It’s hard to believe that Leon and I will celebrate 2 years of marriage in August. Where does the time go? It seriously seems like we were just married and returned to England as a married couple yesterday. And our family has grown!

When we were first married, some colleagues of ours asked us, “How do you do it?” I understood it as— “How do you find balance when everyone is asking you to serve here and there?”

We said “no” a lot in our first year of marriage.

But saying “no” to certain obligations didn’t take away from our ministry. Our first year of marriage, we decided to take a year “off” and focus on each other and our marriage. It was really good to do, and I would recommend it to any couple about to get married!

Photo by our lovely friend and photographer, Amanda

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites not to go to war in their first  year of marriage so the husbands can focus on pleasing his wife.

“When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home for one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken.” Deuteronomy 24:5 (ESV)

I can’t think of any wife who would object to this. :) I know it’s not doable for everyone. And we certainly didn’t take “off” from our lives. Life continued on.

So here’s what “not going to war” looked like for us.

We said “no.” Working as missionaries can make it hard to say “no” to commitments when we’re asked to help out. So we chose not to get involved in any church ministries for our first year of marriage. It was hard at times… I honestly wanted to get involved so I could meet people. This also had its setbacks, as I was afraid to take anything on because I thought it would take away from our marriage.

We had weekly date nights. We didn’t always go out for dinner or the cinema, but we specifically set time aside for each other. During the winter months, we had a subscription to Lovefilm. This enabled us to watch lots of films together on our date nights. We also played games together like Scrabble, trivia games and Monty Python Fluxx. In nicer weather, we went for walks. Our dates were just time set aside to focus on each other. We still have dates now—we just have a little one in the middle of us now!

We like playing Scrabble

Leon didn’t travel. Prior to getting married, Leon did a lot of travelling for his job. After a trip to Belgium right after we got married, he hasn’t travelled. It’s been nice to have Leon around all the time… and I do know that there will now be times when he has to go away. But we now have that strong foundation this year off has given us.

We didn’t let our “not going to war” affect our ministry. I struggled with this at first. Finally, I came to the conclusion that if it takes away from our relationship, then I have to say “no.” We still found ways that we can minister together as a couple without “going to war.” One way we found we really enjoy is through hospitality. We had a number of friends around for dinner, and we opened our home on a few occasions for out of town people who were visiting the OM team.

Since we didn’t go to war in our first year of marriage,  it definitely strengthened our relationship. Now that we have a baby, I’m so thankful we took that first year off because now we have a strong foundation for the rest of our marriage.