Marriage as a Competition

If marriage is a competition, and we are keeping score, my team has been losing. This year, I’m stepping up my game.

Andy Stanley has a fantastic series on marriage, and in the final message he talks about how we all bring our own box into marriage. These boxes contain hopes, dreams, aspirations, preferences, expectations, and more. Stanley argues that a truly healthy marriage is formed when husband and wife fight hard to make sure the other person’s box gets full to the brim.

A competition of sorts.

If marriage is a competition, the rules are this:

  1. Identify the deepest longings of your spouse.

  2. Bring these longings to fruition.

  3. Earn bonus points by accomplishing these tasks bigger, better, and faster than your spouse.

The best part of any competition is when your team wins, and this game is no different. The goal is to win and to win big.

Eric has always done a much better job than me at this. For example, when I first disclosed to him that I wanted to start a blog, he helped me figure out a way to make it happen. In the last 5 years of writing, Eric has:

  • bought me a laptop

  • sent me out by myself so I could write

  • encouraged me to build my website

  • read through most of my posts before I published them

  • supported my request to join a writing community

  • recommended books that could be helpful

  • sent me to writing conferences 

I mean, he’s tough competition! And writing is merely one area of my life where he loves and serves me.

Y’all, the thing is, I’m actually pretty competitive. And I’ve been losing this whole competition for the last 12 years (give or take the ones I birthed and gave all that I had in caring for our babies). I’ve got some major catching up to do!

So, in the spirit of healthy competition, I’ve set out to win this year.

When I first heard Andy Stanley’s message a couple of years ago, I immediately knew I had to do better at filling my husband’s box, specifically in the area of racing. 

Did you know, that before deciding to go into ministry, Eric was originally going into engineering so he could build engines for NASCAR? He gave up the dream before I met him, laying it aside for the sake of the Kingdom. He has since spent the last 18 years serving at our church.

In the two years since I’ve decided to up my game in this competition, Eric has:

  • raced more frequently at a go-kart facility

  • purchased safety equipment like a helmet and gloves

  • had a ride-a-long at Talledega with his mentor and friend, Layne Schranz

  • purchased his very own go-kart

Did you catch that part? That last line is reason why I’m going to win the competition in 2019. I didn’t just allow him to buy a go-kart. I made him do it.


Okay, yes, I’m patting myself on the back right now. Wife of the year right here.

In all seriousness though, can I just tell you how much fun it is to see my husband come alive when he is racing? This is a simple way I can support his lifelong dream. A simple way I can pour into his box and bring some of his longings into fruition. And bonus: the more I help his dream come true, the more he is inspired to pour back into mine.

Filling boxes requires sacrifice, but what could be better than knowing we are married to someone whose goal is to out-do our own efforts to encourage, love, and support? this sort of competitive love binds husband and wife together with unthinkable strength. 

Perhaps, in the future, my focus needs to shift away from myself and toward helping my favorite person become the healthiest version of himself. His health equals my health.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
— Romans 12:10

Interested in reading more about this concept? Check out a post written by my friend Amy on this very same topic! You can find her wisdom here.

Our Unordinary Wedding

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Last year I wrote our love story in honor of our anniversary. I never realized how unorthodox our relationship was until I started getting feedback from that post. How does one follow up an unordinary courtship? With an unordinary wedding of course.

He proposed March 8th. We set the wedding date for June 17th. That’s three months later in case anyone is counting.

Our first picture after getting engaged! It was two days later and we got to see both of our families at Eric’s driving experience.

Our first picture after getting engaged! It was two days later and we got to see both of our families at Eric’s driving experience.

I was in the throes of student teaching when we first became engaged, and this consumed my life so much to the point that I was seriously doubting whether I was cut out to be a teacher. I was thrilled to be getting married that summer, but the demands of finishing my education prevented me from spending too many hours surfing the web for wedding information. Praise the Lord Pinterest didn’t exist yet.

I was clueless when it came to weddings. Clueless. I had only attended a handful of them, and I was the first in my group of friends to be getting married. I really had no idea how it all worked. All I knew was that I needed a white dress, a pastor, and my intended. That pretty much felt like enough to me. Eric actually planned the majority of the ceremony details.

So, what were the details?


Yes, that’s singular for a reason. I wanted my sister to be my one and only bridesmaid because I knew my sister was the one and only person guaranteed to always be in my life. I didn’t want to pick and choose between friends, and I didn’t want to worry about finding a dress that everyone would be happy with. I let my sister pick whatever she wanted to wear because I wanted her to feel pretty too. Her selection then determined my colors. They would be blue and brown.

My favorite picture of me and my siblings! Taken right before the service began.

My favorite picture of me and my siblings! Taken right before the service began.


Okay, blue and brown. What flowers go with this? My soon-to-be Mother-in-Love mentioned blue hydrangeas, so I went with it. When I met with my florist, he told me all the woes of working with hydrangeas for weddings, and then insisted I have them because it was my wedding and that was what I wanted. I really didn’t care. He was right though, as my sister’s bouquet had to be replaced with grocery store hydrangeas minutes before the ceremony began.

The Dress

I wanted something simple and found a few styles I liked at David’s Bridal. At the end of trying on these dresses my mom says, “I could make something like that.” And so she did. My mom worked tirelessly to get the dress just right and leave me with a precious memory. The outcome was almost identical to what I had tried on in store!

Our families prayed for us as we started off the ceremony.

Our families prayed for us as we started off the ceremony.


Formal invitations were sent to relatives and a few family friends. The rest of our guests were invited by email invitations and an open Facebook event. I am not kidding. We wanted everyone we knew to celebrate with us and to have the chance to hear about the goodness of God.


How do you feed an unknown number of people? Easy. One of our friends bought cases of soft drinks as our wedding present. That was one of the most practical gifts anyone gave us. We decided to have a cookout for our guests and purchased boxes upon boxes of hamburgers and hotdogs from Costco. Sadly, an entire freezer worth of hamburgers was forgotten, so I’m not sure everyone had a chance to eat. We did get to return the extras though! Our cake was a gift to us from a friend of Eric’s parents, and a bounce house was set up for kiddos to enjoy.

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To be held on a Sunday during a church service. Yes, it was our wedding day, but we wanted God to be the focus of it. Not us. We had praise and worship, and the new sermon series called "Once Upon a Time" was kicking off with Adam and Eve. Perfect set up for a wedding. We also decided to include a true love waits ceremony for those in the student ministry wanting to make a commitment to save sexual intimacy for marriage. This was especially precious to me as I was going to present Eric with my own purity ring during the vow exchange.


There was going to be too many people for our church building, so we decided to hold everything outside on the lawn. Eric painted the big trailer outside white to help with the ambiance. It had previously been decorated with “LUAU” for a youth event. We rented folding chairs and a stage for the musicians. Our small group was kind enough to help set up that morning, and I later learned they had to clean silly string off most of those rented chairs.

Our first act as husband and wife was to praise Jesus!

Our first act as husband and wife was to praise Jesus!

The Mishaps

I’m pretty sure every wedding has a few of these. In addition to my sister’s flowers dying and doing a quick fix, there were a few other experiences that didn’t quite go as planned. It was a high of 97 degrees that day, causing one of our guests to faint. We did a first look that I had hoped to be private, but because we were outside, a crowd of people ended up joining us. The cops were called because our music was too loud. Oh, and we probably should have set the date for something other than Father’s Day. (Sorry, Daddy!)

I really, truly, loved our wedding. I felt like we had the opportunity to bring glory to God and honor others. Neither one of us had much money saved, and our families certainly were not rich by any means. We chose to spend very little so we could start off our marriage focusing on our relationship without needing to pay off debt. Altogether, including all the things, no matter who was paying, the cost was under $5000. This was a tremendous blessing to the start of our  marriage.

Only a few nights prior to our wedding, we decided to do a swing dance. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was fun! A small portion of our cake table is in the background.

Only a few nights prior to our wedding, we decided to do a swing dance. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was fun! A small portion of our cake table is in the background.

Looking back, I probably would have done it the same way all over again. Looking forward, I love that we get to celebrate our anniversary in new ways. We are hoping to do a very small vow renewal for our 10th anniversary next year. My wedding day, while certainly a significant moment in my life, wasn’t the biggest moment for our marriage.

The biggest moment, in any marriage, is really the little moments day-to-day as we love and respect our spouse. It’s a life-long journey with a success rate not determined by a flawless wedding day. I am so thankful to have started off our marriage the way we did, and I hope to continue in the same mindset of honoring God and others for the rest of our lives.

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Waiting for Our Groom

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I love weddings. They are such a beautiful picture of the covenant we have in Christ. They are a joyful time of celebration as two people dedicate the rest of their lives to serving one another. I love how beautiful the bride is as she presents herself to her groom. I love how overcome by emotion the groom always is as he sees his bride for the first time. I love the thought, the detail, the community, and yes, even the cake, that are present at weddings.

As a pastor’s wife, I get invited to a lot of weddings. This year, by the end of October, I will have attended 7 weddings. 3 of those my husband will have officiated, and for 1 of them my 3 year old daughter was a flower girl. For 2 of those weddings, my husband and I invited the couple over for a series of dinners so we could discuss the pre-marriage curriculum our church offers.

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I think it’s safe to say that weddings have been on my brain lately.

So one day, as I was driving, I was listening to the radio and was suddenly struck by the words of Kristian Stanfill’s song, “Even So Come.” I had heard it plenty of times before, but this time I really focused on the chorus:

Like a bride waiting for her groom
We’ll be a Church ready for You
Every heart longing for our King
We sing
Even so come
Lord Jesus, come

The song speaks of the return of Jesus and how as Christians we should look forward to that day. I am truly eager for this day to come so I can be in the physical presence of Christ. While a wedding is typically filled with joy, how much greater that joy will be when we are at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb!

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There are so many things I love about this song, but mostly, I keep coming back to the phrase, “Like a bride…”

We are called to wait for the return of our King like a bride preparing to meet her groom on her wedding day.

What does that look like?

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A bride spends time making herself beautiful. She puts on makeup. She fixes her hair in an elaborate up-do. She puts on a white gown that will make the crowd, and specifically her groom, gasp. She has taken extra effort into making all the details perfect. Nothing is out of place.

Then, the time comes. The music is playing and the doors are about to open. The bridegroom is eagerly waiting at the end of the aisle for that first glimpse of his bride. In just a matter of moments the couple will pledge themselves to one another for a lifetime. All of the preparations are for THIS moment.

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We are so close to being united with Christ forever. The moment is almost here. Our preparations will not go unnoticed the day our eyes meet His. Let's not grow weary in our pursuit of the Kingdom and striving to complete His work on earth.

What are some ways that you are preparing to meet The King?

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“Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder:

‘Praise the LORD!
For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
Let us be glad and rejoice,
and let us give honor to him.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
and his bride has prepared herself.
She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear.’
For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.

And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.’ And he added, ‘These are true words that come from God.’” (Revelation 19:6-9; NLT)

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All photos in this post by Alexa Stutts Photography.

The Story of Us

*Photo credit to   Alexa Stutts Photography  .

*Photo credit to Alexa Stutts Photography.

Approximately eight years ago, I walked down the aisle to marry my husband. Apart from my relationship with Christ, this has been the best decision I have ever made. Here is a little trip down memory lane…

I came to Greensboro as a college freshman, eager to dive into a local church and college ministry. Eventually, I landed at Daystar Church. At the time, it was a very small church with under 100 people, but I was drawn to the warmth and passion for God that I found from the leadership.

One such leader was a young man by the name of Eric. He was the worship leader and it was obvious that he had a close, personal relationship with God. He exuded humility and strength. Plus, he was pretty cute. But he was a Pastor. It seemed weird to have a crush on a Pastor, so I attempted to put it out of my head.

Eric leading worship around the time we met.

Eric leading worship around the time we met.

Turns out this Pastor thought I was kinda cute too, so his first move to get to know me was to invite me to join the choir that was getting started. Now, for those of you who know me, this is kind of a ridiculous request as I do notsing. I insisted as such, but somehow he managed to convince me to at least attend the interest meeting.

Well, I joined the choir. I later started up a dance team with a friend of mine. I also volunteered to help out when the church was doing renovations. Eric and I worked alongside each other as we both pursued God and fought for His kingdom.

The day he had me hooked was the day he “fixed” my flat tire. Turns out the hole was too big, so he bought me a new tire while trying to pass it off as a repair. I may still have the nail that created the leak.

The earliest picture I could find of the two of us together. This was taken at a Christmas party a couple months after our initial “talk”.

The earliest picture I could find of the two of us together. This was taken at a Christmas party a couple months after our initial “talk”.

I kept trying to talk myself out of having a crush on Eric, but it wasn’t going so well. My dad picked up on what was going on in my heart, and even seemed to encourage the idea of a relationship between us. My dad’s opinion has always meant the world to me.

Just when I thought I had overcome my feelings, Eric acknowledged his feelings toward me. At the start of my Junior year, he asked me out.

Or maybe that’s a lie.

What really happened is that he asked me to start talking with him to see if our relationship could potentially lead toward marriage. My heart soared. You guys, everything that he spoke about that day was everything that my heart had desired. I had never dated anyone and had no intentions of doing so unless I knew that person as a friend first. I wasn’t interested in getting into a relationship just to get my heart broken.

For one of our first official “dates” we went on a double date to a NASCAR race!

For one of our first official “dates” we went on a double date to a NASCAR race!

I knew God was fulfilling the desires of my heart. On that day, the day our relationship officially “began,” Eric shared his heart:

  • He read 1 Peter 3:4 to me, “You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” He said he saw this in me.

  • He asked me to read Passion and Purityby Elisabeth Elliot because he admired the way the Elliots had walked out their courtship.

  • He said he wanted to protect our hearts, and as such, wanted to establish guidelines within our relationship. We would hang out in groups and talk on the phone, but we would refrain from being alone or even holding hands for a year.

I think I managed to say something like, “me too.”

At a wedding just two months before our own engagement.

At a wedding just two months before our own engagement.

With encouragement and full support from our family, mentors, and friends, we continued to pursue the relationship. The year mark was shortened to 9 months and about 9 months after that we became engaged. 3 months later we were married. (On Father’s day nonetheless! “Daddy, on Father’s Day, I want you to give me away to a boy.” What a thoughtful daughter I am!)

Eric and I have now been married for 8 years. We have had the great pleasure of being part of a growing church and a healthy community. We have experienced challenging days and rewarding days. We are not the same people we were the day we said, “I do,” but we are better and stronger.

Wedding Day!

Wedding Day!

I am so thankful for this man and the way he has lead our relationship. It gives me great delight to say that I have never once doubted that God designed for us to be together. We make a great team and it is such an honor and joy to be his wife.

I love you, hubby!

8 years and two little girls later. I love this family of mine! *Photo credit to   Alexa Stutts Photography  .

8 years and two little girls later. I love this family of mine! *Photo credit to Alexa Stutts Photography.

"Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4; NIV)