|Scott & Shannon on the night of their engagement|
"Will you marry me?" The question asked and answered for centuries by millions of lovers, fell from his lips. My heart beat erratically in response. Before I could shout, "Yes!" he stopped me. He had a question to ask of two little young ladies first.
The thirty minutes from the beach to my home passed in alternating periods of stall and blur. Soon we were seated on the couch surrounded by my seven and four year old daughters. "Girls, I asked your mommy to marry me tonight. That means I want us to live together and be a real family but I won't let her answer until I ask you a very important question. Will you be my daughters?"
Their enthusiasm, fueled by surprise, outweighed my own. A stuffed animal sky rocketed to the ceiling as a chorus of "Yes! Yes! Yes!" rang from their lips.
Finally it was my turn to answer. My yes completed our joy. In nine months we would marry in a small church in a small town in Mississippi, witnessed by a few lifelong friends and our immediate family. The vows we would all exchange entered us not just into the covenant of marriage but the covenant of family. That day four became one.
Five years later my husband left his corporate executive job to become the COO (Executive Pastor) of a church 600 miles away in the last city where I shared happiness with my first husband. It was a place I never wanted to return. Since then, I have teased Scott many times that had I known what he was really asking that day, I may have changed my answer.
Indeed marriage is for better or worse. Sometimes ministry births days that stretch my marriage almost to its breaking point. For the good of God's church, we both carry burdens we are not entirely free to share with the other. Our hearts ache because close relationships are elusive. What should drive us together some days drives us apart.
Can ministry be a happily ever after?
Yes! I live my happily ever after every day...even on the really hard ones. Here's how:
Gratitude - It sounds simple and it is. As I move my thoughts from what's wrong to what's right, my heart warms to my husband. I whisper single sentence prayers of thanksgiving to the Giver of every good gift.
Thank you for my husband who comes home to me.
Thank you for my husband who cares so deeply for Your church.
Thank you for my husband. He is a gift from Your hand.
Time - I once heard a youth speaker say children spell love T-I-M-E. He asserted there was no such thing as quality time, only quantity. My husband spells love the same way. I often leave dirty dishes to crust in the sink because I'd rather awake to crusty dishes than a moldy marriage.
Some evenings we mindlessly watch American Idol while we hold hands and judge each performance. Other nights we whisper the secrets of love in a language unique to marriage. Many times we just enjoy being together and building our marriage one day, one trial, one stress, one ordinary at a time.
Oneness - Have you ever noticed that God says at least four times, "The two shall become one?" When I read God's Word, I try to pay extra attention to things God repeats. I figure if He felt it worth repeating, I should find it worthy of my full attention. The principle of oneness is a guiding principle in our marriage.
The activities I engage in, the way I spend money, the things I watch and think about are all sifted from the perspective of oneness. If something makes us more two than one, I make the choice not to invest time or energy there.
If we're married, we all answered the question. We said yes. Now we need to daily learn to say yes to living our happily ever after today among real stress, real pain and real issues. When we follow hearts of gratitude to spend time being one with our spouse, we'll find our happily ever after was here all along.