Our first year of marriage has been both a flash and an incredible blessing.

We are so little reconciled to time that we are even astonished at it. “How he’s grown!” we exclaim, “How time flies!” as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty (CS Lewis).

Last Tuesday, we shared “13 Things We’re Grateful We Did Our First Year of Marriage (Part I).” This week, we’re sharing 10 more lessons we learned. You can read the first 13 here.

1. Taking a 7-day spring getaway

This spring, we enjoyed an early first anniversary getaway. During that time, we cooked together, took walks, read books, played games, watched teaching sessions, and reviewed, planned, and prayed about our family strategies, visions, and goals for the future.

2. Cooking together

Cassidy and I love making meals together whenever we can. On the honeymoon and our spring getaway we made most meals together. At home, we cook together once a week if possible.

We have found the kitchen provides many opportunities for meaningful conversations.

3. Cultivating good dinner-time conversation 

The family meal table is the only place where spiritual, physical, and mental nourishment converge in one enriching experience for the whole being. During meal times, we often discuss the events of the day. Sometimes, I’ll share some key lessons I learned from a book, podcast, or sermon. I also try to think of thoughtful questions to direct our conversation.

At the end of each meal, we want to leave fed, not only physically, but also spiritually and mentally.

4. Sharing our hearts with one another

A husband and wife are to become as one. This means that a husband and wife should have the same interests, passions, goals, and pursuits. There should be nothing that a husband or wife cannot or will not share with one another.

Cassidy and I try to talk about everything. We have a “no secrets policy.”

Lots of conversation keeps our relationship healthy. Truly, conversation is to a marriage what diesel is to a Ford pickup truck.

5. Learning to love and respect

Before marriage, we watched the Love and Respect series, which I highly recommend. In that series, Emerson Eggerichs practically and humorously breaks down what it means for a husband and wife to truly live out Ephesians 5.

God is most glorified when a couple strives to reflect within a marriage the relationship of Christ with His church.

6. Having weekly review meetings

Every weekend, we try to have a brief review and planning meeting. First, we review what we did the past week. We talk about what went well and what we should have done differently. Next, we review and plan the calendar for the next week. In everything, we seek to evaluate our use of time by God’s Word.

We’ve not always hit a weekly meeting, but we’re striving to become more consistent.

7. Discussing finances together 

Normally once a month, we sit down to discuss next month’s budget and the previous month’s spending. Together, we strategize to discover how we can better steward the money God has given us.

8. Creating trailer dates

This summer on the road, we found time for memorable dates in the trailer. We watched a nature wildlife DVD series called Planet Earth, read books, ate snacks, and talked about life.

9. Laughing often about everything

Laughter is the spice of life. More accurately, the Bible says, “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” We try to laugh about everything, even undesirable situations. For example, Wallace has brought laughter through blowouts.

We also laugh at Wallace’s expressiveness and at our inside jokes. Truly, laughter brightens life. It “doeth good like a medicine.” We can always find joy and laughter when we remember that God is sovereignly in control.

10. Drafting a family plan

During our spring getaway, we took time to chart a course for our family. We asked ourselves questions like the following: What is the purpose of our family? How should we seek to build a godly family? How should we go about education, discipleship, mealtimes, family devotions, church, friendships, outreach, business, discipline, and child training? How can we teach our children to love God’s Word?

After studying God’s Word, we wrote down the Biblical purpose and practical strategy for these many facets of the family. Our plan will likely evolve over the years, but this first version gives us something to aim for as we strive to build our family by God’s blueprint.

We recognize that nothing good every happens by accident. We also realize that we are setting in place habits that will last the rest of our lifetime. Are they good or bad habits? Will they build up or tear down our family?

Marriage takes time, effort, and intentionality

Recently, my father-in-law reminded me that marriage takes more work the second year of marriage than it does the first. After the first year, it’s much easier to fall into a rut, to take one another for granted, and to not prioritize the ministry of family as one should.

Marriage is ministry

My father-in-law also reminded me that if Satan can’t steal our time on evil activities, he’ll steal our time doing good things that distract us from the best things.

We can easily become so caught up in the busyness of life that we neglect the most important ministry God has given, marriage. There’s nothing we can do that will reap as much eternal fruit as investing in this institution that God created to reflect His relationship with the church.

Marriage takes time, work, and effort, because God designed it to. Just as He desires to build a stronger relationship with His bride, the church, so may we husbands and wives desire to spend more intentional time building our relationships with one another.

No amount of “ministry” and good deeds on this earth can atone for neglecting our families, the first area of responsibility God has given us. If you have a family, you have a ministry. God will bless you now and eternally if you faithfully invest today.

Categories: Family


N.C. · September 11, 2018 at 9:19 pm

Once again, sir, your wisdom has left me amazed and ashamed. The thought and effort you put into conversation and planning is convicting and encouraging as I journey into manhood. May God continue to bless you.

Ann · September 12, 2018 at 4:46 am

I agree with almost all of this (excellent) post, and your father in law was wise to counsel you about ensuring you work at your marriage – it is advice many would do well the heed.

The one part I don’t completely agree with is this:

“a husband and wife should have the same interests, passions, goals, and pursuits.”

The same goals, certainly in terms of family direction and faith, absolutely! However, while having a large degree of overlap in terms of interests, passions and pursuits is a very good thing, the pleasure and stimulation that arises from learning about each other’s different interests can be a source of growth and deepening mutual respect. My husband and I take an interest in each other’s passions but also maintain our own, the resulting conversations are lively and joyful.

A man and his wife are each a half of the whole, different but uniquely crafted to complement the other.

    Joshua Bontrager · September 12, 2018 at 10:11 pm


    Thanks for your perspective! To clarify, I believe a husband and wife should have as many things in common together as possible, but they should take interest in whatever interests the other one.

Becky · September 12, 2018 at 7:11 pm

I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog and I think you’re a wonderful encouragement for young couples. I have one question, though. Isn’t it important for a husband and wife to have their own interests, their own passions? Isn’t that what makes each person unique? I agree that it’s important to have joint interests and passions, but I think that it should be important to encourage each other’s own personal pursuits as well. I hope that makes sense! 🙂

Ana · September 16, 2018 at 10:19 pm

Happy anniversary! I really enjoy this post , I was wondering if you would consider doing a post explaining how to do a family plan as you mention on your last point. Is something we would like to try to do but would appreciate some ideas as to how to do it, what to include in our plan, etc
Thank you

    Joshua Bontrager · September 19, 2018 at 9:00 am


    Thank-you! I’ll try to do a post in the future elaborating on the family plan.

    The purpose of a family plan is to align our practices with God’s Word and priorities.

    In family life, all of us ultimately follow habits, whether it’s for mealtimes, recreation, pursuits, etc., Unfortunately, most of the family habits we set in place are sub-conscious adaptations to the culture and environment around us.

    In order to create a family plan, you have to step back and ask, What is the purpose of our family? How does God want our family structured?

    You should then study God’s Word for answers. If you see a family heading in the right direction, you can ask them why they do what they do and if they have any practical suggestions for you.

    Our family plan covers how we think God wants us to structure areas like education, discipleship, mealtimes, family devotions, church, friendships, outreach, business, discipline, and child training.

    Our family plan seeks to combine Biblical purpose with practical strategy for all areas of family life.

    We recognize that nothing good every happens by accident. We also realize that we are setting in place habits that will last the rest of our lifetime. Are they good or bad habits? Will they build up or tear down our family?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: