What’s the plan?

People tend to make New Year’s resolutions or set goals for themselves in the new year. It tends to be personal goals like lose weight, get a new job, buy a house, and so on. But what about goals for your marriage or family? Have you set any goals for your marriage?

We didn’t, until a couple of years ago. On New Year’s Day 4 years ago, we sat down for the first time to write down our goals for the year. We each wrote them out separately, using the categories of Faith, Family, Friends, Finance, Marriage, Health, Travel, Personal.

Then we compared our goals and created a document that included those we chose from our two lists. Let me tell you, it was eye-opening to see how DIFFERENT our goals were in certain areas! And I was surprised at how little I knew of Steve’s true desires for the year. For example, he listed under “travel” that he really wanted a vacation away for just the two of us. At the time, we had a baby and I was still a little nervous about leaving him alone. But doing this exercise helped me to see how important this was to Steve. So, we put it as a priority goal for our year (and we accomplished it!).

At first, Steve wasn’t really into my little New Year’s goal setting fun. But when he saw that it allowed us both to express what we truly desired for our year, he was all in.

Setting goals for your family is a great way to start a new year!

Part of setting those goals was expressing our desires for our marriage. It’s a great opportunity to share with your spouse what you wish to see happen in your marriage. Do you wish that you would have more date nights? Set a reasonable goal that you both agree on. Does your spouse want you to join them in an activity you don’t normally participate in? Set that goal. Do either of you want to see a marriage counselor for a “tune up” or take a marriage bible study together? Use this time to discuss what you both will feel comfortable with.

Once you set those goals, its time for a plan!

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

You have to have a plan! It’s one thing to say “we would love more date nights.” How are you going to make that happen? What are the obstacles?

If the goal is one date night a week, an obstacle might be your busy family schedule. Another obstacle may be childcare. Spend some time identifying the obstacles and finding solutions to them. Make a plan.

Your goal-setting will feel very defeating when you don’t attach a plan to it. Don’t just wish for your marriage to get better…set some goals and make a plan to make it better!

We would love to hear from you about your goal-setting for this year!


What did you expect?

When we got married, I expected my husband had the same expectations I did.  I mean, duh.  Isn’t that why we are marrying each other? Don’t we both expect the same things out of this marriage?

Ah, no.

That is the lie many couples believe when they get married.

The Lie:

We believe that our spouse has the same expectations that we do.

In their book, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott share this very popular marriage myth believed by newlyweds:  “We expect exactly the same things from marriage.”

Here’s the truth…”What we anticipate seldom occurs, what we least expect generally happens-especially in marriage.”

What we anticipate seldom occurs, what we least expect generally happens-especially in marriage.

-Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott

That’s exactly how it was for us.  I came into our marriage with a highly romanticized view of marriage.  I also came in with the extreme expectation that we were going to be the BEST at being married…that we weren’t going to continue the cycle of broken marriages in both of our families.  The stakes were high for me, especially as an Achiever type.  I wanted to WIN at this marriage thing.

AND I wanted what I wanted.  I came into the marriage with selfish, unrealistic expectations that no human could fulfill.

I came into the marriage with selfish, unrealistic expectations that no human could fulfill.

-Lisa Goldberg, Side By Side Ministry

My husband came into the marriage expecting it to be peaceful and comfortable.  He also came into it expecting respect and LOTS OF SEX.

We all tend to live by a set of rules that aren’t necessarily spoken but are always known to us.

So, we enter marriage with our expectations and our unspoken rules and we ASSUME that our spouse has those same expectations and rules.

They don’t.

So, what do we do?

As I see it, there are two choices:

  1.  Continue on with your individual expectations and wait “patiently” until your spouse conforms to your desires or learns the magic of mind-reading.  Meanwhile, you are growing further and further apart because you are not operating from the same set of “rules” for your marriage.
  2. Openly discuss your differing expectations, set a new set of “rules” for your marriage that are spoken and agreed upon and know they will continue to change and evolve as you grow together as a married couple.  This creates a fertile soil for your unique marriage to grow, flourish and thrive.

We started our marriage with choice 1 and it nearly broke us.  We spent the first six years of our marriage in bondage to our selfish, unrealistic, unspoken expectations of each other.  It was painful and lonely.

When God miraculously breathed life back into our dying marriage, we began to humble ourselves (especially me!) to see our marriage as an opportunity to leave extreme expectations at the door and love unconditionally.

We also began to communicate those unspoken rules that we were holding over each other.  And we created our own set of marriage rules, so to speak, that were unique to us.

It’s not that we don’t have ANY expectations of each other.  We do!  We have REALISTIC, healthy expectations that are rooted in the expectations God has of each of us.  We now have a standard–set by Jesus–to live our life by.

When one of us veers off the course we have set for our marriage and our family, we do our best to gently restore the other.  And if new “rules” need to be set, we communicate that to each other. We don’t wait until the other “figures it out.” That would take us back to square one, right?

What are your unrealistic expectations?

What unspoken rules do you have?

How are your expectations working for or against your marriage?


For the next several weeks, we are walking through the book, Save Your Marriage Before It Starts, by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott.  We will be sharing our personal SYMBIS assessment of our own marriage as well as many tools for a healthy, thriving marriage.  We welcome you to follow along! Also, we are trained facilitators in the SYMBIS Assessment, so contact us if you’d like to take the assessment with your spouse!  It’s an eye-opening experience and great way to start or tune up your marriage.





Chin up?

I looked at my list and sighed.  Like, one of those big sighs that lasts so long, you wonder if there is any breath left in your lungs.  I saw all the tasks that I had found important enough to write down.  You know the tasks…the things for the house, the things for the family, the things for the job, the things for the church, the things for the people….ALL the things.  All. the. things.

All the things.

With that huge sigh, my body sank…in a posture of defeat.  How would I get it all done? Who am I failing by only picking a few tasks to accomplish? Why can’t I be like those other people that have endless energy to pound out all their tasks on their list?

Slowly, my defeat turned to despair.

There was no way I could get it all done.  That thought was paralyzing for me, a very Type A personality.  Something had to give.

So, I thought to myself…Chin up, girl!  Chin up!  Don’t be defeated, just take one thing at a time.  Tackle what you can!  You can do this!  You know all that positive self-talk, right?  The things that those New York Times Bestselling authors tell us to do in order to achieve a million tasks in an hour?  Yes, I tried to tell myself all those things.  All the things.

But it didn’t work.  Because there was still defeat in my heart.  All the self-help authors in the world could not remove that defeat from my heart.  

“Chin up” was not going to cut it.

Then, I heard this statement from a wise woman…..

God cannot lift an unbowed head.

God cannot lift an unbowed head. -Meredith Brock

Remember ALL THE THINGS I had on that very important list of tasks?

Do you think God was on that list?  No.

Do you think I had scheduled time with God in that very busy week?  Nope.

Do you think I woke that morning genuinely desiring to accomplish what God chose? No.

Friends, I did not have ALL the things on that list.  In fact, I was missing the ONE thing that should have been on it!  God!

God cannot lift an unbowed head.

Someone once told me that when you are so busy that you don’t have time to pray, you should stop to pray all the more.  And in that, the prayers are not to be just me asking God for something….they can be heartfelt prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving and reverence for the ONE who created me.

If you are at all like me and need a list to get you through your day of tasks….may I humbly suggest that we put God on our list?  May we consider placing Him at the top, even?

Lets bow our heads to the one, true God…so that when we are overwhelmed or worried or begin to feel defeat, He can gently lift our bowed head.

God IS all the things.  He is IN all the things.  He wants us to bring glory to His name THROUGH all the things.

But He must come first.  He’s the only one that can remove the defeat and replace it with peace.  Not just in our to-do list…but in ALL THE THINGS.

Chin up?  Not in my own effort.  But God will lift my chin high when my head is bowed to   Him.


Do you have a hurt that needs to hear hope?  

You can watch our story…our journey from hurt to hope….HERE.





May is a month of celebrating for us….especially for me (Lisa).  The month of May includes our wedding anniversary, my birthday, and Mother’s Day.  Big win for me! 😉

Our wedding anniversary is May 17th and this year we will be celebrating 16 years of marriage.  Each year, we find a new way to celebrate.  Some years are bigger than others. (10 years was a trip to Italy…oh, if only all the anniversary celebrations could be that!)

Whether a simple dinner together, a thoughtful gift, or a getaway, we make a point of doing something out of the ordinary to celebrate the extraordinary.

We make a point of doing something out of the ordinary to celebrate the extraordinary.

It is EXTRAORDINARY that we are married for 16 years!  We don’t take that for granted.  Half of marriages end in divorce.  And many end in the first seven years.  We are beating the odds.  That is something to celebrate and thank God for!

Here’s the question, though….when should we celebrate that? Only when that wedding anniversary rolls around?  NO WAY!  We need to celebrate as much as possible.

When we celebrate our marriage, it is more likely we will actually stay married.  

When we look at our marriage as just another part of our existence, the union can quickly become stagnant.

When we view our marriage as anything other than extraordinary, that is exactly what it becomes…anything other than extraordinary.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be in an extraordinary marriage!  I want to rock this marriage thing!  I want to look at my husband every day and say, YES!!! I AM SO BLESSED!!!  And I want him to wonder to himself, HOW DID I EVER GET SO LUCKY TO MARRY HER!

Part of making that dream a reality is simply choosing to celebrate!  Here’s one way we celebrate our marriage.  It’s super simple but highly effective.

Our anniversary date is 5/17.  So, when it’s 5:17AM/PM, and we notice it, we acknowledge it to the other in some way.  If I am sitting at my computer writing and I see that it is 5:17pm on my screen, I stop what I am doing and send my husband a text, “5:17.”

That’s it, you say?  Yep, that’s it.  That is one very simple way that we celebrate our marriage.  We each know that our spouse has stopped everything in the middle of their day to acknowledge our extraordinary marriage.  No money spent, no trip taken, not even actual words.

If we are together when it’s 5:17, one of us will say “5:17” and usually we will give a quick kiss and move on with what we were doing.  Sometimes, it will produce a conversation or further encouragement.  Either way, it is a beautifully simple way to celebrate US.

How are you celebrating your extraordinary marriage?  How can you add celebrations throughout your week?

We would love it if you would share with us your ideas on how we all can be celebrating our marriages daily!  

Follow us on Facebook or Instagram and join the conversation!




One more BEST gift to give your spouse this season (part two).

A couple weeks ago, I shared with you HERE about the first of two of the best gifts you can give your spouse. Read more here!

It’s only a matter of days before Christmas is here. Have you gotten something for your spouse? Have you been able to figure what is the “perfect” gift for them? If not, you have come the right place! I have the perfect gift idea for you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a wife or a husband that you are gifting. It doesn’t matter if they are the pickiest person on the planet. It doesn’t even matter if you are not a big fan of your spouse right now. With this gift, one size fits all.

So, drum roll, please. Brrrr…..Brrrr….Brrrr….. (does that sound like drum roll to you??)

The best gift you can give your spouse (other than the one I mentioned in THIS blog post) is:


Give your time.

Yes, you heard me right. One of the best gifts you can give your spouse is your time.

One of the best ways to see what your priorities are is to look at your calendar. What is taking up most of your time? I know, you are going to tell me “well, duh, work…but I have to work.” Yes, a bulk of your time is work. And another bulk of your time is sleep. But what about that time in between. How are you spending that time?

You may “see” your spouse during that margin time…but do you intentionally spend quality time putting them first in your life? (Just being in the same room with your spouse while you make lunches for the kids or figure out the monthly budget doesn’t count). I am talking about time that you set aside to focus solely on your spouse….fulfilling a need of theirs, planning a special outing with them, going out of your way to show them (not just tell them) how much you love and appreciate them.

What does time quality time look like? And how do you gift it?

That is going to be different for everyone. And please do not give me the excuse that you don’t have the money for a babysitter or you don’t have time in your schedule for a regular date night or you couldn’t possibly go out of town for a night because the kids…or the job…or your dog need you and only you. Stop that. You are married. To someone that you really love. Someone that, when you first met them, you couldn’t bear to be apart from.

If you want something to happen, you will make it happen. Swap date night babysitting with another couple. Go for a walk on the beach or a hike in the woods instead of a pricey dinner out. Sit on the back porch with a favorite board game. (Ladies, there are a million cheap date ideas on Pinterest…go nuts!)

Sure,that honeymoon phase may be over, so to speak. But only because you choose it to be so. We all have a choice to put time and effort into our marriages in order to keep that spark going…in order to “keep that love alive.”

In order to stay fully connected to your spouse, you need TIME.

Not fancy gifts. Not a family vacation. Not even a double date with another couple. Quality time for just the two of you.

How do you give that as a gift?

How does “time” get wrapped up and placed under the Christmas tree?

One of Steve’s favorite gifts I have given him is a book of handmade coupons for all different kinds of quality time…things that are meaningful to us and things we enjoy doing together. All throughout the year, he could just hand me a coupon and I would do my best to make it happen as quickly as possible. Important: it included many things that he loves and I could take or leave. It was a sacrificial book of coupons for quality time. (Example: I am not a fan of going to movie theaters, but Steve is, so “going out to a movie” was a coupon.)

If you want to be a bit more extravagant, maybe you can plan and reserve a full day together, doing things that your spouse loves or both of you love. Or plan to visit the place you first met. Or get everything you need to work on a special project together.

If you are really craving dedicated time alone, plan a vacation or even one night away at a place that your spouse loves. And then go a step further and plan out details of your time that are focused on your spouses needs and desires.

If you tend to “wonder where the time went” on a regular basis, may I recommend that you set up several date days or nights in advance, including reserving a table or buying the tickets, so you are accountable to and committed to making that quality time happen.

If you still want to get your spouse the newest gadget or dazzling jewelry, consider attaching TIME to it. So, if you got your husband the latest runner’s watch, perhaps you could plan to run with him once a week. Or if you purchased that special pair of earrings for your wife, possibly you could plan a surprise dinner out with an outfit picked out for her to wear, including the earrings.

There are endless possibilities for you to give time.

You just need to make the choice to give it. If you genuinely have no idea how your spouse would want to spend time with you, ask. Seriously, just ask. Even the act of asking is sacrificial and loving. It’s a great start to connecting with your spouse this season.

We are praying that there will be a whole lotta time wrapped up under the tree this year!!

Merry Christmas!

The best gift to give your spouse this year! (Part 1)

I spent several of the early years of our marriage a prideful, arrogant, self-centered person. What does this have to do with gifts, you ask? Well, in that selfishness, I had very strong opinions of how gift-giving needed to occur in our house. I made it very clear that I wanted us to give each other surprise gifts for birthdays and holidays. My rational behind that…I believed that we should know each other well enough to pick out the perfect gift without the other person telling what they wanted. Yep, that was me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love surprises and I am blessed with a husband who enjoys surprising me. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to be genuinely surprised. But I set an expectation–an unrealistically high expectation–that ultimately set us both up for failure.

But I set up an expectation—an unrealistically high expectation—that ultimately set us both up for failure.

So, every year, we were trying to outdo the last year. Or if we really bombed a gift (for example, the seven-person tent with pet cabin that I received for my birthday when he was the only one complaining about the current tent we used…just sayin’), then we were working overtime to try to make up for it at the following holiday. So, pressure. LOTS OF PRESSURE. At a time that we were supposed to be celebrating. What a drag.

I also set the stipulation that I never wanted to just get a gift for both of us. So, if we both really wanted a new camera but it’s pricey and we can only afford to get it if we forego giving each other individual gifts? No way! I was not willing to “change the rules.” So, no camera….and instead something that has a 50/50 shot of being “just what I wanted.”

What changed?

What caused me to change the rules, so to speak? Well, when our marriage started to get rocky, I read The Five Love Languages. (If you haven’t read this book, please click on the link and get it!).

When I took the test to find out what my “love language” was, it came out as GIFTS. At first I was like, duh, of course it is. But as I continued to read and really think about it, I realized that our current circumstances were actually skewing the results of my test.

Hear me out. I realized that the only way I was experiencing “love” from Steve was when he gave me gifts. At the time, things were rough, and so the gifts–for a short amount of time–made up for the things that were missing in our marriage.

Then I had to go back a bit further…into my childhood. LONG story short, the only “love” that I received from my biological father was gifts. So, as an adult, I was placing an extremely HIGH VALUE on gifts because they represented love when actual love was nowhere to be found.

Bring it home, Lisa….what does your personal childhood journey have to do with a gift for my spouse? What is this BEST GIFT I can give to my spouse??

The best gift you can give your spouse is:


If you have a spouse who cares for you and loves you and provides for your needs, you are so loved and THAT is a huge gift. Stop setting standards that they cannot ever reach. Use your heart of gratitude (that you hopefully cultivated during last month’s “attitude of gratitude”) and be grateful for the little things. Be grateful for the moments. Be grateful for all of it. Even the 7-person tent with pet cabin. Because your spouse spent time to pick that up JUST FOR YOU. It IS truly the thought that counts. And if you have a hard time lowering those expectations…then MAKE THEM KNOWN. Don’t be like me in those early years, and expect them to guess what you want or need. Just tell them. (I am especially speaking to you, ladies!).

Don’t be like me in those early years and expect them to guess what you want or need.

And if you are looking to those gifts as the only way you experience love from your spouse, you may want to spend some time in prayer contemplating why that is. Because you may be putting a lot of weight on those gifts because something else–something important–is missing from your relationship. In that case, a diamond necklace or fancy tv will not solve it. Get to the root of that. (Check out Five Love Languages or Rescue Your Love Life)

During this Christmas season, when we are inundated with marketing tactics advertising the “next best gift,” resist the urge to EXPECT that perfect gift. Instead, lower those expectations and focus on more important things….like the Messiah whose birth we celebrate and the wonderful spouse He gave you.

In Everything?

In everything, give thanks.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

In everything?

Really?  In Ev-er-y-thing?  In everything, we should give thanks?  You know you have asked that question.  Especially at this time of year, as we are about the celebrate Thanksgiving, we see this verse…and we probably think to ourselves…well, not EVERYthing.

I mean, how can I be thankful for natural disaster? For death? For illness?  For depression? For loss of a job or home? For my overbearing boss?  For my annoying sister? For my spouse’s annoying habits? For MOSQUITOS?!

The Bible clearly says, IN EVERYTHING.  Sigh.

Check out a portion of an article* from Bible.org about this verse and those surrounding it….

This command means that in every situation we are to give thanks to our sovereign and good God and Savior. In Ephesians 5:20, Paul puts it, “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” Giving thanks in every situation does not mean that we must be happy with every situation or resigned to accept matters without praying and working for change.

Also, we don’t need to feel thankful before we give thanks. When God takes us through hard trials, we don’t feel thankful. But by faith we can say, “Lord, I trust that You are good and that You know what You’re doing in this difficult situation. I submit to Your sovereign hand and purpose, knowing that You will work it together for my good.” So, like rejoicing always, giving thanks in everything is often a choice to believe God in difficult circumstances.

When we are connected to God and trusting Him and His plan for our lives, we are able to have gratitude in all circumstances.  (Read more about my “attitude of gratitude!”)

So many times this past year, I have looked at a difficult circumstance and saw a situation devoid of anything worthy of being thankful for.  My humanness, my flesh, my sinful nature could not see past the weight of the circumstance.

Then the Holy Spirit intervened.  Gratitude began to replace fear…or hurt…or dismay.

God is above all circumstance in life.  God knows.  He sees what we are facing.  And He knows the outcome.  These truths alone are things we can easily be grateful for!!

We have a God who loves us, knows what we face, will protect us, and ultimately has ALREADY saved us from the worst.

When we believe in the saving grace of Jesus and His defeat over the grave, we can be grateful IN EVERYTHING!

Not FOR everything.  (We don’t really need to be grateful for the mosquitos, ok?)  But, as believers, we can be grateful IN this life, even in the darkest moments of this life.

Our challenge is to truly have a heart of gratitude in those difficult moments.  It’s easy to be thankful when things are going well.  It’s so challenging to be thankful when they aren’t.

Guess what?  When we are able to grow our gratitude, we change the way we view those moments.  A heart filled with gratitude doesn’t have room for fear, anger, and resentment.  Rather, it opens us up for things like joy, peace, patience, forgiveness and mercy.

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”

In this life, I don’t think God expects us to be grateful FOR everything…..but He does ask that we be grateful IN everything.  And because of His love for us, we are able to do just that.

In everything, give thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.


*Read more on this subject through the link below.