Sherry has been on staff since 1997. She and Jeff have been married for 15 years and have served in WI, SD and now in CO. They have 3 boys ages 6-11 and there is never a dull moment in their house. Jeff works with operations and training. for collegiate. Sherry enjoys writing and encouraging mommy missionaries when she isn’t busy homeschooling.
By Sherry Graf
I remember the new mommy haze, staying involved in ministry (even if very minimally) and trying to keep the spark alive with my husband that started this whole crazy circus! A book for new moms I read said it was important to leave my baby occasionally overnight for me to be alone with my spouse. It surprised me that it wouldn’t ruin that bond I was working so hard to form with my baby. Instead, it would benefit us all!
In the blur of campus ministry and parenting it can be difficult to find time to focus on our spouse. But when we invest in our marriage we are in turn investing in our children and in our ministry! Here are 5 things Jeff and I have done throughout the years to strengthen our marriage.
We make an effort to get away for a night at least once a year. We’ve never lived near extended family so having grandparents watch them isn’t always possible. Yet God has faithfully provided for our nights away. Sometimes it’s other staff, young married students or even the parents of one of our EDGErs at the time. This by far has been one of the best things we have done for our marriage and our kids. No, we can’t always afford it. Yes, it takes a lot of planning and preparing on my part to get the kids squared away, schedules typed out, food prepped, etc. But once I drive away for an uninterrupted 24-48 hours with the love of my life, my shoulders relax and the silence ushers in a giddy feeling chasing away the hours (days?!) of hard work to get to this point.
The importance of Date Nights
We also try and focus on our marriage throughout the year. Oh how I miss having a handful of campus women who would willingly watch my kids in exchange for food and laundry! If you don’t have a few women or staff who care for you in this way, don’t be afraid to ask. I always made payment an option if they weren’t comfortable with our barter system. And some weeks we would just put the kids to bed early and get take-out for a date night in! The point being to get focused “us” time to reconnect and invest in each other.
Listen and Discuss
A good podcast on marriage that I can listen to while I walk, fold laundry, or whatever is an easy way I can keep growing. I can pause the sermon as many times as I need to throughout the day (think – a million little interruptions). I know Mark Driscoll is a touchy topic but one of the best sermons series on marriage we ever listened to was the “The Peasant Princess” on Song of Solomon. We listened separately but took time to discuss it together. OnePlace.com is an excellent library of free podcasts.
Grow in Intimacy
Reading a great Christian book on intimacy also helps get my mind thinking on track again (and by “on track” I mean thinking about what my husband appreciates me thinking about at the end of the day rather than the piles of laundry I never got to or what we will have for dinner the rest of the week). I spent one summer at an STP reading Intimate Issues and coincidentally we came home with an unplanned but very wanted little souvenir. Use Caution when reading a good book on sex! J
The best marriage retreat we ever attended was A Weekend to Rememberby Family Life. The teaching was encouraging, entertaining and mixed with plenty of break out times to process one-on-one. There are plenty of others out there, pick one and make a goal to attend if it has been awhile.
By actively investing in our marriages, we, and everyone around us, will be blessed. Leaving your little bundle of joy overnight or grabbing a weekly date night might not seem possible right now. That’s okay. Try doing one new thing in your daily, monthly, or yearly routine to boost your marriage. You will never regret making this investment!