Married Monday: Marriage Advice for Dating, Engaged, and Newlywed Couples

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Ruth Bell Graham, wife of Billy Graham, said, “Love is not only ‘the union of two good forgivers,’ but also ‘the union of two good appreciators.'” Can’t say it better than that!

It’s important to remember that marriage is blending the lives of two sinners together. YOU are a sinner. YOU are deeply flawed and selfish. And you are marrying a sinner who is also deeply flawed and selfish. Getting married doesn’t automatically turn you into amazingly perfect, selfless people.

Sometimes, romance doesn’t look like flowers and fancy dates. Maybe it looks like one of you doing the dishes because you know the other one hates doing them. Maybe it’s finding a heart drawn in the fog on the mirror when you get out of the shower. Maybe it’s just putting your phones away for an hour, sitting on the couch, and talking about your week. Your methods of showing affection will deepen in value, and gestures of love take on brand new meaning as seasons of life change.

Never, ever, EVER compare yourself or your marriage to others, especially via social media. You will end up feeling prideful or resentful, and neither is healthy.

Know that for every expectation you have for your spouse, they will have one for you too. You’ll find out really fast how “stuck in your ways” both of you are. But also know that while both of your expectations may be valid, you both need to bend a little. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect your spouse to do all the changing and adjusting in your relationship while you refuse to adapt a little for them.

Your marriage relationship is a picture to the rest of the world about the way God loves His people. Are you displaying an accurate picture?

You will never completely fulfill each other. I know it may be hard to imagine (partially because movies have given us unrealistic expectations for the things our spouse is ‘supposed’ to do and say), but there will always be gaps that no one but the Lord can fill. Ruth Bell Graham also wisely said, “I pity the married couple who expect too much from one another. It is a foolish woman who expects her husband to be to her that which only Jesus Christ Himself can be: ready to forgive, totally understanding, unendingly patient, invariably tender and loving, unfailing in every area, anticipating every need, and making more than adequate provision. Such expectations put a man under an impossible strain. The same goes for the man who expects too much from his wife.”

Guard your heart persistently. There are so many things competing for your attention – romance novels, sex-saturated movies, pornography, flirtatious coworkers – and Satan will use as many as he can to steal your affection for your spouse, in obvious ways and scarily subtle ways. Don’t let him. Protect your marriage.

Don’t forget that you are on the same team! When you face conflict, try to view the situation as “the couple vs. the problem” rather than “the husband vs. the wife.” You are teammates on the same side, not enemies in opposite corners of a boxing ring.

Respect and kindness are gifts. At some point (even if it’s just for one 10-minute argument), your spouse will not deserve them. Give them anyway. They are much easier to give when they are earned, but it is much more powerful to give them when they aren’t.

Learn to pick your battles, because some things just aren’t worth arguing about. Don’t look for reasons to be upset. Instead, think long-term and ask yourself, “Ten years from now, will I be glad I fought for this? How important will it be in a few decades that we didn’t agree about this, or that he did what I wanted?” 

Pride will ruin your relationship. You will become mentally, emotionally, and spiritually unhealthy very quickly if you are too stubborn to ask for forgiveness, to accept a genuine apology, or to ask for help when you need it.

Physical attraction and sexual compatibility are a really shaky foundation to build your life on. They are like lighter fluid on a relationship: it will burn hot and bright for a short while, but when there is no other substance underneath to fuel it, the flame will inevitably fade and fail.

Make having fun a priority in married life, not just in your dating life. Don’t let  new responsibilities and schedules and busyness dampen your spirit and spontaneity. Marriage can be SO FUN, more fun than anything else you do, so decide that fun is important and make time for it!

Learn your spouse’s love language as early as possible, and look for ways to show your affection in the way that means the most to him or her – acts of service, gifts, quality time, physical touch, or words of affirmation.

So often, when someone has a problem with his or her spouse, they talk to everyone else BUT their spouse about it. Don’t do this. If your husband is frustrating you, talk to HIM about it and deal with it together.

The best time to invest in your marriage is before you’re struggling. Read marriage books together, go to a conference, or plan a weekend getaway somewhere specifically to spend time reconnecting. The time and money you sacrifice will be worth it in the long run.

Pray so hard for your marriage. Never stop praying for each other and with each other. Pray as if your lives depend on it, because they do. 


This post is part of “Married Monday,” a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?

Listicle Series: Movies I Never Get Tired of Watching

Want to know how to make me really happy? Gimme a big pile of snacks, plop down on the couch with me, and tell me that we’re going to spend all day watching movies. Some people might see that as a waste of time, but not me. Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time, and watching movies all day would be a day very well spent. There’s something totally delicious about losing yourself in the plot of someone else’s story and getting swept away into their adventure, joy, melancholy, romance, laughter, action, and emotion.

Obviously, it would be impossible to list every movie I love – there are far too many! Instead, here’s a brief list of movies I never get tired of watching, no matter how many times I’ve seen them. Movies I will always stop flipping through channels for, no matter what else is on TV (this is Daniel’s main criteria for a good movie, by the way). Movies I could sit down and thoroughly enjoy at any given moment…….like right now!


My Much-Loved Flicks:

Morning Glory.

The Glass Bottom Boat.

Virtually any Christmas movie.

Inception.

Anne of Green Gables.

Harry Potter.

Singin’ in the Rain.

Mean Girls.

The Dark Knight Rises.

The Sound of Music.

Just Friends.

The Lord of the Rings.

North By Northwest.

Stardust.

Some Like It Hot.

Pretty much all Disney movies. But especially the Hayley Mills version of The Parent Trap, Anastasia, Inside Out, Beauty and the Beast, The Emperor’s New Groove, Swiss Family Robinson, The Princess Diaries, and the Lily James version of Cinderella. And Tangled and Moana and Frozen. And The Absent-Minded Professor. And That Darn Cat.
(Sorry.)


Brb….if you need me, I’ll be curled up on the couch for the rest of the month. ♥

Tell me, what is one of YOUR favorite movies?

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars

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In January 2017, Daniel and I started leading a small group (aka ‘foundation group’) for young married couples. Every other week, we met to discuss the books we were reading and go through the corresponding homework, and on the in-between weeks, we just had fun watching movies or bowling or eating meals together. Sometimes we would all stay together, and sometimes the guys and girls would split and do their own thing.

During the very first girls-only night we had, Sheridan made what we now affectionately refer to as “THE chocolate chip cookies.” They were just regular old oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but something – be it coconut oil, fierce sugar cravings, or an act of God – transformed them into warm, gooey pieces of heaven. Some of the best cookies any of us had ever had.

Also, it was probably the *sweetness* of community that made them special…

……………………..eh?

……………see what I did there?

Anyway.

These cookies became, as Kendra so perfectly put it, our foundation group mascot. I think almost all of us have made them at one point or another, and every time I make them, I associate them with friendship and wonderful memories.

However.

Sometimes, you just don’t feel like shaping 37 individual cookies.

So you get lazy and make a bar version.

And they turn out to be flippin’ delicious.

CHOCOLATE CHIP OATMEAL BARS

Prepare for a seriously emotional eating experience, because these are so good you might cry your guts out. 

PREP TIME: 15 MINUTES
COOK TIME: 20-25 MINUTES
YIELD: 15 BARS

INGREDIENTS

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
2½ cups old-fashioned oats
1½ cups brown sugar
1¼ cups butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla
2½ cups chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9×13 pan and set aside.
  3. Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Add old-fashioned oats, then brown sugar.
  4. Melt butter and pour into the bowl. Mix for one minute.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla, and mix until the dough is well-combined. It may be a little crumbly.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Press dough evenly into the prepared 9×13 pan.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  9. Test by sticking a knife or toothpick in the center. When it comes out clean, the bars are done. They may look a little underdone, but that’s okay – they should! That keeps them nice and moist.
  10. Allow to cool before cutting into bars….or just eat them straight out of the oven. Whatever floats your boat.

Burnt tongue advisory: because you’ll probably eat the whole pan immediately. 

**Original recipe found here at Jamie Cooks It Up!

Listicle Series: 12 Reasons that Fall is My Favorite Season

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Darker nail polish colors.

Apple cider.

The early morning / late night chill in the air.

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Layers, like soft sweaters and leather jackets…yum!

Soup season.

Pumpkins on the front porch.

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Candy corn.

The leaves changing colors.

Bonfires, corn mazes, and hayrides.

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Boots, beanies, and scarves.

Friendsgiving.

The knowledge that there are only 11 Mondays until Christmas. ♥

New Listicle Series + 7 Places to Find Good Eats

In the last decade, the internet (arguably Buzzfeed, more than anyone else) has popularized the “listicle,” or an article that appears in the form of a list. According to research, lists help organize our brains and save us time by breaking information down into bite-size pieces. Plus, to be honest, they are fun to read and share because they are typically more conversational than a traditional “article” or blog post.

To be even more honest, I LOVE LISTS! I have wanted to do a list series for a long time, and I finally decided to just do it! My goal is to share at least two listicles per month through the rest of the year. I thought it might be a fun way to share a little more about myself, and I’d love topic ideas from the audience, so please feel free to ask questions or offer suggestions in the comments. In the meantime, to kick it off, here’s a list of my favorite restaurants (in no particular order) and what I usually order!


Restaurants

  1. Hopdoddy Burger Bar. The Goodnight is usually my go-to burger, but the real hero is the Parmesan Truffle Fries with truffle aioli. I kind of want to cry every time I eat them.
  2. Braum’s. Hands down, my absolute favorite chocolate ice cream to date.
  3. The original Ceviche in Durant. It’s since been bought out and turned into another Mexican place, but the old Ceviche from when Daniel and I first got married was AMAZING. I’m still mourning the fact that I can’t ever have that grilled chicken salad dressing or the chicken + black bean ravioli again. RIP, Ceviche. :(
  4. Torchy’s Tacos. Holy WOW is this place good. I’ve tried several tacos but I love the Trailer Park the most. The chips and green chili queso are BOMB. And the Lil’ Nookies are to die for – fried chocolate chip cookie dough, guys. *drool*
  5. Shake Shack. Their cheese fries and salted caramel shakes give me life.
  6. Roma Italian in Durant. Tbh, I’ve had better pasta other places (like Scarpetta in Las Vegas), but I have had actual cravings for Roma’s Alla Pana sauce. I love to dip their warm rolls in it, and the Chicken Alla Panna Pizza is my current go-to.
  7. Chick Fil A. Don’t roll your eyes; y’all already know this is my place. My order is the same literally every time: #1, no pickles, fries, and a gallon of Chick Fil A sauce. #theLordschicken #itismypleasuretoserveyou

There’s about 112 other places that I also love, ranging from hipster to fancy to kinda trashy (Barrio’s in OKC, Hideaway Pizza, Rick’s Chophouse, Chili’s, Kobe Express, Hula Hut, Chuy’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Asian Gourmet, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle), but I figured I’d better start small with my first list or people might quit reading. ;) More listicles coming soon!

Tell me two of your favorite spots: one local and one chain!

Florida Vacay: Part 2

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From Part 1: When we got back to the beach house, I decided to go take a look at the ocean for the first time on the trip. It was so nice to be so close! We spent the rest of the day cooking, playing games, and watching movies….and prepared our minds for DISNEYWORLD!

I don’t know if I can explain how many dreams came true on this day. The entire time leading up to it – the road trip to the park, waiting in line to get our tickets, riding the ferry, walking down Main Street, U.S.A – it felt surreal. I kept saying, “Is this really happening??” I’ve wanted to go to Disney World since the very first Disney movie I ever watched, and I can’t thank my sweet parents enough for making this amazing trip a reality. ♥

To tell you the truth, we really didn’t take very many pictures. But I don’t even care, because we got the important ones and spent the rest of our time enjoying ourselves!

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Observations:

  1. HOLY CRAP there were so many people, and yet, the park operated very efficiently – we were really impressed!
  2. Even though we had to wait awhile for a couple of rides, the only one that wasn’t exactly worth the wait was the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. But only because it rained while we were in line and they had to close the ride down twice. By the time everything was said and done, we were too invested to just leave the line, so we stuck it out. It was still fun, but not exactly worth 3 hours of waiting…lol. *thumbs down* Other than that, the lines moved relatively quickly, and our second longest wait was for Space Mountain (which was expected, and also the first ride we did).
  3. Dole Whip lived up to the hype! So good!
  4. I literally have no idea how people do multiple parks in one day.
  5. Probably one of the best moments from the entire day was Mom getting to relive her college days and ride Space Mountain again – she never stopped laughing. :)

Funny enough, the place I took the most pictures (besides the castle) was the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse! This movie was a Simma kid favorite when we were growing up, and it was also the first movie Daniel and I watched together, the night we finally confessed that we liked each other. ♥

I know. We’re cute.

We spent the rest of our Florida days playing more games, watching more movies, and laying on the beach. Before Daniel and I flew home, we also got to meet some of Corey’s coworkers, learned how to play Jackbox games (which are awesome!!), and ate some seriously good Cuban food at Mambos Cuban Café. If you’re ever in Jacksonville, you neeeeeed to go there!

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Ready to go back! Just let us know when to take off work next summer, Dad… ;)

Florida Vacay: Part 1

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As of this summer, my first trip to Florida is officially in the books! What a great almost-week spent with my family. ♥ We hadn’t been all together since our group road trip to Colorado last year, so our time together was precious and long-overdue.

We stayed in this CHARMING beach house (which Dad has already said he would like to stay at again…!) that was only two blocks from the beach. My brother Corey moved to Jacksonville last Christmas for a new meteorologist position, and he worked at the station a few times while we were there. But he spent as much time with us as he could, and we filled our days with lots of fun outings, including beach trips, exploring St. Augustine, and a day at Disneyworld!

I really enjoyed our trolley tour of St. Augustine. Corey had taken Mom and Robyn when they visited him earlier in the year, but they both liked it so much that they decided they wanted to go back to show the rest of us. Trolleys stopped at 20+ locations across town, and you could hop on/hop off as many times as you wanted to see the sights (and get some gelato, of course).

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My people.

One particular place my dad wanted to stop and see was the Lightner Museum, a huge historic hotel in downtown St. Augustine. It was filled to the brim with bizarre collections of antiquities – everything from crystal dishes to shaving mugs to musical instruments to pocket watches. The picture above is a cafe now, but when the building was a hotel, it was actually a giant pool!

Daniel, Robyn, and I explored the St. Augustine distillery, which had a very cool atmosphere. We even got to taste-test a few things and try a sip of their bourbon on National Bourbon Day.

We met back up with Corey and my parents at the Castillo de San Marcos – the oldest masonry fort in the continental US. Unfortunately, we were a little too late to go inside, but it was still neat to walk around the outside, and the view of the bay was gorgeous!

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The Shades were reunited after all these years. ;)

When we got back to the beach house, I decided to go take a look at the ocean for the first time on the trip. It was so nice to be so close! We spent the rest of the day cooking, playing games, and watching movies….and prepared our minds for DISNEYWORLD!

Click here to read Part 2!

Hendrickson Family Photo Shoot

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I don’t have anything to say but WOW. This was such a great morning, and although I could write for days about how fun/sweet/loud it was spending those hours with Cromer & Co., I’m just going to let the photos speak for themselves. Enjoy! ♥♥♥

 

 

I still can’t get over how cute the photos of my in-laws are – Christy captured them so well, and she even got Steve to smile with his teeth! ;)

 

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And just look at these babes… ♥ ♥ ♥  I love being an aunt so much!

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Thanks again to Cromer & Co. for making our session such a terrific experience! Wrangling 17 people (including three very squirmy littles) is no easy feat, and Christy was a champ. Two thumbs way, way up. You can see more of their work on their websiteFacebook, and Instagram.

Daniel’s 30th Birthday Party

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I really might have outdone myself this time.

I know I say this about every party…(and I’ll probably never stop saying it)…but seriously, this was one of my all-time favs. I had so much fun planning it, and I did my very best to make it a party that DANIEL would like, not just a party that I wanted him to like. I owe a HUMONGOUS thank you to Les and Dara Wesberry, who graciously let me use their backyard/kitchen and went above and beyond to help me get everything ready – y’all, I could not have done this without you! I love you both! ♥

 

My inspiration for this party was Daniel’s favorite things: soft pretzels, backyard games, a bunch of his best bros, a cigar bar, and a scotch tasting.

I borrowed tables and chairs from our church, tablecloths and burlap runners (and the tree trimmings) from Dara, and started each place setting with a beer flight placemat from Target and a mini bottle of Jack tied to a bottle of Coke. I got to re-purpose my donut wall from Brianna’s baby shower for the soft pretzel bar, and desserts included chocolate cake in a jar and homemade cupcakes (chocolate whiskey and peanut butter cup).

 

My favorite part was the cigar and scotch bar. The vintage matchbooks were a unique touch, and the scotch was a Scottish Highlands brand that was new to most of the guys, but a huge hit nonetheless!

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I even managed to snag a picture with the birthday boy. ;)

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But before you start thinking that this party was perfect…let me assure you that one thing went terribly, terribly wrong. And that was the beer cheese. I had found a recipe on Pinterest that looked super easy, and it was super NOT. I don’t know exactly where I went wrong, but this was a MASSIVE party fail. Just goes to show that you never know what happens behind the scenes!

If you need help planning a party, let ya girl know – I’d love to get ice cream or coffee with you sometime and talk about your vision!

Married Monday: 21 Little Ways to Love Your Husband

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Look at those babies, y’all! ♥

Daniel and I were 23 and 21, respectively, when we took these engagement photos on that cold November day, and we were absolutely crazy about each other. I remember thinking, “How could I possibly love this guy more??” I couldn’t imagine feeling any more affection for him than I already did. But as we have experienced marriage together over the last six years, I have learned that love really can deepen, and methods of showing love can change. You find out that there’s way more to romance than flowers and date nights.

According to Gary Chapman, there are five emotional love languages, or ways that people feel loved by others: physical touch, receiving gifts, acts of service, quality time, and words of affirmation. Most people like all of them to a certain degree, but there are usually one or two that stand out more than the others. A lot of times, spouses don’t have the same love language, which is why it’s so important to be aware of what they are. A husband could spend all day doing acts of service for his wife because that’s what makes him feel cared for, but the wife will just be frustrated because he didn’t spend any quality time with her. Daniel and I are that way: he is pretty evenly split between physical touch and acts of service, and I am all about words of affirmation, although gifts is a really close second. Knowing what love language speaks the loudest to your husband (and to yourself) can be life-changing for your marriage.

If you’ve never taken the quiz before, give it a whirl and ask your husband to take it too. When you get his results, check out the ideas below for ways to love him in the way that’s most meaningful to him. If you aren’t married, you could even have your family members or close friends take the quiz to find out how to best show them love too!


PHYSICAL TOUCH:

  • Give him a back rub/neck rub/foot rub. Don’t wait for him to ask – offer!
  • Grab his hand anytime you’re walking together.
  • Prioritize intimacy. Receiving affection from him coldly or going long lengths of time without being together can be devastating to a “touch” husband.
  • Sit close and cuddle on the couch when you watch a movie.
  • Always make hugs and kisses part of your hellos and goodbyes.

RECEIVING GIFTS:

  • On your weekly grocery run, pick up his favorite snack. Instead of putting it in the pantry, tie it up with a bow and put it on his side of the bed for him to find later.
  • If he has an Amazon list or something similar, keep an eye on it and buy something off of it once in a while. Not for a birthday or anniversary; just because.
  • Make a special dessert you know he loves – bonus points if it’s something he likes but you don’t.
  • If you need gift ideas, pay attention to sentences that start with “I’ve always wanted ___.” (Personally, I keep a private note on my phone to keep track of things Daniel says he would love to do or own.)

ACTS OF SERVICE:

  • This skill grows with time, but learning to anticipate your husband’s needs can be a huge gift to him. Make his coffee while he’s in the shower. Replace his toiletries or favorite snacks before he runs out. Pack or lay out outfit ideas for him to pack when you go on vacation. Make sure the clothes he wears for work are clean and ready when he needs them. Intentionally watch for little ways you can make his life easier.
  • Do a chore for him that he dreads, liking mowing the lawn or taking out the trash.
  • Pamper him: run him a bath, bring him a cold drink, give him a warm towel straight out of the dryer, rub lotion into his tired feet, etc.
  • Get his car detailed for him, or detail it yourself.

QUALITY TIME:

  • Plan a fun day together or a date night – something he enjoys doing and something that will allow you to have comfortable conversations with each other.
  • Go for a scenic drive or take a walk and ask him these questions.
  • Ask for his advice about something and really listen to what he says. Show him that you value his input.
  • Whatever you’re doing together, put your phone away. The key word here is quality time. Don’t make him compete for your attention.

WORDS OF AFFIRMATION:

  • Write chalk love notes on the sidewalk for him to read when he gets home from work.
  • Text him throughout the day – how hot he looked when he was working out, how thankful you are to be his wife, how proud you were to see him serving in your church…the mushier, the better!
  • When he works hard on a project or does something nice for you, point it out and tell him how much you appreciate it.
  • Hide a sweet card for him to find in his sock drawer, his car, or his briefcase.

A couple of caveats for these lists:

First of all, I am NOT advocating that a wife should be the only giving/loving spouse. Marriage is supposed to be 100/100: both of you seeking to out-serve each other. Husbands should work just as hard to love their wives. But I am not a husband; I’m a wife, so I’m writing from the wife’s perspective. And although I don’t have control over what my husband does, I do have control over what I do. Therefore, I AM advocating that wives go out of their way to spoil their husbands with love. God intended wives to be their husbands’ #1 fans, after all!

Second, attitude is EVERYTHING. You might be doing something nice, but if you have a dead look on your face or act distant, bored, or inconvenienced while doing it, your actions are useless. Try to think about if the situation were reversed. If he acted that way toward you – doing kind things purely out of resigned obligation – would you feel loved by that?

Third, when marriage is hard, you won’t feel like doing these things. Love is a choice, and respect and kindness are gifts. At some point (even if it’s just for one 10-minute argument), your spouse will not deserve them. Give them anyway. They are much easier to give when they are earned, but it is much more powerful to give them when they aren’t.


I hope you find these tips helpful! I love lists almost as much as I love practical ideas for making my husband feel special. My last piece of advice today is that no matter what your husband’s primary love language is, one of the absolute best ways to love him is to pray for him. Pray scripture over him for the times when he is overwhelmed (Ps 27:1), when he feels inadequate (John 14:27), when he is overcome with worry (Eph 3:20), for his relationships with others (Luke 6:36-38), and for his relationship with you (Phil 2:1-6). I think we underestimate how powerful prayer really is, and in the fight against sin, no weapon is stronger or more effective. ♥

This post is part of a series I started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?