Archives For marriage

Time to Man Up

December 19, 2016 — Leave a comment

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“A real man loves his wife, and places his family as the most important thing in life. Nothing has brought me more peace and content in life than simply being a good husband and father.”

– Frank Abagnale

As men, we chase so many pursuits.  We want to climb the ladder at work as fast as possible.  We want to be the best athlete we can be.  We want to have the best things – the nicest car, the biggest house, the greenest lawn.  We over-involve ourselves in a variety of hobbies.  And we put so much attention on our favorite sports teams.

I’m not saying that any of these things are wrong, but I think our focus is often misguided.

If you were to create a list of your priorities and the way you spend your time, where would your wife and kids fit into the list?

If your marriage and your kids aren’t near the top of your list, it’s time for you reconsider your schedule and your priorities.

Last week, I announced the new Stretched Men Group website (www.stretchedmengroup.com), and I opened up sign-ups for first three-month mastermind in 2017.  For more information about the group, click here.

The Stretched Men Group is designed to help you understand your current list of priorities, to help you establish your desired list of priorities, and to help you create action steps required to get you from where you are to where you want to be.

The Stretched Men Group is also designed to help you find the accountability you need to make sure your good intentions become a reality.

Your wife and kids need this from you!

It’s time to man up!

If you are curious and want to learn more, I’d love to talk with you.  Sign up below, so we can set up a time to talk.

 

Men – It’s Not Too Late!

December 12, 2016 — 2 Comments

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“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

– George Eliot

Do you feel as though life is rushing by and your opportunities for influence are slipping away?

Does it seems like your parenting journey, your marriage, and your life is a blur as the calendar pages change at rapid pace?

Do you think it’s too late to be the dad, the husband, the leader, or the man you want to be?

You are not alone!

“THE MASS OF MEN LEAD LIVES OF QUIET DESPERATION”

– Henry David Thoreau

Today, I’m excited to announce the launch of the Stretched Men Group and the new website that goes with this paid mastermind.

www.stretchedmengroup.com

The Stretched Men Group is designed to help you take the next step in your journey to becoming the man you were meant to be.  Through valuable teaching, customized coaching, and essential conversation with other men, you will be challenged and held accountable to take the next step as you go through the next three months with the men in this group and me.

For more information on the Stretched Men Group, click here.

Also, if you know a man who needs to take the next step, I’d love to connect with him.  Let him know about the group and send him to the site, so he can sign up.

I’m accepting new sign-ups for a group launching in January until December 31, 2016.  Don’t wait.  Sign up TODAY!

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Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.

Oprah Winfrey

Sunday, I introduced the Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition.  This is a tradition our family started 15 years ago, and it has helped ensure we intentionally reflect on God’s provision in our lives over the past year.  To read more about the tradition, click here.

This week, I’ll be sharing the things I’ll be writing on the tablecloth this year.  (Yesterday, I shared the first thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.)

 

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This year, Leanne and I celebrated our 20th Anniversary.  I’m thankful for this milestone.  We were in Guatemala for our actual anniversary, and we took time to celebrate a few weeks early by getting away for a week in Vermont while our kids were in Michigan for CIY.

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I’m thankful for our weekly date nights.  Monday nights we get away for an hour or two, and it’s a great time to reconnect.

I’m thankful for our trip to Vermont.  We had so many opportunities to be refreshed and renewed. Through this adventure.

And I’m thankful for the move towards the “empty nest”.  Our daughter started college in August, and our son is only two years behind her.  We are not trying to push them out, but we are looking forward to time together – just the two of us.  It’s exciting to prepare for this stage of our married lives.

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I’m thankful for Leanne’s recent teaching opportunities.  She finished teaching at Trinity Country Nursery School in May, and she has been substitute teaching at four of the school districts in our area.  Leanne is an amazing teacher, and it’s exciting to see her moving back towards full-time public school teaching.

And finally, I’m thankful for the downsizing process that has begun at our house.  I’m excited about the freedom that will come as we go through this process.img_0306

Stay tuned for Day Three of my Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition reflections.

Sing to the Lord with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp. Psalm 147:7

Which relationship merits your gratitude this year?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

IT'S TIME TO ASK FOR HELP

I don’t like asking for help.

I came back from Guatemala almost six weeks ago with a cough I picked up at the end of our trip.  A week after our trip, I figured the cough would go away as I began to feel better.  Unfortunately, my cough has persisted.

Finally, I made a visit to the doctor’s office on Monday evening.  The doctor prescribed an antibiotic and an over-the-counter cough medication.  Next week, I’ll return to the doctor’s office for a follow-up checkup to make sure the cough goes away.

I don’t go to the doctor’s office very often.  Thankfully, I’m generally very healthy.  But honestly, I tend to try to beat whatever illness I’m fighting with rest, time, and home remedies.

In this case, it was time to get some help.

Men often do a terrible job when it comes to asking for help.  We don’t like to ask for directions, and we typically don’t want to appear weak by asking for anyone’s help.

We’ll drive around lost for an hour if it means we don’t have to stop to ask for directions.

Does this sound like you?

Do you struggle to ask for help?

It’s great to be independent, but we need people in our lives who will push us forward, who will give us a hand when we need help, and who will hold us accountable to take action on things we’ve been avoiding.

Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Next week, I’m launching the Stretch Man Mastermind.  This is an opportunity to get the help you need.

The idea for a mastermind group was developed in part based on a conversations I’ve had with men who have approached me about mentoring them.

“No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind.”
Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

This is humbling – to say the least.  It’s also a bit overwhelming.  (How do I find time to meet with these guys who want my attention?)

After a lot of prayer, thought, and conversations with other men and my family, I’ve decided to launch a three-month, on-line paid mastermind group for men starting next week.

The group is made of men who want to intentionally “stretch” their marriages, their parenting, and their manhood.  The group is meeting on-line (via Zoom) every other week.  After our initial kick-off/get-to-know you meeting, the bi-weekly meetings will consist of a 15-20 minute teaching time where I will share with the group.  After that, we will rotate a hot seat from week to week.  On the hot seat, one guy will bring up an issue or question in which he needs help, and the group will discus the issue/question/topic with the purpose of helping each man STRETCH.  (The hot seat time will typically last 30-45 minutes each week.)

The group will have a private Facebook group for communication in-between our bi-weekly meetings.

And I will be reaching out to each man in the group two or three times throughout the session for one-on-one coaching/conversation and for feedback.

I’m looking forward to the community and accountability that will come out of this group.

Most men are missing this kind of man-to-man interaction in their lives.  And I believe this mastermind will raise the bar for each of the men in the group.  I still have a couple of open spots in the group, and I’d love to fill them before next week.

Is it time for you to ask for help?

If this sounds like something you need in your life or if you simply want to learn more, please contact me so we can schedule a phone conversation.  Leave a comment below or fill out the form below.  Let’s connect.  I’d love to talk with you!

(Please pass this along to anyone you know who might be interested in the Stretch Man Mastermind.  Thanks!)

INTRODUCING THE STRETCH MAN MASTERMIND GROUP

You don’t climb mountains without a team, you don’t climb mountains without being fit, you don’t climb mountains without being prepared and you don’t climb mountains without balancing the risks and rewards. And you never climb a mountain on accident – it has to be intentional.

Mark Udall

Life is way too short to let it pass you by without a plan and without a support team.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life only to realize I had wasted my time here on earth.

I want to be intentional.  And I want to know I gave it my all.

Being a man – and specifically being a father and a husband – can be pretty challenging.  We have careers, family, friends, hobbies, and finances to balance.

I believe many men want to have deeper, more fulfilled lives, but they don’t know where to start.  Guys wander around through life afraid to ask for directions, and they miss out on living their best life ever.

Over the past several months, I’ve had multiple guys approach me in search of a mentor or a guide.  While I’m not a perfect parent or perfect spouse, they have seen something in my family and in me that makes them want to learn more.

These conversations are humbling, and I want to help.

Today, I’m excited to announce the launch of the Stretch Man Mastermind Group.  (To learn more about the mastermind group concept, click here.)

What is the Stretch Man Mastermind Group?

The Stretch Man Mastermind Group is a group of men committed to meeting together for three months.  The group will meet every other week in September, October, and November.  The meetings will be held over video conferencing software, so an internet connection, a webcam, and a decent microphone will be important.

Meetings will last 60-90 minutes.

Most meetings will start with a 20 minutes teaching time where I will share on a topic designed to help guys stretch themselves.  These topics will focus on helping us become better fathers, better husbands, and better men.  Then we will have a rotating “hot seat”.  Each meeting, we will focus on a challenge or question brought to the group by one of the mastermind members.  The “hot seat” will rotate from meeting to meeting, so everyone has the opportunity to be on the “hot seat” and to focus on their challenge/question.

The first meeting will provide an opportunity for the group to get to know each other.  And we’ll jump into our normal format for the second meeting.

In between the bi-weekly meetings, the group will correspond with each other in the group’s private Facebook group.

During this inaugural three months, I will also offer two one-on-one calls with each participant to tackle your additional questions and challenges.

This paid mastermind is designed to provide the support, community and accountability you need to intentionally STRETCH your parenting, marriage, and manhood to the next level.

Spots in the Stretch Man Mastermind Group are filling up fast, and I don’t want you to miss out.

If this excites you or you want to learn more, connect with me in the comments or by leaving your information below:


Anniversary 19

Today, I celebrate 19 years of marriage to the woman of my dreams.

19 years ago today after a round of golf and a breakfast brunch at Greensburg Eat N Park, I took a shower, put on my tuxedo, and headed over to Charter Oak United Methodist Church with my groomsmen.  With in an hour of arriving, I was standing at the front of the church as I watched my bride-to-be walk down the aisle with her Dad.

We both had little idea what we were getting ourselves into.  We were young, and we were probably a little dumb (or maybe that was just me).

19 years of marriage has been an adventure.  We’ve gone through a few very painful experiences, but they have been significantly overshadowed by the blessings in our life – our two kids, our extended families, our friendships, our church family, and our pursuits at home and abroad.

When Pastor Kraft  talked to us about being “stuck together” during our wedding sermon, he knew what he was talking about.  Stuck together may sound a bit negative, but it doesn’t have to be.  It’s part of staying with each other and growing together through good times and bad times.

Marriage is not always easy, but it is possible to have a marriage that goes the distance.

As I look back on the past 19 years of marriage, I smile.  I smile at the memories created.  And I smile at the prospect of adventure ahead.  And I smile at TODAY which provides an opportunity to pause, to reflect, and to celebrate our union.

Happy Anniversary, My Dear Leanne!

5 WAYS TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR SPOUSE

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw

Leanne and I have been married for more than 18 years.  We were engaged for a year.  And we dated for two years prior to our engagement.  All together, we’ve known each other for almost 22 years.  You would think we would have the whole communication thing down by now.

Right?

Wrong.

The other night, we stopped by our local grocery store on the way home from our date night.  Leanne sent me into the store to get sunflower seeds and one or two other things.  It took me a little while to locate the seeds, but I succeeded once I asked a store employee to help me out.  I paid, and I came back to the car proudly carrying the selected items.  I put the bigger items in my trunk, and I brought a small back with the sunflower seeds in with me to hand to Leanne.

She took one look at my purchase and proclaimed, “These aren’t the sunflower seeds I was looking for.”

For some reason, I thought she was looking for actual seeds that you plant in the ground.  I had the impression that she needed them for her preschool classroom.  Being the diligent husband, I gladly found them in the store.  What I failed to realize was that Leanne wanted shelled sunflower seeds to use on a salad she was planning to make for guests we were scheduled to have in our home the next evening.

I walked back in the store and found the correct sunflower seeds.

Communication is essential to having a marriage that goes the distance.

Sometimes we get our signals crossed.  Here are a few tips to making sure you communicate well with others:

5 Ways To Improve Communication With Your Spouse

  1. Make sure you are listening to each other.  My hearing isn’t as great as it used to be.  This means I have to be in the same room with my wife.  It means I have to shut off the other noise.  And it means I have to focus on what my wife is saying.  Being face to face is the best way to make sure you are listening.
  2. Clarify the information exchanged.  Sometimes we don’t hear correctly or we misinterpret each other.  The best way to avoid this problem is to ask clarifying questions and to restate the information shared.  “You want me to get sunflower seeds for the salad?  Okay!”
  3. Take notes if necessary.  I forget things.  The best way to avoid forgetfulness is to write things down.  This is one of the reasons I take a grocery list into the store with me.  It helps me remember everything I need, and it demonstrates successful communication and follow-through to my wife.
  4. Apologize when you mess up.  It’s natural to get it wrong from time to time.  When this happens apologize.  Then move to step five.
  5. Correct any mistake you made.  For me, I had to run back into the grocery store.  Failure to correct our mistakes only undermines future efforts to communicate with each other.

What tips to you have for communicating well with your spouse (or with others)?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge below!

How to have an active love affair with your spouse, even when life gets in the way.

A few weeks ago, I visited my wife’s family for the holidays.  As part of the visit, I spent a fair amount of time with my wife’s aunt and uncle.  Uncle Dave is in his mid-eighties. He has always had a wit and charm about him.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve been able to see that Uncle Dave is starting to lose a little pep in his step.  He has struggled to stay alert and to remember things he normally would recall with ease.  This visit in particular, I could see how he is heading further down the path of Alzheimer’s (though I’m not sure if he has officially been diagnosed).

Uncle Dave and Aunt Donna have been married for over thirty years – second marriages for both of them.  They have always had an active love affair with each other.  They used to work together.  They golf together.  And they go out for coffee every morning together.  Their habits have clearly bolstered their marriage.

During my visit, it was obvious that Uncle Dave’s mental health was frustrating Aunt Donna.  She appeared more tired than normal, and she struggled at times trying to keep Dave in-line at meal times.  Throughout my visit, I thought a lot about her and the hard times she is having as a result of Dave’s fading memory.  The day I left for home, our family went to church together.  In the middle of the service, I noticed the two of them holding hands.  I couldn’t help but smile. I even snapped a picture while nobody was paying attention.  This small gesture reminded me of the commitment they made to each other and the one I made to my wife.  Even when times get tough, I ultimately want a marriage that goes the distance.

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Marriage is hard.  According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of marriages in America end in divorce.  Throw health, job, or parenting challenges into the mix, and it doesn’t get any easier.  It takes commitment, diligence, and discipline to overcome these challenges.

Here are seven habits to help build a marriage that goes the distance:

Say “I love you” every day.

Saying “I love you” seems easy when you first get married.  You profess your love at the altar, and your professions taper off as time passes.  This shouldn’t be the case.  A little love every day goes a long way.  Make a daily habit of telling your spouse how much you love her.

Hold hands.

Remember when you first held hands with your spouse for the first time.  There was magic in the air.  You could literally feel a tingling sensation as your fingers interlocked.  Holding hands shouldn’t end when you say “I do.”

Keep dating your spouse.

Before you married one another, you found every excuse to be together.  You dated all the time.  When marriage and children creep in, dating often gets kicked to the curb.  Commit to yourself and to each other to keep dating.  Block time on your calendar every week or every month to make sure you go out on a date with your wife and without your kids.

Eliminate words like “always” and “never” from your vocabulary.

“You ALWAYS leave your laundry on the floor.”  “You NEVER get home on time.”  Wouldn’t it sound better like this:  “I would appreciate it if you would put your laundry in the hamper or put it away instead of leaving it on the floor.” “I know you are working hard at the office, but I would appreciate it if you made an effort to arrive home by 6PM, so we can eat dinner together.”  These are just a few examples.  Always means forever, and never means not even once.  By watching the words we use when we communicate with our spouses, we are sure to make things pave an easier road for our marriages.

Choose to resolve conflict and anger.

Unresolved conflict is a recipe for bitterness which ultimately leads to isolation and eventual separation (physically or emotionally).  Confronting our anger is not always easy, but the outcome is almost always positive.  It’s worth seeking resolution.

Prioritize your time to reflect the priority of your relationship.

Look at your schedule.  Is there any room for spending time with your spouse?  It’s time we said no to a few things, so we can have more time for the most important person in our world – our spouse.

Take the time to affirm your commitment.

Take a moment to reaffirm your love and commitment to yourselves and one another each day. These small opportunities to have conversation will keep you united even when the world is going crazy all around you.

The days continue to be challenging for my wife’s aunt and uncle, but they are committed to each other, and they are still practicing these habits.  Their dedication to each other has been a great reminder for my wife and me as we seek to build our own marriage that goes the distance.

This article first appeared at The Good Men Project.

Photo: Sean McGrath/Flickr

Stretched On The Road

February 18, 2015 — Leave a comment

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Today, I’m traveling.  I’ll be back.

If you want to read or listen to more great content by me, please stop by these places:

5 Ideas For Teaching Our Sons over at Daddy Press

My son was in a special band concert last night for the area’s best band musicians in seventh through ninth grade.  He had the opportunity to play his trumpet in both the concert band and jazz band portions of the concert.  Sometimes, it can be a challenge to see our son during concerts because the trumpets are usually tucked a few rows behind the flutes, clarinets, and other instruments.  His seat for the concert band portion of this program put him right in my view this time, and it was nice to see him as he played.

I noticed my son was wearing a necktie for the program, and it struck me that I can’t remember spending a lot of time teaching him how to tie a necktie.  I have to wear a necktie every day for my job, so I can put one on without much thought.  But he rarely wears a necktie.  So I started thinking.  How did he learn how to do this?  He must have learned either by watching me or by following a YouTube instructional video.  I’m hoping it’s the first one.

Teaching our sons is not an option.  It’s a responsibility! [Read more by clicking here.]

7 Habits That Build A Lasting Marriage over at The Good Men Project

A few weeks ago, I visited my wife’s family for the holidays.  As part of the visit, I spent a fair amount of time with my wife’s aunt and uncle.  Uncle Dave is in his mid-eighties. He has always had a wit and charm about him.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve been able to see that Uncle Dave is starting to lose a little pep in his step.  He has struggled to stay alert and to remember things he normally would recall with ease.  This visit in particular, I could see how he is heading further down the path of Alzheimer’s (though I’m not sure if he has officially been diagnosed).
Uncle Dave and Aunt Donna have been married for over thirty years – second marriages for both of them.  They have always had an active love affair with each other.  They used to work together.  They golf together.  And they go out for coffee every morning together.  Their habits have clearly bolstered their marriage.
During my visit, it was obvious that Uncle Dave’s mental health was frustrating Aunt Donna.  She appeared more tired than normal, and she struggled at times trying to keep Dave in-line at meal times.  Throughout my visit, I thought a lot about her and the hard times she is having as a result of Dave’s fading memory.  The day I left for home, our family went to church together.  In the middle of the service, I noticed the two of them holding hands.  I couldn’t help but smile. I even snapped a picture while nobody was paying attention.  This small gesture reminded me of the commitment they made to each other and the one I made to my wife.  Even when times get tough, I ultimately want a marriage that goes the distance.
Marriage is hard.  According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of marriages in America end in divorce.  Throw health, job, or parenting challenges into the mix, and it doesn’t get any easier.  It takes commitment, diligence, and discipline to overcome these challenges.  [Read the rest of the article by clicking here.]

Jon Stolpe on Learning to Stretch {Podcast Episode #74} on the Right Where You Are Podcast with Tammy Helfrich

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Please stop by each of these.  Read.  Listen.  Leave a comment.  Then come back and answer today’s question.

Which article or appearance was your favorite?  Why?

Ten Date Night Ideas

August 27, 2014 — 15 Comments

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My wife and I have been intentional in keeping a weekly date night. Monday night is our night. We keep this night sacred just for us.

It hasn’t always been easy to keep date night. We struggled with this especially when our kids were younger, and we had to find a babysitter. Now that we have two teenagers, it is a lot easier to keep our date night. And actually, our kids look forward to our date night now.

A date night helps keep your marriage strong, and it helps show your kids the importance of making your marriage a priority.

When we tell people about our date night, they often ask us what we do on our date nights. They are looking for ideas. Today, I’ll share ten date night ideas which could help you kick-start date night with your spouse.

Ten Date Night Ideas

1. Picnic in the park. Grab a picnic basket, and fill it with your favorite picnic goodies. Throw a blanket in the car, and head to a local park.

2. Miniature golfing. You used to go mini-golfing before you were married. Why stop now? Miniature golfing is a fun way to spend time together.

3. Ice cream. Need I say more? I love ice cream, and there are several ice cream places near our house. I quick trip out to the local ice cream shop may be just the thing you need to do to sweeten your marriage.

4. Hike on a local trail. My guess is that you live near a few local trails. Simply going for a walk together provides time to reconnect after a busy day, and it provides the opportunity for a little exercise in God’s creation.

5. Movie night. Go out to a local theater, or grab a movie at the local Redbox. Don’t forget the popcorn.

6. Coffee shop. Stop by Starbucks or your local coffee shop, and enjoy a hot beverage together. This is an especially great place to visit when the weather starts getting cooler.

7. Dessert only. Go to a fancy restaurant, and only order dessert. You can get the best desserts without paying for the expensive meal. Eat dinner at home first. Then go grab some creme brulee.

8. Star-gazing. After the sun goes down, snuggle up on a blanket in you backyard and enjoy the heavenly sights. Plus, it’s free!

9. Tennis. Besides the initial cost of tennis rackets and the occasional cost of new tennis balls, it is pretty inexpensive to play tennis. I suppose you could make it about the competition, but I’d encourage you to enjoy volleying back and forth. Meanwhile, it’s another great time to talk back and forth over the net.

10. Dinner out. Plan ahead, and go out for a nice dinner together. We used to go out a lot when we were dating, but we’ve cut way back since our wedding. It costs money to go out, so make sure you budget for these types of outings. Once in a while, you need to treat yourself and your spouse.

Date nights are worth it! If you are married, start dating your spouse again.

What is one thing you can do this week to date your spouse?