On December 29, 2022, John and Irene Keist, my parents, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary! And last summer my husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. In today’s world, those are certainly remarkable milestones.
Last week I started this “Be Rooted” series on my blog, with the first focusing on the importance of being rooted in Christ. We took a deep dive into Colossians 2:6-7, with some folks choosing to dive even deeper by joining my 7-day mini challenge. (You can still do this if you like! It’s a free Bible study straight to your in-box.)
This week I’d like to encourage us to consider how we can be rooted in our marriages. After our relationship with Jesus, if we’re married, the most important person in our lives should be our spouse! Reaching 25 or 50 years of marriage doesn’t happen automatically. And do you see those smiling faces, absolutely glowing and radiating love for one another? As we all know, the wedding day and honeymoon vibes don’t last forever! My parents have weathered some storms over the years, let me tell you. Their love for and patience with one another is an example of agapē love, that sacrificial love such as was demonstrated by our Savior on the cross for us.
My own marriage has weathered some significant storms as well. Ted and I have faced:
- 13 moves/transitions
- 5 deployments
- 2 miscarriages
- 9 live births (2 while he was on deployment)
- A devastating prenatal diagnosis
- Anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and PTSD
And that’s not even mentioning the everyday “little” things we all deal with: health issues, interacting with extended family, chasing toddlers, agonizing over teens’ choices and more.
A married couple who homeschool their kids will find even more…opportunities (!!!)...for challenge and growth! Because the responsibility of teaching and training the children lies solely with the parents, they are far more consumed by additional activities and planning than they might otherwise be. Their whole lifestyle is one of sacrificial living and giving, and let me tell you, that takes a toll!
So how can we make sure our marriages are firmly rooted? That they can withstand life’s storms and seasons of drought and even fire?
First and foremost, as you have probably already guessed, is to make sure each of us is firmly rooted in Christ. When the husband and wife both “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” then “all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
Beyond that, we intentionally nurture our relationship with one another. This obviously will look different for each couple, but here are some things Ted and I have done over the years to grow our relational roots deeper so our marriage can grow stronger and healthier with time. Each one has to do with a choice about how we spend our time.
TIME WITH GOD
We’ve already discussed being rooted in Christ on our own, but it’s so important as a couple to have this spiritual connection, too. Each couple and schedule is different, so don’t compare your activities to what others are doing. Ted’s and my devotional time has looked different at different seasons in our lives, but we’ve always sought to pray together as a couple in the mornings and right before going to sleep. Currently we have the luxury of doing a Bible study together with our morning coffee, and I LOVE this opportunity to read and discuss God’s Word with my husband!
TIME FOR US
Date nights don’t happen nearly as often as I feel they should…my love language is spending quality time together. But even if we don’t get “out,” we’ve been deliberate to plan “date nights in.” When the kids were young, this meant putting them in bed and then having a candlelight dinner at home (and talking about something besides the kids!). It might be a quick coffee date or even running errands together, but we do try to be intentional about this. And we work to teach our kids that OUR relationship is priority–kids shouldn’t interrupt Mom and Dad when we are in our room talking, for example. And included in this “time for us” aspect is definitely time for sex! As the woman, I try to take ownership of this aspect of our marriage as well, making sure we can connect intimately on a fairly regular basis. It absolutely affects every other aspect of our relationship.
TIME TO TALK
Communication is HARD. (And I’d like to think I’m fairly good at this!) Even 25 years into our marriage, we still unintentionally hurt one another because of miscommunications. But we’ve learned we HAVE to address the elephant in the room. One thing we don’t necessarily do, though, is figure everything out before we go to sleep. That whole “do not let the sun go down while you’re angry” thing can be taken to an extreme. We don’t think or speak well when we’re exhausted, and emotions can only add to the feeling of exhaustion. Sometimes it’s best to agree to discuss an issue later, get some sleep, pray some more, and then come together to work it out. Stuffing it? NOT talking about it? Not an option! Not if you want your marriage to grow and thrive. Usually one person is more ready and able to initiate a conversation than the other–whether this is you or not, just do it. Bring it up. Begin to put words to it. Pray together about it and be honest about your feelings. God already knows what they are, and your spouse needs to know, too!
If you’re married, what are some ways you and your spouse seek to be rooted together? Share in the comments!
Last week we explored what it can look like to homeschool through the holidays. This week I'm pondering some rhyming words and how they can help us seek God's heart for our homeschool when life feels too busy or just plain hard. I pray these thoughts can be an encouragement to you if you are feeling overwhelmed or discouraged...whether during the holiday season or any time of year.
Mama, when life is difficult, do you lean on God's grace? Are you rooted in the truth of who he is and who you are in Christ? In case you need a gentle reminder, we don't have to do it all. We don't have to BE all. God IS our all in all, and his grace covers us and brings us into an eternal relationship with him. If you're feeling stretched thin, take some deep breaths with your eyes closed and ask the Lord to show you the many ways he showers grace on you and your family. Then allow yourself to wallow in that wonderful, amazing grace! If our almighty, holy God can lavish us with grace...shouldn't we at least sprinkle a little on ourselves?! Yet we are often so hard on ourselves, berating our weaknesses and failures. And sadly, this mindset spills over onto our children, whether or not we intend for it to happen.
Certainly, we must model for our children what to do when we sin. We should teach them to confess sin to God and the people we've hurt and ask for forgiveness. But we also need to model for them what to do when we simply bump up against our human limitations. Being weary or leaving a to-do list unfinished is not a sin! We must differentiate between fleshly failures that require forgiveness and healthy human limitations that simply require...rest. Grace. The ability to laugh at ourselves and start over.
In the guidebook I wrote for mamas expecting a baby with a life-limiting diagnosis, I encouraged them during the difficult journey to give themselves "lots of grace and lots of space." I actually think that's an appropriate bit of advice for ALL mothers! We all need margin in our lives for the many times we need to rearrange plans and schedules because of unexpected events. Do you leave space in your day or week for this? Or are you so booked up that any change in circumstances will throw everything off?
How about mental space? Does your brain have time to rest and be bored (important aspects for cultivating creativity!), or are you scrolling social media or navigating the internet, jumping from one distraction to another so much that your brain is constantly buzzing from all the input?
Sometimes we need emotional space. Perhaps we recognize the need for space to grieve. To process a transition. To evaluate a complex relationship.
And finally, spiritual space is crucial to everything else discussed here. If you don't yet have a habit of DAILY being in the Word and praying often (on your own and with your husband and children), I encourage you to do whatever it takes to carve out the space in your daily routine to make this a priority. That leads to our next word...
Colossians 1:17-18 tell us that Christ "is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." When Jesus has first place in your life and you are seeking to follow and glorify him, life truly does go so much better! That's not to say we can escape difficulties, but Jesus helps us order our lives in such a way that we can navigate busy and hard times with grace and ease, being confident that "he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6).
When we follow Jesus first, our marriage takes the next place of priority, and then our children. Every family has different dynamics, of course, but these relationships are divinely ordered for our benefit and for God's glory. If we change up the order, we cause ourselves and our loved ones grief and difficulty. It's worth a quick assessment from time to time to ask ourselves: am I placing Christ first in my life? Do I put my children before my husband? Do I place activities (even good ones, such as ministry) as a higher priority than the primary relationships God has given me?
I'll close this post with the thought that we all have our own race to run. We cannot compare ourselves to anyone else. And...as I've been learning...I cannot even compare myself to myself! I often lament that I can't do [insert activity] the way I used to 10 years ago. (Multitasking, for example, is something I used to be much better at than I am now!) I can't compare our homeschool life in 2022 to what our homeschooling looked like in 2012 or 2005. The race I'm running now looks much different from the race I ran as a young bride, a new mother, a mom of 3, or a mom of 6 holding down the fort while her husband was deployed.
And let's not allow the word "race" to make us anxious...because our individual race might involve at any given time walking, sprinting, crawling, or even heaving on the side of the path for awhile. "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Which one of these resonates with you today? Share a word of encouragement you've received so others can be blessed on their journey as well!
P.S. Mama, if you're feeling overwhelmed, let's make some space on our calendars for a clarity call. I have a limited number of spots, but I'd be honored to walk alongside you and encourage you on your own race.
This Veterans Day marks 3 years since my active-duty Air Force husband hung up his uniform and quit shaving. Although doing military life for over 22 years wasn't always easy, I'm grateful for the opportunities our family had to meet new people, join different church fellowships, and visit other parts of the world we may not otherwise have seen. And I'm extremely proud of my husband and all his accomplishments. Not many people know this, but he chose to retire as a Lt. Col even though he had earned the rank of colonel. The reason? Retiring as a full colonel meant he would need to uproot our family of 11 and relocate two time zones away. While we were certainly no strangers to military transitions, in 2019 we had 3 teenagers plus a daughter with significant physical and developmental issues. Prayerfully seeking the Lord's will, Ted announced he would do what was best for our family: it was time to retire.
I believe God has abundantly blessed that decision! Our children, now ranging in age from 5 - 22, have thrived in a place they have been able to call "home" for more than 5 years, which is much longer than we ever lived in one location during our military tenure. It reminds me that "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens" (Ecc. 3:1).
Not to take anything away from my husband's Air Force career, but as I ponder what it means to be a veteran, I realize that I, too, can claim this role! Of course, I've never been a member of the armed forces. But I'm certainly a veteran homeschool mom after educating my own children since 2005! And there are similarities in my husband's and my callings that I think are worth considering. In hopes that this will encourage YOU, dear one, I offer a few observations here.
While my husband made a career of military service, his choice to do so stemmed from the feeling that God was calling him TO that service. Likewise, I believe homeschooling is indeed a calling. It will, of course, look different in every family. But Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is clear that parents are ultimately responsible to teach the next generation about God, His character, and His commands. I believe strongly that homeschooling is the BEST way to carry out this mission, but whether or not you choose to home educate your children, if you are a follower of Christ, you must take this calling seriously.
TRAINING & PREPARATION
It would have been absurd for my husband to play video games and eat junk food in the weeks and months leading up to entering the U.S. Air Force Academy as a cadet (waaay back in the summer of 1993!). And he certainly could not have sustained a 22+ year career if he had not taken seriously the need for ongoing training as he rose in ranks and assumed more responsibilities. The task of homeschooling is multi-faceted and warrants serious thought and preparation. This doesn't mean you can't pivot in the middle of a school year and pursue a different course (especially if something just is not working). However, the training I'm thinking of most here is for US as homeschool moms! Curriculum, schedules, and extracurricular activities are all tools, and we can and should put down a tool that isn't working anymore and pick up a new one.
What is VITAL in this homeschooling-for-the-long-haul journey is our humble recognition that we constantly need to be in the presence of Jesus, asking daily for wisdom and grace to BE the moms He has called us to be as we teach our children to follow hard after Him. We need to be in the Word, soaking our minds in the truth of Who God is and who He created us to be. This leads to our last point.
If you know anything about the military lifestyle, you know it involves a level of discipline not typically seen in other circles! The homeschool mom knows that discipline is essential for her lifestyle as well. First and foremost, she must choose to discipline herself: daily Bible study and prayer should be a given. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who is constantly asking the Holy Spirit for patience and self-control as I interact with my children on an hourly basis. Disciplining my own tongue is much harder than getting up early to exercise and have my quiet time...and let me tell you, I am really not fond of rising before the sun is up!
And as we continue to practice discipline in our own lives according to the Spirit's gentle leading, we then must teach and discipline our children as they grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Remember the word "disciple" as the heart of the concept of discipline, and you'll be able to better navigate those battles with the flesh (both yours and your children's!).
NEWBIE OR VETERAN?
Are you a new homeschool mom or a veteran? Regardless of where you are on this journey, it's often helpful to talk things over with someone else in the trenches, someone who can help you see past the weeds or obstacles in your path. I'd love to help you find some clarity on your journey, whether you're dealing with toddlers interfering with school time or wondering how to handle difficulties with a teen. If you'd like a veteran mom to prayerfully meet you where you're at and lend a listening ear, I'd love to chat!
Last week Ted and I ran away to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, where we spent 5 days celebrating our 25 years of marriage! It was quite the team effort to get us out the door...two of our nurses agreed to work 12-hour shifts so that Verity could be cared for 100% of the time, and our respite provider also extended one of her shifts to help as well. Ted's mom stayed at the house to take kids to karate, supervise meals, and provide all-around Grandma fun, so much so that we aren't sure the kids really wanted us to come back, ha!
I've driven through Glenwood Springs a number of times on our travels, but I've never had the chance to stay there. (Ted remembers stopping with his youth group one year.) I've always loved the drive on I-70 through the beautiful Colorado mountains, but being able to stay and soak in the scenery was such a special treat. We enjoyed paragliding, caving, whitewater rafting, hiking, resting, swimming in the hot springs, and eating lots of great food without having to clean anything, lol. And we had the chance to look back over the years and recount God's faithfulness to us in so many ways.
It's been an
In a world that says we should pursue our own individual happiness, we choose to grow together, to die to selfishness (not always successfully), and to elevate the eternal over the temporal. We choose to prioritize our relationship with Jesus, our marriage, and our family, in that order.
Ted, I'd choose you all over again! ❤️😍🥰 Our paragliding experience was a thrilling adventure, but it pales in comparison to living a full and abundant life with my best friend and lover. I could never have imagined what our life together today would look like when I nervously donned my wedding gown 25 years ago, but I knew you were the one God had picked out for me.
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of marriage! Thank you for my loving and faithful husband, a picture of how Christ loves the church. Thank you for the wonderful father he is to our 9 children, a reflection of your heart toward your creation. Thank you for fun and crazy memories, for adventures and experiences that shape and grow us, and even for the hard times and tears. We are stronger, more patient, quicker to forgive, and more Christ-like today than we were 25 years ago—and that is a testimony of your tender mercies on us as individuals and as a couple. May we be bold and faithful witnesses of your love and truth as you continue to shape and grow us as long as you give us life here on earth! May we seek first your kingdom and your righteousness, loving you and all others you put in our path. In the name of Jesus we pray, AMEN!!
Three years ago our family had the opportunity to do one of the Advent readings in church. To be honest, I have no idea what we read or even which week of Advent it was. What I DO remember is what happened before church. We arrived in time to send our children to Sunday school and youth group, but I didn't feel like being with other people. Ted and I sat in a fog next to Verity's stroller in the gymnasium where the church service would be held the next hour. It had been another rough night, like just about every night was in 2017. Just as our interim pastor and his wife came to where we were seated to greet us, Verity began retching. Her vomiting spells happened about 6-8 times a day. Trisomy 18 kiddos tend to have GI issues, but this was getting out of hand; Verity was losing weight, and at 12 pounds and almost 10 months of age, she didn't have much to lose.
The unexpected scene took the pastor's wife by surprise: copious amounts of liquid were coming out of Verity's mouth and nose as Ted frantically whipped out the suction machine while I mopped up the mess. (Yes, we traveled with a suction machine in those days. We lived in terror of Verity aspirating because of how frequently she vomited.)
When things were calm again, Gretchen asked if things like that happened often. I burst into tears. I couldn't help it. I was so tired, so weary, and somehow just so angry that people didn't know what our life was really like. I knew it wasn't Gretchen's fault that she didn't know, so I tried to describe life with Verity. She hardly ever slept, which meant we hardly ever slept. I couldn't leave her side for fear she would vomit and choke. The terror we lived with around the clock was ever present. I still remember the compassionate look on the faces of this couple, whose ministry we had sat under for several months by this point but who truly had no idea what our family was going through.
Half an hour later we stood in front of the church lighting a candle and reading words I can't remember. I felt like such a hypocrite, creating a picture of what surely looked from the outside like a perfectly lovely family. Two parents, nine children, the tiniest of whom was living a very precarious life. Little did people know what was happening on the inside: the deadness of my heart, the difficulties of my marriage, the near-destruction of my mental and emotional health. I didn't intend to put on a show; I would have gladly shared our struggles with others. And I think I tried. It's not that people didn't care or didn't ask, but somehow there just wasn't time or energy to sit down and lay it all out.
Fast forward three years...our church now has a new full-time pastor, and our family was asked to do the reading for the second Sunday of Advent 2020. We relit the first candle, Hope, reminding the congregation (and ourselves) of the hope we have in Christ. Next, we lit the second candle, Peace, testifying to the fact that Christ came to bring God's peace to us.
As I stood holding Verity on my hip while my sons and husband read their passages, I suddenly remembered that exhausting Sunday morning 3 years ago. We have come so far. Not only is Verity doing so much better health-wise, but our family is so much stronger for having gone through some really dark times and seeing the light of Hope and Peace shine in the midst of it all. When Verity squealed during the prayer, I couldn't help but feel the joy surge in my heart.
Hope. Peace. Joy. And LOVE--so much love. They were there all along, even when we couldn't feel their presence.
If you are experiencing a season of darkness, I pray you find the light of true Hope and Peace.
Father, we thank you for revealing yourself through Jesus, and we praise you for the greatness of your love. Help us to know your peace in our lives. When life does not go as planned, may we know and understand that you are with us and we can have peace and rest in your ways. May we also share your peace with others and live our lives more like Christ every day. In His name we pray, amen.
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