North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

March 6, 2014

Danielle Cater: Lessons, fun times make retreats enjoyable

Danielle Cater: Lessons, fun times make retreats enjoyable

By Danielle Cater
North Jefferson News

NORTH JEFFERSON — I did something recently that is apparently out of the ordinary for most people. I went to a marriage conference while I was not in the midst of marital problems.

A week ago I posted on my Facebook that my husband and I were going to a marriage retreat this week and I was really excited about it. Before the post got good and online, people were already messaging me to ask if we were already having marital problems. It was a shock to the system to see that people are so quick to jump on the wagon, thinking that your marriage is going to crumble beneath the stress of life.

No, my husband and I aren’t having marriage problems. We are trying to make sure that we are doing everything we can to keep from having problems.

You don’t wait until your motor blows up in your car before you go and get an oil change. In the same way, you shouldn’t wait until your marriage is on the brink of divorce before trying to do things to improve it.

The thing about a marriage retreat is that they usually try to make sure they throw some fun things in there to break up the hard-hitting sessions. This retreat was no different. They made sure to keep us laughing while still telling us the things we could look at changing or doing better to help our married life.

I loved that they started the conference by having the couples do a devotion to remind them to “stay in your own yard,” meaning that we weren’t to go through this weekend pointing out everything that was wrong in our spouse’s life. We were to direct our thoughts to our own lives, and make sure we were applying what we heard to ourselves instead of trying to shove it down our spouse’s throat.

One set of our speakers for the weekend was Jeremiah and Jean Castille. Jeremiah played football for Alabama and then went on to play in the NFL. Being the good Auburn fan that I am, I packed my “I hate Alabama” T-shirt for our fun date night. I thought that Mr. Castille had already left the conference since he wasn’t at the last meeting of the night, so I wore my shirt with pride. I felt pretty good about it until they broke us up in groups, and the head of my little group was the Castilles. They were decked out in their Alabama clothes, and I got the privilege of sitting right next to Jeremiah for a short — but seemed like an eternity — golf cart ride. Earlier he had preached on unconditional love, so he said that the only thing keeping him from throwing me from the cart was that message. He and his wife are wonderful people and I never get tired of hearing him share his testimony.

The weekend consisted of reminding husbands and wives that we are made up of our body, soul and spirit, and we needed to get all of these in line in order to be better spouses. We took home a lot of little nuggets that have already helped us in our marriage.

After the sessions, they had planned a date night for the couples. We got an email the day before the conference telling us to pack tennis shoes for the date night because it was going to be high-energy. Now I don’t know about you, but when I think of a date night, it’s roses and candles and no tennis shoes required, but we were prepared for anything this weekend and wanted to make the most of the event.

We found out later that our date night would consist of relay games, a camp fire with hot cocoa and an extra activity of our choosing. Among the choices was zip lining. If you are unfamiliar with this activity, it’s a line tied to the top of a phone pole, stretching high off the ground to another pole somewhere down a mountain. You glide down the zip line from the higher to the lower pole. We have discussed doing this before, but I’m a sissy when it comes to heights, so we haven’t made any special trips to do this.

It looked like fun and people older than us were trying it, so I jumped on that cart with Mr. Castille and we headed to the zip lines. Little did we know it wasn’t just zip lines — it was an obstacle course leading to the top of the pole. We had to climb a phone pole, then tightrope walk across another pole suspended in the air to get to the platform to actually get on the zip line.

I wanted to back out, but once again my mouth had overloaded my head, so I had to go through with it after all of the smack talk I’d been offering. I didn’t want to be labeled as the sissy Auburn fan. Halfway across the beam I had about decided this was an awful idea, but a gentleman on the platform stuck his hand out to me and I was able to shout “War Eagle” while riding the lines down to the bottom of the mountain. This was just a little activity to remind us to keep some fun in our marriages.

If we spend every night watching television and every weekend doing housework, we won’t just get bored with our spouses, we’ll get bored with our lives too. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and plan an adventurous weekend with the misses every once in a while. I wouldn’t suggest taking her on an obstacle course suspended in the air, but if that’s her speed, then have at it.

The most important point of our weekend was to line ourselves up with God so that we could become better helpmates to our spouses. When you put their needs ahead of your own, then you’ll start to see them in a different light. Give to them expecting nothing in return, and you will start to recognize what true love looks like. Marriage isn’t a 50/50 agreement, it’s 100/100 and when your spouse can’t seem to give their part, you help them out by giving more. And when times come that you are coming up short on your end, they can help you out.

Marriage is a commitment. It’s not based on feelings or emotions — it’s a decision you made on your wedding day and every day since then.

Let your mate know today that you would choose them all over again.