and desires that you do. Treat her as a fellow image bearer of God!   Just like every person that is typical is an original, so each person with DS is not like the next. Be careful to not make the assumption that all people with DS are the same. Thank you for your help.

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