Category Archives: Family Strengthening

The Family Strengthening practice model is the national leader of strength-based natural skill development for improving communication and family formation that positively influences family development.

The Struggle with Forgiveness


A few weeks ago we talked about how we as human beings tend to hold on to the things that hurt us. It’s so easy for us to cling to those things as though they are our memories, but really, we tend to hold on because the difficult thing to do is to forgive.

Forgiveness is something that we all want but somehow we all struggle to give it ourselves. How is that possible? Well, when we’ve been hurt it’s our first instinct to protect ourselves so as not to repeat history. What we believe is the fool proof way to protect ourselves is to remember each and every offense and make it our case against the other person. It’s like we have things stored in our back pockets ready for the right moment. But what would life be like if everyone operated in that way? If everyone just constantly chose to stay angry or upset?

Let’s think about the times we’ve made mistakes, fallen short, or disappointed someone. Did we want that person to hold it over our heads, reminding us day in and day out of our shortcomings and what we did wrong? Well ,if you’re in a relationship like that, it’s time to think long and hard about what you’re doing because I would want someone to not just overlook my transgressions, but acknowledge that I am trying to be a better person. And since that’s how I would want to be treated, how should I expect to approach another person who has probably made all the same mistakes that I have?

Holding on to past hurt creates baggage in any relationship. This baggage has the potential to weigh you and your partner down so low that it’s no longer love that you manifest but something so much darker.

When you find yourself in a position where you want to point fingers,where you want to fight, where you want to blame, YOU have been fooled. Anger will never get you what you really want. Yes, you get fuel from anger… but you get freedom from forgiveness. The moment you choose to forgive, the baggage falls off and the weight will melt away. No matter how hurt you are, don’t let it kill your ability to love… because in the end, love is where the real power is.

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Can You Handle the Truth?


“You can’t handle the truth!”

I’ll be the first one to put my hands up and say, “Welp, I’m not going to argue with that!”

Hearing the truth can be extremely difficult for us as human beings, especially if it’s the truth about ourselves. What can make it almost unbearable is hearing it from people we love. We’re supposed to be perfect in the eyes of those who love us, right? I mean, that’s what I signed up for.

We want so badly to protect ourselves, we want so badly to be good, we want so badly to be seen as good. But what does life tell us? That sometimes we will fall short. The reality is, hearing and knowing the truth can bring us light and life. The second someone sows into our life, we have the chance and the opportunity to make ourselves better – mentally, spiritually and physically.

There are two parts to truth – receiving it and giving it. Advice4Life talked about how to do both.

Just imagine it, you’re sitting down with your partner and BAM… they tell you, seemingly out of nowhere, about something you could improve about yourself. Does it surprise you? Yes. Does it cut you? Yes. Does it ruin you? It shouldn’t. When a loved one brings you something like that, regardless of how they said it (let’s be real, that can affect the message too) it’s important to remember that God is always wanting to give us truth. He is always wanting to set us free. And what does the truth do? … You got it!

God gives us certain people in our lives to give us these truths. He sends them to speak and sow into our lives. All we have to do is LET them. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Yes, it’s disconcerting. But it is NECESSARY. Knowing how others perceive you can be essential in growing to be the person God wants and call you to be. Remember this any time your partner wants to tell you “about yourself”. It’ll be awkward, it’ll be tense… but as long as their intention is for you, it’ll be okay.

Now, flip that on its side. What do you do when it is time for YOU to give truth. Ask yourself, am I doing this for me or will this truly help the other person? The second you recognize that you’re about to spill “truth” for your own purpose and not to help improve your partner then stop right there! You shouldn’t want to change or mold your partner into what YOU want. If that’s your intention then mission can be aborted right then and there because the other person will be able to sense that, will feel the need to defend themselves, and then you’ll have full fledged argument on your hands.

When it’s your turn to bring truth into someone’s life, do it because you truly feel your partner can benefit from it in the future. At that point, you can approach the conversation by first celebrating your partner on what he or she does well. Tell them what you truly love about them, re-iterate what you appreciate about them, magnify what you value in them. This way, your partner knows where they stand with you and understand you aren’t coming from a harmful place.

When you are in a relationship with another person, never stop having your intentions be for each other. Tough conversations like this can get tricky, messy and awkward. But once you understand that both of you are coming from a place of love, you’ll be able to grow together for the better.

Listen to the podcast here.

Choose Light. Serve Light.


Raise your hand if you are addicted to pain. The truth is, most of us are. Maybe not physical, but definitely emotional. As human beings, we are much more likely to hold on to what hurts us – painful memories, a painful past. We hold on to the things that we should be releasing.

We find pain so alluring because in a way we feel it gives us the excuse to treat anyone any way we want. But pain clouds all judgement and takes us further from who we were meant to be. One of the most painful experiences is becoming aware of our failings or shortcomings. So often, we think we are projecting to other people that we have everything together. We just want to be perfect. We just want to be good enough. It hurts when the times comes that we realize we are not. And that realization comes with a pain that we don’t want to host. We don’t want to host pain so what we are most likely to do is project blame on another person, another thing, or another  circumstance.

But you can choose not to blame. You can choose not to fight. You can choose to live in light.

Family Strengthening teaches us that although we are imperfect beings, seeing ourselves as such doesn’t have to be so hurtful. When you look in the mirror, you can choose to accept whoever you see – blemishes and all. And once we open our eyes to our true selves and our true process, we can move forward in making the adjustments we need to be better people – for ourselves and the ones we love. We can choose to accept that our shortcomings are no one else’s but our own. Our imperfections weren’t brought on by any other person or thing, but of our own hand.So will you choose to stay in darkness? Or will you choose the light?

The moment we recognize that we had control all along, we immediately have the power to change. We have the power to be more positive. We have the power to be more loving. We have the power to be more understanding. The beauty in living up to our own choices is that the power to change our situation has been inside us all this time!  All we have to do is keep our eye on the prize – our ultimate goal of who we want to be in this world and who God wants us to be. Once we know our purpose, all of our decisions have a clear and direct guide as to where they should go. In the end, we realize that we are good enough all along.

Listen to the Advice4Life podcast here.

Things to Remember when You’re in a Funk


There are days when it will be a little harder for you to get out of bed in the morning. A sense of despondence paired with physical exhaustion can be enough to overwhelm you and weigh you down as soon as your eyes open in the morning. Thoughts immediately flood your mind – “My spouse is irritating me”, “My boss doesn’t listen”, “My kids are out to get me”. It’s so easy to place the blame of our unhappiness and pain on other people. As human beings we have a tendency to place blame on anything, especially when we feel hurt or perceive our shortcomings. It can’t be us, right? It has to be someone else! But guess where it really comes from… you.

Each and every day we have a choice to make. We have the choice to take our day where we want it to go. We can either stay in bed and be miserable or remember all the things that give us a reason to get up. When we find ourselves in a funk, it’s important to recognize that the power to get up and out comes from within ourselves. We have the choice. We have the choice to find the good and focus on that. We have the choice to find our strength and hone it. One way you can do this is to count your blessings. When you wake up in the morning, immediately call to mind the people you love, the things you enjoy and the activities that you are able to do. Knowing that we have these resources of love and light in our lives will be enough to move you through the day.

Some days it will be a lot harder to remember all the good things in your life. Maybe you’re under loads of stress at work or someone you love has hurt you in some way. In this place of indecisiveness, let the pain go and always choose to love. When your heart is in a place of love, your thoughts and your actions will follow suit. It will also help to set an intention or goal for the day. Once your goal has been established, your choices for the day have a concise map to guide them.

Pain seems to always be a driving factor in our lives, it’s about time we stop letting it. At times we operate on so much pain that our thoughts and our paths get cloudy.  We need to let go of pain and hurt in our lives and move on so that we can live healthier lives – the lives that we desire and deserve. There is power when you learn to not respond or act out in pain.

So the next time you find yourself in a funk or a mood, remind yourself that it is no one’s fault, but you have the power to pull yourself out. Make the choice to take responsibility of your situation and you’ll find the means to change it.

Listen to the podcast here.

Just Ask


Things are often lost in translation. The words we say, the things we do… someone will always interpret it differently than what was actually intended. So if there is a discrepancy in someone’s words or behaviors, why don’t we just… ask?

In this day and time we are so quick to character assassinate someone the second they have offended us. We get so up in arms that we often fail to uphold our role as a loving partner, friend, or family member. But in moments like these,  we get so lost in our own thoughts and feelings. When someone says or does something wrong to us, we tend to shut down and all we can hear is ourselves. Even if we’re not saying anything, what we don’t realize is that if it’s in our heads, then it’s in our hearts.  Instead of closing in around yourself, open up! Open yourself so much that you are willing to hear what the other person has to give you – even if it might be negative.

It’s inevitable that the people we love will say things that will not sit well with us. We can choose to internalize their words, wrap them around our brain, and draw a funny picture of what we thought they said. Or… you can seek clarity. One way to do this is to repeat back what you think you heard. This gives your partner the chance to clarify, correct or redirect you to what they really meant.

See, it’s important for us to recognize that God has put certain people in our lives for a reason. And if that reason is to tell us about ourselves- so be it. When we enter into a relationship with another person, we are giving them permission to speak and sow into our lives. If you’re not willing to accept what another person is giving you, why be in a relationship at all? And when we have allowed someone to speak into our lives, it’s not our job to be the judge and jury of what they’re saying.

This brings me to a third way you can ensure the success of your relationship. It’s our job to truly believe that the other person’s intention is good. If it’s in your head that your partner is just out to get you, you will be so ready to defend and unwilling to listen. If we believe that our partner just wants the best for us, the best for themselves, and the best for the relationship, it will be so much easier to hear what they need to say.

So the next time you decide that you know exactly what your partner was saying, just to be sure… ask. Or repeat what you heard them say. You never know if there’s something else they’re trying to give you.

Listen to the Advice4Life podcast here.

Commitment: Not Just a Choice, but a Way of Life

houseLet’s say you build a house. Inside you have everything you hold so dear – your possessions, your family, your pets. But a storm comes and washes your home away. What did you build your house on? Solid or shaky ground? That house held everything and everyone you loved, and in a flash it was gone. This is exactly how some of us choose to build our lives with other people. Hurriedly, shakily, insubstantially. 

A new year calls for people to take a look at their commitment capabilities, whether it’s making a commitment to a weight loss goal or making a commitment to changing a bad habit. But what if we need to take a look at another commitment… the commitment to each other.

Sure when I say this, you’ll probably glance down at your hand, see a ring and think “That’s enough commitment right there.” But in reality, commitment can’t be summed up by an object, it is a choice you have to make each and every day. It started the very moment you began the relationship and it doesn’t only  occur when something pretty walks your way. No, the choice to commit is in how you choose to receive what your partner gives you, it’s in the choice of what you say to someone you love, most of all it’s what you choose to do in any tough situation.  Commitment is to stick with your partner through the good, the bad, and the inevitable ugly.

It’s so easy to say you’re committed to your partner when everything is just hunky dory, sunshine and butterflies. But how committed are you when you and your partner are going through your own storm? Will you let it all just wash away? What if he or she says something hurtful or does something offensive. Do you still choose them? Or do you  give up and walk away? This is the crossroad that you will face each and every day.

Relationships can’t be built on wavering ground; the foundation should be strong and steadfast. Yes, your partner will hurt you and it will probably feel worse than a friend or family member doing the same exact thing. But this is what comes with loving someone… being ready to withstand a certain level of discomfort or pain. In order to grow yourself and with someone else, there will be undoubtedly be aches and pains. You will learn so much more about each other  and much more about yourself when you decide to stick it out, and  when you make the commitment to see your relationship through, your bond becomes that much stronger and the things that will etch away at what you build will becomes weaker and weaker.

So when you’re working on building something, be as strong as what you hope the end result will be. Be steadfast, be unwavering, be committed. 

Listen to the Advice4Life podcast here.

“Why Would You Wanna Marry Me For Anyhow?”

sweet-home-alabamaNow, if you’re a sucker for romantic comedies, this iconic scene from Sweet Home Alabama got you in the heart and stayed with you for years and years to come since its premiere. Once we get over the initial swooning over the simple question posed by two childhood friends who would one day grow up to be husband and wife, we realize that this question stands for most adult relationships today.

“Why would you want to get married?”

I mean,after all, couples today have given up glamorizing the life choice. It’s not all pies in the kitchen or picking out ties in the morning. Couples earnestly and honestly share the work that is put into being married. Why would we want to enter in a covenant in which you actively choose to work every single day, allow yourself to be your most vulnerable to another person, or be committed to a certain way of life until “death do you part?”

The answer is simple: love. When you love someone, you willingly choose to lay down a huge part of yourself for someone else.

When you enter into a marriage or any type of relationship, you are entering into a life where it’s not all about you anymore. And you know what? That’s okay. See, when you want to marry someone, there is no question about you laying down your life, your interests, your agenda for someone else… because when you really love someone you want the best for THEM!

Marriage causes people to grow, both individually and together. When you begin to sacrifice for another person, you quickly learn what you can and cannot live without. Deciding to get married is actively giving another person permission to help you grow and transform your life out of love.

So why do people get married? In the heartwarming scene from the popular rom-com, the answer was clear to an 8 year old, “So I can kiss you any time I want.” But decades later, we’re more aware of what the real answer is: because our lives would cease to grow without someone to love.


Winning In the Name of Love


Do you ever want to win so bad that you’re just not winning at all? We always have this need to be right, to be on top, to be vindicated. But what if it costs us more than we bargained for? What if it costs us our love?

Al and Aisha Laws got together with real couples to discuss what makes relationships work. Whether you’ve been with your spouse for 5 years, 25, or 55… the answer was the same. To make it work you have to lay yourself down. That is, be ready to not win. Be ready to sacrifice.

We’ve all been there. Our partner said  or did something wrong and all of a sudden we’re up in arms. And if you’re like me then 9 times out of 10, you choose to sit there and be angry. And if you’re really like me, then you let that anger boil for hours… maybe even days. But when the teapot tips over, what was it even for? I never won. Half the time I even forgot what I was mad at in the first place. Then you find yourself in the confusing situation of being mad “for nothing.” But most of us will never admit it will we? You see, we’re so stuck in this place of unforgiving. This place where we justify our own actions because we are right and no one else can be right if we’re right… right? But if you’re sitting right across from the person you love, glaring at each other, not speaking, your only exchanges curt and cold… who’s in the right? Why did you need to be right?

When we want to win, we often draw strength from our anger. We believe that our anger will propel us to our desired destination – justification. But if you can’t stop, take a breath, and take a look to see where we’re really going, do you end up where you really want to be?

The need to have your own way, the stomping of the feet, the pushing people on the playground – that might have been okay at 4 years old. But when we are in a place of growth, childish things and childish ways must be put aside. Love requires growth. Growth has no place for tantrums. Love has no place for tantrums. So when we put away our childish things, what will be the first we grab? Our pride, our entitlement. Because if you’re not ready to make someone else’s well-being your priority, then you’re not ready to love. You’re not ready to enter into a space of commitment. The real commitment in a relationship is to serve. It’s time to grow up and serve the God you see in your partner and the love that has been entrusted to you. And when you look at your partner and feel happiness and strength … isn’t when you really win?

Listen to the podcast here.


Lovebirds? Or Jailbirds?


Would you choose to put someone in jail because they don’t like to do the things you like to do? The answer is probably of course not, but the truth is most of us probably already have – time and time again.

Have you ever refused to go shopping with your partner? Have you ever pouted through a football game? In those moments, we acted the way we wanted to and the way we thought was right. You probably are thinking to yourself, “Well who wouldn’t want to buy nice things?” or “Who wouldn’t be excited about football?” At that very instant, we have condemned and imprisoned the person we love.

There’s a certain way we expect people to act. But to be successful in this world, I’m telling you now… throw that expectation away. When we choose to love someone, there are certain responsibilities that come along with that. One of those is to “meet someone where they’re at”. What this means is that there is a certain level of self-sacrifice that comes with being in a relationship and of those is to meet your partner halfway. 

Without realizing it, there are ways that we impose on the people we love. Before the wave of guilt consumes you, know that we’re all human and that there are ways to fix the damage. We like to have our way or have our points of view seen, but don’t you think our partners do too? Before you become a lawyer and spend hours arguing and explaining why you’re right, just stop. Stop thinking that you’re the only one who is right, and start listening. The things that make us happy, make us feel free, or give us pleasure may be imprisoning to others. So it is our responsibility to start listening to “why”. Then it’s time to listen to “what”. What makes your partner happy, what makes them feel free, what gives them pleasure? When you take the time to digest all of this information, you have already graduated to considering another person besides yourself. And maybe you’ll fine, “Hey, this is another way to do this,” or “Hm, maybe I wasn’t right.”

When you are in a relationship with someone, you can’t try to form them into what you want them to be. As you would like to be loved, you must also love another person whole-heartedly… through their beauty and their flaws. Through their gifts and their shortcomings.  Be willing to “go to jail” for them. This is when the real love can begin.

Listen to the Advice4Life podcast here.


All It Takes is a Little Practice…

new-yearIf you’ve ever played a sport or an instrument, the value of practice has been ingrained in you from the moment you started. There’s no need to explain to you the concept of “practice makes perfect” and there’s no need to remind you how many rounds it takes to get to where you want to be.

Well, it’s a new year and guess what? Another year of practice has started- another year in practicing becoming who you want to be.

We all made promises as that ball dropped at midnight… Whether it was to lose weight, be more organized or in my case, be less crazy. Regardless of the promise you made, there is a certain level of commitment to practicing that you needed to make as well. You can’t lose weight without practicing portion control or exercise. You can’t be more organized without practicing organizational skills. So the first step in your changed process is to change your mindset and go.

In order to make any change in your life, you have to sow diligence– the diligence to hone whatever skills you need to be successful in your mission. This year, I have decided to diligently practice creating healthy and long-lasting relationships with the people in my life. But my practice started long before I even decided to make the change. When you choose to work on your relationships, your practice started with your parents.

For some, it’s a hard pill to swallow, especially if you have a strained relationship with your mom or dad. But honoring your mother and father is very first place you learned about your capacity to love. Many times we think, “I wish my mom did this” or “I wish my dad did that”, but when we get older we find that the people in our lives wish we did something too. So when we fall short of others expectations, quickly we learn how to give our parents a break.

The basic love of a parent is how we should approach all of our relationships in our lifetime. Parents love their children in spite of wrongs they’ve done or things they haven’t accomplished. Parents love their children even though they are disrespected or unappreciated. When we have made the commitment to better a relationship, diligently practicing this type of love is how to get results. For at least 3 weeks, practice loving another person through their faults and their shortcomings. When someone disrespects us or we don’t feel appreciated, choose to see beyond the issue and choose to not let it drive a wedge. We are all human and are bound to make these mistakes ourselves. And if no one else practiced loving us “in spite of” or “even though”, where would we be?

Listen to the #Advice4Life podcast here.