Category Archives: Marriage

15 Year: Scotch and Marriage

Fifteen years ago Hillary and I were married down in Roswell, New Mexico and started off on an adventure. We were pretty naive back then. Having only dated each other for eight months, we were still getting to know each other. And I was only 23 years old, Hillary was 22 and both of us had just graduated from college.

Now fifteen years later, we have two beautiful daughters and our oldest, Anna, is heading off to junior high next week. Time flies by!

Last summer Hillary and I went to Scotland and sampled some of the best Scotch Whisky the Scottish Highlands has to offer. One of my favorites was the Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Scotch. A great Scotch Whisky involves the perfect ingredients, process and most importantly, time, to perfect the great taste that melts away your throat as you drink it.

Time has taught Hillary and me a lot and we are still figuring out things. There is a lot of change that has happened over the last fifteen years for us personally and as a family. As growth and change happens there can be a tendency for couples to drift apart especially those that marry young like we did. Thankfully, though, as Hillary and I have grown and changed personally, we have remained connected. This has taken leaning into tough conversations and overcoming selfishness. Seeking the best for the other is much harder to do than to say. Hillary has taught me so much about grace as we have grown together. Our faith has empowered us to fail well and forgive each other.

Over the last few years I have begun to realize that whatever is healthy is hard. This relates to working out, eating well and marriage. It takes hard work to grow a marriage just like it takes hard work to create a great Scotch Whisky.

The next fifteen years of our marriage will bring with it change for us personally and for our family. After moving too much over the last ten years, we have found our home in Edgewater. This is where we will lay down our roots. In the next fifteen years, both of our girls will graduate high school and college. Hillary will advance in her career and hopefully become a preschool director soon. With a gentrifying Edgewater and changing schools, I won’t be leading Edgewater Collective forever and will need to find another position where I can utilize my passions for education and system building.

I am excited for the future with Hillary and our girls. The hard work continues but it is totally worth it because of those who are along for the ride with us. Like a great Scotch Whisky, our marriage becomes even better with time.

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The Secrets of Happy Couples

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Get Away from the Kids and Be a Better Parent

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For a week and a half, our kids are staying with their grandparents and my wife and I have time to just relax together. This past weekend, we were in Seattle for a wedding and a number of times I felt like I was forgetting something. My greatest fear is losing my daughters somewhere. So as Hillary and I explored Seattle there were definitely times where my thoughts jumped to, “Where are my daughters?”

It is hard to shed our roles as parents but it is a healthy practice to spend time away from our children so we can concentrate on our more important roles as husband and wife.

Our role as spouses comes before our role as parents. I dive deeper into this here.

So it is important to find a babysitter or a grandparent or a friend to watch our children on a regular basis so we can concentrate on our role as spouses and strengthen our marriage. This is most important when our children are young because they demand more of our time and energy.

So get away from your kids on a regular basis.

Make time for regular date nights.

Play hooky from work and go out for breakfast.

Take a vacation without the kids.

Find a group of parent friends and alternate who watches the kids so you can each have a date night.

But most of all, make your marriage a priority and you will be a better parent.

Dad Gets the Groceries: Becoming a Dual Income Family

'Wedding Rings 2' photo (c) 2007, firemedic58 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

In February Hillary picked up a part-time position at our our daughters’ elementary school as a paraprofessional. Neither of us knew it at the time, but this change to a dual income family has changed our marriage and family life in some significant ways.

At the beginning Hillary only worked about one hour a day helping a teacher with iPads in the classroom. With testing and other needs in the school, Hillary quickly started to work more hours. For the past month she has been at school for six hours a day. Before working outside the home, Hillary managed our finances, shopped for our groceries and many other responsibilities around the house.

Now that she works during the day, many of those responsibilities have changed. She no longer has time to get it all done while balancing work and home life. Through the last few months we’ve learned a couple of things about surviving in a dual income family and I think it has actually been a good thing for our marriage and family life.

Here’s an eye into what we’ve learned and are continuing to learn:

Communicate, Communicate, Then Communicate Some More

For this to work Hillary and I both need to communicate honestly about our roles and responsibilities and how the changes have impacted us personally. This is easier said than done when we both have a long day and just want to veg in front of the TV and watch Duck Dynasty. But to thrive and not just survive, we need to communicate daily about our struggles and what needs to be done.

Delegate Responsibilities

I shopped for the family groceries for the first time since our kids were born. Stay at home dads you can laugh at me now. Hillary gave me the list and I pulled it off and just forgot to get Wheat Thins. This was a huge step for Hillary to hand over the grocery list. It was hard for her to give up control of the list. When our girls were sick I was the one who stayed home so Hillary could work. To make this work, we had to take a look at the family responsibilities and see who could accomplish it even if it meant that I bought the weekly groceries.

No Lazy Dad

It is easy to come home and just let Hillary take care of the girls. Hey, I work all day and deserved to rest. There is so much wrong with this scenario. Honestly, it is just plain selfish if I buy into these ideas. And now that Hillary works with kids all day at school, there definitely isn’t any room for me to just sit back and be the lazy dad. Hillary deserves to rest and get a break. It truly needs to be a partnership at night until the girls go to bed.

Finding Purpose

Last fall Hillary was struggling to find her purpose and connection to what I was doing in Edgewater. But now that she is working at the school and investing in neighborhood kids, she is finding her purpose. Though it is hard to work with kids all day, she is finding fulfillment in her work and is excelling in her role. In just two months she is known for her encouraging spirit and excellence in the classroom. We are truly a team now in reaching out to the kids in our neighborhood.

After two months as a dual income family, we definitely haven’t arrived in figuring this all out. But as we communicate and change our roles and responsibilities, our marriage and family life is better for it.

Failure Isn’t the End of the Story

I’m working with a group of great folks to bring a different kind of leadership conference to Denver called the Epic Fail Pastor’s Roundtable.

It’s a different kind of conference for pastors and leaders. It will be honest, raw and even uncomfortable.

But it’s essential for pastors and leaders.

We need to be better at talking about our own failures, idols and addictions.

Watch this video of one pastor’s Epic Fail and how God rescued him to something much greater.

Find out more about the Epic Fail Pastor’s Roundtable here. Pass it on to other pastors and leaders you know.

Ten Year Adventure of Defying Conventional Wisdom

“You are getting engaged too quickly. You’re going to get a divorce.”

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. A fellow student at Taylor University, who I didn’t know very well, asked if he could have lunch with me. Though I thought it a little strange that he would want to have lunch with me, I consented. While eating he explained how he was very concerned that Hillary and I were getting engaged after only four months of dating. He stated it like biblical fact that we needed to date for at least a year before getting engaged. I patiently explained our thought process and how we felt like God was leading us this way even though it went against the wisdom of some. I wanted to just light him up. He didn’t even know us well yet he had pronounced a judgment on us.  Read the rest of this entry

Be Engaged: Principles for Parenting #3

Photo: AMC/Lionsgate

As a dad who works outside the home, there are honestly some days where I just want to come home and watch meaningless TV for a couple of hours. I try to sit down and just watch the evening news and my girls jump all over me. Maybe it’s just the Don Draper in me that wants to go home and disengage.

Imagine how it makes my wife Hillary feel after a summer day of dealing with two young girls who are getting on each other’s nerves at the end of the day. She is cooking dinner and I am disengaged watching the news in the living room.

Not the best moments in our marriage.

It is far too easy for me to be a disengaged dad.

It’s hard to get over my selfishness but when I do it is very rewarding. Sometimes I just need to turn off the TV and read my girls a book even if it’s about magical fairies. Instead of flopping down on the couch when I get home, I need to ask my wife what she needs help with. On days where it is cooler, I even find that going for a run before coming home for good is a great stress reliever and it enables me to be more present with my kids when I come home.

How do you fight the desire to just disengage from your kids or your spouse?

How do you overcome your selfish moments in marriage and parenting?

Vacation from the Kids

We love our kids dearly but after ten years of marriage, we knew we needed to get away and take a longer vacation without the kids. Hillary and I have gone on a couple vacations just the two of us for a day or so but never for almost a week. After watching the hilarious movie “Couples Retreat” about four couples who go away for a couples only retreat, we talked to some other couples about having a couples retreat of our own. Read the rest of this entry

Spouse First, Parent Second: Principles for Parenting #1

Yesterday I introduced the idea that I don’t believe there is a perfect formula for parenting. Over the next few months I will be endeavoring to lay out principles for parenting that can hopefully apply regardless of the context. Today I want to talk about one of the hardest, yet most important principles for healthy children.

Spouse First, Parent Second

If you are a single parent, this principle still applies but in a somewhat different way. Instead of your first role being a spouse, your first role is to develop and look after yourself. So the principle could be you first, parent second. As a single parent, this is even more important. Read the rest of this entry

Love, Sex and Spiritual Intimacy

Today is Valentine’s Day and love is the big word. But what is love? New polls show that over half of singles have sex on the first date. Sex is quickly being substituted for love. As a follower of Christ and believer in the principles for intimacy in Scripture, I believe that God lays out the best design for love, sex and intimacy. It all starts with spiritual intimacy not sexual intimacy.

Early in our six month whirlwind romance, Hillary and I realized that spiritual intimacy was an important part of our blossoming relationship. We were students at a Christian college and had many examples of godly marriages all around us. I remember drawing the love triangle that you see above for Hillary. We had heard numerous talks about how a Christian couple needs to seek God first and as they grow closer to God, they will grow closer together. So being the good Christian college students we were, we started praying together about our relationship. As we prayed together our spiritual intimacy grew and our physical intimacy wanted to keep up. (Note to dating couples: praying together is dangerous). At some point we realized that it wasn’t good to pray together after 10 pm.

Then when we were married and we could fully express our sexual intimacy, our spiritual intimacy quickly fell out of practice. I remember at one point about 2-3 years into our marriage realizing that praying together was awkward. Something had changed in our spiritual intimacy with God. It was at this point that we realized that something needed to change in our relationship with God as a couple.

Now ten years after that whirlwind romance, we are experiencing the benefits of keeping spiritual intimacy as first priority in our marriage. It isn’t something that just sticks. We have to work on it each day both individually and together. But the benefits of seeking God individually and together has big payoffs in our emotional and sexual intimacy.

Here are some of the practices that have helped us keep spiritual intimacy at the forefront of our relationship.

Develop a Personal Devotional Rhythm

Spiritual intimacy in marriage starts with each of us individually. How do you connect with God on a daily basis? Are you developing a rhythm of daily Scripture reading? YouVersion and Examen.me are two great online resources for starting a daily Bible reading schedule. Getting “fed” at church on Sunday mornings is not enough nourishment to grow in our relationship with the Lord just as going to the gym once a week or talking with our spouse once a week is not enough.

Pray Together

Hillary and I have tried different things over the years. There was a time that we prayed each morning before I left for work. Now with Anna in school and Hillary watching a friend’s baby, this is hard to do. So now we pray together after we watch our weekly online sermon from Lifechurch.tv. This is a great time to talk to God together and share what is on our hearts spiritually. Find a rhythm that fits your schedule and lifestyle.

No Secrets

Hillary knows my struggles and temptations. Nothing is hidden from her. I know experientially what it is like to keep a secret from Hillary and it is not worth it (see Psalm 32:3). The best picture we have of true intimacy is in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve could walk naked with God and feel no shame. This was much deeper than just a physical nakedness but a spiritual nakedness where there was no sin or hidden secrets. Does your spouse know what you struggle with? I know we like to portray our strength and not let our spouses know where we are weak, but true strength comes when we admit our weaknesses and need for help.

Spiritual intimacy doesn’t happen overnight. It takes work each day. There are definitely days and seasons where I don’t feel like praying with Hillary or sitting down to read my Bible. There are nights when I just want to come home and veg in front of the TV. But there are huge benefits to seeking spiritual intimacy first with Hillary.

So focus this Valentine’s Day on spiritual intimacy with your spouse. We were designed and created for it.