Now that We’re a Family: Elisha and Kathryn Voetberg
Hungry for ideas to shape an intentional family from the ground up? Elisha and Kathryn Voetberg, podcast hosts of Now that We're a Family, offer ideas to actively build a marriage and family of purpose and beautiful simplicity.
About the Guest
- Connect with Elilsha and Kathryn Voetberg www.nowthatwereafamily.com.
- Find their books here: nowthatwereafamily.com/after-the-baby
- Intrigued by today's episode? Think more about life "after the baby" in our blog post, Postpartum Depression: Admitting It to Myself … And to My Husband, and this FamilyLife Today episode on the wake-up call of new motherhood.
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Elisha and Kathryn Voetberg, podcast hosts of Now that We’re a Family, offer ideas to actively build a family of purpose and beautiful simplicity.
Now that We’re a Family: Elisha and Kathryn Voetberg
Dave: Okay, so one of my, I don't know if it's favorite or worst memory about teaching on parenting, [Laughter] but we’ve shared this before on FamilyLife Today. We were going to speak on parenting and it's going to be shown to eight campuses at our church.
Ann: Oh yes, we were in a series, and we were together speaking on parenting.
Dave: Ann and I are both up there and you turned to me, sort of spontaneous, at the beginning of the message and say, “Hey, what do you remember most about the baby and toddler years?” The first thought that came to my mind was I remember thinking “I'll never take another nap the rest of my life,” [Laughter] because you never sleep, right? But what I actually said is “I remember thinking I'll never take another, and it rhymed with nap, the rest of my life.” [Laughter]
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: We're talking about raising kids today, babies, the whole thing, and what actually happens in a marriage and maybe parents afterwards. We've got a great couple in the studio with us who have never been on FamilyLife Today. Elisha and Katie Voetberg are with us. Welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Elisha: Thank you so much for having us. It's such a privilege and an honor.
Dave: Tell our listeners what you do.
Elisha: Katie and I have been fortunate enough to be able to have a platform called nowthatwereafamily.com and this started a few years back, kind of out of us experiencing life as parents for the first time. We were brought up in Christian families. By God's grace, we've got—
Dave: —big Christian families. How many?
Elisha: Yes. Well, I'm one of ten children.
Katie: Yes, and I'm the oldest of 11, so we had that in common. When we got married, we knew we'd probably have a few more kids than average. We kind of wanted to speak to those big family dynamics and kind of look back at our childhoods and be like, “Okay, what did our parents do well? Why did we have this good experience? If we want to have a big family, how do we ensure that our children have a good experience and don't feel like they're left out or overlooked or all of those things?” That kind of drove the start of us looking back to our backgrounds and then sharing what we were learning with our own kiddos.
Ann: You're heading toward a big family?
Elisha: Well, we are heading there more and more each day. [Laughter] Katie is currently pregnant with our fifth.
Dave: As you navigate your life with these little kids, the oldest is—
Elisha: —six years old.
Dave: —six, and you're doing what every day. You're doing podcasts, writing, speaking, blogging.
Elisha: Yes, all of the above. And for the last two years especially, Katie's done less and less. She's still kind of the prominent face of the Now that We're a Family, but she only works about two or three hours a week. They're just action-packed hours.
Ann: Wait, wait, wait, she's working all week.
Elisha: That's right. [Laughter]
Ann: Just in different capacities.
Dave: As a mom clarifies to every mom listening.
Elisha: Yes, and that's worth clarifying. It's the most glorious work that you can find.
Ann: Katie, how old are your kids?
Katie: Our oldest is six and he's a boy. And then we have a five-year-old daughter. She's our one girl. And then a three-year old, two-year-old and this baby on the way, and those are all boys.
Ann: And we're you both homeschooled growing up?
Elisha: We were.
Katie: Yes, that was something we also had a good experience with. I know that's not everybody's experience, but we both really felt like it gave us a lot of different opportunities. We loved it. We love the family bonding that happened within homeschooling.
Ann: And you guys have written a book for the mom and a book for the dad. It's called After the Baby: The Five Biggest Pain Points of Postpartum and How to Work Through Them as A Married Couple.
Dave: But before we get to after the baby, we’ve got to hear before the baby.
Dave: You know, like, give us a little bit of your story. As I read it in the beginning of both your books—I mean, they're written for men and for women, for dads and moms—it's pretty fascinating. Is it really true there's this trampoline when you're eight years old? I mean, really, that’s how it started?
Katie: I remember very distinctly being underneath the trampoline at eight years old, which is a hazardous place to be sitting, [Laughter] and I was sitting there with my sister. I was looking out and you could just see Elisha 's legs and he had these big old basketball shoes on. He had these skinny tan legs. I told my sister, “I have a crush on that guy.” I did my research and I found out his name was Elisha Peter Voetberg. I went home and wrote in my journal, “I want to marry Elisha Peter Voetberg.”
Ann: Come on.
Katie: I actually found that journal when I was 19 and dating someone else at the time. [Laughter] It didn't seem real relevant, but the Lord had a plan.
Ann: Elisha, was that your plan?
Elisha: I did not know Katie existed at this point. [Laughter] I'm four and a half years older than Katie, and when I'm twelve and she's eight, that's a pretty big separation.
Ann: Yes, it is.
Dave: That’s a big deal.
Elisha: And when I'm 16 and she's 12 and when I'm 20 and she's 16, you know, it's a big, big gap there. And so, it wasn't really until Katie was maybe 18, 19 or 20 that I even saw her as a prospect—you know, somebody that was within the realm of being somebody that I could pursue.
Dave: Prospect; it sounds like the NFL draft or something.
Elisha: Yes, that's kind of how I had laid out in my spreadsheet. [Laughter] No, I'm teasing. Fortunately, I had known Katie’s parents. I had known her family and I had just the utmost respect for her as a person. And then her entire family. She comes from just a rich family of faith. The family is just blessed with generational faith.
Ann: We've met her parents, and they are remarkable people.
Elisha: Yes, couldn't agree more.
Ann: So your families grew up together.
Katie: Yes, so I was pen pals with Elisha 's little sisters. We would see each other once a year at this family camp where we met, and we wrote letters and were like best friends. But I do think that that kind of put me in the like, little sister category, too, for a long time. It didn't really work in my favor necessarily, you know?
When I was 18, you talked to my dad, and we had this kind of highly monitored courtship because here's this older guy coming in and talking to me. I think it was when you came to my high school basketball game Elisha was just like, “I don't think this is going to work out.”
Elisha: Yes, I think it was your high school volleyball game.
Katie: Oh yes, what? Did you say basketball?
Elisha: Yes, I didn't even know you played high school basketball. [Laughter]
Katie: I don't even play basketball. Elisha plays basketball.
Elisha: At that point I was 22.
Katie: I was 18 and you’re 19, 20, 21, 22. He was almost 23 and I was 18. I think it was just, I don't know, all the girls on my team thought it was kind of weird. He was out of college basically and I was still in high school. The age gap just seemed pretty big right then.
Elisha: Yes, and as much as you know and Chad—he's heard me say this before, my father-in-law, I respect that man, you know, second only to my father—he made it really hard for us to date that first time.
Katie: That's true.
Elisha: And so there was not much room for chemistry to happen at all, there that first go around.
Katie: We ended our formal courtship with my parents really heavily involved at that stage, dated other people. And then when we started dating again the second time, we really had this appreciation for who the other person was. Like, we didn't take for granted that like, “Oh, you were homeschooled, and I was homeschooled. Like, that's a big conversation we don't have to have when it comes to our kids. We both know we value that for our own family.” Or like, “You want a larger than average family. I do too.” You know the first time around I think we just assumed all these commonalities that we had. And then after having these conversations and realizing what a big deal they were to have with people that didn't grow up in the same, like, culture that we both did, it was like kind of a breath of fresh air to already agree on stuff.
Dave: Yes, since you had so many commonalities and sort of this beautiful courtship, because you did it sort of the awkward, strange, and then the second time was like—
Ann: —like you just knew,
Dave: —here we go, was marriage easy?
Elisha: I know marriage is entered into in so many different stages of life and in so many different stations in life, and Katie and my dating, and then being engaged, was far more challenging than our first year of marriage.
Elisha: Yes. We, I think we were very intentional in our dating and engagement. We had like zero fun. It was all work. [Laughter] We were just like had a list of these controversial topics we are going over,
Ann: Really; that's pretty unusual too, because a lot of people see that as like, “Let's just have fun. Let's just, you know, prepare for the wedding day.” It sounds like you're preparing for a lifetime together. What were those conversations? What kind of conversations were you having?
Katie: Alcohol was a big one. I grew up in a family that didn't drink at all. Elisha's family did. Theology was really big for us. It's funny because we were both Christian, but then you breakdown the nuances of what that means. What's big for one person? What's not? How you want to raise your kids. You know there are stuff like that we didn't even talk about, though, until we were a couple years married because I just shut down. [Laughter] “I don't want to talk about that. We're both Christians. And that's what matters.” I don’t know, there are a lot of things.
Elisha: Yes, like you said, on paper, it seems like there was nothing that we had different in our experiences: big families, homeschooled, great Christian parents, great Christian grandparents. In a lot of ways, I think there can be a danger in assuming that you have a lot of things in common, and that can happen to anybody. You say, “Oh, we're both Christians,” and then you start to get to “Well, how is this going to flesh out in our life?” Because the practical Christian life is going to look different for each and every couple, the way that they live that out.
And you have expectations. Sometimes you don't realize you have expectations until the situations brought upon you and you say, “Well, we've always done it this way” and “I've always done it that way.” And since we had such positive experiences growing up, I think we both came in assuming a lot of our expectations were the right way, right. You think “It was great for me, why would we do anything otherwise?”
And so being able to address some of those issues early on and of course, it didn't end on the marriage day. We continued to have those and still do continue to have those conversations about things that we did differently that we, you know would maybe want to do differently in our family.
Katie: But I mean also too, you are two different people coming from two different backgrounds no matter what. So even like communication styles. I come from a very vocal family. We all just kind of blow up and say everything on our mind and then afterwards we're like, “Oh, hey, I'm sorry about that.” Elisha's family's a lot more like, thoughtful, take it to heart. So, you know, you're still navigating all that stuff because you are two different people that just think there's different ways of doing things even if you agree that there's a similar outcome that you both want.
Dave: You were doing the work that every couple should do and a lot of us don't and then we have to do it after. Some don't make it because they think “It shouldn't be this hard,” and it is hard. It's always hard. And if you go in, thinking it shouldn’t be hard and then it's hard, you're like “I’m out.” Whereas we’ve often been told “I married the wrong person” and we say “No, you're looking in the wrong place.”
Ann: It also sounds like you both respect your parents and grandparents, and I'm sure they are speaking into your lives as well. And when you're being homeschooled, you're being discipled that whole time and I'm sure that was really important to you, and did you feel like you sought your parents’ advice?
Elisha: Oh, big time. And that was something that I think Katie and I both appreciated in each other is our teachability. Both of us looked at where we wanted to be and where we were and we're thinking “Well between here and where we want to be is a whole lot of growth and growth is going to come from learning. It's going to come from being receptive and open to critique, and to coaching and counseling.”
Katie: That's still, yes, even more true today. You realize how far you still have to go, how much you still have to learn every day.
Ann: You're talking to a lot of young couples. If somebody's engaged, like, what do you hope for them? What do you hope are some of the steps that they would take?
Katie: Something that my dad told me that you don't want to hear when you're engaged but he told me this, two weeks prior to my wedding. He's like “Katie, if you are not 100 percent confident that you want to spend the rest of your life with this guy, I will refund everyone's plane tickets. We will cancel the wedding. You know, it's always easier to say no now than it is once you are forever joined to this person.”
I think something that really helped me know that I wanted to be forever with Elisha is considering “Okay, he's going to be the father of my kiddos one day, Lord willing. How do I want him to raise those children?” Because I think that there are certain things in your dating life where you're like, “Oh, I can put up with it,” or we have this different moral system, or we have this different view of media or all these things. And that doesn't really shake out until you have kids and all of a sudden, it really matters to you.
So obviously you can't anticipate exactly how you're going to feel when you have children but going into it thinking, “Okay, is this person totally submitted to Christ?” Because if that is in place, then we know that we have this third party that we can go to when we're disagreeing, right? We can go to Scripture.
And then the other thing is, do I trust them to raise my kids and to make decisions when I'm not around? I think those were two things that kind of were going through my mind when we are getting married, and that gave me big peace when I had answered it, both of those things, that, “Okay, we can figure the rest out.”
Ann: Would you add anything to that, Elijah?
Elisha: That was well said. I agree with everything Katie said. It's a huge blessing to have a wife that thinks that way I tell you what.
Yes, I can get emotional thinking about Katie's commitment to the Word and her submission to Christ and her acknowledging His Lordship, you know submitting to Him. Because boy, how easy is it to not do that? And how easy is it to then want to lay my life down for my bride as Christ did for the church when I see her glorifying God, serving Him and honoring me when I don't deserve it.
You know when Katie reads the Scriptures and she says, “Wow, wives are supposed to submit to their husbands,” she doesn't say, “Okay, well, once he's a man worth submitting to, then I'll submit to him.” She says, “I'm going to obey God and I'll submit to this guy.” Do I deserve it? Do I earn it? No, I didn't do anything. Just kind of like my salvation and boy, is that a cool place to grow from.
And when I think of starting our marriage, it's crazy how lightly we can enter into it. But then you look at Scripture, you know, marriage being the first institution God ordained here on earth and what has He done from that? You know, He spread His image throughout the whole world from that first marriage. The influence the family has had is unparalleled to anything. It's spread Christ image and God's image throughout the world. More than just the I did it again with Noah and his family, right? He said that's all I need. If I've got a family, I can spread my image and accomplish my mission and yet it's so easy to go into marriage.
Because it's common you think it's ordinary and I think that that's not how it is. There's something spiritual that's happening. It's a covenantal relationship. There's not too much preparation. When you think of, you know a business plan, you think, “Oh, they're”—it’d probably pretty in-depth. You'd have spreadsheets, you'd have financial goals. You'd have maybe a target customer base that you're going for and you break it all down and no detail would be to minute.
You can take this. Okay, well, that's a business plan. Well, what do people think when they think of family planning? They simply think of numbers. That's what they think of, you know, spacing and kids. You're thinking, boy, couldn't our family, couldn't our home have more of an in-depth plan than that? You know, a vision, a mission statement, something that we're going to be about as a home. Again, I know I didn't have as high a view of family as the Scriptures have and as God has entering into marriage and so going back, I wish I would have been more in awe of what this really is. Thank God, how humble I feel to be able to enter into this institution that you have ordained and that is representative of your relationship with us.
Dave: I mean, was there a, as you look back, you've been married how many years?
Dave: As you look back, like especially year one, coming from these families and the work you did before was there an issue or a struggle that you remember, especially in the first year or two, that was like, “Man, this was really hard. This was one that we really had to work to get through”?
Katie: Well, okay, one comes to my mind. I don't know what comes to your mind.
Elisha: Okay, let's hear it; let's hear yours first. [Laughter]
Katie: Okay, so this was kind of like a mixed thing, but Elisha had this group of friends that he was really close to and due to my explosive nature of communicating, [Laughter] he did not feel safe with me and my reactions. And so, he would take everything that he was thinking. Like I wasn't the first person to hear about it. I wasn't his best friend. I wasn't that safe place for him. He would take it to this group of friends.
Dave: Because what would you do? What do you mean, blow up?
Katie: What would I—yes, I would just react. I was used to just showing every emotion on my sleeve, you know, so he tells me what he's thinking, and I tell him what I'm thinking.
Ann: That's exactly what I did. Kate, I’m like, “What's wrong with that? Isn't that the best way to do it?”
Katie: Yes, it's like “We're just going to be real clear with each other here,” and that was not a wise or thoughtful form of communication, especially when you're dealing with your spouse. This person means the most to you, and when they're choosing to open up to you about something or share anything, regardless of how trivial it might seem, that's a sacred opportunity that you have to be there for that person. I didn't value that. I didn't treasure that and so all of those conversations were being taken away from me and I felt very much on the outs our first, I don't know, six months of marriage.
I really didn't like him hanging out with his friends and they didn't like me because I was the bad guy, didn't like him hanging out with his friends. [Laughter] I think too like, and you would probably say this Elisha, but in his communication too, Elisha was trying to please both parties so he kind of made me the bad guy to the friends and the friends the bad guy to me. It was just a cycle of communication and ultimately me realizing that communication doesn't always mean speaking. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just sit there and listen to the other person to kind of grow through that and to become that safe place.
Dave: Is that same for you, Elisha?
Elisha: Well on the other side of that issue was me, you know, so if Katie owns that for herself, then I certainly need to say I was extremely wrong early on in not leaving and cleaving. You know you hear that term, and two becoming one, you’re thinking “Well boy, what does that mean?” It means that, you know how cool is it that God does His own math. You know as two become one it’s a mystery and He's thinking “Also I'm three persons,” you know figure that out. You think “Okay, what about the individual. Where's the individual in all this?” He’s saying “No, you're one.”
I think I really neglected owning that and acknowledging that and living into that because it's one thing to say it with your words but then to actually say, “What would this look like?” and “How would I act upon this?” and I think that would mean open communication; that I go to Katie with my thoughts. I go to her with my fears, my insecurities, my ideas, things that I'm excited about, things that I'm nervous about and I did not do that.
Instead, I really dishonored Katie, not necessarily behind her back, but just in the way I would speak about her to others. And it's so easy to do. It's so common in our culture to talk in a disparaging way about your spouse, and everybody gets a good laugh at it. “Oh, yeah, you know, the old ball and chain.” “Yeah, you know, happy wife, happy life, whatever it takes.” And that's extremely dishonoring to the institution that God has called sacred.
I did not respect the institution early on in my marriage. I saw Katie as just, yes, she was my life partner. She was my lover. She was my friend. But I didn't see it as being this covenantal bond where we are one. What happens to me spiritually is going to affect her. What happens to her spiritually is going to affect us. And I really regret not acknowledging that, not having that open line of communication with her first and foremost.
Ann: And many people won't put those pieces together like you were leaving and cleaving. Often, we think of our parents; we're leaving our parents. But you're saying I also needed to put Katie first, even before my friends, to leave them in a way. Not to leave their friendship, but to put Katie before them.
Elisha: Absolutely; that's exactly right, yes.
Shelby: I'm Shelby Abbott, and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Elisha and Katie Voetberg on FamilyLife Today. And Dave and Ann are going to share more with us about making your marriage a safe place to open up here in just a second.
But first, Elijah and Katie have written two books. One is called After the Baby For Her and one is called After the Baby For Him [available on amazon.com]. It shares really just pain points about postpartum and how to work through them as a married couple. You could pick up your copies of those books at FamilyLifeToday.com or you could give us a call at 800-358-6329. Again, the number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, one of the things that I appreciate so much about FamilyLife is that we want to invest in marriages and families. And one of the ways we want to do that with you intentionally, is that when you become a financial partner with us at FamilyLife Today, we want to send you a couple of resources as our thank you for joining us and helping us to invest in marriages and families. A couple of those gifts are going to be a game called Ferret Flush™ to invest time and fun with your family, along with the FamilyLife Art of Parenting® video course, so invest time with your kids and in learning more about parenting.
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Alright, how can we make our marriages safe places for a husband and a wife to open up? Here's Dave and Ann Wilson.
Dave: I think it's interesting to hear, Katie, you say how you responded when Elisha would share things. Because I've said from the stage, often a marriage conference, right or wrong, I've said that often for a man to share something vulnerable or a weakness is not easy and scary. And so when your husband comes to you, as his partner, and shares something that you even know, “Man, he never”—like a lot of wives say he never talks and then he finally does. And that guy's like—you may not know it, but the guys like taking—"This is not easy for me to say, but I'm saying to my wife, because you're my, we're one and you're my soul mate,” and then he says it and there's silence. And then sometimes she responds like “That's it; that's all you got.”
Ann: Or she's mad, explodes that’s what I would do.
Dave: Or she downplays it or blows up or whatever. I've often said to wives, “That guy's not coming back to you because that was a big risk for him. You don't think it was, but for him it was, and he got not reinforcement. He got the opposite. He's taking that somewhere else; could be scary. It could be another woman, could be buddies.”
And again, you know, wives are like, “Well, I'm supposed to applaud something that lame.” Yes, pretty much. Applaud him because he's going to feel like she's a safe place. And I don't know what it is for women, but I know for guys like I can relate to what you're saying because if I would do that with Ann and she didn't, I would be like, “Okay, I'm done. I tried.” I'm not saying it's the wife's fault that the husband's quiet, but sometimes that's what's going on.
Ann: Yes, sometimes we need to just sit and listen or ask really good questions. And I would say that I often reacted instead of responded and if we can do that as both a husband and wife, and as parents, especially with our kids because it's so easy to react, we're on the whole next page of becoming the people that God created us to be.
Shelby: Now, coming up tomorrow on FamilyLife Today, Elisha and Katie Voetberg are back with Dave and Ann Wilson to talk about what happens after the baby comes. They're going to unpack prioritizing marriage amid the challenges of parenting. That's tomorrow. We hope you'll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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