The Power of Words in Marriage (from a 13 y/o's perspective) & Resources for your Walk with God

The Power of Words in Marriage (from a 13 y/o's perspective) & Resources for your Walk with God

Hi friends! My name is Abby and I’m the oldest daughter of Jen and Craig. I am so excited to be writing for all of y’all today. This week, I was just laying in bed when God talked to me about my parents. He gave me some questions to think about. But here was the big one:

How does my parents’ marriage affect me and my sister? 

You might think that your marriage affects only you and your spouse. If you think that, you’re wrong. If you don’t have children, there are other areas where your marriage can affect the people around you, but that’s for another week. 

Kids see and hear a lot more then you may think. If you’re showcasing a positive and healthy relationship when you know you’re around your kids, you think that they have the perfect vision of what married life may be like. What you don’t know, though, is that we kids are way more observant than you may think. You may be having a fight with your spouse, maybe even just with your body movement or facial expressions, and your kids can sense the tension. 

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Mindful Communication (New video!)

Mindful Communication (New video!)

That awkward silence when you walk up on a group. Eyes shifting to the ground. Whatever they were talking about, you weren't meant to hear, for whatever reason.

This is the scene in Mark 9. Jesus walks up, the disciples mouths close, their eyes downcast. They'd been caught doing something they weren't supposed to be doing—arguing about which one of them was the greatest, who had the most stature, who was the most gifted, the most right, the most _________. The content of their conversation was selfish, unfruitful, and led to division between them.

The guilt was written all over their faces and evidenced by their silence when Jesus asked them what they were talking about. They felt guilty. How do I know? I've felt the same way before. 

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What Do You Do with Despair?

What Do You Do with Despair?

I've been pondering what to say about the horribleness of what has happened in Charlottesville. I've been wondering about the potential nuclear threat of North Korea. And two more soldiers died in Iraq, the paper said.

"How long, O Lord?" I keep asking. How much longer do we have to deal with the injustice? With the hate? With the fear? With the arguing? The superiority complexes? How long are we going to live under divisiveness and when will the oppressed find freedom? I've caught myself often this summer asking Jesus if He could just come now and the only reason I find myself lamenting that He hasn't is because I know there are people who haven't gotten to know Him yet.

I've been reading through the Gospel of Mark. In chapter 9, I found that Jesus asked a question similar to my own . He's talking to the crowd gathered around Him, not to God, but He said, "Oh faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?"

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If Things Look Hopeless

If Things Look Hopeless

A decade plus ago, I (Jen) could have made the choice to steer the car into oncoming traffic. The despair was that bad. The darkness was that overwhelming. By God's grace and intervention, I stayed in my lane.

After that moment, the way I began to view the world and God and Craig slowly changed. And now, here we are, speaking hope and light to marriages, even though at one point, we were bathed in darkness and depression.

You can be a Christian and still be assaulted by hopelessness. You can still be plagued by thoughts about how easy it could be to walk away. And yet, as we have found, it's worth it to persevere through the suffering. God promises to use all things for good. There is purpose to our pain.

If this is true for us, it is true for you, too.

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12 Questions to Ask Your Spouse at Least Once a Year (Free Printable!)

12 Questions to Ask Your Spouse at Least Once a Year (Free Printable!)

Years ago, my friend emailed me 10 questions for Craig and me to discuss while we were away for our anniversary. Though we have not answered them every year since then, nor reflected on our past answers each time, we pulled them out when we were in Wimberley last month. It was amazing to see both the progress we had made as individuals and as a couple since 2013 (WHOOPS) and the few areas where we still struggle a little bit (or a lot, but whatever).

Since we went away, we spent some time revamping and adding to these questions so they would enable us to focus both on where we've been and where we want to go. We thought that if these twelve questions would be helpful for us, they may be helpful for you, too. One thing we love the most about answering these questions is that it gives us an opportunity to both encourage each other about the progress we've made and affords us a way to potentially bring up some challenging facets about our marriage or personal health. We never want to stop growing.

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Getting Through Grief (new video)

Getting Through Grief (new video)

Grief sucks and for the past 3 months we've been inundated with it. Since our mission is to live authentically in this community, we're simply inviting you into how we've been living out (the good ways and the not-so-good ways) this process of grief recently. 

Here are 3 lessons learned:

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Are You Serving (Emotional) Leftovers?

Are You Serving (Emotional) Leftovers?

t's summer, my kids are often home, and I'm an introvert. As a family, we've endured intense grief recently with the loss of my grandmother and Craig's mom. My youngest daughter is trying out for dance company this year, so there is heightened anxiety in her. My friend's husband is dying and another friend's marriage is in crisis.

Daily, I feel my emotional capacity flows out of me and I long for space to recharge. Don't hear me wrong: I love helping my daughters process through hard things. I love helping my friends as well. But sometimes, when there is intense need with my girls and my friends, I can easily overdo. I can give more than I have and I end up living life out of some form of manufactured capacity.

Yesterday, Craig had a disappointing day at work. When he texted me that he was on his way home, I called him so he could process. His response? Can we talk about this when I get home?

I wanted to reply, No! I want to talk about it now so that I can be done talking for the day.

All I had left to give Craig were my emotional leftovers.

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Wanna Get Away? (new video)

Wanna Get Away? (new video)

In Texas during the summer, the meteorologists are always talking about "high pressure systems." Sure, it makes for nice sunny days, but when it's 100+ degrees outside, one likes the "high pressure system" to move over a bit so we can have rain. Rain in the summer provides respite from the intense heat. It brings much needed moisture to a crispy, dry ground.

High pressure systems typically stay awhile, while the low pressure ones move out relatively swiftly. It makes me think about daily life. Do you ever feel like we live in a "high pressure system?" The days might be sunny and filled with joy, but it's also intense. The daily demands bear down like a hot sun and we start praying for respite. We're dry and thirsty and longing for relief.

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Why Dead Batteries Matter

Why Dead Batteries Matter

I FaceTimed with my friend who is in hospice today in the aisle of Target today. When you get the chance to speak to someone who is dying, you make do in the environment you're in. You don't really care if people are staring because you're crying into your phone.

I told him I think he's the kindest man on the planet. I even confirmed it with my oldest daughter. She's spent the night at their house so many times over the past 10 years, and yep, he never raises his voice.

And then, he spoke to me:

"You probably don't even remember this, Jen, but 10 years ago - we had just met at the pool for the first time - we were stranded with a dead battery, and you had just gotten back from a trip from Florida. Craig met us at the gas station and gave us a jump."

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The Importance of Play in Marriage

The Importance of Play in Marriage

This is a piece of metal that my mother-in-law used when she wore her scarves. 

It's mine now. 

The reason it is sacred to me is not because I've been in desperate need of what my father-in-law calls a "scarver." It's because when he was going through her things, he immediately thought of me. 

One time years ago, he and I were in an intense Scrabble battle (the real one, with the board and wooden tiles). He played the word "scarve" and convinced me that it was a verb - like when you "scarve" someone (i.e. put a scarf around the neck). He was so convincing (and a priest!), so I didn't challenge. 

I should have.

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The Dance

The Dance

Craig's mom passed away yesterday at noon.

While we were all at the hospital one day last week, our youngest watched the tender interaction between her grandmother and grandfather. As he drew near to her and whispered softly with her, my daughter looked at me and simply said, "I guess this is what it means when you say 'in sickness and in health.'"

Yes. 

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Insecurities out, Believing God in (new video!)

Insecurities out, Believing God in (new video!)

It's easy sometimes to dismiss the Bible as irrelevant to our times, especially the Old Testament. But the story of Gideon in Judges 6 completely described much of what Craig has been going through. We don't often see ourselves as God sees us. But how would our outlook and attitude change if we did? How might our lives look radically different? 

It took me (Jen) awhile to see Craig as God does, but I am so glad He changed my vision, my perception, and my perspective. As a spouse, God can equip us to truly see our spouse and encourage him/her to step out of the hole and into the role God has for him or her!!

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Navigating changes and transitions (new video)

Navigating changes and transitions (new video)

We all have transition and change in our lives, which mean, we all have transitions and change that affect our marriages. For many of us, change is hard. Personally, for both of us, we are easily thrown out of whack when our daily ins and outs are shifted (or turned completely upside down). 

Right now, the kids are newly out of school (hello, it's now more difficult to do this "work from home thing"), we have backyard construction going on (for the love of city permits), and Craig's mom still struggles with her illness (I was reading in Luke today about how Jesus healed the centurion's slave instantaneously and just prayed and prayed for that to happen for her).

Sometimes we will navigate change well. Sometimes we will not. Here's what we plan to do to not only survive, but hopefully thrive, through the transitions in our lives.

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Recognizing Your Spouse's Tells (new video)

Recognizing Your Spouse's Tells (new video)

Ever play poker? Play enough with the same people and your get really good at reading their tells. Same in marriage. You know someone well enough and you learn when your spouse isn't ok...despite what he/she may say. 

Last week, my grandmother died and we spent the weekend with Craig's parents. His mom is very ill and though it was an amazing visit, I left so sad. But it took Craig awhile to get me to admit it-for a variety of reasons. 

In this video, we talk about the importance of recognizing your spouse's tells and why it's beneficial to continue to pursue him/her through the denial.

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On Giving Gifts (new video)

On Giving Gifts (new video)

We have a slew of birthdays in the summer months, so gift giving is on our mind. I know that Craig and I have both struggled from time to time when it comes to giving the "perfect" gift. What we've come to realize is that this isn't about perfection, but simply, gift giving is a way you can show how much you love each other. Extravagance isn't required—just a touch of personalization and some good time thinking about your spouse.

Here's a glimpse into our successes and failures and some tips we've learned along the way!

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Giving Grace: Chronic Illness

Giving Grace: Chronic Illness

We took a pause from our Giving Grace series, but we're back to it with two lovely people who are willing to share a bit about what it looks like to give grace in a marriage where one spouse has chronic illness. Please welcome Stacey and Ryan as they give us a glimpse into their journey together!

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Speaking Engagement Recap (new video)

Speaking Engagement Recap (new video)

We did a short video on Laguna Beach to recap our amazing experience in California. It was such an honor to be invited to a church to talk about porn addiction and to be so graciously received by the staff and congregation. The Holy Spirit moved in a big way both when I spoke at the local MOPS group (40% are unbelievers!) and when we spoke together to The Grove Community Church (both located in Riverside, CA) men's Bible study. And because the people who invited us love us so well, we also had time to reconnect as a couple and explore the lovely beaches of southern California. (Tourist highlight: I walked on the beaches from Beaches! I feel at one with Bette Middler now.)

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Tackling Tough Topics (new video!)

As you'll hear in the video, we weren't planning on doing a video this week. We're getting ready for our first speaking engagement as The Knot Project and didn't have time to plan something to say. But, as many of you know, married life tends to throw you curve balls, and POOF!, here we are with something to say. 

It started with dinner on Friday night, eating pizza in the dining room while our daughter and her friend had run of the kitchen. Craig's talking to me about work and slips in something about "mobility" (a.k.a. "willingness to move if the right opportunity came along") and BAM! I shut down. I couldn't even talk about it any more because of the fear and anxiety it stirred in me. Let me be clear: right now, there is no opportunity, no location, nothing. But I couldn't even fathom PROSPECTS, so I ended the conversation.

And then this morning, we are chopping up wood pieces from the tree in the backyard we recently had pruned. I discovered, I HATE CHOPPING UP WOOD. We had neglected this pile for so long, though, and it was now time to actually mow and edge the backyard. We had to do something about it, lest it get rotten, kill the grass, AND leaving us with no firewood for the (very far off) winter.

Just like I have to learn to tackle the hard conversation, lest our communication and intimacy rot, we had to tackle the tree. Together.

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Imitation Self-Control Tastes a Bit like Imitation Vanilla: The Real Thing is Better

Imitation Self-Control Tastes a Bit like Imitation Vanilla: The Real Thing is Better

I am, we are, works in progress. The past few weeks have been a painful work in progress. It seems like the whole onion analogy works here. There are layers and layers of my controlling nature and as God peels them away, sometimes I cry.

A large part of why I control is because I’m afraid. My biggest fear is that I will fail my husband and my kids.

So much of my planning, organizing, and caretaking stems from the anxiety that if I don’t do X, Y, and Z—or if they don’t—things will fall apart. I keep my expectations high for a well-run, well-organized life, doing my best to keep everyone moving along as they should, investing all that I can emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I believe that this continually striving will give me protection from all that failure that looms large out there.

Hey, guess what? I’m exhausted. Again.

Somehow, I fooled myself. I cloaked my controlling nature and hid it under the guise of simple self-discipline, self-control. That sounds so holy, right? How can self-discipline, self-control, be wrong?

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Why the Church Must Be a No-Shame Zone

Why the Church Must Be a No-Shame Zone

This week, we're talking about being spontaneous, and yet, here is a post about the Church and porn. Well, that's spontaneous, right? I never know when my posts for Covenant Eyes will go live and I don't always share them here, but this is a post that Craig and I both feel so passionate about—Satan uses shame in incredibly powerful ways and it is time for the Church to fight against these schemes.

Church, rise up. RISE UP.

The sins we commit in the dark, in the secret places, those are the ones Satan hones in on, where he continually speaks lies under the heavy cloak, in the deep recesses of our hearts where we shut out Light. Where can we take these sins? To Jesus, for sure. But where do we find the community that helps us in the recovery of these sins?

If the Church is just another space that heaps more shame, the Church then becomes another tool of the enemy.

This cannot be so.

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