Monday, February 19, 2018

For your next date.....

Hi friends,

Your free conversation starters are here!

Just click here to get your free copy! You can read it online or print it for easy access on your next date night or family dinner.

I’m thrilled to provide this fun and engaging resource for you and your spouse. FamilyLife is committed to providing biblical and practical help for your marriage and family. Through the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways, FamilyLife Today® radio broadcasts, The Art of Marriage® video event, and our many other resources, God has used FamilyLife to restore hope for millions of couples and transform their lives.

If FamilyLife has made a difference in your marriage, would you consider supporting our ministry? If so, here is link where you can make your gift.

Thank you!

Generation after Generation,

David Robbins

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Strengthening our families....

FamilyLife Blended is a new offering from the Family Life Ministry that also does the Weekend to Remember conferences around the country, with which you might be familiar if you've been at Believers any length of time.

FamilyLife Blended has a wealth of resources to share for our stepfamilies.  Cathie and I have seen some of the material from the ministry and it looks wonderful.  

Ron L. Deal is the Director of FamilyLife Blended®, a ministry of FamilyLife®, and is the author/coauthor of the books The Smart StepfamilyThe Smart Stepdad, The Smart Stepmom, Dating and the Single Parent, and The SmartStepfamily Marriage.  Ron voices the FamilyLife Blended short radio feature and is one of the most widely read authors on stepfamily living in the country. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist who frequently appears in the national media, including FamilyLife Today® and Focus on the Family, and he conducts marriage and family seminars around the countryRon and his wife, Nan, have been married since 1986 and have three boys.

If you have any questions, or want to know about other resources, please contact us...

Blessings, Rob & Cathie Searcy

Monday, January 8, 2018

Weekend to Remember.... Tulsa Renaissance 2/9/2018 – 2/11/2018

Remember how captivating it was when you first fell in love with your spouse? Every moment was special. As real life takes over, that memory can grow less vivid, and you might not feel like the center of their world as often. That’s where the Weekend to Remember® marriage retreat from FamilyLife comes in.
The two-and-a-half day romantic weekend getaway is a time to be together as a couple to invest in and strengthen the foundation of your marriage, no matter how firm or fragile it is. By getting away from the distractions of life, you can fortify your most important relationship and work toward building wonderful memories together, for decades to come.
The Weekend to Remember marriage retreat is not a large group counseling session or small group discussion. You won’t be asked to share intimate details of your relationship with anyone.
You will listen to engaging talks from marriage experts , then take private time alone with your spouse to work on the concepts you studied. When you leave, you will have an assortment of powerful, Christ-centered communication tools to use for years to come.
Learn how to:
  • Address issues as they arise, rather than letting resentments fester
  • Express feelings positively, so your partner remains engaged in the discussion
  • Resolve conflict in healthy, biblical ways
  • Maintain a vital sexual connection with one another
  • Forgive one another freely and completely
  • Increase your commitment to your marriage, resulting in deeper intimacy
We want you to leave your marriage retreat with encouragement, hope, and practical tools to build and grow your relationship. That’s why we call this a Weekend to Remember. For more details, check the Family Life Weekend to Remember webpage!.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Is a couples retreat for you?

June 17, 2014 By Richard Asa, Special to Tribune Newspapers

Couples can reap big benefits by attending a retreat — but first, they both need to agree on one

There are hundreds of options for couples retreats — and as many different approaches and environments. Some are based on reducing stress in beautiful natural surroundings, others are faith-based, still others focus on improving communication and intimacy, provide practical tools to apply in specific situations at home and teach techniques such as yoga, meditation and tantric rituals. Some are for married couples, others for those considering a permanent commitment.

It's very easy to find one.

It's harder to find the right one.

"Couple's retreats come in all different flavors," says Jon Caldwell, a psychiatrist with The Meadows treatment center in Wickenburg, Ariz. "Some are quite general in their approach, while others are specifically geared toward certain problems, processes and goals." The retreat leader or therapist, he says, can make or break the experience.

"Of course, the retreat leader's technical skills are important," Caldwell says, "but equally important is his or her perspectives and personality. It is wise to do your homework and find a retreat that is right for you."
Caldwell says retreats generally are focused on identifying and practicing practical solutions for greater communication, respect, trust and intimacy.

"They tend to be hands-on and solution-oriented," he adds.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Before finding a retreat, both partners have to agree on attending one, says Judi Cineas, a Palm Beach, Fla., therapist who often runs couples retreats. She says reluctance stems from discomfort with the unknown.

"Once they start to realize that it is about (helping) them, (skeptical partners) tend to start relaxing," she says. "Many individuals hesitate because they worry this puts them and their issues at the forefront, which adds to the pressure for things to change."

Sean Horan, assistant professor at Texas State University and a relational communications expert, says issues surrounding communication are the key reasons to seek help.

"The content of these (retreats) should focus on communication. Things like conflict, maintenance, affection, support, etc.," he says. "Your relationships are initiated, created, sustained and maintained by verbal and nonverbal messages; thus, (retreats) should focus on communication."

Who can benefit

Prime candidates for a couples retreat? You might be surprised. Longtime marriage and family therapist Terri Orbuch, a research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, says longtime couples who have gotten into a lifestyle groove can benefit big-time. They're the ones taking care of everything, from bills to kids — everything, that is, except their relationship.

"When the relationship gets put on the back burner, a couples retreat reminds us about the importance of our partner and relationship," says Orbuch, author of "Five Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great." "It teaches us again how to pay attention to our partner and our relationship. It is like a relationship tuneup; we all need a relationship tuneup now and then no matter how happy or healthy we are in our relationships."

Orbuch encourages couples to consider retreats that focus on education rather than therapy and are designed to help them learn tools to enrich and strengthen their relationship. This gives them quality time together away from home in a nice setting, and joining other couples learning the same material, such as remembering how to reignite the excitement in their relationship.

Solving big problems

Not everyone, of course, goes to retreats to simply shore up a healthy relationship. In fact, many couples are desperate to keep their relationship intact.

A Boca Raton, Fla., couple on the verge of divorce after 16 years of marriage signed up for a retreat on the recommendation of Cineas. They did not want to be identified. Structure and specific exercises opened the door to what they were not seeing.

"Something as simple as creating a collage of our relationship to share how it started, where it is now and where we want it to be brought us so much closer," the wife says after attending Cineas' retreat. "We were looking at each other more the way we did at the start (of the marriage).

"A year later we still feel that it was a good decision. We understand each other and communicate much better. I really wish we had done something like this before we got married or earlier into our marriage because we would have saved ourselves many years of pain and turmoil."

The weekend included a focus on communication, mindfulness, active listening and mutual respect and compassion. It was on the high end of such getaways: $15,000 including accommodations in a hotel setting, which begs the question of cost.

A good couples retreat doesn't need to cost thousands of dollars. A recent weekend workshop conducted by Caldwell, for example, cost $300 per person and was offered to both couples and individuals. The setting was a rec room in the basement of a convent. Suitable, but hardly beautiful to the eye.

No one cared about amenities. As Caldwell says, it's more about the facilitator than the setting.
Cineas agrees with Caldwell that retreats need a leader with a plan. "When you have more than two people together it is easy for things to just drag along when there is not a plan in place. ... Structure allows for maximization of the limited time that you have together."

Buyer beware

Advice on couple's retreats would be incomplete without a word to the wise, or unwise. As in any cottage industry that can appeal to the vulnerable, snake oil salesmen abound, the experts agree.  "Susceptible and sometimes desperate couples are drawn to retreats — one weekend to fix a problem? Sign me up!" says Ramani Durvasula, professor of psychology at California State University.

"They are often hawking a singular point of view, and my experience with couples is that one size rarely fits all," she says. "My favorite brochure was for a $1,200 tantric sex seminar (it didn't include a lodging, and the hotel where it was held was $400 a night).

"Listen, for that cash I can take a couple to the Holiday Inn Express and for $100 show them how to slow down when they have sex and burn some incense."

Finding a retreat

However, experts say the best way to find a retreat is by word of mouth and from therapists familiar with those that meet their approval. Even if you don't see a therapist regularly, it can't hurt to make an appointment with one to talk about options for couples who need that tune-up or want to solve more serious problems.

DIY for you?

What about creating your own couples retreat? Therapist Judi Cineas says it is feasible when they are researched and thoughtful, well-planned in advance, have a leader among the couples who can keep things on track and focus on issues, and offer education geared toward the couples.

To that end, it's a good idea to invite like-minded couples to participate. While you want to have differing viewpoints, inviting couples with similar interests in fostering a healthy relationship is important.

Advantages to a DIY retreat include the obvious: minimal or no cost, the choice of setting, a built-in comfort level that tends to keep the program moving forward and the ability to get back together at any time and any place — maybe everyone, maybe not. Cineas suggests inviting no more than five couples to prevent too much of the static that can build up with more people.

More tips from Cineas:

Select locations that require all attendees to be away from their everyday environment. If a site is too close to home, it's easier to be distracted by the everyday happenings of home.

Merge fun, bonding and learning, and have a schedule that includes opportunities for all three. You can read books in preparation and address them at the retreat, bring in a professional to run a seminar, engage in some relationship-building activity.

Plan the event with ample time to prepare, and avoid dates that conflict for participants. People are more likely to be responsive when they are not feeling like they are giving up something they wanted to do.

Even if you don't see a therapist regularly, it can't hurt to make an appointment with one to talk about options for couples who need that tune-up or want to solve more serious problems.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Gimme My Space...

By Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott, May 31,2017

“Don’t smother each other. No one can grow in the shade.” – Leo Buscaglia
When you’re in the early years of your relationship–namely, dating and the “honeymoon period” of your marriage–it’s easy to lose yourself in one another. Many couples want to spend every possible moment together, and are even willing to lay aside their individual interests or activities during that time. The differences between you and your spouse tend to be glossed over, too, and those differences don’t feel like a big deal at first.
Eventually, you might find that once you’ve settled into marriage, your spouse might not want to be firmly attached to your side in the same way as before. Or you may have started noticing that some of the qualities that drew you to your spouse in the first place are now beginning to bother you. Sure, you may still have a great relationship, but it’s starting to feel like you’re drifting apart. Should you panic?


The most likely scenario is that you and your spouse have adjusted to sharing a life, and are delving back into the things that make you who you are as individuals. You’ve been together for a little while now, and it’s natural to want to revisit some of the things each of you love that may have fallen by the wayside.
Not only will you both eventually want to revisit your individual selves; you’ll continue to grow and change over the years. Give yourselves room to reconnect with who you are, and with who your spouse is (or has become). There is beauty in making space for those two unique identities that make up your marriage partnership.
It’s also normal to feel some friction as your opposite qualities begin to make themselves clearer. That’s okay, too. After all, you fell in love because of who your spouse is, and vice versa.


It’s important for the two of you to respect one another’s individuality and hard-wiring. The saying that “opposites attract” isn’t really true; most people are drawn to other people who are a lot like them. So when you’re in a marriage with someone who isn’t a lot like you, it’s easy to fall into emphasizing those opposite qualities over what you have in common. Your differences eventually become the most apparent things in your marriage.
When your differences seem to outweigh your similarities, it’s time to reconnect with the common ground you share. Deliberately create moments and opportunities to reminisce about falling in love, and those early, blissful times in your relationship. Those moments will open doors for great conversation, and put you on the road back to intimacy.
Intimacy is built on common ground; keep those things you have in common in mind, and highlight them whenever possible. Create fun, shared experiences that knit your hearts together, and be deliberate and consistent about making that happen. Go on walks together, go fishing, work together in your yard–any activity that will connect you two on a deeper level. Find that common ground and enjoy it together.


When you and your spouse have many differing qualities, you’ll often find that you balance and complement one another. Instead of focusing on things about your spouse’s differences that bother you, try to find the strengths in those individual qualities and see what you can learn from those strengths.
Is your spouse better at saying no than you are (while you’re more of a “yes man” or “yes woman”)? If you often feel over-committed and stretched beyond your limits, perhaps you can pay attention to how your spouse approaches a tactful “no,” then apply the same principles the next time someone asks you to do something you shouldn’t say yes to. Of if you’re an energetic extrovert and your spouse craves a lot of quiet time, you could practice slowing down and learn to savor that quiet time with him or her.


Compromise is a form of respecting your spouse–in particular, respecting his or her individuality. You can compromise on many things: food or entertainment preferences, travel, chores, weekly activities, and more.
For example, if you’re an extrovert and your spouse is not, give them the gift of solitude and allow them to do the things they love (like reading, enjoying a quiet coffee, drawing, writing, etc.) without making demands of their energy that they’re unable to fulfill. As a compromise, find a small group or activity you can be a part of so you’re not depending on your spouse to be present for every piece of your proverbial social “pie.”
Respect what your spouse needs in order to have the inner strength and resilience you fell in love with in the first place. Admire who your spouse is, and don’t try to change them; instead, create space for them to be who they are because that is how they were made.

Monday, November 6, 2017

3 Reasons Radical Forgiveness is a Must in Marriage

By Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott, June 14, 2017
It has been said that marriage is the combination of two very good forgivers. We have found this to be true in our own marriage–many times over! And we’ve observed countless successful relationships that were made up of good forgivers, as well.
When you’re in such a close relationship with another human being, it’s inevitable that you’re going to step on each other’s toes. That’s just part of life. The trick is being able to offer forgiveness to one another in a genuine, meaningful way, so that when those times come, you’ll be ready to face them head-on.


First, it’s critical to understand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is surrendering the right to retaliate against someone who has hurt you. It is not the relinquishing of your boundaries and dignity, and it is not a cheap or easy thing to extend.
When you extend forgiveness to your spouse, know what you’re forgiving. Be honest about how the hurt has been detrimental to your spirit. In the process of forgiveness, don’t just forgive and forget; forgive, but extend some pointers to your spouse about how they can better handle your heart with care in the future.
Forgiveness in marriage is a must because:


Forgiveness is a form of love in action, and we can’t get far in marriage without it. When you love someone, you’re vulnerable with them, and vice versa. Your spouse has the power to hurt you more deeply than anyone else in the world because you value their approval and affirmation more than anyone else’s. Your spouse is also just as vulnerable to being hurt by you as you are to being hurt by them.
When we forgive one another, we extend sacrificial love. When we are forgiven, we are humbled and determined to love our spouses better going forward. This cycle challenges us to love one another more fully, completely, and selflessly. And over the years, as we continue to practice this dance of forgiveness, our bond grows deeper and stronger.


Forgiveness frees us in two ways: first, it releases the offender; second, it releases the one who was hurt.
Forgiveness benefits the forgiver as much as, if not more than, the person who is being forgiven. It sets us free from being dragged down by unforgiveness, which eventually turns into resentment. And when you hold onto resentment, it does no good for anyone–especially you.
There are going to be times when we need to offer forgiveness to our spouse, whether they’ve asked for it or not. When you do this, remember that you’re freeing yourself from a prison of resentment, and graciously offer forgiveness to your spouse.


Forgiving anyone can be difficult–whether it’s a friend, family member, or co-worker. But when the person you love most in the world has hurt you, the process of forgiving him or her can be incredibly difficult and painful. Once you’ve practiced forgiveness in your marriage for a time, you may find it easier to extend forgiveness to those outside your relationship.
Forgiving one another as husband and wife can also help you to teach your children how to forgive. Modeling healthy forgiveness and allowing them to see their parents live this out will give them the tools they need to practice forgiveness in their own relationships as they grow older.


Being able to forgive one another teaches us to love each other and those around us in a more godly way, and it helps us to become more sensitive to the effects of our actions on others. In short, it makes us better husbands, wives, parents, friends, co-workers, and people.
It’s important to note, once again, that forgiveness is a process. You can intend to forgive, but you can’t control the steps to forgiveness, or how long it takes to get there. If the hurt you want to forgive is particularly grievous, it can take a very long time to complete the process. Whatever it takes, set yourself on a path of forgiveness and trust God to meet you on that path. And give yourself grace and time as you walk it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Stepfamilies Are Different … and the Same

Biological and blended families are going to function differently, but they do share one major similarity.
By Ron L. Deal, Family Life 2017 
I’ve been a therapist working with stepfamilies for over two decades, and I often can’t get couples to understand one simple truth: Stepfamilies are different from biological families.
Many couples think that their blended family will flow and function like a biological family, only with different people involved. But the interactions among the different stepfamily members is much more complicated. Future stepparents often fail to understand how helpless and frustrating the experience may actually be for most of them, and then they get discouraged when they experience reality.
The good news, however, is that stepfamilies and biological families do share one major similarity: God’s principles for living still apply and still hold promise for a healthy home, no matter how that home came together.
Let’s consider, then, just a few ways that stepfamilies are different and yet the same from biological families.
What is different?
Stepfamilies have outsiders. In a biological family everyone is an “insider,” meaning they have instant belonging and the rights and privileges of being part of the family. This naturally invites cooperation. Children, for example, naturally respect their parents’ authority, and they inherently trust them unless something happens to inhibit that trust.
However, in blended families someone is always an outsider. At first, stepsiblings are outsiders to each other and stepparents are outsiders to children. This makes a stepparent’s authority ambiguous and easily challenged by a child, which affects the process of parenting dramatically. Merging outsiders with insiders is a key task of becoming a healthy stepfamily.
Stress divides. During times of stress, insiders in biological families tend to move toward one another, while outsiders in stepfamilies become more distant. Insiders grant each other forgiveness more quickly and trust the good will of other insiders, but they look at outsiders with suspicion and doubt. This makes overcoming conflict more difficult and bonding between insiders and outsiders more challenging, but not impossible.
Parental roles are unclear. In biological families, the role of parents is clear, and society and the legal system support those roles. Stepparents have an unclear role and line of authority that must be defined and negotiated over time by family members. This is why it’s so important for the biological parent in a stepfamily to back up the stepparent. In so doing, one clear authority elevates the status of the unclear authority.
Born out of loss. A biological family is born out of romance (the dating couple), while a stepfamily is born out of loss. Every stepfamily has a loss narrative just below the surface that impacts and influences every aspect of family life.
For a child whose father died, for example, embracing a stepdad can feel like an act of betrayal or like burying his father all over again. Therefore, sadness impacts bonding. In another example, given his parents’ divorce, a child may view one parent falling in love with someone new as the permanent loss of family reconciliation. This makes welcoming a parent’s new marriage and the new stepfamily difficult.
Relationships are moving in different directions. Family members of biological families are all moving in the same relational direction. That is, what supports one relationship also supports another. For example, when a husband and wife love each other, their biological children feel comfortable and safe at home under the umbrella of that love.
But in stepfamilies, relationships are often moving in two different directions. So when a parent and stepparent love each other or spend time together, the biological children can feel in competition with their stepparent and may feel pushed aside. Thus, the marriage is moving in one direction while the parent-child relationship is moving in another. This naturally pits stepfamily members against each other, all while outsiders are trying to gain membership as insiders.
What’s the same?
While the structure and emotional process of being a stepfamily is very different from a biological family, the application of God’s principles for healthy living are still effective. That part never changes.
Everyone is valuable. Galatians 4:6-7 says, “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
We are all adopted children of God, and therefore members of a spiritual stepfamily, and yet God has treated us like His very own children, where we can eat at His table and partake of His inheritance. With God as our example, those in a blended family must make one another feel appreciated, valued, and worthwhile. Look for the potential in each member of the family, and draw it out.
We all need mercy and forgiveness. Grace is an essential part of family living, no matter what kind of family you are in. People are going to hurt you, and as Christians, we need to extend the same mercy and forgiveness that we want extended to us.
For example, ex-spouses who have caused hurt need to be forgiven (Colossians 3:12-14)—not just for your sake, but for the sake of the children you have together. Another example is how you must forgive painful words used by stepchildren to show their anger or resentment. You will be living with each other for the rest of your lives, and extending forgiveness will bring healing long into the future.
Respect. While it can be awkward and challenging to do so, children must still choose to respect stepparents (Ephesians 6:1-2). And in strengthening their relationships with children, stepparents can apply patience, gentleness, and self-control to their parenting responses (Galatians 5:22). Respect goes both ways, and a stepchild can more likely respect a stepparent who treats that child like a person with worth, potential, and feelings.
Compassion. Stepfamilies are built on broken foundations, so each person has experienced some kind of grief. Jesus taught us to be compassionate for the hurting. In John 11:35, He wept with those He loved over their lost family member. Stepfamily members should put on compassion for the sadness each person carries.
Love and kindness. Finally, to help overcome their differences, stepfamilies should strive for the virtues of kindness and love, which binds all good things together (Colossians 3:14). All of us as Christians are in the same family, and Jesus tells us that we should love one another: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Sometimes loving your stepfamily means overlooking petty comments, keeping your mouth closed when you want to speak, or doing something kind for others even when they don’t appreciate it. And you’ll be amazed at what will result in the future from these seeds of love.
What matters most
Clearly, some things in stepfamilies are different. But what matters most is the same in all families. With all the differences, there will be a lot of hard work. It isn’t easy to love those who despise you or overlook grievances. But when you look deep into the heart of the members of your stepfamily, you can find compassion for the commonalities that you do have.
When things are just too hard to handle on your own, remember that you’re not alone. You have the Holy Spirit to guide you. Get out the Bible and get on your knees, and have faith that the good works you do in the early years of your stepfamily life will pay off with great dividends in the end.