Our family has been on the road this week.  First we were in North Carolina at the Gideon Media Arts Conference & Film Festival (more on that in a future post) and then we re-packed the family and headed to Wisconsin for a weekend of wedding festivities with some of our dearest friends.  We’ve been singing Russ Taff songs from 1990 and reminiscing fondly.  (I know, sappy us.)  
Early in our marriage, we shared a friendship with another young couple who started their family two years ahead of us.  Much of what Larry and I learned about how to help our marriage thrive and parent well we learned right alongside these precious friends who became like a brother and sister to us.  We fell in love with their daughter Taylor, the firstborn of our collective offspring, and delighted in exploring our early parenting dreams vicariously through her.  Over the years, all of their children became “like our own” so much so that we have often referred to Taylor as “our first child.”  We’re overwhelmed with the idea that we’re now celebrating her wedding and a whole new family!
For a bridal shower gift I made Taylor a recipe scrapbook featuring some of our favorite foods and recipes from those years growing up together.  The last page is titled “Recipe for A Thriving Marriage.” It seemed worthwhile to share that “recipe” publically today.  I am praying this is a tool God uses to help shape and strengthen many marriages.

Dedicated to Joel and Taylor Barclay, married August 18, 2012.
Recipe for A Thriving Marriage
For better and for worse, the most profound challenges of your life will be intimately woven
 within your most treasured relationship — your marriage.  And it will be entirely worth it!
Embrace challenges as an adventure.
Make room for beauty to be birthed out of struggles.  Fight dissention with the warfare of intimacy.  Move toward each other when you are hurt.  Resist the inclination to cope with pain by getting angry, pulling away or holding a grudge.  Pursuing God together amidst adversity will be the greatest adventure of your life!
Make memories and celebrate often.
Cultivate a pervasive spirit of gratitude in your home.  Talk often about all that is good and sacred about your relationship.  Put pictures in your bedroom that remind you of your favorite times together.  Be intentional about making new memories.  Laugh. Smile. Dance. Be silly. And then laugh some more.
Encourage and respect each other.
Look out for each other.  Look for ways to make each other happy, even when it comes at personal cost.  Plot to make your spouse laugh.  Give shout-outs for each other both privately and publicly.  Make sure your spouse gets recreational time. Plan unforgettable romantic experiences. 
Allow your marriage to make you holy.
Marriage tends to put a mirror on your sin revealing your most sensitive areas and selfishness.  That means grace and forgiveness must be the well from which you draw every day.  Be willing to receive correction from your spouse. Be the kind of person that makes your spouse better.  Since life as a Christian involves a process of sanctification (becoming more and more like Christ), let your marriage, even what’s most difficult about it, increasingly draw you into the image of the living God.  Be happy but don’t make that your goal.  The covenant of marriage is more about your holiness than your happiness.  God-centered marriage does a transforming work.  It creates a picture for the world to see of what reconciliation between Christ (the Bridegroom) and the Church (His bride) looks like. 
Pray together.
Prayer keeps your eyes on eternity.  Having a Kingdom perspective increases your contentment, shapes your character, keeps you from rationalizing sin, and empowers your loving.  Understand that some things about your marriage will not change short of Divine intervention.  Enjoy your intimacy as a form of worship.  You show your love of God by loving your spouse well. 
Align your hearts with God’s heart for family.
Don’t expect to get your life’s greatest fulfillment from your marriage or marriage partner.  Your spirit was designed to crave God so only God can perfectly fill that ache in your soul.  Resist every temptation to love your children more than your spouse. Love God more than your spouse.  Your love for God will spill over onto your marriage and make it delightfully precious.  Your investment in your marriage will overflow into your parenting and create the most gorgeous fruit you will taste this side of heaven.
Written by Lisa Jamieson. Inspired by “Sacred Marriage” (Gary Thomas) and “Thriving Despite A Difficult Marriage” (Michael Misja).
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