The List

I was a freshman in high school when I met the woman I wanted to marry and spend the rest of my life with.  As a 14-year-old,  I had everything figured out… so I thought.  I was sitting at a picnic table minding my own business when a cute, I mean really cute, 16-year-old brown haired girl walked by.  I noticed her right away and loved what I noticed!  She was wearing a simple white t-shirt with red and black checkered Umbro shorts.  

It was the summer of 1995.  Heather was and still is two and a half years older than I am.  After spending a week with her,  I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.  I just had to figure out how to actually make that dream a reality.   

We lived two and a half hours apart and the internet wasn’t what it is these days. Dial-up ruled the day!  Napster wasn’t even invented yet. In order to make my dream a reality,  I decided to attend as many events that Heather might be at.  I started attending church camps and other events hoping Heather would be there and …she was.  My plan was working. I finally got up the courage to ask her for her address so I could write letters to her.  We wrote via snail mail for several years.  I still have some of those letters.  

We finally were able to spend time in the same space in the fall of 1999.  I graduated high school and attended the same college Heather did.  The fact that she was there, legit was the main factor in my decision-making process of what college I would attend.  The problem was that when I finally showed up, I realized I wasn’t the kind of guy Heather would want to date, let alone marry.  When I was finally honest with myself, I could see there were habits and characteristics in my own life that I wasn’t proud of.  

At some point during my freshman year of college, I created a list of characteristics that I wanted my future spouse to be like.  This list included characteristics such as loving, caring, maturing follower of Jesus, fun, faithful, funny, and attractive (who wants to spend the rest of your life with someone you can’t stand to look at?).  The purpose of the list was to help me identify ladies who might hold these characteristics.  This list became more important in just a few months.  

Eventually Heather and I started to hang out.  I quickly realized why Heather was the one. I realized that my integrity and maturity or lack thereof would hinder me from ever being the kind of guy Heather would want to date.  

I have journaled my prayers since I started following Jesus.  That list I created was in my prayer journal and during my sophomore year of college,  I read back over it.  God spoke to me that day like never before.  The message was clear.  “If you want your future spouse to be loving, caring etc.,  when will you become those things?”  “When will you start the process of becoming the maturing follower of Jesus I created you to be?”  

After my “conversation” with God,  I intentionally started the process of maturing as a person.  I quit smoking, started reading my Bible and doing more to learn about God.

In order for me to find Ms. Right (pretty sure that’s a myth we’ll unpack some other day),  I had to become the version of Mr. Right my Ms. Right was looking for.  Andy Stanley says it best, “Are you the person the person you’re looking for is looking for?”

If not, maybe it’s time you start that process for yourself.  Make a list of those characteristics you’re looking for.  Be honest with yourself. Are those characteristics in your own life?  Here’s the great news, your story isn’t over.  You’re not defined by your dating history. You’re not defined by your past. Allow God to write another chapter in your life.  If you’re married, you might want to do this as well.  You’d be surprised how this might benefit your marriage.  

I pastor RE.THINK Church and 80% of our people are under the age of 30 years old.  Several of these people are single. Some have been married before and are now looking for what’s next, or better put,  who’s next.  I’ve encouraged our people to stop looking for Mr. or  Ms. Right and become Mr. or Ms. Right first.

 

Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash

3 Ways to Make 2018 YOUR Best Year Ever

Woah 2017 is almost over.  Did you miss it?  Did you live in the moments, capture every transition that took place in your life?  Guys, did you mourn the migration of your hair from your head to ‘other parts’ parts of your body?  Did you celebrate anything major?  Or maybe did you miss out attempting to capture the perfect picture of the moments that you missed the actual moments?

I don’t know about you, but as 2017 comes to an end I’m eager to move forward and press into 2018.  I think 2018 is going to an amazing year, I’d even say it’s going to be my best year I’ve ever lived.  

I’ve already started to set some goals for my 2018.  These goals will help me mature into the person I believe God is wanting me to become in order to accomplish the things He has in store for me to accomplish.  

As easy as it would be for me to press on toward 2018 and not pause and reflect I know I must.  There’s a misleading saying that I’ve heard throughout my life, “Experience is the best teacher…”  As I’ve not only gotten older but matured I’ve come to realize that this statement is lacking.  It’s not complete.  If that were the case then we’ve got to mature just by getting older.  If that were the case I wouldn’t be tempted to relive my glory days in high school and retell those stories.  Uncle Rico wouldn’t keep reminding us that he could throw a pigskin a quarter mile either.  Do you know an Uncle Rico?  Are you an Uncle Rico?  

Don’t just get older this year, don’t just go through 365 days and not mature or get better.  

I’ve put my top 3 tips below in how I’ve matured and maybe they can help you out as well.  

  1. Evaluate your experience.  While experience can teach us a few things, it’s not the best teacher.  Evaluated experience is.  Take time to evaluate your 2017.  How did you mature?  What was great about it?  What sucked about it?  How did you fail?  How did you succeed?  Take time to write your responses in a journal or diary whatever you want to call it.  I have had a file on my Evernote that I look back over at times and answer those same questions.  
  2. Write a statement of who you want to become in the coming year.  This statement can have goals, it can have character traits you’d like to have in your life.  It can be as big or as simple as you’d like.  Write something down that you’ll be able to look to and remind yourself over and over again throughout 2018.  Put a reminder on your phone throughout the 365 days to look at and through this statement.  Instead of waiting until the very end of 2018 you’ll be able to adjust according because you’ve taken this statement seriously.  Any goal worth achieving needs attention and intentionality so this helps you in both regards.  If you don’t give your goal or statement attention or intentionality you’re wishing and hoping, but not really doing your part to mature.  
  3. Break 2018 into quarters like you would in a business fiscal year.  In the coming days think through habits or disciplines that will help you accomplish your statement from #2.  In that quarter develop 1 habit/ discipline that will help you accomplish it.  If you choose more than 1 you won’t actually accomplish any.  At the end of 2018, you’ll have developed 4 habits that will help you become who you actually want to.  

I’m believing 2018 is going to be the best year I’ve ever lived, but I don’t want to just waste 365 days of possibilities of maturing and bettering myself.  Enjoy the time to pause and evaluate and give yourself attention and intentionality to become the person God wants you to become, in order for you to do the things He has planned for you to do.  

One more final thought…. As we become the person God created us to be it should improve our world we live in.  Our workplace, schools, friends, family etc should improve.  We don’t just improve just to improve.  It should be like the coffee bean transforming simple water into something new, something better.  

Made for Less

This month I reached out to a friend who has a great story and lives a fun life!  Caroline has some great insights that I believe we’ll learn from as we head into this holiday season.

Often times we hear the phrase, “You were made for more” and in a godly sense, this can be completely true.  We were made to love more deeply, give more often, speak more kindly, and pray more wholeheartedly.  But in a worldly sense the word, more, means something totally different.  Our culture today is telling us we deserve more, we need more and we can’t be happy without more.  More stuff that is.  They are also making it easier and easier for us to “buy” into that lie.  With one click, you can have everything you’ve ever wanted to be delivered to your home in 2 days… FREE shipping too!  But what happens after the little brown box shows up on your doorstep?  What happens when the excitement wears off and that, once special, item ends up in the back of your closet never to be seen again?

For many years my oldest son begged us for a gaming system but we kept pushing his insistence aside.  We didn’t want our child to spend his days playing video games and shoving his face into a screen.  But we finally gave in and for his birthday we surprised him with a Nintendo Wii.  It was used.  Ten years old to be exact, and only had a couple games, but to him, it was the BEST THING EVER!!!  Now fast-forward one year and my son is already wanting to save up his money to buy the newest and coolest gaming system on the market.  Don’t ask me which one that is?!  It seems like every year there is something bigger, better, faster and everyone has to have it.  Don’t even get me started on iPhones.

Too many of us these days believe that contentment can be found in possessions.  But in all honesty, the list of items we truly need in life is pretty short and you probably already have everything you need in your home right now.  Jesus tells us in Luke 12 “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” What if contentment really is found in the opposite place you’ve been looking? What if contentment was found, not in accumulating possessions, but in having less of them?

In the coming months and years, we as parents, need to be mindful of what drives us to make certain purchases.  Is it for security, acceptance or contentment?  These things are not bad in themselves to desires but when it comes to materialism, they have limited ability to satisfy us long term. Solomon was a great example of such a life.  He was the wealthiest King in Israel.  He built houses and vineyards, he owned more livestock than anyone in Jerusalem, and he also had gold, silver, and female singers.  He denied himself nothing.  But at the end of his life Solomon wrote these words, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” Ecclesiastes 2:11.  He was disillusioned and learned that possessions and money didn’t bring happiness.

So, what does bring contentment and happiness?  The bible tells us in 1 Timothy, to put our hope in God, the one who provides us with everything we need.  We are supposed to be good, do good, and be generous with all that we have. By doing so, we will lay up treasures for ourselves. But they are not earthly treasures. In Matthew 6 it says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

There are more valuable pursuits in life than accumulating material things.  I like to tell people, remove everything unnecessary and improve the purpose of what’s left.  If you remove all the distractions, all the unneeded things in your life, what’s left?  Possibly God, family, friends, nature, and lots and lots of purposeful and intentional time together.  And like my pastor always says, “Love God, love others, and teach others to know and love God.” It’s that simple. That is where you will find true contentment and happiness.

This holiday season try to focus on the most valuable things you truly “need” in life.  Spend more time in the word and more time with the people around you.  And as for presents this Christmas, my son will NOT be getting that gaming system that he wants so badly.  Instead of all toys and gadgets, our kids will be receiving gifts of experience, adventure and time.  Things like season passes to the zoo, aquarium, museum, theme park, rock climbing, fishing, eating at their favorite restaurant, etc.  The list could go on and on.  See how your kids react to getting tickets to their favorite sports team or admission to a trampoline park for the day instead of a toy.  You might be surprised at how well they handle it!

In what ways could your life improve if you and your family owned fewer possessions?  Who could you invest more time in if you had fewer material distractions in life?

Caroline Hay grew up Indiana but now lives in Oklahoma with her husband, Kevin.  She is a Homeschooling mother of 3 boys, Photographer, Instagram Influencer, and Former Blogger. You can find her most active on Instagram @cnhay5

Just a little Man Spreading here….

My younger sister brought this idea to my attention recently, man spreading.  She flew into Chicago on a Friday night and as we picked her up at Midway Airport she just had to get her frustration off her chest. Here’s what she had to say.

First, let me just say this is not a complaint on dimensions of a man compared to my 5’1’’ frame. Having broad shouldered brothers and 6’2” husband, I get it. Airplane seats are less than ideal and nearly impossible to fit in. That being said, when I sat down next to a young, same size-ish man as myself, I didn’t think I’d have to fight for my own seat space with such assertion. With an aisle spot, this guy took up his seat and then some of mine for the majority of the flight. Elbows out, knees repeatedly pushing me into a narrow (real uncomfortable) crossed leg position.

I’ll admit this is a funny topic, but I feel that it depicts something that is really going on in our culture.  The discussion around this issue is one that has quietly been going on for a while now.  

During my lifetime I’ve noticed something, the leaders of our political and government, religious practices, groups, education departments, medical industry, and business and industry have been led, and ran by white males. In my lifetime the leaders of these areas have started to see some diversity.  Which is great for culture, politics, religion, education, and every other aspect of culture.  It’s not only great for the people that are affected by these parts of culture, but it’s great for the leaders who get to lead.  Unless you’re the guys who are being replaced; aka the white males that have been leading.  No longer do we live in a culture that allows leaders to lead based on their last name, the color of their skin, or gender. There is at least a debate (it may not be a fair debate yet, but the discussion is actually being had). Until recent history in America, the number of non-white males holding leadership in these realms is few and far between.  

In my opinion, of what I’ve observed, is that white males (which I am one of) have felt the pressure to give up their leadership roles based on their gender and color of their skin and now have to actually lead and earn that space and position of leadership.  So they react by man-spreading, maybe not like one would on a public transit but still.  This happens in comments like, “I’m not racist but….”  “You’re in America learn our language….”  (as if we had our own official language).  “You’re successful for a _____”

I am grateful to have worked in a company named Denso Manufacturing that had a goal of empowering and promoting anyone who was worthy of being promoted.  I’m sure they weren’t perfect in this, but from what I experienced minorities and women were given a shot at leading, and some are thriving there as well.  I’m encouraged by the recent announcement of Willow Creek Community Church’s leadership transition taking place.  Founding Pastor Bill Hybels will be replaced with Co-Ed Lead Pastors, Heather Larson, and Steve Carter.  This is a monumental shift! 

I do believe organizations and companies are making some major strides in regards to how they are intentionally stopping the manspreading within their own ranks.  I’ve witnessed my own denomination do this in recent years by electing Jo Anne Lyons as the General Superintendent.   

So what if you’re like me, a white male in a leadership role, what should we do?  I believe number one, pull your legs together. Create space for others to lead.  Don’t lead by position or title, earn it.  Build up the reputation, credibility, and lead by example.  We must first admit this happens and is an issue.  The fact that women on average are paid $.79 to do the same job men do and are paid $1, we must admit and address it.  If we can pay a man to perform the same job it’s not a lack of funding, it’s a lack of confidence, trust, and an increase of greed on our part.  We must believe that non-white males can actually do a great job and might even do a job better than we may, and that’s ok.  It’s uncomfortable to watch someone outperform you, but it is okay.  As a leader, we are meant to lead, and that usually means creating space for others to lead.  

Secondly, do the difficult thing and earn your position over and over again.  Reinvent yourself as a leader.  The world and markets are changing which requires new leadership.  Relearning how to communicate, relearning the market,  and relearning how to accomplish something you’ve already known is a challenge.  Matt Keller defines teachability as being willing to relearn that which we think we already know. Teachability is the key to success.  Check his book out, Key To Everything.

Squeeze in and give others, especially the emerging leaders, room to lead.  Be okay with others accomplishing tasks, goals, in ways that you aren’t comfortable with.  Be there to offer advice, but not overwhelming them with your crushing man-spreading. I look forward to the day that leaders are leading based on their merit, not simply holding their leadership positions because of their skin color, last name, or gender.  I believe when this happens we’ll experience some great days!  

 -Co-written by, 

Stephanie Smith & Marc Ulrich

Why RE.THINK Church

A little over 2 years ago when we decided to venture down this path of starting a church in an area where we knew no one and had no connections; we really had no clue what to expect.  Heather (my wife) and I didn’t know exactly what kind of church we wanted to create we knew what kind of church we didn’t want.  Nor did we know what to expect when we finally were able to move up to Merrillville, IN.  

I’ll admit we wanted to create a church based on our own personal experiences as well as our experiences as pastors on staff at several different churches, some were boring, some were way too fancy and uptight, and most weren’t innovative.  So when we decided to start a church we decided to start a fun, casual, and innovative church.

  1.  Start a fun church.

My first memory of church happened when I was about five years old.  The pastor standing on the stage babbled on and on about stuff I had no clue about.  Like most five-year-olds, I got bored… really bored.  My older brother and I sat there talking, fighting, and who knows what, but we were especially loud on that particular day.  

The pastor, Pastor Helmet Head, was the name I gave him because of his perfect depiction of a TV Evangelist of the 1980’s… his hair wasn’t moving at all hence “Pastor Helmet Head.”. He looked down from the stage as he stood behind the pulpit and told my brother and me to be quiet.  I simply responded back, “Yes, Pastor Helmet Head….”  I realized then that kids were expected to act like adults, and most adults just simply endured this version of church.  After Pastor Helmet Head, a new guy named Dave became our pastor.  Dave was pretty traditional but fun.  He helped me to get a glimpse of what church would look like when there is fun involved.

I think it’s time we started allowing the church to be fun.  I think it should be age relevant environments so that an adult can encounter Jesus just like a child can encounter Jesus.  Kids shouldn’t have to sit through an adult service and never move.  There should be dancing, fun, games, and the occasional loud screams of joy from the kid’s area.  All these things should be a sign as to what’s going on as adult leaders break down the complex truths of the Bible into simplistic forms meant for kids.  If these things don’t happen I would tend to question what’s really going on!   

It’s time for  RE.THINK Church to make it fun!  

We don’t take ourselves too seriously because let’s face it if God has a sense of humor maybe it’s time for His church to have one too!

  1. Start a casual church:

I remember waking up every Sunday and wanting to wear my jeans and a t-shirt, but no I couldn’t.  I had to dress up, put on my Sunday best.  The funny thing is I remember doing all this, but not doing my hair.  My hair was a mess most Sundays, but at least I wasn’t wearing jeans!  

One particular Sunday, in between our Sunday School and church service, I asked an adult, “if someone can’t afford dressy clothes can they come to church?”

The adult’s response has shaped me since, but not in a good way.  

The response I got was essentially this, “If you can’t afford dressy clothes coming to church is the least of your worries…” the adult caught himself after those words, but the damage was already done.  Like toothpaste that has been squeezed out of the tube, he couldn’t put the words back in his mouth.  There was no recovery for him, his attitude is one that I’ve seen in several churches throughout America. He just happened to voice it.  

When I think of a church a place that should be known for grace, mercy, love, and kindness. I shudder at the idea that church is known for the thing most people get dressed up in order to encounter Jesus.  Pastor Jud Wilhite states in his book, Uncensored Grace, “Sometimes people who have it together externally are a mess internally.”  Let’s not fool ourselves here, dressing up doesn’t make you any more godly.  

I’d rather have someone show up in what they can afford, what they are comfortable in. As long as bits and pieces are covered and there are no disrespectful writing or graphics, then we’re good.  

Having a casual church isn’t all about the dress code though.  

We understand that the message of Jesus and living life the way He intends us to live can be a  very difficult thing to live out.  We get it, we are still striving to do the same here.  Creating a casual church goes beyond the dress code and into the terms of how people mature through their relationship with Christ.  

People are in control of the pace at which they want to take their next right step.  We’ll explain everything up front as much as possible, but we expect people to take the journey as they see fit.  We’re here to journey with you along the way!   

  1.  Start an innovative church:

I’ve been a pastor since 2001.  I’ve been involved in churches to some capacity my entire life.  I’ve noticed something about churches… on the surface, churches have the same elements.  Every weekend there is a service, songs are sung, someone stands up to give a message, and someone says some prayers and that’s about it.  Some churches have kids ministries, some churches don’t.  Some churches have things for teenagers some don’t.  

RE.THINK Church has a goal, a mission to be an innovative church.  We don’t want to just start up a church that acts, feels, functions the same as churches we can find anywhere else.  Innovation goes beyond cosmetics.  I believe innovation goes down into our DNA.  

RE.THINK Church resides in Lake County, IN.  There are 220,000+ people who have no religious affiliation at all. We want to see that number eliminated.  Why? Because we believe the message of Jesus is one that will change people’s lives forever.  These 220,000+ individuals have stories, reasons, and beliefs that have led them to consciously check “No Affiliation” on their census.  I don’t know their story, but I want to.  

In order to make it possible for each of the 220,000+ people in Lake County to encounter Jesus in the same manner I have; I can’t depend on the same methods to work.  Let’s face it, they most likely won’t.  

I’ll admit, I don’t have this one nailed down completely, but I do know that my friends, neighbors, fellow parents at soccer games, football games, people I meet at the gym, and at the coffee shop and every other person deserves an innovative church, and that’s what we are striving to accomplish.  

I believe that if God really did create each human being in His own image there is a God-sized God give dream inside each of us.  We want people to discover that dream and unleash the potential in their own lives.  I believe when we start doing that we’ll start living into the full potential that God has for us as individuals, families, and communities.  

S.O.A.P

As a pastor who is starting a brand new church, I’ve been asked this question several times in the past few months. How can I read the Bible and understand what it says?

I realize that not everyone who reads this blog is interested in reading the Bible or may not care about a relationship with Jesus right now.  I would still encourage you to explore this.  There is so much wisdom found in the Bible.  I believe that your life will benefit from reading the Bible no matter your motivation.  Give Proverbs a chance and see if you don’t pick up some wisdom!

This month, I want to explain how I read the Bible and remember what I’ve read.  

#1.  Find a platform and method that works for you.  I personally use the Youversion Bible app.  It’s a great way for me to read/ listen to the Bible in a life-giving manner.  I struggle with physically reading and remembering some things. However, if I hear something, I remember it quite easily.  My wife physically reads from her Bible every morning.  

#2.  Find a translation that works for you.  There are plenty translations out there that work and are great for reading preferences.  I personally enjoy reading the NIV, NLT and ESV versions.  Every so often, I venture to the Message for its ease of reading and a fresh view on the scripture I’m reading.  Some translations of the Bible are more accurate to the original language than others. I personally enjoy the process of finding a translation that helps me understand the concepts, principles, and message of God.  This is important because the Bible teaches me how to live my life the way He intends me to.  

#3.  S.O.A.P. This is a method I’ve used for more than a decade.  Even with utilizing the first two tips, there are were times I’d find myself wondering what I had just read. I would ask myself if there was anything helpful in what I just read.  I came across this method when a mentor of mine explained how he read the Bible.  The S.O.A.P. method is a journal keeping method that helps me understand the Bible content and apply it.

Let’s walk through Romans 8:1 as an example.

S= Scripture

Write down the part of the Bible you’re reading.  If you’re reading an entire chapter, but two verses of the Bible passage stand out to you, write down the entire address i.e.  Romans 8:1-2.

O= Observation

What did you observe in verses 1-2 that stood out to you?  “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

  1. People who are in a relationship with Jesus are free from the law of sin and death….what does that mean for people who aren’t in a relationship with Jesus?  
  2. If there is no condemnation for people in a relationship with Jesus what does it mean for people who aren’t in a relationship with Jesus?  
  3. How can I live a life of freedom?  What does it look like for me to live in freedom from sin and death?

A=Application

Out of the things you’ve observed, what is one thing you can apply? -Freedom.  I want to live my life free from sin and death.  If that is the case, Jesus gives me the strength to live free from the sin that enslaves me.  

P= Prayer

This is the last part of the process.  Sometimes I write it out.  Some days I simply pray it.  Jesus, thank you for your word that offers me life.  Jesus, help me to live in that freedom in order to experience life the way you intended me to live.  Thank you for empowering people thousands of years ago to hear you and write what you directed them to write.  Thank you for caring for me that much!  Jesus, help me to <apply what I just read> live out that freedom from sin and death that can be found in you!  -Amen.  

I hope this helps.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

What are some methods you use to help you read and understand the Bible?

 

Four Life Lessons to Support a Strong Marriage

So this month I’ve asked some of my dear friends to help me out with this blog post.  Mike and Tammy Oswalt are more like “framily” than friends.  I’ve worked with Tammy in the past while we were both on staff at First Wes in Battle Creek, MI.  Mike was a guy that I asked to grab coffee with so often and pick his brain on leadership, fatherhood, life among other random topics we discussed.  These meetings turned into monthly discussions over meals.  Our families vacation together. These two have one of the strongest marriages I’ve ever witnessed.  I wanted all of you to hear their story and insights as well.

Four Life Lessons to Support a Strong Marriage

by Mike and Tammy Oswalt

We hope to inspire and encourage other married couples by our love story that is our life. Our story began when we were still in high school. Mike Oswalt was 17 and Tammy DePalma was 15. For Tammy, it was love at first sight. Mike would soon catch up 🙂 We both went to the same high school and to the same church. Obviously, this made it easier to see each other on a regular basis. We became friends first and realized that we liked being around each other – a lot. We decided to enter a church costume contest together. At the time, Smurfs were popular and so, two smurf costumes were created – complete with blue face paint. For Tammy, this was a huge deal going out in public with her face all blue…but for the right guy 🙂  We won the costume contest and collected our prize which was a gift certificate to a local restaurant. Our first date was dinner out using that gift certificate. After that first date, our relationship moved forward pretty smoothly and when Tammy was a senior in high school, we were engaged. We married on May 23, 1987.

Being married brought excitement and also its own set of learning curves and challenges. We knew that we were in love and committed to making our marriage work. However, it was difficult at times as we learned how to communicate as husband and wife. Neither of us were brought up by parents that exemplified strong marriages, and the culture for our generation was if it gets difficult, get a divorce. We agreed this was not an option for us. We relied on God and our church leaders to help us navigate the first couple years of marriage. This is where we learned the first of many important life lessons – the more you put God at the center of your marriage, the stronger and better it will become.

We were young when we started having kids. Mike was almost 23 and Tammy was just 21 when our daughter was born. We were excited and scared at the same time. We now had a little being relying on us. Four years later, our middle son was born. Three years after that our youngest son was born. We had always wanted to be parents and wanted to raise our children to love God and love His church. Our kids were raised in church. In fact, Tammy worked at the church for eighteen years, so our kids didn’t just go to church on Sundays, they were there on Wednesday nights and sometimes Saturdays helping to get the children’s’ ministry classrooms ready for Sunday. Some weeks were hectic, to say the least. But now as our children are adults we see that they have continued to have a heart for helping others. If you find life being hectic, don’t loose site that children are learning from your example. Through that hectic time, we learned our second life lesson make it a priority for your children to have a relationship with Jesus and teach them that serving others is something that you are to do as Christ followers.

Speaking of hectic times,

If some of you are parents, you know that children put a certain strain at times on a marriage. Parenting is a blessing, don’t misunderstand us, but sometimes the tantrums and fighting between siblings can also create tension in the home. Learning to parent together, on the same page, is key. We were not perfect in that regard but did strive to parent as a team. This helped to alleviate tension between us as a couple. We also knew that we had God’s Word to fall back on and other couples at our church when we felt weak or inadequate as parents. Don’t ever feel like you are inadequate if you reach out to others for help. That brings us to the third life lesson – God gives you the tools for marriage and parenting if you only look for them and follow them.

We recently celebrated our 30th anniversary. Although we’ve had some struggles and heartbreaks that we have weathered together over the years, we have had a really wonderful marriage. We both feel blessed in that regard. We attribute our success to the most important life lesson keep God at the center of your marriage and put each other first. This is made possible when you learn your spouse’s love language – and speak it often. Also, make date night a priority, and by all means, don’t apologize for taking a getaway without the kids each year.


Continue reading Four Life Lessons to Support a Strong Marriage