Festivals Of Marriage 2011

I know that I’ve said this several times before, but marriage hasn’t necessarily been an easy, effortless road for my husband and me.

I mean, we love each other. And we’re in this thing for the long haul. But there was a whole bunch of stuff that we should’ve worked through before we got married – and since there’s no way to hide, well, anything in marriage for long, we started to deal with some pretty big issues not too long after we said “I do.” By year three I was pretty much convinced that we were done, and the next six or seven years were A LOT of hard work.

And I don’t say that, by the way, to make you think that everything is all easy-breezy now. Our marriage is still a roller coaster of mountains and valleys, and yes, I’m pretty sure I just mixed metaphors. Regardless, we are a constant work-in-progress. But now that we’ve gotten to the bottom of what our core struggles are – and now that we talk about those struggles with each other – we do way better working through our junk than we used to.

And we laugh a lot. That helps.

As part of our ongoing efforts to work on (and enjoy) this whole marriage thing, a couple of years ago we went to a Festival of Marriage retreat in Ridgecrest, NC. In all honesty I couldn’t help but smile as we made the drive, mainly because I think that when we were newlyweds back in the late 90s, we probably could’ve won a prize for Least Likely To Ever Attend A Marriage Retreat. Sure enough, though, there we were, driving through the mountains of North Carolina of our own free will so that we could go to a marriage conference. JUST LIKE MARRIED GROWN-UPS.

Will wonders never cease.

Even though we didn’t know what to expect, we had the best time that weekend. There’s something so wonderful about having time to remember who you are as a couple (and not just as parents), and because of the structure of FOM, we had lots of freedom in terms of figuring out how we wanted to spend our time. There’s no TV in the rooms at Ridgecrest, so there’s no chance that you’re going to spend all your time there watching ESPN or Food Network. There is, however, absolutely beautiful scenery, not to mention a whole bunch of marriage workshops that you can attend. Some people go to workshops during every time slot, but you certainly don’t have to do that. The weekend is structured, for sure – but there’s great flexibility within that structure. And for someone like me, being able to pick and choose what to do made the weekend even more relaxing.

Our favorite part of the conference was going to the group sessions throughout the weekend. That time of corporate worship and teaching were such an encouragement to us as a couple. Sometimes it’s easy to get all caught up in the busy-ness of the day-to-day and forget that you’re a team, that your marriage is intended for your good and God’s glory. We’ve found ourselves in that place more often than I can tell you. So for me, well, there was just something so special about sitting next to my husband in those sessions, being surrounded by other couples, and knowing that we’re not the only ones who struggle sometimes – and that we’re also not the only ones who, by God’s grace, are trying to fight the good fight together.

In addition to all the conference stuff, we were also extraordinarily blessed to spend lots of time with some great friends while we were there. It was one of those situations where we knew another couple pretty well before we got there, but by lunch that Sunday afternoon I knew that we were all going to be in each other’s lives forever. There’s something about being away from your normal environment that helps you let your guard down, and we had such an incredible time with our sweet friends. I can’t think of our time together at Ridgecrest without smiling.

And listen: I know that every marriage is different; I know that there are probably some of you who are reading this and thinking, “My husband would NEVER go to something like that.” But let me just tell you: your husband’s reaction to a FOM weekend might surprise you. I didn’t think my husband would be gung-ho about it, either, but he was probably more fired up about the trip than I was. And after we’d been in the car a couple of hours, I realized that we’d really missed each other. Oh, we’d seen each other plenty. But we’d missed each other’s uninterrupted company. And FOM was a great reason to get away, to spend time with each other – and to remember that God brought us together for a reason, for His purpose. Sometimes it’s so easy to forget that.

If you’d like more information on a Festival of Marriage event (this year’s theme, by the way, is Courageous: Building Biblical Marriages), just click over to the FOM information page. Conferences are in Ridgecrest, NC and Glorieta, NM. If you have any questions, feel free to ask, and if I don’t know the answer, then I’ll pass along your question to someone who’ll be able to help.

If you and your husband decide to go, let me know!

This post is sponsored by Festivals of Marriage. They bought an ad on my blog and asked if I’d write about our weekend at Ridgecrest. I was oh-so-happy to do that. But just rest in the peace of knowing that if you register for FOM, I will not make one nickel or penny or jar of peanut butter as the result of your registration. This isn’t any sort of affiliate deal. I’m just sharing my heart about a weekend that was meaningful to my husband and me. Thank you and the end.

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