Let's Talk about Marriage - with Heidi St. John
jon dunagan marriage mission-minded dads mission-minded families podcast
It was an honor (and so much fun) to talk about "The Joy of Marriage" with Heidi St. John on her far-reaching podcast, The Busy Mom. As we prepared to record, we all found out the episode would "just so happen" to broadcast on our 34th anniversary. How fun is that? Hope you enjoy! -- Jon & Ann
What’s the secret to a joyful, successful family? It starts with a joyful marriage, grounded in God’s Word! Let’s talk about what that looks like as we wish the Dunagans a wonderful 34th Anniversary!
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TRANSCRIPTION (courtesy of The Busy Mom -- HeidiStJohn.com )
All right everybody, welcome to the show today. I’m real excited you guys are here. A bunch of stuff is coming down the pike over at Heidi St. John, so just want to encourage you guys to get off the bench and get onto the battlefield with me. One of the reasons I love my guests today is that they have been on mission, on point, off of the sidelines, and onto the front lines since long before I knew them. They’ve encouraged me tremendously. Jon and Ann Dunagan are the founders of Mission Minded Families and they are serving with Harvest Ministry. They’re the parents of seven grown homeschooled kids. They’re doing something I like to call “Grandkid Palooza” over there. Collectively, the Dunagan’s have ministered to, and traveled to, over a hundred nations and to all seven continents—focused on remote frontier evangelism, loving or event planning churches, and helping families for God’s Great Commission.
We’re going to be talking about marriage and family today. This is something these guys know a lot about.
So one of my favorite reasons for having Jon and Ann on the show today, is that these guys do a thing or two about marriage. And in fact, I just happened to get them on their 34th wedding anniversary. So Jon and Ann Dunagan, thanks for spending it with me.
[Jon] Well, we’re glad to be here and we sure appreciate you having us on this interview. I appreciate you reminded me of the exact date of our wedding anniversary. I was trying to remember it earlier this morning, so I’m glad to be reminded.
[Heidi] Well, that could actually go badly for you. I think sometimes people will ask my husband— how long have you guys been married? Jay will get the sort of like a deer in the headlights look, and then he’ll say: not long enough.
[Jon] Ann’s grandparents were married over 50 years and her grandmother once asked her grandfather, she said: Lewis, you haven’t told me you love me in many, many years. And he said: well, Margaret, I told you that 50 years ago and if I would have changed my mind I would have said something.
[Heidi] Man! So you guys are busy. I mean every time I talk to you—you’re traveling, you’ve got new projects going up. But before we get to everything you’re doing, because I really want to hit the topic of marriage with you, I love talking to people who have been married for a long time. And I know there are a lot of people listening to this today who could use the encouragement that you guys are going to give. But tell everybody a little bit about your family and what you’ve been doing for the last 34 years.
[Ann] Well, as a family, 34 years of marriage, about the same amount of time being involved in global missions all over the world, and we’ve got seven kids. Five are married and we have just had number 12 and 13 grandbabies. So we are a growing, and being fruitful, and we are thoroughly loving life and it just gets better and better.
[Jon] I know of the 13 grandkids, nine of them are in diapers and the oldest is six. We are certainly enjoying this season of life to have not only raised our generation of our own children to serve the Lord, but to also see our grandchildren growing up to serve the Lord. It is really exciting and joyful.
[Heidi] Yeah, it really is. It’s multigenerational what you’re doing from the start.
[Ann] Yeah. You know, really from the very beginning, even back when we were engaged, we had a vision for our family to think generationally and to really plan our lives for eternity. And something way back when we were engaged as we were just really praying about what God’s plan was for our life, is we felt the Lord speak to our heart and say that our marriage was not going to be characterized by our ministry, but our ministry would be characterized by our marriage. And so, from the very beginning it was this culture of both ministry and family together, multiplying each other.
[Jon] And also, when we were first married and we committed in our future lives, and family, and grandchildren, all to the Lord, committing our entire future to the Lord. We felt the Lord prompt us out of the book of acts, that we were to pattern our life after Philip, not Phillip the apostle, but Philip the evangelist. In Acts 6 he served as a deacon. In Acts 8 he was an evangelist in the city of Sumeria, and then he ministered to the Ethiopian Uniq, and then he was taken by the Lord and put up into another city. And then in Acts 21 we find Paul and his traveling companions, they come and they visit Philip. And Philip was known for his hospitality. And also it says that he had four virgin daughters who prophesied. And so what we got out of that is that we were to live a life of service to the Lord. Like Phillip, we were to be evangelists, and that we were to raise godly children, and to live a life of hospitality and of outreach and of serving the Lord and others. And so that’s what we’ve been doing by the grace of God, for the last 30 something years.
[Heidi] Wow. And you guys have really had quite an impact. I mean, you really are known for hospitality. You’re known for all of these things. And I think there are parents who are listening to this right now who are like— oh, for goodness sake, the Dunnigan’s have been traveling all over the world. They’ve raised their kids, and I can’t even get cereal on the table for my five little people every day. So talk to the parents, Ann I’ll start with you and then I’m going to shift over to Jon. But Ann, talk to the mom right now who’s listening to this and they’re hearing what you guys are saying and they’re like— yes, I want that. How do I do that? Where do I start? What do you say?
[Ann] For us it’s even just like establishing— do you get it? Do you get what life’s all about? And we like to say that we are living for eternity, we’re living for the Kingdom of God. Marriage and family, this is God’s idea. Not everybody is going to get on an airplane and travel to some remote foreign place. Something we’d like to say— missions is not just for missionaries, God’s call is for all. But as a family we develop a culture. As your family, each of you develop a culture for your family.
And for us, part of that culture is evangelism and adventure and travel. We love babies, we love life. We have fun. If we focused on the gospel and the Great Commission, it’s part of our family culture. And every family needs to realize what are the gifts, talents, abilities, and interests that you have as a family and how can you develop those—will make a difference for eternity?
[Heidi] Yeah. And that mom who’s baby just crawled through the spilled orange juice on the floor right now, she starts with just prayer and really getting together. You guys got together. I mean, this is what I’m imagining and is that you and Jon, and Jon this is something you can speak to you—you guys came together and you decided together: this is something that’s important to us, we want to serve the Lord. What does that look like practically when our kids are very little? Because I know Ann, you and I have talked about this, Jon traveled quite a bit, right? And Ann, you didn’t always get to go. There are some seasons where that’s difficult, and what I think can be sometimes lost in the younger years when all of our kids are little, is what we’re doing is we’re in a season of sowing. But then there comes a season of reaping. So what do the parents, who are in the season of sowing — how can they begin to build that culture for their own families?
[Jon] I would just say one of the most important things to sow is to continually sow the Word of God over the lives of your children.
[Heidi] Oh yes.
[Jon] For years, ever since our children were born, and even before they were born—even before Ann was pregnant with them, we would pray God’s promises over them. For example, like Psalm 1 where it says blessed it is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. And we would insert the name of our children in there. And I still to this day, pray for our children and even our grandchildren. I personalize that Scripture, inserting individual names into Psalm 1 or other Scriptures like that. And another Scripture that has really stood out to us over the years, and one of my favorite ones regarding home and family, is in Isaiah 32:17-18 it says: the work of righteousness will be peace; in the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings and in quiet resting places.
Over the years we have just prayed and thanked God even in advance. Even when we were living with kids in an apartment and it wasn’t so peaceful, quiet, and secure, we would just say: Lord, we thank you that by your grace we have a home that is peaceful, quiet, and secure. Lord, we thank you that by Your Word that each and every one of our descendants will love and serve and follow you. And so I just can’t emphasize enough of praying the word of God over your family, your home, and your children.
[Heidi] Jon you’re hitting on something really important, because I think in the culture right now we have maligned the role of fathers in the home, and yet God has given you an incredible role. That is the stewardship of your family. The Bible declares that men are to be leaders in their homes. And I know there are a lot of men that are listening to this right now that haven’t been doing that and they know that their families are struggling. Talk to that man right now. How can he become the leader that God wants them to be in his home and to love his wife, like Christ loved the church?
[Jon] Well, I once talked to one pastor that he said when he gets in an argument with his wife, he always gets the last word in. And that is: yes dear.
[Heidi] Yeah, you right.
[Jon] And I like to say— Ann acknowledges me the leader of the home as long as I do what she tells me to do. No, you know, being the leader of you home as a dad is not…. first of all, you need to get out of this mentality that you’re some old testament patriarch. The Bible says that we submit to one another in love and I’m the leader of our home, but I also submit to Ann’s council and direction too, that we prayerfully consider things, and listen to what she has to say. And sometimes we’re asked— what is the most important marriage advice you can give? And we’ve been asked that many, many times. And my answer is this: is it’s Ephesians 4— do not let the sun go down on your wrath.
And we have taken that even as a step farther that we don’t even part company if there’s wrath or discussion or disagreement. We make sure things are good between us before we part company. There’s also a little speech that I like to teach guys. And the speech is this: I am sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.
[Jon] If you want to have a happy home….
[Ann] It’s got to have all three parts.
[Jon] Yea, you’ve got to have that in you. One time I told Ann—I’m sorry. Please forgive me.And said— you forgot the other part about I was wrong. But you know what? If a husband wants to be a leader in the home, to be a good leader you have to acknowledge that you can make mistakes as a dad and as a husband. You need to be willing to say: you know what? I’m sorry I was wrong. Please forgive me —to your wife and to your children. And then to correct that mistake. Then lead as well as you can according to God’s Word and you’re not going to be perfect. But you’ve just got to really have a humble heart as a dad and as a husband.
[Ann] Another thing Heidi is, when you’re thinking about that the mom with those little kids and the cheerios and the orange juice spilled all over everywhere is— even during those busy years as a mom, that we are growing and being eternally focused. I think of living in what I call sub-mission to God. It’s like that part “sub” of what’s under the surface. And just as we are growing in our relationship with the Lord, teaching our kids the Word of God— whether it’s teaching them memory versus or teaching them how to pray, but to realize that under the surface it’s like our roots are growing or like under the surface is like a submarine— we can be advancing forward for the Kingdom of God even when no one is seeing what we’re doing. It’s those under the surface things of character and our relationship with God. Living with a fear of God in our life is more important than what we do for God. It’s our relationship with Him that then overflows into a healthy relationship as husbands and wives and parents and children.
[Heidi] Yeah, that’s right. I just had Bill Jack on the show last week and we were talking a little bit about the importance of parents really stepping into the gap for their children and taking an active role in the discipleship of their children. The schools should not be discipling our children. The church is not to disciple children, they are to come alongside and assist their primary job is not to disciple children. That is the primary job of parents. What does that look like or what has that looked like? I realize your kids are grown now, but I’m watching you guys discipling your grandchildren now also. So what did that look like in the Dunnigan home?
[Jon] Well, in the book of Deuteronomy it says that we’re to diligently teach our children, when you sit down, when you stand up, when you walk on the way— all different types in environments that were to disciple and train our children. And I would just say as a dad, that you have to find out what works for you. My wife, her side of the family is very academic minded. Lots of teachers and professors and principals in schools, things like this. And my side of the family is more outdoors. Loggers, hunters, fishermen, farmers, that type of thing. And I have never really been so much into a formal Bible studies with our family. Some people think that in order to be a successful parent, the dad has to always lead formal Bible studies.
But you know what? That wasn’t my style of teaching to our kids. My style of teaching was discipling them. When we’re doing regular things through the course of life, and whether we’re working together or cutting wood, or whether we’re building something, or even sitting in the hot tub. In fact, one of our sons who just graduated from Bible College, after three years in Bible College, he said: I just want to tell you something. There is not even one thing I learned at Bible College that you had not already taught me while we were sitting in the hot tub.
[Heidi] That’s awesome. I love it. That’s awesome. Jon, I think you know what I just heard? I just heard a whole bunch of chains fall off. You are setting guys free right now. I think that is so good.
[Jon] Guys, disciple your kids in the way that you can do it the best, and you just got to figure out— okay, where can you really get in your stride and where can you disciple the best. Now, Ann—she discipled better doing more of, especially when the kids were a little, teaching them through songs and through Scripture memory, and in hiding the Word of God in their heart in that way. More of a formal structure. But together we’re a team. Together our styles of discipleship and teaching our kids, it works together in their life. And you come out with a good solid product.
[Ann] You know, Heidi, I will say that there have been two things that were the hardest to get through and find peace in a thing that was an ongoing disagreement. And one of them had to do with family devotions and the other one had to do with ballroom dancing.
[Heidi] Because that’s the same thing.
[Ann] Oh man. Like, I just had such a dream of having this anniversary and being able to do ballroom dancing with my husband and he’s just like— I’m not a dancer.
[Jon] Not gonna happen.
[Ann] And we go to a wedding and we would come home so frustrated with each other because I wanted him to do ballroom dancing with me. And he just like wouldn’t do it. A wedding is where we would argue. And I finally just had to realize that this is silly. This is so stupid for the enemy to allow this little thing that does not make any difference, to be something of a divisive in our marriage. And I just realized— Hey, I have all kinds of crazy stuff that other ladies don’t have and I don’t need to have the ballroom dance. And that’s okay. And actually, he did dance at a couple of our children’s weddings. He did do that and dance with a couple of our daughters, which was really, really sweet.
But this other thing, family devotions. Okay. I grew up in a home with very godly parents. Both of us come from wonderful, godly parents. And my family had family devotions every night. I am talking every single night of our life. It didn’t matter if we were at grandma and grandpa’s house. It didn’t matter if we had company. We always had family devotions and they always had the same little routine. We would sing a little song, we’d read the Scriptures, we’d go around the circle and everyone would say a prayer, and then we would say the Lord’s prayer together. And when we first got married, Jon thought that would be a good idea for us to do that as well.
I’m the oldest in my family. So as we would go back and visit my family and younger siblings, Jon began to see that he didn’t actually like how some of the family devotion was just this ritual where my teenage brothers were just like saying the same little memorized prayer that they’d been saying for three years, and there wasn’t a relationship there. And Jon’s like— I don’t want this style of discipleship and Bible training in our family. And I’m like— but this is good, you need to lead our family. And we would argue, and I really thought I was right. I thought I had the higher ground on this.
And finally it came down to one place where Jon just said— okay, you come from a family with a very strong mom and a very strong grandma. And if you want to lead our family, you can lead it. Or if you want to let me lead— let me lead. And at that point, I let go of my family devotion thing, and I just let go. And you know, that was a long, long time ago— 25 years ago or so.
[Heidi] And you just got out of counseling for it to be honest.
[Jon] By the way, we have never had an argument.
[Ann] Intense negotiation.
[Jon] We just have intense negotiations.
[Ann] But our children, they all love the Lord. They love the Lord. They have personal walks with the Lord. They all love the Word of God. They’re all serving the Word of God today. It’s so awesome seeing our kids raising their children for the Word of God. I just realized— I don’t need to put Jon in this little box where he has to be like what the homeschool gurus say. He’s not like them, he is his own person. And so I think that is sometimes even just kind of letting go of some of these preconceived ideas of what it has to look like and just realize the point is that we’re following God. Psalms 127:1— unless the Lord builds a house they labor in vain who built it.
[Heidi] So good. You guys. I want to talk really quickly to the, the couple that’s listening to this right now and there’re raising children. Maybe they got teenagers. You and I both have seven children that we’ve been raising for a long time. I never realized that life wasn’t actually going to slow down. I kept thinking— oh, next year when things slow down a little bit, then I’ll have time for this. Or next year. I think we live for that sort of moment when we think we’re going to get this calm clarity and be able to really focus on our marriage. But it doesn’t work like that.
So talk to the parents who are listening to this right now and they are recognizing they need to make time for each other. So maybe they’ve spent a lot of time—you know, the mom is devoting her time to the kids. The Dad is devoting his time to work and and they’re really neglecting that primary relationship in the home, which is the marriage. Talk to those those parents for just a few minutes.
[Ann] Yeah. We need to nurture our marriage, have fun together, take walks together, be active together. You know, like Jon mentioned—get a hot tub. That actually is something really practical that you can have like a date at home.
[Heidi] Yeah. Nobody do that until I put my Amazon affiliate link in the show notes, okay, don’t get your hot tub until that affiliate link gets in there. Just give me 15 minutes.
I was on a homeschool group a couple of days ago and there was a mom on there that said something like— I just don’t even care about intimacy and marriage, I could even do without it. And you know, that is dangerous. We need to be romantic. We need to be able to flirt with each other. Something we’ve been doing lately is we’ve been working on doing several 15 second kisses throughout the day.
[Heidi] Hey man, Jay would love that!
[Ann] Yeah. They have to be at least 15 seconds….
[Jon] And if they’re not 15 seconds, you got to start over.
[Ann] And Jon can’t be too frisky and until kiss number three.
[Heidi] Because the women are the crockpot and the men are the microwave.
[Jon] I would just encourage you as a husband and wife to just not be afraid to have fun together. I once heard someone saying… I don’t know how they came up with this number, but someone said that some theologian came up with that the feast in the Old Testament that God commanded, amounted to about 20% of a person’s income throughout the year. In other words, God commanded basically about 20% of a person’s income to be blown on feasts and having a good time.
[Heidi] Hey man, we can get behind that.
[Jon] There’s nothing wrong with just having fun and enjoying life together too. You only get one shot at this life. And one thing we’ve kind of taken in our home and encouraged our kids to do is—we’ve told them, you’ve got to just squeeze every ounce of life out of every day because you never get it back again. I mean, just squeeze every ounce of life that you can and live a life full of faith and adventure and joy. And it’s contagious. For example, we just had two daughters—our daughter Christine or daughter Kayla. Christie has three children. Kayla was just newly married this last December. They just got back from running a marathon in Antarctica. They went to run a marathon as a fundraiser for one of the orphanages that we just started in Nepal. That was instilled from them as children to live a life of adventure and be outgoing. And so for them to go to Antarctica was just kind of in the normal stride of life for them to do. It’s just that aggressive outgoing looking for opportunity in life to just do something extraordinary for the Lord.
[Ann] Our daughter was saying — who raises their kids to be so ridiculous? But they are doing who we are.
[Heidi] Well, it’s the family culture.
[Ann] Just a couple of weeks ago we had this annual thing that we do as a family where we get all together and we have a family triathlon. We swim and bike and run and there’s some that are just like keeping track of the scores. And there are others that are cooking the breakfast. We have a big spaghetti feast the night before. But I tell you, we have kids, grown children, that fly in from across the country to be a part of this every year. And there’s just part of nurturing relationships that it doesn’t detract from the mission and purpose of your family. It just kind of helps you have a family culture, family identity of just— this is who we are. And it actually makes life a lot more fun too.
[Heidi] Yeah, it really does.
[Jon] You know, we are all about missions and evangelism. For over 30 years we have been preaching the gospel in the most remote areas of the world. Places where people have never heard of Jesus. We’ve seen the needs, we’ve seen the poverty, we’ve seen starvation. We’ve got several orphanages under our care right now with approximately 1,100 orphan kids. We see the need, but we’re also not afraid to have fun in this life too. And to nurture our marriage and to ball a little money on some things that are really just not even eternal, but just for fun. It’s important to see the need, but sometimes people can get so serious and focused that there’s no joy in their life. And for me, we are to pattern our life after Jesus and to be a disciple of Jesus.
And I see Jesus just as someone who was so full of life that people flocked to Him. Life just radiated out of Him and He was not just some stuffed up. You see that He was just the essence of life and joy. So much so that even people who are deep in sin wanting to be around Him because of the life that radiated from Him. And we want to be like that. Like people just filled with the life of Jesus, not only for outreach, but also in our home, in our marriage where their children and grandchildren.
[Heidi] It’s so good. Well, you guys have been a huge encouragement to me today. I’m just sitting over here taking notes like I always do with my favorite guests on the show. And I think my takeaway from this is to train your children to love the Lord and you can have fun in the process. And you guys are definitely an example of doing that. Where can people find you guys online?
People can find us at Mission Minded Families and I believe we sent you also, Heidi, a link to a free ebook on The Scarlet Cord: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus. It’s like a concise call to world missions. We would love for people to take advantage of that and just to remember you don’t have to cross the seas to be a missionary. You just need to see the cross, remember the cross of Jesus Christ.
[Jon] And if we can hurry up with this interview because I want to get onto one of those 15 seconds.
[Heidi] Yes, you guys are awesome! All right, Jon and Ann, I’m gonna let you go so you can start kissing. Thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s been an absolute joy to have you here
[Jon and Ann] You’re welcome Heidi, Thank you.
[Heidi] For more information on Jon and Ann Dunagan, and their amazing ministry to families, you can find out more at the show notes today, I will also link back to that free Ebook.
You guys, I know you’ve been encouraged today. If you love listening to this podcast that I hope that you do, please be sure to leave a review for it over at iTunes and share it with your friends. Thanks so much for listening everybody, and I’ll see you back here on Monday.