This week we celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary. It’s crazy to think that so many years have flown by since we stood before our closest friends and family in a small, intimate ceremony and vowed to love God and each other forever. We shared our very first kiss (ever!) when we were married—a decision we made as soon as we knew that God had brought us together to share the rest of our lives together. Anthony and I had done relationships all wrong in the past, this time we were so committed to doing it right. It will forever be one of my sweetest memories.
We used a scripture from the first chapter of Ruth in our vows. “Where you go I will go and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Little did we know then the significance that verse would have in our journey together!
We lived in South Africa for the first five years of our marriage and started our family there. God then called us to Australia where we lived for three years with our two young sons. We then moved to the States where Anthony began to serve in various ministries and churches.
What I could never have dreamed possible all those years ago when we said “I do” is the most incredible journey that God would take us on. Growing our family from two to ten children (six with special needs) while living in America has been a life that far exceeds any hopes or dreams that I ever had when I envisioned what my life would look like. We have been more richly blessed than we could have ever dreamed.
People ask me all the time how Anthony and I keep our love thriving and deepening while raising a large family with many different needs. How do we make time for one another? How do we prioritize our marriage in our home, around jobs, and on a busy hobby farm where we rarely sit still and have a to-do list that is never near completion?
I have thought about that question a lot recently. And truthfully, I don’t have all the right answers on how to keep love alive. But what I do know is what has made our marriage work. And more than that, what has made our marriage today, all these years later, stronger and more amazing than it has ever been.
Without a doubt, the most important thing for us has always been to put Jesus first. I was a fairly new Christian when we got married. Anthony had been serving the Lord for many years and had recently got his master’s degree in theology. He was so much stronger and more mature in his faith than me, and it was one of the things that immediately attracted me to him. I had never known a man who would literally do anything that he felt God asked him to do.
I remember the days reading my brand-new Bible and how, in the book of Psalms, David was referred to as a “man after God’s own heart.” As our relationship grew and I got to know Anthony better, I began to understand what that meant—what it meant to be in love with a man who had purposed in his heart to chase after Jesus above all else.
Since those early days of dating, Anthony has been unwavering and relentless in his commitment to both of us running our race with Jesus at the center of it all. Have we always got that right? Absolutely not! There have been many times when we have taken things into our own hands and wished we could go back and have a redo.
But over many years of walking with Jesus, as we have sought His Kingdom above all things, we have learned what it truly means to follow Him with yielded hearts and arms wide open. And when those tough days or difficult situations have arisen over the years (and they always will!), we have been so anchored in our faith and in His Word buried in our hearts that we have weathered our storms with steadfast hope—always holding onto the beautiful promise that, “This too shall pass.”
As I reflect on our almost twenty-five years together, one thing that really stands out as I think about what has held us tightly together is an abundance of joy—the ability to laugh and not take all of life and everything that it throws our way too seriously. We laugh a lot. Finding joy, even in hard things, has been an incredible blessing in our marriage. Raising our large family with all of its complexities and busyness has actually given us such a different perspective on life. We don’t focus on silly things that cause stress for most. We don’t allow the things of the world to rob us of our joy. We are so laser focused on our family, our marriage and nurturing all that the Father has given us with great joy that I guess we just don’t have time to get pulled into the things that just really don’t matter.
A LOT of life happens in our home. From our children who still live at home needing us 24/7 to our young adults coming and going, we rarely have time to sit and relax. And actually, we love the hustle of daily life and can hardly remember a time when it wasn’t this way.
Over the years we have learned how to be intentional about the moments we might have so that we can connect. We have been purposeful about making those times happen—no matter how brief they are. Whether it be enjoying our coffee together early in the morning before the house is awake or making time later at night when everyone is in bed, we treasure the quiet moments we have to connect and share hearts.
One question that I get asked a lot is whether Anthony and I are able to get out and have date nights. I get that. Time with your beloved is essential. Over the years we have tried to have date nights occasionally, but honestly, sometimes it’s more of an effort than a blessing. Especially having so many children at home. We have never relied on caregivers to care for our children and we don’t have help in our home. The way we have chosen to live our lives has certainly made accommodating the odd date night a little harder—especially during this past year when all of our children have not been in school. But, and this may seem crazy to understand, as much as we absolutely love those rare times when we are able to enjoy each other’s company uninterrupted, God has given us such an enormous amount of grace in those seasons when we haven’t been able to have a date. We love being home. We love the life that we have built around our family. Does it work like this for every couple? No! Every marriage is different. We only live in the grace that God has given us.
Living a whole lot of life has taught us to focus on the blessings that we have in front of us (and there are many!), and not on the things that perhaps we would like to have but cannot. We chose this family and all that comes with it and until Jesus takes us home, we will choose joy always.
And when we are able to have a date night or when we have a special occasion to celebrate, we cherish opportunities we have to connect for a couple of hours and just be together.
And lastly, as the years have rolled on and we have grown with our family, Anthony and I have been very intentional about putting the needs of one another first. We both need to exercise to be as healthy as we can, and we ensure that we carve out time for both of us to do that as often as possible. It’s one of our non-negotiables.
In the warm months, Anthony loves nothing more than playing golf with our older boys. We make it happen no matter how busy life is, because not only does he love the game, but he also gets to make memories with our children who no longer live at home. And that is very important to both of us.
Anthony is super intentional about giving me time to do the things that I love to do too. We are always mindful about what’s important to the each other and no matter what, we make it work.
Do we always get all of this right? Nope! Do we always have everything all together? Heavens, no! Every day we rely on an enormous amount of grace to do all that we need to do, including making time to ensure our marriage is thriving. Our marriage has weathered seasons of blooming and times of needing extra nurturing. That’s just living life with someone you love and are willing to fight for in every season of the heart.
I am so thankful for the last twenty-four years with this man. And I cannot wait to see what the Lord has in store for us as we press on toward the finish line.
Jesus, be the center of it all.