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Focus on the Family Magazine - February/March 2022

It can be a struggle to raise a family while balancing your work life, social life and relationships. Focus on the Family magazine is here to help! Each complimentary issue delivers fresh, practical Biblical guidance on family and life topics. Every issue comes packed with relevant advice to build up your kids, strengthen your marriage, navigate entertainment and culture, and handle common challenges you may face in your marriage and parenting journeys. Plus you'll find seasonal advice ranging from back-to-school activities to date night tips for you and your spouse.

It can be a struggle to raise a family while balancing your work life, social life and relationships. Focus on the Family magazine is here to help! Each complimentary issue delivers fresh, practical Biblical guidance on family and life topics.

Every issue comes packed with relevant advice to build up your kids, strengthen your marriage, navigate entertainment and culture, and handle common challenges you may face in your marriage and parenting journeys. Plus you'll find seasonal advice ranging from back-to-school activities to date night tips for you and your spouse.

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‘YOU’VE BEEN

GRACE BOMBED!’

A NEW WAY TO

LOVE YOUR

NEIGHBOR

Helping Families Thrive in Christ

FEB / MAR 2022

BOB LEPINE

THE PATH OF

PATIENCE

Laugh

Together

pg. 19


Enrich

Your Marriage

video series

ong>Focusong> on the Family Canada’s free Enrich Your Marriage video

series is based on the proven, biblically based principles taught in

our Hope Restored marriage intensive counselling program.

As you watch these seven videos, you will learn directly from Hope Restored marriage

therapists Wayne Reed and Vicki Hooper as they talk about deepening your understanding

of yourself, building intimacy through safety, the Healthy Marriage Model, understanding

triggers and reactions, how to care for yourself in the midst of conflict, growing closer

through improved communication, and how to develop relational unity.

Sign up for this FREE video series today to access

these videos plus additional resources to help

you dive deeper into the topics discussed!

ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca / EnrichYourMarriage


FEBRUARY / MARCH

Contents

Couples

13 NO S’MORE COMPETITION

A marriage insight from

Julia Springman

14 ‘NOT TONIGHT,

I HAVE A HEADACHE’

When a husband and wife

have different sex drives

by Gary Thomas

19 LAUGH TOGETHER

A way to keep your

marriage fresh and fun

by Ted Cunningham

22 HOPE RESTORED

A marriage intensive experience

by Scott Johnson

Faith & Inspiration

27 MY MOM’S HERITAGE

OF FORGIVENESS

A spiritual insight from ong>Focusong> on the

Family’s international leadership

by Sixto Porras

29 PATIENCE

Practical steps for developing a

fruit of the Spirit in your marriage

by Bob Lepine

34 A LEGACY OF LIFE

God had a plan for my mom,

for me and my daughter

by Erica Renaud

In Every

Issue

4 LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT

5 HACKS & FACTS

12 MEDIA

46 MY THRIVING FAMILY

Kids & Teens

35 SHOOTIN’ HOOPS WHILE

SHOOTIN’ THE BREEZE

A parenting insight from Lisa

Johnson

36 NO-REGRETS FATHERHOOD

Simple strategies I used to give my

attention to the right people—my

family

by Dave Alpern

39 ‘YOU’VE BEEN GRACE BOMBED!’

An explosive new way to share

God’s love with others

by Patrick Linnell

42 CREATING CONNECTION

4 tools to help your kids combat

their feelings of loneliness

by Dr. Mark Mayfield

44 BE A SAFE PLACE

FOR YOUR ADULT KIDS

How to listen and respond—instead

of trying to fix their problems

by Jodie Berndt

©RUTH BLACK / STOCKSY.COM

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 3


LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT

Jean-Paul Beran is

president of ong>Focusong> on the

Family Canada.

AT TIMES it can feel as though the

month of February has become the month

of Valentine’s Day. At ong>Focusong> on the Family

Canada, we know the importance of romantic

love in a marriage, but we also know it’s not

the only kind of love that’s important. When

we follow the world’s example of prioritizing

romance above everything else, we miss out

on so many opportunities to show God’s

grace-filled and sacrificial love to those who

need it most.

In this issue of the magazine, you will read

about how you can better love your spouse,

your children and those around you.

For couples, Gary Thomas talks about how differing libidos

is an obstacle many husbands and wives struggle to overcome

(page 14). We know relational intimacy is multi-faceted, so Ted

Cunningham offers insights into how to use laughter to create

deeper connection with your spouse (page 19). Finally, we

recognize that many couples are walking through difficult seasons,

and we want to come alongside those in crisis through our

Hope Restored marriage intensives (page 22).

Parents, you have a unique opportunity to discover new ways

of connecting with your children, so we have articles to help

you do just that. Whether it’s fathers wanting to be “all in” with

their kids (page 36), creating a safe place for your adult children

(page 44) or teaching your kids how to show radical, gracebased

love to strangers (page 39), we have something for every

stage of your parenting journey.

And remember, in many parts of Canada this month, we

celebrate Family Day in addition to Valentine’s Day. In the

same way couples shouldn’t show their love just one day a

year, families should be growing in their relationships all year

long too. If you need any support to help your family thrive,

we’re just a click, email or phone call away. I invite you to

explore the full breadth of services we offer on our website at

ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca, email us at info@fotf.ca with your

questions or concerns, or call our team at 1.800.661.9800 to

learn more about how we can help.

Jean-Paul Beran

showing love

to others

CLINT BARGEN PHOTOGRAPHY

president Jim Daly

chief operating officer Ken Windebank

publisher Steve Johnson

focus canada president Jean-Paul Beran

editorial director Sheila Seifert

managing editor Andrea Gutierrez

copy chief Scott DeNicola

contributing editors Ginger Kolbaba, Vance

Fry, Jennifer Lonas, Thomas Jeffries,

Marianne Hering and Jeff Masching

art director Brian Mellema

designer Anneka Jack

cover Brittany Cruse

media publishing director Kevin Shirin

editorial assistant Kat Bittner

print production Gail Wise

circulation Sandy Grivy

Thank you!

ong>Focusong> on the Family provides this magazine and

other resources through the generosity of friends

like you. ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/Donate

For a subscription, go to ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/

Magazine.

ong>Focusong> on the Family magazine February/March 2022,

Vol. 7, No. 1 ISSN 2471-5921, © 2022 ong>Focusong> on the

Family. All rights reserved. Published by ong>Focusong> on the

Family, a nonprofit organization recognized for taxdeductible

giving by the federal government. ong>Focusong>

on the Family is a federally registered trademark of

ong>Focusong> on the Family.

To notify us of an address change or to contact ong>Focusong>

on the Family: 800-232-6459; 8605 Explorer Dr.,

Colorado Springs, CO 80920-1051;

HELP@focusonthefamily.com.

Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are

from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version ® (ESV ® ).

Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry

of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV Text

Edition: 2016.

IMPORTANT NOTICE! By submitting letters and other

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Iveta Angelova / Stock.adobe.com

4

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


Hacks & Facts

CLEVER IDEAS FOR SMARTER PARENTING

A ROCK NAMED Ebenezer

FOTF / ANNEKA JACK

While hiking through the woods, I found a rock that I hoped would

spark curiosity in my children. I secretly slid the stone in my pocket and

once home, I spray painted it gold, wrote the word Ebenezer on it and

set it on the kitchen table.

Each of my children asked, “Why do we have a rock named

Ebenezer?” I explained that our Ebenezer stone is a way for us to

remember God’s faithfulness in our lives.

In 1 Samuel 7:12, the Hebrew word Ebenezer means “stone of help.”

The prophet Samuel intentionally placed a stone to help Israel remember

that God saved them from a Philistine attack.

For our family, this rock was a fun way to get my children to ask

questions so we could have a faith conversation. Then our Ebenezer

stone sat on our table for years to help us remember that God goes

before us and is with us throughout our lives.

—Teresa Auten

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 5


HACKS & FACTS / SIBLING VALENTINES

Hidden Valentines

Every year my wife and I buy a bag of small heart

candies and a box of inexpensive valentines to

do something we call “Hide the Hearts.” Each

kid completes a handful of valentines, including

a short message of appreciation and a candy

heart before sealing and addressing the envelope.

Then we tell the kids to hide the valentines

someplace where their siblings will eventually

find them . . . slid into a jacket pocket, tucked in

a glove or shoe, slipped into a sock. Instead of

doing a traditional exchange, our kids find their

valentines throughout the week and feel appreciated

and surprised.

—Jared Hottenstein

Mirror Messages

On Valentine’s Day, I leave a dry-erase marker by the

bathroom sink. Throughout the day the kids write

messages on the mirror to each other about things they

love or appreciate. My children are still young, so many

of their messages come in picture form. For example, my

daughter drew a picture of her brother playing with her

and explained that she appreciates when he plays dolls

with her.

The messages become a sort of game over the course

of the day, with people sneaking into the bathroom to

write messages without others noticing. We hope this tradition

will help them remember how important it is to

show gratitude and appreciation for loved ones.

—Autumn Shaffer

Siblings spend about

50%

of their discretionary time

engaged with one another.

source: Demographic Research, 2017

Sibling

TREASURES

AFTER HELPING them make homemade valentines

for their friends, I take each child aside

for a few minutes to cut paper hearts for all of

his or her siblings. Then I help my child write a

message about what he or she appreciates or

loves about that sibling.

On Valentine’s Day, we exchange the

hearts at the breakfast table and read them

aloud. Delight dawns in their eyes as they

are filled with the words of appreciation

from their siblings. The exchange makes me

realize that I should be encouraging them

to share what they appreciate about each

other all throughout the year, not just on

Valentine’s Day.

—Amy Juett

SEWCREAM / STOCK.ADOBE.COM

6

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


SPRING BREAK / HACKS & FACTS

QUARANTINE QUEST

LAST SPRING BREAK, my son and I designed

a town-wide family scavenger hunt. The first

clue was posted on our town’s Facebook page.

It started with a story of a character named

“Quarantine Quinn,” who had lost his roll of toilet

paper and needed help finding it. Each clue led

to a large poster at a location giving the next clue.

The participants learned different facts about our

little town as they traveled.

Clues were things like “Go to the spot where

our town once had an outdoor swimming pool,”

or “Find the memorial statue.” The final clue was

written on a giant roll of toilet paper made from a

big plastic cylinder and fabric that we hung high

in a tree. Hundreds of people participated and

told us via Facebook that they enjoyed the quest.

—Lori Zenker

Budget Friendly

Wish List

DURING SPRING BREAK our family

made a wish list of budget friendly

things we wanted to do. The list had a

range of activities from “go on a hike” to

“spring clean.” One of our favorites was

“finish a chapter book.” We chose Mr.

Popper’s Penguins and read it together

each day. At the end, we made popcorn

and watched the movie together.

—Marielle Melling

Beach at Home

FOTF / ANNEKA JACK

WE SET UP A BEACH inside our

house with a giant paper sun on the

wall, music on the stereo and beach

towels on the floor. Wearing bathing

suits and goggles and with water

toys scattered about, my kids (ages 5,

3 and 1) had a lot of fun pretending

to lie out in the sun while we each

read or looked at a book.

—Allison Struber

Basement World Tour

WE DECIDED TO ADAPT our son’s social studies project.

We designed an “oasis room”—a sort of virtual

venue in the basement that included photos and posters

of famous locations and their local landmarks. We

hung lights from the ceiling for stars and cooked recipes

listed as local delights. We found music that

represented the area and listened as we ate. Each evening

for about a week, we shared in reading a folktale

or legend indigenous to the area and enjoyed hearing

our son tell the details of his ever-expanding research.

We had an amazing time together growing in our

appreciation of the world God created and celebrating

our family.

—Nancy Koenig

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 7


HACKS & FACTS / INFANT SLEEP

SLEEP WALKING

When my newborn wakes up, I put on my shoes and

headphones, and buckle him into the baby carrier facing

me. He rests against my chest while I pace back and

forth through the hallway. I get exercise and hear a

podcast, and he’s comforted. After an hour, we’re both

ready for sleep.

—Christie Chu

Midnight Moments

Every time I got up with my infant daughter,

I sat in the rocking chair in front of the

window. I’d use these moments to pray and

talk to God.

Laundry Lullaby

—Paige Upton

From age 2 months, my second daughter

would frequently wake up around 2 a.m. I

tried feeding, rocking and bouncing her, but

nothing worked. So I set her on her play mat

and settled down with a basket of laundry

and a podcast, keeping the lights dimmed.

When she started fussing after an hour or

more, I’d rock her to sleep. I was up for the

same amount of time as my old routine, but

I was more relaxed and productive.

—Amber Bulk

PHOTO BY KELLY SIKKEMA ON UNSPLASH

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FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


VALUING THE ELDERLY / HACKS & FACTS

Serving Seniors

When our kids were young, our neighbors on either

side and directly across the street were all in their

80s. Our younger ones baked and delivered goodies

to our neighbors, and our older children learned to

lend a hand to our neighbors by retrieving their garbage

bins from the curb on trash day. We all learned

the value of the elderly and have enjoyed years of

friendship.

—Jasmine Boyle

Food and New Friends

Our family delivered food to seniors through the

Meals on Wheels program. The experience let my

kids see another side of life—that people need help

and our family could be part of their solution. One of

our kids loved chatting with the seniors. But our oldest

initially felt awkward around older people. It was

neat to see him bloom and become more comfortable

with the elderly with each meal we delivered.

—Tricia Couffer

ILLUSTRATION BY ALYSSA DE ASIS

honoring

THEIR STORIES

I helped my kids interview a few of

the residents at a nearby nursing

home. Many residents were moved

to tears as they shared stories about

beloved children, grandchildren

and spouses.

One resident named Gloria

explained that her husband used to

take her dancing every Friday night.

She tap-danced in her wheelchair

as she told the story, and my kids

giggled. It was a powerful experience.

We snapped some pictures.

My kids used the pictures to make

a report cover and spent a few days

writing. We returned to the nursing

home to share our projects. Each

resident wanted to keep the reports.

It was a meaningful way for my kids

to be reminded that everyone has

a valuable story, if we just take the

time to listen.

—Jared Hottenstein

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 9


HACKS & FACTS / TABLE MANNERS

Barbarian Night

When my kids were having a hard time with table manners, I

created a funny plan that worked. If the kids had good manners

during a meal, they earned, say, five points. After earning 70 points

or so, which they typically accomplished every two weeks, the kids

could cash in for a Barbarian Night.

During this event, the family ignored all table manners. We

even ate without silverware. The only exception was everyone still

needed to be kind to one another, and they couldn’t splatter food

on the floor. My kids were so motivated that they helped each

other use good manners to earn points toward another Barbarian

Night. The idea was a hit, and after each barbaric event, we were

able to return to dinner as usual with new habits in place.

—Jean Petersteiner as told to Marielle Melling

A Dose of Power

To help reinforce table manners, we

first allowed each child to choose what

he or she wanted for a particular meal.

That child got to sit in Dad’s seat and

lead the prayer; he or she could also

instruct and correct their siblings on

table manners. They could even correct

my husband and me on occasion. The

little dose of power made them giggle,

but the plan did help everyone remember

to conduct themselves politely and

properly at the table.

—Christina Nunes

New Habits

To help teach table manners, I chose one rule to focus

on per week. I might explain, “We should say ‘Excuse me’

when leaving the table.” Then we talked about the new

habit and wrote the simple instruction on a decorated

sheet of paper to hang near our table.

The kids could remember the previous rules as each

new one was introduced. And after a few times, even our

nonreaders knew the latest concept we were learning

together and could remember them week to week.

Table-Time Videos

When our kids’ table manners begin to look a

bit rusty, we watch instructional videos on forming

good habits. Each day for a week we watch

videos about exhibiting proper table manners,

typically an animated version for our little ones

and then a more detailed demonstration for the

older kids. It’s been fun and entertaining to see

the children implementing their new skills.

—Donna Tanksley

—Neva Parrott

10

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


TABLE MANNERS / HACKS & FACTS

Sloppy

Reflection

To teach my son manners, I’d

place a mirror on a stand in front

of him whenever he was being

sloppy at the table. This compelled

him to monitor his manners—sit

up straight, chew with his mouth

closed, etc. We praised him when

he complied or talked about his

behavior if he chose to continue

ignoring manners.

—Sherry Rhodes

Name That

Vegetable

My husband and I explained to

our kids that vegetables give their

bodies the nutrients they need to

grow strong and healthy. We then

gave vegetables unique names to

keep our kids from complaining at

the dinner table. When a vegetable’s

name is “Peas of Power” or “Supersonic

Spinach,” eating them is more

fun—and the kids have been doing

just that without complaint.

—Noelle Copeland

A Fancy Dinner

When I notice that my kids need a

refresher course on table manners,

I plan Fancy Dinner Night at our

house. I set the table with my good

china, and we all dress up. The meal

includes three courses: salad, the

main entrée and dessert.

Before we sit down, my husband

and I remind the kids that we

are at a fancy restaurant, so we

need to mind our manners. We

focus on the basics: chewing with

our mouths closed, using a napkin,

saying please and thank you, not

interrupting others and keeping our

elbows off the table. My kids love

Fancy Dinner Night. They try hard

to remember their manners.

On regular nights when I notice

that they’ve forgotten their manners,

I whisper, “Pretend it’s Fancy Dinner

Night,” and their conduct immediately

improves.

—Diane Stark

This Little Piggie

I brought a little toy pig to the table, and when a

family member displayed poor manners, I put the

pig near his or her plate. The pig was passed to the

next person who showed poor manners. At the end

of the meal, the last person to have the pig had to

help with meal cleanup.

—Jenny Sontag

Mealtime Buddies

HAKINMHAN / STOCK.ADOBE.COM

We let our 2-year-old bring one or two

stuffed animals to join us for dinner.

They sit on a chair (or the table, if they’re

too small to be seen on a chair) out of

her reach, and then we have her tell her

toys what table manners we expect. For

example, she might tell them that we

don’t throw food, thereby reminding

herself as well.

—Amber Bulk

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 11


MEDIA / PLUGGED IN

How do romcoms influence our

view of relationships?

UPCOMING

REVIEWS

For reviews of these and other

titles, visit PluggedIn.com, ong>Focusong>

on the Family’s media review and

discernment website.

Romantic comedies are, by definition,

feel-good tales. The storytelling

formula is airtight: Man and woman

meet; man and woman fall in love;

conflict separates them; resolution reunites

them—sometimes at a wedding. Happily ever

after commences.

We gravitate toward these stories because

they offer hope and idealized satisfaction. And

there’s nothing wrong with enjoying feel-good

endings. But a steady diet of these films might

have us looking at our real-world relationships

critically. Here’s why.

Romcoms sell romantic idealization that’s

hard to match in the real world. They’re built on

emotion and the inherent thrill of “happily ever

after.” A couple’s cinematic love story often ends

at the altar.

But any married person knows that “I do” isn’t

the end. It’s the beginning of a new, shared story—

one with unpredictable ups and downs. Certain

moments might be movie-like. But valleys feel

more like a gritty independent drama. No wonder

it’s easy to watch romcoms and feel that our own

relationships are messier.

So should we cancel our Hallmark Channel

subscription? Not necessarily. But there are some

questions worth asking if you’re watching a romcom:

What am I attracted to here? What longings

might this movie address that aren’t being met in

my real-world marriage? How does a story like

this cause me to view my marriage? In what ways

does this plot set up unrealistic expectations?

There’s no single—or right—answer to those

questions. But they might be helpful when discussing

how you feel with your spouse after

enjoying a date-night romcom.

—Adam Holz, director of Plugged In

DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA

Will the ongoing storyline more boldly affirm the

romantic pursuits of a homosexual character?

Scheduled release: March 18

MARRY ME

Does Jennifer Lopez’s

new romcom affirm the

sanctity of marriage?

Scheduled release: Feb. 11

DEATH ON

THE NILE

How much on-camera

bloodshed should families

expect in this Agatha

Christie murder mystery?

Scheduled release: Feb. 11

(TOP TO BOTTOM) NUYORICAN PRODUCTIONS; SCOTT FREE PRODUCTIONS; FOCUS FEATURES

12

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


Couples

no s’more

competition

A marriage insight from Julia Springman

Perry and Julia

PHOTO BY HOLLY FULLERTON

AS NEWLYWEDS, my husband, Perry, and I received

advice that has proved golden: “Don’t count!” I’m a counter

by nature—I did dishes five times this week, and he did it

only two times. I tidied up errant socks three times and made

the bed. The numbers used to swirl in my head, sit heavy in

my stomach and upset my heart.

In time I realized I was looking for ways to count myself

better than my husband. But my counting proved petty when

I considered how many ways I count on my husband.

Together we trained ourselves to stop counting up chores

and favors and start counting on each other. He counts on

me to know the exact location of every obscure item in the

refrigerator. I count on him to wash out the compost bin.

He counts on me to make his favorite dessert; I count on

him to always offer me the biggest piece. He counts on me to

remember dates, milestones and traditions; I count on him

to help guide our kids into the Father’s arms.

We count on each other to be true and to look to the Word

before the world. When we said our vows, we counted on

marriage having hard days. But learning to count on each

other, instead of counting ourselves better than each other,

has been the greatest blessing. •

Julia Springman and her husband, Perry, have been married for 23 years

and have four children. They spent their first years together doing youth

and outreach ministry in Europe, Australia and North America. Now they

tour as a family band with their kids, ages 10 to 17.

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 13


COUPLES / INTIMACY

‘ Not Tonight,

I Have a Headache

When a husband and wife


have different sex drives

BY GARY THOMAS / ILLUSTRATIONS BY BRIAN MELLEMA

14

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


INTIMACY / COUPLES

EMILY HAS A HORMONAL

CONDITION that causes an

above-average level of testosterone.

The result is an increased libido. “I’m

good to go most anytime,” she says.

“And if Fred [her husband] wants to

have sex multiple times in the same

day, I’m all for it!”

Fred, meanwhile, has what most

counselors would call an average

libido. Now in his late 40s, he’s ready

for a sexual encounter about two or

three times a week, but that’s less than

half of what Emily would prefer.

Frustration first showed up on their

honeymoon. Emily expected that after

the wedding she and Fred would have

sex a couple of times a day, every day.

Fred had different expectations. “Emily

pursuing me sexually was a constant,”

he remembers.

Emily concurs, and Fred’s lack of

reciprocation was hurtful. She’d tell him,

“Do you have any idea how many husbands

wish their wives were like me?”

Fred knew that was true, but he

insisted, “You don’t give me a chance

to be a pursuer.”

As the years went by without much

change, Emily’s heart started to close.

Jamal & Shanice

Jamal* and Shanice* endured a contentious

sexual relationship for the

first several years of marriage. Jamal

desired sex almost every day, but by

year two their sex life resembled a

lunar calendar—maybe once a month.

And Shanice says even that once-amonth

session was often out of “duty.”

It’s not that she didn’t enjoy sex;

“Jamal is a skilled lover!” Shanice says.

And sex only became something she

wanted to do while in the midst of it.

After struggling through years of discouragement,

they knew they had to

make a change. Both are committed

believers, and in their minds, divorce

wasn’t an option. But they also didn’t

want to stay miserable. Both of them

started reading marriage books, desperate

to find a way to resolve conflict

while keeping their relationship intact.

Perspective

If you and your spouse are struggling

with contrasting sex drives, it helps to

gain a little perspective. Differing libidos

is typically portrayed as a major

problem, but it’s actually the norm for

about 90% of couples. In fact, it’s more

unusual when both spouses want the

same amount of sex, or even at the

same time. There’s nothing particularly

unusual about a marriage that resembles

most other marriages.

The truth is that couples rarely think

alike when it comes to the timing of

other aspects of their relationship: serious

conversations, playful outings or

even dining out. There are a lot of areas

where spousal desires don’t match up.

Expecting to have equal libidos simply

isn’t realistic. Constant badgering for

sex can be part of an abusive relationship.

This advice is for couples where

both partners feel safe and free to

express their desire or to say no without

fear of reprisal.

Gatekeeping

Shanice became convicted when

she joined a small group with other

Christian wives and someone mentioned

“gatekeeping.” Counselors use

this term in different ways, but in this

context, the wives used it to describe

how one spouse controls what happens

in the bedroom. The gatekeeper

spouse is always saying yes or no or is

the one who sets up a list of conditions

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 15


COUPLES / INTIMACY

for sexual intimacy to occur.

Of course, every spouse deserves

the freedom to say, without fear, “Not

tonight, honey.” Sex takes a significant

contribution of relational, emotional

and physical energy, and sometimes

a spouse just can’t get there. Lack of

sexual desire can also arise from their

partner’s poor hygiene, high demands

or selfish lovemaking. Those are relational

issues more than sexual issues.

Gatekeeping isn’t an occasional “Not

tonight.” It’s a pattern of controlling

your spouse by making sex so difficult

to experience that he or she has

to jump through hoops. If the spouse

doesn’t jump through those hoops correctly,

the gatekeeping spouse can say,

“Aha! I don’t have to have sex tonight!”

How do you move beyond gatekeeping?

Well, making sex an

obligation—through lecturing about

gatekeeping, pouting or making your

spouse feel guilty—is certainly one

of the worst ways. It’s best to focus

on creating a sexual relationship

marked by mutual pleasure, addressing

each spouse’s spiritual, emotional,

relational and physical health (all

of which can interfere with libido).

In many marriages, when spouses

address those issues, gatekeeping will

die a natural death.

In other marriages, however, gatekeeping

can be rooted in manipulation

and selfishness. Shanice freely admits

that was the case in her marriage. It

wasn’t about malice, but more from

a lack of awareness about how much

damage her lack of interest was doing

to their marriage.

Different drives

The second piece of Jamal and

Shanice’s puzzle was understanding

the difference between “responsive

drive” and “spontaneous drive.”

Spontaneous drive refers to a spouse

who doesn’t need much of a trigger to

desire sex. A glimpse of their spouse’s

body or a suggestive touch can have

him or her ready to go.

Responsive drive refers to the spouse

who rarely thinks about intimacy until

he or she is sexually stimulated—who

doesn’t desire sex until sex is already

underway. The way their brain operates,

they need some form of desired

physical caressing before the thought

of sex becomes inviting. And if they

don’t allow the touch to take place,

sex seems like more of a chore than

a welcomed invitation. They may be

thoroughly satisfied once sex happens,

but they tend to prefer memories of sex

more than anticipating sex.

Your sex drive isn’t your fault. Your

brain is what it is. But understanding

the differences between spontaneous

and responsive desire can make a

big difference. For a responsive-drive

spouse, it helps to remember that just

because you rarely desire sex, that

doesn’t mean your relationship doesn’t

need more frequent sexual intimacy.

Convicted about her gatekeeping

habits, and better informed about her

own drive, Shanice says she started

trying to be more open to Jamal’s

advances. Instead of always defaulting

to “no”—or worse, shaming him

for wanting to have sex regularly—she

tried to allow for the possibility.

Shanice started speaking kindly but

16

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

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INTIMACY / COUPLES

firmly to herself. It’s OK. He’s just massaging

you. Relax, and don’t say an

automatic “no.” See if you can get into

this and accept that this is his way of

showing love. You can show your love

for him by touching him back.

So she did.

Getting to

root issues

Don’t take it personally. One of the

worst things each spouse can do is

take differing desires personally. The

spouse who wants sex more often typically

feels unwanted; the spouse who

wants sex less often is sometimes

made to feel broken. Neither perspective

leads to healing.

Fred’s desire, for example, was

entirely normal; there wasn’t something

wrong with him. At the same time,

Emily wondered if there was something

wrong with her, especially when she

kept hearing that husbands are typically

the ones pursuing their wives.

Men and women married to a

responsive partner need to realize

that just because your spouse isn’t

initiating sex doesn’t mean he or she

doesn’t like you or that your spouse

doesn’t want to have sex with you.

“Don’t fight about whether your

spouse initiates,” Jamal says. “They

can’t help how low their libido is. Just

be glad that he or she is willing to be

responsive.”

Remember that maybe is a healthy

word. Shanice learned that defaulting

to “no” wasn’t helpful, but she and

Jamal also had to learn how to live with

“maybe” for a time. Cuddling in bed is

not a guarantee that more will happen,

but couples can kiss a little and see if

something is awakened. Much of the

time sexual desire will show up, but

not all of the time, and both partners

need to be OK with that. The key is to

get beyond that automatic “no.”

“I know Shanice is committed to having

mutually satisfying sex on a regular

basis,” Jamal explains, “but I also know

that doesn’t mean she’s going to be up

for it on any given night just because

I am. She gives me a chance to get

her interested; if it doesn’t happen, it

doesn’t happen, but I appreciate that

she was at least open to the idea.”

Sometimes Shanice’s love and care

for Jamal means being open to intimacy

whether or not that leads to sex.

And Jamal’s love and care for Shanice

means not pressuring for sex when she

just can’t desire it like he does.

Talk about why as much as you talk

about what. If you’re a spontaneousdrive

spouse, don’t just tell your spouse

what you want; tell him or her why you

want it and what it means to you.

It’s a different conversation when a

husband says, “You’re the most beautiful,

kind, intelligent woman in the world,

and I just want to be as close to you as

possible.”

Or when a wife says: “We haven’t

been connecting lately, and I know

making love with you will help us do

that. I miss it!”

Look for other issues. For Emily,

her sexual desire was fueled in part

by emotional fears that Fred could

address in other ways. This is a good

reminder that sexual issues are almost

never solely about sex. The relationship

might need spiritual healing

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 17


COUPLES / INTIMACY

(getting rid of porn), emotional healing

(dealing with trauma), physical

healing (poor health can inhibit sexual

desire and performance) and

relational healing (anger and bitterness

are libido assassins).

Today

Shanice is thrilled with their new sexual

relationship: “I’m much happier

in my marriage. The weight of those ill

feelings (resentment and guardedness)

has lifted.”

Even though she’s a responsivedrive

person, Shanice admits, “I like

having sex more often. With more frequent

sex, trust has grown, happiness

has grown, and . . . I understand him

better.”

Jamal is also happy but admits,

“More would be good.” Of course, if he

pouted about the fact that he wasn’t

getting sex four or five times a week,

he’d wreck the two or three times

a week that they do have sex. But if

Shanice expected him to be happy

with once a month, Jamal wouldn’t

pout. He’d simply withdraw.

The lesson: If you obsess over the

gap between what you have and what

you want, you might ruin everything.

As for Emily and Fred, Emily is still

up for sex just about any time. But

they’ve settled into having sex approximately

every other day, and both seem

satisfied with that. Their divergent libidos

were once a source of pain and

heartache, yet now this couple experience

joy and comfort.

When it comes to differing libidos,

there’s no right or wrong answer to

how often a couple “should” have sex.

The key is that sex becomes a blessing

to both spouses in a marriage relationship

rather than a burden. •

*names have been changed

Gary Thomas is the author of Sacred Marriage

and Cherish, and the co-author of Married

Sex: A Christian couple’s guide to reimagining

your love life.

18

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


A way to keep

your marriage

fresh and fun

laugh

together

BY TED CUNNINGHAM

PHOTOS BY BRITTANY CRUSE

(PATTERN) ELENA / STOCK.ADOBE.COM

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 19


MAKING MY WIFE LAUGH

is part of my mission in life. And Amy’s

laugh is truly something to see. She

goes silent, places her hand over her

heart, leans forward and stops breathing.

After I tell her a particularly

amusing joke, I’m careful to follow up

with, “Breathe, babe, breathe.” I’m not

always successful at making my wife

laugh, but I’ll take a chuckle, snicker

or smile any day. Laughter keeps our

marriage fresh and fun.

Whether you’ve been married a

few years or several decades, being

intentional about the simple things,

including shared laughter, is life-giving.

This is what fascinates me: If Amy and

I are intentional, little connections

begin to feel natural again. If we’re

not intentional, we drift apart. No

one chooses to drift in marriage; drift

sneaks in when we stop enjoying life

together. Here’s how you and your

spouse can stay intentional and keep

the laughter rolling:

Forced laughter

Most of the time, a good joke needs

no introduction. One of the keys is

the element of surprise. You don’t

want the other person to see the

punch line coming.

But that’s not my wife’s method.

She introduces her jokes and humorous

stories with, “I’m going to tell you

a joke” or “I need to share something

funny that happened to me today.”

What she’s really saying is, “I’d like you

to laugh after I tell you this.”

Her approach is brilliant because

it gets a double laugh almost every

time. I often start laughing right away

because her upfront request is humorous

enough. And if the punch line isn’t

very funny, or if I’ve heard the joke

before, I fake laugh, and then we both

crack up. We’re so good at the fake

laughter and do it so often that it turns

into genuine laughter soon enough.

Amy makes me laugh the most

when she forces herself to laugh at

my groan-worthy dad jokes. I tell

them just so she can get the ball rolling

with a forced chuckle. Laughter is

(PATTERN) ELENA / STOCK.ADOBE.COM

20

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


STRENGTHENING / COUPLES

contagious—even when it starts with a

fake laugh.

Laughter in the grind

When Amy and I were dating, no one

needed to tell us to laugh more, spend

time together or speak kindly to each

other. What came naturally early on

needs to become intentional later on.

As time passes, the grind of life can

become grueling and exhausting. In

the midst of our labor, King Solomon

reminds us to enjoy life together:

“Enjoy life with the wife whom you love,

all the days of your vain life that he

has given you under the sun, because

that is your portion in life and in your

toil at which you toil under the sun”

(Ecclesiastes 9:9). God did not give

you a spouse to cause you exhaustion.

He gave you your spouse so you could

navigate the grind of life together.

When Amy and I are in a rush to get

out of the house, or if the kids or dogs

need our attention, I intentionally hold

back on the jokes. Yet moments of

laughter can provide a welcome break

in the routine of the daily grind.

Healing laughter

Laughter can help us cope with difficult

seasons and stages of life, but

there is a time and place for joking.

Amy and I are careful never to

use humor to avoid hard conversations.

Humor can often defuse tension

and conflict, but if we take things too

far, jokes can easily turn to sarcasm.

At least in our marriage, we’ve found

that sarcasm does not build intimacy.

Good-hearted humor does.

We don’t always have control over

the trials of life, but we have plenty of

input when it comes to enjoying life

together. A couple can choose to either

allow what life throws at them to bring

them down or maintain a sense of

humor in the midst of it.

The humanity

of laughter

Humor helps us lighten up and not take

ourselves so seriously. Yet Amy and I

are careful to avoid humor that involves

name-calling and references to looks or

appearances. There are plenty of times

we need to be serious in life, but taking

ourselves too seriously can be draining.

And while making fun of yourself can

make you more relatable, making fun

of your spouse is a terrible strategy for

building intimacy.

For example, 25 years of marriage

hasn’t stopped me from modeling

my wardrobe for Amy as I’m getting

dressed. I have been known to strut like

a New York runway model and give my

wife “the smolder.” Don’t know what

the smolder is? It’s a tilt of the head, a

raise of the left eyebrow and a whimsical,

sexy pucker of the lips. But trust me,

when I do the smolder, there is nothing

sexy about it.

In other words, I can make fun of

what I’m wearing, or my messy hair, but

I don’t do that to my wife. Part of our

shared humor is that Amy defends me

when I’m using self-deprecating humor.

It’s odd when your spouse defends you

to yourself, but it makes for some lighthearted,

honoring moments in our

marriage.

LISTEN NOW!

Listen to Ted Cunningham on the

ong>Focusong> on the Family broadcast

as he explains that laughter is a

key component for a thriving and

lasting marriage.

ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/Radio

Physical laughter

A hearty laugh burns calories. According

to one Vanderbilt University study, you

can shed up to 40 calories a day with

just 15 minutes of vigorous laughter.

A good belly laugh also reduces tension

throughout your entire body.

You know that relaxed feeling you get

after a good workout? The same feeling

occurs after you exert yourself in

laughter. I love when people laugh to

the point of saying, “My face hurts” or

“My side aches.” That’s a good sign that

you just released a whole lot of tension.

Are you ready to laugh? To lighten

up, cut loose and enjoy life together?

Make it a goal to bring a smile to your

spouse’s face. Share something embarrassing

that you said or did today.

Practice a joke on the way home and

deliver it over dinner. It might not get a

belly laugh, but more often than not, it

will likely yield a smile that says, Thank

you for the attempt. Considering all the

benefits of laughter, what are you waiting

for? •

Ted Cunningham is the lead pastor at

Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson,

Missouri, and author of Fun Loving You:

Enjoying your marriage in the midst of the grind.


COUPLES / MINISTRY HIGHLIGHT

hope restored

A marriage intensive experience

BY SCOTT JOHNSON

“I REALLY DON’T LOVE

MARK ANYMORE. I don’t care if

we get a divorce. I wouldn’t even care if

he had an affair. It wouldn’t impact my

feelings for him.”

Mark and Angie Pyatt’s fellowship

group sat in stunned silence as Angie

vented her frustrations for the first time.

The pressures had been building in the

first few years of their marriage. As a

deacon in their church, Mark’s work

schedule went well beyond overtime

every week. Angie had recently given

birth to their second child after a trying

pregnancy. Also in the mix was the

financial strain of building a house.

Through it all, Mark became distant and

uncommunicative.

But in the weeks and months after

Angie dropped that bombshell in front

of their friends, the Pyatts were able to

find a still-glimmering ember of the

love that had drawn them together.

They embarked on a road of healing.

Along the way, they encountered

a team of experts in their hometown

of Branson, Missouri, who were

developing a strategic blueprint for

marriage-crisis intervention. Eventually,

when their own relationship was back

on track, the Pyatts joined that outreach,

known today as ong>Focusong> on the Family’s

Hope Restored marriage intensives.

A rich heritage

The roots of Hope Restored trace back

to the work of relationship expert Gary

Smalley. Gary founded the Smalley

Relationship Center in Branson in

the early 1990s to expand on his writings

and seminars. He was soon joined

by his son Dr. Greg Smalley and other

skilled professionals including Dr. Bob

Paul. The facility was subsequently

renamed the National Institute of

Marriage (NIM).

The team dug deep into existing

research on relationships while working

with hundreds of couples. They

discovered that traditional marriage

counseling can often only scratch the

surface of the more complex difficulties

that many couples experience.

By 2002, Greg and Bob had led the

team in developing what they called

the “marriage intensive”—a process

in which specially trained therapists

guide a struggling couple through an

immersive multiday deep dive to identify

and address the core issues that

impact their relationship.

Greg and his wife, Erin, joined ong>Focusong>

on the Family in the U.S. in 2011 to

head up the ministry’s marriage efforts.

ong>Focusong> leaders quickly recognized the

life-changing potential of the marriage

intensive model. In May 2014,

ong>Focusong> acquired NIM and the Branson

property. Two years later the initiative

22

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


MINISTRY HIGHLIGHT / COUPLES

was renamed the ong>Focusong> on the Family Marriage Institute.

The therapy program itself became Hope Restored: A

Marriage Intensive Experience.

Today, couples can choose from three retreat-center

locations in the U.S.—Missouri, Michigan and Georgia.

Work is currently underway to establish a fourth location

in the Southwest, with eventual plans calling for multiple

retreat centers spread across the country. ong>Focusong> on

the Family Canada has also picked up the Hope Restored

model with centers in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.

A different kind of counseling

In a traditional counseling model, a couple attends a

series of sessions with a therapist or pastor, most often

about an hour at a time once a week. Much of each session

may be spent unpacking experiences from the

previous week, and then the couple return to their daily

routine. This model is certainly helpful for some marital

issues, but progress can be slow and may be insufficient

to address deep problems.

By contrast, a Hope Restored intensive brings a struggling

couple into a nurturing, focused environment for

several days with all external distractions removed. Caring

teams of hosts, hospitality staff and therapists welcome the

intensive participants to top-notch private accommodations

at a secluded location. Everything is geared toward

discovering and addressing the core issues impacting both

husband and wife, with the goal of initiating individual

healing as well as renewed connection as a couple.

Hope Restored attendees receive direct assistance at

multiple levels: one-on-one counseling (husband/male

therapist, wife/female therapist), interactive guided work

together, and—in the program’s four-day intensives—

transparent discussion in group settings with a few other

couples. While some people express reluctance about

the group aspect, it’s actually one of the more impactful

elements of the experience. Many couples report that

they experience a sense of empowerment in hearing others

openly share the same challenges and realize they’re

not walking the road alone. Attendees often form lasting

friendships with the peers who take those first steps of the

healing journey alongside them. >>>

Alberta

LOCATION

Manitoba

LOCATION

Ontario

LOCATION

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 23


COUPLES / MINISTRY HIGHLIGHT

Additionally, Hope Restored doesn’t

end when the few days at the retreat

centers are done. An after-care program

provides further support, including

multiple follow-up sessions over the

phone. Special arrangements are made

for couples who desire future care,

with a view toward long-term relational

stability.

Over the past 20 years, nearly 9,000

couples have participated in one of

these intensive options. Most have

already tried other forms of counseling

and view the program as a last resort;

a high percentage of attendees have

already filed for divorce. But research

consistently shows that 82% of couples

who complete Hope Restored intensives

are still married two years later.

They also report a much higher level of

satisfaction in their relationship.

Opening the door

Mark Pyatt now serves as the chief

of Family Ministries at ong>Focusong> on the

Family in the U.S. As he watches couples

come to Hope Restored, he

identifies with the struggles of the couples

who arrive.

“Something has been missing in the

relationship for a long period of time,”

Mark says. “In some ways, one spouse

feels like they’re dying emotionally.”

He compares the chaos within these

marriages to the desperation of a

drowning victim. In an attempt to “get

air,” one spouse might move out, ask

for a divorce or have an affair.

“At Hope Restored, we’re not interested

in putting you back under the

water,” Mark explains. “We want to

bring the whole marriage to the surface.

Our goal is to see you both

whole, healthy, fully attended to and

excited about moving forward in your

marriage.”

Dr. Bob Paul, architect of the Hope

Restored program, offers a clinical

perspective.

“When couples come to an intensive,

a husband, wife or both might say, ‘I

don’t feel love anymore toward my

spouse.’ They think that’s the end of

their marriage because the love is gone.”

To Bob, hearing that there’s a “lack

of love” in the relationship doesn’t

translate into a lack of hope.

“The only reason the love isn’t there

at that point is that the door to their

heart is closed and the love is not able

to come through,” Bob says. “If we

want to experience the fullness of love

for our spouse, we start by asking the

Lord to let us see through His eyes and

feel with His heart. That helps open

the door.”

Bob points to the question all couples

are asked before coming to a Hope

Restored intensive: “If God was to work

a miracle in your marriage, would you

accept it?” Couples must answer “yes”

in order to take part in the program.

Devoted to unity

When both husband and wife are

flourishing in who God made them

each to be, and working together as

a couple, powerful things happen. As

Bob puts it: “Marriage is a team sport

by God’s design. When you’re on the

same team, you either both win or you

both lose. There is no such thing as a

win-lose outcome in marriage, ever.”

The Hope Restored staff is mindful

that God is devoted to unity. By inviting

Him to work in marriages, they’ve

seen how He can take an otherwise

hopeless situation and reorient a husband

and wife to a path of healing and

reconciliation.

The bottom line of the equation is

simple but powerful:

Unity Renewed + Purpose Refreshed

= Hope . . . Restored •

Scott Johnson is a senior writer in the Ministry

Values division at ong>Focusong> on the Family.

24

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


MINISTRY HIGHLIGHT / COUPLES

Hope Restored attendees are invited

to share testimonials for future

participants to read. Here are samples

from recent intensives:



THERE WERE TIMES in the week I was [just]

hanging on, but I trusted the counselors, the

process—and God to work. I believe our feet

have been set on a new path for healing. I feel

I’m experiencing a miracle in the making and

I’m hopeful and positive as we continue walking

in what we’ve learned.

WE CAME HERE LOST, scared and hopeless!

We didn’t see an end to the hurt and struggle.

I felt unsure that [Hope Restored] would work

for us and that something would change. But

everything changed. I felt heard and seen and

cared for—for the first time in a long time. I feel

so excited for the future!




COMING HERE WAS OUR

LAST HOPE to keep our

marriage together. I had my

doubts, and walls were up

in my mind and heart. God

had a plan, though! We had

two wonderful facilitators/

counselors and three other

couples who came together

with the tools needed to

make our marriage work.

I cannot wait to see what

God has in store for me and

my bride!


WinShape Retreat, Hope

Restored Georgia location

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 25


The Hope Restored

marriage intensive program

A proven, biblically based program to restore

and rebuild your marriage.

“Game changer!! We have become more in love since

Hope Restored. It’s a wonderful feeling when you have tools to help

navigate through difficult conversations and feel safe enough to fall in love

with your best friend all over again! We so appreciate all we learned and all

of what ong>Focusong> on the Family did for our relationship and marriage!”

— hope restored attendee

if you or someone you know is facing significant

marital distress, call us. we want to help.

1.833.999.HOPE (4673) | HOPERESTOREDCANADA.CA


Faith & Inspiration

my mom’s

heritage of

forgiveness

A spiritual insight

from ong>Focusong> on the

Family’s international

leadership

Adelita, Sixto’s mother

BY SIXTO PORRAS

CREDIT PHOTO COURTESY TK

OF THE PORRAS FAMILY

MY PARENTS’ UPBRING-

ING in beautiful Costa Rica was

anything but idyllic.

My mother was the daughter of one

of my grandfather’s mistresses, who

gave my mom to an aunt when she

was young. Mom experienced abuse

and violence as a child. Her childhood

was one of work, pain and abandonment.

She described her father as a

cruel man.

“When he finished his coffee, he

would throw the cup at my head,” she

said. “That was the sign that he had

finished.”

My father was one of eight children.

After their father died, my dad began

working at banana plantations and

docks as a 13-year-old to help feed the

family.

When my parents got married, they

didn’t know much about building a

family. But when my mom met God,

she learned the art of forgiveness. After

receiving forgiveness for herself, she

was then able to give it to the people

around her. Mom began to let go of

the chains of the past, and that led to

a desire to reconnect with her own

mom—not from a place of pain, but

from healing and the hope that comes

from forgiveness.

When I was 19, my mom and I went

to Nicaragua to try and find my grandmother.

“What if you find her?” I asked.

“What will you do?”

“If I have not forgiven . . . my desire for

revenge would cause me to speak words

of bitterness and pain,” she said. >>>

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 27


REGRET AND

RENEWAL

on American Idol

But since she had found forgiveness, she

knew her response would be very different.

“If I find her, all I want to do is tell her that

I’m doing well. She must have suffered for

many years wondering whatever happened

to her daughter. And if she is struggling or has

any need, I will bring her to live with me.”

We never found my grandmother, but

years later when Mom passed away, my siblings

and I were reminiscing about her life.

One of my brothers asked, “Knowing how

much pain Mom went through, how is it that

we cannot hate?”

That’s when I became aware that forgiveness

not only impacts my life, but it also

establishes a new foundation for the next

generation. Rather than living as victims, forgiveness

gives us the opportunity to shine in

a new way.

The power of forgiveness brings healing and

hope, allowing us to live life with a different

perspective. •

Sixto Porras serves as the regional director of Enfoque

a la Familia in San José, Costa Rica. He and his wife,

Helen, have two children, Daniel and Esteban, and

three grandchildren, Emiliano, Mateo and Eva.

COMING IN MARCH

ong>Focusong> on the Family’s outreach

to Spanish-speaking audiences in

the U.S. and across Latin America

includes:

W

atching worship pastor Phil Stacey

perform on the American Idol TV

show in 2007, it appeared that all his

dreams were coming true. But in reality,

his life was falling apart. Read Phil’s story

to learn how fame led him to a dark place,

and how he escaped the lure of an empty

idol to experience the fullness of God.

the Enfoque a la Familia broadcast,

which has 2 million weekly

listeners on 600 radio stations in

27 countries

Spanish-language versions of

Plugged In, Adventures in Odyssey

and That the World May Know—

plus books and audio products

conferences and speaking

engagements that reach thousands

of families per month

Learn more at

EnfoqueALaFamilia.com.

Order online at

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LOVE / FAITH & INSPIRATION

Practical steps for developing a fruit

of the Spirit in your marriage

BY BOB LEPINE / PHOTOS BY BRIAN MELLEMA

MY WIFE MIGHT TELL

YOU I am a patient husband. And

I might agree. Until she’s not doing

things the right way.

My way.

I’ve never thought of myself as the

type of guy who gets easily annoyed.

Well, except when someone is driving in

the left lane at exactly the same speed as

the car next to him in the right lane. Or

when someone at the grocery store waits

until all her groceries have been scanned

and the total is rung up before she even

begins to reach for her debit card.

OK, so apparently there are some

things that try my patience.

Isn’t that true for all of us? Whether it’s

a 3-year-old who uses his bedroom walls

for an art project or a 13-year-old who

keeps her earbuds in and her parents

tuned out, it’s possible for any of us to

become irritated. And when our spouses

try our patience, it’s a different type of

agitation. After all, they’re grown-ups

who are supposed to know better.

Petty irritations can seem a bit

like gnats, irritants that are pesky but

mostly innocuous. But I assure you

they aren’t at all like harmless gnats.

They’re more like a termite infestation.

We all experience irritations, but it’s

how we handle those irritants that can

lead to problems. >>>

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 29


FAITH & INSPIRATION / LOVE

Practice patience

and self-control

I’m fascinated how the most comprehensive

definition of love we find in the

Bible begins with this statement: “Love

is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4, emphasis

mine). In other words, the starting

point for a loving relationship is recognizing

that we must first deal with our

own impatience when another person

isn’t living up to our expectations or is

doing things we find annoying.

Patience is not the ability to wait;

it’s the ability to keep a good attitude

while we wait. Patience means enduring

hardship or misfortune without

complaining. Patience, in many ways,

means perseverance.

Impatience, on the other hand, is

the calling card of someone with a

lack of self-control. Author Janette Oke

once said, “Impatience can cause wise

people to do foolish things.” What’s

worse, impatience really does come to

us naturally. It is who we are without

God’s wisdom influencing our lives.

Patience is supernatural. It’s a fruit

of the Spirit. When we begin to walk by

His Spirit, God goes to work in us, conforming

us to the image of His Son. As

we grow in grace, we grow in patience.

What does patience look like in our

lives? Scripture gives us a good picture

of true patience: “Know this, my

beloved brothers: let every person be

quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to

anger; for the anger of man does not

produce the righteousness of God”

(James 1:19-20).

This passage gives us three actions

to work on as we seek to develop

patience in our marriages. Here are

some practical steps you can take:

Listen with your face

Did you ever wonder why God

designed us with two ears and one

mouth? Maybe He was suggesting the

correct proportion for the use of each!

How would our relationships—especially

our marriages—change if we

were committed to becoming better at

focused listening?

A father was scrolling through his

email one morning while his young

daughter talked nonstop about how

much fun she’d had the day before

playing with a friend. Periodically, the

dad would nod or mumble an “uh-huh”

while his daughter chattered away.

The girl soon realized her dad wasn’t

really paying attention. She got up

from her chair and put her hand right

in front of the screen. “Daddy!” she

30

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


LOVE / FAITH & INSPIRATION

exclaimed. “Listen with your face!”

In our distracted world, we think

we’ve become experts at multitasking.

In reality, we have become failures at

the kind of focused listening that is necessary

for a healthy relationship to grow.

It’s not just a 4-year-old who wants

her daddy to listen with his face. Every

spouse longs for genuine moments

of communication and connection.

Indeed, marriages shrivel when we’re

too preoccupied to pay careful attention

to what our spouses are saying.

Minimize distractions

Unfocused listening makes a powerful

statement. It says that what we’re

distracted by is more important than

whatever is on our spouse’s mind.

When someone is speaking to us, sharing

his or her thoughts, opinions,

hopes, fears or feelings, our unfocused

listening says, I have more important

things to think about.

I was on a business trip when I

decided to check in with my wife, Mary

Ann. I was in my hotel room watching

ESPN when I picked up the phone to

call her. I tapped the mute button on the

remote so she couldn’t hear the game.

My wife soon recognized that

she wasn’t getting my full attention.

“Whatcha watching?” she asked. Busted.

ong>Focusong>ed listening is a powerful

first step in the cultivation of godly

patience. We choose to set aside distractions.

We make sure that whatever

we’re discussing is our main priority in

that moment.

Your phone can wait. The game can

wait. ong>Focusong>ed listening is a demonstration

of patience toward those we love.

Bite your tongue

There are lots of reasons why the Bible

tells us we should be slow to speak.

Anyone who has ever spoken impulsively,

without thinking, knows the

damage that can occur when we haven’t

carefully considered what exactly

we’re hoping to communicate.

“Death and life are in the power

of the tongue” says the old proverb

(Proverbs 18:21). The book of James

says the tongue has as much power

as a small fire that has the potential

to torch an entire forest (3:5-6). It’s

because the tongue is so dangerous

that we need to be careful before we

speak. In a marriage relationship, our

tongues can speak with love or do a

whole lot of damage.

Just because something pops into

your head doesn’t mean everyone

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 31


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around you needs to know what you’re

thinking! A patient person stops to

consider not only what he or she wants

to say but also when and where and

how to say it.

If my wife has something important

to say, she knows that the first 30

minutes of my day isn’t a good time to

have that conversation with me. And

I’ve learned over the years that trying

to have a meaningful conversation

with her at night when she’s tired is a

bad idea. Being slow to speak involves

learning when to speak.

Measure your words

When Mary Ann and I find ourselves in

the middle of a marital disagreement,

we have sometimes employed what Dr.

Gary Smalley called “drive-thru talking.”

In the same way that a fast-food

employee repeats your order to you to

make sure he got it right, Mary Ann and

I will sometimes repeat back to each

other what we heard the other person

say before we express our perspective

or opinion. This practice not only forces

us to be slow to speak, but it also forces

us to listen carefully to what our partner

is saying before we jump in.

I agree with the sentiment that

words are so powerful that managing

them is key to permanent change in

your marriage. This is why learning to

tame your tongue is such a big deal.

Being slow to speak requires selfcontrol.

And self-control is a fruit of the

Spirit. When we are able to control our

tongues, we are giving evidence that

God’s Spirit is at work in us.

Cool it

What is the opposite of patience? Most

of us would quickly answer “impatience.”

But think about impatience for

a minute. Isn’t it simply a softer word

for “anger”? When we are impatient

with one another, more often than not

our anger is on display.

Once again, the book of James

speaks directly to the question of anger.

Not only does it tell us to be slow to

anger, but it also tells us the reason

why we get angry in the first place.

It’s because our “passions are at war

within [us]” (4:1). When we don’t get

our way or our desires are not met, we

get angry.

Anger is usually a defense mechanism.

It manifests when we are hurt


LOVE / FAITH & INSPIRATION

AN UPCOMING BROADCAST

Tune in this Valentine’s Day to the

ong>Focusong> on the Family broadcast as

guest Bob Lepine shares in this

upcoming program about how to

show love to your spouse.

ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/Radio

or fearful or feel threatened in some

way. We lash out at our spouses in

an attempt to get them to back down.

Anger can be the tool people use when

they feel insecure and vulnerable.

But as James points out, “The

anger of man does not produce the

righteousness of God” (1:20). There

is rarely a righteous root feeding our

anger. More often, it’s because we

didn’t get our way.

The writer of Ecclesiastes warns us,

“Do not be eager in your spirit to be

angry, for anger resides in the heart of

fools” (7:9, NASB).

Control your anger

People have developed techniques to

help us better manage or control our

anger. We can take deep breaths or

count to 10 or walk away from a conflict.

There’s nothing wrong with those

practices. But ultimately, what we

need to do is dial down the anger.

The Bible tells us to put away “anger,

wrath, malice, slander, and obscene

talk” (Colossians 3:8). We can—and

should—prayerfully work to control

how we respond to the flashes of

anger we experience in life. But the

solution goes beyond simply trying to

curb our anger. We have to replace it

with godly virtues, such as compassion,

kindness, humility, meekness

and patience (verse 12). By learning

to demonstrate these qualities, we are

learning to replace anger with love.

Pursue patience

The path to patience is a long one. It

takes time, intentionality and effort to

grow in this Spirit-empowered virtue.

The three steps outlined in James 1:19-

20 are not the complete answer to how

we grow in patience, but they provide

us with a great starting point.

Begin with a commitment to becoming

a better, more focused listener.

Practice waiting to speak until you’ve

fully heard what your spouse has to

say and are able to demonstrate that

you’ve heard him or her. And decide

today that in addition to curbing your

anger, you’ll proactively look for ways

to show kindness to your spouse. •

Bob Lepine is the co-host of “Truth for Life”

with Alistair Begg and former co-host of the

FamilyLife Today” radio program. He is the

author of Love Like You Mean It: The heart of a

marriage that honors God.

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 33


FAITH & INSPIRATION / PERSONAL STORY

a legacy of life

God had a plan for my mom,

for me and my daughter

BY ERICA RENAUD

PHOTO BY MATT & BECCA RENAUD

Erica, her daughter Kaylee

and her mother, Susan

I WASN’T ACTUALLY PREG-

NANT, WAS I? It was the end of my

senior year of high school. I was only 17.

Several well-intentioned friends

expressed their “support” for me to get

an abortion: You have so much opportunity

ahead of you.

But I wasn’t interested in an abortion.

Why won’t you just consider it? many

of them urged.

I grew impatient as I gave the same

reply over and over. “Because this is

my baby!” In all the abortion discussions,

I was defending my daughter’s

right to life.

Finding support

When I worked up the nerve to tell my

parents, I knew they would support my

decision. God had laid the groundwork

for this decision long before I was born.

In May 1980, my mother was 25

and had a 2-year-old and a newborn.

Her community proposed building a

women’s clinic that would perform

abortions. My mother was in favor of

it, until she watched a Christian television

program in which a preacher

shared about Jesus. That afternoon,

she gave her life to Christ.

Something instantly changed within

her. She immediately understood that

abortion was wrong. Of all the things

the Holy Spirit might have opened her

mind to understand, it seemed that His

first priority was to stir my mother’s

heart. Through the Holy Spirit’s leading,

she was inspired to take a stand

against the new women’s clinic.

My mother spent the next decade

heavily involved in the pro-life movement.

She never shied away from

teaching me the reality and tragedy of

abortion.

Understanding

my options

So at 17, I told my mother I would

probably make an adoption plan.

“Well, adoption is an option,” she

said, “but it isn’t to be taken lightly. If

you want to raise your baby, you can.

I’ll be here to help.”

I had been so concerned with

defending the life of my baby, it hadn’t

dawned on me that I could raise her.

My daughter recently turned 16.

I reminded her that her story didn’t

just begin at her birth. It didn’t even

begin with my birth. God was already

preparing for my daughter’s life on

the day He spoke to her grandma all

those years before. And we’re so glad

He did. •

Erica Renaud is an author, public speaker and

radio host. She loves leading prayer at her

local church and being a wife and mother.

34

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


Kids & Teens

Lisa, Addie and Jesh

shootin’

hoops while

shootin’ the

breeze

A parenting insight

from Lisa Johnson

PHOTO BY SHEENA MAGNESEN

MY FAMILY AND I have always

spent a lot of time indoors because

of the Midwest’s frigid winters and

humidity-heated summers. To encourage

more activity and interaction, we

invested in an outdoor basketball hoop.

This may sound pretty insignificant,

but that hoop has been life-giving for

our family.

Before we bought it, we’d have dinner

after my husband returned home

from work and then watch something

on TV to unwind. But now we’re

outside almost every night with our

7-year-old daughter, Addie. We get into

some awesome conversations with her

while we shoot hoops.

My husband and I even talk more as

a couple as we debrief about the day.

I’m thankful that something as simple

as a basketball hoop has helped us

connect more as a family. •

Lisa Johnson is a former kindergarten teacher

turned home-school mom and blogger.

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 35


KIDS & TEENS / INTENTIONALITY

36

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


INTENTIONALITY / KIDS & TEENS

Simple strategies I used to

give my attention to the

right people—my family

BY DAVE ALPERN

©PAIGE STUMBO / STOCKSY UNITED

AS A CHILD, I KNEW my parents

loved me deeply. At the same time, my dad

was a top official in the CIA and was often

away—and that meant we didn’t spend as

much time together as I would have liked.

In addition, it was ingrained in me early

on that I needed to get into a great college,

land a great job and earn a lot of money. I

felt immense pressure to succeed and never

believed I could live up to that expectation.

After I married my college sweetheart,

Stacey, and we started a family, I knew the

season of life when my three boys were

small would be short. From the day we

brought our twins home, I resolved to have

no regrets and would be an “all-in” dad.

I also strove to teach them that their identity

is not in performance or achievements.

I desired for them to feel loved for who

they are, not for whether they meet my

expectations and standards.

Words in action

J.D. Gibbs, Coach Joe Gibbs’ oldest son and

my best friend, modeled what it looked like

to put his family first. I remember being in

an intense meeting in his dad’s office one

afternoon involving Joe’s NASCAR team.

We had a crisis going on with a driver—

which was not uncommon—and heated

words were flying.

At 4:30, J.D. started walking out of the

room.

“What?” I exclaimed. “Where are you

going?”

“My boys have flag football practice,” he

said.

“You’re leaving now?”

“Look, Dave. We’ve been talking about

this for hours. The problem will still be here

in the morning. I made a commitment to

my boys, and I’m not missing their practice.

So, yes. I’m leaving now.”

His action that day made a huge impact

on me.

Communicating to our kids that we

value them isn’t always easy, and it takes

actions not just words.

Being an all-in dad didn’t make me a

perfect father. Despite my best intentions,

I had to learn to ask forgiveness for sometimes

putting work first, harping too much

on grades, or losing my temper on road

trips. Being a parent is a series of deposits

and withdrawals, and hopefully I made far

more deposits over the years! >>>

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 37


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My spreadsheet

Early in my career, I created a spreadsheet.

In the first column, I wrote down

evening and weekend work events I

absolutely had to attend, such as trade

shows or dinners where it was imperative

that I represent the company.

In the second column I wrote down

events I could attend that would be

beneficial, but the world wouldn’t end

if missed them.

Before Stacey and I had kids, I

attended events in both columns.

While raising our boys, however, my

priorities changed. While I consistently

attended to the first column, I often

made the choice to skip or delegate the

second column. I chose to invest that

time in my family instead.

A child’s wiring

I’d regretted not playing catch with my

dad, so there was no way I was going to

deprive my boys of that experience!

Eventually I realized that while they

loved spending time with me, two of

my boys didn’t love playing catch. As

a dad, I had to embrace the fact that

God wired each of my kids differently,

and there might be other activities that

were better for us to do together.

I began asking, “What bent does

each of my sons possess? What are the

things he likes? How can I better communicate

to him that I love him, and

understand and affirm the way God

wired him?”

The only way to do that was by spending

time together, talking and listening.

Inner-circle priority

Picture relationships as concentric

circles. The outer ring includes

acquaintances, the largest group. Next

is a smaller ring inside that’s filled

with co-workers and regular clients.

Then comes the friends circle, and

these are folks we often wish we spent

more time with. Then a smaller circle

of our close friends. Finally, the smallest

circle has the most sacred of all

relationships, family.

Work-life balance gets out of whack

when we spend a disproportionate

amount of time and energy on the

circles farthest from the center.

I’ve learned that the only way to

achieve any sort of balance is to be

fiercely intentional. Put things on your

schedule. Show up. Reach out to and

prioritize those in the inner circles,

and don’t be afraid of saying no sometimes

to those who aren’t. •

Dave Alpern is the president of Joe Gibbs

Racing and the author of Taking the Lead.

©ERIN DRAGO / STOCKSY UNITED


LOVE / KIDS & TEENS

An explosive new way to

share God’s love with others

BY PATRICK LINNELL / PHOTOS BY ERIN DRAGO

IT WAS 9:30 ON A WEDNESDAY

NIGHT. My 12-year-old son, Jackson, was sweat

soaked and excited from playing ice hockey. But

he was most excited about our post-workout tradition—getting

a slushie and gummy snakes from a

convenience store after practice. Even more exciting

was how this sugary victory lap led to another sweet

experience of encountering the plans of God.

Each Wednesday night, the same cashier greeted

us at the convenience store, since our hockey schedule

lined up with his work shift. During our brief

exchanges, we’d ask how he was doing, and his

replies stirred something in our hearts. He’d say he

was “fantastic” and then wish us a “beautiful day.”

One night Jackson whispered to me that we should

“Grace Bomb” the cashier, putting Jesus’ command to

love our neighbor into action.

A plan set in motion

My budding hockey star wanted to take Jesus seriously

right there in the convenience store and figure

out a way to bless our friendly cashier. As Jackson

enthusiastically shared his desire to drop a Grace

Bomb, I would have thought from his excitement that

he had just scored his first goal. It was time to help

him flex his neighbor-loving muscles.

In Ephesians 2:10 Paul tells us that we—and

that includes our children—have been “created in

Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared

beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The opportunities

are usually staring us in the face, telling us to

have a beautiful day.

Our job as parents who desire to raise kids who

love and follow the Lord is to be intentional about

walking with them into good works. By doing so,

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 39


KIDS & TEENS / LOVE

LISTEN NOW!

Tune in as Dave Willis talks about

how “Showing Love in Everyday

Relationships” can change the world.

ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/Radio

we’re also teaching them to obey Jesus and step into

the great adventures of faith He intends for them.

One tool that can help our kids start loving their

neighbors is—you guessed it—the Grace Bomb.

Learning how to drop a Grace Bomb

A Grace Bomb is an intentional act of love motivated

by Jesus and prompted by the Holy Spirit. It’s

a tool that can help break the ice with our neighbors

through God’s kindness and offers an outlet for creativity.

We can teach our kids how to Grace Bomb

someone by sharing these key principles:

Notice people. We can inspire our children to love

their neighbors by helping them become more aware

and intentional. Our family has practiced Grace

Bombing for a while now, so Jackson quickly noticed

the cashier’s open attitude and knew he could share

more about God’s love with him.

There were countless ways Jackson could have

blessed our cashier that night, but I suggested spending

some time in prayer before Grace Bombing him.

That’s what we did over the next week.

Listen to the Holy Spirit. As we prayed about how

to bless the cashier, Jackson listened for the Spirit’s

prompting. The next Wednesday night, we learned

that our cashier’s name was Olu, and we began praying

for him by name. The third Wednesday, we saw

Olu outside the convenience store practicing tricks

on a skateboard with a friend. When he told us he

was just getting into the sport, Jackson knew we were

almost ready. He started to forge a fun plan.

Let ’er go!

Our kids may come up with great ideas for helping

others experience God’s grace, but it usually takes a

step of faith to get out of their comfort zones.

To get started, have your kids create a “You’ve been

Grace Bombed!” card for the person they’re Grace

40

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


LOVE / KIDS & TEENS

Bombing. The card points the receiver to the Source

of all good things.

After creating the card, it’s time to come up with

gift ideas. Here are a few examples:

Baked treats: One mom spent a day baking muffins

and cookies with her kids. Then they wrapped the

treats and took them to their local police station, since

the law enforcement community had been on her children’s

hearts. After delivering their surprise, they had a

great exchange with several officers about God’s grace.

Free tickets: One little girl earned tickets from

arcade games that could be traded in for prizes. She

gave them to another child. That gesture encouraged

the child’s family and challenged them as believers to

find ways to share God’s blessings with others, as the

little girl had.

Thirst quencher: On the hottest day of the year, one

family delivered ice water and sodas to outdoor workers

in their neighborhood, who expressed disbelief

that someone had noticed them.

What about Jackson’s Grace Bomb? We visited our

nearest skateboard shop to buy a gift card for Olu.

Jackson also picked out a few cool stickers. The next

Wednesday night, Jackson told Olu that we had been

thinking about him and wanted to surprise him with a

small taste of God’s grace. When we joyfully presented

Olu with the gift card, he was taken aback, yet he was

also curious about what a Grace Bomb was. This led to

a deeper conversation about Jesus.

Grace Bombs are as different as those who drop them,

but what we all have in common are opportunities to

walk with our kids into good works every day. As we

light up our neighbors’ lives with God’s unmerited favor

in its various creative forms, our kids will experience

the joy that flows from obedience to Jesus. And that’s an

exciting treat and tradition you can both enjoy. •

Patrick Linnell is the founder of Grace Bombs and the author of

Grace Bomb: The surprising impact of loving your neighbors.

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 41


KIDS & TEENS / RELATIONSHIP

creating

connection

4 tools to help your

kids combat their

feelings of loneliness

BY DR. MARK MAYFIELD

JACK BRUSHED PAST ME

to enter my office for our counseling

appointment. Then he slumped on my

couch.

“How are you doing today?” I asked.

I had been seeing this 12-year-old for

several months at the request of his

parents. They were concerned about

his behavior at home and his slipping

grades.

“Jack, I can feel your sadness. What’s

going on?”

Before I could finish my sentence,

he started to cry. “No one gets me.

I can’t do anything right, and I feel so

alone.”

Unfortunately, this is an all-toocommon

feeling for children. They’re

growing up in a technologically connected,

yet socially disconnected,

world. That disconnection creates feelings

of isolation. Fortunately, there are

four tools you can use to help them

combat loneliness.

Download a free emotion chart and

related information to help your kids better

communicate their feelings.

ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/EmotionsChart

Create opportunities

to “see” your kids

A dad was fed up with his son’s repeated behavioral

outbursts and sought my help. In our first session,

I asked the son, in front of his father, “How much

time does your dad spend doing what you want?”

You would have thought I was speaking a foreign

language. The son just stared at me.

I turned to the dad. “We don’t have a behavioral

issue. We have a relational issue. For the next two

weeks, spend at least 15 minutes a day doing what

your son wants to do.” It had to be an age-appropriate

activity at his son’s level of development.

The dad and his son returned for our session two

weeks later completely different. Why? Because the

dad took time to intentionally “see” his son.

As parents, we need to slow down our pace so we

can create opportunities to actively engage in conversations

with our kids. When we create intentional

time with them, doing what they are interested in

doing, we begin to “see” them—who they are and

who God designed them to be. This, in turn, allows

children to feel understood and usually breaks the

barriers that loneliness builds.

This activity is not a one-time-a-week check-thebox

activity. We need to make it a regular occurrence.

The more time we spend with our kids, the more our

presence and connection will positively impact them.

Most often, their loneliness will subside as they feel

and become more seen.

42

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FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


RELATIONSHIP / KIDS & TEENS

Make space for

emotional conversation

Loneliness can creep in when our children aren’t able

to fully express their emotions. Since emotions are

neither good nor bad, we can encourage our kids to

recognize and work through them. Some emotions

are harder to work through than others. But unexpressed,

suppressed or numbed-out emotions are

potential thoroughfares for mental health problems

and, ultimately, loneliness.

To help our daughters express themselves, my

wife and I created a calm corner—a comfy place with

LEGOs, Play-Doh, games and a feelings chart. Our

children can go there to calm down. Once calm, they

are better able to talk about their feelings.

Our kids’ emotions don’t always have to make

sense to us, nor do we need to fix them. Rather, these

feelings need a safe atmosphere to be expressed without

judgment. Effective and consistent emotional

expression creates deeper connection within a family

and, as such, limits the potential for loneliness to take

hold or spread.

Create a sitting bench

This sitting bench idea is modeled after a story I was

told by a friend from Africa. In my friend’s small

village, an elder (typically a grandmother or grandfather)

would sit on a bench along the main road.

Children could sit beside the elder and express their

feelings. The elder listened, provided comfort and

insight, and then hugged the children before they

went on their way.

I encourage you to create a sitting bench in your

home as a place to allow unhurried conversation to

happen with your kids.

FOTF / BRIAN MELLEMA

Use art for expression

Sometimes kids are unable to use words to express

how they’re feeling because their brains are still

developing. Art is a great way to help them express

their emotions. My wife and I use blank paper, colored

pencils, crayons and markers, and just spend

time drawing with our kids. Once they’re finished, we

ask them to explain their drawings. As they talk about

their pictures, we’re better able to see how they’re trying

to make sense of their emotions. The pictures also

give us insight into how to support them. These connections

help our kids be seen and heard in a way

that is meaningful to them.

THESE FOUR TOOLS—seeing your child,

making a calm corner, using art and creating

a sitting bench—are by no means the

only ways to help children combat loneliness.

But they’re good ways to start. Our

children are more likely to conquer loneliness

when they are within a relational

community rooted in our homes. •

Dr. Mark Mayfield is a counselor and author of The

Path out of Loneliness.

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 43


KIDS & TEENS / COMMUNICATION

be a

safe place

for your

adult kids

How to listen and

respond—instead

of trying to fix

their problems

BY JODIE BERNDT

MARY ANN COULD HEAR

THE DISAPPOINTMENT in

her daughter’s voice. The promotion

she’d worked so hard to get had been

awarded to someone else.

Vivian found herself shaken. Her

son, once a leader in their church’s

youth group, had gone off to college,

abandoned his faith and announced

that he was gay.

Yasmine’s daughter was experiencing

a painful miscarriage—and there

was nothing Yasmine could do to take

that ache away.

Mary Ann, Vivian and Yasmine

(not their real names) are all friends

of mine, and their stories are true.

Like me, and maybe like you, they’ve

watched their adult children walk

through difficult seasons that have left

them wrestling with disappointment

or doubt.

When our kids are hurting, what

matters to us isn’t necessarily what

caused the wound. What matters is

what we can do about it. What we

should say. How we can help.

I’m convinced that one of the best

strategies we can pursue is to listen,

love and pray.

© BONNINSTUDIO / STOCKSY UNITED

44

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


COMMUNICATION / KIDS & TEENS

LISTEN NOW!

Jodie Berndt offers guidance for

how to pray for your children’s

faith, wisdom, self-discipline,

character and purpose.

ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca/Radio

Be quick to listen

Practically speaking, we cannot bandage

skinned knees, bake cookies

or pull our grown kids into our arms

when they’re hurting. We might not

even be able to offer advice—either

because our young adults don’t want

to hear it or because we aren’t entirely

sure what to say.

That’s OK. Our role as parents has

changed. No longer are we caregivers

or cops, as one of my friends aptly put

it. Instead, we look more like counselors,

offering wisdom or guidance when

asked—and holding our tongues when

we aren’t.

As someone who is never short on

ideas about what other people should

do, I find keeping quiet a challenge. My

husband, however, is a highly skilled

listener, and after years of watching

our children come to him for advice,

I’ve realized there’s a reason the Bible

says we should be “quick to hear [and]

slow to speak” (James 1:19). Doing so

creates a climate in which love and

connection can flourish, especially

when we’re convinced we’re right and

our children are wrong.

I’ve learned it’s best to keep my

mouth closed and my ears open. The

more I listen—without interrupting,

overreacting, judging or offering

advice—the more likely my children

will come to me as a safe place to grapple

with issues.

Offer loving words

Let’s face it. Our children will

encounter some struggles that can’t

be fixed with a quick solution. So

we need to measure our words with

kindness and, where we can, affirmation.

When we do speak up, it’s

helpful to remember the wisdom

in Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life

are in the power of the tongue.” And

Romans 2:4 says His kindness is what

leads people to repentance.

Especially when I feel powerless

to give my kids the help or direction

they need, I say the blessing over

them from Numbers 6:24-26: “The

Lord bless you and keep you; the

Lord make his face to shine upon

you and be gracious to you; the Lord

lift up his countenance upon you and

give you peace.”

Affirming our children doesn’t mean

we endorse their behavior; rather, it’s

a way of forecasting God’s favor and

speaking hope into the darkest corners

of their lives.

Ask for God’s provision

Prayer allows us to exchange panic for

peace. We might not know what our

children need, but God does—and

when we aren’t sure how to pray, His

Word can help shape our requests.

• We might pray Romans 15:13 for

a child who is battling despair: “May

the God of hope fill _____ with all joy

and peace in believing, so that by the

power of the Holy Spirit _____ may

abound in hope.”

• Acts 26:18 requests freedom for anyone

wrestling with questions of faith:

“Open _____’s eyes, so that _____ may

turn from darkness to light and from the

power of Satan to God, that _____ may

receive forgiveness of sins and a place

among those who are sanctified by faith.”

• And my favorite all-purpose prayer

for when I’m not sure what my kids

need or what they should do is rooted

in Philippians 2:13: “[Work] in _____,

both to will and to work for [God’s]

good pleasure.”

God really does have good purposes

for our adult children’s lives. And He

invites us to partner with Him—through

our listening, our love and our prayers. •

Jodie Berndt is a speaker, Bible teacher and

author of many books, including Praying the

Scriptures for Your Adult Children.

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022 FOCUS ON THE FAMILY 45


KIDS & TEENS / MY THRIVING FAMILY

animal friends

Caleb, 8

Face to face with a gorilla

friend at the zoo.

—Shanthi from Ohio

Jocelyn, 3

Our little girl is an animal lover—of

even the goats at the petting zoo!

—Lindsay from Texas

Ricky

My grand nephew enjoys

feeding breakfast to the giraffes.

—Norma from Texas

Clara, 14

Our daughter had an up-close zebra

encounter at a recent animal safari visit.

—Rita from Wisconsin

Your kids could be in

ong>Focusong> on the Family magazine!

Email photos* of your child’s silly winter caps or your

child making funny faces. (Put “Winter Hats” or “Funny

Faces” in the subject line.)

Send to: info@fotf.ca

* Largest photo possible—professional photos not accepted

46

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY

FEBRUARY / MARCH 2022


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prayers and fun activities, you’ll be inspired to develop hearts

of strength, courage and love as you’re pointed to Jesus.

Order online at Shop.ong>Focusong>OnTheFamily.ca or call 1.800.661.9800


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Today there are many ways to shop for

faith‐building resources for your family. And

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