Thoughts From Our Trip To Asia

Wow! If you know me much at all, you know that is a word I use a lot. In my limited vocabulary, what it means especially in this case is: incredible, amazing, wonderful, way cool, and thank you Jesus…in short “wow!” Our trip to Asia was overwhelming, educational, stirring, joyful, humbling, and more.

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All total we traveled nearly 21,000 miles, flew in eleven different aircraft, rode buses, subways, taxis, and a bullet train.

One of our favorite verses is Ephesians 3:20 “Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond what we could ask or even imagine…”  We saw this come true from the beginning to the end of our trip! 

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Mark’s Marriage Minute

HOW To Be Heard By Your Spouse:

This week in my book we read what Mike (a marriage counselor) has to say about how to speak to our spouse:

“Well, here is a perfect example,” Mike pressed on. “We all want to be spoken to in a way that we can hear what is really being said. For instance, a man will best be able to handle hearing something difficult when he’s spoken to in a respectful manner. For women the same is also true, but in addition, most will better handle hearing something difficult when spoken to in a way that they feel safe, cared for, and loved.”

Here it is: the one clue to assure you can be heard by your spouse:

Husbands, your word is: LOVE

Wives, your word is: RESPECT

Now don’t just take my word for it. This is what the Apostle Paul wrote in a book of the Bible called Ephesians, chapter 5 verse 33:  “Let each individual (husband) love his wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.”

He is of course speaking in a broad sense of how husbands and wives are to relate to each other. But this most certainly includes how we communicate towards each other.

This week’s challenge:

Wives: whenever you are about to speak to your husband this week, think first: how can I say this in a respectful manner that would show honor and consideration towards my husband?

Husbands: whenever you are about to speak to your wife this week, think first: how can I say this in a way that they feel safe, cared for, and loved?

Why My Marriage Isn’t As Good As It Seems (On Facebook)…But That’s Okay

Guest Post from Jackie Bledsoe

While I’m away, I’m excited to share with you several guest posts from friends and colleagues that are passionate about marriages, relationships, and conflict resolution. Jackie Bledsoe is a professional blogger, author, and speaker, but first and foremost a husband and father, who encourages men to better lead and love their families through his blog, He’s the author of the  The 7 Rings of Marriage™, and with his wife, co-hosts The 7 Rings of Marriage Web Show, where they share practical marriage lessons, and interview other couples who have lasting and fulfilling marriages.

When you write and speak about marriage for a living it might seem like your marriage is good all the time. But it’s not (I’m sure this isn’t a surprise to you). However, after a quick scan of my Facebook timeline it does look like my marriage is good, no, great all the time!

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There are pictures of our kids smiling and having fun, selfies of my wife and I on our date nights, and pics of us enjoying ourselves on vacation and with family and friends. Smiling faces abound — life, marriage, and family seem amazing!

But I’m coming clean here.

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Mark’s Marriage Minute

Why HOW you say something really matters!

This week from my book we read:

Turning and addressing Jake, Mike said, “You mentioned the importance of how things are said to each other. That too is huge. Nobody likes it when someone is in their face, talking down to them, or yelling. Intuitively, we know there is a right way, a good way, to talk to each other, and we want to be spoken to in those ways.”

You know it. I know it. When someone speaks to us one way, we are far more open to what they have to say than when they speak another way.

Why is that?

A proverb in the Bible explains it this way: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” Proverbs 18:21 NASB

It is not just the words we say but how we say them either tear down or build up. You and I have the ability to speak life into everyone we talk to or death. Which would you prefer?

This week’s challenge:

Print this/bookmark it and read it every morning so that you might take note all day of how you speak to others. It will make a difference. I promise!

What 8 Years of Marriage Has Taught Me about Joy & Pain

Guest Post from Danielle Darnell

While I’m away, I’m excited to share with you several guest posts from friends and colleagues that are passionate about marriages, relationships, and conflict resolution. This week’s post comes from Danielle Darnell. She and her husband Jake live in Kalamazoo, MI with their 2 little girls, Story and Teagan. When not working or mom-ing, Danielle loves to cycle, build tables, write about personal finance, and spend as many hours as she can gathered around a table with old friends and new, enjoying life together.

The Beginning Is Only The Beginning

Next month we will celebrate our 8th anniversary. But we’ve been together far longer than 8 years, 15 in fact. Brought together through brokenness, we met during our freshman year of high school, shortly after my parents separated and two years before his parents did the same.

We each had front row seats to the pain and damage that can arise through marriage and divorce. We bonded through trading war stories, helping each other reconcile the pain, and delivering just the right dash of humor when needed. And the thing we said more than anything is that someday when we get married to our spouses, we will do things differently.

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We weren’t naive, we knew marriage took “work”, but we also knew that any amount of work and sacrifice was better than experiencing what we were going through at the hands of divorce. We knew what not to do, so we each began searching out scripture and mentors to help show us what to do.

Over the next few years, our friendship grew, but life took us apart for college. Through God’s grace, we stayed in touch and began to experience our feelings morph from friendship into love for each other. And we realized all the pain, all the tears, and all the late night talks about divorce had been knitting us together and laying a foundation for our own future marriage.

We married at 20 and 21, having already traveled the ups and downs of seven years of friendship together. By the time our wedding day arrived, I thought we were invincible. We knew what not to do, and we had a pretty good idea of what to do – what else was there to figure out?

A lot.

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Mark’s Marriage Minute

Did You Catch It?

If I had a dollar for every time I have witnessed one spouse misunderstand the other, I’d be doing very well right now. How does this happen so frequently?

In my book, Mike (the counselor) spells out the answer:

Mike quickly jumped in to concur, “Good— you both are right on target. For good communication to take place, there has to be good listening on both sides. And not only listening, but understanding. It’s critical that you do whatever it takes to truly understand each other. I don’t have a statistic to back this up, but in my experience of working with couples for over 25 years, I believe one of the biggest reasons couples get into arguments is they’re not taking the time to really understand what the other person is saying. Instead, they just react to what they hear on the surface and completely miss the core message.”

Did you catch it?

Rather than taking the time to really understand what the other person is saying, we react to something they said.

More often than not, it is a surface issue–not the primary concern. We miss the core message. Miscommunication occurs, and conflict often follows.

Here is this week’s challenge:

Do every thing you can to keep yourself from interrupting someone or reacting to what they are saying. Instead, listen intently so that you might really understand them. Seek to hear the core of what they are saying. You will be surprised the difference this makes in your communication!

How To Turn A Confrontation Into A Healthy Conversation

Guest Post from John Weirick

john-weirick-profile-pic-ccabalka-e1400552721855This week’s post comes from John Weirick, blogger and writer for NewSpring Church, RELEVANT, Thought Catalog, etc. A Midwestern boy hailing from the great state of Minnesota, John came alive through writing and adventure when he moved to Oregon. When new opportunity arose, he and his wife packed up and moved across the country to make a home in Greenville, South Carolina, where John writes for NewSpring Church. John is currently writing a book which is a memoir of my his experiences and observations. Don’t miss his blog at

We have them every day, probably without ever thinking much of them.

At work, at home, at school, with our families and friends, and maybe even with strangers on the commute.

It’s usually just a brief exchange of information, each side spouting what they want the other to hear. But if the information gets a little more personal, it takes on a whole new attitude.

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Stubborn Perspectives and The Backfire Effect

I recently heard a fascinating story on one of my favorite podcasts, This American Life. [If you don’t listen to it already: what are you waiting for? It’s some of the finest, most entertaining storytelling around. Basically all of iTunes agrees.]

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Mark’s Marriage Minute

Ingredients for a Good Conversation

If there is one complaint I hear more often than any other when couples come in to my office, it is that they struggle with their communication. I am not surprised. Rarely do we see good modeling of such, and there is no class taught on it in school.

In my book, Mike seeks to mine from a couple he is counseling what makes for good communication:

“Okay— first let me ask you a few more questions,” Mike said, glancing at Jake. “Both of you take a moment and tell me what you think are the necessary ingredients for a good conversation to take place — especially when you’re working through frustrations with each other.”

In the pages that follow they discuss those ingredients together.

I want to ask YOU the same question. What is one necessary ingredient for good conversation to take place, and especially when in conflict?

Let’s do this together, ok? How many ingredients can we come up with?  Leave a quick comment below. Ready? GO!!

Razor Sharp: 6 Ways To Keep Your Marriage Sharp

Guest Post from Dave Barringer

barringerWhile I’m away the next few weeks, I’m excited to share with you several guest posts from friends and colleagues that are passionate about marriages, relationships, and conflict resolution. This week’s post comes from Dave Barringer, Lead Pastor at Kalamazoo First Assembly of God in Kalamazoo, MI. Dave loves writing, preaching, and talking about marriage and has an incredible ability to do so with more humor and humility than most. He and Anne have been married for 17 years and have 2 kids, Cammi and Ethan. Don’t miss Dave’s blog at and find him on Twitter.

From the beginning of this, please note something: Marriage is hard work.  In saying that, I want to pose a question:

Are we working too hard on our marriage?

Before you fire off emails, posts, rebuttals, etc at me, I want to work out a thought that came out the other day.  It stemmed from a simple saying:

Work smarter; not harder.

When my son turned 10, he got his first pocket knife. He’s seen me whittle before (I’m not very good) and he’s been wanting to do it too.  I wanted to make sure it was sharp and it stayed sharp. Anne was concerned he was going to lose an appendage keeping it sharp. But I explained something key: The sharper you keep your knife, the easier it is to work on the project and, thus, less likely to get hurt. So, often I’d have Ethan bring me his knife and we’d take a few moments to sharpen his blade. I know it frustrated him to stop his project for something that seemed so small, but little corrections to the blade made all of the difference.  Struggling with a dull knife invites motions and angles that can lead to injuries.

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Marriage is no different. Some of you are working hard on some areas with “dull blades.” You find yourself getting hurt in conversations and conflicts. You leave moments together with “nicks” on your heart.  I want to help you work smarter. It doesn’t remove the hard work, but why make hard work harder? It’s time to regain your “edge.” It’s time to step back and make some small, intentional moves that can keep your marriage sharp.

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Mark’s Marriage Minute

Will you listen?

In chapter 1 of my book, you catch a glimpse of what many couples experience when it comes to their communication:

Mike took a breath and asked, “Okay, from what you can see in your relationship as it stands now, where do you think you need the most help?”

After a moment, Lisa spoke first, looking hesitantly at her husband, “I’d say communication. It feels like Jake never listens to me or even tries to understand what I’m dealing with. He—”

Jake immediately went on the defensive, “I don’t understand why she keeps saying that! I have heard every word she has ever said— and believe me, that’s a lot of words ’cause she never stops talking!”

Lisa turned to Mike saying, “You see? He just doesn’t get it!” and then turned back to glare at Jake. The hurt and anger between them suddenly sizzled.

Good listening so rarely takes place. Sadly, we are far more intent on being heard, than in hearing. Still, when someone takes the time to listen to us, really listen, we feel loved and truly grateful.

This Week’s Challenge:

Stop and listen—really listen—to your spouse, your child, your friend, your co-worker, and really everyone you come in contact. Observe their reaction. Make a mental note of the difference it made in the conversation, and do it again.

So, will you listen? If so, you will be well on your way to impacting those around you with a greater love!