Our Story, The Next Chapter: Kirsten & Benjamin Watson
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Kirsten And Benjamin WatsonKirsten Watson is a mom of seven and wife of author and retired NFL player Benjamin Watson. After graduating from the University of Georgia with a marketing and Spanish degree, Kirsten worked for a Fortune 500 company and then in the nonprofit sector, aspiring to one day run her own company. Now she’s CEO of a family of nine and the executive editor of MomLife Today. With Benjamin, she founded the One More foundation and together they cohost Why or Why Not with the Watsons. Learn more at thewa...more
Gods story for Kirsten Watson and NFL Super Bowl champ Benjamin Watson has spiraled them through 15 NFL seasons, seven kids, and plenty of plot twists.
Our Story, The Next Chapter: Kirsten & Benjamin Watson
Kirsten: Did I ever think we would be in the NFL as long as we were?—absolutely not. All of the moves, all of the kids, homeschool—there's this/I can go down the line and say: “That was never part of my list of things I want to do before I die,”—it's just not! But it's been better than anything I could have written myself. The fact that it's with Benjamin—the fact that we have these kids, who have moved all over the country and had these experiences—that had we been in a different situation, I don't know how it would have turned out. It's like going back to how we originally met, and how we've always been intentional, I could not have imagined doing it with anyone else.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: You know, after 33 seasons in the NFL, as team chaplains in Detroit—and I'm not even going to talk about how many games we lost—
Ann: I have 35 years.
Dave: You did have a couple more years [Laughter]—they got rid of me, but they kept you around—the wives wanted to meet with you, and you had a Bible study with the wives/—
Ann: I did.
Dave: —Detroit Lion wives. But we've been around a lot of NFL couples—
Ann: —and a lot of great couples.
Dave: Yes; we speak at a conference, every offseason for the NFL, called Pro Athletes Outreach, which is a Christian conference, where they bring in players, and couples, and single—it's just an amazing opportunity—we get to know a lot of couples and players from other teams, which is great. But you know—we've said this before—one of the couples, that just strikes you the first time you meet them, and then when you hear the depth of their relationship and their walk with God, it impacts you; and that's Benjamin and Kirsten Watson.
Ann: They're a remarkable couple; but not only are they remarkable, they're just fun. They're deep spiritually; but man, are they relatable. We already got to hear their love story.
Ann: It was fun to hear them talk about that.
Dave: If you missed that one, go back and listen to it; because nobody can tell it like they tell it. It's a beautiful story. But then their love story—they end up having kids—and not just one or two. You're going to hear today—they ended up having seven children—and they're raising them now, post-NFL career.
Let's talk about parenting. Tell us what it's like parenting seven—count that: seven kids—even as you were in the NFL.
Kirsten: Yes; well, when we first went to marriage counseling, we sat in the living room of the pastor, and he said, “How many kids do you want?” I said, “I think four is great; that would be great number.” Ben was like: “I was thinking four too,” and “We really are meant for each other; because I don't want to have six, because six is…”—he comes from a family; he's the oldest of six. He’s like, “Six is too much.”
Benjamin: —"too many.”
Kirsten: I said, “Two”—I come from a family of two—I was like, “Two is just not enough; so four is even, and that's a good Christian number to bring into the world.” [Laughter]
Dave: “Four is a Christian number”; okay.
Benjamin: —an American Christian number. [Laughter]
We set into this thing called marriage, with thinking we would have four kids. Then, we had four; and I look—
Benjamin: —in four and a half years.
Kirsten: Yes, we had four really quickly. Well, we had to—let me just say this: we were married for three years before—we had to make sure we still really liked each other. [Laughter] We know we were called to love; but those first three years, I was like, “We can't bring anybody else up into this mess. [Laughter] We got to figure some stuff out before we have some kids.” We finally decided we did like each other, officially. [Laughter]
Yes—four and a half years—we had four kids: two girls and two boys. I remember looking at Benjamin, saying, “I just don't think our family's done.” He's like, “Wait, you're going back on our promise? [Laughter] We said four—for good—we got two girls, two boys; everyone has a partner.” I was like, “I just don't think that's it, Benjamin.”
Dave: Weren't you exhausted?—four in four and a half years.
Kirsten: I don’t know what was wrong with me.
Benjamin: She loves to be—
Kirsten: Oh, here we go! [Laughter]
Benjamin: She loves to be like the one that everybody's: “Wow! How do you do it?”
Kirsten: That is not true!
Benjamin: I mean, there’s something to that. I think there's something to people being like, “Wow! How are you doing it?”
Kirsten: Or maybe I'm connected to the Spirit.
Ann: That's what I was going to say; yes! “Kirsten, you are connected to Jesus; and He's talking to you.”
Kirsten: He is telling me: “You think four; but it's not four, Kirsten.” That's what I was listening to.
Ann: That’s right.
Dave: So you decided it's five.
Benjamin: —and beyond. [Laughter]
Ann: Okay, so what happened? [Laughter]
Benjamin: What do you mean what happened? You know what happened. [Laughter]
Dave: Well, we know you had five. [Laughter]
Kirsten: Well, we had five; we had number five. Benjamin was not super excited/he's like, “Wait; what?”
Benjamin: I wasn’t excited about it.
Kirsten: I think the way I told you was after an away game, like it was all—
Benjamin: We come back from playing the Bears, right?
Kirsten: How do you remember that?
Benjamin: How do I remember?
Ann: Oh, they remember all of that.
Benjamin: No; actually, no. I think—
Dave: He probably had three touchdowns, you know, whatever. [Laughter]
Benjamin: It was the week before we played the Bears.
Kirsten: Oh, whatever.
Benjamin: Because I remember playing the Bears after I knew because I had to like get some serious prayer from my teammates, especially Luke McCown, right before we—
Kirsten: They had six; he's probably thinking it was fine.
Benjamin: That’s why we were talking.
Benjamin: I come home from a game—right before that, we play the Bears—and then I go upstairs, and you had left like the—
Kirsten: —the pregnancy test.
Benjamin: —the pregnancy test upstairs on the counter. [Laughter]
Kirsten: Yes, because I just wanted you to see it.
Benjamin: Yes; I'm walking up there with my luggage. [Laughter]
Kirsten: The luggage—I felt like came through—it was like “Boom.” I was like, “I think he saw it”; he saw the test. [Laughter]
Benjamin: I’m running down the stairs, like, “What is this?”
Kirsten: Yes, so we had number five—which you look back at it: can you imagine our life without Eden?—absolutely not.
Benjamin: No, no.
Kirsten: We had her; and then I was like, “Babe,”—
Ann: “Babe.” [Laughter]
Kirsten: —"five is such an awful number to end on. It's odd; she doesn't have a friend. We go on a roller coaster, who is she going to ride with?” He's like, “I'll ride with her.” “Then who am I going to ride with? We all need a person.”
He was really like, “Kirsten, I think five is enough.” I said, “You know what? I'm not going to bring it up again.” And then one day, months later, he was like, “Let's go for number six; and I was like, “Here we go.”
Ann: “Thank You, Jesus.”
Kirsten: “Thank You, Jesus,”—exactly Ann—I was like, “This has been like planned; this is part of a good plan.”
And then, we had our first miscarriage. I remember looking at—talk/looking at—I'm saying, looking at God—because I remember just looking up—being like, “This is not part of the plan. This is nowhere/this is not supposed to happen.”
And then we got pregnant again, and I had another miscarriage. I was like, “God, we're trying to bring people into—you know the arrow—you talk about shooting arrows, God, in the Bible; that's what we're trying to do,”—like—“Get on board.” [Laughter] I just remember thinking, “I'm asking for a baby,”—like that—"then, we’ll have number six.”
And then, eventually, “Let's just take a break; and then, we'll try again.” We tried again; and then, we found out it was twins. [Laughter] I was like, “I did not ask for that, Lord. Thank You, but what in the world?” We're still at an odd number.
Dave: No; now, you got the perfect number.
Benjamin: I said, “I should have been more specific in my prayers that I didn't want six.”
Kirsten: He said, “Six was too much”; so he got seven.
Benjamin: I should have said six or more, right? I just left it at: “Lord, I don't want to have six kids.” God was like, “Okay, well, you're going to have more than that.”
Kirsten: So yes, now we have seven; and two of them are in heaven. It's just definitely more than we ever—Benjamin just said this morning/he's like: “I look over there, with you”—the twins are sitting on me, and he just said—“I never knew, when I saw you on the yard at Georgia, that this is what our life would be, 17 years later.”
It's just crazy; the twins are crazy. I didn't/I wish I would have known that this happened, and there were parents out there all my life, because I would have been praying for you. [Laughter] Because I need so much prayer—
Benjamin: —the multiples are no joke.
Kirsten: —with these multiples. It's not regulation. I don't really know why the Lord doesn't just leave that for animals and not people; it should not happen. [Laughter]
Ann: It only happens in select people [whom] He calls, and He knows they’ll be good.
I think—to those of us that have two kids/three kids—we’re like, “Seven?” How did you find time to write a book? [Laughter] And you've got all these kids too. But why was it important to you to do that?
Kirsten: Yes, it's funny; because, when I think of the top ten things that I wanted to do in my life, book is probably, I don't know, five hundred. [Laughter] It was just never on my radar. It was always kind of a joke—when we’d go somewhere, and someone would just pull me aside to ask me a quick question, like, “You should write that down,”—I'm like, “I don't know that it's true. I'm just/this is just my opinion about things.” It was kind of an ongoing joke.
And honestly, it got to a point, where Benjamin was saying, “You need to write a book.” I was like, “Benjamin, I don't have time to write a book. I don't want to write a book. I don't even have things to say; because right now, I just don't even know what I'm doing. Who is going to take what I have to say and to consider: ‘I don't know what I'm doing’?”
Literally, I remember being in prayer, and I said, “God, this book thing keeps coming up. If You want me to write a book, make it so clear.” I'm talking like: wool, wet around; wool and no—
Ann: “Give me that fleece.”
Kirsten: Exactly! “Now, it has got to be so clear.” Literally, within that week, I got a call from Benjamin’s book guy saying, “Hey, I had a publisher reach out who wants to talk about doing a book.” I was like, “Are you kidding me, right now?”
And then, I told a friend; and she's like, “You know what? I have a perfect person to help you write this book.” I'm like, “Yes, she's probably busy”; and then, I get a text. She's like, “No, she would love to work with you.” I'm like, “What?!” I was like, “Okay, God, I'll write the stinking book; okay?!” [Laughter] That was literally my response to writing the book you have in your hands. It was not all fun, and flowers, and games. It was definitely an act of obedience and a little bit of a push from all those people around me that thought I should do it.
Ann: It's pretty remarkable. You guys think back on that day in Georgia—like Benjamin, when you saw Kirsten in her red pants and that light came down—you never thought you would be where you are today. Is it better?
Benjamin: —than that day when I didn't have kids? [Laughter] Are you really asking this question? Are you really asking parents of seven? Can we define better? Let’s define better. [Laughter]
Dave: I think she means better than you imagined it could be. [Laughter] That's what she means.
Ann: Your journey is so unexpected, right?—you never thought—but like I think about each of those kids—look what you're doing—your legacy.
Benjamin: Yes, I do think I never would have drawn this up, of course.
Benjamin: I think a lot of people could say: “I look at my life, and where I am now—where I thought I would be—and I can't draw that up,” you know, positively or negatively. In my case, it is definitely positive. Even on the most tired days, with the kids—there's still something special about having life in your home; and having the ability to teach; and to see them grow; and to even be tired, because your kids want to do different things—those things are all blessings.
I think, looking back on it, I had no idea what we were going to get into; I had no idea. I did know—and I do remember saying this, probably to you; or at least, saying it in my head—that I wanted you to be the mother of my children. Like I was trying to find someone, who would be a good mother to my children; and you fulfilled all that—
Kirsten: Thanks, Babe.
Benjamin: —and more, because I didn't think we were going to have seven.
Kirsten: I know.
Benjamin: I was only thinking that, you know, you'd be good for four. [Laughter] But you turned out to be great for seven.
Kirsten: Listen—wait, wait, wait—well, side note about that. In our counseling—remember, I'm thinking I'm going to do corner office, tailored suits, beautiful briefcase; you know, the parking thing is going to have Mrs. whatever on the thing—and he sits there with our pastor, and the pastor is, “Well, after you have kids, like what will your family look like? What do you think? What are your dreams?”
Benjamin starts first; he answers first. He's like, “Well, you know, I just would hope that Kirsten would stay home with all of our kids.” [Laughter] I think my neck went so quickly to roll and look at him, like, “Do you know whom you are marrying?” That was never anything that I thought about/that I had seen. My mom was a teacher, so she worked; but she had the summer [off]. It just did not even come to mind.
When he said that—I was like, “Do I need to marry this man, because he thinks…”—and here we are. It's like how the Lord will change your heart when you think that something is the way you should go. He will pull you—if you listen—and say: “I have a better plan,” and “Guess what, Kirsten? All those dreams, I'm not going to let them go to waste. It's going to look different than what you think.”
Did I ever think we would be in the NFL as long as we were?—absolutely not. All of the moves, all of the kids, homeschool—there's this/I can go down the line and say: “That was never part of my list of things I want to do before I die,”—it's just not! But it's been better than anything I could have written myself. The fact that it's with Benjamin—the fact that we have these kids, who have moved all over the country and had these experiences—that had we been in a different situation, I don't know how it would have turned out. It's like going back to how we originally met, and how we've always been intentional, I could not have imagined doing it with anyone else.
There are days, where I'm like, “I just want to go somewhere. [Laughter] I just want to go somewhere. You can come too, babe; but these people are going to stay.” [Laughter] But there are more days, where I look around, and I just look at what's happening—I'm listening to the volume of the noise—and I'm thinking: “This is good,” and “Help me to remember, and appreciate, and enjoy, and like lean into what's going on.” I'm grateful now that he's not playing football; that he's there to see it as well, and to experience it, and to hear it. [Laughter]
Benjamin: Oh, I always heard it. [Laughter] You think crowd noise is loud; just walk into our house about 5:00. [Laughter]
Kirsten: Exactly; it's a ride for sure.
Dave: You know, Benjamin and Kirsten, you’re talking about God doing so much more. It's my life verse—I love it—I pulled it up as you guys were talking about it: “Now to Him”—it's Ephesians 3:20—“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever; amen.” When Paul wrote that, he was, I think, echoing what we've been talking about—it’s like, you know, just like the Watsons; for you [Ann] and I when we started out—never would we ever dream that God was going to do immeasurably more than what we—and we had big dreams—but: “Man, look at what God’s done!”
Ann: Did you ever, ever, ever think, growing up, that you would be a pastor?
Dave: Never; in fact, I was pretty convinced that would be the last thing. I was going to make sure I didn't do it—one thing: that would be it—"I’m not going to be a pastor.”
Ann: I would have thought, and I even said to you when we went to seminary, “Hey, I'm all about: ‘Yes, let's go to seminary’ but don't ever let me be a pastor’s wife”; and yet, it was amazing.
Dave: You can add onto that: “Did you ever, ever, ever think you'd be sitting in a studio, recording audio for radio and podcasts, about marriage and family?”
Ann: No, no.
And “Did you ever think we'd have three sons, who are now married, and six grandkids, that are living for Jesus and trying to impact the world for the kingdom?”—because God used us to change a legacy, that was not following Christ, to a legacy that's about following Christ.
Ann: That is the beauty of following Jesus; that He knows what will fulfill us more than we know. Because man, I want to make my own plans; I feel like I know the right way to go, and I know it will make me happy. We all feel that.
But to submit our lives—our futures and our happiness to Him—that is—remember doing that the first time?—it's scary!
Dave: I was going to say: “Every time; it's a daily—
Dave: The word is “surrender”—"not my will; Your will”—"I don't want to do what I want to do. I want to do what You want to do.”
And boy, those dark days—when the kids were little, and we were fighting in our marriage, and we were exhausted;—
Ann: Aw, yes.
Dave: —and we wondered if we were doing what God wanted us to do—“Hang on; keep surrendering every single day to Him, especially when you've lost hope or energy; and let Him continue to do His work in you.”
Ann: Because He's a God that loves you—He knows you; He sees you; He created you; He knows what will bring you joy; He knows the hardships that we face—and He also knows, “Oh, I'm using this; and wait ‘til you see, on the other end, the person that you'll become as I shape you.” Nobody wants to be shaped.
Ann: I think, for the Watsons—just you guys having those seven kids—that is shaping you.
Dave: We can say this—because we're empty nesters now—and that means we're old: [Laughter] “Embrace every moment—even as chaotic, and loud, and frustrating as it can be—embrace the moment. There's going to be a day you're going to wish it was that loud again in your house.”
Ann: Yes, absolutely. I remember your mom: when our kids would leave her house, she was, “Oh, I'm not even going to clean my windows; I just want to see those fingerprints.” I remember thinking, “Are you kidding me? [Laughter] Those fingerprints are throughout my entire house. And it's not just fingerprints—like the walls/the knicks—all of that.” And she's right. Now, I look back and think, “Oh man, those were good days.” I didn't think it in the moment; [Laughter] but now, I see the richness.
You guys brought up the Scripture of Psalm 127—I wanted to read some of that, because you guys are totally the picture of this—starting in verse 3: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” You guys filled your quiver!
Kirsten: We're filling it.
Ann: “He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” You guys are living that life of following Jesus, surrendered. You're inspiring.
Thanks for all you're doing, and thanks for the legacy that you're creating. Can't wait to see what these kids are doing and what God has for you guys next too.
Dave: And I would just add, being a chaplain for three decades, it's rare that a couple like you come into a locker room. What a gift—to not only a team and an organization—but to a city and the country. Thank you for using your platform to impact people for the gospel; I know that’s your call.
Ann: Yes, look at you—you're both authors—look at you guys/what you're doing.
Kirsten: It's crazy.
Benjamin: I'll tell you what: we thank you for that encouragement. We also thank you for being trail blazers yourself, and for being a demonstration—not only to the teams that you were on—but being able to do that outside of the NFL but, also, across the NFL. We were never with Detroit; but through Pro Athlete Outreach, we were able to see you all. You all have spoken in our lives in ways that you probably will never know. I'll be able to/I can say that a lot of other people can probably say the same thing.
I think that's the beauty of the body of Christ, is that you can be in your lane; but you also get encouraged by people who are ahead of you, behind you, and beside you. You guys have been that for us, too; so thank you.
Kirsten: —100 percent; yes! We thank you for/I mean, we're together because of that tree, Ann. [Laughter]
Ann: We love you guys.
Kirsten: Thank you.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann with Kirsten and Benjamin Watson on FamilyLife Today. Dave and Ann want to share something with you in just a second. But first, I want to tell you that we've got copies of Kirsten's book available at FamilyLifeToday.com. Her book is called Sis, Take a Breath: Encouragement for the Woman Who's Trying to Live and Love Well (but Secretly Just Wants to Take a Nap). Again, you can get a copy at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 800-358-6329; that's 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Alright, now here's Dave and Ann with how they had a pretty profound influence on the Watsons one weekend a few years back.
Dave: You know, it's amazing what I heard from the Watsons: is their marriage was changed at a weekend that we spoke at.
Ann: I know; isn't that crazy?
Dave: It's crazy to think the things that God gives us to present on stage literally changed their life, changed their kids’ life. It's amazing how God does that; that's what He does.
Ann: And it changed our lives at a weekend, and the information that they heard from us—
Dave: —we just stole from FamilyLife. [Laughter]
Ann: And it was a FamilyLife marriage conference that we first attended; that's what we're teaching them.
Dave: Yes, you can go get that information any time you want at a Weekend to Remember®.
Ann: I think, so often, we as wives/we want and long for a better marriage. We want to jumpstart our relationship.
Dave: Hey, so do we; we just approach it a little differently.
Ann: I think one of the best ways that has helped us—and it could help you—is go to a Weekend to Remember marriage conference; it can change everything.
Dave: I thought: “A boring long weekend, where I miss all the good games on TV”; but here's what I found out—it's awesome: you laugh; you fall in love; we talk about stuff that really matters—and we even talk about that stuff; and it's a great, great weekend.
Ann: —and it's fun.
Dave: Yes; and you can sign up right now. I'm telling you: “Guys, you can sign up; go to FamilyLifeToday.com.”
Ann: And the wife can sign up.
Dave: Either one of you—just pick one anywhere you want—get there. Trust us—I mean it—trust us: “It will be life-changing.”
Shelby: Yes, just like Dave said, you can sign up for a Weekend to Remember near you at FamilyLifeToday.com. And really, now's the time to do it—not just because it's a life-changing weekend—but also because, right now, registration is half off. Again, check out FamilyLifeToday.com to sign up.
Tomorrow, on FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson talk, again, with Kirsten and Benjamin Watson on how they kept their marriage together, despite having seven kids; and how Kirsten finally accepted her new identity. That's tomorrow.
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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