Marriage: Overcoming The Challenges

I miss many things about being a pastor, but one of the greatest things I miss is participating in a couple’s wedding ceremony.  Months and months of planning and dreaming and hoping have finally come together.  The cake has been made, the guests selected and invited, the church reserved, the honeymoon planned and greatly anticipated, the wedding vows agreed upon, the music for the first dance chosen and danced to a hundred times, and the all very important decision of who sits next to Uncle Willard at the reception has been decided.  It is now time to get married!

As the ceremony comes to an end I make the following proclamation:

“Because you have vowed your love before God and those gathered here today, having pledged your commitment to each other as now symbolized by the rings you have exchanged, I now pronounce you husband and wife.  You may now kiss your bride!”

In that moment a miracle takes place.  Something that didn’t exist now exists.  Two wonderful, imperfect, oftentime a little naïve people say “I do” and a marriage is created.  I get shivers up my spine just writing about that beautiful moment.  The rest of the evening is spent celebrating this commitment of love by laughing and dancing and toasting and eating and drinking.

Now the real work begins.  While marriage is a wonderful and beautiful thing, it is also requires, in fact demands, hard work and commitment.  Near the beginning of most wedding messages I perform I will say something like this: “Marriage is a lot like using chop sticks or riding a bike or doing a handspring.  It looks easy until you try it.”  It takes practice.  It requires patience.  It always hopes and perseveres through both the good and the bad.  It will often require asking for forgiveness and extending the same to your spouse.  Marriage is a commitment to stay in love with the person you marry, even when it is a struggle.  Someone once wrote,

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”

I have been married to my bride now for 33 years and I am still in love with her.  In those 33 years we have had many opportunities and seasons to fall in love with each other all over again.   We found this to be especially true as we cared for our son, David.  While marriage requires hard work for anyone who is married, it is especially true for parents who are raising and caring for a child with special needs or struggling with a life threatening medical condition.

I read a great blog a few days ago that asked the following question to parents of children who have a disability: “What is one thing you feel is the biggest challenge in marriage?”  I am going to list the answers they gave and at the end give you the link to the blog.  For each of the challenges the author lists some tips and resources to help overcome that challenge.

Common Challenges Faced By Parents of Special Needs Children

  • Different Parenting Styles
  • Lack of Privacy
  • No time alone or date night
  • Lack of Intimacy
  • Lack of energy
  • Balancing Life
  • Communication
  • Not having people who provide respite
  • Lack of sleep
  • Lack of family support
  • Finances

I hope you take the time to read the whole blog.  You can find it at

Would you add anything else to this list?  Do you have any other tips or resources you could share with all of us?

Next week I want to talk about “The Crazy Cycle.”  It’s something every married couple has experienced and needs to understand.

Asa Rowan Pfohl

I would like to introduce you to my new grandson, Asa Rowan Pfohl!  Asa and his mommy and daddy will be home in about an hour.  His brothers, Ezra and Levi, can’t wait for his arrival.  Nonnie and Poppie are a little tired but happy to be here to help and to celebrate Chris and Britt’s third son.

I love Asa’s name.  Asa was the third King of the Kingdom of Judah.  In the Old Testament this was written about Asa:

Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done…Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life.  1 Kings 15:11,14

This, of course, is my prayer for all my grandchildren.  My prayer for Asa is as follows:

Father, thank you for the gift of Asa Rowan.  May he always do what is right in your eyes and please you.  May he always be fully committed to you all his life.  Amen


Today I want to introduce you to a fellow blogger, a mom of a child with special needs, a David’s Refuge guest and host, and friend, Lara Capuano.   I love her honesty, transparency, and genuine faith.  Listen to how she is described on her website:

Lara also makes you feel bipolar because while you are cackling uncontrollably at her hilarity, you’ll inevitably be punctured by the stories of her life that are soaked in grief. There was abandonment, substance abuse, indiscretion, and even murder.  Lara’s older brother Adam was shot Halloween night when he was 17-years-old by an irritated neighbor. Adam was a champion athlete, academic, and hero in his community, and he was the ultimate hero to his baby sister.

This week I opened and read Laura’s blog, I Quit When It’s Cold and  immediately wanted to share it on mine.  She shares the heart wrenching story of how her brother, Adam H. Provencal, was killed.  As you can imagine as October approaches the memory of his senseless killing brings both grief but also memories of her hero brother.

To honor Adam’s life Lara started to challenge herself and others to do something good for someone else.  She called them “#Adams Acts.”  She writes,

I started doing these acts of kindness because I had to do something. I had to be productive and focus outward or I would implode with this seasonal grief and cyclical depression. I wanted to commit myself to honor all the good Adam would have done to the glory of God if his life had not been cut short. This is why we call them #AdamsActs, because these are the types of things Adam would have spent his life doing. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. Well, here is my chance… 36 is pretty grown up, so here goes nothing.

I was hoping we could join Lara this week in honoring her brother, Adam.  How much time would it take to do one act of kindness for someone else?  Last week almost 2,500 people read my blog.  Can you imagine the good we could all do if each one of us did one little thing for someone else?  I would love to show and remind Lara and her family that Adam’s life lives on through our simple acts of love for others.  So lets do it!  Do one act of kindness, small or big, and share it on Lara’s Facebook page:  When you do, use the hashtag #AdamsActs.  Let’s show Lara and all who her read her blog that they are not alone and are loved by God!

If you are interested in learning more about Lara’s faith and how it helped her choose to become better rather than bitter, check out a little book she just produced called 31 Day Guide to Greater Kindness.   It is practical, not preachy, and very helpful.  It does cost $1.99.  If you want a copy and can’t afford it, let me know.  Here is an example for you to look at:

Standing For You

To stand or to kneel, a question that seems to be dividing our country.  Turn on your TV, open your Facebook News  Feed, or listen to the radio for just few moments and you will be barraged with commentary, opinion, hatred, fear and debate.  Each side vehemently believes in their perspective.  Some of the debate is civil and helpful, while most seems to be ugly, mean, and destructive.

Today I want to simply say that Brenda and I are standing up for the many moms and dads who have children with special needs or those struggling with a potential life threatening illness.  Just as fans will rise to their feet to celebrate a home run at a baseball game or a standing ovation is given to actors at the end of a spectacular performance, we stand to show our appreciation and support of you!

We stand because….

  • You are ordinary people loving your children in extraordinary ways
  • You are often misunderstood and therefore judged unfairly
  • Your children are beautiful, unique, and loved by God
  • We want you to know and believe you are not alone
  • You are not a perfect parent and that is OK
  • We know you are tired of fighting for your children and we don’t want you to give up
  • You need to believe you have been given the divine assignment of loving and caring for your children
  • Today you need to be encouraged and not pitied

Brenda and I stand up for you today to applaud you, love you, and celebrate you.

Beauty In The Wake of Irma

Often you will hear me say we live in a beautiful yet broken world.  Sadly the brokenness surrounds us here in Bonita Spring, Florida.  Hurricane Irma was vicious and destructive.  Homes are still flooded, trees uprooted, electricity is still off for thousands, water needs to be boiled, and countless people are left wondering how they are going to survive.  The brokenness is visceral.  It smells.  It’s overwhelming.

Yet beauty still exists.  It came in the form of chain saws, cases of water, diapers and wipes, food, gas cans, propane, bleach and rags.  Groups of volunteers came from Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida.  Steve Gill, our pastor from Turning Point Church , sent out one email and within two days over 35 volunteers from four different churches drove 12-16 hours to come and help.  They were young and old, male and female, bearded and shaved, bald and hairy.  They were beautiful.  They passed out over 1200 meals, they transported people by boat to their homes, they helped clean up local schools, they cut up trees that had fallen, and hugged any and all that needed to be reminded they were not alone.  In their simple acts of kindness, they brought hope.  They were the hands and feet of Jesus.  It was a beautiful picture of what the church should really look like.  Our neighbors brought over meals and offered any help they could give.  Everyone they came in contact with were reminded they were not alone and loved by God.

Brenda put together a video that captures the beauty and the brokenness here in South West Florida.  As you watch it please pray for those who have lost so much.


PS: Some have asked how we are doing.  The only damage we sustained was water damage to our bedroom floor.  It will have to be replaced.  We have water, internet, and electricity.  We have much to be thankful for.  We were able to host many of the volunteers in our homes here in Bonita.  It was a real honor.

Please Pray for Us!

I just got off the phone with our pastor in Bonita Springs, Florida.  He is kayaking around his neighborhood, his phone is about to die, there is no electricity, all the stores are closed, and he can’t find gas for his car.  I can only imagine how overwhelmed he feels.  While the storm has passed, and it could have been much worse, there are many who still need our help and prayers.

Thankfully, Brenda and I are safe and sound in New York with our family.  We have had neighbors tell us that there is no visible damage to our house but we don’t know if there was any roof damage or if water got into our home.  We sit glued to the TV watching report after report of loss and devastation.  We pray for our friends, we wonder how long it will take for life to return to “normal”, and we wrestle with a low grade anxiety in the pit of our stomachs that won’t go away.  We would appreciate your prayers.

I am going to keep today’s post short but wanted to share two things with you that hopefully will help you with whatever “hurricanes” you are experiencing. The first is a song Brenda and I have listened to over and over again called the Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson.  The first line says,

In the eye of the storm You remain in control

The second is an editorial written by Max Lucado, an author, pastor, and man I greatly respect.   The three points he makes are very helpful no matter what storm we face.  I hope it is as helpful for you as it was for us.


Just One Taste

Can you remember a time when someone said to you, “Just one taste!  I promise you’ll like it.”  Slowly they dip a fork into their concoction, twirling the bite size morsel into the sauce with all the bits and pieces.  As they raise the sample to your mouth, your nose is working like a basset hound trying to determine if you will like it or not.  While no one else can hear your thoughts, you are very aware of the voices saying, “Don’t eat it!” or “One bite and you will throw up on your friend!”  Wanting to be brave and not offend, you open your mouth and allow them to shove the food into your mouth.  For a few seconds all thoughts and sounds cease.  Slowly you you begin to chew and allow your taste buds to explore the spices and flavors of the “one taste.”  Without even knowing it, a thought enters your mind, “Hey, this isn’t bad!  In fact it is delicious!”  Our friend was right,  “Just one taste!  I promise you’ll like it.”

Over the past several years we have promised many parents, “Just one weekend!  We promise you will like it.”  Sadly, many parents will listen to the voice in their heads that says, “You don’t deserve a weekend away” or “There are others who deserve it more than we do.”  Very often we will hear moms and dads say, “We feel guilty taking time for ourselves.”  Some will say, “I don’t think my child will like it if we go away for a weekend.”  Money, lack of child care, and fear are other examples that we often hear.  Some will never overcome these reasons and register for a weekend of respite.  But for those who who are brave and willing to “taste” something new we often hear, “Hey, this isn’t bad!  In fact it is wonderful.”  All they had to do is try one taste.

This Friday we are hosting our fourth Taste of David’s Refuge event.  It is one of our premier fund raising events.  While its primary purpose is to allow us to raise funding so we can offer the gift of respite to our wonderful and amazing families, it is so much more.  Our hope is that those who attend and support our mission will experience and taste what we offer all our families.  Brenda and I want to say a huge thank you to every individual, family, and business that is supporting and/or coming to the event.  We hope you will leave refreshed and renewed and even more motivated to continue supporting David’s Refuge so we can continue to offer a taste of respite to those who really need it.

I am looking forward to introducing Jeff and Jennifer Rubin, our honorary Co-chairs, to those who are coming to this Friday’s celebration.   Jeff and Jennifer got a “Taste” of David’s Refuge as they watched the impact and stress of raising a child with special needs on one of their employees.  You will not want to miss how this one taste not only changed this families life but also theirs.

We Have Needs Too

Rocky Balboa got it!  He didn’t try to hide it; he didn’t pretend; he simply admitted he had “gaps.”  In fact, when asked by his brother-in-law Paulie Pennino why he liked Adrian so much he said,

“I dunno, she’s got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.”― Sylvester Stallone-Rocky

Rocky understood having “gaps” is a part of what it means to be human.  No one is perfect.  Everyone has need.  We all have “gaps”.

Sadly we spend a great deal of time trying to convince ourselves and others that we don’t have any needs or gaps in our lives.  Someone asks you, “Hey, how are you doing?” or “Is there anything I can do for you?” and the first words out of our mouths is, “No, everything is good!”  Yet just yesterday you cried yourself to sleep feeling desperately isolated and alone.  You haven’t balanced your checkbook in three months, you haven’t been on a date for over a year, and you haven’t had a full nights sleep for over four weeks.  “No, everything is good!”

Why are we so unwilling to admit we are in need?  I thought of a few reasons: Pride, fearing we will be a burden to someone, wondering what others will think of us when they see how broken our lives really are, potential rejection, admitting we can’t do it on our own, and many others.  What would you add to this list?

Today I simply want to encourage you to heed the words of the great philosopher Rocky Balboa and admit that you have gaps!  I have gaps.  You have gaps.  And instead of trying to hide them or deny you have them, admit that you have gaps.  Say out loud, “I HAVE GAPS!”  Name them out loud.  Say them out loud to yourself.  If you are feeling really brave, share them with your spouse, your friend, or partner.  I have discovered the more willing I am to be honest about the needs I have, the more often I find ways to solve them.  You see when I admit I have a gap and you admit you have a gap, very often together we fill the gaps!

Ellen Stumbo, mother of a beautiful daughter who has Down Syndrome, author, and blogger, shared the following video on her Facebook page titled “We have needs too.”  I hope you take minute to watch it.

Together We Can Help Each Other

More often than not moms and dads who have enjoyed a weekend at David’s Refuge ask the question, “What can I do to give back?”  Our normal response is to encourage them to develop a regular rhythm of respite so they can take better care of themselves, which means they will better be able to love and care for their children.  They quickly nod their heads in assent but once again ask, “No really, what can we do to help other parents experience the gift of respite?”

It was that question that motivated Brenda and me to start David’s Refuge.  Over and over again people generously and lovingly offered us the gift of respite.

  • Donna would stay with David so we could go to church
  • Jacquie and David cared for David so we could celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary
  • Bruce and Carol shared their lake side cottage and Florida home
  • Howard and Liz shared their Adirondack lodge
  • Countless families sent us on a trip to Focus on the Family and on a Make a Wish trip
  • Peter and Sandy let us stay in their lodge in the mountains in Colorado
  • Wendell and Maryann would stop in to remind us we can press on even though we didn’t feel we could
  • Kelley spent 1:1 time when David went he went on a missions trip in North Carolina, allowing us to unplug and rest
  • Rick spent countless weekends with David at youth group events, allowing us to pour into our other two boys
  • Dave and Peg sent us to New York where we watched the Yankees and the Lion King

Every time we were able to unplug from our role as David’s caregiver we were reminded that we were not alone, what we did to care for David was very important, and that God loved us extravagantly.  So, out of Dave’s and Peg’s and Rick’s and Kelley’s and Wendell’s and Maryann’s and and Peter’s  and Sandy’s and Howard’s and Liz’s and Bruce’s and Carol’s and Jacquie’s and David’s and Donna’s love for us, David’s Refuge was given birth.  We simply paid forward what had been lovingly shared with us.  So I get it when moms and dads ask, “What can we do to help other parents experience the gift of respite?”

If you are asking that question, there is something you can do!  It’s called the Parent’s Pledge: Parents Helping Parents Provide the Gift of Respite.  One of the moms we served contacted our office with the idea, the development team loved it, and now you can participate in it.

The Parents Pledge has 3 basic goals:

  1. Provide our parents and friends with an opportunity to give back at a level that they are comfortable with
  2. Raise $10,000 with hopefully finding a company or business that would match the $10,000
  3. Generate awareness of our mission to Care for the Caregiver through social media

Here is what you can do!

SHARE – Tell people about David’s Refuge.  Encourage them to visit visit our Website!

ASK – Repost Parents Pledge campaign information to your Facebook page beginning August 19th – help expand our circle so that others can connect with our mission.  Share a story of what David’s Refuge has meant to you personally and why you’re asking friends to come alongside you in support of our mission

GIVE – one time or monthly, $5 or $5,000 – give in the amount that feels right to you so that another caregiver may experience the gift of respite.

MATCH – Does your employer match charitable gifts?  Now would be a fantastic time to find out…and double the impact your gift will make in the lives of a local family!

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to call the office at 315 682-4204.  I unashamedly ask you to seriously consider supporting David’s Refuge.  Together we can help each other.


Without a doubt he is my best friend.  We shared a common womb, we were born on the same day, we both came to faith in a God who loved us in the same year, and we are both ordained ministers.  Sadly, we both had children whose disabilities took their lives.  There is little doubt that we were both tenderized and shaped by the privilege we had of raising and caring for and releasing our children back to God.  Thankfully we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we will see Melody and David once again in heaven.  I am privileged to call Wendell, my twin brother, my best friend.

While we don’t have “Twin Telepathy”, we know each other so well that with a twitch of an eyebrow or the tip of a head we can communicate with each other.  We are both wannabe foodies and love describing the meal we prepared the night before.  When we go out to breakfast with each other, we order the same food: two eggs over easy, corn beef hash crispy, rye toast, and orange marmalade jam!  We often run into people who think I am Wendell or Wendell is me.  We call it a “Warndell” sighting!  Wendell will often tell people he is the better looking twin and asks my friends to tell me he said so.  When they do, I ask them to tell him, “While that may be true, please let Wendell know that I told you I write all his sermons!”

Wendell was an incredible help and support for me as we cared for David, especially though the last few months of David’s life.  Having cared for his own severely disabled daughter and then experiencing her death, he understood like no one else what I was going through and how I was feeling.  He personally lived out the verse in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that says, “He (God) comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”  God often used Wendell to bring me comfort, healing, and hope.

When we thought of starting David’s Refuge, Wendell was one of our greatest cheerleaders.  He listened for hours as we brainstormed together how to make David’s Refuge a reality, he was one the founding board members, and he and his wonderful wife Maryann were excellent and sought after hosts.  His fingerprints are found all over our mission of breathing life into moms and dads just like him and Maryann.

When I describe Wendell to people who don’t know him, I often say he is a “Renaissance Man.”  He brews beer, makes wine, bakes his own bread, roasts coffee, loves to smoke home made sausages and bratwurst, grows a garden, raises chickens, and makes his own pickles.  He loves people, is passionate for others to know how much God loves them, and is an excellent husband, father, and Bappa to his grandchildren.

I am thankful to call Wendell my best friend.  The next time you see him please tell him how much you enjoyed the sermon I wrote for him!