6 Ways to Help a Grieving Parent

gettyimages-174686441-1In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan Proclaimed October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  Today’s post was written by Emily Fawcett who understands the reality of infant loss.  I asked Emily to share how a mom can help another mom who is grieving the loss of a child.  These are her words of wisdom we all need to hear.


dsc_0314On Sept. 6, 2015, our family joyfully welcomed Sawyer Ruth into the world, and seven days later, we grieved our loss and celebrated her gain as she was healed in heaven. Then as quickly as our world exploded, it quieted again, and the stillness laid heavy on us. Not everyone walked away, we were and still are blessed with many people who chose to circle their wagons around our family. Their cards, messages, talks, and prayers cover and carry us still. However, we had others who just couldn’t handle our loss and our deep grief. For reasons I will never understand, they chose distance. And in that distancing, they lost us too. Perhaps if I had known these truths at the beginning, relationships would have lasted; but at that time, I was just trying to breathe.

At a little over a year, I am better able to understand what I need during what I pray is my lowest valley. If you are a mother who has lost a child, perhaps these truths will resonate with you. If you know a grieving mother, please take these truths and support and surround her as she struggles to find her new path.

I need you to walk alongside me. I know you can’t know my loss, nor do I want you to.  One mother described our need for companionship as the fellowship of grief. To have others gather alongside and say this is too much, can I help carry it.  “Bear each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galations 6:2

I need you to be messy with me. Grief is not pretty or neat or quick. Walking away or distancing yourself because it is too much for you hurts. It may be too much for you, but it is unbearable for me. Yet I bear it. I have no other choice.

I need to hear my child’s name. Please say her name to me; include her as part of your story. One of the greatest gifts, my mother has given me is to always tell people she has twelve grandchildren, though only eleven are here.

I need your “how are you?” to be genuine. Small talk is impossible; I just don’t have the energy. But if you really want to know how I am, I would love to tell you. I long to talk about my child.

I need you to remember dates along with me. I was paralyzed every month on the 6th and the 13th. My sisters never missed a date. They remembered every month along with me, which made me feel a little less alone. A card, a text, or just a simple, “I’m thinking of you” is enough.

I need to grieve. Don’t rush me or push me. We may not get to do very much for our children in the time we have with them; however, we all get to grieve. Let me grieve as long or as deep as I need to. Our counselor told us, “that our grief is proportionate to our love.” We love deeply; therefore, we grieve deeply.

For parents walking this lifelong journey of grief, please know that you are not alone. And for those who are watching others grieve, please let them know they are not alone. Let October 26th be a day for you to remember us, the ones who have lost, for not a day goes by where we need a calendar to remind us.

Posted in Parenting, Taking Care of Me | Leave a comment

Watch your tone!



Posted in Marriage | Leave a comment

Are You Comparing Insides to Outsides?

gettyimages-137546950-2Jill: Since the release of my book No More Perfect Moms, I’ve spent the past four years asking moms to stop comparing their insides to other women’s outsides. When we do this, we perpetuate what I call the Perfection Infection where we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others and we unfairly compare ourselves to others.

Mark: We can do the same thing in our marriage. We can compare the insides of our marriage to the outsides of other marriages. And when we do, we usually come up with wrong conclusions.  Take the recent media story about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce proceedings. They’ve appeared “perfect” on the outside, when in reality things were very different on the inside.  Yet how many of us unknowingly compared our marriage insides to someone else’s marriage outsides (a celebrity, neighbors, couples at church, etc).


Available Feb 1, 2017. Pre-order your copy today!

Jill: Comparison robs us of contentment. We often wrongly assume we’ve got it worse off than others so our contentment deteriorates as we make up an imaginary story in our head about other couples. It happens when we compare insides to outsides, but it also happens when we compare our real marriage to an imagined marriage in our mind. “Marriage shouldn’t be this hard.” “Someone else will love me better.”

Mark: I certainly did that and then tried to prove it with the new relationship I pursued. Interestingly enough, I ended up proving myself wrong. I found that many of the same issues began to arise in my new relationship as I had experience in my seasoned marriage.

Jill: This is spiritual warfare at its best. The Bible tells us that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). One of the best ways to destroy a marriage is to get one or both partners look away from their spouse. Whether that’s looking at someone else or “looking” at an imagined marriage, it fuels a divided heart and a damaging fade.

Mark: I didn’t realize it then, but looking back, I can see how I began leaving my marriage in my heart by simply entertaining these “comparing” thoughts. Each comparing thought fueled my discontentment. It separated my heart from Jill’s heart one centimeter at a time.

Jill: There are no perfect marriages. Every marriage has challenges. Many of us have to endure some kind of crisis in our marriages—pornography, deception, disagreement, medical challenges, parenting issues, personality differences, money, communication issues, physical intimacy, and more.  We need to stop looking outside our marriage and start investing our head and our heart inside our marriage.

Mark: Jill and I recently sat down and talked with Dr. Juli Slattery of Authentic Intimacy about our marriage journey. If you’d like some addition encouragement on keeping your head and your heart engaged in your marriage, check out her last two podcasts that Jill and I participated in. You can find them here.

What about you? Where are you comparing the insides of your marriage to the outsides of other marriages or an imagined marriage in your head? Where do you need to stop looking away from your marriage and start focusing on your marriage?

Posted in Marriage | Leave a comment

What’s Your Mothering Personality?

Understanding ourselves and understanding others are two key components in improving relationships.

Do you have a friend who drives you crazy? She probably has a different personality style than you do. In our book Better Together, my daughter Anne and I talk quite a bit about mothering personality styles.  Why does this make a difference in friendship?  Well its very important for understanding ourselves and understanding each other.  When we don’t understand, we often judge. Sometimes we judge ourselves and sometimes we judge others.

So I’m curious:

Are you an extrovert or an introvert? (Extroverts are refueled by being with people. Introverts are refueled by being alone.)

Are you an internal processor or an external processor?  (Internal processors think about things for a long time before they make decisions. External Processors want to talk decisions through with other people.)

When it comes to organizing things, are you an innie or an outie?  (Innies file. Outies pile.)

Are you structured or spontaneous? (Structured mamas love their lists and always have a plan. Spontaneous mamas often decide what to do based upon how they’re feeling that day.)

Are you medium high capacity or medium low capacity? (Medium High Capacity folks keep going and going and going and aren’t easily overwhelmed. Medium Low Capacity folks know their energy limits and become overwhelmed quicker.)

None of these are wrong. They just are. Each of us are wired uniquely by the God who mothering-personality-quizcreated us. However, if we don’t understand ourselves and others, we’ll find some of these differences wrecking our friendships.

Wanna learn more?  Hop over and take the FREE Mothering Personality Inventory. And while you’re at it, have a friend or two, or your whole moms group (if you have one) take it as well!  You’ll learn so much about yourself and each other!

We desperately need to be true to ourselves, allow others to be different, and knock off the judgement that so creeps into our head and our heart so easily!

By the way, I’m an introvert, internal processing, outie, structured, medium-high capacity mama!

What about you?  What were your results when you took the quiz? 

Posted in Miscellany | Leave a comment

Can You Experience PTSD in Marriage?

gettyimages-175730782Jill: A week ago Mark and I took a motorcycle ride with friends. As we rounded a corner I suddenly realized we were driving by a place where deception in our marriage took place five years ago.  I immediately began to have a physical response. My heart rate increased and I felt stress ball up inside my body. Then a profound sadness came over me and I felt a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  All of that happened within a few seconds.

Mark: Jill and I have Bluetooth microphones in our helmets so we can talk when we ride.  Just as we drove past this place Jill said, “I have to admit that caught me off guard and was hard for me to drive by.”

I hadn’t even given it a thought and immediately felt great remorse that there are still those reminders some five years later. “I didn’t even think about that. “I responded. “I’m so sorry, Jill. I really am. I can understand how you would feel that way.”

Jill: As soon as Mark validated my feelings and apologized, I relaxed and the physical response subsided. I once again chose forgiveness and then moved on in my head and my heart fully enjoying the remainder of our ride.

Mark: When trust has been broken in a marriage, it takes time and effort to rebuild that trust and move further away from the “going back there” emotions that accompany deception. Here are some important things we’ve learned:

  • Be Safe—If you’re the one who broke the trust, be safe for your spouse to share their feelings with. Don’t explode or sigh heavily or declare that they should be over it by now. Validate their feelings and offer a sincere apology that it still brings pain to their heart.
  • Speak Your Thoughts—Don’t hold your thoughts inside. Get them outside—in the moment if possible. The enemy does his best work in the darkness. Once something is brought into the light, it loses some of its hold over us.
  • Apologize and Forgive….Again—Forgiveness isn’t a once and done action. When trust is broken there are layers of hurt to sort through. So apologizing and forgiving needs to happen each time another layer is discovered. It doesn’t have to be a big, drawn-out conflict, but rather honest communication about the point of pain.
  • Be Compassionate with One Another—Compassion and kindness are two of the most underused tools in marriage. Yet, they can make such a big difference! Speak kindly and put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. Instead of reacting with frustration, respond with kindness and a gentle spirit.
  • Be Compassionate with Yourself--Yesterday I (Jill) had to go to church alone because Mark was in Indianapolis helping his mom. Doing that is still hard for me because of the five months I went alone when he left. I have to be compassionate with myself and reassure myself that it might feel the same but it’s not the same.
  • Keep Submitting to God—When our hearts are fully submitted to God, we can respond with humility. We can apologize. We can extend forgiveness. Becoming more like Jesus always improves a marriage.
  • Get Help. If you can’t communicate in a healthy way, get help from a third party—a mentor or Christian counselor—who can help you both hear each other.

Available Feb 1, 2017! Pre-order your copy today!

Jill: Can someone experience a form of PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—in marriage? Certainly in abusive situations, this is common. However, it’s also a common experience after infidelity or another deceptive event in a marriage. Fear raises up and pain is revisited.

Mark: We all can experience a kind of stress disorder anytime growth is happening in a marriage. As Jill has worked to increase her compassion and embrace her emotions, my tendency is expect her to respond in old ways. If we’re in conflict, my heart races and my palms sweat expecting her to state facts and ignore my feelings. The minute she responds differently, my physical symptoms subside. I realize that I was telling myself an old story and now I have to learn to trust the new Jill.

Jill: Need some more insight on rebuilding trust?  I wrote Rebuilding Trust After An Affair for Today’s Christian Woman on the subject. And next Monday night I’ll be joining Dr. Juli Slattery of Authentic Intimacy for a webinar on the rebuilding trust after any kind of deception in a marriage.

Mark: Broken trust can be rebuilt. Broken hearts can be mended. Broken relationships can be rebuilt. And the PTSD that’s experienced after all that broken, can begin to dissipate as your marriage experiences the beauty of restored trust.

What about you? What do you need to do to keep trust or rebuild trust in your relationship? Is there some way you need to work to be a safe person for your spouse to be honest with?

Posted in Marriage | 8 Comments

There’s Still Time!

2016-nc-fb-reg-nowIt took forever for me to understand that taking care of ME is taking care of my FAMILY.  

I hesitated spending money on attending a conference or a class that bettered me.  I said no to opportunities to spend time with girlfriends because “my family needs me” and “it’s just too hard to get away.”

Then a friend paid my way to a Christian women’s conference. How could I say no? This was a gift and I needed to honor her gift.

It was the week after the event that changed my perspective. I came home refreshed. Renewed. I was more patient, kind, and understanding.  I seemed better equipped to handle whatever life threw at me.   That’s when I realized that taking care of myself IS taking care of my family!

In one week, over a thousand moms will gather at the North Central Hearts at Home conference in Rochester, MN.  Some already know that this is a non-negotiable in their lives. Others are going to discover it for the first time next weekend.

Check out just a few of the wonderful workshops offered:

  • She’s Gonna Blow! Real Help for Moms Dealing with Anger
  • Courage: We All Start Somewhere
  • Makin’ Over YOU, Mama!
  • 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids
  • Raising Respectful Kids
  • Boundaries, Blessings, and Beautiful Relationships
  • Getting Inside the Head of Your Kids: What You Must Know About Your Teen or Tween
  • Marriage: The Simple Little Things That Make a Great Big Difference
  • Disconnect from Devices and Connect with Your Kids
  • Discover and Nurture Your Children’s 8 Great Smarts
  • What Every Mother of a Preschooler Needs to Know
  • The Journey of Adoption
  • Clutter Free
  • Marriage Without Masks
  • Thriving in a Stepfamily: Help and Hope for Remarriage
  • Is There Really Sex After Kids?
  • Move From Fear to Faith!
  • Myths Moms Believe

How about you?  It’s not too late to register and join the fun. It’s also not too late to order a Conference To-Go!

Take care of yourself today! 

Posted in Miscellany | Leave a comment

Are You Chasing Soul Mirages?

gettyimages-77188691Mark: We’ve all seen them on a hot day. Up ahead, it looks like there’s a sheet of water on the road. As we get closer, we realize there’s no water there at all. It’s a mirage caused by the heat mixed with light in just the right way.

Jill: We’ve all experienced soul mirages in some way. We tell ourselves, “In the fall when all my kids are in school, I’m going to get all the closets cleaned out.” Or “Next month, I’m going to sit down face to face with my spouse for a few minutes every night after the kids are in bed.” Or “When we got married, I knew I’d found my soulmate. What happened?” Or “I’m done with this relationship. I’m going to pursue this other person because we’re made for each other.”

Mark: These mirages are really illusions. They appear real, they seem possible, but in real life they actually don’t exist or can’t happen the way we ideally hoped. Soul mirages are the lies we tell ourselves. Some soul mirages are true fantasies—they simply don’t exist, and others are simply unrealistic expectations—things that exist but not to the level we are expecting in our mind.

Jill: Soul mirages set us up for disappointment, contribute to our tendency to rationalize, and too often lead the way to compromise. They cause us to chase ideas that will take us down a path that never satisfies.

Mark: I tend to have a lot of idealism inside of me. This positioned me to have extremely unrealistic expectations of what real marriage looked like. I was chasing soul mirages as I +allowed external things or other people to define me. Acceptance from others, financial security, and sex, among other things were things I believed I needed o be happy.

Jill: On the outside Mark was successful and happy, but on the inside I knew he constantly struggled with idealistic thinking and dissatisfaction in just about every part of life. He functioned externally but struggled internally.

Mark: I understood that God gives value and I KNEW that, but the collision of my upbringing, cultural ideals, and my flesh (wanting what I want) created a drive that was impossible to satisfy It wasn’t until I surrendered myself fully to the Lord, stopped chasing impossible ideals, and chased Him only that the stronghold of these impossible pursuits was broken.

Jill: Soul mirages often show up in the “if” statements we tend to make:

If I had better sex…

If I had more money…

If I had a different job…

If I lived in a different neighborhood…

If I was married to someone else…

When we start making these kinds of statements or thinking these kinds of thoughts, it needs to be a red flag that we’re starting to chase a soul mirage.

Mark: Soul mirages lose their hold on us when we stop looking at the mirage and start looking at God. They also lose their hold when we begin to dig deep into what fuels our idealism and unrealistic expectations (counseling was very helpful). For me, the soul mirages lost their appeal when I dealt with the fact that I was chasing external things for internal happiness. I stopped chasing soul mirages and started chasing after God and His Word.  When that happened, my soul became stable.

Jill: When you’re married to someone who chases soul mirages, you’re never enough. Never good enough. Never encouraging enough. Never having sex enough. These days, I often say that I’m married to a new man. The stability in Mark’s head and heart have been game-changers for him and for our marriage.

So what about you? What soul mirages are you chasing? Where are you making “if” statements? Where do you need to stop chasing mirages and start chasing God?

PS…This is a partial excerpt from our upcoming book No More Perfect Marriages which will be out Feb 1!  We’ll share more as we get closer to the release date!

Posted in Marriage | Leave a comment

The Key to Happy Holidays

gettyimages-495871652-1Mark: Fall is in the air and that means the major holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas are around the corner.  Have you talked with your spouse about your plans for the holidays?

Jill: It may seem too early to do that, but we’re not talking as much about logistics as we are talking about desires and how you can accomplish those desires.  Sure, there will be extended family expectations, but what do BOTH OF YOU want your holidays to look like? The key to experiencing happy holidays is proactive communication.

Mark: Too often we get sucked into the holiday chaos and it feels something like losing your footing at the top of a tall, winding water slide.  Suddenly you’re tossed and turned in all kinds of directions just trying to keep your head above water.

Jill: Challenges during the holidays most often stem from our own unspoken or unrealistic expectations. They also come from extended family expectations and traditions. It’s not easy to buck tradition, but sometimes it’s important for our “new” family. It’s important the two of us to sit down and sort through what we want as a couple for our family.

Mark: When Jill and I did that we determined that we wanted our kids to wake up in their own beds on Christmas morning. We also determined we didn’t want to travel out of town on Christmas day.  In the beginning this was hard, especially for Jill because she was the oldest child and the only one married, with kids, and living out of town.  This meant she was missing her family’s Christmas traditions at the same time she and I were building our own holiday traditions.  There was definitely a mix of emotions!

Jill: One of the hardest parts of marriage to live out is the “leaving and cleaving” (Genesis 2:24).  If you read Genesis 2:24, you’ll note that it doesn’t say “…a man shall leave his mother and father and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh except at the holidays.”

Mark: With this in mind, here are some questions to talk through together to determine how to proactively plan for the holidays.

What is your favorite part of ____________________ (insert holiday) ?

If there was one thing we didn’t do at _______________, what would it be for you? 

Are you respected and treated well at my family’s home?  If not, should we decide now to limit our time there for the holidays?  What would that look like practically? 

Is the extended family environment one we’re comfortable having our children in for an extended period of time? If not, what adjustments do we need to make? 

What do we want Thanksgiving to look like for our family?  

What do we want Christmas to look like for our family? 

How will we be involved in extended family celebrations? How will we not be involved in extended family celebrations? 

Who do we need to have conversations with now so they can understand the changes we’re choosing to make this year?  

Where do you and I need to compromise or “meet in the middle?” 

Is there any way we’d like to more intentionally focus on faith with either of these holidays?

Are we ready to stand firm with our arms linked as one and not be manipulated or influenced by those who might not understand our choices? 

Jill: These aren’t always easy conversations but they’re important ones to have because they are the first steps to celebrating the holidays the way you desire!

Posted in Marriage | Leave a comment

Need to Recalculate?

Mark: “Recalculating,” states the voice on the GPS unit. “Recalculating,” she repeats once again as we find ourselves off course on a trip. It’s a scene most of us are familiar with in some way now that smartphone map apps and GPS units are built right into our cars.

Jill: We recently were struck by the word “recalculating” and how that word can be used to describe what happens when we are considering or navigating change. In fact, the concept of “examining” the realities of life and how those measure up to our vision for our family is an important strategy for parents and marriage partners to be doing on a regular basis. If reality doesn’t match up to vision, then recalculating may be needed to get back on course.

Mark: What does recalculating look like practically? Here are some ways families we personally know have chosen to recalculate:

Jeff and Sienna chose to cut back on their volunteer commitments because they realized they were both away from home in the evenings too often.

John chose to say no to overtime hours so he could spend more time with his family.

Todd and Laura chose to move from two incomes to one income to simplify their lives.

As a single mom, Jennifer decided to search for a new job that was less stressful than her current job.

Savannah and her husband realized that they were drifting apart in their marriage. They recalculated and put monthly date nights on their calendar to invest in their marriage.

After trying every consequence and motivational strategy for their son’s academic struggles, Tom and Sarah made the decision to seek professional help for their child who was eventually diagnosed with ADHD.

Paul and Brenda wanted their family to have dinner together at least five nights a week. In order to regain that balance they realized that they needed to limit their children’s extra curricular sports and activities to no more than two per child.

Stan and Sue knew their marriage was not in a good place. They decided to find a counselor and make marriage counseling a priority in order to get back on track.

Jill: The only way we can recalculate is to slow down enough to examine and evaluate the condition of our relationships, the habits of our family, and the daily stresses of our life. By asking questions like, “Is this the life I want to live?” or “Is this the marriage we want to have?” or “Is this all we have hoped for our family?” we can begin the process of evaluating. If the answer is “No,” then recalculate and get yourself, your family, or your marriage headed back in the right direction.

Mark: Life has a way of causing us to drift away from each other. Recalculating helps us get back on course.

What about you? Where do you need to do some recalculating in your life, family, or marriage?

Posted in Marriage | Leave a comment

The Importance of Re-Entry

Jill: This week I’m on the road speaking. While Mark travels with me much of the time, it didn’t work for this trip. So we’re already looking ahead to a re-entry plan.

Mark: Military families are schooled on the concept of re-entry after dealing with lengthy deployments and times of separation.  Re-entry simply means that there is a plan in place to reconnect intentionally.

When Jill and I first learned about re-entry, we started putting a date on the calendar for us to talk without interruption within 24 hours of our return.  We couldn’t believe the difference this made for us.

Jill: One day a friend of mine found herself torn between two feelings as she faced her husband coming home from yet another business trip.  His job required him to travel a lot.  She always looked forward to him coming home but she also dreaded it, too.  When I asked her why she said that one of the first things he wanted was physical intimacy and that was furthest from her mind because she felt emotionally disconnected from him.

I challenged her to do something different when he arrived home this time. I suggested that she meet him at the airport so that the two of them could go get a cup of coffee or dinner together before he was immersed back into the demands of parenting and the chaos at home.

She decided to give it a try and reported back several days later that it had made a HUGE difference for them.  They connected emotionally as a couple over coffee hearing all about the things that had happened while they were apart.  Because they first connected emotionally, there were no issues connecting physically later that weekend.

Mark: I’ve always appreciated our re-entry dates.  When the kids were younger, sometimes we’d go out and sometimes we’d just sit on the porch and talk after the kids are in bed.  Either way worked, as long as we planned it!

Jill: When one of us was gone, it was important to debrief as parents.  If Mark was gone, he needed to know who was grounded, what homework projects were on the radar screen, and anything else that happened in his absence.  And if I was gone, I needed to know the same.

Mark: When our kids were small and having meaningful conversations was difficult, Jill and I even used this concept daily.  We would take 15 minutes after I got home from work to sit on the porch (in the summer) and talk or sit at the dining room table and talk (in the winter).  This allowed us to intentionally reconnect before we headed into the chaos of the evening.

Jill: Even though we no longer have kids at home, a re-entry plan is still important. This allows us to make emotional connection our first priority.

Mark: So the next time you and your spouse are going to apart for whatever reason, put a re-entry date on the calendar!

What about you? What strategies have you found helpful for reconnecting after being apart from each other? 

Posted in Marriage | 2 Comments

Our Kitchen & Bathroom Makeover

It only took ten months, but we finally finished!  Bless Mark’s heart, he would do remodels all day for his Sawhorse Homes business and come home to do our remodel on nights and weekends. It was a labor of love for all of us, but particularly challenging for Mark.

It all started when one of the big box stores that Mark installs counter tops for made a customer’s kitchen countertops wrong…three times!  When Mark expressed frustration to the store about his lost time and wages dealing with these installations, they told him he could keep the countertops that were made incorrectly.

The kids had been complaining about how outdated the green gingham wallpaper was for years. I’m a function gal, though. Outdated doesn’t bother me. If it doesn’t function well…that’s another thing. With countertops being one of the most expensive parts of a kitchen makeover and we now had them for free (yes, Mark had to cut them and “make” them fit our kitchen), we decided to take the plunge and re-do the kitchen as well as the bathroom off the kitchen.

So the decision-making began. Colors, what to do with the cabinets (we painted them), peeling wallpaper, new ceiling, bathroom vanity, sooooooo many decisions. I’m not creative, but I can “borrow” ideas like the best of them! You can bet I was spending quite a bit of time on Pinterest!

In the end we tore out a wall and opened up the staircase, opened up a pass through into the office to let more light in, replaced our kitchen island (with a cabinet a friend found on the side of the road!), turned an antique sewing machine we already had into our bathroom vanity (thank you, Pinterest!), painted walls, and replaced the ceiling (with styrofoam tiles that we LOVE!)

Here are our before and after pics:

img_1964 img_1963 img_1960 img_1961 img_1962 img_1965

Our bathroom vanity was a repurposed antique singer sewing machine!

Our bathroom vanity is a repurposed antique singer sewing machine!

We opened up the wall to let more light in!

We opened up the wall to let more light in!


The styrofoam tiles were so easy to install!

Posted in Miscellany | 5 Comments

Marriage Is A Labor of Love

Mark: It’s Labor Day. For some of us it’s a day filled with family, friends, and picnic food. For others, it’s a day to work on home projects. And still others are just enjoying that extra day provided in this 3-day weekend.

Jill: Labor Day signals the end of summer and the beginning of Fall. No matter what you’re doing today, it’s also a good day to make plans for how you will this Fall to grow your marriage.

Mark: In marriage, we’re always growing. The truth is, though, we’re either growing together or growing apart. If we’re not intentional about growing together, we’ll naturally grow apart.  On this Labor Day, it’s important to remember that marriage takes work. It’s truly a labor of love, in every way.

Jill: Take just 30 minutes today or sometime this week to answer some of these questions and make plans to grow your marriage this Fall:

What new habit could we start this Fall to invest in our marriage? Exercise together? Pursue a hobby together? Take a walk after dinner each night? Put a date night on the calendar every other week? Spend 30 minutes snuggling and talking together after the kids are in bed and before you each slip into your own evening activities?

What Fall activity could we put on the calendar to do together in September? What about October and November?

What can we start setting aside financially to invest in our marriage? $10/week? $100/month?

When could we do a weekend getaway just for the two of us? Who could watch the kids? If finances are tight, could the kids go to friends or grandparents and we do a “getaway” at home?

We’ve been answering some of these questions and here are some of our plans:

Daily: Exercising together (7am kick-boxing class Monday-Friday)
Daily: Praying together–we use our drive time to and from exercise class to pray together
September: attending “Fight Night” with Les and Leslie Parrott in Springfield, IL
October: Day of motorcycle riding with friends
Financially: saving for a week in Florida in January

The fall routines are slipping into place. What will YOU do to make sure your marriage has some intentional growing routines as well? 

Posted in Marriage | Leave a comment

The Lure of Happiness

GettyImages-170109806Jill: I remember the day well. It was about a month after Mark had moved back home. He came home from work, smiled, and said to me, “Do you know what I realized today?” “No, what?” I replied. “I realized I’m happy. I’m actually happy!” he announced!

Mark: It was a huge realization for me because I’d been unhappy for quite some time. In my unhappiness, I ended up “looking for love in all the wrong places.” I didn’t like what God was doing in my life and decided I was taking the steering wheel into my own hands. Of course, I felt happy with my newfound freedom in life. I was leaving my old life behind in pursuit of a mirage that was before me. I guess you could say I was infatuated with my new self-driven direction. I was blind to the destruction I was causing in my life and around me.

Jill: Years earlier Mark and I had become familiar with Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Marriage. The premise of that book was “what if God didn’t give us marriage to make us happy, but instead to make us holy?” I thought it was a great question, but Mark didn’t like it at all.

Mark: To be honest, that question totally ticked off my immature self.  “Of course, God wanted us to be both happy and holy!” I defended. I discounted the book and didn’t give the message much thought. Although deep down that question continued to haunt me.

Jill: Somewhere along our restoration journey we’d had a conversation about happiness and holiness.  Mark began to think through that question once again, now through the lens of a fully submitted heart that was only concerned about holiness (doing life God’s way).

Mark: I knew I’d made a mess of things and the picture I had was that God and I were walking down the road. I was holding His hand and we were staying on the yellow line. I was committed to not moving to the right or to the left and I was definitely staying away from the edge of the road where I could too easily end up in the ditch. I’d played along the edge entirely too long and had ended up in the ditch. I didn’t want to do that again!

Jill: So that afternoon when Mark came home and made his announcement that he was actually happy, I knew it was a huge realization for him. He’d been pursuing holiness and he was experiencing joy!  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. When there’s more Jesus in us, there’s more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control!

Mark: So I found that Gary Thomas was right. Marriage is one big Refiner’s Fire. Because we live day in and day out with another imperfect human being, our imperfections bump into each other and it often feels like our “happy” is gone. But when we pursue holiness…when we respond God’s way instead of how our “feelings” want us to …when we stay steady and focused on being the right person…we eventually experience the happiness we actually desire. It’s a happiness that is not dependent upon our circumstances but is rather a byproduct of an undivided heart.

Jill: Marriage provides companionship. It’s God’s way of allowing us to experience the deepest level of intimacy on earth. However, it also provides a first class ticket to maturity. We get the opportunity to die to self and learn to love, give, and forgive at deeper levels than we knew were possible. When that happens, we experience the joy of knowing and trusting God more. Pursue holiness…experience happiness.

What about you? Are you trying to find happiness without doing life God’s way? Where do you need to change gears and pursue holiness?

Posted in Marriage | Leave a comment