Why Your Money And Your Marriage Both Matter!

They are two hot topic words that can either bring a smile to a person’s face, or make them grimace. Marriage and money! But they are both intimately connected and they both matter significantly. In this week’s episode of The Honestly Adoption Podcast, you’ll discover why…

Not that long ago, Brian and Cherie Lowe found themselves in $127,000 debt and on the brink of watching their marriage crumble. But then, after hard work, re-commitment to one another, and a belief in hope, they paid off every dime. Cherie tells their entire story through her 2015 book, Slaying The Debt Dragon. Now, through their new book, Your Money, Your Marriage, they are helping couples understand the intimate connection between financial freedom and intimacy. Check out today’s show to hear more:

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Will My Husband Ever Be On The Same Page As Me With Adoption?

It’s not always the case, but often, men can be the toughest nut to crack when it comes to the adoption journey. I know from personal experience. There are a few reasons why this happens, and some key steps you can take to eventually arrive at the same place with him on this journey.

Portrait of unhappy young couple having problems

Back in the day, before we got married, I said no to just about everything. In fact, if shaking my head was an Olympic sport, I would have taken the gold. I was such a difficult person to get along with in those days. One of the biggest topics Kristin and I disagreed over was parenting. Sitting in my metallic blue Pontiac Firebird one cold November night, in the fall of 1998, we had a discussion fight over parenting. Kristin wanted to adopt. I did not. At all. Period. Case closed. End of discussion. Or, so I thought.

We are honored to be speaking at The 7 Rings Of Marriage Online Summit with Jackie and Stephana Bledsoe, happening January 12-19, 2016. The great news? It’s entirely online. Click below to join and receive email notifications for each session of the summit…

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Date: January 18, 2016
Time: 09:00-05:00 p.m.
Event: The 7 Rings Of Marriage Online Summit
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

When you take two separate individuals, from different backgrounds and family origins, and place them under the same roof, there’s going to be friction. But it’s also a chance for something beautiful and unique to grow and flourish. We love this picture quote on marriage from platform expert and professional blogger, Michael Hyatt.

Question: Are you married? What have you learned from your journey together? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

I love Tim Hawkins. He’s truly one of the funniest comedians. Check out this hilarious video on “studying your wife.”

And, if you’re in the Indianapolis area, make sure you grab a ticket to his show this coming July! You can get all of the details by clicking here.

Question: Have you been to a Tim Hawkins show? Share your experience with us. Or, share some other tips for studying your wife! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Don’t Wait Until You’re Old And Bitter!

The other day I attended a prayer breakfast in downtown Indianapolis with about 600 area pastors, government officials, and ministry leaders. During the keynote speaker’s message I looked over to the neighboring table and saw a young married couple nestled close to one another, listening intently to the speakers words.

As I studied them briefly, the thought came across my mind- “Don’t ever lose that affection for one another.” Before you know it, if you’re not careful, love grows cold.

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My wife and I have always been good at showing affection to one another. That’s never really been a problem for us. But, over the years, we have experienced so many seasons of mass-busyness that, at times, we look more like ships passing in the night than a married couple.

We are sort of in a season like that right now. Between work schedules, our kid’s schedules, and the normal demands of life, the course of our day moves pretty fast. Many of you can probably relate.

As I watched the couple at the prayer breakfast a few mornings ago, I figured they probably were newly weds, married less than a year, just beginning the journey. In my mind, I hoped for them. I hoped they would make it to the “death do us part” part of life, many many years in the future. I hoped their love would burn as bright that day as it does today.

It wasn’t long after I saw them that the antithesis walked past me. It was an elderly couple. They sat down in a booth across from me at a restaurant I was sitting in. They didn’t talk, didn’t smile, and only acknowledged one another when an waitress asked for their empty plates. They sat in silence nearly the entire time, looking away from one another, and reading their individual magazines.

I wondered- what happened to them? How did they arrive at this place where silence was easier than words? At what point in life did they simply stop trying?

The honeymoon was long over for them. And you know what? It should be. Because their love for one another needs to be something greater and more sustaining than a wedding day or honeymoon affection.

The longer I watched them, comparing them to the young couple I saw a day earlier, the more this thought raced through my mind:

  • Cultivate love everyday of your life. Because, love is an everyday, growth process. 

If you base your love or affection on the way you felt for each other when you were young, and just starting out, love will grow cold. Because that love was based more on infatuation than sacrifice and perseverance (2 things that happen over time). But, if love is cultivated everyday, and intentionally cared for like a farmer cares for the field he hopes will yield a crop, it grows greater and deeper than you can imagine.

We don’t start out on a life journey with our spouse hoping, or even intending, to end up like couple 2. We dream of growing old together and holding on to one another’s hands well into our 80’s or 90’s. Let’s just be honest- we want to go out like the elderly couple in The Notebook, right? (Sorry for the spoiler!!!). So, how do we achieve this?

Here’s a litmus test. Ask yourself these questions, as it relates to your marriage:

1. How much affection do we show each other daily?

Do you kiss each other in the morning before you depart for work? Do you kiss each other goodnight before your head hits the pillow? Do you intentionally (not forcefully or begrudgingly) show affection to the person you committed to spend the rest of your life with? If not, why?

2. How much time do we really spend talking to one another (and listening)?

I mean really really talking and listening. Not in passing or during your kid’s basketball game, I mean, away from all the distractions, in the confines of your bedroom, or out at a coffee shop? Where you can focus intently on your husband or wife and actually digest the words they are speaking and the feelings they are feeling?

3. How’s our sex life?

You’re squirming a little right now, aren’t you? “He said the S word!” you’re muttering to yourself. You bet I did! Sex is a big deal. It’s your physical connection to one another. This should be a regular occurrence in your relationship. Without it, your emotional and physical love begins to erode. And that can cause lots of other problems.

If this hasn’t happened in a while, it’s time to farm the kids out to friends and relatives, grab a bottle of wine and some candles, and set the night in motion!

4. Are we really on the same page? 

With your finances, your schedules, your children, your retirement, your home life, and the list goes on and on! I talk with so many couples who have a “page position” problem in their marriage. They are simply on 2 different pages. We know how that is. Over the years, many of our struggles as a couple have been the result of being on different pages.

If you don’t like the answers you came up with for the four questions above, it’s time to do some work. We come face to face with these questions all the time. We’ve recognized how crucial they are to the longevity of our marriage. The same is true for you. Don’t wait until you’re bitter, frustrated, and broken down by the world, to change. Do it now. Cultivate love for your spouse everyday. Make it your top priority.

Question: How’s your marriage doing? What have you been struggling with? (I don’t expect anyone to answer this question out loud!). You can leave a comment by clicking here.

My Advice To People Who Do Not Have Children (Yet).

Twelve years ago, before my wife and I had children, we needed someone, who had gone before us in having children, to speak wisdom into our lives. Mostly (and unfortunately) we received comments like, “Oh, you wouldn’t understand, you don’t have any children.” That wasn’t helpful. Now, years later, we want to be.

Help and support signpost

Parenting is NOT easy. Let me begin by being real and honest with you. You will experience many highs and many lows but the truth is, there will be more lows than highs. In our nearly 12 years of parenting all ages and stages, we have laughed cried, hurt, and celebrated. It’s a torrent of emotions. I don’t think we will ever stop worrying, grieving, or agonizing over our children. That’s parenthood.

While there are so many things I could share with you, all monumental and all very important, I will only share what I believe to be the essential pieces of advice that we have learned in our years of parenting. My prayer is that this will help any of you who hope to be parents in the near future…

1. Expect the unexpected.

What I learned long ago, as my wife and I laid out plans for marriage and family, is that we can make our plans and chart our course, but God directs our path. And boy oh boy has He ever. Our life, while beautiful and amazing, has been far from what we expected. We have often made the comment that we could not have scripted anything better.

2. Don’t marry your expectations, date them.

Speaking of expectations, as you plan and dream for your future children, and family, don’t marry your expectations. Date them. Why? Because you’re setting yourself up for disappointment if you get married to expectations, with any area of life. Be flexible and understand that plans, ideas, and pathways can change over time. Look at it like an adventure that you kind of have a charted course for, but really have no idea what’s around the bend.

3. Spend this time, before children, investing in one another.

As a couple with no children, you have the ultimate freedom right now. Sure you have jobs, and tasks, and you’re busy. But, trust me, it pales in comparison to how busy (and tired) you will be after children arrive. There will be times, in the midst of your kid’s crazy schedules, that the two of you will feel like ships passing in the night. That’s okay. And, that’s fairly normal. What will sustain you is the strong bond you formed before the little ones arrived.

4. Never stop dating.

The other thing that will help to sustain your marriage after children arrive, is continuing to date one another. The investment in one another, and your marriage, does not end once children arrive. In fact, it needs to intensify. This has to be intentional. It won’t happen if it’s not. You can make it through the times where you’re like ships passing in the night if you intentionally carve out time to be alone together, as a married couple, once you have a family.

5. Start building a support system now.

Our best friends in the world, who are also our support system, were our best friends before any of us had children. We have literally grown our families together over the past 12 years. It’s pretty cool. We have walked through many valleys together, before and after children. Start building relationships with other adults and couples now and carry that into parenthood. Make sure these are people you can trust to have in the inner-circle of your life and your family.

6. Never stop learning from those who have gone before you.

Unfortunately we didn’t have many people to learn from back in the day, but over the years we have been blessed to have older, wiser parents who have poured into us. That has meant the world. We have learned to take every opportunity to learn and grow under those who have gone before us.

7. Never say (in reference to someone’s parenting), “Well, someday, when I’m a parent, I’m not going to….”

You have no idea what you’re talking about. Even if you’re the fun aunt and uncle who spend a couple of hours a week with your baby niece or nephew! You don’t know how difficult parenting is (yet). Sure, if you see a parent who takes things to an extreme with their children, steer clear of that, but be careful not to criticize what you believe to be bad or clueless parenting. It may be an outcry of desperation or overwhelming exhaustion that you are witnessing.

My hope and prayer is that you find this short list of advice helpful and encouraging. Parenting is a journey, not a destination. It’s a marathon not a sprint. You can do it. And you will be successful. Someday, I’m sure you will have your own list of helpful advice!

Question: Current parents, what else would you add to this list? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The Problem With Pornography

You may be asking yourself why the topic of pornography is appearing on a parenting blog, or why it’s relevant amongst the topics I write about. Well, considering that pornography is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, and 56% of divorce cases a year involve issues with pornography and sexual addiction, I believe it’s a very relevant topic for parents and families.

Thinking and working

Last week, my friend’s text caused a knot in my stomach-

“Could you give me some direction on helping someone through porn addiction?” he asked. “I’m looking for an app or a filter, or something, to help him. He’s struggling with this big time! It could end his marriage.”

It’s no surprise. So many men (and woman) struggle with pornography. Families are destroyed each year due to porn and sexual addictions. The pornography industry amassed over $8 billion in the US in 2012. That figure is growing every year. Pornography is a huge problem. Marriages crumble from it. Families are ruined by it. Careers implode and people end up losing everything. Porn is a drug, in many regards. The reasons are pretty obvious.

Certainly many of you would agree that pornography is immoral. I believe this 100% but not everyone sees it that way because of different moral beliefs. Truth is, however, pornography degrades woman (and men), causes it’s viewers to have a distorted view of sex and relationships, and can actually effect the brain like drug abuse does. Yes, pornography is immoral, and physically destructive, but what I’ve discovered over the years of working with students and adults, who struggle with pornography, is that the destruction extends beyond the immoral. It begins there, but affects a person much deeper than a buzz from a sexually charged image on a computer screen.

Here are 3 reasons why the problem of pornography goes beyond immoral:

1. Pornography creates a false sense of reality.

It allows viewers to live in a state of fantasy. The humans or images a viewer sees on a computer screen, or in a magazine, will never be physically touched by them. They will never look at them face-to-face, they will never have a conversation with them, or a real experience with them. It’s a disconnect from reality. Unfortunately for most viewers, they are hit with this false reality when they attempt to translate what they experience in a state of fantasy to their own marriage relationship. If their partner doesn’t “perform” the same way as the person on the screen they disconnect from him or her. This is why pornography can be so devastating to marriages.

2. Pornography requires no accountability.

Beyond anything physical in a marriage relationship, the existence of accountability over our choices or behaviors is huge. The fact is, once we are married, we cannot just go around behaving however we want with whomever we want. We really can’t do that if we aren’t married either. And, that’s a good thing. Although it sounds restrictive, it’s not. We need accountability to live healthy, productive lives. Our marriages provide much of that. External friendships should provide even more. Pornography demands zero accountability for it’s viewers actions or choices! When you view pornography you are free from any and all responsibility to the human beings you see on the screen. That’s a very dangerous reality!

3. Pornography demands no vulnerability. 

A powerful part of marriage, in particular, is vulnerability. In fact, it’s probably the most binding element of marriage. When you stand naked (emotionally, spiritually, and physically) in front of another human being, it binds you to them- forever! That’s precisely why the connection between married people runs deeper than we can understand. It’s more than just knowing one another well, it’s being intertwined with them. Pornography demands no such thing. It does not require you to bear your soul, divulge your innermost secrets, or show the ugliest parts of your soul. It does not call it’s viewers to be real or authentic. In fact, it does the opposite. You can be completely fake and closed off with pornography and no one will say a thing. No one will demand more of you.

As you can see, the problem with pornography is much bigger than just moral failure. In fact, we could use “moral failure” as the umbrella over all of the other problems (as I’ve listed above) that come with porn use and addiction. The biggest thing is finding help. If you or someone you are close to are dealing with this, find help before it’s too late. As you do, make sure it’s an organization or person that extends grace and loves you, or the person you are close to, and is willing to walk with you without judgement. There is already so much shame involved in pornography use and that tends to be preventative of someone seeking the help they need.

Question: What other thoughts would you add to my list? What are some ways people can find healing? You can leave a comment by clicking here.