Monday, April 14, 2014

Growing in Your Faith Together

Before our second Valentine’s Day after we started dating (see throwback photo on the left!), I (Jake) had purchased a present that I was ecstatic about. I couldn’t even contain my excitement enough to make it to February 14, so after some begging and my best impression of puppy dog eyes, Melissa gave in to getting her present a day early. I ran up to my dorm room, grabbed the carefully wrapped box and sprinted back down to Melissa so she could open it and I could await the praise I had coming…

“You got me a Bible Commentary for Valentine’s Day!? Did you not get any of the hints I had dropped about jewelry?”

This was not the reaction Jake had hoped for. His goal of the gift had been to encourage Melissa in her walk with God and give us a tool we could use to do devotional times together and have deeper conversations. A fight ensued about how insulted and offended Jake was versus how unromantic and stupid the gift was for Valentine’s Day. (Jake now can admit Melissa was right…) This then lead into a different debate about what spending time with God as a couple looked like.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It’s All About Semantics

A few months back, (before the Polar Vortex became a thing) Jake decided he would buzz his hair. It would be cool during the summer, easier to deal with on his upcoming missions trip, and it would avoid a trip to the barber, something Jake has always hated to pay for.

He shaved most of it himself and then asked Melissa to, “Come out and do the back.” Melissa quickly stuck the baby in a pack ‘n play, strapped our son into his high chair, and came out to help. She was hurried, but tried to do exactly as Jake asked. The resulting “do” ended up as the picture on your right. We very quickly realized we had two different definitions of the phrase “do the back”. Jake had meant the edge of the back, whereas Melissa thought he wanted her to buzz the entire back of his head on a lower setting.

Most marriage resources say that communication is a key component to all relationships, but not many deal with semantics.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

I Will Not Be Mastered

Compulsive behaviors that drive people to serious sexual addiction or substance abuse are often the death toll to a relationship. However, addiction plays more of a role in the everyday marriage than most of us realize...

See more at: mastered/#sthash.ZmQUsFnI.dpuf

Monday, February 10, 2014

Letting Go

Two small gremlins (aka children) will teach ya about letting go in a major way. As the older gremlin (two-years-old) dumps milk on the younger gremlin (eight-months-old), and grins up at me with this cheeky grin, I can choose to either freak out…or clean it up and move on. I can be angry or I can relish that cheeky grin who isn’t yet buried in an iPhone.

There’s something to be said for living in the moment, it’s really the pinnacle of letting go. If you can surrender each minute, no matter how delightful or horrible it might be; man, you’ve got it made.

Me? I’m still working on this letting go thing. Some mornings I wake up and the pages that need to be written, the editing that needs to get done, the diapers to change, the beds to make, the relatives to please, the cookies to make, and the freaking Pinterest pictures to pin, all overwhelm me and I’m mired in the “holding-on.”

But some days I breathe when the gremlins act all gremlin-y. I laugh when the editing doesn’t get done. I sigh and shake my head when the cookies are burned. Those letting go days remind me that life is meant to be lived—in all its glorious and not so glorious moments.


Friday, February 7, 2014

The Valentine's Day Problem

Here’s an important question to ask: Does your spouse know you love them more than your ministry?

The first year we were married, Jake was excited to do something special for Valentine’s Day. He’d been brainstorming ideas since the New Year about places we could go for dinner and things we could do to make the night memorable. However, there was one big glitch in his plans: that particular year, Valentine’s Day fell on youth group night. We’re sure you youth workers feel that nervous gut clench as you read this. You know the feeling. Choosing between work and spouse…what to do?!

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman – A Man, Not An Addict

This week the world was rocked when the death of another great actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, was announced. It quickly became even more saddening to realize he’d died of a drug overdose.

Since then, the online world has been abuzz with tributes to his mighty work as an actor. And he truly was amazing at his craft. Someone who excelled in the arts and seemed to take his job seriously. We love great storytellers like Hoffman, because they help us understand what it is to be human—in all its glory and grit. Mr. Hoffman was fine actor and should be remembered for the fantastic contributions he made to the craft.

I’ve also seen a shocking number of callous observations about his death. Many people feel it comes as no surprise, that he brought it upon himself because of his addictions. This negative kind of sentiment troubles me on a personal level.

As an adoptive mother of a son whose birth-parents are lifelong addicts, it’s incredibly important to remember that behind the addiction, there is a person. A soul deserving of love, attention, care, and respect. The addiction often overtakes this personhood, and we forget exactly who it is there underneath. Just as Mr. Hoffman can not solely be defined as an actor, his memory should not be solely tainted by the stigma of addiction. We are all people. And we all have ways to deal with the pain of this world, some ways more healthy or destructive than others.

There are a myriad of components that go into the formation of a man or a woman. Our souls are complex and beautiful and dark and light; all at the same time. My wish is that when one of the greats, like Philip Seymour Hoffman, succumbs to something like addiction, all of us left here reeling would remember that he was a man, not an addict. The addiction is not something we can judge. Instead, it should be worthy of our action. His death should propel the world into creating better care for those suffering with addictive behavior, fostering more support groups and treatment centers, funding research about breaking addictive habits, and so forth—we should come together around those who need our help.

Mr. Hoffman’s family will surely not be remembering him as an addict. They will be remembering the way he laughed, the way he drank his coffee, what kinds of books he liked to read. The things that made him a unique individual. This is what we should focus on when thinking about addiction. There are real people behind this pervasive, gut-wrenching problem. And those people need treatment, but they also need love.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Summer Service: A Family Expierence

Summer missions trips are exciting for us youth workers and for our students. They are great times away together to bond and serve the Lord. But, missions trips can also mean a week of stress for families back home who are trying to run normally without the help of the youth worker spouse. Here are a handful of tips to keep in mind as you plan your summer service opportunities that will help keep both your youth group and your family happy about these experiences...

Friday, January 10, 2014

3 Reasons to be Real

Stories of transformation are powerful. There is something that happens when you hear an amazing account of someone turning his or her life around. These tales snare your emotions, renew your sense of hope, and deepen your faith in a God who is all about redeeming and transforming. This is why it is so important regularly share about the transformation that’s happened in your life—especially transformation in your relationships, marriage and family.

In all honesty, family life and marriage are two areas in life that need constant renovation. No one pushes your buttons the way that your spouse and kids do. We are our best, and worst, with the loved ones who experience life with us the most closely. To have good marriages and healthy relationships with our children we must act selflessly. This is incredibly hard to do, and requires the relentless transformation of our inner selves by Jesus Christ. With him, we are daily becoming better husbands, wives, and parents. It is therefore imperative that we are honest about our struggles, and triumphs, with those around us: youth group students, parishioners, other parents, friends, and so forth.

These people need to see the normal struggles we have, even though we are leaders, and they need to hear the ways we are being transformed on a regular basis for a few reasons:

To read them, click this link:

Monday, January 6, 2014

You're Awesome

Hi ya'll. So, I know it's been a while since I've posted. Life with two kids all of a sudden (holy cow!) and book deals and just general craziness has turned the world a bit upside down! But I love this blog and I love talking about marriage, so I'm just gonna dive right back in and hope my absence can be forgiven ;)

I want to talk today about self-worth. Through this blog, our marriage books, and the Marriage & Ministry retreats we've begun to lead, I've come to be known as an open book. My friends, family, acquaintances, readers and so forth have all come to understand over the years that Melissa is someone who can admit her faults. I think I've taken a smidge too much pride in this perhaps, and maybe too eagerly shared my faults and failings with others.

And here's why I'm saying this—over the past couple of months I've been having these sort-of out-of-body listening experiences where I realize that other people have decided it's okay to throw out all my faults and failings in daily conversations.

Now, I'm not saying we as human beings shouldn't be open and honest. We should. Honesty is necessary and life-giving. It creates community and shared experiences and empathy.

But too much talk about the negative aspects of ourselves can make a person feel really negative. Take it from me. I started to realize I was being picked apart far more than I was being put back together.

I'm not trying to point fingers or lay blame here. Instead, I'd like to focus instead on two things that happened after I noticed how much people talked about my failings as a human being. One, a dear friend asked about book writing since I'd had Nora. When I told him I had completed two books and was writing two more, he commented, "Wow, so you work harder under pressure. You actually produce more."

I can't even tell you how good that made me feel! Then I received an e-mail from another dear friend who went on and on about how she's enjoyed seeing me come into my own as an artist. That she can tell I've matured and committed to this story-writing thing and that I'm good at it. And just like that, all the negative comments I'd been getting (not in mean-spiritedness, but just in observation of my personality) lifted.

Through all of this, I've realized how very important it is to use our honesty and truth-telling to build each other up. It can be so very easy to pick one another apart, even if you don't really mean to do so. Words are powerful and we need to use them in our marriages and relationships to create positive self-images in our spouses and loved ones.

My love language is not "words of affirmation", but I still need to hear from others all the good things they see in me—my positive character traits. We all need this!

So, I'd challenge you this week to see how you can build up your spouse (and those around you). Point out the unique and awesome qualities they have and how you've seen them be a truly cool person. This will make their day, I promise!

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Marriage Triange

Most of us know that Jesus should be a central part of our marriage.

We talk to our students about Christ-centered relationships using the image to the right; explaining that as a couple maintains their focus on God and moves closer to Him, they will also move closer to one another. But what does that really mean? How does that look in the daily grind of a marriage with all its ups, downs, joys,
struggles, and mediocre moments?

Obviously, none of us will ever measure up to the ideal. God should be first in our hearts and our minds every moment. If this were happening, it would be easier to love our spouses. The love would flow from Christ, and we’d have a wellspring of compassion, forgiveness, patience, and forbearance. We don’t know for sure, but our guess is that you’re just like us—you try real hard, but sin and life just keep getting in the way! This is normal and okay.

A true Jesus-centered marriage is one where both spouses strive to keep Christ as the focus—strive being the key word here. What does striving mean in a practical sense?

To find out, head to:
Our goal of this blog is to share stories (both good and bad), thoughts and insights about our marriage and we would love for you to jump into the conversation.

The goal is to provide three things:
1) HOPE for struggling couples that they are not alone.
2) GROWTH in our marriages and our understanding of marriage.
3) ENCOURAGEMENT to keep loving your spouse unconditionally.