Birthday season for our family will begin in two days, so I’ve been thinking a lot about celebrations. The anniversary of my wedding was a little over a month ago. The Sunday before my anniversary, God started sending me messages about gratefulness. First our pastor spoke on how drastically different our outlook would be if we focused our attention on God and all that he has done in our lives, rather than on the things we think we are missing. Later that same week two separate friends called sharing almost identical messages they had received during worship and prayer time. I knew I should start preparing my spirit for what was coming because the messages were obviously being confirmed. I needed to keep gratefulness in the forefront of my mind.
My expectations for the weekend had been building. This would be our third anniversary in Georgia. We had not been on a date for our anniversary since the move. I was determined for this year to not be a repeat. The weekend before our anniversary we went out on our first date in almost a year. We had such a great time, I really wanted time alone with my husband again. I tried desperately to find a babysitter so we could go out for a nice dinner, but had no luck. I was crushed.
In my prayer time the morning of our anniversary, I asked God to let the focus of the day be on my gratitude for what he has done in our lives, and not on my expectations of what the day should be. I had spent the day before in a pretty bad funk because of my realization that we would not have a date for the third year in a row. I didn’t want my attitude to ruin another day. I asked that my focus be more on him than anything else because I knew I really needed Him.
That morning I prayed for God to help me to release my disappointments so that I may simply enjoy the husband, children, family, and life he’d given me that day. “Today creating time alone together may not include dressing up and going out with just the two of us, but whatever it includes help me to be thankful. Help us to celebrate your work in our lives today.” I decided I would treat the day like any other day and make the decision to be happy with whatever happened. I told myself it didn’t matter what we did as long as my attitude was right.
I went to choir rehearsal that morning after cooking and enjoying a big breakfast with my family. God’s spirit showed up at rehearsal in a powerful way. It was a wonderful time of praise and worship. I was so thankful God had prepared my heart before I entered the building. The joy that was in my heart I couldn’t even really describe. I thought to myself, “This was the gift of me focusing on him.” My expectations for the day began to grow.
After rehearsal, we all went out for lunch. We had a great meal, but had to head home because my toddler needed a nap. Once at home my middle child headed to his room and my husband camped out to watch college football. My oldest, my sweet sensitive daughter, started asking if this was all we were going to do for the day. “It’s your anniversary! You can’t just sit around all day. We have to celebrate!”, she said. I assured her that we would figure out something else to do after the youngest finished her nap, but I kept telling myself, “Remember this is just another day.” No expectations, no disappointments.
By the time my toddler woke up from her extra long nap, our day had devolved into a mess. The older two were at each others throats and I was tired of being asked, “What are WE going to do? Aren’t we at least going to go out to dinner? It’s your anniversary!” The tone was not nice. I was tired of the arguing. I was tired of the attitude and pouting. I was tired of the questions. They were seriously messing with my good, low key vibes. I finally snapped after all the tension and told them to be quiet, and I told her to back off because she didn’t get married that day_ I did. If anyone was going to be upset about sitting home all afternoon doing nothing it should be me, not her. And yes, now I was upset!
Now I wanted to get out of the house. I told everyone to get their shoes. I was planning to take them to McDonald’s so they could run off steam and leave me alone. The grateful attitude I had been trying to hold onto was gone. I was not happy just doing nothing anymore. I was going to leave without my husband. He could do whatever he wanted to do and I could breathe for a moment without everyone complaining. I was no longer thankful for whatever happened that day. Now I was just irritated.
As I tried to usher the little mood killers out the door, the littlest one started whining that she didn’t want to leave. She was hungry and wanted to eat. Then the second child started in, “I’m hungry too! I want to stay if she stays.” Ugh, really? I told them they could stay with their dad and eat. Then the third, “Where are we going anyway?” So, now you care where we’re going?!? “I thought you just wanted out of the house”, I thought to myself. I threw my hands up and let my husband feed them leftovers, while I retreated to the comfort of my KitchenAid. All of a sudden everyone was calm and they too, wanted to crowd around my mixer. I didn’t want to let them in on my little party, but everyone became so excited and nice, I relented.
I spent the evening of my anniversary without dinner, baking a cake, and watching American Sniper with my husband after the kids went to bed. Not at all how envisioned the day_not even my worst version of it. But after all it was just another day, right? The next morning I woke up irritated with my husband. I was also irritated with my oldest for not allowing me to go along with my “No expectations” attitude. “Why did she have to make such a big deal about the day?”, I thought. I was doing fine without her pouting and disappointment. When I woke up I went straight to my prayer closet. My heart was so heavy about my irritation. “Why am I so bothered by her attitude from yesterday?”, I asked. As I sat in his presence, he revealed to me that I couldn’t appreciate her disappointment because my life experience was so different from hers.
My parents were not together when I was growing up. It was just me and my mother. There were no anniversaries to celebrate, or anything about marriage to get excited about. He reminded me that for my children it’s a completely different reality. I spend time telling my children how fortunate they are to have two parents. I spend lots of time talking to them about God’s order, design, and plan for marriage. We talk about the beauty of marriage and the blessing of family. Our family started the day God joined their dad and I in marriage all those years ago. Of course they would want to celebrate marriage. I should not have been upset with her, but with myself for trying to say it was just another day.
Over the years, we’ve seen a number of marriages fall by the wayside, yet by God’s grace we are still together. My oldest was right. We should have been celebrating. Maybe we couldn’t celebrate the day with grand romantic gestures, but to try to pretend the day God joined us was not important was wrong. It wasn’t just about celebrating us. It was about acknowledging and celebrating what God has done.
Through this union God has been working to draw out our selfishness and refine the selflessness. He is trying to make us holy, instead of us always focusing on happy. I want the work he is doing in us to all be for his glory. We are far from where we should be, but by his might and grace he has sustained us for 17 years and he’s far from finished with us. There is a legacy my children will inherit from seeing us value and appreciate marriage. But they have to see us value and appreciate our marriage. I was wrong. That is reason to rejoice!
Yes, that time in God’s presence turned my attitude around. I had a new appreciation for my daughter’s sensitive spirit and a renewed thankfulness in my heart for our marriage Sunday morning. We enjoyed a great service, a great lunch, a great afternoon with the kids, and in the end great time alone with my husband reflecting on all God has done over the years. That day 17 years ago we made a promise to God. We walk in covenant with Him and He continues to keep and guide us through all our human mess.
It will never cease to amaze me how much God teaches me through these amazing little people he’s placed in my charge. Our Anniversary is not any ordinary day. It is a day to rejoice. So grateful she and God reminded me what it really meant to celebrate OUR anniversary.
“…She is your companion and wife by covenant.” Malachi 2:14
“A joyful heart is life itself, and rejoicing lengthens one’s life span.” Sirach 30:22