Category Archives for "FamilyLife"

Raccoon Reminder – Make Your Marriage A Priority


“Hey! Get out of here!”

I yelled this the other night while Leanne and I were camping at French Creek State Park.  We were sitting by the campfire enjoying conversation and pizza pies.  There was a loaf of bread on the picnic table along with cheese, sauce, and pepperoni.  Suddenly, we heard something rustling behind us.  I turned around to find a raccoon on top of the table digging into the loaf of bread.

We were camping here for the weekend without the kids.  Despite the run in with the raccoon on Friday night, we had a very enjoyable time together.  We took walks together.  We kayaked together.  We sat by the fire together.  And we enjoyed spending time together.

We have a goal to go away together without the kids once or twice a year.  We’ve gone to bed and breakfasts.  We’ve gone to marriage conferences (like FamilyLife Weekend to Remember).  And we’ve even traveled to France (to celebrate our 10th anniversary).  This year, we decided to go camping at a nearby campground.

Spending time to together takes planning.  We have to be intentional in order to make it work.  We have to arrange for supervision for our teenagers.  We have to coordinate care for our dogs.  We have to make reservations for a place.  And we have to block time in our schedules for the time away.

Building your marriage takes work.  If you want a successful marriage, you have to be intentional.

If you’re not intentional, wedges will be driven in between you and your spouse.  Distance will sneak into your marriage like the raccoon who surprised us at our campsite.

If you’re married, decide today to make your marriage a priority.

What is one thing you can do today to prioritize your wedding?  When was the last time you got away with your spouse without the kids?  Where did you go?  How did this time away together help your marriage?

7 Ways To Help Your Marriage Today

Guatemala 2013 027

A successful marriage does not happen by accident.  A marriage that works requires intention.  You have to be intentional in cultivating your relationship so it lasts and sustains the ups and downs of life.  Leanne and I don’t have a perfect marriage.  We have plenty of things to work on when it comes to improving our marriage.  But over the past 17+ years of our marriage, we have learned the benefits of being intentional, and we have discovered some tools which have helped to build up our marriage.

Today, I’d like to pass along some of the things we’ve learned so far.  And I’d like to encourage you to take action today with your marriage.  It will require intentional effort on your part, but it will be worth it.

7 Ways To Help Your Marriage Today

  1. Pray together.  We aren’t perfect with this, but we do our best to pray together twice a day.  Before I leave the house for work, we pause to pray together.  At bedtime, we pray together.  This simple discipline pays huge dividends.  Praying together keeps us on the same page.  Praying together helps us support each other.  Praying together gets us through good days and tough days.  Start praying together today.
  2. Make church a priority.  Church attendance doesn’t guarantee a perfect marriage, but I believe it’s a great place to start in giving your marriage a solid foundation.  A church family provides a place to grow and to serve with others.  A church can also provide encouragement or accountability when necessary.  This doesn’t happen by attending church on Christmas and Easter only.  Instead, church should be part of your regular weekly schedule.  Decide today to plug into a church together.
  3. Practice a regular date night.  Leanne and I do our best to go on a date weekly.  This was definitely a challenge when our kids were younger as we juggled finances and childcare.  It’s easier for us now as our kids can be at home for a couple of hours by themselves.  A date can mean going out for dessert, playing tennis together, or taking a walk.  Making our weekly date night a priority shows our kids the importance of  marriage.  And it gives Leanne and I a fun opportunity to connect each week.  Dating should not stop when you say “I do.”  Dating is a discipline for your marriage as well.  Schedule a date with your spouse today.
  4. Serve together.  Finding places to serve together has been helpful in uniting our marriage.  This happens through our H.O.P.E. group on a monthly basis.  And our trip to Guatemala was a great place to serve together.  Helping others together has been a great way to connect and encourage each other.  It’s also another great opportunity to be an example for our kids (and others).  Find a way and a place to serve together today.
  5. Listen to marriage and family focused programs.  I listen to a lot of podcasts.  Two podcasts in my regular rotation are the FamilyLife Today with Dennis Rainey podcast and the Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast podcast.  It may sound hokey or old-fashioned, but these programs are a great encouragement.  Each of these daily podcasts provides suggestions to help your marriage and family.  Filling our minds with positive information about marriage is important.  You can’t find many positive messages about marriage on television, in the movies, or in society today.  Listening to marriage focused programs like these is a place to slice through the negativity.  Go on-line today and download one of these podcasts or find our when and where you can listen to these programs on the radio today.
  6. Plan today to attend a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conference.  The most popular post of all time on The Stretched Blog is Ten Reasons To Attend FamilyLife Weekend To Remember.  Leanne and I have been to a few of these conferences over the years.  I’m not going to sugar coat it.  These conferences can be a lot of work as you listen to speakers and spend time talking about your marriage.  But we’ve found these conferences to be so helpful in building up our marriage.  We’ve collected valuable tools for enhancing our marriage (books, activities, and other ideas).  FamilyLife has made it easier than ever to sign up for one of these Weekend to Remember getaways which are scheduled throughout the country.  Find a getaway near you by clicking here.  When you register, use the discount group code “Stretched01” to receive $120 off the regular price of the conference (per couple).  If you live in my area, the next getaway weekend if November 22-24 in King of Prussia.  Sign up today.
  7. Find a mentor couple.  Early in our marriage, we were blessed to hang around with people like Paul and Dorothy Keisling and Jeff and Glyniss Murphy.  Couples like these took time to invest in our marriage.  They spent time with us, and they showed us what marriage looks like through their example.  I remember sitting in the Murphy’s family room during the first years of our marriage listening to Jeff and Glyniss teach about marriage.  This may require you to be a little uncomfortable asking another couple to mentor you, but it’s worth it.  To learn more about marriage mentors, I’d encourage you to check out a book by Jeff Murphy and Check Dettman – The Solution for Marriages: Mentoring a New Generation (affiliate link).

What suggestions do you have for being intentional with your marriage?  What is one thing you can do today for your marriage?

Ten Reasons To Attend FamilyLife Weekend To Remember

Over the next week, I will be inserting some of the top posts from the Stretched blog.  The post today (Ten Reasons To Attend FamilyLife Weekend To Remember) originally appeared on the blog on February 27, 2012 and was the second most popular post of the year.  This post followed a great weekend experience at a marriage conference in Hershey, PA.  As a side note, The Stretched Community can take advantage of special discount pricing on upcoming FamilyLife W2R conferences in the coming months.  Check out this post for more details.

This weekend, Leanne and I spent the weekend at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, PA.  We enjoyed Cocoa Massages at the Hershey Spa.  We enjoyed chocolate butter and chocolate mocha creme brulee at the Hershey Grill.  We enjoyed a quick ride at Chocolate World.  And we enjoyed plenty of Hershey’s Kisses and candy bars.  But we weren’t there for the chocolate.

We were in Hershey, PA to attend the FamilyLife Weekend To Remember event which ran from Friday night through Sunday morning.  Before you get too nervous, Leanne and I aren’t having any major marriage problems.  But we’re always looking for opportunities to improve our marriage relationship.  This year’s event was focused on creating oneness in our marriage, and the sessions are taught from a Biblical perspective.

As we were driving home yesterday, we thought it would be fun to share reasons for attending an event like this.  Perhaps, you’ll consider attending with us next year!  So here’s our top 10 (in no particular order) reasons to attend the FamilyLife Weekend To Remember:

  1. One Big Date:  This is a great opportunity to spend time together for the entire weekend (without the kids).
  2. Cocoa Scented Everything:  From the shampoo, conditioner, and hand lotion to the baked goods and chocolate steamers, you could smell chocolate everywhere.  You could even smell chocolate in the air when you walked outside the lodge thanks to the nearby Hershey factories.
  3. Speakers:  Trent and Andrea Griffith and Bob Maddox did an excellent job transparently relating stories from their own marriages and life experiences to help illustrate the main points of the teaching.  All three of the presenters were down to earth and approachable.  We actually ran into Bob on Saturday night, and he was so easy to talk with.
  4. Great Resources:  Besides the speakers, there are tons of books and other resources available to help your marriage and your parenting.  We picked up a handful of books that we’re looking forward to exploring together.
  5. Foundational Teaching:  We’ve heard many (if not most) of these things before, but it was great to be encouraged through the speakers.
  6. Date Night:  Although this was one big date for us (see number one), it was wonderful to have an evening designated as our night out.
  7. We’re Not Alone:  There were over 1500 others in attendance at this event.  It was a blessing to see that there were so many couples who have decided to make their marriage a priority.  On Sunday, there was an opportunity for people to share how they were changed by the conference and how they were going to apply what they had learned.  We both resonated with many of the things shared.
  8. Inspiring:  We both left with renewed ideas and enthusiasm for our roles as spouses and parents.  We were encouraged to list 2 or 3 action steps to take with us as we returned to the real world.  We’ll be sharing those in the coming days through our blogs.
  9. Dynamic Breakouts:  On Sunday, we attended breakout sessions for men and for women.  When we met together after these sessions, we both commented that these times were highlights for us.  These breakouts provided specific teaching directed towards husbands and dads and wives and moms.
  10. Renewing Our Vows:  At the conclusion of the weekend, we had the privilege of renewing our marriage vows.  These vows mean so much more now that we’ve experienced life together for over 15 years.

Have you ever been to a marriage conference?  Which one?  What were the highlights or biggest take-aways for you?  How did it change your marriage?

Marriage, Missions, and Marlins

It’s the weekend, and I just wanted to let you know about three cool things.


I posted about this at the beginning of the month, but I wanted to give you a little reminder.  What ever stage or state your marriage is in, it could always use a little extra.  Family Life has teamed up with The Stretched Blog to offer a discounted rate for Stretched readers.  Simply go to the Family Life Weekend to Remember site, and register using the group code:  STRETCHED.  This will give you a significant discount on the normal rate of this conference.  Check out my original post for more details.


Today is the last day that you can pick up a free electronic copy of a new book by Seth Barnes.  Simple go to and search for Kingdom Journeys (Kindle Edition).  The offer is gone at the end of the day today.  For a chance to win a hard copy of the book, see my post from earlier this week.  I’ll be picking a winner early next week, so don’t miss out on this opportunity to pick up a great new book.  The book itself has a missions emphasis, but it’s about so much more than missions as you and I typically think about it.


Don’t misunderstand me on this one, I’m a huge Phillies fan which would typically put me at odds with the Marlins.  But I have a very small place in my heart for the Marlins after reading about this story on the POTSC blog this week.  Check out this video, and I think you’ll see why:

Do you have anything that starts with the letter “M” that deserves a mention?

One Way To Help Your Marriage

This past February, Leanne and I attended Family Life Weekend to Remember in Hershey, PA.  This is a weekend event designed to help improve and enhance your marriage.  You can read more about our experience by clicking here.

In my opinion, it’s not a once and done event.  This is something to revisit again and again.  I know I need the reminders and the encouragement.  And while it can be a lot of work to attend one of these weekends, it is so worth it.

Leanne and I are already making plans to attend our next Family Life Weekend to Remember.  And we’d like to invite you to attend one of these conferences.  Family Life has teamed up with The Stretched Blog to offer a discounted rate for Stretched readers.  Simply go to the Family Life Weekend to Remember site, and register using the group code:  STRETCHED.  This will give you a significant discount on the normal rate of this conference.

We will be attending one of the weekends in Pennsylvania, but you can use the group code for any of the weekends that are offered this next year across the country.  Don’t let another year slip by without doing something to improve your marriage.  This is a weekend that you will remember.

Feel free to pass this along to other as well, so they can get in on the discount.  Also, let me know if you have any questions that I can answer for you regarding the Weekend to Remember.

What have you done recently to strengthen your marriage?

Slow Down

Yesterday, in four or five conversations with different people the subject of busyness came up. The conversations went something like this:

My friend: “Hey, how are you?”

Me: “Okay, how about yourself.”

My friend: “Good, but I’ve been real busy lately.”

Me: “I hear you. I’ve been busy lately as well. It seems like I’m running from one thing to the next.”

Seriously, this conversation with minor variations was repeated several times yesterday. Why do we allow ourselves to become so busy. Do we like being busy, or do we just like the opportunity to tell others that we’re busy? In all our running around, are we making progress towards something that really matters, or are we just trying to keep up with the neighbors?

Staying busy for the sake of being busy is pointless. And even if our activities result in something good, we still need to analyze our list of activities. Are we participating in activities that match up with our gifts and passions? Are we leaving any space in our schedules for rest and reflection? Are we truly making the most of our opportunities – especially when we’re being pulled in a million different activities?

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve read a couple of blog posts and listened to a podcast or two that deal with this topic. Michael Hyatt talked about the importance of calendar triage in his blog in the past week. The FamilyLife Today with Dennis Rainey Podcast talked about the importance of simplifying our lives in an interview with Dr. Meg Meeker.

These are challenging messages to hear in this culture – especially in the Northeast where everyone seems so ME focused.  So how can we change this?  Here are four simple ideas that could make a huge difference in our journey to take control of our schedules:

1.  Write it down.  Take time at the beginning of each month and at the beginning of each week to write down and review the calendar.  Seeing it in front of you on a calendar will quickly show you if there are any gaps in your calendar for rest and refreshment.

2.  Prioritize and prune.  As you list out your activities and commitments, consider prioritizing them.  You may want to use a number system to assign a priority to each item on your calendar.  Going to church is a top priority in our house, so it gets a 1.  Other things might be a lower priority, so we can assign them a 2 or a 3.  As you review your calendar, consider giving up one of the lower priority activities.

3.  Schedule time for rest, refreshment, and reflection.  Seriously, block off time on your calendar.  Give this a top priority.  Don’t let something else come along and take its place.  This is something we’re still working on at home.  We have tried to make Monday night open for our date night.  This has worked most of the time; however, I must confess that the past couple of weeks we’ve let other things come in the way of this.

4.  Practice sabbath.  I was talking with my good friend, Michael Shaw, yesterday about this very subject.  Michael, who is Jewish, holds the sabbath (sun-down Friday night to sun-down Saturday night) sacred.  He literally shuts down each week during this time.  God’s command for a sabbath was not just meant for us to focus on Him, I believe it was designed to create a regular rhythm of rest in our lives.  It’s important that we find ways to practice the sabbath.

What is one thing that you need to trim off your calendar or schedule this month?  What other suggestions do you have for slowing down?

3 Thumbs Up! April 22nd, 2012

It’s time for the next installment of 3 Thumbs Up!  This is an opportunity for me to share 3 things that deserve a thumbs up.  So here goes for this week:

Thumbs Up No. 1:  Kiwi Yogurt.  Located throughout the Philadelphia area, this new frozen yogurt dessert bar has become one of our favorite placed to visit for a quick date or a frozen treat that’s fairly healthy.  I love ice cream!  But I can honestly recommend Kiwi Yogurt as a great alternative to ice cream establishments in our area.  Check out their website to learn more.

Thumbs Up No. 2:  Family Life Today with Dennis Rainey Podcast.  By now, you know that I’m passionate about marriage and family.  Recently, I started listening to this daily podcast.  Each episode is packed with encouragement, teaching, and inspiration for parents and married couples.  If you’re looking for new ideas for your family or marriage, listen to a few of these podcasts.  Click here to check it out.

Thumbs Up No. 3:  Joseph Lalonde (Empowering You to Lead Better).  This is an excellent blog by my friend, Joe Lalonde.  Each week, Joe writes several posts that challenge readers to lead and live more intentionally.  I’ve enjoyed Joe’s blog for the past several months, and I think you will also.  Check it out here.  Stop over and become part of his blogging community.

What new in your world that deserves a thumbs up?

Book Review: Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date by Dennis Rainey

Last month, Leanne and I attended a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember event in Hershey, PA.  As you may recall from a few of my posts, this was a memorable and special weekend for us.  While we were there, we picked up several books to help us in our marriage and in our parenting.  One such resource was Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date (8 Steps To No Regrets) by FamilyLife co-founder and president Dennis Rainey.

Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date is a short book designed for father’s with daughters.  In this book, Rainey offers his perspective on how to approach the whole dating thing with your daughter and her potential dates.  Rainey recommends a process of interviewing each young man prior to permitting his daughter to go out with him.  This may sound old-fashioned and intimidating, but I think that Rainey is on to something.

Not only does this method protect the daughter from guy’s who might not match up with the family expectations for moral perspective, work ethic, and boundaries, Rainey’s interviewing process provides an opportunity to shape the lives of young men.  As part of the interview, Dennis Rainey asks each young man to use this method if and when their own daughter’s start to date.

Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date comes at a good time in my parenting path.  My daughter, Hannah, hasn’t started dating yet; however, at age 14, the whole dating thing isn’t too far off.  As a dad, I want to be prepared to protect my daughter and to help her find the right man.  Rainey’s book definitely gives me a lot to think about as I prepare for this time in my parenting journey.

I would recommend Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date to any parent with daughters.  You’ll find the book educational, encouraging, and thought-provoking.

When was your last interview?

Do you have any daughters?  If so, how have you handled the dating process or how do you plan to handle the dating process?

Resource Review: This Is Your Life Podcast

I’m a big fan of podcasts.

I listen to them in the car.  I listen to them on the treadmill.  I listen to them when I’m taking a walk.  And I listen to them while I’m running.

Here are a few of the podcasts that I listen to on a regular basis:  The Dave Ramsey Show Podcast, EntreLeadership Podcast, Daily Audio Bible Podcast, FamilyLife Today Podcast, and The RELEVANT Podcast.  I enjoy each of these podcasts as they keep me entertained and informed.  Podcasts are a great way to keep your brain growing.

Podcasting is definitely an up and coming form of communication.  There are new podcasts popping up every day.

Recently, a blogging friend of mine started his own podcast, and I think it’s worth sharing here.  Last month, Michael Hyatt launched his own podcast called This Is Your Life.  In his podcast, Michael offers practical advice for blogging, leading, and living.  So far, he has released three “issues” of This Is Your Life, and I have listened to each of them a few times.  With each listen I’ve absorbed new ideas for my own blog, my own leadership, and my own life.

So if you’re looking for a great podcast or if you need something to listen to for your next 30 minute car ride, I’d definitely recommend downloading This Is Your Life.

What podcast do you recommend?

February 2012 Top Posts and Commenters

I blinked and February was gone.  Thankfully, I captured some of my thoughts and experiences here.  As always, I wanted to thank all of you for your daily readership and contribution to The Stretched Blog.  The new platform ( is growing!  I like to take the opportunity with the first post of the month to look back and to celebrate what’s been happening here.   So here are the top ten posts from February 2012:

1. Stretching To A New Focus – Guest Post by Leah Adams

2. Ten Reasons To Attend FamilyLife Weekend To Remember

3.  Say What You Need To Say (Jan. 2012)

4.  Log Eye Lessons

5.  Ice Breaker – Groundhog Day

6.  Stolpe Superbowl Scavenger Hunt

7.  Ice Breaker – Verse Of The Day

8.  Stretched Perspective

9.  The Kid Stretched Me – Guest Post by Tom Tarver

10.  Quality – Time

Here are the top three commenters:

1.  Tom Tarver (35)

2.  Joe Lalonde (29)

3.  Larry Carter (21)

Overall traffic increased on the blog despite the fact that I cut down my average posts per week from six to five.  This is a good sign that new readers are joining the community and conversation.  We had several brand new commenters and one or two new subscribers.  If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to the blog (on the right hand side of the main page), adding the blog to your RSS reader, and becoming of the Jon Stolpe Stretched Facebook fan page.  These are all great ways to make sure you stay connected with what’s going on in and around the Stretched Community.

Finally, I’d like to highlight a few blogs that I’ve recently been enjoying.  Stop on over to these great blogs and see what’s happening:

–  Dicipulus

–  Some Wise Guy

–  The Isle of Man

How was your month?  What was your top post?  What was your favorite post here?  What other blogs can you share with The Stretched Community?

Stretching To A New Focus – Guest Post by Leah Adams