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MARRIAGE February 2015


· Path of Forgiveness · Creating the Marriage you Desire · Little Things Matter ... and resources for marriage renewal

FEATURING: A Celebration of Marriage



Healthy Marriages = Healthy Communities. Marriage, Inc. is dedicated to building a culture of marriage.

Marriage, Inc. Magazine

is published yearly by Marriage, Inc. in conjunction with our Date Night event. Volume 4, Issue 1

Marriage, Inc. Staff Greetings from Olivet! February 20, 2015 We are so glad you’ve come to visit! On behalf of Olivet Nazarene University, Jill and I are pleased to welcome you to Centennial Chapel for the 7th annual community Date Night. We count it a true privilege to open these doors to old and new friends who come from across Kankakee County, the Chicagoland area and beyond. The more we get together, the more we feel like family. Tonight’s event focuses on strengthening marriages and serves as a tangible reminder that these relationships are foundational to the well-being of all society. To help communicate this message, marriage “edu-tainers” Jay and Laura Laffoon and comedian Michael Jr. are here tonight to teach us, inspire us and make us laugh. We are in for a great evening. Marriage, Inc., the nonprofit organization that partners with Olivet in making this evening possible, promotes the message that Healthy Marriages = Healthy Communities. We couldn’t agree more. Sincerely, John & Jill President and Mrs. John C. Bowling Olivet Nazarene University

Dr. Kent and Beth Olney Co-Directors Alisha Clark Associate Director: Cultural Liaison Kathy Heck Associate Director: Church & Community Liaison Ian Matthews Marketing Coordinator Sheryl Feminis Kent Olney Laura Wasson Warfel Editorial Support

Contact Us Marriage, Inc. One University Avenue Bourbonnais, IL 60914 815-939-5385

Magazine Design Matthew Moore Whitesand Graphics





Evening Program


Special Guests


Book Resource: The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages


A Place of Renewal


The Path of Forgiveness


How to Create the Marriage You Desire


Impact Award - 2015


Little Things Matter


Book Resource: The Good News About Marriage


Blizzards & Blessings




Counselors & Coaches


Sponsor Advertisements




Stories of Hope As I (Beth) was growing up, a copy of The Ladies’ Home Journal was delivered faithfully to our mailbox every month. In each edition there was a feature called “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” For some reason, I made a point to read the stories of marital crises. I was curious about why couples were fighting and why they were considering divorce. I wanted each relationship to experience joy because I believed as a young girl, and still do, that marriages were meant to be enjoyed. Our culture urges couples to take the easy way out – to throw away a marriage and start again. We are here to tell you that divorce isn’t the answer. We unapologetically ask couples to consider investing the same amount of energy and money they would spend on getting a divorce back into the relationship. The truth is, whether you are ‘married to’ or ‘divorced from’ your spouse, that person will somehow be present in your life for the “rest of your days.” Why not make those days the best, by committing to share them together? In this edition of Marriage, Inc. Magazine we want to tell you a few stories of couples experiencing happy marriages in our own community. We trust that the stories of their journeys in the articles found on the following pages will offer a ray of hope to the disheartened and encouragement to all. We believe so strongly there is hope for every marriage that we have given away 1,000 copies of the book, Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. This book is filled with insights and tips that will help any marriage begin to make changes that can lead to a positive difference. If you did not receive a copy, we encourage you to find a copy and read it. Your spouse, children, and friends will all thank you. Finally, persistence and longevity have their reward. A happy marriage is the goal. We can help you and your spouse reach that goal. Kent and Beth Olney

Co-Directors, Marriage, Inc.


A Celebration of Marriage



Spencer Cook Master of Ceremonies

February 20, 2015 7-9:45 pm

Joel Deckard Drums


Jesse Dillman Bass Amber Leffel Vocalist

Marriage “Edu-tainers” Jay and Laura Laffoon 15-minute intermission Comedian Michael Jr.

Luke Olney Pianist


Wesley Taylor Vocalist

Guest speakers will have resources for sale in the lobby before the show, during intermission, and immediately following the conclusion of the evening’s programming.



Jay and Laura Laffoon The Laffoons fearlessly share their own experiences as they unravel what they’ve learned about the mysteries of intimate relationships, believing that all married couples share the same struggles and joys along the journey! Their humorous and entertaining transparency offers couples permission to laugh with each other and courage to continue growing a future together. After meeting on a blind date in 1984, their brief courtship has since transformed into a daily marital celebration. Having ministered together in Youth for Christ for 15 years, along with interviewing thousands of couples, they’ve gained tremendous insight into marriage and family issues. Now they’ve been presenting comedyinfused marriage events for more than 17 years!


Jay grew up in Petoskey, Mich., and holds degrees in Biblical Literature and Music. Laura grew up in Atlanta, Ga. (site of their famous blind date) and holds a degree in Social Ministries. Both Jay and Laura previously served on staff at Youth for Christ, and currently serve on staff at Mt. Pleasant Community Church, coordinating their Marriage and Family Care Ministry. They are part of an exclusive group of certified instructors for Dynamic Communications International. Together, Jay and Laura have written numerous books. They currently live in Michigan. They have two children: A teenage daughter, Grace; and son, Torrey, who is married to Shana, a wonderful addition to the family. Jay & Laura founded Celebrate Ministries, Inc. in 1995.


Michael Jr. Hailed as one of today’s most gifted comedians, Michael’s entry into comedy was almost preordained. Years ago in a crowded Grand Rapids, Mich., movie theater, the projector malfunctioned. The film snapped, the house lights came on and, acting on a dare, young Michael jumped in front of the restless crowd and took center stage. When the theater manager tried to usher him out, the audience demanded he stay. Michael Jr. had discovered his gift. Comedian George Wallace offered Michael his first break when he took him to the legendary Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, home of Jay Leno and The Tonight Show staff. The club’s owner slipped Michael onstage. A week later Michael was performing at the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, where he became the first comedian to ever appear live via satellite on The Tonight Show. Since then, he has appeared on The Tonight Show, Comedy Central, BET’s ComicView, Jimmy Kimmel Live, CNN, Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen and ComedyTV. You’ll also find him at the most prestigious comedy clubs across the nation, including The Improv, The Laugh Factory, The Comedy Store, The Punchline, The Comic Strip, and Zanies Comedy Club. If that’s

not enough, Michael’s versatility takes him from major universities such as Notre Dame, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of Alabama, to church events ranging from the 60,000-member Willow Creek Church in Chicago, the 17,000-member West Angeles Church in L.A and the 10,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs. How can one man be equally at home in the heartland and the inner city, churches and prisons, corporate events and youth rallies? Michael calls it comedy accountability. “If I’m in a club, my material has to be clean enough to work in a church. If I’m in a pulpit, it has to be funny enough to work in a club,” he says. This versatility has enabled Michael to author a children’s book, The Parts We Play; to be featured in the wildly successful comedy DVD, “Thou Shalt Laugh”; and to have made his directorial debut with the documentary, “Comedy: The Road Less Traveled” (available in stores, at and On the home front, Michael is happily married. He and his wife are the proud parents of five beautiful children.

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y p p a h y highl

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“Where does ‘highly happy’ come from — and can we have some too?” Have you ever looked at a blissfully married couple and thought, I wish I could know their secret? Now you can. After years of investigative research, Shaunti Feldhahn reveals 12 powerful habits that the happiest marriages have in common. Best news of all? Anyone can learn the secrets of a highly happy marriage! In The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, Feldhahn shares her findings about little, very unexpected, often overlooked actions that make a huge difference. You’re about to discover that highly happy couples: · Go to bed mad · Keep score (just not in the way you think) · Boss their feelings around · Have factual fantasies · Get in over their heads · Don’t tell it like it is · Don’t look to marriage to make them happy Packed with eye-opening research and practical helps, this book delivers relationship insights that will take your marriage from “just fine” to “just the marriage we’ve always wanted.”


“I am thrilled with the findings, clear reporting and explanations. Shaunti is tireless at tracking down the truths that matter to relationships — and countless men and women have benefitted as a result. I have already started using some of this new data at my conferences!” — Emerson Eggerichs, Best-selling author of Love and Respect “The entire time I was reading this book I kept stopping and saying to my wife, ‘Oh, wow! Listen to this!’ The great truth within these pages is that little things do indeed mean a lot.” —Jeff & Pamela Foxworthy “Shaunti has done the research, dissected the results and delivered to us the proven recipes for success. Even after 30 years of marriage, I learned so much! This is a book every married person should read!” — Jill Savage, CEO of Hearts at Home and author of No More Perfect Moms

God is great and doing great things in the lives of those who seek Him. At A Breath of Heaven Ministries, the staff has the blessing of watching as our Savior moves in the lives of married couples who are seeking rest and renewal. By providing a relaxing setting — away from daily distractions and responsibilities — this ministry is helping couples find renewed hope, spiritual refreshment and restoration for their marriages. As relationships are rekindled, couples find a deeper relationship with each other and with their God. This personal testimony from a husband and wife who made their relationship a priority speaks volumes about the renewal experience that A Breath of Heaven seeks to offer. One year ago at age 57, I retired. After 35-plus years of marriage and raising two children, my wife and I felt as if we really didn’t know each other anymore. We knew that we still loved each other. But somehow, somewhere, we felt that we had grown apart. We heard of A Breath of Heaven through some friends on Facebook and thought, why not? While there, we spent time hiking at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, sitting and talking at an amazingly beautiful beach, and just enjoying God’s creation. Together. But as much as we enjoyed the


sights and sounds of God’s incredible handiwork, we sensed that God was allowing us to use the time away to re-experience each other in ways that we hadn’t for many years. And we did! From the minute we walked through the door, we were welcomed with loving, open arms. Your warm Christian hospitality gave us the opportunity to rediscover each other as you prayed for the Lord to renew our life together as a married couple. If you remember, it was difficult for us to leave! Since we’ve returned home, we’ve joined a couples’ small group and are serving together as volunteers in our church’s food pantry. We are so thankful for our time at A Breath of Heaven and can’t wait to return. Thank you for being there! This ministry is offering relationship renewal opportunities to couples who are connected with Marriage, Inc. To learn more and to book your renewal getaway, contact A Breath of Heaven Ministries.

Scott and Laurie Vaughn


Scott and Laurie Vaughn have owned A Breath of Heaven Bed & Breakfast since April 2014. They have decades of customer service and business experience between them. Laurie has years of bookstore industry experience, working in management, customer service training, and buying and selling. Scott has served in various ministry roles for more than 35 years and has worked in sales, marketing, management and nonprofit development. The Vaughns have five children. A Breath of Heaven Scott and Laurie Vaughn 815.383.9999



Lisa Gassin, Ph

Marriage brings some of the happiest moments in life. It can also bring some of the deepest hurts. What is one to do when a spouse uses unkind words, commits an infidelity, habitually lies or somehow breaks trust? For good reason, our inclination is usually to be angry, accuse, defend ourselves and perhaps ultimately walk out of the relationship. In most cases, however, traversing the difficult path of forgiveness can pay dividends for us as individuals and for our relationships.


Psychologists have differing views on what forgiveness is and is not. A good place to start is the definition by Dr. Robert Enright, a pioneer of research on the topic: “Forgiving involves rooting out negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors vis-à-vis a person who has hurt you, and striving to develop positive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors towards her.” Note that for most of us, forgiveness is a process rather than an instantaneous occurrence.

In some cases, the injured party may need to establish a boundary in the relationship — both for his/her own protection and also to help the other person avoid hurtful behavior. For example, if the husband has been secretly irresponsible with money, the wife may wish to take temporary control of the finances as a part of the reconciliation process.

Dr. Enright, like many other thinkers, distinguishes forgiveness from reconciliation. While forgiveness refers more to our internal disposition toward an offender, reconciliation refers to re-entering a relationship with that person. This is a particularly sticky distinction when the offender is your spouse because, by definition, the two of you are already in a multi-dimensional relationship that cannot and should not be easily ended.

Of course, the one who has committed an offense also must make contributions to the relationship for reconciliation to take place. He/she must offer understanding of how his/her actions affected the other, as well as sincere repentance and a commitment to stop the hurtful behavior in the future. In some cases, a person’s abstaining from the hurtful action must be effective immediately (such as never engaging in another affair). In others, it may be a process (such as seeking counseling to learn to cope with anger).

While psychologists often differentiate between forgiveness and reconciliation, these processes are not completely separate. Reconciliation involves input from two different people. Forgiveness may be offered from the one who is hurt but, in most situations, should be offered with a clear statement about how the injury has affected the one hurt.

Of course, in some circumstances, both husband and wife have hurt each other. Each party must listen respectfully to the other and weigh his/her own role in the conflict. Sometimes the involvement of a third party, such as a counselor or pastor, can help a couple identify how each person played a role in a hurtful situation and what each can do to help re-establish trust.


Now let’s look at this from a faith-based perspective. Scripture, especially the New Testament, frequently emphasizes the importance of forgiving others. There are many ways to understand what this means and why such a command is given. In forgiving, as Christians we allow God’s redeeming mercy to flow from us to the one who hurt us. We mirror His identity as the One who always draws each person to Himself in love. Of course, we offer God’s love in the context of truth. Speaking clearly about how an offense has affected you can be an important part of forgiveness and reconciliation, especially in the context of a relationship as intimate as marriage. If we see speaking such truth as a chance to hammer the offender with our anger, we must keep in mind the purpose of God’s truth: to lovingly call the other to repentance and reconciliation, not to drag the other into an abyss of sorrow that leads to death (2 Corinthians 7:10). It is in practicing forgiveness that we perhaps most closely emulate the Lord. Interestingly enough, much evidence suggests that being merciful is good for us not only spiritually but also psychologically. Research and data consistently demonstrate that those who forgive reap the benefits of better mental health and improved social relationships. From a faith-based perspective, we don’t forgive just to benefit ourselves. The “side effects” of the process serve to keep us happier and healthier. The road to a fulfilling, long-lasting marriage is paved with the grace of forgiveness and reconciliation. Lisa Gassin is a licensed professional counselor and a professor teaching Developmental and Cross-cultural Psychology at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois Dr. Gassin’s research focus includes the psychology of forgiveness, attachment and bereavement. Her counseling methods of interest are play and other expressive therapies.


Michelle Klavohn

How to Create the Marriage You Desire Did you know that 90 percent of businesses use coaching in some form? Businesses have found that they have a greater likelihood for reaching their potential when they partner with a skilled coach. While I love hearing about that kind of success, I find myself dreaming about reaching that potential in a very different realm. The vision looks something like this: People get so inspired, longing for the potential of their marriage and family, that 90 percent of married couples are working with a family coach to find their best life together. Imagine the clarity that would come in work/life balance, parenting choices, healthy communication, managing in-law relationships, etc., if couples would take that kind of action to make their marriages thrive.


How to Create the Marriage You Desire Great marriage and family life is not reserved for a select few people who get very, very lucky. It is a vision and a goal to pursue wholeheartedly. I’ve had this dream in my own life for a very long time. Some days the vision is loud, confident and victorious. Other days, it is much shyer, shaken by my own shortcomings. True confessions? My husband and I have our own times that take their toll on the dreams we have for a dynamic marriage and family. The past three years have brought some of the most painful losses and circumstances that we’ve had to navigate in our 24 years together. I refer to it as the “perfect storm”: The loss of numerous friendships that were like family to us, the end of a ministry role that was extremely meaningful for me, a painful change in our church community, unfulfilled career goals, and to top it off, the mayhem of finding out I am in full-blown menopause. What?!? (I hear that by itself is enough to make a couple think life as they know it may be over.) This long season in our family of what we refer to as “survival mode” has taken its toll. Tempers may be short, words may be said, selfishness may rear its ugly head, and weekends may drain more life than they give. You may have had times like these, too. Not that I will give up on our marriage altogether, but perhaps I will give in to the idea that my marriage will just have to get by. Life takes over. I lose my vision. The dream slips low on the priority list. In the middle of the night, I wrestle with thoughts like, “This is too hard.” Yes, everyone needs outside support for their marriage. In fact, this step for us has been exactly what propels our relationship to the level we desire. Take a look at some common misconceptions that keep people from getting that support. “We don’t really need to talk with someone.” Let’s be honest. The root of this is pride. The “we can do it on our own” mentality at its best robs so many of the thriving marriage they want, and


at its worst, can lead to the end of a marriage. We all stand at the wedding altar with dreams of a beautiful relationship. Why not give yourselves a gift by taking action to fulfill those dreams? It is not a sign of weakness but a spirit of wisdom that shows maturity, commitment and strength. “We don’t have the money or time.” This is almost always a priority issue. What in your budget or schedule is more important than your marriage? Will your kids think it’s worth it for you to work on your marriage? Five years down the road, will you regret investing in your marriage? “What if people knew?” Why not be a part of a growing movement of people who say, “The best thing we’ve done for our marriage is work with a marriage coach.” You can be part of normalizing this healthy habit so that someday it’s as routine for couples as having a physical, seeing the dentist, etc. We pay attention to the healthiness of other areas of life. Why not do the same for the most important relationship we have? Yes, I sometimes blow it in my marriage. When I do, I’m left with a decision: Will I allow discouragement to steal my commitment to this relationship? Or will I choose to give myself and my spouse grace and have a fresh dedication to building our dream one day at a time? So, I choose to live the philosophy that I espouse for my coaching clients: A thriving marriage can happen today. Today’s agenda for my husband and me reflects that. Connect with our family coach (yes, we value an outside perspective for our relationship, too!). A coffee date with my lover (okay, a coffee mocha for him and a green iced tea with no sweetener for me. “Coffee date” just sounds so much cooler than a “tea date”). Time with our kids this evening. Of all the things that could demand our attention, nothing is more important than building this dream we share.

Michelle Klavohn is a family coach with more than 20 years experience in the field of Human Development. She has a master’s degree in communication and has been a communication educator for 10 years. She and her husband, Jon, have been married for 23 years and have two children, Kate and Carson.


The Marriage, Inc. Impact Award is given annually to an individual or a couple who has made significant investments in the marriages of couples in the greater Kankakee County area. This year’s recipients are Steve and Linda Sweeney. They have left their mark not only on Marriage, Inc. as an organization, but also on the good people of Cornerstone Church in Bourbonnais where they both attend. When Marriage, Inc. asked Cornerstone Associate Pastor Rod Franklin for his comments on Steve and Linda, he replied, “I don’t know any couple, in or out of our church, who has more of a gentle servant’s heart.” Marriage, Inc. agrees. The Sweeneys have demonstrated tireless work on behalf of marriages in Kankakee County. For years, they have taught classes in their home on how to be a godly wife and husband. At Cornerstone Church, they have led and continue to lead two different small groups, one of which was specifically for married couples. They have led mission trips to Red Bird mission, and their contact with couples on the mission field has impacted many lives. They demonstrate the gift of hospitality in remarkable ways. Steve and Linda have been trained through Marriage, Inc. as marriage mentors and have mentored numerous couples who are preparing for marriage. They have served on the Marriage, Inc. committee since its founding, making vital contributions to this ministry. The Sweeneys are great role models for marriage in our community. We are pleased to present the 2015 Marriage, Inc. Impact Award to Steve and Linda Sweeney of Cornerstone Church in Bourbonnais.


. C N I , E G A I R MAR ARD - 2015 W A T C A P M I

da Steve and Lin Sweeney



Dr. Kent and Beth Olney

Lessons from a Wedding Psalm In 38 years of marriage, we’ve learned this timeless truth: The quality of our marriage does not depend on the monumental events or big decisions of life — how much money we earn, whether we take an anniversary cruise, the size of our house or even how we respond to an unexpected family crisis. We have discovered over time that the little things matter most in determining the health and level of satisfaction in our marriage. How we talk, our priorities, how we treat the other (both in private and public) and our ability to laugh are all better reflections of our marriage’s well-being than are securing tickets to a favorite Broadway production or the value of our 401(k).


We are not sure why it has taken us so long to learn this truth. Perhaps it is because we are prone to invest so much time and energy pulling off what we hope will be viewed as impressive accomplishments. After achieving a goal, we naturally want to sit back and congratulate ourselves for being such exemplary spouses. The reality is, however, that simple daily habits and responses contribute more to our marriage than the occasional spectacular events. In her 2013 book, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, author Shaunti Feldhahn confirms this truth (see pages 6-7 of this magazine). So does a much older writing, Psalm 45, which carries the interesting title of “A Wedding Song” (or “A Song of Loves,” in the classic King James version). We encourage you to read it for yourself and discover its enduring marriage message. The psalm begins by referring to marriage as a “noble theme” (v. 1), one that is worth considering. In other words, we do ourselves a favor when we pause to think about marriage and how we might get the most out of it. When a couple dares to do that, the results may be surprising.

Suggested in this psalm are several profound and yet unexpected principles for making an attractive husband and a magnificent wife – descriptions that, by the way, are both implied in the psalm. The first half of Psalm 45 speaks to the husband, who is referred to as “the most excellent of men” (v. 2). What would it take today for a husband to earn that title from his wife? How might he become so attractive to his spouse that he is thought of in this way? Hints are given as the psalm unfolds. Here are five defining characteristics: · Graceful talk, which means not just what is said, but also how one says it · Splendid character, including an emphasis on truth, humility and making wise choices · Commendable priorities that are plain for all to see, applaud and imitate · Cheerful disposition, wherein others are encouraged and find their spirits lifted · Respectful interactions, such that others are consistently and genuinely honored Not one of these has a price tag. Yet, their value to any marriage is enormous. At first glance, each trait may seem relatively small, but each has vast potential to transform a relationship. Men, take note.

Not one of these has a price tag. Yet, their value to any marriage is enormous.


The second part of the psalm addresses the bride. Practical tips, if observed, would make any man feel he had a magnificent or “royal” (v. 9) bride. How might a wife enhance the possibility of being considered magnificent by her husband? What are some qualities she might develop to elevate her in the eyes of her husband? Psalm 45 points to several possibilities, including: · Listening well, so that genuine communication takes place · Forgetting the past and adopting new loyalties and patterns · Cultivating beauty for the purpose of pleasing and honoring her husband · Contributing socially by winning others’ favor and thus becoming a public asset · Developing friendships that are healthy, pleasant and mutually enriching Again, what is noteworthy is that this list contains ideas that are far from extraordinary. Ladies, minor adjustments often have a profound impact.

Dr. Kent and Beth Olney serve as co-directors of Marriage, Inc. Both are employed at Olivet Nazarene University, where Kent is professor of Sociology and chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences. Beth directs the Center for Student Success. They are parents to Luke and Kyle, and grandparents to Autumn and Kamden, the children of Kyle and his wife, Amber.

Psalm 45 contains three overarching truths. One, despite what scoffers might say, a good marriage is possible. Two, God’s Word can help us attain such a marriage. Those who dare to live by biblical principles will uncover helpful instruction and insight to enhance their relationships. Three, little things really do matter most when it comes to creating a successful and happy marriage. No one needs to wait 38 years to discover that.


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“This book will change how all of us think and talk about marriage and divorce.” —Lysa Terkeurst, president of Proverbs 31 Ministries “In 32 years of marriage ministry, I have been demoralized at times by the negative statistics quoted. And now I am ecstatic as I read the truth in this incredible book.” —Jimmy Evans, Founder of MarriageToday and Senior Pastor of Trinity Fellowship Church “Shaunti’s thoroughly researched book will inject life and hope, not only into our national consciousness about marriage, but also into every individual marriage in the country.” —Dr. Tim Clinton, President of American Association of Christian Counselors

“Believers who put their faith into practice — who worship together and pray together — are much more likely to enjoy stable and happy marriages. This is good news indeed.”

—W. Bradford Wilcox, National Marriage Project Director, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia

Did You Know?

The actual divorce rate has never come close to 50%. Church attendance makes a HUGE difference. Most marriages are strong and happy for a lifetime.

What does this mean for you?

If you are a marriage champion — a pastor, counselor or simply someone who cares about marriages — you need to know this new information! As one marriage leader put it, “If this is true, the implications are enormous.” Next steps: · Read the book · Discuss findings with fellow leaders · “How does this change how we talk about marriage?” · “How does this change how we counsel couples?” · Visit for leaders to find: · Brief videos · Interviews with national leaders discussing the implications and potential changes · A slide share presentation with key info and research · Bulk discount information MARRIAGE INC. MAGAZINE | 23

Kenneth and Marlene Carr are pastors at Total Restoration Christian Center in Kankakee, Illinois. Married for 26 years, the Carrs have six children, a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren.



Laura Wasson Warfel


“Marriage has a lot of seasons,” says Marlene Carr as she looks toward her husband, Kenneth. “We got married on Christmas Day. It was beautiful with temperatures in the 70s. The next morning, there was a blizzard and 10 inches of snow.” Weathering those seasons and growing closer than ever is one of the secrets to a successful marriage. God uses those testing times to bring strength and a closer walk with Him.


Marriage Made in Music When Kenneth was 16 years old and playing saxophone in a community gospel choir, he met 15-year-old Marlene – a singer in the choir – after a rehearsal. Her sister introduced them. In 1988, their lives merged. They married and, with a lot of support from their families, they began their own family. Today, they are the parents of six children – three still at home, and two married – and have two grandchildren. “We are grateful for our beautiful family,” Marlene says. “They work with us in ministry. We couldn’t ask for better kids.” Kenneth is a pastor, and Marlene ministers alongside him. She is also an independent consultant for beauty brand Mary Kay®. For many years, they enjoyed a happy, productive, busy life together. But then the unthinkable happened.

Lost in the Blizzard After 20 years together, the couple endured a long season of struggle. They owned a business that went bankrupt. Marlene’s mother passed away, and Kenneth’s father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Kenneth’s ministry demands increased, and he was often away from their home. And they found themselves dealing with infidelity. Either one of them could have made the decision to walk away. In 2009, Marriage, Inc. — unaware of the marital struggles the Carrs were facing — invited them to become marriage mentors for couples in the greater Kankakee area. “After ministering to others and praying for them, you feel like you’ve arrived and you’re strong,” Kenneth says. “But we were in a very difficult place in our own marriage. Thanks be to God that he spoke to me.”


When the Carrs accepted the invitation, they began mentor training. They soon realized that their own marriage needed repair. “At the first training session, I was so broken,” Kenneth says. “I said to God: ‘If You don’t do something for us, I will not make it.’ I’ll never forget that night. I was feeling so helpless and hopeless. I felt like no one understood what we were facing.” As Kenneth listened to the presenters, he wondered why he hadn’t heard all this before their marriage was tested. During those sessions, he learned about the responsibilities of husband and father. “I recognized my position of being the covering,” he says. “I had to decide and confess that everything fell back on my leadership as the husband.” “Marriage, Inc.’s training in that time gave us the ‘to do’s’ and the ‘not to do’s,’” Marlene says. “The community we found through Marriage, Inc. gave us the support we needed.”

Walking on Sunshine Kenneth and Marlene have weathered those storms. Now, they make it a point to have fun every day – laughing, teasing, finding pleasure in the smallest things of life. One of their greatest joys is helping other couples define and navigate their marriages.

Laura Wasson Warfel is a full-time employee of the Olivet Nazarene University Office of Marketing and Engagement and a long-time author and writer who enjoys sharing glimpses of God’s healing power in relationships. She and her best friend of 25 years shared seven years of marriage before he passed away 12 years ago. She has three children who are married and raising families in Oklahoma and Texas, where she loves vacationing and spending time with her grandkids.

“Love the Lord and have a relationship with Christ. That’s number one,” Kenneth advises. “Listen to wisdom and realize that you don’t know everything about marriage. Make your spouse the most important person in your life.” Marlene adds, “Be serious, but don’t be so serious. Start new every day. Love the Lord, and allow God’s purposes to be fulfilled in your life together.”


Michelle Klavohn


John and Steph Reynolds started out like many young couples in love. Came from Christian homes. Met at a Christian college. Dated a year. Engaged a year. Beautiful wedding filled with big dreams. The honeymoon lasted several years and, in Steph’s mind, felt “too good to be true.” During the first few years, they focused on each other. Then new priorities began piling up. Three babies in three years. John’s growing career in software development in Chicago. Long commutes. Steph’s attention went toward the kids. John became more and more engaged with his growing responsibilities at work. In Steph’s words, “Our marriage should have been over many times. There were deep, deep hurts. Most people would say I should’ve walked away.”

Hit by the Enemy’s Bag of Tricks When the first crash came, John and Steph reached out for help. Counseling was a crucial piece that held them together. Their counselor urged them to surround themselves with a circle of people who would be real and authentic with them, and with whom they could be completely honest. Both acknowledge that their spiritual lives at that point were more about image and tradition than a transformational faith. Steph admits, “I feel that we were tricked by the enemy that we were ‘saved’ when really our spiritual lives were very superficial.” “I had John on a pedestal where God needed to be,” she adds. “John is not the one who can truly meet my needs. That is a place only God can fill. Jesus was the only one I could cling to.”

John recognizes now that he was living a very compartmentalized life with a high value on his image. “I was one person at work, one person at home, and another person when I was by myself,” he says.

Help at the Bottom Sadly, that disconnect led to another crisis for the Reynolds’ marriage. This time, they were surrounded by authentic, grace-giving, truth-telling people who believed that God could bring them through. “I was extremely careful about who I listened to for input,” Steph expresses. “Even people with very good intentions can give input that is damaging.” Steph determined that the Holy Spirit was guiding her to stay with John and that godly wisdom was the only way their marriage would stay intact. She resolved to live in the truth of Philippians 4:8 which says, “… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure … think about such things.” This was also a time of spiritual rebirth for John. As he says, “I had to admit that whatever I’d been doing was not working. I’d hit rock bottom. I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed the grace and strength of Christ.” To other couples in similar situations, John and Steph say, “If you believe that God’s ideal plan for life is for you to have one spouse, then please believe it is possible for Him to facilitate that. You can get through it. He is capable of healing the hurt and the brokenness.”


Happy with God’s Blessings Now, at the 14-year mark, the Reynoldses’ spiritual growth is evident. Their family is intact. As he reflects on their journey, John says: “The bond you feel after making it through such places is phenomenal.” John 10:10 is a verse that has become a transformational anchor for their relationship, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. But I (Christ) have come that they might have life abundantly.” This verse bonded John and Steph as a team to conquer issues together, to not be shackled by past guilt or fear of the future. John and Steph urge other couples to make their relationship a priority and not wait until a crisis hits to invest in building a strong marriage: “Satan might have won some battles along the way, but He isn’t going to win the war for our marriage. Don’t give up.”

The Reynolds Family: John and Steph have been married 14 years and attend Parkview Christian Church. They have three energetic and joyful children — Ella (9), Ethan (7) and Gracie (6).

“I have come that they might have life abundantly.” – John 10:10 The Reynoldses’ daily reminder to trust God in their lives and in their marriage to each other.


COUNSELORS & COACHES Diana Bartling is a licensed clinical professional counselor with a master’s degree in Counseling from Governors State University. She has more than 13 years of experience in helping families find creative solutions to their problems. Diana is a member of the American Counseling Association and the American Association of Christian Counselors. She is certified in stress management, critical incident stress management and divorce mediation/conflict resolution. 815-928-8573 Jorge Bonilla has learned a few things about marriage during his lifetime. As a marriage coach, his desire is to share what he has learned and bring couples from the brink of divorce to a renewed and healthy relationship. As he comes alongside couples who are looking for a better way – and a way to stay together for life – Jorge helps them focus on how to find fun and enjoyment with each other. 815-351-1476 Ben Kunz’s clinical interests include relational problems in marriage and family, parent coaching, assistance with life transitions, low self-esteem, abuse recovery, addiction recovery, mood and anxiety disorders, and integration of faith and psychology. Engaging and compassionate, Dr. Kunz utilizes a holistic, practical and collaborative approach that is strength-based and integrates many theoretical orientations. He challenges and encourages his patients toward healthy balance in the psychological, physical, social and spiritual realms. · 815-214-9872 · Michelle Klavohn holds a master’s degree in communication and has more than 20 years of experience in the field of Human Development and 10 years as a communication educator. She works to help families close the gap between the realtionships they dream of and those they experience each day. She regularly writes for Marriage, Inc. and Family magazine, and for the website as an expert in family and parenting. She passionately pursues her vision to partner with families who want to thrive. · 815-592-5223 · Hank Zwirkoski is an acclaimed, experienced, board-certified licensed clinician. Hank provides professional mental health counseling, marital assessment and therapy, and life skills training with great care, compassion and competence. During weekends, he also provides 15 hour Couple Counseling Intensives at The Ravines Retreat Center. Hank’s complete profile and endorsements can be viewed on LinkedIn. · 1-888-545-5707, ext.29 ·

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By Dr. Edward H. Heck, Senior Pastor, Kankakee First Church of the Nazarene

Our gracious Father, we humbly and passionately come before Your throne to cry out on behalf of our marriages. We come to acknowledge our great need for Your Voice to speak to our hearts. We ask You to clear away all of the dissonant influences that distract, distort and diminish our ability to hear Your gentle whisper. We commit ourselves to first hear and then respond in obedience to Your Spirit at work within us. As a declaration of our faith, we seek You as our first priority, not our last resort! We rise to the challenge together, as husbands and wives, to love You, to seek You and to honor You in our marriage and family life. You alone are the source of our hope, healing and help. Guide us, teach us and protect us from the icy cold blast of our culture’s insistent tendency to drift farther and farther from You. Help us to see our great need for You in every part of our lives, but especially our marriages. We really do need You. We desperately need You. Without You at the very center of our marriages we

will cave in to the pressure of this world and join the ranks of those who have no hope. So, gracious God, “bring to a flourishing finish” the good work You have started in us. Be exalted and enthroned as Lord in our marriages. Now, for all those who today are hurting, or who are wavering in their commitments to You and to one another, we offer a prayer that boldly asks You to restore their hope! Tear down any wall that has been built between them. Fill in all of the empty places that have created a distance between them. Show them where they need confession, clarity and correction. Quiet all of the voices that fight against them. Fine-tune their ears to hear only Your Voice. We triumphantly stand on the truth of Your Word. We hold fast to the hope that with You “all things are possible”, even in a world that stands in opposition to You and Your desires for us. Be glorified in our marriages, I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Marriage Inc., Magazine '15  

In this edition of Marriage, Inc. Magazine we want to tell you a few stories of couples experiencing happy marriages in our own community. W...

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