Sherman and I had been married barely a year, and already I felt lost and alone. I missed the wonderful, deep conversations we had had during the nine months we dated before our wedding day. I longed for the closeness we had once enjoyed and struggled with the feeling that we had grown apart.

As I sat on the edge of a hotel room bed during a business trip we’d taken together I blurted, “I’m so lonely. Is this all there is?”

Sherman looked confused. “I thought you were happy?” he replied.

At twenty-one and twenty-two years old we were young, broke, inexperienced, and not at all prepared for marriage. I had become pregnant and lost the baby just three months after we were married. And now I was four months pregnant and constantly sick. All I wanted was to free myself from the dark hole I felt buried in. But where could I turn? Where could we turn?

For our first anniversary, our parents gave us a gift that helped set us on the right track. We were very good at putting on a happy front so I don’t know if they were aware of how desperate our situation was. But we will always be grateful for their gift of a weekend at a FamilyLife marriage getaway in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

That conference changed our marriage and our lives. We learned the importance of putting God in the center of our marriage, the fine art of communication, and how to invite greater intimacy into our marriage. We took walks on our breaks, talked non-stop over our meals, went to lunch with a lovely speaker couple, and worked on marriage-altering projects.

We came back from that weekend changed. Things weren’t perfect, but we had the tools to restore our marriage, deepen our friendship, and navigate future obstacles.

It’s been almost seventeen years since that first conference, and I can still say that it was the turning point in our marriage. We’ve had many more hurdles to overcome but because of the communication tools we learned, we’re able to jump those hurdles together.

We’ve had to work hard, but we’ve had fun times along the way, and it’s been worth every moment. For the past eleven years, we’ve faithfully gone on weekly dates, and each year we go on three weekend getaways. One of those weekends is our planning time when we talk about the past year and look ahead at our goals for the coming year. It’s also a good time to talk about potential scheduling conflicts and how to work those out ahead of time rather than in the heat of the moment.

Four years ago Sherman and I were given the wonderful opportunity to come full circle and become speakers with FamilyLife Canada. As we look back on those years, we realize how our difficulties became the teaching tools we use today. It’s incredibly rewarding to build into the lives of other couples who may be in a similar place to where we were. God truly does have a plan and I’m so thankful we didn’t give up.