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      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.

      Marriage

      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.

      Missions

      Today is the last day that you can pick up a free electronic copy of a new book by Seth Barnes.  Simple go to Amazon.com 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.

      Marlins

      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?

      Celebrating 16 Years!

      Sorry, no ice breaker this week.  I’m on vacation.  Instead, I’m celebrating 16 years of marriage.

      Today, I celebrate 16 years of marriage to my best friend and my soul mate. There’s been far more adventure than I could have ever imagined. I’m thankful for each day. And I’m so thankful that we are “stuck” together.

      What were you doing 16 years ago on this day?

      Random Stretch Thoughts

      Life continues to provide plenty of stretching opportunities. Today’s post is simply some of the things that are stretching me these days.

      1. Headaches. Since the month of February, I’ve been dealing with lots of headaches. I haven’t had a migraine for a few weeks, but I’m still wrestling a bit with the day-to-day nuisance headaches. I started seeing someone who is helping with deep tissue message. This seems to be helping, but it seems like I still have a way to go until my back, shoulders, and neck loosen up.
      2. Running. Yesterday, I shared about the 2nd Annual Race to Remember. Between blogging, headaches, and the other busyness of life, it can be a challenge to find a regular routine for running. I’m hoping that a date on the calendar will inspire me to be more consistent in my running.
      3. Gardening. I don’t talk about gardening a whole lot here, but it is still one of my passions. Admittedly, this hobby has taken a backseat to my family, my job, my writing, and other activities. I did manage to get my garden planted a few weeks ago. Now, I need to figure out how to keep the deer and groundhogs out of the garden. And I need to find time to weed.
      4. Blogging. I love the blog, and I intend on keeping it going. My main struggle is landing on my next path forward – What is the next step for the Stretched Blog?  Should I write and eBook? If so, where should I focus? I know for certain that I want to use my writing and blogging for something way bigger than myself. The Guatemala trip and the Stretched house is confirmation that anything is possible.
      5. Guatemala. I really need to work on my Spanish. In nearly a month and a half, I’ll be making this life changing trip. I pray that I will be alert to the impact of this trip. We’re less than $2,700 away from paying for the house! Feel free to hop on board.
      6. Family and marriage. This is a huge priority for me. Many times I feel like my attention and energy isn’t always where it should be. I don’t want to look back with any regrets. In a week, my daughter will be graduating from middle school. I know she’s ready for high school, but this milestone is a reminder that time isn’t slowing down. I need to make the most of the opportunities.
      7. Faith. To put it plainly, my relationship with God has to be the most important thing in my life. I’m constantly filling my mind with good things, but I’m realizing more and more that I need to be still. This stretches me to the core.

      I’m sure there are many other things that are stretching me, but this list provides a glimpse into the ones that keep coming back to me. I’m thankful that God is patient with us while we stretch. I’m thankful that he desires a relationship that is new, exciting, and stretching.

      What’s stretching you see days?

      (Don’t forget to get in on the giveaway that’s going on this week on the Stretched blog. Click here for more details.  There’s still time to win Platform by Michael Hyatt or Love Does by Bob Goff.)

      Finding Balance In The Busyness of Life

      Finding balance in the busyness of life can be a real challenge – especially as the kids become more and more involved in activities.

      Here’s a look at our families’ after-work and after-school schedule this week:

      • Monday – (besides work and school) Isaac’s piano lesson, date night
      • Tuesday – vet appointment for Irwin, Hannah’s talent show practice
      • Wednesday – Isaac’s Boy Scout meeting, Leanne’s MOPS meeting, Hannah’s talent show practice
      • Thursday – Graduate school open house for Leanne, Isaac’s band practice for church
      • Friday – Hannah’s talent show
      • Saturday – Hannah’s jewelry show fundraiser for Guatemala, Walnut Street Theater show
      • Sunday – church, Isaac’s piano recital

      This is just a small snapshot into our lives.  As you can see, we keep busy.  Each of these things is great, but it can become too crazy when we don’t have room for margin in our schedules or when we don’t have consistency in our routine.

      Families often struggle with a chaotic existence – running from activity to activity, trying to jam down a quick bite to eat, squeezing in homework, rushing to catch the bus, wrestling with work, etc.  We live this way day after day, week after week, month after month.  In this midst of this hustle and bustle, our parenting takes on a survival mentality.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could change this?

      We send mixed messages to our kids when we aren’t consistent even in our schedules.  For example, if we aren’t consistent in putting our kids to bed at the same time each night, they will probably develop problems with going to bed.  If we aren’t consistent with meal times and snack times, our kids will develop unhealthy eating patterns.  Meal times will also tend towards chaotic instead of connecting.  Establishing a routine for your family helps kids develop healthy patterns for the future.

      Despite the craziness of our schedule, we do try to maintain a rhythm to our weekly schedule.  This helps us stay on the same page.  Communication is also key.  We keep a calendar in our kitchen that helps us stay on top of our family commitments.  This helps to avoid over booking ourselves.  We have actually started to carve out nights for dates and family nights.  When we block these on our calendars, we show each other that our family and our marriage is important.  Other things can wait.

      What specific things have you done at your home to encourage a family routine?  How do you find balance in the busyness of life?

      Challenge Activity:  Work together as a couple, as a family, or individually to come up with a schedule that works for you and your family.  Be as detailed as possible.  Be sure to include things like meal times, bed times, etc.  Begin to implement the schedule before this week.

      W2R Take Home 2: Make Prayer A Priority In Our Marriage

      Happy Leap Day!

      To my friend Stretch Mark, Happy 12th Birthday!

      Yesterday, I shared one of my big take homes from my Weekend To Remember (W2R) marriage conference experience.  I shared that I want to be an agent of encouragement in my marriage and in my family.

      Today, I’ll share my second big take home for the W2R conference.  I want to make prayer a bigger priority in my marriage.  Leanne and I pray to together most nights at bedtime.  Although, this sometimes is missed when one or both of us is “too” tired.  If I’m honest, I often wait for Leanne to initiate our prayer time.  I could probably come up with all kinds of excuses for this, but I’ll save you (and me) the agony.

      The W2R conference was a great reminder that I need to step up and lead in this way in our marriage.  One of the speakers, Bob Maddox, shared that he and his wife pray together twice a day.  If he’s on the road, he calls her at least twice a day to make sure this prayer time happens.  Bob takes responsibility for this.  When he shared this, I was definitely challenged.  And so we are praying together twice a day.  I pray with Leanne before I leave for the office in the morning, and we pray together at bedtime.  So far, it’s been three days in a row!

      How could praying together twice a day make a difference in our family?

      First, making prayer a priority puts our perspective and focus in the right place.  God has to come first in our lives.  Second, praying together gives us an opportunity to connect and to lift each other up.  There’s no question that we are in a busy stage of our parenting lives as we run our kids from activity to activity.  We need this time to slow down and to be together.  Third, praying together sets the tone for our family.  I’ve heard it said, the couple that prays together stays together.  We want our family to be cemented together.  And we want our family to put God first.  When we pray, our kids will know it.  They’ll see us putting God first.  This will have an impact on their lives.  Finally, prayer changes lives.

      The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:16

      What’s your prayer life look like?  If you’re married, do you pray together?  What reasons could you add for praying together with your spouse?

      W2R Take Home 1: I Want To Be An Encourager

      Yesterday, we (Leanne and I) shared about our Weekend to Remember (W2R) experience at the FamilyLife marriage conference in Hershey, PA.  Conferences like this are great, but it can be easy to come away with a mountain top high that quickly fades as real life happens.

      When I woke up early yesterday morning for an earlier than normal start, it was easy to become instantly tired and to feel worn out before the week had even started.  When I had a migraine headache yesterday at work, it was easy to quickly become frustrated and to feel like I was back to real life.  (I’ve been struggling with migraines over the past few weeks.)  When I came home from Isaac’s basketball game where we suffered a tough loss in the final four of the playoffs, it was easy to get down knowing that our hoops season was now over.

      But throughout the day, I kept reminding myself of the great weekend I had just experienced.  I left the conference with a few take homes.

      The first major take home for me was put into action last night when Isaac suffered defeat in his basketball game.  I want to be an agent of encouragement for my wife and kids.  I was pretty down after his game due to the outcome and due to a comment from one of his teammates.  I had the chance to express my pride and love for Isaac.  Isaac plays the basketball game with a positive attitude.  He doesn’t complain.  He has fun.  He does his best.  His game continues to show improvement.  I love to watch how he transforms throughout the season into a basketball loving machine.

      As we talked about the discouraging remark by his teammate, we had the chance to discuss the power of encouragement.  We all have the opportunity to lift people up through our comments.  I want our family to live this way to each other, to our classmates, to our teammates, and to others.  As a dad, I believe it starts with me as I lead our family.  I want to be an agent of encouragement!

      Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  I Thessalonians 5:11

      How has encouragement transformed your life?  Are you an agent of encouragement or of discouragement?  What is one thing you can do today to encourage someone?

      Ten Reasons To Attend FamilyLife Weekend To Remember

      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?

      My Treasure & My Heart

      “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

      Matthew 6:21

      Where is my treasure?

      Where is my heart?

      I have lots of interests.  I spend my time on lots of things.  I work.  I read.  I blog.  I run.  I watch television.  I eat.  I sleep – some.

      Do I devote the same amount of time, energy, and attention to the people and the things that mean the most to me?  This is the question that stretches me.  My God, my wife, and my kids deserve my focus.

      This doesn’t mean that I can’t have interests and hobbies.  But I must always keep these things in check.

      Stretch on…!

      How about you?  Do you know where your priorities should be?  How do they match up with reality?

      (Please add your comment, and remember to come back tomorrow for a great guest post by Jonathan Pearson!)