I am a big fan of family traditions. They seem to bridge the past with the present and help us remember the faithfulness of God for the future.
Here’s a few things we’ve been doing since we’ve been married. They help us remember the past, plan for the future, and be thankful for the present.
Around our anniversary (June 20th) we plan a night out without the kid(s). In our first year of marriage we bought a nice anniversary journal that we only pull out twice a year (anniversary and in the New Year). In it, we record three things:
1) Major events of the previous year of marriage. Basically, all the things that stood out. We include vacations, celebrations, life-changes, etc.
2) A specific commitment to each other. The anniversary is a great time to talk about our marriage and be honest about our strengths and weaknesses. After an honest conversation, we write down what we want to be better at (with the Lord’s help) in our next year of marriage. We sign it.
3) Predictions for the next year. This is purely for fun. We go back and forth, making predictions. Sometimes they’re related to family (e.g. Ashley will be pregnant by August) and sometimes they’re kinda silly (e.g. The Lakers are going to win the NBA finals). We always get a laugh out of these when we go back and look at them.
Another special date is around the New Year. It works out perfectly for us, because the New Year is the exact halfway point of our marriage year. Six months after our anniversary we get to think through our marriage and family again. We don’t go to the movies because we want to be able to talk. We make sure it’s just the two of us, so we get someone to watch Emma.
On this special date, we start by talking about the previous year. We look at the journal, the commitments we made to each other, the predictions, and the major events.
1) We look at the anniversary journal. We look at the commitments we made on our anniversary, the predictions we thought of, and the major events.
2) We make a top-ten event list. We get out our calendars (Ashley keeps a calendar book containing most of the year’s events) and try to remember all the big events. We always have a fun time remembering; there are always events that we had forgotten that make us laugh. Instead of writing down all the main events, we pick the top ten events and write them down. We also pull out the top ten lists from previous years. It’s fun to see the top ten events of years past—some of which are nearly forgotten or seem so insignificant.
3) We talk about the future. After thinking about the past for a while, we start to think about the future. I try to get us thinking about potential vacations, life changes, spiritual goals, marriage commitments, parental goals, etc. We together try to imagine what the year will look like. We talk about the things we’d like to do, whether it be ministry, dates, trips, achievements, or education. We consider finances (briefly—finance talks aren’t always the most fun), what purchases we might consider making, what we’d like to save for, and where most of our money is going to go.
We’ve found these things to be good for our marriage, especially helping us maintain a sense of unity, closeness, openness, companionship, and joy. It helps us communicate and plan. It also brings us the great blessing of remember God’s providence in the past and his promise for the future. The anniversary journal is for us an Ebenezer, a fixed stone of remembrance testifying to the great mercy of our God.
Husbands, I encourage you to date your wife. Be proactive and creative. Show your children how much you treasure her. Share, as much as possible, in the grace of life together. When you share together the joys and burdens of marriage, you will find, as Ashley and I have, that the old axiom is true: your joys are doubled and burdens halved.