When Your Greatest Weakness is Strength

When Your Greatest Weakness is Strength

I couldn't stop looking at his ankles. Scrutinizing. Wondering if they were slightly bigger or slightly smaller. Was the edema coming back with a vengeance like it did in January? Were his protein levels elevated? Or was this because of something else? Because, we are finding, autoimmune diseases can be quite the puzzle. We began going over everything: exercise, nutrition, weight, water intake. And with everything, I kept scrutinizing. Wondering. Looking.

Stressing.

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How Do You Survive?

How Do You Survive?

Somewhere lurking in most of us writers is the desire to write a post or an article that resonates with people, that's shared many times on various platforms. Normally, when I see a significant number of shares for an article I wrote, I am filled with happiness.

This one, not so much.

Because this one confirmed to me that possibly many more people have experienced infidelity than I had previously thought. So, then, I went and looked up the most recent stats:

Percent of marriages where one or both spouses admit to infidelity, either physical or emotional: 41
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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.

 
Marriage check up.png

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.

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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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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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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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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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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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.

The Necessity of Undoing

The Necessity of Undoing

I'm guest posting today over at a friend's place. Here's a little teaser with a link at the end where you can finish reading.

This has been a summer worthy of its own hashtag.

If I had the time or the desire, I’d go back through each sad event between May 8th and the day I posted about Irma’s projected path (because at press time, she hasn’t made it to the U.S.) and tag it #thesummerfromhellcontinues.

As I talked to my mentor via FaceTime today, she said, “You have been through trauma.”

I bristled.

Trauma? It's not trauma. Trauma is what people are experiencing after Harvey. Trauma is sexual abuse or the loss of a child. This is not trauma, I thought to myself.

And this attitude of mine comes a few days after talking to two different women about two different things and me telling them that God wants them to know their pain is valid. Their wounds are valid. It is okay, I said, for them to lament and cry and point to all the broken pieces and be sad. I actually, this morning, told one of them to not compare her wounds with someone else’s.

Therefore, I know what I am telling myself is not the truth. Is it not easy to speak the truth and then shut one’s own ears?

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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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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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30 Days of Kindness Challenge: Not Always Easy, but Always Worth It

Sometimes it’s the dirty little things.  You know, like taking out the trash.  As I drove up the driveway, I saw that Jen had already moved the trash out to the curb.  To give you a little background, taking out the trash is my job and she did it for me. Maybe it was because I had been sick all week.  Maybe she felt like surprising me.  Honestly, it didn’t matter why she did it.  Jen made me smile.  It was a completely unexpected, unrequested act of kindness from Jen.

Here at The {K}not Project, we’re getting to the end of the Kindness Challenge.  It’s been a “challenge” to keep up with, that’s for sure, which is a strange thing to admit.  It should be easy, really second nature, to be kind to those we love, but as I’ve begun to discover, that is not the case. Why?

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Expectations: A Kindness Killer

Expectations: A Kindness Killer

All last week, God's whisper of a voice was nagging me. Give up the expectations. Give up the expectations. Give up the expectations.

I shushed Him. I kept plowing on. Things needed to be done. You know—

People have needs.

The laundry needs to be done.

Deadlines need to be met.

Meetings need to be attended. 

The house needs  to be clean.

The kids need to do their homework.

We need to eat healthy meals.

The needs were the priority and they needed to be satisfied. I needed to be satisfied. And the only way I would be is if all these things got done—impeccably and on time.

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Why Surrender Doesn't Mean Giving Up the Battle

Surrender is hard.

Surrender is especially hard when you're a type-A emotional caregiver who struggles with anxiety. Hello, perfect storm.

I want to fix everything. I want people to be happy and healthy and free. My first instinct is to evaluate and plan. I find solutions, present them, and cajole the person into using them. And then I'm disappointed when they don't. I get frustrated, angry, and resentful. When they continue to struggle, I say in my head, "If you'd only listen to me!"

Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks this way.

Ironically, when I'm in fix-it mode, trying to promote Healthy! Happy! Free!, I find myself feeling unhealthy, unhappy, and chained. I've found that the harder I try to bring about change in people with my own solutions, the more I find myself drowning in the fear of the problem at hand. I become antsy and restless, my mind spinning with more ideas, more "what-ifs," and a cascading list of new problems that might crop up because this one is still unresolved.

Praise the Lord there are some problems we can take care of with ease, but those issues that we find in others—the ones that rub us the wrong way, the ones that induce fear, the ones that seem to threaten our security—those are the ones that require surrender. Those are the ones where our solutions won't stick, where when we begin to talk to our spouse about the issue, we are met with silence, a blank "smile and nod," or empty promises.

Why? Because the problem requires their surrender, too. We can't make anyone raise their own white flag. 

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Video Games Don't Yield Real Treasure

Video Games Don't Yield Real Treasure

I can tell you that I have spent a lot of time over the years doing hobby or leisure type activities.  Besides my addiction to porn, I’ve logged hundreds of hours playing video games.  I’m sure I’ve spent even more time binge watching shows and movies. 

But, what do I have to show for it?  Has it changed me for the better?  Has it deepened my relationship with God and others?  If I am truly honest about it, the time was spent simply to satisfy myself.  These were all self-medicating distractions to keep my mind off of what was really going on in my life.  Instead of seeking God and His presence, I chose to isolate and sequester myself in a fantasy world.  Now, I want more and these hobbies and distractions are not fulfilling me.

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How Grace Moves from Theory to Reality

How Grace Moves from Theory to Reality

For me, grace was theoretical for most of my life.  While growing up, I knew God said I was loved and forgiven, but I didn’t expect to receive anything that would prove that.  I built a wall between God and myself that kept me from tangibly experiencing grace. I found out that if you don’t have expectations, then you can’t be disappointed.  If you don’t request anything of anyone, then you don’t have to face rejection.  After all, you can live happy knowing that you are loved and chosen without feeling it, right?  Well, no, not really. But, that is how I lived much of my life before I met Jen and started building a relationship with her.  

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