Yesterday, Mama Nette and I celebrated 15 years of marriage.

Yessir, on August 19th, 15 years ago at the Chapel Of Love in the Great Smokey Mountains, we said our “I do’s” and the pronouncement was made, “I now introduce Mr. Clyde and Annette Claudell” (Hey, you cant make these things up…and don’t laugh to hard…it stuck).

It’s been an awesome ride. For me, marriage is kind of like that first cup of coffee in the morning. Your gonna have it every day but it just never gets old and always hits the spot. You learn to appreciate that cup of marriage more and more with each passing day and even begin to see the beauty of the whole routine as consistency is truly a blessing. In our 15 years we’ve had many, many awesome times and a few really, really bad days. We’ve had a lot to learn and we’ve learned a lot and we’ve been blessed to travel this road together.

Now, we’ve not written the book on marriage but by the grace of God, the guidance of His Word and His Spirit and the witness of His people, we do have a wonderfully fantastic marriage and it just keeps getting “gooder and gooder“.

Let me share with you a few things that I’ve learned about having a great marriage and KEEPING it great

Be Joyful: Laugh Together. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” Proverbs 17:22 (HCSB)

Trust me, I can’t put too much emphasis on this. A stiff, rigid and humorless marriage is a dead or at least a dying one. A marriage that is alive and vibrant, well, you’ll hear it, It’s life and vibrancy is often expressed in laughter. If you are wound as tight as a guitar string or are a consummate drama queen…marriage is gonna be tough. Loosen up, don’t sweat the small stuff and have a little fun.

Be There: Prioritize Time –  I say that because contrary to popular opinion, we can’t make time. If we’re to have healthy marriages we’ve got to determine that time together…alone…MUST be a priority. Mama Nette and I still date. It’s a priority. My schedule is grueling and anything but predictable. Mama Nette works a full time job. Factor in four kiddos, ball practices, classes, church activities (I could go on for days, here) and you’ll find that our calendar is booked solid. YET WE STILL GO OUT ON A DATE ONCE A WEEK. How? We prioritize it. Sometimes we have to be creative but we get it done.

What’s that? Baby sitters are too expensive? Well, they are much cheaper than divorce lawyers so do what you gotta do.

Be Worshipful: Worship Together – In my marriage counseling sessions I often draw a diagram. My artistic ability is limited to stick figures and such so I keep it simple. I draw a triangle. On top of the triangle is God and on the bottom left hand corner is the husband, on the bottom right hand corner is the wife. Now, at first there is a good bit of distance between the husband and wife but as they make their way toward the top, toward God, what happens? Yep. They draw closer to one another. WORSHIPPING TOGETHER, I believe, is the most important thing a couple can do.

Be “All In”: Giving 100% – I’ve heard it said many times that marriage is 50/50. Can I just say that’s bull. It’s 100/100. Great marriages don’t just happen, they are intentional. If you want marriage to be all that God intended for it to be, you’ve gotta be “all in“.

Be Selfless: Understand That It’s Not About You – We learned this the hard way but learned it nonetheless. If you’re in this thing for your happiness, your peace, your needs, your (you fill in the blank), it will be a tough row to hoe. Instead of focusing on yourself, strive to meet the needs of your spouse. Go out of your way. You’ll be amazed by the shape your marriage will begin to take as your spouses needs, wants, desires replace your own.

Be Affectionate: Make Your Kids Sick – This is fun. Mama Nette are openly affectionate at home. We LOVE to hug each other tight and then smooch right in front of our kids and hear them say things like, “Ewww” (KendylAnne), “Seriously!?” (Kaden) or “I can’t unsee that!” (Kaylyn) . And guess what? What you see is what you get with us. The Caudells you’ll see at home are the same Caudells you get elsewhere. We’re affectionate in public too. Whether out to eat, walking the isles of Wally World or at church, we’re affectionate. Hold hands, hug, smoochy, smooch, speak endearing words. BE AFFECTIONATE. We are VERY intentional about this and make no apologies for it.

Be An Example: A World Is Watching – This is one of the reasons we’re openly affectionate! It’s why we’re quick to share the joy we have with others. It’s why we brag on one another when we get the opportunity. We want our children to SEE love. We want our congregation to see a Godly marriage modeled in our lives and not just talked about from the pulpit. Because of the nature of our calling, we realize that we’re under the microscope, especially our marriage. Some look at that as intrusive but we look at it as an opportunity to say to those we lead, “follow us as we follow Christ” (1st Cor 11:1). We understand that our marriage is to serve as a witness of the love Christ has for His church and take that responsibility serious. We all should.

Be Willing To Grow: Growing Things Are Alive – Every day I ask myself, “How can I be a BETTER husband to my wife than I was yesterday”. How can I improve as a leader in my home? What personal changes do I need to make? WHY? Because things that are alive are growing. I want my marriage to live…so I grow.

Be Welcoming: Y’all Cant Do This Alone – I see far too many couples in my office who would likely not even be there if they’d be humble enough to receive help from Christian friends. Many view marriage as a private island to hide out on until the Lord takes us home. Big problem: we can’t do life alone. We’ve learned to welcome other Christian couples into our lives because we need their support, encouragement and instruction and they need ours.

Lastly: Be Prayerful – Mama Nette prays for me and it’s one of the greatest encouragements of my life. I pray for her, too. I don’t think there’s a more powerfully effective way to serve our spouses than to intercede for them in prayer. Let me also say that we not only pray for each other, we pray OVER each other. Aloud. When we have our dates, one of us will pray over our food and without exception, that prayer includes a blessing over the person sitting across the table. That’s a powerful thing, folks.

How about you? Your marriage? How are you keeping it alive?

Mama Nette, here’s to the last 15 and by the grace of God, many, many more

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