It’s a Valentine’s Day Pop UP!

Do you know you can attend a mini-marriage seminar every week?

If you’re wanting less conflict… if you’re seeking to move the needle on your marriage… if you want to be more loving and patient with your spouse… if you want to become a better spouse or a stronger couple… if you want your marriage to grow…then we have a Valentine’s gift for you! 

Because you asked and because we wanted to make today special, we’re opening up registration for No More Perfect Date Night for VALENTINE’S DAY ONLY!

WHAT’S INSIDE NO MORE PERFECT DATE NIGHT?

For just 83 cents per day (less than the cost of a cup of coffee), you’ll receive the following each month:

  • DOUBLE DATE WITH MARK AND JILL: This short (usually 10-15 minutes) of power-packed teaching comes from our own learning curve of moving our marriage from difficult to dynamic.
  • DIVE-DEEP INTERVIEW: A 30-35 minute interview with a marriage expert or couple pulls back the curtain on their real marriage and allows us to learn from their experience.
  • DESIGN-A-DATE: A creative date night encourages you to talk, laugh, and have fun together. Whether you do the date night exactly as it is presented or you use it to get your own creative juices flowing, the most important thing is that you’re prioritizing time together!
  • DYNAMIC DIALOGUE WEBINAR: This LIVE members-only webinar allows you to learn in real time and ask any question on any topic of marriage at anytime during the webinar.
  • DISCOUNTS: Member only discounts are available for live marriage events and marriage products.
  • BONUS WEEKS: New content comes out every Tuesday. When there are five Tuesdays in a month, you get bonus material to strengthen your marriage!

You can get a monthly subscription now and ensure that you never lack the resources to reach the next level in your marriage.  It’s available TODAY ONLY! Give your marriage a Valentine’s gift and start your RISK FREE No More Perfect Date Night membership now! The first seven days are FREE!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Dialing Down Defensiveness

Marriage Monday

Mark: For today’s Marriage Monday, we thought we’d share one of our videos from the No More Perfect Marriages Curriculum.  This is a set of videos available for free for individuals, couples, small groups, or marriage ministries.  It’s available at www.NoMorePerfect.com (there’s also free video curriculum for No More Perfect Moms and No More Perfect Kids there, too!)

Jill: This video is all about reducing defensiveness in your marriage.  It’s a skill we all need to be more intentional about!  If you’re reading this in email, you can launch the video here!  Enjoy!

5 Tips for Handling the Preschool Years

Because of the age range of our five kids, I had a preschooler for 17 straight years! It seemed those years would never end, yet here I am a mother of five young adults.

Today I’m thinking of those of you who are in the preschool years…particularly the terrible twos or the trying threes! I was recently sharing some encouragement with a mom of littles. If you’re in the early years, maybe you could use this encouragement as well

Make sure you’re doing proactive self-care. What fills you up? You need to be doing it regularly so you have the emotional stamina to handle the tsunami of emotions coming from your toddler. When my kids were little and I was a stay-at-home mom, I asked my husband for the first 30 minutes after he got home. We called it “Daddy wrestle time.” He would wrestle with the kids and I would go to the bedroom, close the door, and read. It would give the introvert me–who craved some alone time– just enough energy to get through the evening.

Be the parent. Don’t allow your toddler’s “loud” emotions lead your home and family. Instead let your steady leadership stand strong and not be manipulated.

Watch for issues that exacerbate the emotions—Is he tired? Is she hungry? Does she need some emotional reassurance like a hug or time for a story?  If we look beyond the symptoms with a little compassion, sometimes we’re able to lead them to what they really need.

Make sure your toddler is on a regular routine. Bedtime between 7:30 and 8:30 pm. A nap or rest time after lunch.  Eating meals and snacks on a regular schedule. The lack of routine can cause emotional swings in a toddler that longs for leadership and boundaries.

Remember—this too shall pass. The terrible twos are challenging but they’re not forever. Find encouragement in knowing that you will get to the other side of it sooner rather than later!

What about you? Would you add any words of wisdom that would be helpful for moms of littles? 

If You Win You’ll Lose

Marriage Monday

Mark: Jill and I aren’t big sports fans but we did watch some of the Super Bowl yesterday.  It was quite a game!

Jill: After the game, we were talking about the fact that there’s no marriage Super Bowl, although many times we approach marriage as if it’s a game to win.

Mark: Marriage isn’t a competition. In fact, there’s no room for competition in a loving relationship. We run the game of life together and cheer each other on.

Jill: There’s no keeping score. No 50-50. It has to be 100-100. Serving doesn’t keep score and we’re called to serve one another.

Mark: And finally there’s no winning in marriage. Even in disagreement. We can’t be motivated to win. We have to make sure that reasons never trump relationship. When we disagree, our goal needs to be understand each other’s concerns, not win the argument.

Jill: So what do we lose if we try to win? We lose our spouse’s trust. We lose our intimacy. We lose safety in our marriage. We lose out on loving well.

Mark: The next time you set out to win, stop yourself. Because if you work to win in marriage, you’ll lose for sure.

When Life Is Hard

It was today, February 2, six years ago, that Mark left. Disillusioned with life, God, people, the world, and marriage, he was determined to ride off in the sunset with another relationship.

It was today, February 2, four years ago that we both shaved our heads-me because it was falling out from my chemo treatments. Mark because of solidarity.

It was today, February 2, two years ago that our adopted son started another emotional spiral that would end up with him homeless, hospitalized, and unwilling to get the help he needed.

February 2 is a marker day in our lives. A day we will never forget for a myriad of reasons.

There are no perfect lives. In fact, life on this side of heaven is messy. Difficult. Challenging. Painful. Hard. If we expect anything different than that, we will be in a  perpetual state of discontentment.

I’m not saying we need to have an Eeyore “woe is me” perspective. We just need to have a realistic perspective. There are very, very good days. Good seasons. Good years.  And there are very, very hard days, hard seasons, and hard years.  I’ve found, however, that we can still learn to “give thanks in all circumstances” like we’re reminded to in I Thessalonians 5:18.

Big or small, the hard parts of life can suck the joy right out of our hearts. So how do we love our life when life is hard?  When life doesn’t go as expected?  When our best laid plans get turned upside down?

What I have learned is that we don’t have to love our circumstances, but we can love how God grows us through our circumstances. 

This is truth we find in Romans 5:3-4, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope.

There is no growth without struggle.

My husband and I have five children. Many years ago when our oldest was in junior high, we got an incubator and some fertile eggs from our local 4-H program.  We watched and waited for those chicks to be born. One day we saw a little beak poke through the egg shell. We had been strongly instructed that once the chick started hatching, do not help them!  Their struggle is making them stronger. His hours and hours of pecking and resting and pecking some more strengthened his muscles. That little chick worked to get out of the egg for nearly 24 hours, but he made it!

And so will you and I.  Our struggles can bring growth if we’ll let God use them for His purposes.

When Mark left, I cried. Who wouldn’t?  But I’m not a highly emotional person so those initial tears were the beginning of growth.  God was tuning my heart to his heart. The Bible says that Jesus was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief.  God grew me emotionally.

When I got my cancer diagnosis. I cried. Who wouldn’t? Again God grew me through that hard season. In addition to growing me emotionally by increasing my compassion for those going through physical illness, I also changed my eating and exercising. God grew me physically.

When our son spirals, there are always tears. Yet each time I learn more about addiction and helping but not enabling. More than anything I learn about control and my tendency to do it. Each time I turn over control to God, God grows me spiritually.

In these hard circumstances, my compassion for others going through hard times has increased.  My dependence on God’s Word has expanded. I’ve learned the power of rest and the value of being still. My faith has been stretched. Hope and love have been strengthened in my soul.

When life gets hard, it’s tempting to ask, “Why?  It’s perfectly okay to ask God why, but we won’t always get an answer to that question.  More importantly, it’s important to ask: What? And How?

WHAT do you want me to learn in this season?  HOW do you want me to grow?  HOW can you use this for your purposes, God?”

Where do you need hope in the hardship?  I’ll be the first to admit that life isn’t fair. Sometimes there are no answers that bring about understanding in the pain. You don’t have to love your challenges. But you can love what God can do inside of you while you walk through those challenges.

Just like a baby chick, He’ll strengthen your spiritual, emotional, and relational muscles as you peck out of whatever shell you’re trapped in.

I can truly say that I loved my life even in the midst of each of these hard seasons because I loved what God was doing inside of me.  I clung to the truth of Romans 8:28, that, “God works for the good of those who love him,” and I found my strength in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Today, February 2, Mark is home. Our marriage is healed and I’m stronger emotionally.

Today, February 2, I’m four years cancer free and stronger physically than I’ve ever been.

Today, February 2, our son still struggles and life continues to be hard for him and for us with him. But I’m spiritually stronger and better able to navigate the disappointment and difficult circumstances we face. I’m letting go of control and letting God lead the way more often than not.

There’s not always a happy ending to every story. But there is always the possibilities of a stronger person at the end of every story. As the old adage goes, you can become bitter or you can become better. I choose better and I want to encourage you to do that as well.

I don’t know what you’re carrying today. Maybe your marriage is in crisis. Maybe one of your kids are in crisis. Maybe there’s more month than money. Maybe you’re in the middle of a cancer journey…either your own or a loved one’s. Maybe it’s a health crisis. We all face difficult times.

Whatever you are dealing with, I want to encourage you to grieve what isn’t and adjust to what is.  Then ask God how He wants you to grow and how He wants to use this for His purposes in your life.

Once you do that, stand back and watch God do His best work…because when we are weak, He is strong! 

How To Clean Up A Relational Mess

Marriage Monday

Mark: Well it was bound to happen at some time. We’ve both been different people since putting back the pieces of our broken relationship six years ago. We interact differently, we respond differently, we work to think differently. But Friday night we went back to old ways.

Jill: That’s right. We had a big ‘ole fight on Friday night and both reverted back to old ways. We promise honesty here…so you’re getting it.

Mark: We even went to bed angry with each other. I know…the Bible says that you shouldn’t let the sun go down on your anger. But we did because we were each rehearsing in our head and our heart why we were right.

Jill: It was still tense on Saturday morning but God was working on each of our hearts. Finally one of us said, “I’m sorry I hurt you last night. Will you please forgive me?”  The other answered, “I forgive you,” and followed it with, “I know I hurt you too. I’m sorry for that. Will you please forgive me?” And forgiveness was extended.  We talked for a few minutes about how we fell back into old patterns we hadn’t experienced in years, but then moved on with our day putting the conflict behind us with the closure forgiveness provided.

Mark: It happens to all of us. There’s always a battle between the flesh and the Spirit going on inside of us. The flesh wants to do things “my way” and the Spirit leads us to do things God’s way. Our goal is to do things God’s way far more often than doing things our way. But sometimes we falter…and when we do, we need to know what to do.  Here are four important steps to take to clean up a relational mess:

  1. Recognize the reality of spiritual warfare. Your spouse is not the enemy. The Bible tells us that Satan comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).  He wants to divide us and will whisper lies that keep us separated when conflict happens.
  2. Take your thoughts captive. When we’re sideways with each other, we rehearse our position in our head over and over. Sometimes we have an entire argument in our head–of course we always come out on top. But being right can’t be more important than being in relationship.  In No More Perfect Marriages we talk about the fact that the “slow fade of defensiveness happens when reasons trump relationship.” Stop rehearsing your reasons and start refocusing your thoughts on the good in your spouse and the importance of your relationship.
  3. Do the right thing. Own your part. Apologize for whatever you contributed to the mess–even if it was (in your opinion) less than what your spouse contributed.
  4. Offer a full apology. Don’t just say, “I’m sorry.” Tell him or her what you’re sorry for and then ASK FOR FORGIVENESS.  This is the part that is often forgotten. When forgiveness isn’t requested then it rarely given, and that’s what keeps us from experiencing closure to our conflict.

Jill: Conflict is a part of relationships and when it’s not handled well, the mess needs to be cleaned up. But it doesn’t have to derail our relationship. If you fall back into old ways, don’t get discouraged…just get right with each other as soon as you can.

What about you? Of the four steps above, which do you need to be most intentional about? 

P.S. Looking for something fun to get your honey for Valentine’s Day?  Check out Union 28 shirts with a special discount for our readers!

It’s A Mom Getaway Day!

I’m so excited to share with you something Mark and I have been praying about and my team and I have been planning! It’s a Mom Getaway Day designed to give moms a day to run away from home so they can run back home to their family with a renewed spirit!

Limited to 250 moms, this getaway day takes place March 10, 2018 in Bloomington, Illinois. Want to learn more? You can find all the details here!

And if you don’t live in the Midwest to make it to this live mom event, don’t worry…we’ve got you covered! We have online workshops and other resources in the works that will help you be the best YOU you can be!

Stay tuned…2018 will be a great year!

Four Ways NOT to Talk With Your Spouse

Marriage Monday

Mark: Words matter. But even more than the choice of our words, it’s the way we deliver our words that can make the biggest difference in relationships.

Jill: In marriage, the way we deliver our words can add more meaning to them than we often intend. Or in some cases, if we’re honest, it’s exactly as we intend.

Mark: Jill and I have both worked hard on this the past few years. Our unhealthy delivery methods have, most often, been replaced by healthier communication habits. We don’t always get it right but these days we get it right more often than we get it wrong.

Jill: Ephesians 4:22-24 gives us direction on this, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  We’re to “take off” the unhealthy ways of communicating and “put on” Christ-like healthy ways of talking to each other. 

Mark: Here are some practical steps:

Take off sarcasm. Put on honest, genuine communication. Sarcasm is intended to cut or wound. It’s most often used when we feel angry or frustrated but we lack the courage to speak directly about our feelings. Sarcasm is also used to cover up embarrassment or defensiveness.  Replace sarcasm with genuine communication about how you’re feeling. Push yourself to be honest with others.

Take off passive aggressive. Put on direct communication.  Passive aggressive communication is an indirect way of dealing with conflict. Withdrawing, sulking, pouting, and procrastinating can all be forms of passive aggressive communication.  Replace passive aggressive tendencies with direct communication to the other person about your hurt, struggles, or feelings.

Take off speaking under your breath. Put on grace.  When we speak under our breath it’s a form of criticism, judgment, and pride.  Replace the irritated feelings you’re expressing under your breath with grace, compassion, and understanding. Make connecting with your spouse’s heart much more important that getting your point across.

Take off exasperation. Put on kindness.  An exasperated tone says, “you’re stupid,” or “not again!” or “can’t you get it right?” It’s disrespectful. A kind response recognizes your partner’s humanness and treats him or her with respect.

Jill: Exasperation is probably my biggest downfall. I can become easily exasperated and then my tone becomes disrespectful. I’ve been working on that pretty intently the past few years.

Mark: My default is passive-aggressive communication.  I can easily move to this behavior when I’ve allowed things to build up inside of me and chosen not to be honest. Honesty is always the best way. I’m learning that putting on direct communication is always the right course of action.

What about you? When it comes to communication in your marriage, what do you need to take off and what do you need to put on?