The Strength That Joy Brings To The Home

This episode is a light hearted reminder to be people of joy and how doing so will bring strength and stamina to a home…well to the people in it!

Aaron and I share old memories from our childhood and new ones we are building with our children all surrounding how to have fun and experience joy! We hope this inspires you!

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[Aaron] Hey, we’re Aaron and Jennifer Smith with Marriage After God.

[Jennifer] Helping you cultivate an extraordinary marriage.

[Aaron] Today we’re gonna talk about the strength that joy brings to our home. Welcome to the Marriage After God Podcast, where we believe that marriage was meant for more than just happily ever after.

[Jennifer] I’m Jennifer, also known as Unveiled Wife.

[Aaron] I’m Aaron, also known as Husband Revolution.

[Jennifer] We have been married for over a decade.

[Aaron] So far, we have four young children.

[Jennifer] We have been doing marriage ministry online for over seven years through blogging and social media.

[Aaron] With a desire to inspire couples to keep God at the center of their marriage, encouraging them to walk in faith every day.

[Jennifer] We believe the Christian marriage should be an extraordinary one, full of life.

Love.

And power.

[Aaron] That can only be found by chasing after God.

Together.

Thank you for joining us on this journey as we chase boldly after God’s will for our life together.

[Jennifer] This is Marriage After God. Thank you so much for joining us this week on the Marriage After God Podcast. If you’ve been enjoying this podcast and enjoying the content, would you just scroll to the bottom of the app and leave a star rating review? This just helps other people find the Marriage After God Podcast, and we’d really appreciate that.

[Aaron] Also, if you wanna support our podcast, we don’t really do ads. We may in the future, but our goal is to not do ads. One of our ways of not using ads to support the podcast is we have written books, and we sell those books. If you’re interested in checking out our marriage resources, our prayer books, our devotionals, you can go to shop.marriageaftergod.com, and picking up a book from our store supports us in the production of this podcast. Also, our Marriage After God book, that comes out next year, is available for pre-order, and so if you go to shop.marriageaftergod.com you’ll see, in the very top-left corner of the site, a way to pre-order our book. That would just be really awesome. We’d really appreciate that. Let’s get into the icebreaker question, which is what is one funny memory from when we were dating?

[Jennifer] Hmm. I can’t think of a specific one at the moment, but what does come to mind is we spent a lot of time serving in youth ministry.

Oh yeah.

A lot of time.

We were youth leaders.

Yeah, and we…

[Aaron] At good old Church on the Hill, Norco, California.

[Jennifer]We played a lot of games. We laughed a lot. We ate weird things. We’d have contests and challenges, and there were just things that we did for the kids’ sake, but we had a lot of fun doing together. That was–

Remember the lock-ins? We would just have overnights.

Yup, over-nighters.

[Aaron] We would stay up all night, do milk-chugging contests, and…

[Jennifer] Gosh, that does not sound fun now.

[Aaron] No it doesn’t How did we do that?

Back then, it was the highlight of our week. I feel like we just came alive in those times.

We looked forward to it all year, to do those events.

Yeah. Every Wednesday we just came alive during that time, and I fell in love with you, knowing that you had fun participating in that way, being silly…

Little junior high kids and high school kids.

Yeah, being silly or playing, it wasn’t dodge-ball, what was it called?

[Aaron] Oh, what…

[Jennifer] Murder-ball?

[Aaron]Yeah, we called it murder-ball.

[Jennifer] We called it murder-ball because it was–

It was just dodge-ball, but we changed the name.

…dodge-ball on steroids, and we had a lot of balls–

There was no line. You just ran around the room, throwing balls at each other.

[Jennifer] You guys would throw them so hard. These poor–

I know

[Jennifer] …13-year-old girls would get nailed

[Aaron] But they kept playing it. None of them cried. They were crazy. I forgot about that. Murder-ball

I loved that. I loved dating you because you were fun, and you’re still fun.

Yeah. I got a little not fun over the years, but I’ve learned to change in that area. I’m still learning, but that’s kinda what our episode’s about, is not just fun, but joy, but how fun cultivates joy and how we can actually cultivate environments of joy in our home. Let’s get to the quote from today, and it’s from the book For Better or for Kids by Patrick and Ruth Schwenk. Ruth Schwenk’s from The Better Mom, and you said you loved this book.

Mm-hmm

It’s about family and the power that God’s given us in our homes.

[Jennifer] Yeah, and the quote is on page 37, and it says, “While married life with children “can be challenging, we have reason to hope “and to be encouraged. “There is a way forward, a way through, “and a way beyond all of the craziness. “God’s Word has not changed. “The promises of his Word still stand. “Is being married with kids messy? “Yes. “Does God have a purpose and plan in the midst of it all? “Of course he does. “And do we enjoy taking part in this crazy, “life-changing, impossible mission of parenting? “Absolutely.”

That’s great ’cause that sums it up pretty good. Parenting’s hard.

It is crazy.

Marriage and parenting is hard.

[Jennifer] It is messy. It’s all of the above, and yet, God’s Word–

But joy.

…still stands.

Yeah.

And we can enjoy it.

And we can enjoy it, which is something that we’re learning day-by-day how to do.

Mm-hmm

We’ve talked about kids a lot on our show and just the hard things and the fun things, but today we wanna talk about joy, cultivating joy in our home, having fun in our home, and how that joy brings strength to our home and our walk and our mission in life.

[Jennifer] Yeah, I think that sometimes we can be so caught up in making sure that everything that we’re trying to order or manage is happening, and we become kind of like the officers in the home of making sure everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Even when it comes to our work, we have this rigid schedule of things that we need to get done, and it’s kind of on our timeline, and yet we have kids pulling on our elbows, saying, “Dad, come check out this LEGO thing I built,” or Olive wanting to dance with you.

Where life becomes more mechanical and clunky rather than organic. It’s life. It’s something that we’re experiencing, not controlling. That’s kinda what I’m hearing. That’s what I’m feeling, is we could get into this mode that life’s just one check list after another, one check box after another, the right next step, which is not–

It comes from a good place.

[Aaron] Yeah, it’s not terrible to think that way at times and to try and walk correctly, ’cause that’s the goal, is we’re trying to walk well. We’re trying to walk as disciples of Christ, living out what the Bible tells us. Then, where’s joy? Where’s joy fall in all that?

Yeah. We actually, I was really encouraged this last week in the woman’s Bible study that I got to go to. The whole topic was about soul-filling joy and the things that we can do as moms to fill our hearts up during the week and, like you said, not just have a list that we’re checking off, even though that comes from a good place and we want to make sure that we’re managing our homes well, but are we doing things that also fill us up and bring a smile to our face? Because that’s gonna overflow into our relationship with our kids. It’s gonna overflow into our marriages and give that liveliness that God intends for us to have.

[Aaron] What you’re saying reminds me of the verse in Isaiah 40:31. It says, “But they who wait for the Lord “shall renew their strength. “They shall mount up with wings like eagles. “They shall run and not be weary. “They shall walk and not faint.”

[Jennifer] Yeah. I’ve experienced this in my own life, where I do something that brings a lot of joy to my life, and it does renew my strength. There is something physical that happens to you when you experience the joy of the Lord and you experience his strength fill you up and renew you, and I think that’s why it’s so important to be talking about joy. Have you experienced this?

[Aaron] Yeah, ’cause we can get, if we look at our life as just a series of actions taken, a series of checks to be checked off, steps to take, and it’s just this mechanical thing that we’re moving forward and yeah, maybe we’re doing good things, but if we forget why we’re doing it and who we’re doing it for, it gets very tiresome because essentially, we’re doing it in our own strength. We run on fumes. We’re told to fill our jars up to overflowing, and we fill that up with the living water, which is Christ, with the Word of God, with prayer, with getting away, quietness. When the Bible talks of prayer, when Jesus says pray, he says go into your closet. He says get away. When I think about getting away, Jesus often got away. It says that he went up by himself into desolate placesand he, early in the morning and late into the evening, so I just–

But he was intentional with his time.

Yeah. It wasn’t just, “I’m gonna go and be quiet somewhere,” which actually, for some people is probably really filling for them, just being quiet somewhere, sitting at a park, people watching or something. Not me. This isn’t just about doing something that’s fun necessarily. It’s a wholistic view of waiting on God because we know that we need him. We need a rest in him, and that gives us strength, and it gives us joy and the power to go on another day, not just go on but to cheerfully and joyfully go on.

[Jennifer] I feel like we all need to be reminded that there’s gonna, in life, we will all experience hard times. We will all experience those–

[Aaron] Yeah, James makes that very clear

Yeah, those times of wrestling, where God’s revealed sin in your life that you’re repenting of, and you probably feel down for, but you know you’re being transformed in–

[Aaron] Or when he’s calling out character issues in us, really hard things.

Character issues, maybe financial stresses, or maybe the loss of a loved one, there are so many different types of trials that people walk through, and yet I feel like just because we experience hard times doesn’t mean we can also experience joy. I think that’s the difference between happiness and joy because happiness is a feeling, and it’s an emotion that we have the…

Capacity to experience.

Right, thank you

That’s a byproduct of joy, I would imagine.

Right, joy’s deeper. Joy comes from within, but it’s also because God is in our hearts, and he’s the one that makes it possible to both enjoy, he’s the one that makes it possible to experience joy while in the midst of hardship, at the exact same time. Maybe there isn’t any hardship in your life right now, and you, like you said earlier, are just kind of going through the motions and being kind of mechanical–

I actually feel like sometimes when we’re going through good seasons, or easy seasons I should say, often, we find ourselves being more discontent. It’s easier to forget to walk in joy or something. I’ve experienced that with us.

That’s interesting.

I realize, I’m like, “Well, there’s nothing really hard “going on in our life. “Why are we feeling like this right now?”

[Jennifer] In today’s episode, we really just wanna inspire you guys to consider joy. Maybe it’s something that you haven’t thought of, or maybe it’s something that you’ve already been thinking of, and we can just come in as part of that support to say, “Yes, this is the right way. “This is what we should be thinking about. “This is what we should be doing” because a marriage after God has joy.

[Aaron] When you walk in the Spirit, what’s one of the fruits of the Spirit? Joy. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and so, when we walk in the Spirit, fruit of that will be joy in our life. I was just thinking about the difference between happiness and joy. I feel like happiness is an earthly experience that comes out of the eternal understanding of joy. Joy is an eternal concept. It comes from hope, hopes of things that are things that are unseen. It’s something that goes beyond the current experience because you can have joy even in really hard things because it’s based on something eternal, where happiness is based on something temporary.

That’s good.

Something that we experience just right now for this moment. Our goal should never be just seeking happiness. That’s called hedonism, just looking for happiness. Our goal should be enjoying the fruit of the Spirit, which one of them is joy.

[Jennifer] What I was gonna say was that it benefits our children so much. I was just thinking about how you could just, I feel like kids are so expressive. Their little bodies can reveal so much about what they’re feeling, that joy is just one of those things that you can see in kids. It’s so evident.

Yeah, I wonder how many of our listeners grew up in joyless homes, grew up in homes that were full of strife, anxiety, fear, and how much joy would’ve benefited the home. They’re probably thinking right now, “Man, “I wish my family was joyful. “I wish when I grew up I experienced joy.”

[Jennifer] If that’s you listening right now, I just wanna tell you that you don’t have to live according to the past and feel like you’re stuck. You can change.

[Aaron] Today, we talked about this last episode, you can change today

[Jennifer] What a benefit it would be, what a testimony it would be to the power of God in your life.

[Aaron] In our home, like I said, over the years, I kind of, there was a season of my life that, and it was probably because of sin I was walking. It was probably ’cause of discontentment issues that we had, character flaws, things that God was growing in us, but I feel like I had a hard time having fun. I had a hard time being joyful. I loved God, and there was times I was joyful, but it wasn’t a default state for me. I was pretty Scrooge-y. Is that the word? Not just because Christmas is coming, but just I think people called me Scrooge-y just ’cause I was not very joyful. I don’t want that for my family. What are some ways that we over the years have been cultivating joy in our home and that our listeners can take home and try?

[Jennifer] We should just tag-team this and kind of go down the list of things, but–

This isn’t the definitive list. I actually tried coming up with as many as I could, but I’m sure there’s other things that we might think of as we talk about these.

[Jennifer] Probably. We do have, we’re in a season of young kids, and so a lot of what you probably will hear probably sounds, I don’t know…

Silly?

Silly, ’cause it is.

They are silly

[Jennifer] They are silly, but I think the important thing to note here is that these are just ways that we have tried to be intentional in cultivating a space in our home, in our lifestyle, that cultivates joy. One of those things is fort building. I actually did that this morning with the kids.

[Aaron] The kids love it. We have a couch that’s perfect for fort building. The pillows are huge. They’re sturdy, so they make really good roofs and walls.

I only believe in building big forts. I don’t know why people build small forts. It’s not worth it to me.

I came home the other day–

Go big or go home

[Aaron] I came home the other day, and the entire living room was a fort.

[Jennifer]You have to use every chair, every blanket–

All the chairs

…every pillow…

The couches were on their sides, the pillows–

Maximize the–

[Aaron] …were stacked up high, and you guys were watching a movie inside

We were watching a movie inside, yeah.

You’re like, “We’re in our movie theater. “You wanna come in?” I’m like, “Uh, I don’t know if I’ll fit,” but it was pretty huge, so I probably would’ve. It was pretty amazing. I think I actually storied it on Instagram ’cause it was–

Probably.

[Aaron] I was really impressed with that fort building.

Thanks.

That’s one thing that we do. The kids love it, and it’s fun because they’re still pretty young. They could build one themselves, but they never make them as good as we make them.

[Jennifer] A little tip for fort building, if you get a colorful quilt or one of those knitted blankets that are made–

Have holes in them.

[Jennifer] Yeah, they’re just really fun for the light to come through, and–

[Aaron] It looks like stained glass windows.

It does.

I always say, “Look at the stained glass windows.”

[Jennifer] You need to share the one minute of crazy ’cause this is more new.

This is a newer thing.

But it works.

It’s our one minute of crazy, and we’ve been doing it, we don’t do it every night, of course, but when I feel like my kids just got extra jitters in them–

Or extra screams.

[Aaron] …what I’ll do is I’ll say, “Okay guys, I want everyone to,” I’ll be a little stern about it, “I want everyone to stand right here in a line.” They stand there, they’re like, “Okay, what’s gonna happen?” Then I’ll turn the music on our jam box really loud, and I’ll say, “All right, I want you guys “to get as crazy as possible for one minute.” Then the whole time, I’m telling them to get louder and louder and louder, and they’re screaming, and they get actually tired. When they’re done, they’re like, “Why’d you have us do that?” I’m was like, “Wasn’t that fun?”

The first time you had them do it, it took them about 15 seconds to, is Dad joking, or–

Yeah, they didn’t know.

[Jennifer] They’re looking at each other, like, “Should we be screaming?”

[Aaron] That’s probably because of my history of not being very fun.

It was awesome.

Yeah, but it did take them a few seconds to actually, they’re like, ‘Wait a minute, are we gonna get in trouble?”

[Jennifer] It’s a great thing to do, not right before bed, but leading up to bedtime.

[Aaron] I liked it right before bed because I feel like they weren’t quite ready for bed, and this pushed them over the edge ’cause they were tired, and they also felt like they got all of it out of them. Sometimes it’s hard to calm them down afterwards, but that’s okay

[Jennifer] I wanna share another one. This comes from my childhood. My mom and stepdad would always do this. They still do it. It’s so funny. If someone comes home and walks through the door, or even out from the bathroom or bedroom–

Is this where it came from?

Yeah.

Oh.

[Jennifer] Whoever notices it goes, “Quick, pretend you’re asleep”

Wherever they’re sitting.

Wherever you’re at, just kinda drop your head, close your eyes, and try as hard as you can not to smile.

[Aaron] Wyatt is so bad at it. Wyatt’s our two-year-old. He just turned two.

But he still tries, and it’s so cute.

He’ll be in his little white chair, and I’ll walk in, and everyone’s got their heads tilted to the side with their eyes shut–

[Jennifer] Sometimes we’ll be at the kitchen table, and we’ll be eating breakfast when Aaron comes home, and I’m like, “Quick, pretend you’re asleep,” and everyone just kind of limps their head to the side.

But then, I look over, and Wyatt, he has his head back–

He’s just looking at you.

He has his head back, and his eyes half shut, and he’s smiling ’cause he doesn’t get it, but he’s trying. I’m like, “Are you guys sleeping?” And Wyatt’s smiling at me the whole time.

[Jennifer] This is one of those things, I love it ’cause it’s from my childhood, so I love that my kids have kind of owned it. Olive is usually the first one now to say it.

Oh yeah.

“Pretend you’re sleeping.”

[Aaron] “Quick, we’re sleeping,” and then everyone, she’ll put her head down even if no one notices.

She gets mad if you don’t, no she gets mad if you don’t do it.

[Aaron] She does it so fast, no one notices, and she is the only one pretending to sleep.

It’s really funny ’cause then, let’s say Dad walks through the door, “Oh no, everyone fell asleep,” or we get up really fast and go, “Boo!” It’s just fun.

Yeah, on the same note of the spontaneous sleeping, the narcolepsy game, we’ll often do, I’ll get home early after the gym or something, and it’ll be super quite in the house, and I think everyone’s asleep. I’m tippy-toeing, and I get in the bedroom, and every–

There’s just a mountain under the bed.

Yeah, and every single person in my family is under the covers in my bed. They’re all hiding from me and

What’s funny, even once the blanket goes over our heads–

I almost jumped on Elliot the other day ’cause I didn’t know he was in the bed.

Even Truett will be laying there, and the moment the blanket goes over his head, he kinda gets all wide-eyed and smiley–

Like, “What’s happening?”

Yeah, what’s happening. Those are just fun ways to bring instantaneous giggles.

And they’re short things, they’re easy things, and it’s something that, they become part of our family, these little things. Our kids look forward to it. They’re the ones that instigate all of these things now. Another little tip to help cultivate joy in the home is to not worry about messes so much. That doesn’t mean that we don’t clean up and have organization and self control, which is something Jennifer and I are trying to get better at, being organized and clean in our house, but if we’re always trying to be tidy, it really doesn’t leave any room for fun.

[Jennifer] We’re gonna miss those opportunities where, maybe one of the kids is playing with LEGOs and would love some help, or wants to just get creative with you–

[Aaron] Or throwing pillows around the house for a little bit, or having blankets on, like forts. You can’t have it both ways.

[Jennifer] We built a fort this morning, like I said, and it’s middle of the day right now, it’s nap time, and–

And it’s still messy out there

It’s all messed up. It’s all messed up. It’s one of those things where it’s like, “Well, maybe they’ll build another one later,” and that has to be okay.

[Aaron] Something I’ve realized is that if I’m always telling the kids to clean up, they’re actually not gonna like doing some of those fun things. Now, there’s a time for everything, so let our kids know that there’s a time to clean up. After we’ve had a full amount of fun or something, they understand that, “Okay, now let’s straighten up “’cause we’re gonna go on to the next thing,” but just kind of not having the anxieties and the overwhelmedness of those little messes, that it’s gotta be okay. It’s just a good little tip to have a little bit more freedom and lightheartedness in the home.

[Jennifer] Good word. Another one is dance parties. We like to turn the music up really loud and just go for it. You guys don’t know this about me, but–

Our kids are the best dancers

I was gonna say I’m actually probably one of the most terrible dancers, but it doesn’t hold me back. I just go for it, and somehow, my kids have picked up on this, and they intend to dance crazy, silly, awkward, and that just makes us laugh even more.

If you’d like to see Jennifer dance, leave us a review and tell us that you’d like to see her dance, and I’ll post a video of her on our Instagram.

Oh my goodness, don’t even.

Yeah, I’m gonna put some music to it, and you’re gonna be dancing ’cause they gotta see. They gotta see the gloriousness that is your dance skills.

[Jennifer] Oh, man. I gotta think about that. A lot of these other ones are very physical things, like tickling, spontaneous wrestling matches with Dad.

[Aaron] Usually spurred on by my son, who hides, crouching, ready to attack, and the moment I come home, he just jumps out of nowhere onto me with a sword in his hand, but letting those things happen, I think it does huge things for our children, to know that they have the freedom to, of course, not hurt us, which happens sometimes, but just, that they have the freedom to jump on us and to climb on us and to crawl on us. This morning, Olive was, I was talking to you, and she was grabbing my legs and going in and out of my legs, and I didn’t notice she was doing it for a while.

Like a cat

[Aaron] Then I finally was like, “Olive, what are you doing?” ‘Cause I felt like I was falling over, and she’s like, “I’m just playing with your legs,” and she’s going in and out and sitting on them and pushing me over, and I for a moment wanted to be bothered by it. Then I thought to myself, “Why do I care “that she’s doing that to me right now? “It’s really cute.” It’s something that I still have to consistently work on and recognize in me ’cause I wanna sometimes get bothered by those kinds of things, but letting it happen because I want my kids to know that they can touch me. They can crawl on me. They can hang on me. They can love me.

I was actually just really inspired by someone I follow on Instagram. Her name is Joy, and she posted a picture of her two oldest kids. They’re in their teens, and her little story caption was just to encourage other moms with little ones to listen to your kids when they come to tell you about what they created with LEGOs or what they’re drawing or imaginary world or whatever it is–

Taking joy in their creations, their things.

She said because it goes by so fast, and we know we all hear this, but she goes, “You’re gonna want to hear from them “and their hard things that they’re walking through “when they’re older, and if you keep pushing them away “or keep saying, ‘No, I don’t have time for that’ now, “you’re gonna miss that opportunity.” You wouldn’t have built that trust and open lines of communication, even at a very, very young age. Hopefully that encourages someone else.

[Aaron] It encourages me, that I need to be listening more and paying attention to my kids more. Again, there’s always a balance. Our kids can’t absorb every–

Everything.

[Aaron] …everything from us. When we are intentional with it, it’ll make the times that we can’t okay ’cause they’ll know that our hearts are with them.

[Jennifer] Right. I’d really love to talk a little bit about just experiencing joy in marriage between a husband and a wife, but before we get there, there’s one more thing that, when I was thinking about this list, that really stood out to me, and it’s ways that we can kind of team up together to bring joy to our kids ’cause all the things that we’ve kinda listed we could do without the other.

Right.

But this next one’s pretty interesting. This is your idea, or mine, I can’t remember, but we were standing in the kitchen talking, and the kids were in the school room, and I told you, I said, “Aaron, call them out.” I had handfuls of marshmallows in my hand, and I–

We both did, yeah. I was one one side–

I gave you the bag,

…of the hallway–

and you took the bag from me, took a handful out, and we hid on either side of the walls, so that when we came through the hallway, we were gonna just launch all these marshmallows at them.

I was like, “Elliot, “Olive, Wyatt, come here.”

Plus, it’s also a good lesson in obedience, are they coming the first time they’re being called? You’re killing two birds with one stone.

[Aaron] Then they pitter-patter down the hallway, and we’re hiding on the floor so they don’t see us, and they walk right past us. Then we just bombard them with marshmallows. It actually scared them, and they looked at us like–

They just stood there.

They looked at us like, “How could you do that?”

[Jennifer] They just stood there, and Olive had this furrowed brow, and she was ready to just reprimand us, and then–

Then they looked on the ground, they’re like, “Are those marshmallows?”

“Can we have those?” “Can we have those?” Then they just start squirming.

[Aaron] Luckily, marshmallows don’t hurt. If you’re gonna do that game, throw things that don’t hurt at your kids. Otherwise, that would not be very fun.

[Jennifer] We have other friends that intentionally do Nerf wars together.

Oh yeah. We actually thought about one time buying a bunch of a Nerf stuff, and then–

Getting that family that does that

Yeah, not letting them know, and then when we go over for dinner, just attack them

We should still do that.

We should still do, well, they might listen to this episode now. Now, I have to do it before we launch this episode.

[Jennifer] That’s just one way that you can team up together to cultivate joy in the home. We wanna hear your guys’ ideas too, so please share them.

[Aaron] Yeah, and all of these things that you can do, like little things just compounding on top of each other, it shows your family, especially for the husbands out there who might struggle the way I do to be joyful or have this fun-loving spirit or a lighthearted spirit, it shows your children, it shows your wife that you enjoy them, that you like being around them, that they’re not just in the way of you, that you enjoy having crazy time with them, having fun time with them.

[Jennifer] Yeah, that you wanna hear them laugh, that you wanna participate in their life. We touched on how to cultivate joy in the family, especially with small kids, but Aaron, how would you say we cultivate joy within the marriage and why that’s important?

[Aaron] Again, walking with the right perspective, first of all, that we have a mission in this world, that God loves us, that we’re saved, these big things that God’s done for us, easily just allows us to have joy even in the midst of hard things, even when maybe you’re not joyful, I can still walk in that stuff, so when we’re walking in that together, that knowledge and that truth, there’s naturally a joy that exists. On the practical side, I think there’s probably a ton of things that we do that cultivate joy, probably things that we could add to our lives. One of them is we have our own set of inside jokes that no one knows about.

When you’re with–

I’m not gonna describe what they are because they’re ours but we have our own little inside jokes, and that’s something that we do together, and it’s funny for us. It’s fun for us.

Those build over time, so if you’re only one or two years married, just know that those come over time. Maybe you already have some, but those are a really fun way to just, when you’re out and about or at church, or–

At any time, really

At any time, you can make these jokes, and only they get it. It’s pretty fun.

Yeah, it’s something unique to us.

Yeah, something you said about having joy, one of the importance of that is even amidst walking through hard stuff, and I feel like when I look at our marriage, experiencing joy with you was possible even in those first few years, which were our hardest years of marriage, and that was one of the things that carried us through those hard years, was finding ways to cultivate joy in our relationship, exploring new places together, trying to get each other to laugh.

[Aaron] Yeah, I realize when we weren’t lovers, in those early years, we were friends still, not all the time, but we had a friendship. We had things that we can connect with still and cultivate. God wanted more from us, but in those times, I remember when we were in Malawi, Africa, and it’s been hard, and we walked off and we sat on a pier over the lake. Remember that?

Mm-hmm, there’s a gazebo at the end.

[Aaron] Yeah, and we were just sitting there, talking, looking at the fish, talking about being married, talking about if we’d ever come back.

[Jennifer] Yeah, we talked about our future.

[Aaron] Yeah we talked about our future. Those little things on our list up there, we didn’t talk about it, but adventures, that’s another way we cultivate joy in our family and in our marriage, is we take adventures, even when we’re not with the kids. Me and you like to just go for a drive around neighborhoods we’ve never been in before, going up the mountain just to drive up the mountain. There’s things that we do that give us opportunities to just talk. I think those are situations that cultivate joy in us because it’s just us together. It’s just us spending time with each other, talking, hearing each other.

[Jennifer] Yeah, I think another practical way to do this is, again, physical touch, just like when we were talking about with the kids, but tickling each other, hugging each other.

Massages.

Massages. Dancing.

That’s joyful for me.

[Jennifer] I’m giving Aaron the eyes ’cause that sounded creepy, but just being physical, being willing to tickle each other and–

And play with each other, yeah.

And play, yeah. I like the–

We’re a lot more playful with each other these days than we used to be.

[Jennifer] Yeah, I like the keep away game, where you snag something, like their phone works really well for this, and then you have to try and get it.

Yeah, if you wanna know how addicted someone is to their phone, just snag it out of their hands and see how they respond. Wait, that’s joyful? I just think about the lightness. We’ve had seasons where it just feels like we’re walking on eggshells with each other, and that’s not fun, where you’re tippy-toeing around your spouse, and you’re just wondering if the next thing you do is gonna trigger them. That’s the opposite of joy.

Yeah.

[Aaron] That is not joyful. That is tedious and cumbersome. If your spouse can feel light around you and free around you.

And feel loved.

[Aaron] And cherished around you and loved around you, how much strength there is in that, and power there is in that, and that’s what I want because again, we’re always talking about being a marriage after God. There’s a reason we’re together. It’s for the ministry God has for us, and if you’re constantly feeling like you have to be so aware of every move you make around me because you’re just wondering if you’re gonna trigger me, there’s no way you can minister for Christ in that kind of situation. There’s no way we as a family can show the world the love we have for each other, which is what we’re called to do, right?

Mm-hmm

[Aaron] Now, that’s not just talking about in marriage. That’s talking about in the church as a whole, but joy remedies that. It cultivates an environment that allows for true and powerful and authoritative ministry to happen.

[Jennifer] Joy is one of those testimonies of the power of God in your life, and I know I said that earlier, but it’s so true, that when the world looks at you, when the world looks at a marriage after God and they see joy, they’re probably thinking, “Well, I want “what they have.”

Yeah, “How do I get “some of that?”

[Jennifer] “What is that?” Then you get to tell them, “It’s because of Jesus in my life. “It’s because God has transformed us. “It’s because God gives us hope.”

[Aaron] Yup. I hope those listening get encouraged by this, that, of course, we’re still learning, but if they put their hearts in the right place, they put it in the hands of Christ and allow him to transform them and say, “Lord, I want more joy. “I want more of your joy, “and I want my family to experience joy,” it all goes back to walking in the Spirit and saying, “Lord, help me walk in the Spirit today. “I want my kids to feel the overflow of joy in my life. “I want my wife, I want my husband, “to feel that, to experience that joy, “to eat the good fruit coming out of me, “and then in our marriage, I want people, our children, “outsiders to eat the good fruit of our marriage,” and at the end of the day, that joy becomes our strength. I just wanna read that scripture in Nehemiah chapter 8. Nehemiah had just finished building the wall, the walls around the city, and Ezra the priest got up on a platform, and he read the entire book of the law out loud, from day till night, to all of the congregation of the people. Nehemiah says this to the people after all of this, it says, “Then he said to them,” in chapter 8, verse 10: “‘Go your way. “‘Eat the fat and drink the sweet wine “‘and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, “‘for this day is holy to our Lord. “‘And do not be grieved, for the joy “‘of the Lord is your strength.'” This people, they were scattered, they were dispersed, the city was destroyed. Nehemiah came, rebuilt the city and was about to, and he had all the people coming back to the city to rebuild their own homes, to rebuild this city with a people that God promised it would be their city, it would be their home, and he just reminds them, he says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” The strength in our home, the strength in our lives is the Lord.

The strength in our marriage.

The strength in our marriage, the strength in our ministry, and that strength comes from the joy that God gives us, from the hope we have in Christ, from the power and the authority of the Word of God, and that joy is the thing that just allows us to keep going, keeping walking. Instead of it being mechanical, instead of it being a checklist, it’s now a life-giving thing we do. I think that’s awesome.

Yeah, I love that. My grandma Betty, she is 91 and just right there at the end of her life, and my dad posted a quote, something that she always said, which was, “Make someone laugh every day, “and life will be full.” When I think about her life, I think about it being really full.

Yeah, every time we’re around her, she’s big ol’ smile, laughing, making jokes.

Huge smile. Just for a little description, she’s probably only five foot, maybe five-foot-one with heels on, and she wore colorful dresses. She had bright red hair and always wore blue eyeshadow, and when I think of her, I think of fun. I remember being a little girl, maybe four years old, I would go over to her house when my dad brought us over there to visit, and about 10 minutes before we would leave, she would say, “Jenn, come with me.” She’d take me to her vanity and put perfume on me and eyeshadow and blush and did the whole thing–

Make you feel so pretty.

…make me feel like a princess, and the whole time just talking to me, and encouraging me, and loving on me, and I can’t imagine what I looked like to everyone walking out as a little four-year-old with this makeup on, if she even really put make up on me.

Remember, she liked to have fun

I know. When I think about that little girl, when I think about myself, if I stood in front of her today, I would think there was no question about the joy that I had in my heart from just that experience with her, those five minutes, or 10 minutes, or however long it was, of sitting in her chair and listening to her voice and being there with me. I just love that, and I want, at the end of my life, to look back and think, “That was a full life.”

[Aaron] Yeah, and I want people to look back on my life, or our life, and say, “Wow, they were joyful,” right?

Mm-hmm

[Aaron] I don’t want them to think, “Man, they were bitter and frustrated all the time “and annoyed.” I want them to say, “They were joyful.” Joy’s a powerful thing. What’s funny is all of the fruit of the Spirit is powerful. It’s why–

We need it

[Aaron] We need the Spirit, is because it produces such good things in us. I just pray that this encourages the listeners today that they would pursue joy, that they would walk in the Spirit, and that they would cultivate an environment in their home that their kids just know what joy is. It doesn’t mean we’re not gonna have hard times, but it does mean that we can have pure, eternal joy, something that’s founded in something in eternity, not in something that is temporary.

[Jennifer] I love that. Speaking of prayer, I think that now is a perfect time to go into our prayer for today’s episode. We’d love to invite you guys to pray along with us.

[Aaron] Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of joy. We pray that we would be intentional to cultivate joy in our marriages and in our families. Holy Spirit, please inspire us with creative ways to create space in our lives to laugh, to play, to enjoy precious moments with those we love most. Remind use every day of the power of joy and how we can be vessels of your joy, so that it is dispersed throughout the world. May our joy be a testimony to others of your goodness and your strength in our lives. May it be the reason people ask us why we are so different from the rest of the world. May our joy draw our spouse, our children, and others close to you as we experience the gift of joy. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Amen.

[Aaron] We just thank you for joining us this week. We pray that you have joy this week. We pray that you would walk in the Spirit, and we look forward to having you next week. Did you enjoy today’s show? Find many more encouraging stories and resources at marriageaftergod.com, and let us help you cultivate an extraordinary marriage.

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