FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Remembering Spiritual Milestones

with Bill and Carolyn Wellons | December 26, 2011
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Today on the broadcast, Bill Wellons, formerly a teaching pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, AR, and now the director of church planting and consulting for Fellowship Associates, joins his wife, Carolyn, to share how taking time to get away as a couple has refreshed their marriage and made it stronger.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today on the broadcast, Bill Wellons, formerly a teaching pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, AR, and now the director of church planting and consulting for Fellowship Associates, joins his wife, Carolyn, to share how taking time to get away as a couple has refreshed their marriage and made it stronger.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Bill and Carolyn Wellons share how taking time to get away as a couple has refreshed their marriage and made it stronger.

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Remembering Spiritual Milestones

With Bill and Carolyn Wellons
December 26, 2011
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Bob:  With the pace of life today, it can feel like you are trying to juggle a lot of

different balls while you're running on a treadmill.  What happens if one of the

balls you're juggling is your marriage, and it keeps slipping out of your hands? 

Here's Bill Wellons:

Bill:  We all live on a treadmill, and it is going so fast, and one of the things I

hope the whole idea of Getting Away to Get it Together (which is not really

original to us, it's really original to Jesus Christ—He got away on numerous

occasions); one of the things, it begins to move a marriage from the reactive

approach to that treadmill to a proactive approach.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, December 26th.  Our host is the

President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  If you've been

feeling like your marriage has not been getting the attention it ought to be getting,

we have some practical suggestions for you today.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition;

the day after Christmas.  I hope you had a lovely Christmas yesterday. 

Dennis:  We did.

Bob:  Did you do Christmas by Skype?

Dennis:  Yes, we did a little of that.  We’re going to do a little travel as well.

Bob:  It’s always nice to connect with family, even when they’re scattered all

across the country as your kids and grandkids are.

Dennis:  Laura’s home from Washington, D.C., and we’re glad to have her home

for a couple of days.  We’re going to hang in the area, but also slip out for a

couple of days here and there and see some of the other kids around the


Bob:  Well, it’s a busy week here at FamilyLife because we’re down to the final

week of the year.  Actually, some interesting things happened over the last week. 

Some of our listeners know about this matching fund that was established back

at the beginning of the month.  It started off as a $2.5 million matching fund,

which we thought, “That’s just amazing!,” but it grew.  It became a $3.5 million

matching fund.

Dennis:  And now it’s the biggest ever in the history of our ministry.

Bob:  Four plus million dollars.

Dennis:   That’s right.  Some folks are probably asking now, “Why is this thing

continuing to grow?”  Well, you know what, some people make decisions when

they want to make decisions.  They also say, “You know what?  I believe in what

you guys are doing and I want to stand with you.”

So if you listen to FamilyLife Today on this radio station, you can give and your

gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar all the way up to $4 million (if you wanted to

write that big of a check)!

Bob:  And we have never had a matching fund this big.  It means if you can

make any donation, that’s going to help us out.

Dennis:  That’s right.  If you listen online or you download the broadcast, it would

be great if you’d stand with us here at year-end and help us keep FamilyLife

Today coming to you on a daily basis.

Bob:  Go online at and click the button that says “I CARE”

to make a year-end donation, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over

the phone.  Again, any donation we receive this week is going to be matched

dollar-for-dollar and, of course, it’s tax deductible as long as we receive it before

the end of the year.

We do hope to hear from you, and we want to say “thanks” in advance for

whatever you’re able to do in helping us out.

We’re going to talk today about marriage and giving your marriage a tune up.

We're going to talk to a couple who have a passion for marriage; actually, a

couple you went to college with. 

Dennis:  A couple of friends!

I don't know what was going on at the University of Arkansas at the time that you

were there in college, but it just turns out there were a lot of folks who had a

heart for Christ and ultimately had a heart for marriage and a heart for families

and a heart for marriage.

Dennis:  No doubt about it.  I mean, there was a bunch of us who rallied together

there at the University of Arkansas, otherwise known as the "Harvard of the

Ozarks.”  (Laughter)

We were really a part of what I would consider to be a genuine revival, and I don't

mean that in the sense of a meeting, I mean that in the sense of God doing

something special among college students, and there were a number of us who

went on to full-time Christian ministry, to seminaries …

Bob:  Were you a “Jesus person” back then?

Dennis:  Oh, yeah.

Bob:  You were a Jesus person, too?

Bill:  Absolutely.

Dennis:  Jesus people had no shame in proclaiming Christ, and Bill and Carolyn

were among those and have become great friends of Barbara and mine.  For

a number of years Bill was my pastor at Fellowship Bible Church.  Bill and

Carolyn, along with four other couples, Barbara and I included, helped start

Fellowship Bible Church back in 1977.  We started a church in a living room of

our friends', Don and Sally Meredith, and went on to see that church grow to

more than 6,000 attendees every Sunday with who knows how many hundreds

of  ministries it's spawned, and now how many churches have you started, Bill,

as a result?

Bill:  We have about 40 churches in our church planting network, or partners, but

when you ask that question today, I always think about there are 22 that have

actually gone through a residency training program that we've planted, and we're

very excited about that.

Dennis:  Yeah, and I am, too, because the church is really about the right stuff.

It's about proclaiming Christ and then helping people find their niche of ministry

and how to have an outreach to the community.

Bill and Carolyn have teamed up with FamilyLife to write a – not really a book, but it's a - weekend getaway.  It's called Getting Away to Get It Together, and it's designed to help couples reconnect in the midst of this fast-paced life and, you know, Bob, we interviewed Bill originally during the very first week of our broadcast.  You and I had to scramble.  We were told we were going to be on the air in two weeks, and we had no programs.

Bob:  Right, and no guests …

Dennis:  … no guests or anything, and so Bill was alive and had some things to


Bob:  He met our guest qualifications.

Dennis:  He did, and he was among our first 10 broadcasts that we taped back

in October of 1992, and then went on the air in November, and I thought we'd just

have some fun, because what he was talking about then is what he's still talking

about now.

Bob:  We did see if the engineers could find the old audio, and you've got a

portion of that interview, don't you?

[taped broadcast from 1992)

Bill:  Both of us were very interested in sort of just getting away to take stock of

where we were.   Ten years into the marriage, and a couple of kids, and life was

picking up; the pace was picking up, very busy, and we just wanted to get away

and take stock. 

One of the things that I would say we sort of fell into was that Carolyn took her

calendar, and I took my calendar, and that was one of the first things we did, is

we began to exchange that information – just to sort of figure out where everyone

is and where everyone was headed, and that was really the beginning of the

planning retreats that then we determined to begin repeating every year.

[tape ends]

Bob:  It's kind of fun to listen back to that.  I remember calendars, too.

Dennis:  Notice they didn't play our voice, Bob.  But it was fun, because I do

recall you guys, Carolyn, getting away during those years, and I assume we

probably copied you because we got away as well and it's, frankly, how we

survived raising six children because the stresses that you were talking about 13

years ago were very real in the process of raising children.

Carolyn:  Well, it's true, you know, you can live in the same house with someone

and even talk and communicate, but you don't have to connect.  The reason

that we decided that we needed to get away was to make sure that we were

connecting on a heart-to-heart level, and that we were making sure that the

important things and priorities in life were not being left on the sidelines in the

urgency of life.

Dennis:  Many times Barbara and I would get away on these planning weekends

like you guys had.  We'd pull out our calendars, and it really felt like a business

meeting sometimes.  I mean, we did connect emotionally and relationally, but

there were issues around those calendars that if you didn't address them, you're

going to be behind the eight ball constantly.

Bob:  They're going to come back and bite you, aren't they?

Dennis:  All the time, and I couldn't help but listen to you, Carolyn, and thinking

how Barbara would agree with you – they were times when we were able to stop

the pace of life, sit down on a couch, drink a cup of hot cider and look at the

calendars and talk or read a book and interrupt one another after we'd been

reading for an hour or so, or take a walk, and they really were informal times for

you guys initially, right?  They weren't all that structured.

Carolyn:  Right, they weren't that structured, but one thing that we tried to do

particularly is, like, on the first night or the first morning, we love to review

milestones from the last six months or so, and that starts the whole time away

together on a positive note instead of just tackling the issues and the problems

that you're facing and the decisions that you have to make. 

I love doing that because it forces you to look back on what's important to you for

the last six months or so, and not necessarily what other people would think

would be important, but what was meaningful to you and to celebrate God's

faithfulness in something like that.  It's really an important way to start before you

get into the nitty-gritty of the decision-making.

Dennis:  Yeah, and problem-solving and all that.

Carolyn:  Yes, it is.

Dennis:  Can you give us some illustrations of what that looks like?

Bill:  Yeah, I was just thinking of one and kind of how that whole discussion and

project on memorial stones even got started.  It really got started out of the Book

of Joshua in chapter 4, where Joshua was getting ready to cross the Jordan

River and go over into Jericho, and they cross the river, and they stack up some

stones, and the purpose of the stones was that so future generations would

remember about the faithfulness of God.

And I'll take you back to one specific.  We have loved to go on retreats in the off-

season, and part of that is just because the rates are so good.

Bob:  That's right, buddy, I'm with you on that.

Bill:  And the places that we've gone have not been as crowded and also it really

was conducive to a great time of connecting as a couple.  But in one of those we

went to a little town in Arkansas called Heber Springs, and we stayed there for

parts of three days, two nights, and parts of three days.  In one of our earliest

iterations of the memorial stones, we actually just opened the Bible to Psalm 103

where we are all told not to forget any of the benefits of God in our life.  And you

can read through them – He pardons, and He heals, and He redeems, and He

separates your sin as far as the east from the west and all that.  And so we went

through those first to celebrate some spiritual milestones.

And then off of that, we thought, "Well, God has been so faithful there, let's just

look in our own lives, take a few minutes separately and just write down a half a

dozen or more, and they could be anything.  They could be a project you

completed or discipling a child or a decision at work or a verse in the Scripture

that meant a lot to you.  We would write those down and then come together

and share those and, very importantly, explain why those memorial stones were

meaningful to our heart.  And it's just a very simple way of engaging and having

kind of a heart-to-heart conversation.

Bob:  I want to take both of you back to the very first, again, because I think most

of our listeners are probably thinking, "This is a foreign concept.  We've never

done anything like this."  Don't you think that's true?  Most couples don't take the

time and do stuff like this.

Bill:  Right, I agree.

Bob:  And when they stop and think about doing it, the first thing that comes to

mind for many of them are all of the obstacles to doing it.  You've got to get

babysitting for the kids.  I mean, when you started you had children at home,


Carolyn:  Right.

Bob:  That's just not something that you pack a bag and leave.  You've got a lot

of work just to get away, don't you?

Carolyn:  Oh, absolutely, and it's hard.  In fact, sometimes we would leave town,

and we would look at each other and say, "Is this worth it?  It's just so hard, is

this worth it?"  And, yes, absolutely it is.  And we would get a young couple from

the church or some other family that would help us with the children at that time

and, yes, it's hard work, but it's well worth it.  It's a great investment in your


Bob:  But was it Bill who came to you first and said, "I think we need a weekend

away where we could just clear our schedules and get some time together?"  Or

was it your idea?  Who dreamed it up and – do you remember?

Carolyn:  Do you remember?

Bill:  I don't remember.

Carolyn:  I don't either.

Bill:  We'll just have to both take credit for that one, Bob.

Carolyn:  I think that when you asked the question a minute ago, was this

something you pre-planned or was it something that you went out of town with

your tongues wagging out.  I think that we were probably burned out at that time

and said, "We've got to get a handle on life here.  We're losing ground, and we've

got some issues to talk about, and we need to get out of town for a couple of

days and talk about that."

Dennis:  Yeah, I would have to say that would describe Barbara and me among

those first times we got away – it was survival.  We had some of our worst

arguments on the drive to get away, because we were tired, we were arriving too

late on a Friday night. 

In fact, that's one of the things we did.  We decided we would lengthen it and

have three nights away because by the time you've had the second night away, 

you're actually starting to think again with a clear head.  But for us it was a matter

of not merely surviving the schedule but getting back in charge of the schedule

and the pace of life and our values and on one another's team and not getting

down on one another.  The thing I like about the idea of sharing how God's been

good to you in recent months is that gets couples off of the negative and on the


I know there are probably couples listening right now that say, "Why, we couldn't think of anything.  I don't think God's been very good to us."  Well, part of that is the pace of life.  If you got away and had a chance to think about it for an hour, I think you might be surprised at where God has shown up in your marriage and your family, and how He's benefiting you.  But what happens is we get so focused on the negative and usually it's in your spouse and how they disappointed you and what these weekends have done for you guys as you got away was lift your eyes back up toward God and helped you appreciate one another in some fresh ways.

Carolyn:  That's right.

Bill:  You know, my mind sort of went back a little bit to those early days, and I

was a young pastor in a growing church.  We had very young children, and our

schedules were getting busier, and there were lots of things that I had never

done before and was learning on a very fast learning curve.  At times it was really


And that really is one of the discoveries, Dennis, you brought up just about the

treadmill.  We all live on a treadmill, and it is going so fast, and one of the things I

hope the whole idea of Getting Away to Get It Together (which is not really

original to us, it's really original to Jesus Christ – He got away to get His life

together on numerous occasions); but one of the things that you said a minute

ago is that it begins to move a marriage from the reactive approach to that

treadmill to a proactive approach.  And, as you said, you cannot imagine just the

simple discussions and ideas that you will have that will put your marriage back

on track.

Bob:  Did your first weekends away, as you started making this a practice in your

marriage, but back to those first ones – did you have an agenda in mind other

than let's just relax, have some romance, you know, reconnect as a couple?  I

can see couples saying, "Let's take a couple of days and get away, and we'll just

relax," or did you have – "We've got some things we need to accomplish, and I

want to make sure we get through this before we get home."

Bill:  I think it was a combination of both aspects of what you just said.  There

were some things that we wanted to do.  We wanted to address our schedule. 

We wanted to talk about our children.  But it wasn't like the annual business


Bob:  You didn't pass out an agenda to your wife?

Bill:  No, and, of course, again, going back to those early days, from a work ethic

standpoint, the idea of me taking off time in the middle of the week to go spend

parts of three days or so with my wife – I had to kind of overcome the inertia of,

"Well, gosh, whoever does that?" for openers. 

But as we first started doing it, we did fun things on the evening.  Like Carolyn

said, we didn't start real heavy.  We'd go have a nice dinner, and a lot of times

we would ask fun questions, like, "If you could go anywhere in the world, your

dream vacation, with any other couple and spend a few days, where would you

go, who would go with you and why?"  "What if you had $10 million?  What would

you do?"  Just fun questions where you were just interacting at a very easy level

over dinner, having fun, and just kind of getting into each other's brains and

dreams about how you'd answer those.

Bob:  I happen to know that you are about to go off on one of these weekends

with your wife in the next couple of days, right?

Dennis:  Right.  Actually, with Bill and Carolyn.

Bob:  Oh, are you guys going, too?  I didn't know that.

Dennis:  We're doing the very thing he talked about, and both couples have

talked about getting away to go to another city and …

Bob:  Do you have an agenda for this time, or is it just going to be relax and

have fun.

Dennis:  It's all about relationship – that's the agenda.

Carolyn:  You know, Barbara and I have been friends since before we were

married, and we've been sisters, we call each other, for many years, and Bill and

I are celebrating 35 years of marriage with this trip with Dennis and Barbara, and

we are really excited to get to spend some time and have some meaningful

conversations.  We'll talk about memorial stones.  I'm sure we'll talk about

dreams and plans for the future, and issues that we're all facing, too.

Bob:  Have you gone through the book in advance of this weekend?  I just want

to make sure you're up to speed on what you need to accomplish.

Dennis:  Well, the book is right here, Bob.  The weekend is right here.

Bob:  Yeah?

Dennis:  So what do you think?

Bob:  I'm hoping that you've taken some notes, and you're getting ready to get

away to get it together.


Dennis:  Absolutely.  I haven't taken any notes yet.  The notes will be taken

during the weekend.  But, you know, I've found that Barbara, as a woman, has a

great need for focus, and we, as men, have a great need to get off that treadmill

that Bill was talking about and give our wives some relational focus. 

And this weekend package, this book, Getting Away to Get It Together, lays it

out.  You don't have to be an expert in it, because Bill and Carolyn have laid it

out.  He has the checklist.  Bill is very thorough, and I promise you, the checklist

about what you need to take with you and what needs to be anticipated and how

you need to approach it, you can make this as structured or as unstructured as

you want to make it.  It needs to fit the needs of your marriage. 

In fact, one of the little areas I like about this is if you need time to relax, then here are some things to do.  If you need to really talk about some issues, then here is the place in the book to go to and do these projects.

Bob:  So you customize it?

Dennis:  Yes, it's like a smorgasbord.  And, frankly, there is more than one

weekend in here.  I mean, this is – wouldn't you say, Bill, probably a half a dozen

weekends right here?

Bill:  Easily, and the good thing about it is you can repeat a lot of the concepts. 

Really, if you think about the projects or the concepts in the book, they are really

just channels of communication.  They are just providing a little bit of structure to

invite a couple to be able to talk about some meaningful things in their


I remember when we were first married, and Carolyn and I would sit down to have a meaningful talk or even on those early retreats, Bob, there would be a lot of times where I would go, "Well, what am I going to talk about?  I've got to come up with something." 


And so, in part, it's just – for the husband, to me, it gives you a tool to have some

leadership resources to get things started.

Bob:  Well, you mentioned the memorial stones as one of the things that you and

Carolyn have talked about.  It's not like, as a couple, you go, "Okay, we've had

that talk.  Now we never need to discuss those things again for the rest of our

lives."  You can revisit that subject every time you go out or every third weekend

or every fifth – whenever it's appropriate for your marriage, right?

Bill:  Exactly, and another one that comes to mind is one we call "Child Talk,"

where basically you're just evaluating where your children are.  And it's a real

simple project to do, but because – same issue – your children are growing older

and so forth.  They have different needs and there are different things you want

to zero in and focus on as a couple, and so it's very helpful in doing that.

Bob:  Now, you know we've got a lot of listeners who are thinking, "Okay, first of

all, trying to find a weekend is tough.  Secondly, the expense of getting

babysitting, getting away, going someplace" …

Dennis:  Farm the kids out and stay home – although I would say this about that

– if you stay home, the tendency is to look around at the wallpaper that's peeling

in the bathroom, at the stuff in the yard or in the garage.

Bob:  I don't think staying home would work for me.

Dennis:  Well, it wouldn't for Barbara.  I think I could much better than

her, but you get distracted by the things that distract you daily – television, newspaper, the Internet, I mean, on and on it goes, and what you need to do is turn your cell phone off, don't take your computer with you unless you agree you're not going to go online.  And if you go someplace, one of the best places we went to didn't have TV.  It was a fully modern little cabin stuck away in Northern Arkansas.  It was a first-class place, but it didn't have any television to distract you.

Bob:  And Barbara was probably really glad about that.

Dennis:  She was, she was. 


Bob:  I think the point is, couples have got to make this a preventive

maintenance priority for your marriage.  You're really investing in the future

health of your marriage, and a weekend like this away – you may look at it and

go, "We just don't have the time," or "We don't have the money," or "We don't

have the resources."  You need to find some creative ways to make that happen

in order for your marriage to have that preventive booster shot that gets it

through the next cycle, right?

Dennis:  And if you'd please hurry up and tell them how to get a copy of Bill and

Carolyn's book here, because it's still a couple of days away, but I need to go pack.  Barbara and I are getting away to get it together.

Bob:  We've got copies of Bill and Carolyn's book in our FamilyLife Resource

Center.  In fact, this week – I think most of our listeners heard you at the beginning of today’s program talking about the matching gift fund.  It’s now the largest matching gift fund that FamilyLife has ever had access to.  If we’re going to take full advantage of it, this is a crucial week.  We need to hear from listeners. 

We need you to go online or call us and make a year-end donation to help

support FamilyLife Today.  If you’ll do that today, we’ll send you a copy of Bill and

Carolyn’s book as a thank you gift for your year-end donation.

All you have to do is go to, click the button that says “I

CARE” and make a year-end donation on our website or call 1-800-FLTODAY

and make a year-end donation.  Just mention that you’d like the book Getting

Away to Get it Together when you make that donation and we’ll be happy to send

it out to you.

We do appreciate your generosity and, again, thanks for doing your part to help

us take full advantage of this matching gift that is now in excess of $4 million and

is the largest matching gift FamilyLife has ever had access to.  We appreciate

whatever you can do to help us take full advantage of that matching gift.

We want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow when we’re going

to talk more with Bill and Carolyn Wellons about how we can do some of this

preventive maintenance in our marriage.   I hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast

production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll

see you back again tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

Help for today; hope for tomorrow.


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