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Living in the Moment

July 31st, 2017 | 6 Comments | Posted in Encouragement
by Matt Charbonneau

With summer now in full swing, many people are taking advantage of much-needed vacation time.

Perhaps families are packing up their mini-vans and heading to a cottage or campsite. Couples might be touring exciting cities in or out of the country. Individuals could be planning adventures on their own or with friends to keep active and discover new experiences.

It’s a good thing people are so busy in the summer, as before we know it, the season will soon be over.

In fact, just as the calendar pages turn from July to August, stores are loading their shelves with back-to-school merchandise.

Soon, sunscreen and bathing suits will be replaced with binders and calculators.

Beach volleyball games and family barbeques will be a distant memory, thanks to resumed regular staff meetings and gridlock traffic.

Yet, as much as we can easily turn our attention to what lies ahead, we cannot forget to first enjoy what is still before us.

In today’s society, it seems we are constantly pressured to focus on the future, always planning for what’s next.

While this may be necessary, it is also important to appreciate who we are and what we have in the present moment.

Concentrating on today, we can better cherish our many blessings without diminishing their value by looking past them.

You see, God is in the present. His work of the past is complete and He no longer lives there. While He prepares our future, it is still very much unknown to us, and so we may only recognize God in the moment – right here, right now.

For instance, leaving a campsite at a particular time in order to beat the crowd of vehicles that will clog the highway certainly does matter, but thoughts of that lingering so much in one’s mind can easily spoil great conversation during a family picnic.

Stressing about a particular class or teacher you won’t have for another month could only get in the way of a budding summer romance or friendship forming in a summer sports league.

Scripture reminds us to soak up the many blessings we are experiencing now, rather than focusing excessively on what is yet to come (see Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 & Matthew 6:34 as two examples).

The more we turn our eyes to what we cannot control ahead of us, the more we will fail to see the many gifts God has brought right before us.

A long overdue coffee date with a friend, a leisurely walk with our dog in the park on a sunny day or an evening movie marathon with an open agenda for tomorrow are all examples of how God can reveal Himself and bless us this summer.

However, if we do not allow ourselves the time to unwind and celebrate such beautiful moments, August will turn to September and we will be left scratching our heads, wondering what happened to summer.

So enjoy that chance to sleep in. Eat that second ice cream cone. Admire that gorgeous sunset or freshly cut lawn.

Do all of that and more, as living in the moment will allow us to be fully present in order to embrace God’s gifts.

Matt Charbonneau is a high school Religious Education teacher who inspires his students to explore a deeper relationship with God. Applying uplifting lessons, engaging activities, and insightful experiences, he strives to demonstrate the powerful presence and unconditional love of God in everyday life. Matt and his wife live in Ottawa with their two sons and daughter.

Website: www.mattcharbonneau.com
Facebook: God’s Giveaways
Twitter: @Gods_Giveaways

Pray for These 5 Areas of Your Child’s Life That Satan Wants to Attack

July 31st, 2017 | 2 Comments | Posted in Advice and Tips
Alicia Michelle is an author, speaker and blogger. But first and foremost, she’s a mom of four. And here, she shares 5 powerful ways to pray for the areas of your child’s life that Satan will surely try to attack.


There’s a reason why so many of us begin praying for our children while they’re still in the womb. We understand that we’re in a war.God’s Word describes it this way in Ephesians 6:12“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

And while we’re all targets for the enemy’s schemes, Satan is smart enough to recognize that attacks on our kids are especially powerful.

He understands that if he can grab their hearts and establish false teachings in their mind from the earliest age, all he has to do is sit back and watch the dominos fall. 

Yes, it’s a terrifying thought to know that our children have an enemy that actively plots to hurt them.

But here’s the great news:
The Bible promises that nothing, nothing can thwart God’s good plans for our children.

No plan from the enemy can snatch our kids out of God’s awesome covering. And speaking of that enemy, we read in Revelation 20 that he has already lost the war. Amen!

As Christians, our job now is to fight! And as Christian parents, these great battles for our kids’ hearts are fought in prayer as we use God’s Truth to claim victory, break down half-truths and ask for divine guidance (2 Corinthian 10:3-5).

However, as a parent, it’s incredibly easy to be overwhelmed by this task! We know that we’re supposed to be praying for our kids. But what specific areas are our kids most susceptible to satanic attack?

Truly, there’s no one answer to that question! Every child is unique.

Yet, I believe there are 5 general areas where our enemy tends to attack this generation of kids. Let’s take a look at each of them and discover how we can best pray against the enemy’s evil schemes.

Area #1: Self-Worth

We want our children’s inner thoughts and self-worth to reflect the thoughts that God has about them.

Instead of being filled with puffed up pride or mere “self-love,” we desire that they believe the truth. They are beautifully handmade by a Creator who loves them so much that He gave His son’s life to have a relationship with them.

We want them to understand how much God values them, and that nothing or no one can change who they are in Christ.

How Satan Attacks: 

He teaches them that life is all about them and their pleasure.

He tells them that they need to ignore that voice of conviction that tells them things are right or wrong.

At the same time, he is quick to condemn them for their mistakes. He likes to “rub their noses in it” and tell them they aren’t worthy.

How We Can Pray: 

Dear Jesus, help our kids know that we are all born as sinners and separated from God because of our wicked hearts. However, at an early age, help our children grasp the life-transforming concept that they don’t have to live as a sinner under that condemnation. 

Teach our children that they have the opportunity to accept a new, beautiful identity that is called “good,” not because of what they have done or what they look like, but because they are secure in who YOU say they are: treasured, delightful, known and protected. Let them not place their self-worth in accomplishments they may or may not achieve. Instead, let them discover these deeper truths about who You believe they are and build every decision they make on that sure foundation. 

Area #2: Body Image

We want our kids to have a deep reverence for the intricate way their unique body is formed. And because of this respect, we want our kids to grow up honoring their bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit.

We want our kids to treat their bodies with respect by honoring the boundaries God suggests, such as sexual exchange only between a man and a woman within the confines of a marital relationship.

While we want our kids to take care of their bodies through healthy food choices and regular exercise, we also want them to understand their physical appearance does not define them.

How Satan Attacks:

The enemy is hard at work in this area today! First, he tells our kids they’re not uniquely made. Rather, he suggests they’re simply a result of a random combination of genes that’s taken millions of years to create.

Then he convinces our kids that they are mere animals with physical desires that should be fulfilled at any cost. He wants them to believe that physical pleasure (such as sexuality outside of marriage) is normal and right and that anyone who tells them differently is being judgmental.

In terms of health, he uses television and the media to oh-so-subtly promote certain body shapes as ideal over others. Tweens and teens are especially weak in this area since their bodies are rapidly changing on the outside and they are asking pivotal questions about self-identity on the inside. He convinces them that every measure must be taken to achieve these ideal body images, including those that lead to eating disorders and drug abuse.

How We Can Pray:

Dear Jesus, we weep with you over the number of our kids who are buying into the lie that sexual pleasure is something to experiment with. We pray that our kids would treasure their sexuality as a true gift from You. That they would honor that gift by saving it as a precious treasure to give their future spouse. We ask that you would help them to be strong in the face of their own desires. That they would choose purity in the face of temptation. 

Lord we also ask that you’d protect our kids from the idea that they must do anything and everything (including abusing their bodies through eating disorders, drug abuse, or other harmful behaviors) in order to attaining a “preferred” shape or figure. We pray you’d protect our kids from that kind of destructive thinking. And that if they’re tempted to take these kind of drastic measures, that you’d send someone in their lives to stop them. Help them to remember over and over that their identity is not in how they look on the outside but what you see as their potential and worth on the inside.

We pray that our children would treasure their health as a gift from God. That they would have a passion to eat nutritious food and to stay active in order to do their part to take care of this treasure.

Area #3: Influences

We want our kids to be surrounded by those who can influence them toward God’s great purpose for their lives. We also want our kids to grow to become those people who influence others in powerful ways for the greater good.

How Satan Attacks:

Satan’s easiest way to attack here would be, of course, to simply surround our kids with bad influences. But he’s a little trickier than that.

While he still does try to place negative influences in our children’s lives, he knows that we are good parents who do our best to protect our kids from the bad influences.

So he often attempts the opposite: He does everything in his power to (subtly) keep the good influences out.

He keeps our kids away from God’s word. He keeps our children’s parents (that’s us!) too busy and distracted to influence our kids as needed. He strengthens our children’s natural tendency to laziness and complacency.

Using books, television, news reports and social media, he slowly simmers our kids in the false thinking that truth is relative and not absolute. Through this process, he affirms the falsehood that an individual’s godly influence is irrelevant and can even be considered offensive and judgmental against others’ beliefs.

Slowly, he convinces them that they can’t make a difference. That they really don’t have the power the change things anyway, so why even try?

How We Can Pray:

First, oh Lord, forgive us for the times when we have misplaced our priorities so that we haven’t been available to model a strong relationship with You in front of our kids. Help us to understand the power of our influence in our children’s lives and to reorder our schedule so that we can be available to both directly and indirectly offer the godly influence that our kids desperately need. 

Second, while we do pray our kids be protected from negative influences, we also pray you surround them with friendships and mentor-type relationships that portray what it means to have an authentic relationship with Christ. In turn, we pray that you would raise our kids up to be the influencers of the next generation. We pray that you would allow godliness and righteousness to dwell in their hearts so richly that these evidences of your truth spill out of them and to every person they encounter. 

Through it all, we pray that they would not be prone to laziness or complacency. Rather, we pray they would believe that even a single candle burning in the dark makes a difference and would boldly stand up for truth, even when it’s unpopular.

Area #4: Passions

We want our kids to live purposefully and passionately, always seeking God’s direction. We want them to grow up with a willingness to persevere, a deep understanding of the cost (and joys) of commitment, and to be unwilling to settle for complacency and comfort.

How Satan Attacks: 

He distracts and confuses them. He encourages them to use emotion to guide their decision-making instead of seeking to align their passions with what God is already doing.

In addition, he doesn’t want our kids to understand or appreciate their unique personality and talents that God has divinely given them.

Instead, he encourages them toward laziness. He convinces them to be content with seeking self-pleasure and the easy way out. Through mindless pursuits, he keeps them numb to the better life of magnificent beauty that comes from following God’s wild and wonderful best path.

How We Can Pray:

God, help us to know how to guide our kids in their passions by blessing us with the divine wisdom to know when to joyfully open up the gates toward new freedoms and desires, and when to curtail our children’s passions because they’re not able to accept the responsibilities yet in full. Help us model to our kids what it means to live passionately for You by boldly following the dreams you’ve placed in our heart, never settling for complacency.  

Help us to direct our kids with both cautiousness and courage, not allowing our own fears about “what if…?” get in the way of how You want to use them in the world. We pray that our children would continuously seek your ways and your wisdom, regardless of what life brings. We pray that they would understand their importance in the world. That you’d make clear to them at a very early age how they can use their God-given talents to play a role in Your passion to show both truth and love to the nations.

We want our children to have a healthy relationship with money. They should understand that possessions are not equated to a person’s worth nor do they bring ultimate happiness. We want them to understand the things of this world can bring us enjoyment, but lasting joy is found only in God.

Area #5: Money, Possessions and Work

We want our children to have a healthy relationship with money. They should understand that possessions are not equated to a person’s worth nor do they bring ultimate happiness. We want them to understand the things of this world can bring us enjoyment, but lasting joy is found only in God.

How Satan Attacks:

Like Eve in the Garden, the enemy teases and tempts our kids with good looking “fruit” (worldly possessions) that he promises will solve their problems and bring fulfillment.

He convinces them that they need to do everything they can to get ahead (including compromising their values, if need be). Because having lots of money and possessions is the ultimate goal.

Through a spirit of ingratitude, he keeps them insecure, empty and preoccupied with thoughts of what they do not have so that they’re always looking for more.

How We Can Pray:

Heavenly Father, help us to model a healthy example of how to handle possessions and money. Help us to work hard, but to not wear ourselves out in order to get rich so that our children can witness a positive, godly view of hard work and the pursuit of success. 

We pray that our kids would persevere in whatever vocation you give them. That they would work with cheerful hearts as if they were serving you directly. 

We pray our kids would see at an early age that money and possessions are a gift from You and thus must be always held with an open hand so that You can use those gifts to bless others. 

We ask that our kids would find their value in their true identity as a child of You, not in the possessions they do or do not have. We pray for contentment and gratefulness in whatever situation they’re given—rich or poor. We pray they would have a steadfast commitment to work hard with the talents you’ve given them so that they could support themselves, their families and use their money as a way to bless others in need. 

Ultimately, we pray that they would discover that the greatest “wealth” they could possess would be in relationships, especially in a relationship with You.

Brothers and sisters, let’s commit anew today. Let’s begin regularly fighting against the enemy’s schemes by powerfully praying for our child’s life in these areas!

10 Ideas for Non-Digital Family Fun on Road Trips

July 31st, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Lifestyle
Whether your family is taking a short trip to Grandma’s house or a cross-country vacation in the family car, these interactive activities will help the time pass more quickly.

With seven children, you can imagine the travel tensions my wife, Ellie, and I have experienced during long road trips: bad attitudes, wars over seat space, and the incessant asking of the timeless question, “How much longer until we get there?”

Whether your family is taking a short trip to Grandma’s house or a cross-country vacation in the family car, having things to do always helps the trip pass more quickly and makes things much more enjoyable along the way.

Sure, it’s easier to turn on a DVD or let the kids use their hand-held devices. But since you already have everyone in one place, why not buck the solo trend and give everyone a chance to connect and enjoy the trip and each other—as a family?

Through three decades of parenting, Ellie and I have adapted some travel ideas from other creative parents, and we developed others out of our own desperation. The following are some of our favorite non-digital activities and games to play on a road trip, short or long. We’ve even included some links to make it easier for you.

1. Mile marker. On all interstate freeways and many major U.S. highways, there are small green signs along the shoulder of the road to mark each highway mile. The object of the game is to call out a “mile marker” before anyone else. Each mile marker earns a point. If a family member incorrectly calls a mile marker (it turns out to be another kind of sign, etc.), a point is taken away. If two people call a mile marker at the same time, no point is awarded. The first person to get 10 mile markers (or 20 or however many you want, depending on how long you want the game to last), wins the game.

2. Alphabet signs. Find all the letters of the alphabet, in order, on billboards, highway signs, license plates, etc. (The only letters off limits are those inside your own vehicle). As a person finds a letter, they call out the letter and the word that contains it. Everyone competes individually, and everyone can call out letters and words at the same time. The first person to finish is the winner.

3. Bible characters. In this variation of the classic game, “20 Questions,” one person secretly selects a Bible character and announces the first letter of that person’s name. All other family members take turns asking yes/no questions to try to narrow down the subject (“Is it a woman?” or “Did he live in the time of Christ?”). Whenever a family member gets a “Yes” answer to his question, he may continue asking until receiving a “No.”

To win the game, a person would ask “Is it _____?”. If the answer is “Yes,” the round is over and the person who guessed correctly gets to choose the next character. If the answer is “No,” the person is eliminated from that round, and the other family members play until someone correctly guesses the Bible character. One more twist: If the person who selected the Bible character can’t answer one of the questions about the character, the family member who stumped him wins. You can also play this game with animals, sports teams, etc.

4. Camping trip. One person, called the tour guide, announces, “I’m going on a camping trip, and I’m bringing a …” To decide what he is bringing, the tour guide thinks of a rule. For example, the rule could be “Only words that start with an ‘F’ are allowed,” so the tour guide could say, “I’m going on a camping trip, and I’m bringing a flashlight.”

The goal is to guess other words and, in the process, figure out the rule. One person might say, “Can I bring a battery?” The tour guide would say “You can’t come,” because he knows that it doesn’t start with an “F.” That person stays in the game, but his turn is over. If the next person says, “Can I bring fun?” the tour guide would respond, “You can come.” The round can end in one of two ways: 1) Those who figure out the rule can keep suggesting items for the camping trip until the other participants catch on; or 2) Someone uses his turn to ask, “Is the rule, ‘Things that begin with “F”‘?” If a person tries to guess the rule and the guess is incorrect, he sits out for the rest of that round.

Other rules that could apply to flashlight might be: words with two syllables, things you’d find in a backpack, words with three consecutive consonants, things that produce light, etc. You can make the game as simple or sophisticated as you want to cater to the abilities of your family members. This game is great for spawning creativity on the part of the tour guide, and building analytical skills for all the other family members.

5. License plate. Each player has a blank map of the United States. When a family member spots a vehicle with the license plate from a particular state, he marks it on his map. One rule: You have to be able to read the name of the state, not just identify the plate by its colors or graphics.

6. The box game. Using a piece of graph paper or a page with 10 rows of 10 evenly-spaced dots, players take turns drawing one vertical or horizontal line from one dot to another. When a person draws a line that completes a box, he puts his initial inside the box. When the grid is fully filled in, the initials are counted, and the person who has the most initials is the winner.

7. Scavenger hunt. Before the trip, develop a list of items that you are likely to see on the trip. When the trip starts, hand a copy of the list to each family member (non-readers can help readers find the items). Our family has broken our items into categories (animals, people, vehicles, structures, landscapes, etc.). The first person to complete a category gets a special treat (for example, any item under $1 at the next gas station stop). Once a person completes a category, he is not eligible for other category awards (this gives everyone a chance to earn a reward), but is still in the running for the big reward, which is given to the first person who completes the whole list.

8. Reading and listening. Plan a visit to the library before your trip. Allow each child to pick out a few books and make sure they have a personal book bag to keep up with their own stuff (you can also add some coloring books, activity books, pencils, etc.). While you’re at the library, pick up some family classics on audio. We actually listened to a dramatized Cheaper by the Dozen during four days of driving. 

9. Progressive scrapbook. Buy a journal or album for each child, along with some tape or a glue stick and car-safe scissors. Wherever you stop, pick up some brochures or postcards. Have the children select pictures or other memorabilia to put in their personal scrapbook, and have them write what they liked about that part of the trip, what they did, etc. Encourage them to write down as many details as they can. They can add family photos to the book once you get home.

10. How much longer? Using Google Maps or another mapping website, print a map of your trip and give it to each family member. When someone inevitably asks, “How much longer…?” have the questioner pull out his or her personal map and point to where you are on the map. Every once in a while, you might announce, “We’re in ______” or, “We just passed Highway ____. Can you find it on your map?”. This exercise gives the children something to do, answers their questions, and teaches them map skills. And you never again have to say in exasperation, “If you ask again, you’ll have a quiet time out for the next half hour!”

We Were in Marital Hell

July 31st, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Advice and Tips

Struggle and Victory and How to Build a Strong Marriage Foundation

Through God’s work in our lives, we’ve beaten the odds that divorce would be the outcome of our ill-advised union.

by KAY WARREN // @KayWarren1

I’ve always been a church girl. Most of my earliest memories are tied to the people and the small churches my dad pastored in San Diego, California. I remember feeling the pressure to be the perfect pastor’s kid who knew all the right answers to Bible trivia questions. I recall the heavy pressure to be a model for other people and especially the pressure not to embarrass or cause shame to my parents by exposing our family flaws.

Many of my experiences are probably common to others who grew up in a pastor’s home, but a few incidents weren’t related to my dad’s job, and they marked me in ways that have taken me years to overcome. I was molested by the son of the church janitor when I was four or five. I remember not telling my parents because it was “bad” and because as a young child I didn’t have the language to express what had happened.

The deepest place of confusion and internal struggle for me as a teenager was finding pornography at the home of neighbors where I babysat. I was both fascinated and repelled by this forbidden material. It was clearly taboo for a Christian young woman who sincerely wanted to live a pure and holy life for Jesus, but somehow one night I picked it up and looked at it. Instant self-loathing, guilt, and remorse. How can I look at pornography? I love Jesus! I want to be a missionary! I’ll never look at it again, I told myself. And I didn’t. Until the next time I babysat. And the time after that. And the time after that. And before long, I was hooked. The good girl who loved Jesus with all her heart had a secret fascination with pornography, and the shame about killed me. I couldn’t reconcile my temptations and my faith; I was torn apart on the inside. Worst of all, I couldn’t tell anyone about it.

Love and marriage

I continued in this state of internal conflict and failure, all the while knowing I was in deep trouble. I wanted out but didn’t have a clue how to change. Then I met Rick Warren when I was 17 at a training to be part of a summer youth evangelism team that would travel to Baptist churches in the cities and towns of California. We reconnected a year later as freshmen at California Baptist College, a small liberal arts college in Riverside, California, and became casual friends.

He asked me out to Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour in the fall of 1973, and I grudgingly went. A week later—eight days to be precise—he accompanied me to a revival. When we got back to campus, we prayed together to close out the evening. Sitting in the dark, I heard him say, “Will you marry me?” I recall instantly praying and asking the Lord what I should do. I heard God respond, Say yes. I’ll bring the feelings. And so with my 19-year-old understanding of life, romance, God, his will, faith, and my desire to be obedient to him, I said yes. Kay Lewis and Rick Warren got engaged.

Not “the perfect couple”

As I walked down the aisle and stared into the shining eyes of the earnest, kind young man who had asked me to marry him, I knew I was loved. The way he looked at me on our wedding day became an anchor I would hold on to during the darker times when I wasn’t sure we were going to survive the mess our marriage had become.

Our brand-new marriage took an instant nosedive. We didn’t even make it to the end of our two-week honeymoon to British Columbia before we knew our relationship was in serious trouble. We had been warned about five areas of potential conflict all couples have to deal with, and we immediately jumped into all five of them: sex, communication, money, children, and in-laws. We were so young—barely 21—and inexperienced, and when sex didn’t work and we argued about sex, and then argued about our arguments and began to layer resentment on top of resentment, it was a perfect setup for misery and disenchantment.

What made it worse was that everyone considered us the perfect couple. When we returned from the honeymoon, already miserable and shocked at the depth of our unhappiness, we felt like we had nowhere to go with our wretched pain and marital failures. I had told Rick about being molested as a little girl—he was the first person I ever told—but because I was so unemotional about it, he figured it wasn’t that significant an incident to me and basically forgot about it. I kept my occasional ventures into pornography a complete secret. Between the effects of the unaddressed molestation, the resulting brokenness in my sexuality, and the off-and-on pornography fascination, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that sex didn’t work.

The weight of misery

Rick and I managed to limp our way through our first year of marriage, all the while he was a youth pastor to a vibrant group of kids who filled our small apartment at all hours of the day and night. We were young enough and naïve enough—and thoroughly conditioned by our strict upbringing—to not recognize the damage we were causing to ourselves by hiding and pretending everything was okay.

On our second wedding anniversary, we moved for Rick to pursue a master’s degree in theology so that he could become a senior pastor. We still had massive problems with sex, communication, and money, and we were in marital hell. The common understanding of the day was if you love Jesus enough, your marriage will be happy. What was so confusing was that we loved Jesus with all our hearts and were committed to the local church. How could things be so bad?

The fact that we were miserable weighed on both of us like a giant boulder, but we didn’t see any way out. I think we hoped that one morning we would just wake up and find it was all a bad dream and that somehow all our problems would simply vanish. We wanted to honor the sacred wedding vows we had made before God and our loved ones, so divorce wasn’t on our radar. But neither could we visualize living in such pain for the rest of our lives. We just didn’t know what to do or how to create a healthy marriage out of the shattered pieces of conflict, disappointment, dysfunction, and resentment.

Sticking it out

Over time, as we both grew as individuals and as we sought counseling together, we began to experience healing in our marriage. Yes, we faced many rough patches over the decades of our marriage, but I’m so glad we stuck it out through our painful first few years. God has worked in our life together—and he’s used our marriage struggles and failures to draw us closer to him and to each other.

Through my decades of ministry, I’ve talked to hundreds of women and couples who were in lonely, unfulfilling marriages—marriages in which their dreams had turned to dust. Where the passion had long since been buried under the daily grind of careers, children, pressure, stress, and unfulfilled longings. Some of these marriages ended with a loud bang as anger and bitterness corroded any sense of decency and humanity and compassion for the other. Some ended with shock, soul-shattering pain, and disillusionment as betrayal made a mockery of the vows of faithfulness. Some ended with a quiet whisper—silence—as boredom, illness, financial struggles, or any other of myriad issues made even dry, brown grass on the other side of the fence look so much greener than the barren wasteland on their side of the fence.

From the trenches

I don’t approach this subject from the Hallmark-card version of marriage but from the blood, sweat, and tears of the trenches where our marriage was forged and is sustained. I know what it’s like to choose to build our relationship; to seek marriage counseling again and again; to allow our small group and our family into the struggle; to determine one more time to say, “Let’s start over” and “Please forgive me, I was wrong” and “I forgive you.” I know what it’s like to admit that my way isn’t the only way to see the world and to try to imagine what it’s like to be on the other side of me; to choose to focus on what is good and right and honorable in my husband instead of what drives me crazy; to turn attraction to another man into attraction to my husband.

I know what it’s like to have vastly opposing opinions on how to handle and cope with a mentally ill child; to have fear and anxiety and panic threaten to swallow up normal life; to become consumed with the needs of one member of the family. I know what it’s like to be cracked open by catastrophic grief and to share it with your spouse when you’re so different; to figure out how to grieve and mourn together when your mentally ill child takes his life in a violent way and your grief is public because you’re in ministry and your glass-house, fishbowl existence is fodder for scrolling headlines on CNN.

We’ve beaten the odds that divorce would be the outcome of our ill-advised union. We’ve weathered my breast cancer and melanoma. We’ve survived the mental illness and suicide of our son Matthew. And now we know. We know we are the best thing that has ever happened to each other. I am in love with the man God brought into my life so many years ago. Each of us is not who the other was looking for, but each of us is who the other desperately needed to become the person we each are today. Yet, it’s also been the very best thing that has ever happened to either of us. We wouldn’t be who we are today without each other. I’m a better Christian, a better woman, a better mother, a better friend, and a better minister because of Rick. He says he’s a better Christian, a better man, a better father, a better friend, and a better minister because of me. The shrieks of iron sharpening iron have often sounded like gears grinding on bare metal, but the result has been profound personal growth in both of us.

Mandisa “Bleed the Same” Song Story

July 31st, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Artist Spotlight

Because Laughter Is Good for the Soul…And Your Marriage #goodwilldatenight

July 31st, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Advice and Tips
Well since our facebook post has gone viral I figured now was an appropriate time to detail our date night a little more.

Shane and I try very hard to be intentional with date nights.  We have a baby girl and it is so easy to get wrapped up in her and her cuteness.  So, in an effort to keep our marriage first, we try to go on a date night one night a week.  And we try to make them fun!

Shane heard of another couple who went to Goodwill and picked outfits for their date nights and so we just had to do it.  To most people’s surprise, the whole date night was Shane’s idea.  But, we are very competitive so we had to add some rules to it.

Rule One: You each get $10 in Goodwill to shop for the other person and they have to wear what you pick.  This was so much fun.  We found some crazy stuff in Goodwill and made each other try on outfits until we found the perfect one.  This cued the insane laughter from the start of the date night.  My husband is absolutely goofy so as you can imagine I tried on some CRAZY outfits.  We ended up only spending $13 for both masterpieces.

Rule Two: Once you leave Goodwill, it’s like fight club, no one talks about it.  We had to resume date night as normal and pretend like we had no idea our outfits were off the wall.  We went to Longhorn for dinner so of course we had to wait for a table.  The minute we got out of the car we had to put on our game faces.  People were snickering as they walked by and we got a lot of side eye from the hostess.  Again, to most people’s surprise, NO ONE said a word to us about our outfits.  Everyone just looked and laughed behind our backs I’m sure.

Rule Three: You have to pick fake names and go by them all evening.  This didn’t start as a rule but after we saw the outfits we knew it had to happen.  When I walked out of the dressing room Shane said “Ethel get your choir book and come on” and from that point on I was stuck with Ethel.  And really, who wears more plaid than a “Roger” which I affectionately shortened to “Rog” in front of our waiter.

Y’all I don’t think we have laughed this hard in a long time.  Marriage is tough, parenting is tough, and honestly life is tough.  But everything is better when you’re doing it with your best friend.  So, have fun and make sure you hashtag all of your pictures with #goodwilldatenight so we can laugh at your pictures too!

***Disclaimer- to all of the people posting that Shane and I are “goals”, thanks.  But, we are both very off the wall, sinful people.  We only have a great marriage because we put our relationship with Jesus Christ first and let Him tell us how to live and love.  Without Him loving us and showing us how to love each other we would be nothing!

Good News Story!

July 31st, 2017 | No Comments | Posted in Videos
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