As I sit here, the clock just rolled over to midnight and Joe & I have officially been married for 6 years. July 20th is a special day in the Leaphart house. It’s both our dating anniversary and wedding anniversary. We’ve been together for 10 years and I thought I would list the 10 most important things I’ve learned in the last ten years. Consider it my version of marriage/dating advice.
Center yourself in God.
If I could say it a million times over, I would. When you are mindful of Him, His ways, His thoughts, His desires, His promises, everything in life seems to fall perfectly in line. You are a better spouse because HE is the center of your entire being. He is perfect in every way. The days I’m focused on Him are always good days. When my focus wavers, so does my attitude and actions. If He is not the center of my own heart, my whole life is off balance, especially in my marriage. Once I am centered, I can then center my marriage. For a long time I tried to do it the other way around. News flash: it won’t work. You have to be centered personally. Your spouse has to be centered personally. THEN your marriage can be centered.
Pray bold prayers.
There is such power in prayer especially in praying for your spouse. For so long, I didn’t actually pray for Joe. Sure, I said the occasional “Help him Lord” or “Keep him safe”, but I never actually prayed for him. See, what I didn’t realize in marriage, is that prayer unlocks things. As soon as I started praying bold prayers for Joe, my world changed. I saw him in a new light. I saw our situation in a new light. God gave me wisdom and discernment on how to minister to my own husband. He changed my heart. Praying for my husband increase God in me as much as it increased God in him. There are times in your marriage that you will have to fight for your spouse in prayer. Because we are human. Sometimes one is strong while the other is weak. Sometimes life hits you both like a ton of bricks. Sometimes you both stand on a mountain victorious. In every occurrence, prayer is needed. Bold prayer is needed. A prayer that says “What God put together, let no man separate”. A prayer that says “God, give me your perspective.” A prayer that says “God, we’re desperate for Your presence in our home.” A prayer that says “God, I don’t understand, but You do. We submit to You and Your will. Teach us to walk in grace, mercy, and compassion in what we are facing. Help us to love one another as You love us.” A prayer that says “You go before us. You hold us together.” Pray for each other without ceasing. Pray. Pray. Pray.
Forgive – the sooner the better.
I wish I had practiced this from day one. Joe and I experienced a lot of heartache and pain that could have been easily avoided if we had learned what true forgiveness really looked like. We are still journeying to healing from the wounds that offense, bitterness, and unforgiveness left. If I had known forgiveness felt this free, I would have done it long before. I think sometimes in relationships we are always trying to justify our own faults by keeping score of all the ways our loved one has wronged us. To one day later prove a point, hold something over their head…to make them pay. But that’s not what actually happens – the person who ends up having to pay is ourselves. When we forgive, we are allowing God to move into our hearts and situations in ways that only He can. He is the justice maker and when we forgive, we are allowing Him to carry that pain. It’s truly a gift you give yourself. Unforgiveness makes you bitter and hard and will affect every area of your life, not just your relationship with your spouse. One thing I have really learned about forgiveness is that sometimes you have to forgive every day. Sometimes its minute by minute. Sometimes its with every breath. It’s easy and hard all at the same time. Healing will come. Forgive, forgive, forgive as you have been forgiven.
Don’t die on unnecessary mountains.
One of my favorite questions to ask myself in life is: “Is that a mountain you are willing to die on?” So many times throughout the years, I have found myself fighting a battle about something so trivial. It’s not worth it to die on the mountain of “for the love, can you please quit leaving your popsicle sticks laying all over the house” or “I’ve cleaned the house the past fifty times, it’s your turn”. We all get frustrated. Let’s face it, living with someone outside of yourself is hard. We all have weird habits and tendencies. We must learn to walk in grace with one another and communicate in kindness.
Communicate frequently, openly, and honestly.
Truthfully, in all transparency, I stink at this. I am the queen of keeping it all in until one day I can’t take it anymore and EXPLODE. We went on a marriage retreat this past year (which I can’t recommend enough!) and one of the largest things we learned is how to communicate when we are in “our truth”. Your truth is when you are at a place of peace, centered in Christ, and knowing how step outside of the pain you are feeling and communicate from the truth of your identity in Christ. (For example, sometimes when I’m not feeling enough, I have to remind myself that I am enough because of how Jesus feels about me and communicate from that place.) When we communicate with one another from a place of peace, we are able to listen, process, and engage healthily with one another. Anything outside of that turns volatile. We’ve also learned that we need to address issues quickly instead of letting them fester, remain open to truly hear the other’s side, and be honest with each other about how we feel. We are very much a work in progress but we’ve gotten infinitely better at this.
Intimacy is important.
Yes, obviously, in a marriage relationship, physical intimacy is a big, big deal. Movies and music dumb it down to being about making you feel good, but it really is so much deeper. It’s something that you are only to experience under covenant. It draws you closer together and keeps you closer together. That being said, intimacy goes so much deeper that the physical. As a couple, you have to be unbelievably vulnerable and raw. This is the person that you became one with and intimacy lets them in on all those hopes and dreams you have and allows you to dream together. It reminds you that you aren’t alone in this crazy world and helps you fight your battles of the mind and heart.
Keep the past in the past.
Even in our best times, it’s so easy to accuse each other of a current mistake by using past mistakes. This only thwarts healing. If you can’t stop bringing up past hurts or actions, check your heart and ask yourself if you are really letting it go. I can’t treat Joe as the man he was. I have to treat him as the man he is today. Holding his past over his head makes him live in defeat everyday. When things come up, we talk about them, work through them, and move forward. We can’t let the past dictate our today.
Read 1 Corinthians 13. Pretty sure Paul said this one best.
Laugh. Laugh a lot.
Joe has always had a sense of humor. Always fun, light-hearted, the life of the party. I would say I’m much more of the realist. Proverbs says that laughter is like medicine. And its true. The days I laugh a lot are always good days. I have to let my guard down and remember that it’s really ok to have fun. It’s ok to laugh at yourself when you make a mistake. Like when I tried to make Joe coffee and messed it up in every way. My perfectionistic self wanted to cry, but I saw a man who just laughed about it and made a new cup, a light bulb went off. He didn’t care that I messed up his coffee. He wasn’t laughing at me, but laughing off the situation and moving forward. It’s pretty profound when you think about it.
WE is so important. I and You tend to take the spotlight sometimes, but WE is where the power is. When WE is taken care of, marriage thrives. When WE becomes more important than I and You, marriage takes on a whole new meaning. Marriage is WE. Who is WE? It’s Christian, Joe, and the Holy Spirit. All three together are WE and WE is the lens we learn to look through.
One day, Joe and I will share our story with the world. It’s a journey of two really broken people who found an unspeakable hope and haven’t given up. It’s ten years of ups, downs, and all arounds. It’s filled with some crazy plot twists (#rhodeswade), seasons of great pain, and seasons of great joy. One thing I know – I wouldn’t trade a single day. I knew Joe Leaphart was my forever in Pigeon Forge, TN when we got matching airbrush t-shirts after being together officially for two days. I knew then that God has big plans for us, and I intend on finding out what every last one of them is.
Happy Anniversary Joe, love you forever.
Here we are our first week of dating!
All of our wedding photos by Natalie Uprichard of Natalie Broach Photography!
Our precious, Rhodes Wade. The joy of our hearts!