10 Questions to Ask Yourself at the Beginning of a Relationship

10 Questions to Ask Yourself at the Beginning of a Relationship

ou may wonder why I'm sharing this post with you since most of you are already married. But this post isn't just about questions to ask before you get involved in a romantic relationship. It's about 10 questions to ask before you get involved in any relationship. I will tell you this—I have gotten entangled in some toxic friendships and they wreaked havoc on my marriage for a number of reasons. If I had only known then what I know now.

Oh, hindsight.

Here's a little teaser for you and then you can hop over to iBelieve to read the rest.

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Marriage Meltdown: When Your Marriage Loses its Identity

After almost 18 years of marriage, we still get our minds blown by new concepts that can radically impact our marriage. 

This idea that our marriage has its own identity, that it’s a living and breathing thing that has its own set of needs, adds a whole new component to what it means for two to become one. 

This weekend we thought about what needs our marriage has, how the needs of our marriage sometimes need to supersede our individual needs, and what continually gets in the way of us meeting those needs.

You can also view the video on YouTube here.

 
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The Marriage Check-Up

I know. You might think a "marriage check-up" is cheesy. But can we pause for a moment?

Craig went to the doctor last June for his yearly physical. He had no symptom anything was wrong. But lurking underneath the outward appearance was evidence of beginning stages of a liver issue and the reoccurrence of a past kidney issue.

Sometimes you don't realize there's a problem until you get a check-up. I fully believe that busyness can blind us to the real state of our relationship. So what if you take 20 minutes with your spouse this week and take stock? You can use this printable to guide you. 

To get the printable shown above, just grab it off the google drive here.

Marriage Meltdown: When Crisis Hits (new video!)

Marriage Meltdown: When Crisis Hits (new video!)

No one wants a crisis. 

We didn't. 

And yet, they come, don't they? During our recent marriage meltdown, we struggled with Craig's medical crisis. Since the urgency of the matter has passed, we had some time to debrief (Craig calls this the "after action report") and discuss how we'd want to navigate these hard things when they come the next time around.

Here are 3 things we want to remember (and you will, too) when navigating a crisis so you don't have a marriage meltdown.

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When there's Nothing Left to do but Embrace

When there's Nothing Left to do but Embrace

As I'm typing this, I'm sitting in a hard hospital chair while Craig recovers from a kidney biopsy. Medical machines beeping, nurses soft-soled shoes squeaking on the tile floor, the murmur of hushed voices. It's been a long stretch of days filled with unknowns. 

One morning this week, I thought about how long we're going to continue on this roller coaster of despair. As many of you know, this summer was filled with loss of loved ones. And the start of Craig's health issues. One thing after the other and my continual question seemed to be: When will we catch a break?

I just longed for the season to be over.

When we found ourselves confronted with this round of health issues, I started to ask the same question. But mid-sentence, I stopped. In an act of somewhat pissed-off surrender, I said something like, "You know, what God? I'm just going to embrace it. Bring it all and I'm going to walk through it. Be in it. Sit in it. Wrestle with it. Help me learn whatever You want me to learn."

My conclusion is this: I am where I am and that is where Jesus is.

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8 Habits Worth Cultivating if You’re Stretched Too Thin

8 Habits Worth Cultivating if You’re Stretched Too Thin

Living life in this world can be brutal. There are days when every time I turn around, there is a new crisis—in my life, in my community, or in my world (and sometimes all three simultaneously). But the truth is, even on a day where there is no major catastrophe or unwanted surprise, life has the potential to be overwhelming. Work, chores, kids, spouse, friends, and volunteer work all clamor for my attention, shouting “Me first! Me first!” I bet you can relate, too. So how do we keep all this work, all this noise, and all these needs from pushing us over the edge? Here are my strategies:

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8 Lies that Can Cripple a Marriage

8 Lies that Can Cripple a Marriage

If you received our newsletter (and opened it), you may have seen my latest piece for iBelieve. It seems perfectly timed for the New Year, doesn't it? Why? Because in order to allow God to sow truth in us this season, we must ferret out the lies that we've used to negate or dismiss this truth.

But sometimes, we don't recognize that we're believing a lie until someone tells us the truth that corrects it. If this has happened to you, you're not alone. I've falsely believed several things about myself and my relationships based on a faulty image of God or the world. Sometimes, our families perpetuate lies because it's what the generation before them believed. But God wants His truth to be deep within us and He is faithful to show us another way to live—one that promotes health, freedom, and joy.

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The Puzzle of Marriage

The Puzzle of Marriage

My daughter thought it would be fun to get a 1500 piece puzzle to work on as a family over winter break. 

"Fun" is relative.

For people like me, it feels more like a challenge, something to complete. It's about the finished product, not the journey. It's about conquering a feat that seems so impossible at the outset.

All those tiny pieces that all have a place. And not just any place, but a specific one. 

Details. Sometimes I hate details. 

But in the interest of family "fun" and now that the constant stream of holiday company around the dining room table is over, I've brought down the puzzle, laid out the mat, and started hunting for the edge pieces.

And, I've started thinking about how marriage is much like this puzzle.

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If You Give Your Kid A Kindle {Or any other device}

If You Give Your Kid A Kindle {Or any other device}

Anytime a device, whether a Kindle, an X-box, an iPhone, or any other device, links to the Internet, there are legitimate dangers lurking. The predators and trolls in cyberspace are just as dangerous as the drug dealers on the street corners, the kid who brings a gun to school, and the teen pressuring yours to have unprotected sex. When we give our children unfettered access to the Internet, it’s like we send them to the downtown city park by themselves when they are three years old.

If we would never do that, why would we let them play on the Internet’s playground with no supervision?

But the truth is, we do it all the time. Why? Here are three possible reasons:

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10 Ways Porn Destroys a Person (& Jen's new writing gig)

10 Ways Porn Destroys a Person (& Jen's new writing gig)

So...I (Jen) got a new writing gig. And of course, the first post is about porn. 

It's a long story, but I got a nickname-Patty Porn. And for a while, before we published the book, I was afraid that I would be known simply as "The Girl Who Writes about Porn." 

But the truth is, I'm okay with all that. We don't always get to choose our mission field, but we do have the choice whether to embrace it or not.

This is me. Embracing.

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When Holidays Aren't Happy: 4 Ways to Deal with Grief and Porn Addiction

When Holidays Aren't Happy: 4 Ways to Deal with Grief and Porn Addiction

My friend sent me a SOS text the other night. She had discovered a movie on their cable account that she suspected her husband had watched. Her text contained the normal anger and anxiety that many spouses feel when they find their significant other engaging in pornography. But she also said this: I feel so sad for him. In the same moment she was overcome by her own grief, she knew that her husband had lost something significant too.

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Special Offer for Advent!

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Advent Sale!

Take 20% off your order using the code ADVENT20.

Happy Advent!

Craig and I both grew up in a liturgical church, but after being on social media the past few years, we have realized that not every denomination celebrates the season of the Church. If you are unfamiliar with Advent, it's simply the Church season in which we prepare our hearts for the birth of Jesus.

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The season of Advent can be filled with intention. Often, I feel the temptation to rush through all the obligatory aspects of the season, but I have begun, also, to recognize the opportunity to savor, to slow, and to steep in the knowledge that this which we celebrate changed the world, changed us, changed me, forever.

One of the greatest things Jesus has taught us is the necessity of prayer. It is our lifeline, the main source of our connection to God. In our marriage, prayer has moved mountains, helping us to overcome we thought were impossible. If you or someone you know also has an impossibly immovable mountain in his/her life, I invite you to bless them with the gift of prayer. And, if you need a little guidance, we have just the tool for you.

Each deck comes with 52 prayer cards, each with a different theme, Scripture verse, prayer points, and action items designed to build intimacy in marriages. 

Each year since we created them, we have run a sale on our Marriage Matters prayer cards. Beginning today, December 2, you can take advantage of our sale thru December 24 (though stock is limited). Enter the coupon code ADVENT20 at checkout to save 20% on your order. Click here to purchase.


How to Show Your Type A Spouse S/he is a Priority

How to Show Your Type A Spouse S/he is a Priority

My friend, Katie Reid, recently published an article about "Type A" friend needs. As I read it, being Type A, my heart lurched at every single point. I responded to her Facebook post:

A thousand times "yes."

I admit: I love being Type A. I love how God fashioned my personality. I love productivity and efficiency. I love serving and planning and meeting people's needs. I am the queen of scheduling and family calendars and even meal planning, even though I loathe (absolutely loathe) cooking. I love setting goals and achieving goals. I also love winning and running and winning at running.

So much to love.

Although some of you who are not Type A may be gagging a little. Because you know the darker side of this side of the spectrum. You see the competitiveness, the non-stop drive, the work-based priorities, the restlessness, the people-pleasing, the unadmitted fatigue. 

If you are married to the Type A person, you see the ugly side more than most.

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5 Things To Do About #MeToo

5 Things To Do About #MeToo

Scrolling through my Facebook feed earlier this week, every other post resounded with #metoo. If you haven’t seen it, you may be asking, “Me too, what?”

There are now variations of the original post, but here is the gist:

“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

Please copy/paste.”

I searched Facebook with the hashtag. Story after story after story broke my heart. I see the revelations and admissions of my friends, of strangers, some feeling guilty because they feel like their harassment was slight compared to the weight of the assault of others, some lamenting how their mistreatment greatly shifted the trajectory of their lives. For some, this was the first time they ever became public with their pain.

#Metoo is a wave of women joining voices together to make a world that routinely objectifies and demeans them notice. Hear. Pay attention.

Today, I added my own #metoo.

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When Numbers Usurp Your #1 Priority

When Numbers Usurp Your #1 Priority

We're talking about intentional living, living out our daily lives with the important things front and center. We've covered distractions and the prioritizing of the roles we play. But what do we do when there's a continual gap between what we want our priorities to be and how we structure our time?

I will be totally upfront and honest and tell you that I have struggled with this in the past in very big ways. Damaging ways. When our book came out in October 2014, I was consumed by marketing and book sales. It wasn't about the money. It was about my needing to prove my worth, my desire to please my publishing house, and my need to be esteemed by Amazon rankings.

Here I had a book about the importance of marriage and relationships and I spent all my emotional energy on my job. I took every single writing opportunity. Craig and I did every single radio event we were invited to. I talked in person or phone or Facebook Messenger that asked me questions or needed help. 

And then my kids would come home from school and I would have absolutely nothing to give them, except the bare minimum. I remember the day that I realized how backward my priorities were like it was yesterday. I was standing at the top of the stairs, my youngest daughter was in front of me, her eyes pleading for me to be able to meet her emotional needs, and I had absolutely nothing in the tank.

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The Roles You Play and the Priority You Assign Them

The Roles You Play and the Priority You Assign Them

We all have several roles that we play in this life. Are you husband, wife, employee, brother, sister, friend? Are you a caretaker, a housekeeper, a social planner for your family? Are you a child of God, a missionary, a volunteer? How do you manage all of these roles and how do they shape your priorities? 

And perhaps, the most important question is this: Is what you say is important backed by your actions? 

Here's an opportunity to take a few quiet moments, list out your roles, put them in order of importance, and then ask your spouse if your life is reflective of that same order of importance.

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The Distractions of Anxiety and Self-Doubt

The Distractions of Anxiety and Self-Doubt

I love things to run smoothly. I like life to fit in the tiny boxes on my calendar, for schedule activities to always take "x" amount of time, and for the weather to cooperate with my plans.

I love meeting agendas, productivity, grocery lists where things don't get left off. I love it when people respond to my emails in timely manners and when I don't forget to do the same.

I love order. I abhor chaos. I love calm and I don't function well in a frenzy.

I know many of you who are just like me and many of you who are not. But no matter how you're built, no matter what your personality leans towards, I think we all long for peace—a deep inner peace that is not contingent on the outside circumstances. A peace that is so embedded in us that we function like a mighty oak in a storm. Our leaves and branches will for sure sway, but our trunk, our foundation, is so deeply planted that we will never forget who we are and Whose we are.

I've been working hard with Jesus lately to practice this rooted way of living. My deepest desire is that when people interact with me I will no longer be the whirlwind of things to do, errands to run, and a plethora of needs and wants on my mind. I want to exude the same kind of atmosphere that my living room does—fresh, inviting, cozy, and safe.

If I'm continually distracted from what God has asked me to do, if I'm filling my life with tasks because I'm trying to prove worth, and if my state of mind is contingent on things going exactly as planned, I will not be safe. I will not be fresh. I will not be inviting. 

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Taming Distractions: My Break-up Letter to Beer

Taming Distractions: My Break-up Letter to Beer

Some of you are aware of the news about my health we received in July.  If you're not, before you assume the worst-case scenario, I’m fine.  It all started when I scheduled my annual physical this year in the hopes of getting a doctor’s note for our hot tub.  Yeah, feel free to laugh, but it saved us over $700 in taxes! 

I digress. 

The blood work came back with an elevated liver enzyme in the results.  After a retest and a sonogram, I was finally diagnosed with Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.  Think of it as a pre-pre diabetes.  Needless to say, I wasn’t too thrilled about it.  The good news was I could get rid of it by losing weight, which is something I’ve been playing around with for years.

Another tidbit about me is that I love to do research.  Seriously, I need to find a job in which I can do that full time.  Me, a library, and a problem to solve?  Heaven.  During my research, I came across the Ketogenic Diet.  What is it the Ketogenic diet?  Well, if you take the normal American diet, it consists of a high intake of carbohydrates, a medium intake of protein and a low to medium intake of fat (or high if you eat out a lot).  The Ketogenic diet consists of a high intake of fats (focusing on the “good fats”), a medium intake of protein and low intake of carbohydrates.  This diet puts your body in ketosis where you body seeks out fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. 

It’s pretty restrictive, but when looking at the foods that I could eat versus the foods I couldn’t eat on the diet, I was thrilled. All I had to do was cut out the sugary stuff and the carbs. As I continued to scan down the list of accepted and barred foods, I came to the alcohol portion of the list. 

And that is when it hit me. 

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Distractions {new video & short series}

Get distracted much? Us, too. These distractions keep us from our greatest goals and closest relationships. Craig’s opening up about how the distractions of negative self-talk hindered him in previous weight loss journeys and Jen reveals insight she just got this morning about how anxiety pulls her away from the One and the ones she loves. 

Our plan is to turn this into a series all centered around priorities: why we need them, how they get out of whack, and how we can refocus on them. We hope you'll join us.

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Please also join us in praying for Las Vegas. 

Waking up to bad news like the Las Vegas shootings feels like a sucker punch to the gut. I mourn for those who have just experienced incredible loss and heartbreak. It makes me want to gather my family together and become hermits. 

But, yet, that is not what we are called to do. As families, we are called to go out into the world and love. If those of us who have the capacity to love and love well all shut up in our homes, who would be the voice for goodness? Who would advocate for a way for peace, for wholeness, for freedom, for healing?

Our first job is to love our families well and to connect with Jesus daily. When we do this, we are filled, not with our own strength and love, but God's. And because He gives so fully, because His well never runs dry, we can be sure that we can afford to give as much love as possible that overflows out of us.

Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

And keep the faith.

Peace in the Process (a guest post)

Peace in the Process (a guest post)

On our fourteenth anniversary in the summer of 2016, Greg and I sat in a busy breakfast cafe on Hilton Head Island, taking advantage of extra adult hands to take care of our kids at the beach house our party of sixteen was occupying for the week. We ended up talking about how God has opened our eyes through adoption to the hurting moms in our small town and how He then provided the opportunity for me to volunteer at the local crisis pregnancy center. I struggled to articulate some thoughts and got frustrated, so much so I declared we needed to talk about something else. We talked about another less meaningful topic momentarily, but then we ended back on the harder stuff, thanks to the comforts of marriage.

I was grasping how adoption had changed me from the inside out. I knew God used adoption to build my faith while He was building my family, but I had a new perspective of what my story could do for others.

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Podcast on Purity (Part 2)

Picture from Carol Kent's new devotional, He Holds My Hand, releasing October 3!

Picture from Carol Kent's new devotional, He Holds My Hand, releasing October 3!

Last Tuesday, part 1 of our story aired on Power of Purity (if you missed it and are interested, click here). Part 2

Part 2 was released today and you can listen here.

Know that we are not unique. It's not because we're extra special that God brought healing. What He brings to our lives with His unconditional love and grace and forgiveness and patience, He longs to bring to you, too. It can be hard to see His work when it's dark and hopeless, but know that He is. He will never leave you or forsake you and He is trustworthy.