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0 In Marriage/ Parenting

We’re Fighting in Front of Our Kids

“Let’s just try to have a nice family dinner.”

“We can all just try to get along here at the table.”

Sounds like something you’d expect parents of four young kids to say when they were all out to eat after church and the kids were being wild. Right?

Nope. That was our oldest, Titus, trying to get Lindy and I to stop disagreeing (let’s not call it fighting) at the table over dinner.

Lindy had a handful of errands she’d wanted to run that morning but wasn’t able to because, you know, kids. I wanted to spend the night on the couch watching Cars with my boys, but instead I’m one town over driving laps in the Michael’s parking lot. Lindy wanted to eat at Chick-fil-a, but instead I dragged us all to a place specializing in greasy cheeseburgers. I paid for a Very Berry Strawberry shake and it never showed up.

It was kind of a long day, we were both pretty exhausted, and neither one of us was doing a great job listening to the other while we each made our case for why it was ok for us to feel the way we were.

And there was Titus trying to get his mom and dad to stop arguing.

I’m reading a book called Released from Shame by Sandra Wilson right now trying to help untangle some of the knots of confusion and lies in my life to help me move forward as a better man, husband, and father.

Chapter 3, Unhealthy Families, starts out with these words:

It has been said that an unexamined life is not worth living. It might also be hazardous to your health and to the health of those closest to you. Especially as you loyally and thoughtlessly repeat painful patterns learned in childhood.

Here’s the reality – no family is perfect. And none of us were born in to two families so we could compare healthy vs. unhealthy parenting – we just have our parents and the ways of thinking we developed as they raised us. So it’s hard for us to compare the differences between how we act and think and how a healthier version of ourselves would act and think.

Lindy and I are almost 8 years into our parenting journey and the deeper we get in to it the more respect I have for my parents because this stuff is just hard and no one knows what they’re doing. Wilson writes that:

“healthy families are not problem-free families. What distinguishes healthy from unhealthy families is how they handle the inevitable problems they encounter.”

Justin two or three years ago would not only be arguing with his wife over dinner, he’d be overwhelmed by shame in the middle of the conflict and that feeling would translate to anger. Justin today was able to look at Titus and say “Thank you, buddy. You’re right, but we need to figure this out right now.” Or something like that.

Wilson continues to say

“parents in poorly functioning families deny problems and emotional pain. To preserve the illusion that the family is perfect, these parents expend their energy on appearance management instead of problem solving.”

Man, that punches me in the face. Titus’ words trying to silence our conflict at the table were basically a direct reflection of my soul. I want everyone in our family to happily suck down their favorite flavor of milkshake over a super fun dinner and I want to take a photo of it so we can share it on Instagram and preserve the illusion that our family is perfect.

And I can convince myself this is the right thing to do – that this is healthy parenting. My inner monologue says “the most important thing for your kids is for them to feel safe in this family, this conflict is going to screw them up.”

But my inner monologue is wrong. My kids need to know that life isn’t easy, they need to see Lindy and I acknowledge our emotional pain and problems, they need to see us expend our energy on problem solving. Our children need to see that our family isn’t perfect – and that is ok.

I’m not ignoring my children’s emotional needs by arguing with their mom in front of them. I’m ignoring their emotional needs by ignoring the conflict in front of them.

My kids will be better off in a family that admits Daddy can be a jerk to Mommy sometimes, when they see that you don’t have to be perfect parents to be good parents, and when the things their parents ignore are unrealistic expectations, not emotional conflict.

We sometimes fight in front of our kids, and I’m ok with.







3 In Marriage

A Letter to My Husband on our 10th Anniversary

To my husband on our 10th anniversary,

Over the past 10 years, Justin, you have been my most favorite person. You have also been my most unfavorite person. Sounds crazy, but that’s what it was. We’ve been together for a long time and at the beginning we were excited, but we had a lot of selfishness going on. We were attempting to make a great and happy life together, but sometimes we were pulling different directions. We didn’t agree on a lot of stuff and I felt like we were on different teams. You saw success one way and I saw it another and we were immovable.

The truth is that I didn’t trust you. I didn’t feel like I was the most important thing to you. My need for safety was way bigger than you must’ve thought and I didn’t fully feel sheltered by you. That meant it was hard for me to follow you. I see how that was difficult for you too because you didn’t feel trusted and honored as a leader. Which led to you being frustrated and trying to control certain things. Obviously that didn’t help and our cycle of fear and pride went round and round.

We had a lot of good times and I will always look back on all our years with joy and thankfulness, but it was hard too. We have always had the same goals, but we both saw different paths to get there. We both wanted faith filled lives, we wanted to serve the Lord and his church, we wanted to raise a family in faith and wisdom and we wanted to love each other well. For years we didn’t know how to get there together.

We always sought prayer and counsel from friends and our church family when times were especially hard. Nothing is more beautiful than the prayer and support of those who loved us and God working through others to speak to us. We also went to marriage counseling and with all theses things we started seeing amazing breakthroughs in our marriage. When we started counseling at year five we both said we wanted to be on the same team. It took a while, but I think we can both say that we made it. We’re a team.

Justin, you are my best friend, you are my teammate and I know that you love me with all your heart. I am the most important person to you. You shelter me. You serve me. You encourage me. You boost me on your shoulders. You are Jesus to me. You are my safe place. You truly are my favorite person. I trust you fully. I follow you with joy.

Thanks for walking beside me these past 10 years. We have a beautiful and blessed life and it’s only going to get better! I’m so excited.



0 In Marriage

Valentine’s Day 2017 Mixtape

It’s February, friends! That means the 14 Days of Valentine’s officially begin.

For as long as I can remember my dad never just celebrated Valentine’s Day with my mom, he always celebrated the two weeks leading up to it. I’ve tried to carry on that tradition to the best of my ability and I’ve put together this mixtape to help you feel all those lovely feelings.

I DJ’ed my way through the end of high-school and college so I’ve got a deep appreciation for the craft of song selection. This mixtape is designed to be listened to in order at least the first time, but feel free to shuffle it up on repeat listens.

This playlist will be on repeat most evenings in our house the next few weeks.

PS. I’m thinking of releasing a Happy Valentine’s Night mixtape on February 14. If you’ve got any suggested tracks leave a comment and let me know!

0 In Art/ Marriage

Art, as Defined by Justin

My professor showed up late on the first day of class. He walked in straight to the front of the room and asked “what is art?” It seems like such a simple question, but it was one I had never stopped to think about.

“Does something have to be beautiful to be considered art? Does it have to be timeless? Can something modern and non-traditional be considered art? Which of these two are art?” he asked directing our eyes toward the screen.

Dancers, dressed like dancers, crossed the floor moving gracefully upstage and down. Many of the women were balanced up on their toes which moved fiercely while the rest of their bodies gently swayed and spun. This was clearly dance, this was clearly art.

Cut to the next a video. Dancers, dressed like animals and jungle natives thrust about in the shadows. A woman turns slowly through the air – in a cage. She steps out the cage to join the dancers and they all move so quickly and boldly, in tight synchronization. They clump together in a group, their bodies all sweating as they move. There was a lot of dancing, but was this art?

Yep, Britney Spears’ 2001 VMA performance of I’m a Slave 4 U was the thing that forced me to begin seeking an understanding of what makes something art. Years later, I think I’ve discovered and answer, or at least a working definition:

Art is anything created to communicate something beyond itself.

So when Lindy paints a painting that stops and makes me think, that is art. When a Dancing With the Stars pro choreographs a routine to help a celebrity tell the story of the most memorable year of their life, that is art. When a musician writes a song to challenge my thinking, that is art.

But not all things beautiful are art, some are just performance or entertainment. To me, art must communicate.

What Art Communicates

I took another great course in college called Art and Ideas, taught by what seemed to be an aspiring musician trapped in the body of a bushy browed 73 year old concert pianist. The course walked us through art history through the lens of Mortimer Adler’s Six Great Ideas of truth, goodness, beauty, liberty, equality and, justice. These six ideas are categorized as those that we judge by and those that we act on and have become the things I look for when I’m asking if something has been created to communicate to me.

In turn, Lindy and I have focused ourselves to treat our home as a canvas for the art of family and like dancers on the stage, we’re working together to create something beautiful.

When people come into our home we want them to see beauty that makes them feel comfortable and welcome. When people interact with us we want them to feel valued. When our kids venture in to adulthood we want them to step out from a place of freedom to pursue justice and goodness in this world.

We want our home, our family, our lives to be beautiful and point to a hope that is beyond ourselves.


4 In Art/ Marriage/ Personal

Opening Our Door

I am an artist at heart. As a kid in school I remember the best part of class was when the teacher said we could add pictures to our project. I was all over those colored pencils and I usually took whatever creative freedom I could. I even remember being home sick in the 3rd grade and writing a poem about it with a lovely drawing and asking the teacher if I could read it to the class the next day. Yeah, I was special.

Over time I learned that I was ok at a lot of things, but with art and creativity I seemed to excel. Art became a way for me to go farther than anywhere else and it made me happy in a way other things hadn’t.

In high school I started oil painting and loved it right away. My first big painting was of a single drop of water falling. I was good at breaking each color down into a shape and section and representing that on the canvas. Many art projects later, I started college as an arts major. Over those four years I learned a ton about art and felt both good at it and bad at it at the same time. Mostly, I learned there was still so much to learn.

After graduation, I apprenticed under an established and successful artist in town. She was doing faux art, murals, and artwork and I got to assist her. In the first few months she gave me a lot of freedom to be in charge of things I had never tried before. Months passed, then years, and I grew from trying to help, to actually helping, then to being totally in charge of certain projects.

After Justin and I got married I slowly I began doing art projects on my own. I was also doing art lessons for young aspiring artists in my free time. After a few years of this, Justin and I had our first baby, Titus. Since I had always planned on staying home with my kids, I stopped working and Justin started to fully provide for us.

I thought it would be generally easy to take care of a kid and I thought I’d kill it with the homemaking stuff.

That turned out to be only kind of true and with a really needy baby and so much housework, art began to fade away. I always thought that staying home meant I’d finally have a chance to cover our house in art and design that were ours. I wanted colors, paintings and life on our walls. But I couldn’t make those dreams fit into the long list of things I needed to do and our walls remained a simple cream color. I began to accept this new life and decided I was taking a break from all art and that it would be good.

By the time our oldest turned six years old, we had added another three kids to our party and I was still ok with being a non-artist. I was mostly just accepting it at this point because art simply didn’t fit in to my schedule and I had learned from many attempts that if I tried to make it fit it would be interrupted, incomplete and unsatisfying because I could never give it the time and freedom I needed to make it what I wanted it to be.

Although what I had known art to be had disappeared years ago, I realize now that it actually hadn’t stopped existing. That same feeling I felt when I used to paint would pop up here and there. I’d get that same satisfaction and fulfillment I used to feel except it would be in an unusual place or smaller measure. It was the same feelings, but the form was different.

I felt it as I collected a few of my favorite things and set them together on my dining room table with the light coming through the window just right.

I felt it when I was hanging out with my kids and machine-gunning photos on my iPhone, then choosing the perfect moment and editing it in my own way.

I felt it when I chose the perfect pillow and blanket combination for our bed.

Those things fit into my day. And to my surprise, I felt my art in them. I think it took me a while to accept that it was the same art, it just didn’t look the same. It was unrecognized, unnoticed and ignored for years.

Life is normal and all new at the same time. The same old things are starting to look different.

Now I see that I have never stopped being an artist, I just had to learn that art is bigger than the boxes I had put it in.

That’s what I’m learning, how to find art when it’s not obvious. And now art isn’t just something I do alone, because it’s not just my art, it’s Justin and my art. Together we’re not just noticing art, but looking for it. We’re opening our door and we hope you’ll step inside and see what we’ve begun to create together.