Thursday, September 25, 2014

Marriage Encounter and a Giveaway!

Alright. I'm gonna get a little personal with you on the ol' blog today...hope you don't mind.  And stick with me, because it might be what you need to hear and also there's a super fantastic giveaway at the end!  

If I had to sum up my adult life with a timeline, this is what it would look like so far:


When I turned 22, I graduated college, got married, and 9 months later we had a sweet baby to call our own. Over the course of the next two years, my husband finished school and graduated, we both got real jobs, we bought a house, and we had our second baby.  We were 25 and 24.  Since then, we have changed jobs and homes, and have added two more little ginger spices to the mix. All this to say that our first years of marriage were full to the brim in more ways than one.

Our wedding photo...we were approximately 12 years old.

Maybe you can relate?  Even if you don't have kids, the first few years of marriage are full.  Full of getting to know your spouse in a new way, full of learning how to share a life, full of careers, full of family.  And sometimes after all of that fullness, it can be easy to forget what you wanted out of your marriage in the first place.  Sometimes you are just trying to get through the day, and by the time you finally get the kids to sleep and the dishes done (or not), you can muster just enough energy to flop onto the couch.  This is where we found ourselves after 9 years of marriage.  Nothing traumatic had happened.  We still loved each other, for sure.  But we were passing like ships in the night, not really seeing each other or feeling connected.

Enter the Marriage Encounter weekend. 

We had seen church bulletin announcements about the weekends for several years, but in 2013 the stars aligned and we were able to work it into our schedules.  We arrived Saturday morning, not knowing what to expect.  I remember sitting in the event room thinking, "I don't think I'm gonna like this."  As someone who led retreats for a living, I found it ironic that I was now on the other side with a bit of a sour attitude.  But as the day unfolded, so did the blessings.  Our Encounter weekend was not fancy or flashy.  The speakers delivered a carefully prepared message from the heart, but they weren't trained "motivational speakers," per se.  Just a group of married couples, speaking the words that I wished someone would have said to me before.  You see, marriage is hard.  Obviously, we are all told that over and over.  But no one really explains what that means.  It is difficult to open your life up to someone and share your struggles.  We are pretty good at pulling the wool over each others' eyes.  We are good pretenders.  And while our pretending might protect us, it also disillusions.  No more illusions here.  What I saw were real people with real struggles and real love for one another. 

I know that in some churches (ours in particular) it is common practice for engaged couples to attend an Engaged Encounter weekend as part of marriage preparation.  And I also know that it doesn't have the best reputation, according to some.  I remember back to our own engagement, hearing that the Engaged Encounter was a "waste of time."  So we chose the other option, which was a six week "course" on marriage.  I thought it sounded more in depth, more serious, more mature.  While I can't speak personally to the Engaged Encounter experience, I know some of you may have attended and felt underwhelmed.  Maybe that is keeping you from thinking more seriously about a Marriage Encounter weekend.  Don't let it!   Engagement and marriage are totally different.  I was naive and immature in my understanding of marriage.  I'm positive that's the norm.  Because how can you understand what it will be like?  How can you foresee the trials, hardships, and beauty that come out of married life until you are in the thick of it?  And your struggles now?  Most likely they are different from when you were engaged.   

For us, Marriage Encounter was where the rubber met the road.  It gave us the tools and the time to reconnect, and to really work on our relationship without distraction.  When do you get that kind of time in the real world?  And nearly two years later, I can say that we are a more whole and holy couple because of it.  Marriage Encounter does not claim to save troubled marriages, although I know couples who will say that it has done that for them. But what it does is offer help when you are a little in over your head. And doesn't that happen to most of us from time to time?  For us, when the waters were swirling and we couldn't quite tell which way was up, Marriage Encounter gave us a foothold. From there, we could pull ourselves to the surface, take a deep breath, and find each other again.
The whole crew after Andrew's First Communion

Us on our 11 year anniversary breakfast date!

So...all this to ask that you consider attending an M.E. weekend.  If you are in the Central Missouri area or even within a reasonable driving distance there is an M.E. weekend scheduled for November 1-2.  If you are in the far reaches of the universe, I can promise you that there is a weekend near you sometime reasonably soon.  You can go here to get more info or to register for the Jeff City weekend and here to find a weekend in your area.  Consider this your official invitation!

And now for the giveaway!  Jefferson City Marriage Encounter is partnering with the Anchor Inn on the Lake in Branson, MO to offer one lucky winner a $400 gift certificate!  This will provide the winner and their spouse with a two-night stay in any of their accommodations!  My husband and I were privileged to stay at Anchor Inn a few years back and it was a lovely and refreshing getaway for us!  The owners, Mike and Dee, were wonderful, the room was fantastic (we stayed in the Mediterranean Lighthouse Room), and the breakfasts were delightful and relaxing on the screened-in porch.  And it was close enough to all the Branson action, without being directly in the hustle and bustle.  Make sure you check out their website, even if you don't win.  You will not be disappointed!

You can enter the giveaway by using the Rafflecopter below.  This is my first time ever doing a giveaway, so hopefully it will go off without a hitch.  The Rafflecopter gives you several different ways to earn entries, so follow the directions! 

**UPDATE** The first Rafflecopter entry asks you to tell us how long you've been married.  Please leave that answer here in the comments!

Here's the Rafflecopter.  May the odds be ever in your favor!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Hmmm... it didn't let me answer the question. Do I do that in the comments (here)? Oh well, five years married. Kelley, thanks for sharing your story. Insightful. :)

    1. Yeah, I guess I should have specified to leave your answer in the comments! I am no good at this Rafflecopter business. Good work figuring it out!

  2. I came over from Kathleen's blog, what a great giveaway! My husband and I have been married 16 years this December and the last time we went away for an overnight stay was to celebrate our 5 year anniversary!! Way, way too long, we're definitely due for a couple's weekend.

    1. KATHLEEN M. BASI sent me i have been married for 28 yrs

    2. Wow, Amy! You are due! Good luck!

  3. 7 years! We would LOVE THIS! woot!

  4. 7 years and dated for most of the 7 before that!

  5. 2.5 years. :). We attended engaged encounter through the Jeff City diocese and, in general, loved it. We thought the "curriculum" was quite useful and appropriate. Other than having one lead couple that was a bit hard to relate to and a participant that was quite brash, we had a great time.

  6. Forty four wonderful years! And it's better than ever. I have a REAL prince of a husband. None of the profiles fit me, so we'll see what happens here.

    Therese Sander

  7. PS shared on my blog... Hoping it worked!

  8. Married 16 years!
    Janice S.

  9. Will be married 6 years come October 25th!

  10. sent from Sarah Pierce's blog