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Letting Go

Letting Go

By Christian Zapata

Have there been times in your life or in your marriage where it has been difficult to let go and allow the process to flow naturally? Have you felt the “need to be in control” be a factor in preventing a bigger blessing from occurring?

My wife and I were married on July 23rd, 2005, at St. Daniel the Prophet Catholic Church on Chicago’s Southwest side. In front of God, our family and friends, we professed our love for and our eternal commitment to one another. After an amazing reception filled with music, dancing and laughing our wedding day was over and our marriage began.

Prior to our wedding, we both were in the process of completing graduate studies and after graduation we were fortunate in obtaining gratifying careers in our fields of study. Joanne was employed as a Spanish high school teacher and I, a Family Therapist. One month prior to our wedding day, we purchased our first home. It was a fixer-upper, but it had character and we felt we could make it our own. We were off to a solid start with this marriage thing. We had completed advanced degrees, found gainful employment, and purchased our first home, all before our wedding day. Things were looking very good for us. As the years went on, Joanne and I both worked tirelessly in our careers, getting settled and receiving several promotions. We spent much time going out on date nights and at least once per year we planned very nice vacations. Together we saw the sunrises from the beaches of Santorini in the east and the sunsets from Cabo San Lucas in the west.

For about six years we felt we had everything we could need or want. But after many conversations, going back and forth, we realized that our lives were missing a very important piece: children. I guess we figured that we had gotten lucky that we had not had children so far since we were both heavily involved in our careers, volunteering and church. In typical Zapata family fashion, we decided to plan this out as well. We decided that the best time to have kids would coincide with my wife’s school schedule so she could be at home all summer long and my work schedule would not be so hectic. It made perfect sense in our minds and on paper. But as the weeks went on, nothing happened. No baby.

We started to get worried, seeking out medical advice about how to proceed. After navigating through the complicated HMO insurance process, we found ourselves sitting in the physicians’ waiting room of a fertility specialist. Honestly, the first appointment was a blur for the both of us. The nursing staff and doctor were talking about hormone injections, egg retrievals and AA quality embryos. We left the appointment feeling overwhelmed, scared and wondering if this was the right thing to do. We spent several days praying individually, together and seeking spiritual direction from our Priest. We were asking existential questions like, were we not supposed to have children? Or were we putting our will before God’s? After days of reading information packets, Google-ing everything we could find out about infertility, praying and engaging in a very affirming meeting with our Priest, we decided to move forward with the process. We were excited, but simultaneously nervous.

We began the first round of IVF and were asked to come back in three weeks to see if the embryo survived the transfer. These were the longest three weeks of our lives. The day arrived and the nurses completed a pregnancy test. They returned with disappointing news; no pregnancy. The doctors did not give us an exact reason why it did not work, but they recited a litany of statistics as a way to offer solace.

We started the second round of IVF and it was recommended that we increase the embryo transfer to three instead of one. The doctors again recited the statistics of multiple pregnancies and their accompanying risk. Despite this knowledge, we so longed for children of our own, we proceeded anyway. Again, we waited three weeks and upon return to the clinic, we heard the long-awaited, good news; congratulations you are pregnant… with twins! I don’t remember the drive home. We must have floated the entire way home. Having tried for so long and getting negative results and then finally hearing those magic words created such a feeling of joy and contentment that we thanked God for having His hand in the process and creating this opportunity for our family.

We were asked to come back two weeks later to check on the “babies.” During this two week period we spent all of our time online and in baby stores looking for two of everything. The feeling was indescribable. Our hopes and dreams had just been multiplied by two. At the next doctor visit, the nurse came out with a solemn look on her face and said, “sorry, but they didn’t make it.” Again, I don’t remember the drive home. The news was so devastating that we barely spoke a word to one another in several days. We were not angry at each other; we just were in our own worlds dealing with the shock and disappointment. We felt we had hit bottom and had no motivation to do anything else. Tensions were high in our home and neither one of us wanted to say the wrong thing to upset the other. It felt like we were walking on eggshells.

It was in this darkest moment where God shined the brightest light for us. It was in our moment of feeling out of control that we realized that we needed to fully surrender this process and truly leave it in the hands of God. We came to the self awareness that despite our prayers and saying we had faith; we really were the ones driving the process. My wife and I had many conversations about who we were, what we believed and ultimately who we wanted to be as individuals and as a family. We struggled a great deal in being able to fully “let go and let God.” Our entire lives had been defined by what we were able to accomplish by sheer will and determination. It was in our most broken state that we finally felt the most complete as a couple. During this entire process we were reminded of Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your understanding, in all ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

About Christian A. Zapata

Christian A. Zapata is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and he received his MSW (Masters of Social Work) from the Jane Addams College of Social Work. Christian has completed post-graduate training programs from both the Chicago Center for Family Health in Marriage and Family Systems Therapy as well as from the Illinois Child-Parent Psychotherapy Learning Collaborative through the Erickson Institute in Child-Parent Psychotherapy. Mr. Zapata has over thirteen years of experience providing multi-cultural therapy services to children, adolescents and adults. Mr. Zapata currently serves as the Social Work Supervisor for Friedman Place where he manages programs and provides therapeutic services to adults who are blind or visually impaired.

Christian A. Zapata
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30 Day Devotional

This resource can help you and your family encounter Scripture together and make deeper connections with God and each other. This has been designed to be used during the month of July, but you can use it at any time. We suggest you begin Day 1 on a Sunday because some activities are designed around the weekend and Sunday worship. God bless you!

Family Bridges App

Books too “last century” for you? This customized app will give you access to resources to manage your own growth or even take the journey with a group of friends. What are you waiting for?

Marriage and Migraines

Marriage and Migraines

By Judy Oates & Steve Holt

Have you ever faced a circumstance or a crossroads in your marriage that required a very difficult decision? Maybe you are in that place now? Can you commit to allowing prayer and the peace of God be your guide?

I woke up with a horrible migraine, a chart-topper.

No, not today Lord, It’s my anniversary!
Of course, You know that God but please! Steve deserves a nice day. WE deserve it, God, Don’t we? A fun night out… an intimate evening together. Please, Lord, take the pain away.

Steve brought me coffee and flowers. With a kiss, he wished me a happy anniversary. He showed no signs of disappointment that I didn’t feel well and we might not be able to celebrate as planned. And this was a big anniversary. It was like our first and our thirtieth, even though it was our twelfth. Both Steve and I had been in previous marriages, so our combined time married totaled 30 years. Our marriage to each other was twelve years old at this point, but we had had a major setback in the past year. We’d been to hell and back dealing with the pain of infidelity and the healing only God could provide. Quite literally, my husband was moving his things back into our house that week. It was a new beginning for us, one blessed by a great measure of wisdom granted by God.

Things started out easy for us. He knew I struggled with chronic “daily” migraines, which actually means 15 days or more a month, and that’s about how many I have each month. I had been plagued all my life with migraines, first diagnosed at age 5. As I’ve grown older, they’ve become progressively worse. I had just been diagnosed with a heart problem, as well, and had just begun a regular heart medication routine. With it my, my body went through a lot of changes and everything got worse. Each year that went by, I had more physical problems. He became a caregiver more than a husband and lover. For my sake, Steve retired early to support me emotionally and physically, and to assist me in traveling around the country seeking medical help – trips which consumed much of our time and energy and left us feeling drained, worn out…and that’s not even considering the side effects of the medications.

As Steve became more of a caregiver than my husband, we both started to recognize that the roles were changing – but by the time we did, we were fighting a lot and didn’t know what to do to fix the mess we were in. We blamed everything on my health, but the truth be told, the problems ran deeper than that. Our communication was poor and we were no longer praying together. I think we both just wanted something or someone to blame. Fortunately, God knew us better than we knew ourselves – and had a plan to help us learn.

My immediate thought, when asked about marriage and prayer, is that we wouldn’t have the one without the other. I don’t know of a reason I would want to try. We have a loving Heavenly Father who knows and loves us completely, He wants the best for us individually and in our marriages and He knows us better than we know ourselves. He has a plan for our future and he has the power, wisdom and strength to see that plan through. He has the ability to work all things together for our good no matter what our perception is. He will guide us with His peace (or through our own lack thereof) if we will only enter into a relationship with Him – and we do that by asking His forgiveness for our sins and entering a relationships with Him and getting to know Him through Bible study and talking with Him, or in other words, prayer.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8

About Elsie and John Radtke

John and Elsie worked through the former experiences they each held and forgiving themselves. As they forgave, they were able to move forward and experience a new beginning. Forgiveness is a journey. It does not mean forgetting, excusing or tolerating. Forgiveness will allow you to exchange the feelings of resentment and bitterness carried over from past experiences to peace and gratitude. Click on this program to embark on a journey of forgiveness.

HopeInYourHands-FrontCover

30 Day Devotional

This resource can help you and your family encounter Scripture together and make deeper connections with God and each other. This has been designed to be used during the month of July, but you can use it at any time. We suggest you begin Day 1 on a Sunday because some activities are designed around the weekend and Sunday worship. God bless you!

Family Bridges App

Books too “last century” for you? This customized app will give you access to resources to manage your own growth or even take the journey with a group of friends. What are you waiting for?

Our God of Second Chances

Our God of Second Chances

By Elsie & John Radtke

What will you do today to show your spouse the importance they hold in your life?

Marriage for a lifetime is an expectation that every newly married couple shares. While the challenges of marriage and family life have yet to reveal themselves to the newlyweds, they will face these things together with the hope of satisfactory outcomes. Unfortunately, this does not work out for all couples. Both John and I had married with the clear intention of having it last forever. That was not to be so.

The effects of alcoholism and mental illness impacted each of our previous marriages in ways that did not allow either of us to stay in the respective marriage. The decision to end each marriage was full of torment, doubt and extreme sadness. Where had the love and respect gone? Why had we allowed it to disappear and force us to make choices that tore our hearts apart? The children we shared with our former spouses now found they were living in two worlds of strained relationships and financial jeopardy. It was not the dream either of us had for our family.

As divorced parents, we learned to navigate the tumultuous waters of single parenthood. In some ways life became calmer but it also was missing a depth of intimacy with another adult. Eight years after my divorce and two years after John’s divorce we met at a church leadership training event for Divorce Ministry. Not looking for a relationship, it took a few months before we chanced an outing. Only after a few weeks of frequent “outings” did we begin to understand that we were dating. It was my fifteen year old who told me that I now had a boyfriend. Odd, this was not part of my plan at all.

After three or four months of seeing one another a couple of times every week, I began to think it was too cumbersome to be a single mother with three teenaged children and to sustain a relationship with this man. I took my concerns to a meeting with my spiritual director. I told her I wanted to end the relationship and keep things in my life uncomplicated. She looked me right in the eye and challenged why I felt this way since I was obviously having a good time with this man. I made a list of my excuses to her and she gently took my hand and said, “Why do you think you are not worthy of the love of this man?” I felt tears come to my eyes with the stinging truth of her statement. She urged me to stop thinking so much and to let God work in our lives. I was holding on too tight. I was also still punishing myself for the divorce.

I thought about what she said. I prayed to God to help me receive this love if that is what was best for both of us. In time, that is what happened. After a year and a half of dating, we became engaged and married six months later. We had a second chance of a loving and good marriage. God was clearly in the center and we both trusted each other and him.

Between us we have six young adult children and knew that our decision to marry might be a challenge for them. They firmly told us that we would not be The Brady Bunch. We decided to marry in the chapel of an orphanage we help support in Miatcatlan, Mexico, near Cuernavaca. We pulled together our resources and flew all the children to Mexico. We toured the area, spent time with the pequeῆos at the orphanage and celebrated our marriage in the chapel there surrounded by our children, a few friends and many of the 850 orphans who resided there. It was beautiful and memorable for us all.

Having just celebrated our fifteenth anniversary, we are grateful to be together. Our children respect the marriage we have modeled for them. It has not been easy, but when God is in the center of the relationship, there is better success. We have been blessed.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8

About Elsie and John Radtke

John and Elsie worked through the former experiences they each held and forgiving themselves. As they forgave, they were able to move forward and experience a new beginning. Forgiveness is a journey. It does not mean forgetting, excusing or tolerating. Forgiveness will allow you to exchange the feelings of resentment and bitterness carried over from past experiences to peace and gratitude. Click on this program to embark on a journey of forgiveness.

HopeInYourHands-FrontCover

30 Day Devotional

This resource can help you and your family encounter Scripture together and make deeper connections with God and each other. This has been designed to be used during the month of July, but you can use it at any time. We suggest you begin Day 1 on a Sunday because some activities are designed around the weekend and Sunday worship. God bless you!

Family Bridges App

Books too “last century” for you? This customized app will give you access to resources to manage your own growth or even take the journey with a group of friends. What are you waiting for?

Habits: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Habits: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Contributed by
Eva Fleming

It took me a long time to get up in the morning, lace up my shoes and go straight to the park for my daily three-mile walk. I have to be honest, at first, it was difficult, and I had to devote a lot of mental energy to this task, but with time it became much easier. Now,  if it’s raining or if I have an early appointment, I don’t quite know what to do with myself. I first began establishing this habit when my children were young, and I needed solo time to re-energize myself and gather my thoughts. Later it became imperative when the doctor diagnosed me with high blood pressure, and walking was the only alternative to medication.

We activate habits every day from the moment we get out of bed to the moment we go to bed.

Some habits are automatic. We wake up, we brush our teeth and practice good hygiene. It’s second nature.

Some habits we work very hard to establish. I love to read. For me, it would be easy to only read for pleasure. I could spend all day reading how-to articles on keeping my house organized and making healthy homemade meals. While this is great, I know I also need to read for professional reasons. One of the most challenging habits I had to develop, was learning to read research literature pertaining to my field. But after doing it over and over, I no longer dread it and instead seek out this literature on a daily basis.

Some habits we want to get rid of. I have made up my mind to get rid of gossip. By so doing, I’m also not allowing negative people to invade my space.

Old habits are hard to break. Through my experience what I can tell you for sure is that old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form. But through the endless repetition of failures and successes, it’s possible to establish and maintain new habits.

Why form new habits? Why not just keep procrastinating and living life without discipline? Neuroscientists have traced our habit of changing behaviors to one part of the brain and our decision-making process to a different part. But as soon as behaviors become automatic, the decision making part of the brain goes into sleep mode, if you will.

Researchers from Duke University have shown that 40% of what we do is determined not by decisions but by habits. Can you imagine being able to perform specific tasks automatically without giving it a second thought, freeing space in our brain for more productive living? That’s what good habits do. Good daily habits energize us; bad habits drain us. That is the absolute reality.  

Start making small changes today, so that when you’re 75 years old, you can wake up healthier and happier because of the good habits you implemented today.

The key to good habit forming is planning and taking it one step at a time. Plan what you want to do differently, put it in your calendar and fulfill that promise to yourself. Make small, manageable steps towards the goals you are trying to reach. People that try to do it all in one day are rarely successful. I started walking half a mile a day. It was what I could manage physically and emotionally at the time. But I kept doing it and slowly started adding a few more steps to my daily walk. I have friends that are runners and can do 10 miles a day, I admire them, but I don’t envy them. I do what I can, and I insist on being consistent. Success is better achieved through small daily changes that are repeated over time. So whether you want to stop procrastinating, biting your nails, smoking, snacking incessantly, recurring to gossip, or beating yourself down with negativity, start small by doing it less and less until you achieve success.  

Our habits hold great influence over how we think, act and feel. We are the result and sum of our habits so don’t put it off any longer, invest in yourself. You are worth it.

What new habits would you like to establish? Which would you like to get rid of?  Let us know in the comments section below.

For more tips on life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

That Darn Argument!

That Darn Argument!

By Eunice Reed

My husband and I purchased our home when we were 22 at the urging of my husband’s boss. He was so insistent that he even referred us to a realtor. Our realtor really liked us and, seeing we didn’t have enough for the closing costs and down payment, put her own commission towards our home purchase under the condition we would pay her back in full in one lump sum whenever we had the money. Shortly after, the company I worked for laid off half of the staff in my department. I was among the ones to lose my job. In time I got another job and we slowly saved up the money we needed and payed our realtor back. Of course, this meant no furniture purchases for a while.

One day after a big argument with my husband I was really angry. Tired of seeing an empty living room, I drove to RoomsToGo and purchased an entire living room set, complete with tables. I hadn’t discussed this with my husband and proceeded to put it all on the credit card, breaking our no credit card debt rule. Of course, after I calmed down, it was too late to cancel my purchases, so a day before the furniture was to be delivered, I sweetly and lovingly informed my husband of what I had done, to ease the shock. I was looking forward to having my living room furnished, especially after waiting so long, so part of me was very excited the day the furniture came. I quickly realized, however, that measuring the pieces would’ve been a good idea. This set was big, and while it would’ve been okay to have a gigantic sofa, all the other pieces were just in the way. Every time I looked at it, it bothered me.

What I Learned

Shortly after the arrival of our brand new furniture, my husband and I went out. Imagine my reaction when, upon our return, I discovered black paw prints on all the pillows and cushions of our white & beige-striped sofa. The cat had gotten into a charcoal bag in the utility room and proceeded to walk all over the sofa with his dark, dirty paws. The stains never came out, so I kept them forever covered with a sheet. My husband – who is a very intense guy – never said anything negative about my “impulse buy”, but patiently scheduled the payments so we could pay it all off by the time our first daughter was born. Whenever I wanted to do something fun, we simply couldn’t because so much money was going towards our payments. This really set the tone for the rest of our marriage because even though my husband remained calm and didn’t lose his marbles, I never derived any pleasure from the monstrosity in my living room. I learned to wait until we agreed on something before any big project or purchase. No argument would ever push me to do something like this again.

This has been the backdrop in my mind while waiting for God’s intervention so many times in our lives. Psalm 27:14 says:

Wait for the Lord. Be strong and don’t lose hope. Wait for the Lord.”

Isaiah 30:18b says:

“…Blessed are all those who wait for him to act!”

Oh how hard it is to wait, but oh how worth the wait it is.

About Erik and Eunice Reed

Erik and Eunice have been married for 29 years and have 3 children finishing college and beginning their careers. Erik has been Director of Technology for a government agency for over fifteen years and is the founder of DblEdge Software. After working for over a decade in office automation Eunice made the decision to stay home with her children. She has recently founded MiPropertyValue.net and writes a blog on property and home-related issues.

Family portrait of Eunice and Erik Reed
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30 Day Devotional

This resource can help you and your family encounter Scripture together and make deeper connections with God and each other. This has been designed to be used during the month of July, but you can use it at any time. We suggest you begin Day 1 on a Sunday because some activities are designed around the weekend and Sunday worship. God bless you!

Family Bridges App

Books too “last century” for you? This customized app will give you access to resources to manage your own growth or even take the journey with a group of friends. What are you waiting for?

“Adulting” 101 – Why asking Why is important

“Adulting” 101 – Why asking Why is important

Contributed by
Eduardo Morales

As I get older and evaluate my life, I see that our 20’s has a lot of influence on how the next stages of our lives will be shaped. Why? Because our 20’s bring a lot of transition: High School to College, College to Career and Career and other Career, Singleness to Dating, (then maybe like in my case, single again several times over), then Marriage and quite possibly the Baby Carriage. But this is really a time to learn about you, see the world, experience friendships. These life experiences are some that are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. These are the memories that will turn into the good ol’ days. And truthfully, if we aren’t careful, these years can just fly by, unless we are intentional about setting a vision and living with purpose.

It is so important to have a vision for your life. Without a vision, you might be busy doing things, but you could be busy doing things without a point. The idea is to have a purpose and intention in what you do. So what do you really want to do with your life? Why am I doing what I currently am doing?

These are the questions I have been asking myself in a time of transition. As I am asking and evaluating, I think a good question to ask is “Why?” For most of us, when we were younger, we constantly bugged our parental figures with the questions of why. “Why does this happen?” “Why do you do that?” “Why this?” “Why that?” Yeah, it can get annoying, but I have found that asking ourselves the Why questions, allows us to answer and clearly explain to ourselves, why we are doing what we are doing.

For a few years now, I have been wearing a number of different hats, gaining a lot of great experience. I believe the quickest way to find our sweet spot is wearing different hats and finding out what we like and don’t like. However, it’s in these experiences that you evaluate whether or not this is something you want to continue dedicating yourself to. Knowing where you stand and where you want to go – that’s having a vision. When you have a direction of where you want to go with your life, spiritual walk, your marriage, your career, you can better determine what things you currently do in your life or might come across your path in the future, that will either benefit you or hinder you.

Here are a few practical ideas that can guide you through this vision-setting process.

Look at what you’re passionate about and how you’re wired. When you start to see some common threads in your life or overlapping interests and assess your skills, this might be a good mix of information to help guide you as to what you want to invest your life into in the years ahead. So what are you good at, what are you not-so-good at? What’s your story? Are there positions you continuously find yourself in or others elect you to? Use these questions as guides in developing a vision for yourself.

Take time to breathe.A common question in interviews is where do you see yourself in 5 years? Sometimes we can be so busy plowing in the fields that we lose focus on why we even starting tilling in the first place. It’s important to take time to remind and refocus, or else, it is easy for us to get drained and suffer from burn-out. Even more so, we might find ourselves in a position where we lost the vision.

Write it out! I believe we are more apt to follow through with a goal or an idea when we write it down and keep it visible for us to see. Just like scripture, if we embed it in our hearts, if we meditate on it day and night, it will become a part of us. The reality is that we tend to forget and when we forget we lose focus. Having a visual reminder continues to keep us focused and helps combat our forgetfulness.

Ask yourself the Why’s? Ask yourself (and ask others close to you to ask you), the tough questions. It is not always about looking for the advice or opinion, but allowing mentors, or your core supports, to ask you questions that will get you thinking and seeing things from another perspective. Everyone has an opinion and advice that could be easy to give and easy to find. Plus you can search around until you find someone that fits what you’re looking for and that might not always be the best thing.

When thinking about leaving your mark on your culture, your world, your church, your neighborhood, your family, it starts with a vision. Learning more about you, your skills, your passions should help guide you in understanding your purpose. When you start living on purpose, that breeds confidence, because you’re in your element. Taking time to process this for yourself, in all the areas of life you’re involved in, will help you develop vision. So be like a little toddler for a moment and ask yourself the “Why’s?” I think you’ll find yourself developing a decision-making style that is more visionary than circumstantial.

Do you have a vision and purpose for your life? Share with us your experience in the comments section below.

For more tips on life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

How to Love Your Partner at their Worst

How to Love Your Partner at their Worst

Contributed by
Dr. Charlie and Elizabeth Woehr

There is an old Western movie starring Clint Eastwood, titled: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Well, we humans can be like that. In fact, within every person, even you and your partner, there is the potential to at one time or another exhibit actions or attitudes that could be classified as good, bad, and even ugly!

It is easy to love a partner who is showing their good side. It is a bit harder to love a partner who is showing their bad side. It is much, much harder to love a partner who is showing their ugly side—at their worst.

To be able to LOVE your partner when they’re at their worst, you must develop, from the beginning of your relationship, a solid foundation. Here are the four elements you must integrate into that foundation, that will prepare you to LOVE in all kinds of situations:

 

L – Laugh often with your partner. Laughter has been called “the best medicine,” and there is a reason for that. Laughing together means sharing fun times, silly times, creating this way memories that will be the glue for when the tempests of trouble hit your relationship, helping to keep things from collapsing around you.

O – Open your hearts to each other; share your inner thoughts and feelings. Talk about the dreams you each have for your relationship. By opening your hearts to each other you are trusting each other with your deeply valuable thoughts and feelings. Being comfortable with each other is a prerequisite to wanting to support each other in those more difficult moments, when things are not as you would like them to be. If you have learned to open your hearts at times of vulnerability, this will create both a desire and need to get closer to your partner in difficult times, which will counter the natural tendency to move away from each other when things get tough.

V – Value the strengths each of you have and learn to expect those to be brought into play when things are not going so well. Is one of you a forgiving person? That will be brought into play when things are not going well. Is one of you a deep thinker? Value the analysis that will bring to reflection about where things have gone wrong. Your strengths will need to be known and brought to bear in difficult times.

E –  Expect to recover from difficult times you will face. Avoid generalizing by thinking to yourself that this “always” happens, or that this “will last a long time” or that “this will never end.” Rather think of positive outcomes and expect that your partner will react and come around, will ask forgiveness, and seek to restore any painful times caused by their worst moments. Expect that when the years go by these difficult moments will have made your relationship stronger. Expect is really to exercise FAITH: believing in the ultimate healing and restoration that will come, after the valley of pain or misunderstanding.

 

Want to love your partner at their worst? Start loving them at their best and put the L.O.V.E to work for you, as you prepare to weather the most challenging storms that inevitably come on the sea of life as a couple. Down the road of life, as you look back on these difficult times, you’ll be very glad you did!

How have you and your partner gotten through tough times in your relationship? Share with us in the comments area below.

For more tips on life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

Make Time for Memories that will Never Fade

Make Time for Memories that will Never Fade

Contributed by
James Hommowun

 

 

This week, my college roommate was back in town visiting his family and made time to stop by our house for an evening.  After catching up with my wife and I and our very excited daughters for about twenty minutes, my oldest ran from the room to grab a tablet and raced back up to him to ask, “Wanna play chess?”  I was treated to half an hour of watching my old friend (who is every bit as bright as I am) nearly lose his first game of chess with my daughter – in his own words, he only got out of it because she showed him a mistake he was making and he was able to turn it around.

I should maybe mention that my old roommate moonlights as a game designer and knows more about the history and development of chess and its variants than I could ever hope to match.

Needless to say, I was incredibly proud of my daughter. And I hadn’t set her up to challenge him, nor would I have expected her to come that close to winning her first game with another skilled adult.  (I maybe should have since she finally beat me last week, but obviously I must have just not been paying close enough attention.)  But the whole reason I had this great experience is because I took the time last year to teach my daughter to play and spent the time playing with her. She took that, ran with it – she’s getting very good at defeating weak computer opponents on that tablet, and is excited to attend the library chess club this summer as one of the youngest players – and has exceeded by many times the little effort I put in in the beginning – “effort” to have funwith my child.

We get so busy with our day to day lives we can lose track of the time we spend (or don’t) with the people closest to us, the people we see every day – and this passive, unintentional neglect (we’re not tryingto not spend time with our kids, we’re just trying to keep up with all the other demands on our time) has the biggest impact on the smallest people.  Children thriveon parental interaction, they come to love what we love and they want so desperately to be like us we have but to give them the slightest encouragement and they burst into bloom right before our eyes.

If I hadn’t spent that time playing with my daughter, could I have answered a few more emails?  “Liked” a handful more Facebook posts?  Caught another episode of Stranger Things on Netflix?  Finished another chapter in my book?  Of course I could have.  In a year, will I remember any of those things?  Very likely not.  Will I remember the sparkle in my daughter’s eyes and the genuine joy my roommate took in playing with her – something that could only happen because I first played with her?  Absolutely. Maybe even for the rest of my life.

We know that finding time and balancing all the demands on us as parents is hard – it’s another Full Time job on top of any other work you do, and the hours are 24/7.  That’s why Family Bridges hosts a series of short podcasts to help young (and not so young) parents navigate the challenges we all share – we know “The Struggle is Real,” but no one has to face it alone.  We invite you to check out the podcasts, or join us on the Family Bridges App available in the Apple Store and Google Play to get some quick tips on how you can trim the timesinks that you’ll never remember and make time for the memories that will never fade.  Take the time to play with your kids – chess, baseball, chutes and ladders, dress up, the game doesn’t matter.  You may sometimes feel silly, harried, find it hard to focus – but the rewards are incredible, and they come when you least expect them, and they arethe moments worth living for.

For more resources on personal and professional development, you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

When the answer is “No, Not Now”

When the answer is “No, Not Now”

By Peter & Heather Larson

We learned a valuable lesson of God’s faithfulness as we began the journey of becoming parents. We had been married a few years and decided we wanted to start a family. Both of us were used to working hard, accomplishing goals, and getting the results we wanted and expected. We assumed that becoming parents would be no different. We had so much to learn…

It didn’t take too long before Heather was pregnant and it seemed like our plan was right on track. She began reading every book on expecting a baby. We knew at our first doctor’s visit that we should be able to see a little peanut-sized baby and to hear his or her heartbeat. When the ultrasound technician moved the wand, she found the tiny birth sack, but no sign of a baby. We learned later that this is called a “blighted ovum”. To us, it just meant heartbreak, fear and confusion.

We were shocked! So much hope and anticipation immediately melted into a heap of mixed up feelings. We went through many stages of grief, and not always at the same time. Initially, Heather was just angry at God for allowing such a thing to happen. How could He not give her the desire of her heart? I was numb, but still trying to be hopeful and take comfort in the fact that many couples experience miscarriages with their first pregnancy.

The fact that we weren’t experiencing the same reactions at the same time allowed us to hold one another up and grow deeper through this trial. Unfortunately, the lesson that ‘we are not in control’ didn’t end there. The next two years brought two more early term miscarriages and waves of discouragement rolling in like the tide. By this time, I was feeling mad at God, but Heather was beginning to experience God’s presence and comfort in new and deeper ways.

On one particularly difficult day, Heather was thinking “God just doesn’t know what it’s like to be a mother and lose a child.” Then, of course, she remembered Jesus. God knows so much more about the loss of a child! We realized that God could use these circumstance to show himself more deeply to us. Even if we are not in control, He is! Heather found Psalm 71 to be a great source of hope. Verses 20 and 21 jumped off the page and into her heart, renewing her with hope and reminding her that God would not leave us in despair.

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more.”

Psalm 71:20-21 (NIV)

About Peter & Heather Larson

The Larsons have been married 22 years, and have 3 children (17,15, and 14). Peter is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, working on the team building the Gloo growth platform, and Heather is a certified Marriage Coach with Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored program. Together, they have co-authored four books on marriage and parenting with the Arps.

To learn more about their, see www.Gloo.us, www.hoperestored.focusonthefamily.com, or www.bridewellcoaching.com

Peter & Heather Larson
HopeInYourHands-FrontCover

30 Day Devotional

This resource can help you and your family encounter Scripture together and make deeper connections with God and each other. This has been designed to be used during the month of July, but you can use it at any time. We suggest you begin Day 1 on a Sunday because some activities are designed around the weekend and Sunday worship. God bless you!

Family Bridges App

Books too “last century” for you? This customized app will give you access to resources to manage your own growth or even take the journey with a group of friends. What are you waiting for?

How Big is Your Family? (Healing from Abortion Wounds)

How Big is Your Family? (Healing from Abortion Wounds)

By Anonymous

How big are our families? Do you see the lost and the hurting – the results of widespread abortion throughout our extended families, our community, our culture? Do you have grieving still to be done?

Do you have children? Do you love and seek to protect them? Did you have them when you were ready? Perhaps none of us are truly “ready” for parenthood when it comes, and we all dream of becoming parents with the right mix of ingredients – the right spouse, enough money, physical strength, and wisdom to care well for the fragile lives entrusted to us.

For far too many of us, our parenthood stories begin first with an abortion – a denial of our call to parenthood, even of our very humanity. So our true families are bigger than we see around us, and therefore contain an element of tragedy. Here’s my story of my bigger family – and how God has made it bigger in His love, if not in the number of children I can now hold.

I learned I was pregnant at age 18 – in college, after breaking up with my then-boyfriend, at the county health department. There was no way I could face becoming a mother then – or so I thought. I was broke, I had already rebelled extensively during my teen years to that point, and telling my parents that I had made yet another mistake – and so enormous – was unthinkable. So I froze. Not literally, but emotionally and intellectually. This could not be happening! If I just denied it, it would go away! Well, maybe with a little help from the medical clinic a friend told me about. I was thinking just enough.

So it was decided. I told my now ex-boyfriend that I needed some money. Not too much, in retrospect – only a few hundred dollars to get rid of “the problem.” A few short weeks later, I was lying on an exam table with people taking care of “it.” Then I was home. The subsequent discharge smelled awful, like rotten tuna – as if something . . . died. I continued to deny the horrible truth of what I had done. It was over (well, at least the physical part). And those little inklings of maternal instinct and that faint belly swelling? Oh, it was over now – onward with my studies, and no more thoughts of “it” (except when my mind would wander).

But “it” had happened – I had had a baby, a human life growing inside me, flesh of my flesh. I finished college, went on to grad school, and then – I was faced full force with the extent of my grave sin. Yes, I had rejected God’s capability to fully care for me no matter the circumstances, and I had played God myself – deciding matters of human life and death.

As I began to grasp the gravity of my sin, I came to believe that I was too bad, too horrible, for God to ever accept me as His child. But God is so gentle, and all-sufficient. He drew me close in steps of faith, with loving friends and a strong church around me, and showed me so clearly how no sin is too great for Jesus’ redeeming salvation. I came to understand that Jesus died on the cross FOR ME – to take the punishment for all the people who have had abortions and who have done and thought all sorts of other things that fall short of His holiness, goodness, and righteousness. I am His – and so was my unborn child.

Fast forward – I am now married, with two born children. I love helping pro-life organizations and living out my Christian faith. I’m so thankful for my forgiving and supportive husband. I’m still too ashamed to tell my born children that they have a sibling waiting for us in heaven. How could they ever forgive me? But we walk in grace and faith, and with the assurance that one day God will wipe away every tear. I long for that day. And in the meantime, I yearn to share God’s message of incomparable love, redemption, provision, and hope for all – born and unborn, guilt-ridden and free – as our society continues to grapple with abortion’s evils and deep consequences.

I love the Lord, for He heard my voice;
He heard my cry for mercy.
Because He turned His ear to me,
I will call on Him as long as I live.
The cords of death [or other trouble] entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, save me!”
The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the simple hearted;
when I was in great need, He saved me.
Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.”

Psalms 116:1-7

HopeInYourHands-FrontCover

30 Day Devotional

This resource can help you and your family encounter Scripture together and make deeper connections with God and each other. This has been designed to be used during the month of July, but you can use it at any time. We suggest you begin Day 1 on a Sunday because some activities are designed around the weekend and Sunday worship. God bless you!

Family Bridges App

Books too “last century” for you? This customized app will give you access to resources to manage your own growth or even take the journey with a group of friends. What are you waiting for?