Kingdom Marriage vs Consumer Marriage

Kingdom marriage or consumer marriage? Which will yours be?

At our connect marriage retreat that we attended back in May,  we learned through some of the leaders that that there are 2 types of marriages: a KINGDOM MARRIAGE and a CONSUMER MARRIAGE.

The definition of a kingdom marriage was  "I will be who I ought to be whether you are or not." By contrast,  a consumer marriage is one where one or both spouses put their needs and wants first and put their rights first.  And having to be right results in feelings of loneliness. Anyone ever felt lonely sitting next to your spouse or laying next to your spouse? You're  both there together yet the loneliness ache is so real and so strong it feels as if you are completely alone in that room.  Why is that? Something we are learning is that our need to be right and control a situation can bring on those feelings of loneliness.  That's a red flag for a consumer marriage, for sure.

I will never forget years ago, a certain wise lady was talking to me (Carol) about marriage and telling me how important it is to put my spouse first and not myself. I then asked the question, "How do you know if you're doing this?" And her wise question was like a punch in the gut .  She said, "whose the first person you think of when you wake up in the mornings?" What?!!! Oh anything but that..Please! I LOVE to sleep in y'all.  But God used that in a powerful way to show me that my husband (who serves me wholeheartedly all the time) was not who I was putting first. I was putting myself first and didn't even realize it.  That changed that day.  I woke in the mornings thinking, "how can I love and serve him?"  If he needs coffee, breakfast and lunch,  and I can help with that, why would I not? God has given me this amazing gift of a husband and I am so honored and privileged to serve him daily.

Okay, let me back up a bit and tell you men a secret tho.  Allen has led the way in serving me. One of the reasons I am able to serve him is because he has shown me what that looks like...our entire marriage! Of course we are not without our arguments and struggles,  but truly Allen puts me first in our lives.  I cook dinner - he insists I serve my plate first (even when I argue..silly me. Haha).  Most mornings that blessed man makes me coffee and serves me.  In a crowded room, if I need a chair, he gives his up. You get the idea. I have said many times, I did not truly begin to comprehend the unconditional serving love of Christ until I met Allen.  Men, you want a wife that will serve you joyfully and follow you to the ends of the earth (even if they have to leave their mamas? Heehee), then begin serving her...always.  You wont regret it. What have you got to lose?

Just for the record, I wake in the mornings now and (unless I'm ill), I take great delight and joy in serving my man. My nature is still to be a night owl and want to sleep in, but as my man is getting ready, I wake to help get him out the door...because I want to. Not because I have to.  Because he gives himself up for me continually, as Christ gave himself up for us.  Now that's a kingdom marriage!

Of course we have plenty of selfish moments in between and we struggle with our sinful flesh at times, but when we get this right, it just makes for such a beautifil marriage.

All of the above describes a bit of what  a kingdom marriage looks like.  So what does a consumer marriage look like? It looks like a marriage where  either a husband or wife  (or both) think only of themselves. They have to be right..they each have to be in control. They each are focused on their own needs, wants, desires and when things get broken and they don't get what they want (or need) they throw it out like you would an old car, instead of taking the time and energy to repair what's broken.  What could it have been or what could it be if one or both parties were (are?) willing to give all they have for the other.  After all, how many classic cars are now out there that were once someone's brand new beautiful car but through neglect and wear, and over time, the beauty of it faded and it was tossed or traded in.  Then along came someone who saw the potential in it and invested all they had to make it lovely? And now that car is what turns heads as it drives down the road.  The difference was the love, care, time, effort and focus that was poured into it.   What a difference it made. It's still the same car tho.  If the original owner had given his or her best effort to maintain and enhance that car, the way the next owner had, it would have been even more beautiful and would have been the car everyone admired.  Same goes for your marriage.  Be the best version of you for your spouse now. Don't wait.  There's not a single marriage out there, that has lasted years, that has not had to out in the hard work and dedication. It doesn't just happen easily.

Just to sum up, a kingdom marriage is being willing to love, serve & encourage even if you get nothing back. Otherwise resentment will come into play and begin to eat away at your marriage, piece by piece until there is nothing left. A consumer marriage is when one or both parties put themselves first instead of each other, which results in loneliness, resentment, and ultimately division.

So whose up for the challenge? Do you want a kingdom marriage or a  consumer marriage?  One is obviously going to be harder to obtain. It will take more hard work, more giving up our rights to be right, more serving when we don't feel like it, but let me tell you, the results are so lovely and so worth it.  Don't forget...the prize is worth the price!

So go for that kingdom marriage! We know you can do it!

Cheering you on,

Allen & Carol

Who fills your cup?

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First of all, we want to state loudly and boldly that our beautiful marriage is only possible because Jesus Christ is at the center of it. We strongly believe that without His love for us, there is no way we could love each other the way we need to.

Okay, now that we have established that, we wanted to share more on this subject of who fills our cups...who truly satisfies our souls. Now it's no secret that we LOVE being together! We have so much fun together - adventuring, laughing, cuddling! We really would rather be together than anywhere else.  Cheesy, but true. Ha-ha.

However, early on in our marriage, I think we both really thought we were supposed to make each other happy.  We spent much time trying to make the other one happy...not because we felt like we had to, but because we just wanted to.  We love seeing each other smile. Why not, right?

But what we didn't realize  is that there is a deep hole inside each of us that was only meant to be filled by one, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.   As we have matured and grown in our marriage, we have learned that neither of us can MAKE the other one happy...and guess what? It's not our job to make the other happy or satisfied. And believe me, we have tried plenty of times and then been crazy disappointed when we failed.  Then as we grew, we learned 2 things:

1. We have to choose to be happy (thanks for those wise words, Dad); and

2. Only God can truly satisfy our souls. 

....

Wanna know what's truly going to make you happy in your marriage? Serving each other and giving to each other...setting your own desires aside for the sake of the other. After all, that's what  Christ did for us, right?

If you're looking for your spouse to be the source of your happiness,  to satisfy your soul, to fill your cup, it will never fully happen. Why? Because your spouse is human and imperfect, as we all are.  Those are unrealistic expectations (which we will discuss in another post). Marriage was never intended to be what fills you up. It's a representation of the way Christ loves us.

So we realize this is not at all the message the world tells you, but the world doesn't know how to make lasting marriages either.  Only striving for the example that Christ laid out for us - to serve each other/give up ourselves for each other - can make a strong marriage that lasts and is truly satisfying.

So go ahead and give it a try. We challenge you to see if serving your spouse doesn't satisfy your soul & fill your cup, more than relying on your spouse to make you happy. It's worth a shot, right?   

Cheering you on,

Allen & Carol

When the going gets tough, that's when love happens! / Marriage Mondays

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So it may seem odd, but this week's post was inspired by the rapper Lecrae. It's actually a topic I've been wanting to write about for a while but for some reason haven't. This past Saturday I, Allen, took a couple of our kids to a Lecrae concert at Wild Adventures theme park. Between a couple of his songs he asked the audience, "who out there is in love? "  he then proceeded to say that you young people who are all ushy gushy and feel like you've Got That Loving Feeling... "that feeling is just gas!" he said.  Real Love is when you are going through some stuff! I just thought there's some real truth to that.  Real Love is built when you're having to go through some trials, hard times, and tuff stuff. That's what makes your love stronger...when you come through it together and you don't give up.  I can tell you right now that the reason Carol and I have such a great marriage, and we are so in love with each other, is because we've been through many trials together over 21 years of marriage.  There's going to be plenty of trials and hard times you've got to get through when you're married. That's just life.  If you've ever believed that marriage was going to be easy, and things would just be hunky-dory all the time, then you've been fooled by a lie!  You've been fooled by Hollywood and the whole sexualized culture that's out there.  Marriage just isn't always that ushy gooshy feeling.  Some times you just have to be committed and determined that we're going to get through this together, no matter what.  

It seems to be part of God's design that for things to get stronger, they have to be put through some kind of stress or heat. If you think about how a sword is made, the rough piece of steel has to be heated extremely hot and hammered into shape before it can cool down and become extremely strong, durable, unbendable, and beautiful.  If you think about muscles, when you lift weights, you actually tear your muscles and then they have to heal back together.  That's what makes them grow stronger and bigger.

When you think about it, most things that are just given to you, or you received easily, don't mean as much to you as something that you had to work really hard for.  If you want to have an amazing, lifelong marriage, you're going to have to work for it. You're going to have to earn the respect and admiration and trust and love of your spouse. There's going to be times that you just hold on to each other tight and pray to God and ask Him to help you to get through this situation.  Your marriage is worth fighting for! Don't ever give up! Don't let anything come between you and your spouse. You're on the same team.   Love each other. Serve each other.  Encourage each other.  And don't forget...when the going gets tough, thats when LOVE happens.

Cheering you on, 

Allen & Carol

Escape Together / Marriage Mondays

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On a scale of 1-10, how important would you say getting away together is for your marriage.  We're going with an 11! We can't emphasize enough how vital this is.  With so many people and things needing our attention, energy, encouragement, love, and time it could be super easy for us to push "getting away" to the back burner and decide we dont have time for it, or can't afford it.  The truth is however, that we can't afford not to.  Our marriage is worth whatever effort it takes, whatever money it takes, to make it happen! Our marriage is worth it. Our kids are worth it. We are worth it!

We were reminded of that this week when we got the opportunity to escape for a few days. Allen had a business trip to West Palm Beach, and the kids and I (Carol) joined the fun! Yes...we took the kids...hold up on that tho.  My family lives in that area, so it was a no brainer for us to go along and visit with family.  In the middle of the week however,  Allen and I escaped to stay at The Hilton in West Palm (and the kids got to stay and visit with family. Win-Win!) It was ridiculously beautiful! Allen's conference was right next door at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, so it was perfect. For dinner, instead of staying for the conference dinner party, we decided to go for a stroll to eat at City Place. Then we walked, and walked, and walked! It was so refreshing and relaxing! We got to see parts of West Palm that we wouldn't have seen, had we stayed in at the hotel.  It was so much fun exploring the posh places together and dreaming and getting to have uninterrupted conversations.  As we passed an Aston Martin Dealership, we just had to stop for a photo.  Dream Cars!!!

Then we went back to the hotel and snuggled up in a chair by the pool together, relishing in the perfect night air and our sweet relationship. The next morning,  the conference finished and we decided to go for a drive and explore some more.  We happened upon this gorgeous old church.  I totally squealed...and begged Allen to turn around and find a parking space.  I LOVE old churches!!!  It was truly breathtaking yall!

This was exactly what our marriage needed. No agenda. No plans. Just exploring and dreaming together.  You see, although we have a great marriage, we are still human (duh 🙂) and no marriage is perfect...translating - we have been struggling a bit lately.  In all honesty, we really were just struggling too much to put a marriage monday post together last week.  We tried. We really did.  But then we came to a point that we realized we were going to have to let it go for the week, for the sake of our relationship. We have been super busy pouring into our family, our kids (end of year school projects, ball games, etc), and our photog biz has been kicking! Yay!! All good stuff, but it can easily take a toll if we aren't super diligent to invest back into our marriage. 

So here we are...back at it again!  Taking the time to take strolls together...holding hands of course (heehee), cuddling with each other, and dreaming together. And maybe, just maybe our honesty will be an encouragement to you,  knowing even we struggle at times and have to reevaluate and go have some fun together!

So...heres where the rubber meets the road.  We want to encourage you not only to read these posts, but apply what you're learning to your awesome marriage as wel! What does your marriage need today?  Has it been a while since you adventured together?  When's the last time you held hands while going nowhere in particular? How often do you dream together? Go ahead...we give you permission to plan an adventure together! It could be as simple as trying a new restaurant in the next town over, or going to the beach (or mountains) for the day (or weekend - even better), or going biking together...or playing a mean game of frisbee golf! Haha.  Whatever it is that you both love to do, put it on the calendar and get away for a few hours at least.  Your marriage is worth the investment of adventure and the payoff is priceless!

Sometimes when you're struggling in your marriage you may feel you need to get away FROM each other, when in reality probably what you need most is to get away WITH each other.  Works for us every time!

Cheering you on, 

Allen & Carol

What's toothpaste got to do with it? Marriage Mondays

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So this may seem like a silly post, but it's essential to our marriage, nonetheless.  Okay. Yes. Brushing our teeth is essential to our marriage (ha-ha), but that's not quite what we are talking about. So here's the story about what toothpaste has to do with keeping our marriage strong:

Years ago, Allen and I attended a marriage retreat with our church at Jekyll Island.   We learned so much, but here was the main take away for us.  The speakers (a husband & wife team...cant recall who, sadly), told us about how they do small things to remind each other that they are thinking of one another.  One of the things they mentioned is that whoever gets to the toothbrushes first at night, before bed, puts the toothpaste on them both. Cute, right? :) They then went on to say that one night one of them went in to find that the other had brushed their teeth and not made both toothbrushes. Say what?!   That was the moment they knew...their marriage was in trouble.  Sounds crazy, right?  Of course it wasn't about the toothbrush...it was about what it symbolized.  It symbolized that they were no longer willing to put the other one first and that the little things they always did to care for each other were slipping away.  Heartbreaking.  That's where it begins though. Ever heard of the song Slow Fade by Casting Crowns?

From then on, Allen and I decided that as small as it seemed, we would begin fixing each other's toothbrushes.  Now of course we know that it is totally not necessary for all maried couples to make each others toothbrushes in order to have a great marriage.  For us though, it  continues to be a reminder to each other that we WILL put each other first...even when (no, especially when) we don't want to. It's also just a simple reminder that we love each other deeply.

Confession time:  We are not always that cuddly-snuggly couple you see on social media (although cuddling really is our favorite - haha). Sometimes we really don't want to put each other first and serve each other, but our marriage depends on it...so we do!

So you see, it's not really about the big investments you make in your marriage (although those are wonderful too - ie: a marriage retreat, a cruise, flowers, gifts, etc), but it's more about all the little deposits you put into your marriage bank.  There are so many stressors that make withdrawals that it's vital to not just make one huge deposit each year, but rather smaller deposits throughout the days and weeks.  Then when you do make that really big deposit, it's just a bonus and you're not overdrawn.

Here are a few ideas to get you started on  showing each other you care enough to put your spouse first:

1. Restock the toilet paper (ha-ha...and even better, hang it the way your spouse likes it...under or over? LOL)

2. Watch a chic flick or dude "flick" with each other (even if its not your fave.)

3. Fix each other's coffee...yes, pleeezz!!

4. Do your spouse's least fav chore - oh yeah!

5. Pick up after your spouse without expectations or complaining (Is that a tough one for anyone but us? ;)

You get the idea.  Those are just starters.  Need more ideas? Check out this post by Allen! Surely, though you can come up with some awesome ways to care for and love each other! And if you can't come up with your own ideas, feel free to adopt ours and start making each other's toothbrushes. Hee-Hee!

Cheering you on!

Allen & Carol

Agreement is Your Ally

This is us...finding agreement on where to go for lunch in Destin, Florida. Turns out, it was a great decision!

This is us...finding agreement on where to go for lunch in Destin, Florida. Turns out, it was a great decision!

"We are just going to agree to disagree".  Ever heard those words? Maybe even said those words? Early on in our marriage, we may have...not realizing the damage that "disagreement" can do.  According to the dictionary, AGREEMENT is the absence of incompatibility (inability of two people to live together harmoniously) between two things/people. Whoa! That's a mouthful!  Compromise, however,  means to accept standards that are lower than desired.  Well, that sure doesn't sound like much fun! Compromise is usually made to sound like a good word, but that definition leads me to believe otherwise.

What does all that mean though?  In our relationship, agreement most of the time looks likechoosing not to move forward in a decision if we disagree.  Holding off on making a decision until we can agree is much more beneficial to our marriage than just forging ahead without agreement...especially in big decisions!  Admittedly, there are the rare times that a quick decision needs to be made and there's not always time to discuss it and find agreement.  That is the exception however, and not at all the norm. (More about that in a bit).

 To begin with, I think we could all agree that disagreement usually comes when you are trying to make a decision. It could be a simple decision, such as:

  • Where to go out to eat (or even if you should),
  • which outfit you should wear for family photos with Allen & Carol (ha-ha)
  • What movie to watch, etc...

Or the more difficult decisions such as:

  • How to raise your kids
  • Which house to buy
  • How to manage finances
  • Which job to take
  • How to school your kids
  • Which church to go to

Whew! Just thinking about all the ways you could disagree on those topics can be exhausting, right? Where to begin?  Okay, so here is an important question to focus on:

What is it that you CAN agree On?

Something we have learned is that even in disagreement, we both really want the same thing.  For example,

  • we both want to eat dinner (just not sure where);
  • we both want the family to look nice for photos;
  • We both want each other to feel loved;
  • We both want the other to feel listened to and cared for;
  • We both want a strong marriage;
  • We both want to manage our finances well;
  • And we both have the same goals for our children.

You can usually agree on the end goal (the destination), but agreeing on how you're gonna get there (the route) is much harder.  In order to come up with a "route" we agree on, it will most likely require one or both of us flex and bend and give up our right to be right for the greater good of our marriage.  In that flexing and bending (and putting each other first), our marriage becomes stronger than before.  Yes, we may have to wrestle through it, and it might get really tough for a little while, but it sure beats being selfish and giving up and going through the pain of either having a crappy marriage or ending in divorce eventually.  It seems like "disagreement" is a slippery slope that could easily lead to the destination of divorce.  Disagreeing may seem like a small thing, but it is something that can grow in a marriage and take root and eventually take over. There's no way we can truly "become one" with disagreement entangling us and taking over.

Several years ago, when we were deciding which home to buy (that's a big one, right?), Allen had an idea of what he wanted and thought was best, but I (Carol) really struggled with it. I could not at all catch his vision. It didn't make sense to me, but to be honest, looking back, I was really just being prideful and stubborn.  I did NOT want to bend or flex on that decision.  So what to do?  Well, my very sweet and patient man just waited.  He didn't push me or get frustrated with me.  He just waited.  We set the decision aside for a bit, prayed about it and decided not to forge ahead.  Now Allen is very logical, and is most often right in our marriage (yes, I just put that on the internet for the whole world to see. Scary! Ha-ha).  It's true!  He really could have forged ahead with that decision, knowing he was probably right. He could have not considered my opinion or thoughts on it, but that's not the kind of man he is.  He is loving and thoughtful and considerate and wanted my input.  So that required him to be patient.  Guess what?  A few months later, we were eating breakfast while on a business trip to California, and out of my mouth came, "I think it would be a great idea if we bought this kind of house" (exactly the kind he suggested!).  I thought it was such a brilliant idea that I had come up with. LOLDid I mention how patient Allen is?  He just kindly agreed and when we returned home, we pursued it.  And to this day (10 years later), we still both agree it was a wonderful decision.  Could we still have ended up in this house if Allen would have forged ahead?  Sure!  Would I have been happy in it?  Probably.  Would our marriage have suffered if he forged ahead?  Most likely.  I would not have felt listened to or cared for or loved, which would have chipped away at our relationship. 

All that to say, that is not how we make every decision, but it is how we make the big ones. If we aren't in agreement, we take a step back and wait a little longer (if possible), and pray about it, discuss it, and try to listen to each other. It's not always pretty, but it works. 

One last thing, there are times when decisions need to be made quickly and there's not time for that long process.  In some instances, Allen defers to me (example: schooling decisions for the kids, etc), but mostly, I defer to him and trust his judgement.  After all, God made him head of our home, and he is responsible to God for the outcome of his decisions.  I am responsible to God for honoring my husband.  This would be quite difficult if I did not trust Allen's judgement, if he was not a man of integrity, and if I did not know that he loves me dearly (which I do know) and puts me first in all decisions (seriously...all of them. He is the most unselfish person I've ever known).  So, I do know that the way he loves me makes it much easier to honor him, but I also know that even if he were not that kind of man, I would be responsible to God to honor him, nonetheless. This doesn't mean that I don't have a voice in the decisions. I am responsible to have a voice and communicate my thoughts on a matter as well, but I can honestly tell you that I have never regretted one single moment that I have chosen to follow his lead. God has always worked it out when I've done that.

Agreement for you and yours may look a bit different (the process), but we just wanted to encourage you to get on the same page no matter how hard you have to wrestle through decisions.  It makes life so much sweeter for you, and especially for your children. 

In the end, What's the most important thing? That you get what you want or that you have a strong marriage?  We hope you'll always opt for the strong marriage! As we've said before (quoting someone dear to our hearts), THE PRIZE IS WORTH THE PRICE!  Don't forget that AGREEMENT IS YOUR ALLY and you're going for the same goal.  For more on this, see our post Teamwork makes the Dreamwork.

Cheering you on,

Allen & Carol

 

 

Finding New "Firsts"

Allen and I after biking 8 miles a new mountain bike trail in Tallahassee.

Allen and I after biking 8 miles a new mountain bike trail in Tallahassee.

When Allen and I began dating back in 1992 (whoa!), our love was so new and exciting! We couldn't wait to begin adventuring together.   During those dating years, there's all kinds of "Firsts":  Your 1st kiss, your 1st stroll on the beach, 1st date night, 1st movie, 1st time meeting each other's family, 1st argument  (ha-ha).  Then after the wedding day: 1st time sleeping together (that's when your blown away that someone gave you a license to do this!), 1st time "seeing" each other, (You get the idea! ;), 1st new house,  paying your 1st bills together, 1st tax return together (we didn't say all those "Firsts" were romantic. Ha-ha).

Then after some time goes by, it's easy to get into the normal rhythm of life and "Firsts" seem to happen less and less.  That's where being intentional comes in.  It's important to plan new Firsts.  We have done this over the last 21 years and still are. It's so much fun to accomplish new firsts together...even still

Here are a few ideas:

  • Trying a new restaurant
  • Trying a new dessert
  • Beginning a new recreational activity together
  • Talking a walk in a new park
  • Reading a new book together
  • Cooking a special meal together
  • Going for a Sunday afternoon drive on roads you've never been on (this is one of our personal favorites)

Or something as adventurous as:

  • Finding a new vacation spot (for hiking or biking or beaching)
  • Planning a trip to a different country (or even just a new town or state)
  • Planning a cruise
  • Going to see someone in concert that you've never seen before
  • Or keep breaking your own record for the longest kiss (oh yeah!)

Here are some of the new "Firsts" we have planned and experienced over the last 21 years together:

  • Our 1st road trip (honeymoon)
  • Our 1st camping trip together
  • Our 1st time kayaking together:  We often try to find new spots to kayak. We normally like to find destinations that are not populated. Sometimes that gets quite adventurous and requires me (Carol) to totally trust Allen but it all works out (we kayaked 14 miles once..I thought I would die, but it was so worth it)
  • 1st time out of the country together  (a trip to Costa Rica to scope out a potential place to live as missionaries)

Recently:

  • Tried a new restaurant that was a bit out of our comfort zone & price range, but ended up being a fun little adventure
  • Hiked to the top of a mountain we had never hiked  (we love to do this in the Carolinas and at Yosemite as well)
  • Biked new mountain bike trails
  • Kayaked to the tip of Cape San Blas (7 miles one way...by the time we got to the tip, those big ole fancy speed boats that people kept pulling up in sure looked inviting..but we were in it for the pure thrill of adventure. (Insert eye roll and hysterical laughter please).

The adventures most often will NOT turn out exactly as you envisioned or planned, but they will always create a new memory and a new story to tell and add to your storybook (especially if you just trust each other and then laugh at yourselves).  So many times in our new "Firsts", we have had to just push thru the tough moments and let it be part of the journey.   Like the time we kayaked across the bay and took on water! Or the time we road biked 90 miles over 2 days and our legs were screaming! Or the time we hiked to the top of Nevada Falls at Yosemite (exhilarating yet exhausting) and had to almost run down the mountain to get back before dark.  Then also the same time we kayaked to the tip of Cape San Blas, we got caught in a severe thunderstorm and ended up beaching the kayak,  turning it upside down, and then crawling under it to stay safe...certainly not how we planned it, but we just had to make the best of it. There's also some crazy adventures we can't tell you about (say what?!), but you'll have your own  crazy adventures like that too (if you haven't already. LOL).

Do these "Firsts" always turn out perfect? Of course not, but each one has brought  us closer to each other.  They've built trust and connections that we only have with each other.  We have had to encourage one another through them and work as a team to finish those "Firsts".  And ya know what? It's made our marriage stronger each and every time!

So calling all husbands and wives: get out there and adventure together! Find more "Firsts" and make some beautiful memories together...even when it's awkward, even when it seems chaotic,  and especially when you think you can't find the time!

Oh..and don't forget to spice it up a little bit and be creative! After all...you are married! Make good use of that marriage license! :)

Cheering you on,

Allen & Carol