Tom & Erika Jo // Covenant Marriage


Erika and I met through Ben knowing Tom. They both worked at the same company. From the first time I ever attended an event, Erika's kindness impressed me and instantly made me want to get to know her more.  At that time I was just dating Ben. It was a sweet relief to have her approach me and begin what would ultimately be the friendship we have today. She's got a fun white streak in her hair (that now her baby girl has too!) and has a fun-loving heart to go with it. There's a sort of grace in Erika  (or Jo's) parenting and when you get either she or Tom talking about marriage, the love is obvious. Its a real joy to get to feature Erika Jo here to today.

Meet Erika Jo:

Hi! We're "Hubbin" and Jo.  I spend the entire day playing (AKA homeschooling) 5 kiddos, and the rest of my time...well, there isn't much more. Hubbin just got laid off and is currently looking for a new source of income. I blog with my sisters over at Shaffer Sisters where we try to encourage other mommas that walk through this crazy journey, on their way to their Savior.  Here's a recent post, getting to know a little more about me. We've been married for 10 years, but it feels like I never was single.  We have 5 babies.  The first four are boys ranging in age from 9-4.  The youngest one is a girl.  She is 1 year old.  

What first attracted you to your spouse?

I first fell in love with Tom's love of others.  He was constantly serving, whether it was setting up chairs for a worship service, or asking the "wall flowers" to dance.   He never had a bad thing to say about anyone, and his best friends were those that I was sure Jesus would have been fond of: the downtrodden, and less popular.  He saw them the way the Savior would have, and I loved him for it!  He also has such a passion for life, and building Gods kingdom.  I am always amazed at him, at the person I am lucky enough to call my husband!

Tom: Her smile and beautiful eyes

What has been some of the best parts of being married?

Being married is like having a built in therapist.  You can go through the day like a crazy person: running errands, cleaning, teaching, learning, feeling frustrated, loving, praying, and wishing you could tele-port.  At the end of the day, your handsome husband gets home and one kiss can relieve most of that incurred stress.  After 1/2 hour of instant replay, I finally feel normal again. Tom is also a really good compass for my life.  He often gently suggests when I am over stepping my abilities. 

(I wrote all of this, before Hubbin got laid off, but now, I see an even cooler man!  He is so willing to say "Gods will be done".  To walk with faith and to move through this challenge with grace and strength.  He is my guide and my strength.  I am so proud to walk by his side!)

Tom:  You always have a friend, and you don't have to say goodbye at night.  

What has been one the hardest parts of being married?

The hardest part of being married for me was to realize that I was not my husband's boss.  I did not get to dictate to him when bedtime should happen or when he should work or what he should do for work or how he should dress.  I tried that... for about 3 years.  Those were the hardest years of our marriage.  I was micromanaging every step.   

Then one day I had a conversation with my sister.  I asked her a question about how everything was going.  For a minute she talked about the hard things that were happening, and how her husband wasn't being very healthy.  Then she said, "whenever that happens, I just pray for him.  I know that our Heavenly Father will help him through it."  That really struck a chord with me.  She did not take over or try to push her "weight around" she just chose to let God work in his life.  I started doing that, and it has made all of the difference!  Tom has stepped into the provider/protector roll just fine-without any of my input or direction.  He chose to quit gaming without my nagging.  He chose to read the kids bedtime stories every night without my prodding.  God and my husband are doing a much better job with his life, than I ever could! 

Tom: Changing poopy diapers. :)

What were some surprises you didn’t anticipate in marriage?

I never anticipated marrying a computer geek!  That is really funny, considering my husband spends most of his day on the computer.  I hated computers and swore that I would never even own one, once I was married.  I didn't like the time wasted on them, I didn't love that every time I wrote a report for school it seemed to have been eaten by an invisible computer monster, and most of all I hated that their is no such thing as quality time while someone is on the computer.  

I would have to say that Hubbin's biggest surprises were that I left the toilet seat up, and that a women could actually throw up every single day for the first 10 months of marriage every time her husband and his hot breath would get near her.  Lets go back to this toilet seat thing, because I am sure you are wondering.  So, when I was growing up, my Mom trained all of us girls to leave the toilet seat up in the middle of the night, so that my brother in his sleep induced state, would not leave a wet surprise for us.  So, I figured it was just a common courtesy.  Tom, on the other hand was trained religiously by his mother to put the seat and lid down.  So every night after I used the restroom I would put it up, and then he would use it and put it down.  He was perplexed, until we talked about it, and after that I was perfectly happy to leave it down!  

Have you received any advice that has helped shape your marriage significantly?

I love the concept of marriage being with you, your spouse, and the Lord.  A triangle with the Lord at the top.  The closer you move to the Lord, the closer you move to each other.  That has really benefited me and made a lot of sense to me, as I give more and more of myself, my family, my marriage and my life to the Lord. 

Another thing that has really blessed us, is to be a tithe paying family.  We pay 10% of all that we make, to the Lord.  It has brought us many blessings and strengthened our faith.  We have recognized the tangible blessings, for example our clunker car made it clear through college,  We felt more self control in getting out of debt,  added health so we didn't need to go to the doctor,  strength to work harder, our garden produced a lot in order that we could make up the difference, and many other unforeseen mercies. 

We also have been really blessed by having family prayers every morning and evening, reading the scripture as a family daily, weekly family nights, and weekly church attendance.  These traditions have brought, balance, faith, renewal and have really strengthened our testimony of Jesus's mission, love and grace.   

Tom: It all stems from living the gospel and loving the Lord.  That alone has significantly shaped our marriage.  

What little things do you do as a couple that keep marriage your enjoyable?

Kiss!  One long meaningful kiss at the end of a hard day, can be better than words.

Forgive!! One time I read a quote that said, "Go in to marriage with your eyes wide open, but once you get married, keep them half shut."  Jesus said it best, when he questioned how you help someone get the sliver out of their eye, when you have a beam in yours.  

If we are picking at each other for the little things, like where the socks end up or which way the toilet paper rolls, will we notice what the other person is sacrificing for us?  

I remember when we were first married, I was talking with Hubbin one night, and I was trying to figure out how to tell him how he was really bugging me.  So I decided that if I could get him to tell me how I was really bugging him, then it would be my turn.  I remember that he said,  " I am the happiest man alive and I wouldn't change one thing about you."  Well that was it. Plan failed.  His example to me has always been that of patience and love, and I am so grateful for that.
Tom: Laugh at all of the things that go wrong, when you want to cry.

What advice would you give to a just-married couple?

Keep moving forward, Just keep swimming, Never give up.-with all of the appropriate "get stuck in your head" jingles.   

I was on the phone with my sister and asked what her advice would be.  My sister and her husband have gone through panic disorder. (Read about it here)   Her advice is cry together.  Find joy in the journey.  

When my husband asked my Dad if he could marry me, my dad laughed and decided to give him some advice.  He said blending two families with two sets of traditions is really hard.  Then he quoted this quote: 
“Life is just like an old time rail journey ... delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."

 In keeping with that quote I would say, don't get off before the ride is over or you might miss out on the beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.  You might miss out on learning how to find joy in the journey, and you will miss out on thanking the Lord for letting you have the ride.

My final piece of advice would be You can do hard things!  

In this world, where everyone is promoting the easy diets, the miracle cure-alls, the YOLO dogma,  I want to promote a different picture.  You were made by a perfect God.  He made you to be great.  You don't need easy! Abraham wasn't asked to sacrifice Isaac for Gods sake, but for his own sake.   God loves you.  He made you able to do hard things.  We know that with God all things are possible.  With God Moses crossed the Red Sea.  With God Jacob became Israel.  With God we are forgiven and live again.  With God you can do hard things!  Sometimes marriage is hard, and if you remember what you can do, you will make it through!

Tom: Good Luck! (with a chuckle)  I really feel like you should prepare your hearts to love someone more than you love yourself.  If you can put someones needs before your own, you will get along just fine!

What advice would you give to a couple with young kids?

When I was a new mom, I forgot to enjoy my kids.  I was too busy worrying if they were clean enough, or cute enough, or well behaved enough, because that reflected on whether I was Mom Enough.  After about 3 years I realized that I had missed precious giggles, spills, twinkles, tantrums, and life because I was worried about being enough.  Now, my prerogative is to cherish every moment.  And when I am not, remind myself again.  These moments are fleeting.  My 9 year old will probably never sit on my lap again.  In 9 more years he will be gone.  I have to make sure to meet him where he is at and enjoy him.  

Tom: Stick it out, it will get better.  Enjoy it while you can.  

What are some key ways God has worked most in your marriage?

From time to time I think of the imagery of being equally yoked: 

In my heritage, my ancestors rode in covered wagons across the United States.  They would use oxen to pull the wagon.  Hopefully, they would have two oxen to pull every wagon.  A yoke is a heavy piece of wood, that is linked around each oxen's neck.  Two Oxen are matched for speed and strength.  You wouldn't want 1 ox to pull fast, because then it would pull all of the weight.  

Some times when we work toward a common goal, whether it be with church, family, or on our home, I think of us working equally or being equally yoked.  It feels so freeing to pull equal weight and get so much done.   We feel like the Lord has matched us well.  When we first met, we felt the Lords guiding hand, bringing us together.  In love of his work, we are unified.  In "peddling harder" when we come to our trials in life, we are even.  In laughing through struggles, and loving through pain, and shouldering each others burdens, we have truly become equally yoked.  

With God, all of this is possible.  With his charity, mercy, and grace we have united to bare each others burdens and try to love as he did.

Husbands, what advice would you give to other men in relationships?

Be gentle, Be honest.  Be faithful, and work to keep your love growing.  Always focus on her finer qualities.   

What do you enjoy most about this stage of your marriage?

I mostly enjoy laughing.  Laughing when I am getting tickled.  Laughing when Hubbin is wrestling with the kids.  Laughing when the pipes explode, and we can't figure out how to shut the water off.  Laughing when we are about to go on a date and we get smeared with peanut butter fingers.  Laughing when I see Tom's headset taped up, and the mic precariously dangling next to his ear.  Laughing at church when my child runs around the chapel and up into the choir pews, while my husband is preaching the sermon. Laughing when I look at my sweet husband with love in my eyes and a smile on my face, while chaos ensues all around us, and we sit blissfully aware-while playing footsie under the table.  I mostly enjoy laughing. 

Tom: This is a comforting stage of marriage, where you can tell that your love will continue to grow, and you can see that as hard as it has been, it is getting and will get better.  It is tried and tested.  We still have struggles and challenges, but we continue on with great hope for the future.  


Thank you for sharing your hearts with us Erika and Tom! Be sure to check out Erika's Blog here, where you can find fun crafting ideas, delicious recipes and sincere encouragement.

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