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    All posts in "marriage"

    Celebrating 19 Years Of Marriage

    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

    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!

    7 Habits That Build A Lasting Marriage

    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.

    holding hands-unconditional love

    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

    road-273818_640

    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

    DSC_0598

    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?

    In the Middle of Crisis – Find Your Way to God’s Heart

    Four years ago, our family faced a significant health crisis which resulted in my wife’s hospitalization.  This was a time which rocked our family’s world.

    I remember going through all kinds of thoughts and feelings during this time.  I wondered how this crisis would impact our family and our marriage.  I questioned God – why would he let this happen.  I felt loneliness even as family members and friends wrapped their arms around our family.  There were times of hopelessness, but there were also moments and days of hope.

    I recall praying that Leanne would know my love and commitment for her as she struggled to find wellness, and I prayed that she would look to God’s heart for clarity and comfort when everything around her didn’t seem to make sense.  (In a way, this was a prayer I needed as well through this time, and I’m thankful for many who were lifting me up during this crazy time.)  I had a strong feeling God would work the rest of the healing process out.

    There are times in our lives when we will face times of crisis.  There will be many times when life doesn’t make sense.

    It’s times like this when we need to remember God is simply calling us to find a way to His heart.  He is there for us during the peaks and valleys of life.  He’s with us in the mundane middle.  He is our Rock, our Fortress, our Refuge, and our Redeemer.

    The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  Psalm 18:2

    I have no idea what you may be going through.  You may be riding high on the good waves of life, or you may be trudging through the muddy trenches.  I pray you would look to God’s heart for clarity and comfort.

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

    This song by Phil Collins spoke to me as I contemplated this post.  It’s not a “Christian” song in itself, and the theology may not line up exactly, but it reminded me how God wants us to be connected to Him through the ups and downs of life.

    How have you handled a crisis in your life?  What helped you get through the crisis?  If you are in the middle of a crisis right now, what gives you hope?

    Raccoon Reminder – Make Your Marriage A Priority

    “Raccoon!”

    “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?

    5 Ways to Keep Your Love Life Going Strong

    Guatemala 2013 400

    On Monday night, Leanne and I were out for our weekly date night.  (Last week, I shared 7 Ways To Help Your Marriage Today.  #3 on the list was “practice a regular date night.”  I’m so thankful we’ve made this a priority.  I know we’re sometimes tired at the end of a busy day, but it helps to keep us connected.)  We stopped at a local corner restaurant where we enjoyed dessert and great conversation.  We were the only couple there when we first walked in to the seating area.  Then two other couples sat down at separate tables.

    As Leanne and I were talking, one of the men stood up and turned to face the rest of us in the restaurant.  He asked for our attention and proceeded to tell everyone the following:  “My wife and I have been together for 13 years today.  Our kids are up the street with the sitter, and we’re out to celebrate.”

    I think he shared a couple of other words I don’t quite remember.  I don’t know what his wife thought of his speech, but it was obvious he was still head over heels for his wife.

    We congratulated them and challenged them to stay strong and in love.  Then we proceeded to our own conversation and delicious dessert.

    It would be easy to let this moment pass by without record.  After all, it was a few short seconds in the middle of our date.  But I think it’s important to remember this experience.  It stretched me in a good way.

    Leanne and I have been married for 17 1/2 years.  We are very comfortable with each other.  And sometimes, I think we get to comfortable.  I want my wife to know I’m just as head over heels for her now as I was the day we first met.  I want her to know how much I love her even if it means being a little goofy and sappy from time to time.

    5 Ways to Keep Your Love Life Going Strong

    1. A simple gift goes a long way.  I’ll confess I’ve become too relaxed in this department.  I used to send Leanne flowers all the time.  This is something I need to do more often.  For Leanne, flowers show her I care.  Find out what gift has this impact on your spouse.
    2. Go above and beyond in helping around the house.  Again, I could work on this.  It’s easy to come home exhausted after a busy day of work.  I don’t need to finish the basement every night or paint a room every night, but there are plenty of little things I could tackle that would make a difference and show her how much I care.
    3. Keep hugs and kisses going.  Physical intimacy doesn’t have to end after the initial years of marriage.  Hugs and kisses when departing and when arriving home and in-between are part of staying close and connected.
    4. Encourage your spouse with your words.  I’ve seen too many couples who bash each other in private and in front of other people.  Television only amplifies and encourages this type of behavior.  We need to become our spouses biggest fan.  Words shared verbally and in writing can be the life blood of a thriving marriage.  Leanne does a great job in this department!
    5. Just spend time together.  It seems so simple, yet we live in a busy world.  We are running from one thing to the next.  I’m taking Isaac to one activity while Leanne takes Hannah to another activity.  Our weekly date night is one way we intentionally spend time together.

    If any of these ideas sound helpful, I’d recommend you check out The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts by Gary Chapman.  This book provides practical encouragement for keeping your love life going strong.

    How do you keep your love life going strong?

    (Please note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase The 5 Love Languages by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)

    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?

    Cheer Each Other On

    Guatemala 2013 401

    And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24-25

    My Guatemala story would be incomplete if I failed to talk about the importance of cheering each other on toward love and good deeds – especially when it comes to marriage.

    My initial leap of faith decision to go to Guatemala would not have happened had it not been for my wife.  Let me explain.

    Two years before my initial trip to Guatemala, my wife and I were planning to go to Nairobi, Kenya on a mission trip with a group from our church.  We saved and raised money to go on this trip.  We got our shots.  We purchased our airline tickets, and we made our final deposits for the trip.  As we finalized our preparations for the trip, something wasn’t quite right.  My wife’s health was beginning to deteriorate.  We visited her doctor, and we tried to make some adjustments.  But it wasn’t enough.  Four weeks before the trip, we made the difficult decision to cancel our plans.  It was one of the toughest decisions we have ever had to make.  We didn’t have travel insurance.  We couldn’t get our money back, and we were missing out on a “dream” mission trip to serve the poorest of the poor in the slums of Nairobi.  I remember feeling lonely and defeated.  Would we ever be able to go on an international mission trip again?  More importantly, would my wife’s health improve?

    Without going into detail, things got worse before they got better.  Leanne ended up in the hospital in September just weeks after we would have come back from Kenya.  It was clear that being in Nairobi at this time would not have been a good idea for us.  Leanne’s recovery was slow but steady.  She was released from the hospital in early October, and she began the process of healing.

    Throughout the healing process, we continued our desire to serve others.  We launched our H.O.P.E. group (Helping Other People Everywhere) serving the local community with other families.  This has filled much of our desire to serve others, but there was still an itch begging to be scratched.  We still desired to serve internationally.

    Fast forward to last spring, our youth pastor asked if I would go on the high school summer mission trip to Guatemala as a chaperone.  I can’t tell you how much I struggled with this decision.  How could I “risk” leaving my wife and son home alone while I traveled to Guatemala with our daughter?  I prayed.  I sought godly council from friends and family.  And I wrestled through a lot of fear and doubt.  In the midst of this, my biggest cheerleader kept encouraging me to go.  Leanne said go over and over again.  She knew it would be hard, but she knew it was the right thing to do.  She kept cheering.  She kept spurring me on toward love and good deeds.

    You know the story.  I ended up going to Guatemala in 2012, and the trip rocked my world.

    Upon my arrival home, I had so many stories to share.  I indicated my desire to go back again.  And Leanne listened to my stories – a little jealous about my experiences and a lot more interested in going overseas for missions.  Our family talked and prayed about going somewhere together as a family in 2013.  We kept coming back to Guatemala.

    This decision gave me an opportunity to be the cheerleader.  Leanne was a little concerned about the language barrier that went with being in a strange place.  As the week went along, I tried to encourage Leanne, and I prayed she would connect with the people of Xenacoj as we ministered together.  It was amazing to watch her fear and frustration transform into enthusiasm and excitement.  I will always remember our last day in Xenacoj.  Leanne was in tears – good tears.  She didn’t want to leave yet.  Xenacoj had captured her.

    Our reentry back into life in the United States has gone relatively smoothly.  Yet we’ve been left with a huge desire in our heart for serving the people of Guatemala.  And so our story continues to evolve.  It’s our turn to cheer you on.  While we prepare for another trip to Guatemala at some point, we want to encourage you.  We want to spur you on toward love and good deeds.  Maybe it’s in your office.  Maybe it’s in your neighborhood.  Maybe it’s overseas.  Maybe with us in Guatemala.

    How will you share love and good deeds with others today?

    Who is your biggest cheerleader?  Who do you need to encourage today?

    What are you being encouraged to pursue?