I Failed & I’m So Thankful I Did @daytonmomsblog

My wife’s recent post on the Dayton Moms Blog tells about lessons learned through divorce. It’s a well written piece that hits home with many of us. 

I was checking out at a local superstore, and my eye caught People magazine. The July 6, 2009 Issue. I happened to glance and saw the words, “I feel like I failed.” This stirred an emotion in me that I had not felt for many years, and right there, in the check out line, I started to weep.

Read the entire post on Dayton Moms Blog

This Life I Live // Rory Feek

I have to admit that I don’t listen to country music. If I do hear a country song, it is purely by accident. So, there are a lot of country music stars that I simply don’t know. I may recognize a name or two, but couldn’t pick them out of a line up or name any of their popular songs.

And here’s another thing I must admit: until I received a copy of This Life I Live, I didn’t know the names Rory or Joey Feek.  I didn’t know their story or their music or the fact that they have a TV show.

Several weeks ago I happened to be watching the TODAY show and there was an interview with Rory.  Matt Lauer was talking to him, asking him questions and referenced Rory’s story like everyone watching knew it.

I didn’t.

But after reading This Life I Live, I’m glad I do.

The book tells the compelling story of Rory and Joey’s relationship: how they met, the fact that she saw herself marrying another man even while talking with Rory, the courtship and marriage that followed, the birth of Indiana and her battle with the cancer that ultimately took her life.

Rory and Joey’s story is both real and powerful.  Each chapter in the book reads more like a journal entry than a typical biography and Rory writes from his heart.  It was more like having a conversation with him and he was transparent about his successes and his failures.

While This Life I Live is the story of Rory and Joey, it is so much more than that.

The first half of the book gives Rory’s back story: about his upbringing, his family’s constant moving and the on and off again relationship with his father.  All of that leads into the man he is as he begins his relationship with Joey.

While This Life I Live is the story of Rory and Joey, it really is the story of how God was working in the life of Rory to make him the man he is today.  Through a rough upbringing, many broken relationships, a lot of mistakes, successes and failures, parenting, marriage, having a child and losing his wife to cancer, God used all of that to shape and mold Rory.

A quote that jumped off the page at me is from chapter 52 where Rory writes about his daughter Indiana. She is born with Downs syndrome and this was his conclusion:  I have a feeling – I’ve had it for a while now – that Indiana is here to teach me something.  To teach me everything . . . She will teach all of us.  Just because she’s different. Her extra chromosome will be the thing that changes our DNA. What we’re made of and what’s down deep inside.

Her extra chromosome will be the thing that changes our DNA.

This Life I Live is ultimately about change.  And growth.  And growing up.

While This Life I Live is the story of Rory and Joey, it’s really about how God doesn’t give up on His children and will teach us and grow us as long as we allow Him.

You can see more about Rory and Joey on their website which features a blog, videos and information where you can get a copy of the book.

#BrackemyreBonanza

Sat Jul 16 2016 20-58-25 GMT-0400This was a pretty significant weekend in our family as our oldest child got married! It was a great weekend of family and friends coming together to celebrate the happy couple. They chose the hashtag #BrackemyreBonanza. I looked up the definition of “bonanza” and one definition is “a large amount of something desirable.” We did have a large amount of fun and celebration so the hashtag fit.

The groom is from Ohio and the bride is from New York, so the wedding drew people from several states including Oregon, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Florida, New York, Illinois, Virginia and others. We were grateful for all those that came in and the relationships that were started due to this bonanza.

It’s always good to get families together, especially when it means we get to eat, laugh and even dance together. It was definitely a family affair as one dad gave the bride away, the other dad performed the wedding, the youngest sibling served as ring bearer, sisters were part of the bridal party and both sides of the family showed up in force.

We have many good memories of the weekend and can’t wait to see the moments the photographer captured. Here’s some pretty good candid shots from the day.

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Groom Dancing with his Grandmother

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Groom and His Sister

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Bride and Groom

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Little Brother & Ring Bearer

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Bride & Father before walking her down the aisle

The Good News About Marriage

good news marriageI first heard about The Good News About Marriage when I listened to an interview with the author on the Catalyst Podcast. I thought the information was interesting and it was mentioned several times in the interview that in order to get the whole picture, a person should read the book. So I did.

The title for the book is quite fitting. After reading the survey results that the author, Shaunti Feldhahn, and Tally Whitehead collected from years of research, I would agree that it is good news. For a number of years people in the church have quoted the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce and the percentages inside the church community aren’t any better. As one who has grown up in a church community and now serves at a church, I find those statistics to be bad news. But, from the research revealed in this book, it turns out those numbers are not true. Many of those percentages were based on projections, not actual statistics.

The book does a good job explaining not only the more accurate statistics, but how those facts and figures were accumulated. Here is some of the good news the book shares…

…the actual divorce rate has never gotten close to 50 percent

…the rate of divorce in the church is not the same as the rate among those who don’t attend worship services

…most marriages are happy

In the past few years I have performed a number of weddings and this is great news to share with couples who are preparing for marriage. It provides hope and motivation that a high percentage of marriages are not only intact, but are thriving. It gives good news to those who might be in a season where their marriage is struggling. It communicates that a happy, fulfilling relationship is possible and many are experiencing it.

This is a good resource for pastors, counselors or anyone who works with married couples. It is an encouragement to those who are already married or considering it. The Good News About Marriage really is good news that our churches and families need to hear.

Plus, if you get a hold of the book, there are some free resources that go along with the book’s message.

Cohabitation On The Rise

Wedding-Ring-FingerI was watching the TODAY show this morning and they had a piece on the rise in couples who choose to live together and have children together prior to getting married. Here’s one statistic they shared in the report: “Marriage rates are at their lowest point in half a century and the number of cohabitating couples is way up to 7.5 million in 2010. Statistics show unmarried couples that live together are staying together longer than in the past. After three years, 32% were still living together and still unmarried and in many cases, like the Jolie Pitt clan, having children.”

The reporter went on to say this, “It does not surprise me at all that couples are choosing to cohabitat instead of get married. It’s much less intimidating to sign a lease than marriage papers. Couples want what is permanent. A baby is permanent. a relationship, not so much.”

One of the guest hosts of the show that day lives with his girlfriend and they have children together. They brought on an expert in relationships who said she was not concerned with the rise in cohabitation. Her response was this: “I think people want to be committed to one another and they’ll do it. Just in time.”

I know divorce is a scary and painful thing and many people who are now old enough to marry grew up in a time when a high percentage of parents didn’t stay together. Cohabitation is not a new thing and I think it happens in part because couples don’t want to see their relationship end in divorce. Rather than go through that painful process, couples chose to simply live together.

What stood out to me was the general acceptance (at least of those on the show this morning) of those who choose to live together. It seems that the fear of divorce is enough to justify living together and having children apart from marriage. If you look at the statistic shared in the report, only 1/3 of cohabitating couples are still together have three years. It would be interesting to see what happens to that percentage as the years increase.

I think it also shows that people want what God has placed in our hearts – the desire to be loved and to be known. Way back in the book of Genesis, Adam had everything he needed except a “suitable helper.” So, God gave him Eve.

While I know there are various reasons people chose cohabitation over living together, I think this report shows the value of marriage and how important, fulfilling and sometimes difficult that relationship can be. People want relationships to stick. They want their partner to stay.

One of the hosts this morning said, “The end game is sticking together.” That was God’s original design, to stick together. Our culture is reflecting God’s intent – to stick together. As we commit to His way, with His help, we can stick and stay.

You can see the video of this report, as well as a link to the transcript, on the TODAY Show website.

10 Politically Incorrect Reasons to Stay Married

Wedding-Ring-FingerI subscribe to Tony Morgan Live and today received an email about his top blog posts from May 2013. One that caught my attention was the post entitled 10 Politically Incorrect Reasons Why We’re Still Married. I just posted about weddings yesterday and really liked what Tony Morgan had to say.

In the post he talks about being married to the same woman for 22 years, so right away he had my attention. I admire couples who have been married for two decades and beyond because you know that not all those years were smooth sailing.

One thing I’ve learned as I’ve listened to other voices and read other blog posts is that I don’t have to agree with everything everyone says in order to gain value from what they share. There is much we can learn from other people and not feel like we have to agree with everything they say. There are some good principles in Tony Morgan’s post that can be of help to those who are already married and those who looking to marriage in the future.

Here are the 10 Reasons he shared in his post:

1. We put our spouse’s needs ahead of our own needs. From what we’ve learned, our basic needs are different from each other. The book His Needs, Her Needs is a great book to begin this conversation.

2. We’ve made our physical appearance a priority. Neither one of us would admit to being “10s” by any stretch of the imagination, but we want to look sexy for each other. We work at it. That includes eating right, exercise, clothes, hair, etc. For example, Emily and I have made a pact — she decides what my hair looks like, and I decide what her hair looks like. Again, we prioritize the needs of our spouse.

3. We’ve embraced traditional roles. I work outside the home, and Emily works inside the home. Does that mean we’re against couples who try to juggle two jobs outside the home? Absolutely not. For Emily, though, she gains significance through being a great wife, mother and home manager. That’s a full-time job. Since she owns that role, it relieves quite a bit of stress that we know other couples have to navigate.

4. We prioritize our marriage over our careers. To do this, we have a tight budget. We spend less than we make. We avoid debt. We do this so we can live on one income. We do this so we can invest in time away like our recent trip to Cancun. We say no to overcommitment in our careers, so we can enjoy regular time together.

5. We prioritize our marriage over our children. We have four beautiful kids, but they will eventually grow up and leave. My relationship and friendship with Emily is more important. Ironically, when we put our marriage relationship first, our kids feel loved and more secure. This is one of the reasons why we are strict about limiting the activities our kids engage outside of school.

6. We didn’t have sex before marriage. We didn’t live together. We dated for six years before we got married. I can assure you, we wanted to have sex before marriage. Again, God forgives. I know all couples can’t begin here, but we did. And, I’m convinced learning that discipline to restrain ourselves before marriage has freed us up to thoroughly enjoy ourselves after marriage.

7. We’ve had lots of sex after marriage. God created us to have sexual desire. Christian couples, in particular, need to get over their inhibitions, talk about sex and continue to discover. Again, the principle of putting your spouse’s needs ahead of your needs holds true here as well. If you want to help your spouse avoid temptations outside of marriage, your sex life needs to stay spicy.

8. We enjoy wine together. (My unchurched friends won’t understand why this is politically incorrect. Trust me. It is with church people.) In other words, we don’t let religious people define how we live our lives including our marriage. We let God’s Word direct our lives. Because of that, who we are publicly is who we are privately. We don’t have to pretend to be someone we’re not. We can be ourselves with each other and with everyone we do life with. There’s a lot of freedom in that.

9. We never meet alone or publicly with a member of the opposite sex. I don’t have meals alone with another woman. I won’t travel alone (even in a car) with another woman. I won’t meet a woman alone in an office without windows or without an open door. (My consulting clients can verify this.) This protects both of us from the temptations we all face. These protections help us avoid mistakes that would reduce the freedoms we have in our marriage. We’re not willing to sacrifice that for a momentary inconvenience.

10. We’re committed to a covenant where divorce is not an option. For Emily and me, that means we need to work at loving each other. We don’t wait for love to happen — we work at it. We need to discipline our lives to avoid mistakes that could end our marriage. We prioritize our faith, because that creates order for the rest of our lives including our marriage. Since we both agreed to fulfill this covenant ‘til death do us part, we have confidence that, even when marriage is difficult, we will persevere.

I know. Some of this sounds really shallow. Some of this sounds impractical. Some of this sounds inappropriate. I hope it challenges your thinking and generates some healthy conversation with your spouse.

Let’s choose integrity. Let’s choose to stay married.

3 Things I Wish I Knew Before We Got Married

thinking-manThis article from Relevant magazine has been shared and tweeted by several of my friends and people I follow in the world of social media. At last check on the Relevant website, it has been shared on Facebook a total 51,823 times and tweeted 801 times. I’m sure those numbers will grow.

The author makes some pretty honest statements, such as this one: “I get annoyed at my wife.” He also writes this: “When we return marriage to its rightful place in our priorities, it can quickly turn into the greatest asset to every other layer of our lives.”

You can read the original article on the Relevant Magazine website and offer your thoughts and comments on it. Below is the pasted version of the article.

I used to think I had my stuff together. Then I got married.

Marriage is great—but it rocked everything I knew. I quickly realized my basic goal in life, prior to getting married, was to simply remain undisturbed.

This “disruption” came suddenly and was disguised as a 5-foot-nothing Swedish-Filipino woman. When I decided I’d rather not live without her, I proceeded to ask her to marry me—that is, to officially invite someone who wasn’t me to be in my personal space for the rest of my life.

This decision introduced my most significant experiences and most challenging experiences—none of which I would trade for the world.

However, I wish I’d had a bit more insight on the front end of our marriage to help me navigate it all.

According to most research, more than 50 percent of people who say “I do” will not be sleeping in the same bed eight years from now. And though Scripture alludes to the fact that adultery and abuse may be reasons individuals might end a marriage, I’d be willing to bet that most challenges experienced in marriage are the result of unawareness. Most people—myself included—jump into marriage with suitcases full of misconceptions and bad theology, entirely unaware of the unique beauty and paradoxical intentions of marriage.

The following are three thoughts on marriage that friends and mentors have shared with me. I remind myself of them often in hopes of keeping this anomaly called marriage both enjoyable and healthy.

1. Marriage is not about living happily ever after.

Here’s the truth: I get annoyed at my wife. But this is more a reflection of me than her.

I’m intensely certain that nothing in life has ever made me more angry, frustrated or annoyed than my wife. Inevitably, just when I think I’ve given all I can possibly give, she somehow finds a way to ask for more.

The worst part of it all is that her demands aren’t unreasonable. One day she expects me to stay emotionally engaged. The next, she’s looking for me to validate the way that she feels. The list goes on—but never ventures far from things she perfectly well deserves as a wife.

Unfortunately for her, deserving or not, her needs often compete with my self-focus. I know it shouldn’t be this way, but I am selfish and stubborn and, overall, human.

I once read a book that alluded to the idea that marriage is the fire of life—that somehow it’s designed to refine all our dysfunction and spur us into progressive wholeness. In this light, contrary to popular opinion, the goal of marriage is not happiness. And although happiness is often a very real byproduct of a healthy relationship, marriage has a far more significant purpose in sight. It is designed to pull dysfunction to the surface of our lives, set it on fire and help us grow.

When we’re willing to see it this way, then the points of friction in our marriages quickly become gifts that consistently invite us into a more whole and fulfilling experience of life.

2. The more you give to marriage, the more it gives back.

Over the past year, a few friends and I have had an open conversation about the highs and lows of marriage—specifically how to make the most of the high times and avoid the low ones. Along the way, we happened upon a derailing hypothesis that goes something like this: If one makes their husband or wife priority number one, all other areas of life benefit.

It’s a disorienting claim. Disorienting, because it protests my deeper persuasion that success as an entrepreneur, or any professional, requires that career takes the throne of my priorities and remain there for, at the very least, a couple of years.
However, seeing that my recent pattern of caring about work over marriage had produced little more than paying bills and a miserable wife, I figured giving the philosophy a test drive couldn’t hurt.

For 31 days, I intentionally put my wife first over everything else, and then I tracked how it worked. I created a metric for these purposes, to mark our relationship as priority, and then my effectiveness in all other areas of my life on the same scale, including career productivity and general quality of life.

To my surprise, a month later, I had a chart of data and a handful of ironic experiences to prove that the more you give to marriage, the more it gives back.

Notably, on the days my wife genuinely felt valued, I observed her advocating for me to invest deeply in to my work. She no longer saw our relationship and my career pursuits as competitors for my attention, and as she partnered with me in my career, I have experienced the benefits of having the closest person in my life champion me.

Of course, marriage requires sacrifice. And sometimes it will feel as if it takes and takes. However, when we return marriage to its rightful place in our priorities, it can quickly turn from something we have to maintain and sacrifice for into the greatest asset to every other layer of our lives.

3. Marriage can change the world.

John Medina, the author of Brain Rules and a Christian biologist, is often approached by men looking for the silver bullet of fathering. In one way or another, they all come around to asking, “What’s the most important thing I can do as a father?”

Medina’s answer alludes to a surprising truth.

In my previously mentioned experiment, I measured the effect that making my marriage priority number one had on different areas of my life. One of those areas was my 16-month-old son’s behavior.

What I found in simply charting my observations was that the majority of the time, my child’s behavior was directly affected by the level of intention I invested in my marriage.

Re-enter John Medina, the Christian biologist. After years of biological research and several books on parenting conclusions, what is his answer to the question, “What’s the most important thing I can do as a father”?

“Go home and love your wife.”

Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, the authors of Babywise, say it this way: “A healthy marriage creates an infused stability within the family and a haven of security for a child in their development process.” They go on to sum up their years of research by saying, “In the end, great marriages produce great parents.”

The point is that marriage has a higher goal than to make two people happy or even whole. Yes, the investment we make into our marriage pays dividends for us. But, concluded by Medina and his colleagues, the same investment also has significant implications for our family, our community and eventually our culture.

So men, women, the next time you find yourself dreaming about living significantly or succeeding in your career or being a better parent than yours were to you, do the world a favor: Go home and love your wife. Go home and love your husband.