Vision First. Then Goals.

Vision First. Then Goals.

Vision first. Then goals. Many couples use the beginning of a calendar year, or an anniversary as a stopping point to reflect and create goals. But sometimes goals by themselves cause more strife than they’re worth. How do you know if your goals are working for you? Consider…

Having difficulty with goals - maybe you need a shared vision before you work on goals (1)

If you have goals as a couple, are they difficult to complete, or are you feeling divided or at odds with your spouse over these goals?

Maybe setting out a vision first would be a good idea…

Vision: a statement that holds your hopes and dreams.

Imagine your vision as a point on the horizon. The direction you’re traveling to get to that vision is the mission, and all the goals along the way are propelling your mission. And your values as husband and wife are the signposts or rumble strips keeping you on the road. Read HERE about values.

Some might suggest that you need a family vision – but Rob and I would argue that you and your spouse lead your family – so it’s really a vision that is spelled out by the two of you.

But first… the vision.

A unified vision is powerful for a husband a wife.

Ask these questions when defining your vision as husband and wife…

  • Why are we doing what we’re doing and involved in what we’re scheduled in?
  • How are we making a positive difference in the lives of others?
  • Who will benefit, now and in the future?
  • What do we want to get out of this? (ask regarding all those items you’re involved in.)
  • What does real success look like, and what does it feel like?

Pray. Ask God to lead your thoughts and desires around these questions. God knows what’s best for the two of you – ask Him!

When you’ve set the vision, then you have something solid to build goals around and encourage each other in.

Keep the hope for that better vision front and center.

Build your goals around the vision and keep your progress in check with your shared values.

Where there is no vision, the people perish…

~ Proverbs 29:18  KJV

enrich and grow your marriage with mentoring

We’d be honored to come alongside you and your spouse for a time… to walk with you through developing a vision, mission, goals and of course, values! Click HERE for more information.

vision first then goals - questions to ask each other when setting vision as husband and wife (1)


Family Reflection and Stories – Doing “Plates” to finish the year.

Family Reflection and Stories – Doing “Plates” to finish the year.

Family Reflection and stories. These are a tradition at the end of every year in our family circle. It began in 2000 – the year we moved to the USA when Rob brought some markers and paper plates to our Christmas Eve celebration. In the years since 2000, we’ve had additions to the family reflection – those who joined us for a few years and those whose time was their “first” time. Even the grandboy has his “Plates” from the year he was born, last year and this year!

Family Reflection and stories - Finishing Well - How we do Plates as a family as an exercise in reflecting back on the year. It is a tradition since 2000

We wrote about this idea on the Lead LIke Jesus blog and suggested some family reflection ideas too! – check it out!

Before we begin the new plates we review the old “plates”. We look through what we’ve drawn or written on our “Plates” from years ago. Our “Plates” detail our children’s growth from teens to adults, and into marriage. Of course, the grandboy is on our plates too! The highs and the lows are all there. (Because that’s life, right? Not every year is a good one. Sometimes you’re celebrating that a year is done!)

After this many years, we have quite a collection to reflect on and tell stories! There are bursts of laughter and excitement as we reflect and say, “I remember when…”

How do you reflect on the past year as a family?

Stories are such an important part of a family’s heritage. Where do they come from? You need a catalyst for family reflection and stories.  

  • Our catalyst to tell stories is our end of the year “Plates”. After our newest plates are completed we go around the table and explain what each word or image represents from that past year. The highs/wins are celebrated with rousing applause or a toast, and the lows are commiserated with by verbal encouragement. You choose what’s on your “Plate”, what you want to share and what you want to remember.
  • Christmas letters can be a way to reflect on the past year. Re-reading them is a fun way to reflect and tell stories. Anne Markey talks about a family tradition her father began five years ago – he asked the family to write up a letter about their past year instead of giving gifts. And then they took turns reading those letters to each other, even if some of them had to connect via technology! One year that’s how she and her husband announced they were expecting their second child!
  • Photos.  Pulling out a family album and talking about those who are still there, those who have grown up, and those who have gone into eternity is a wonderful way to create a family reflection time.

Family reflection and stories – a time to slow down and remember.

Building in time to reflect and tell stories gives the opportunity to slow down.

Slowing down – isn’t that a precious gift at the holidays?

How do you build in time for family reflection and stories?



3 Easy and Simple Gifts when Finances are Tight

3 Easy and Simple Gifts when Finances are Tight

Easy and simple gifts? Giving gifts together – what’s your strategy as husband and wife?

Sure, you’d delight to give your loved ones their hearts’ desires with money as no barrier… Rob and I would like to do that too. However, your finances as a husband and wife team might not support what you’d wish to give as Christmas or a birthday approaches.

In truth, those who you love don’t care what you give them – your presence would be gift enough. But what if you can’t even give that? The holidays can be a bittersweet event when we’re feeling bound by circumstance. What can you do to make these days more sweet than bitter?

There are still easy and simple gifts you can give as a husband and wife team, even if you’re in a tight spot.

3 easy and simple gifts when finances are tight.

Rob and I have had to do a bit of brainstorming this season. The way we would choose to celebrate with our loved ones isn’t the way it’ll work out. (Unless our loving God changes circumstances.) Here are three of the easy and simple gifts we came up with:

1 – Pray as a husband & wife team for those you love.

We forget sometimes what a beautiful gift praying for one another can be. No matter age or stage, those we love have needs where only God can make a difference. There’s still time to ask those you love about their needs, and then spend time each day, as husband and wife, praying for them. Start now.

Prayer has no cost. And the gift of intercession for your loved ones lasts into eternity.

Begin simply if you’ve never prayed together before. Here’s a post on how to easily do that. And if you need help remembering to fit prayer into your day (because we’re all busy right now), then try some of these ideas!

2 – Use technology to visit those you love. Make a date.

And as the special day comes closer, whether it’s Christmas or a birthday or some other occasion, arrange a time to connect. If you can visit in person that’s perfect. Otherwise draw close to each other via a Facetime, Zoom or Skype video call. Even a telephone call with that person can be valuable. Talking and sharing are easy and simple gifts.

When you’re together – pray together. And share a cup of tea or coffee and a cookie or cake on both ends. Do those things you’d do if you were together. Share photos. Tell a story. Talk about how much you value and appreciate your loved one. Play a game. Be creative.

As an aside: Our son just purchased a Virtual Reality headset – the technology is still new, but when we tried it Rob and I could see the possibilities… Maybe within a few years, we’ll be able to use this VR technology to “sit” with those far away, as though we’re in the same room. I can’t explain the extraordinarily immersive experience of VR. You really need to try it to understand. It’s truly amazing!

3 – Share a warm gift delivered to their door.

When distance separates you and your loved ones, there is still the opportunity to mail or ship a little something. However, if finances are a challenge then you also need to be aware of shipping/mailing costs. Rob and I need to mail items across the US border, so the costs skyrocket if we’re not careful.

As I mentioned, we did some brainstorming and came up with something those we love will appreciate, we can “share” the experience with them, and the shipping costs will be minimal. See? Easy and simple gifts. Guess what it is?


I ordered a variety of tea flavors from Stash Tea and made little easy and simple gifts to open. 

Tea bags are light, and if they’re packaged correctly they’ll easily fit into an envelope. The mailing costs will be minimal, but the enjoyment will last for days! And behind every tea bag in their own little envelope, I added a Scripture verse to encourage and surprise. God is faithful.  All things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. These are good reminders for all of us!

Now we can have our long-distance visit via technology, while all of us sip our tea!

Below the image are the instructions if you want to try your hand at these easy and simple gifts! Keep Scrolling!

Christmas Gift to Share - 3 Easy and Simple Gifts to Give when finances and distance are a barrier - Encourage Your Spouse

Here’s a craft to try – even for those who aren’t “crafty”. 😉

You’ll need one 12×12 cardstock, three pieces of 8.5×11 decorative paper, 6 Scripture verses printed (see below for 2 PDFs to download), glue, scissors, a decorative punch for the embellishment and little sticky foam dots.

  1. Cut the 12×12 cardstock to 8.5×11. Use the leftover strip to cut out 6 embellishments to put on the outside of each envelope.
  2. Cut each of the 8.5×11 decorative paper pieces (not cardstock) into two 5.5inchx5.5inch pieces. With the leftover strips punch out 4 embellishments – you’ll be gluing two embellishments into the inside of each envelope.
  3. Fold a 5.5×5.5 inch piece of decorative paper around one tea bag to begin making the envelope. (You’ll eventually glue each envelope onto the cardstock.) Turn the 5.5×5.5 paper like a diamond, fold the sides first, then the top and bottom. See the photo below. Do this with all 6 pieces of 5.5×5.5 decorative paper you’ve cut out.Easy and simple gifts - how to make a surprise tea envelope
  4. In the middle of each 5.5×5.5 envelope glue on two embellishments and a scripture verse. Place the tea bag into the envelope and refold it with the Tea bag inside. Use one of the cardstock embellishments (the same as the cardstock you will be gluing the envelope onto) and use the little sticky foam circles to secure the envelope closed. One foam circle at the top of the circle and one at the bottom so they secure the top and bottom fold closed. Do this with all 6 envelopes. I found it’s easier to open the envelope with these foam circles than using glue.
  5. Glue the 6 envelopes to the 8.5×11 cardstock. You’re done!Surprise Tea Gift - Easy and Simple Gifts to make when finances are tight.

When your recipient opens the envelope they find a different tea bag every time,

and a difference Scripture verse to encourage them!

Click to download the first 6 Scripture

and click AGAIN HERE for the second page of 6 Scripture options


Here’s the embellishment punch I used – It’s called the Fiskars X-Large Squeeze Punch, Seal of Approval

and a paper cutter/trimmer is handy to use instead of scissors if you’re at all like me and can’t seem to cut a straight line!


Take a look at STASH TEA

So many varieties of tea – something for everyone! (Even those who say they don’t like tea!)

This post contains affiliate links – this means that should you choose to purchase any items, then Rob and I would receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for your support! 


Make Memories in 2018 – Don’t add to your stuff!

Make Memories in 2018 – Don’t add to your stuff!

Make memories – don’t add to your stuff. Living in 282 square feet for more than three years has taught Robert and me that we don’t need as much stuff as we might believe we do…  but the memories we’ve made over the last years are priceless.

I encourage you and your spouse to think about what you could give to each other, your family and friends that would increase their “memory bank” – not their clutter.

Make Memories in 2018

What gifts could you give to your family, spouse, and friends that are designed to make memories? Try these!

1 – Classes or lessons to learn a new skill.

Ask a few questions to determine if there are any skills your spouse has always wanted to learn but hasn’t taken the time to explore. Consider:

  • horse-back riding
  • gourmet cooking
  • scuba diving, sailing or paddle boarding
  • rock climbing or parachuting
  • chocolate making
  • photography or videography
  • flower arranging or pottery making
  • yarn or fabric work – knitting, crochet, sewing, weaving, etc.
  • sports – golf, tennis, racketball, swimming, kick-boxing etc.
  • dance – swing, ballroom, line-dancing, etc.
  • computer skills – html, css, website design, etc.
  • writing – fiction stories or a book, or a children’s picture book
  • gardening – raising vegetables, nurturing orchids or succulents, herbs, etc.
  • landscaping – adding a pond, or rock walls, a putting green or orchard to your space
  • music – learning an instrument or joining an ensemble, or group to sing
  • health and fitness – tai chi, heart-healthy cooking, yoga, lifestyle makeover, etc.

Instead of adding stuff to your space, why not make some memories together while taking a class? You could attend something local or use YouTube or a streaming service!

Grokker is a valuable site with lessons in some of the above areas. Get unlimited Grokker Videos for 14 Days to try it out!
Free Basic Membership Available

Use the 1 to 10 Test!

When Rob and I want to see how the other feels about a certain activity, we ask each other…

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you feel about ______”

If you use the 1-10 Test to determine how your spouse feels about a certain activity, you’ll be much more likely to hone in on a winner!

Take it one step further – ask if your children & friends want to join you in making memories!

You don’t need to do these things with only you and your spouse. (Although that’s always fun, too!)  Invite others to join you! We’ve had some really fun times with other couples and their children.

2 – Memberships

What about the gift of regular explorations? Consider memberships at:

  • museums, and art galleries
  • sports, historical or theme parks
  • national or state parks

Having a family membership for a year at a park or museum means you can gather with your family and friends on a regular basis for a low-cost memory-making event. It takes the planning and cost off the table, and just allows you and those you love to explore!

One of the best things we ever did with our children when they were pre-teens was to have a membership to the Ontario Science Center. Another family also bought their year-round membership and though it was an hour away, we’d go exploring monthly. Our children (and the other family’s children) are now adults, but it remains one of their favorite memories. When our son and family visited Canada he even added an excursion to the Science Center to share those memories with his wife and baby boy. Memories are priceless and continue to add to the legacy you leave as parents!

3 – Gift Cards

Now, I’m not talking about the generic Walmart or Target or Amazon gift card… (although everyone does appreciate receiving those too!)

What about a gift card to a movie or a favorite ice cream shop, or to play a round of mini-golf, or bowling? Think about a favorite restaurant or a symphony experience. Make a memory with an event!

Groupon is often a great resource when looking for an event style gift card.

We love to make memories with our adult children and grandboy!making memories - ferguson 6

4 – Subscription service for consumable delights!

With this kind of gift think about the five senses – and you can arrange for gifts for more than the holiday season…

  • monthly flowers  – delight your spouse with a bouquet of flowers from Bouq’s 

Bouqs 728x90


  • Wine! Rob and I have tried a new startup called Bright Cellars. It’s a wine subscription that helps you learn what kind of wines you like. It alleviates that deer-in-the-headlights feeling when looking at aisles and aisles of wine in the store – we wrote about the idea here.

Take the Bright Cellars quiz and discover wine you love!

Here’s a video of our daughter-in-love unboxing our first order!

Increase your memories – not your stuff!

These are just a few ideas for things to give to your loved ones to make memories in 2018. Some of them are affiliate links, which mean Rob and I will receive a small commission at no cost to you.

Do you have any other suggestions?

Have you tried any other “memory making” experiences that had a great impact?  Leave a comment and share!

ideas to make memories with your spouse and family - not clutter


Words Matter – What words surround you and those you love?

Words Matter – What words surround you and those you love?

Words Matter – your words, the words you read, and those you hear. Words matter to your spouse, to your children, to your guests and everyone you love. The message you give to those in your home shapes their day – their view of life and their understanding of what is important.

Words Matter – What are you doing to make a positive impact?

Is Facebook and social media the prevailing force in your life or the lives of those you love?  

We have a friend who is being deliberate about her words on Facebook. She is a mature lady, a Christ-honoring widow, and an example for me. She became specifically disturbed by all the negativity on her Facebook feed and decided she’d do something about it. Personally. Actively.

She began a deliberate campaign many months ago to post at least one positive thought each day.  Many people (online and in person) remark on her active choice to be optimistic. Recently I overheard a friend speaking to her about all the positive posts and how much it means to this friend…

We all can change our Facebook, Instagram, and other social media channels to reflect what is good, true, and positive. I’m joining my Christ-following, widowed friend in her online campaign… 

I challenge you too! 

Enjoy the moment - Item 2003725 - Great Big Canvas by Daphne Brissonnet Serene Moments IV Wall Art - Words MatterBut social media is only one way we consume words…

What words are in your home?

What forms of media are a part of your mental consumption?

Which shows do you watch or stream? Are they building you up — or pulling your mood down? How do you feel when you’ve finished watching these programs? Do you feel energized and positive about your life, world, and future?  If the television is on, it’s having an effect on everyone in the house – not just those who are actively watching.

What books or magazines are you reading?

Words Matter - This book is what is on the table beside my chair - you might guess where my thoughts are...

This book is what is on the table beside my chair – guess where my thoughts are…

Are you learning something new that will make a good impact on you, your spouse, your family and your community? Remember, even a book left sitting on the table influences everyone by the artwork on the cover. The influence might not even be conscious but it’s there. (Do you have a Bible? Does it have dust on it, or is it piled under every other book?)

What pictures are on your walls?  What’s on your ‘fridge?

Rob and I have been house/dog sitting in quite a few different environments over the last 3 years. Every home is unique and what is displayed is a choice they’ve made at a particular moment in their life. Is it still relevant for them at this time?

Rob and I have felt “at home” and comfortable in all the spaces we’ve stayed in… and we do take note of what’s displayed. (It’s hard not to!)  Some displays have even impacted what I write about here on Encourage Your Spouse or post on social media.

Are you in your house right now – as you read this post? 

If you’re not at home, think about your rooms.

What words/art would impact everyone in your home?Words Matter - Be Happy Wall Art by Jennifer Pugh Item 1988111 at Great Big Canvas

We’ve found a site with all kinds of art – including inspirational art with words. Click here to explore. Maybe this Christmas your “home” could have a gift under the tree with words to encourage, inspire, uplift and motivate! Words matter!

Or maybe for the upcoming Holidays including Thanksgiving, you want to gift your family, adult children, and friends with something that will inspire them? All the photos on this post are from This is one of the affiliates we’ve chosen to highlight for unique gift giving options. Other gifting options we’ve found are for wine and for tea! (It’s kinda humorous that a teapot I like has fun words.)

Below are a few other pieces of art from we think would have a positive impact on you and your spouse.

I think it’s cool that they’re available in a few different forms, including, of course, framed and unframed of various sizes, but also as a wall peel, printed on a reusable vinyl with a special adhesive that sticks to walls without harming them. The wall peel format would be good for Rob and me in our little house-on-wheels. (Hanging photos and traveling don’t go well together!)

Words Matter - The Teaching of Kindness by Cherie Burbach at Great Big Canvas - item 2496431

Words Matter - Gratitude Changes Everything wall art at Great Big Canvas Item 2406109 by Stephanie Ryan

Words Matter - Guide Me Wall Art by Dennis Frates Item 1988082 at Great Big Canvas-

What are the favorite words you have on your walls?

Leave a comment with what you want to influence your spouse – your family – and guests! With your comment, you can impact us too! 😉 Words matter!

Words matter - what is hanging on your walls and is it impacting your family

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