FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Risen Motherhood: Prioritizing Marriage: Emily Jensen & Laura Wifler

with Emily A. Jensen, Laura Wifler | May 9, 2024
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Parenting pulling you in a million directions? Between a crowded calendar, your inbox, and never-ending laundry, finding time for your spouse can feel like a daily challenge. Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler, Co-Founders of the Risen Motherhood Podcast, chat about the importance of believing in your spouse, showing compassion, and finding fun ways to stay connected.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • 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.

Parenting can be overwhelming. Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler share tips for balancing parenting while maintaining your connection with your spouse.

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Risen Motherhood: Prioritizing Marriage: Emily Jensen & Laura Wifler

With Emily A. Jensen, Laura Wifle...more
May 09, 2024
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Emily: I want someone to say, “What’s going on with you today? Are you okay? You must have a lot on your mind,” and to really dig in and know that I’m not perfect; I have issues. You want someone to have that compassion. My husband also has hurts in his life; he also has things that are on his mind that are weighing on him. Recognizing that, [I ask], “What’s going on with you? Are you okay? How can I come alongside you in this?”—knowing that there’s a person on the other side who might be hurting, who might also be carrying a lot.

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

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.

Dave: I would say the hardest years of our marriage were when? Please don’t say, “Today,” or “This year.” [Laughter]

Ann: When our kids were little, it was so hard. I felt alone; I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing; I felt like you were building your career; and I was lost. I think that can be pretty typical, don’t you?

Dave: Oh, I think yes. It doesn’t have to be, but it just is when you’re in that season of life. We’ve got two moms in here with nine kids between them?—or eight?

Emily: Eight. [Laughter]

Laura: Eight. We had to count really quick.

Dave: Okay. I hope I’m not a prophet. [Laughter]

Laura: Oh, please don’t! Please! [Laughter]

Dave: We’ve got two moms in here with eight kids between them.

Ann: And they’re sisters-in-law.

Dave: It’s pretty cool. We’ve got Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler, the creators of Risen Motherhood. We’ve had a day with you guys. Welcome back for Day 2!

Emily: Awesome. Thank you for having us.

Laura: Yes, thanks.

Dave: Let’s talk. I mean, in your book, which I really love, because you apply the gospel—like I said yesterday, not just a little bit. Every page is full of the gospel.

Ann: And it’s the name of your podcast as well, isn’t it? Risen Motherhood

Emily: Risen Motherhood, yes.

Laura: Yes.

Emily: We were really creative with the book title.

Ann: I like it! [Laughter]

Dave: There you go; there you go. You just keep that brand going. [Laughter]

One of the things you mentioned—and you go through all these very practical things, and the gospel comes in; that’s why moms love what you do—is you have a chapter on marriage. I don’t know if we’ll spend the whole day talking about it, but I think we could; because you’re in that season. Talk about marriage, and having a great, healthy, God-purpose-centered marriage, in the middle of risen motherhood.

Ann: And let me add, too: both of you have children with disabilities. Your kids are getting older, but you’re continually putting your time and energy with all of your kids—but especially, you have some more energy that you’re putting into the kids who have special needs. I’m guessing that that can take a toll on your marriage, as well. Is that true?

Emily: Yes, absolutely. I think it’s just been interesting over the years, because you do go through phases in marriages—like what you’re saying—when kids are really, really little and all you are doing is just surviving day to day, and coordinating to the next outing.

I think for us—and we’ve been married 14 years, and our youngest is in first grade now; we’re a little bit out of that stage—we have been kind of rebuilding now, in our marriage. Not that anything was torn down, but it’s like your investing in a different way, that I think we didn’t always have time to do during the little years.

Ann: Yes, you’re looking at each other saying, “I remember you!”

Emily: Yes! [Laughter] And “Oh, the kids really will go to college someday. They really will move out.” I think, when they’re really little, you just don’t believe it; it seems impossible that they’ll ever be that old. And now, we’re saying, “Oh, actually, we can imagine the amount of years it will be, and then it’s us: “Are we investing in our friendship? Are we partnering on things together?”

I think something that’s really helped us through the years is just trying to stay on the same page in the big picture. My husband and I have really different personalities. We have really different ways of doing things. Our method to getting to the same end is usually different; but the point is that we’re trying to get to the same end. Trying to find ways we can be unified in the big picture and stay on the same page, I think, has really been important for us.

Ann: Let me ask you, Emily—you’re married to Laura’s brother.

Emily: Yes!

Ann: Has there ever been this awkwardness of: “Let me vent to you, not just about my husband, but about your brother”?

Laura: Ooohhh, I want to know this answer! I never asked.

Emily: Laura has been so good about being normal—laidback, being open about it; because I’m usually the one of the two of us who is like, “I want to make sure we have clean boundaries here, and that you don’t feel like you hear about this.”

Laura: Yes, I have no boundaries. I’m kidding. [Laughter]

Emily: But she pushes me, and is like, “I want to hear. I want to know what’s going on in your marriage.” I definitely feel like we’re able, somehow by God’s grace, to keep all of those things separate. Laura is someone I can talk to about marriage. Definitely, there are some topics that I’m not—

Laura: —obviously, I don’t want to know. I’ll be honest.

Ann: “I don’t…—[Laughter]

Emily: —I’m not going to get into details about.

Ann: —“…details about your brother.”

Emily: I know it’s weird. I’ve had to find another friend for that.

Laura: It’s happened a few times, where I think, “Mmmm,” in group settings. [Laughter]

But yes, the normal marriage questions we can talk about and “I’m still for you.” I think that is so key as friends, and as family members, that love one another—that we be for one another and believe the best in each other. I want her to have room and freedom to share the real realities of what’s going on and also know that I’m going to believe that they’re both (like you said) pursuing the same goal and their [method] is different. Just to be a friend and cheerleader; I think we all need that.

That’s a huge thing, I think, in marriage, too: that we believe the best in our spouse. I know that for me, my husband and I are also opposite, very different from one another—it seems to happen a lot in marriage—

Emily: —I know!

Laura: —and yet, I had to really trust that he wants the same thing as me.

You were going to say something.

Ann: I was going to say, when you say you want to see the best in each other,—

Laura: —yes.

Ann: —generally, most women don’t do that. They see the negative in their husband; they don’t see the good. How have you dealt with that?

Dave: Maybe their husbands aren’t as bad as the one you are married to.

Laura: Oh, no, no, no.

Ann: You’re awesome.

Laura: They’re normal husbands.

Emily: Normal marriages.

Ann: I think it’s typical, though, especially if you don’t have a friend who’s on the same page, spiritually. You’ve been around women [where] there is just a husband bashing that goes on.

Laura: Yes, absolutely.

Ann: So, you’re saying you’re believing the best and seeing the best. How did you start doing that?

Laura: I’ve been fairly open about my husband. For a long time, [he] worked really long hours—would just not be at home very often, because he was doing great at work and was really committed to his job. We definitely did not see eye to eye on that. My children were young and at home. My daughter was getting diagnosed with disabilities, surgeries. We were moving. There were so many things going on. I felt like he wasn’t as present as I had hoped for him to be.

I think one of the things that kept me through a lot of it was that his words were: “I want to be available. I want to be here. I love you. I care about you guys.” But sometimes, I felt like the actions didn’t add up—just the way I am in my own life, right? I say one thing, and then I do another thing. I had to believe that his heart was there, and that what he said, I felt like, at times, perhaps I couldn’t trust him; I could trust God with our lives. I could believe the best, because I believe that his heart was still soft towards wanting to be available to our family.

There were times where I think, in that situation, we needed more tools, more people around us; other voices helping us both to know how to get a different family lifestyle that we said we wanted, but it felt really hard to achieve in the moment. Believing the best doesn’t say, “I don’t see any of these problems,” or “Oh, you can do nothing wrong.” It doesn’t mean anything like that, but it does mean to say, “Okay, if he’s saying that he wants this—and I want this, too—I want to believe that we both want to pursue this, even though it feels really bumpy right, even though it feels really hard.” And then, we want to bring in voices, and support structures, and accountability, or whatever those things are in order to say, ‘Okay, we’re going to pursue what we both say we want.’”

Also, it can happen in little things, I think, a lot of times with couples, where one person just forgets to take out the trash. Believing the best means: “Okay, you actually forgot.” Not that “you only wanted to watch the football game,” or whatever, you know?

Ann: “How do you forget every single week?!”

Laura: I know; I know. [Laughter] Many questions.

Emily: Right, but what I like that you’re getting at, too, is that it’s almost developing compassion for your spouse, too,—

Laura: —that’s good.

Emily: —and who they are, and what they’re walking through; because with our own issues, when I forget to do something, I want someone to be like: “What’s going on with you today? Are you okay? You must have a lot on your mind,” and to really dig in and know that I’m not perfect; I have issues. You want someone to have that compassion.

It's helped me, too, to know my husband also has hurts in his life; he also has things that are on his mind that are weighing on him. Recognizing that, it’s not just, “Well, you didn’t meet my needs, and you’re not doing what I want,” but: “What’s going on with you? Are you okay? How can I come alongside you in this?” and knowing that there’s a person on the other side, who might be hurting, who might also be carrying a lot. Having that response to them, that I would want someone to have to me, I think, has been really helpful in having that longsuffering attitude—

Laura: —versus justice?

Emily: Yes!

Ann: The grace of the gospel.

Emily: Yes.

Dave: I’m sitting over here as the guy. I’m the only guy here—

Laura: —yes! [Laughter]

Dave: —as the husband representative. I’m thinking, “Man, you talk about grace! You two just spoke grace. Part of me is [thinking], “Do you do that?” [Laughter] Because there are moments where you said, when he was working,—

Emily: —you’ll have to invite our husbands in to see what they think. [Laughter]

Laura: Yes, you’ll have to ask.

Dave: But I know we get frustrated with one another. Both of you have already said enough, where I say, “Wow! You have good marriages.” In the middle of this crazy life you’re living [Laughter], and a season in your life where it would be really hard, get really practical: what do you do? Do you guys date? Do you talk at night? Do you—[Laughter]

Emily: —we talk.

Laura: It’s so funny that you bring up date night, because Emily and I have a thing about feeling like—[Laughter]—I don’t know if I’m allowed to share this—but feeling like date nights are so good and so helpful; but also, there are seasons in life, where date nights aren’t possible—

Dave: —yes.

Laura: —because we have children with disabilities.

Emily: —like date nights out of the house—

Laura: —yes, that’s what we’re talking about.

Emily: —at the restaurant.

Laura: Yes, good clarification, because we have children with disabilities.

Dave: Can you leave them?

Laura: We can. Clearly, we’re here. But it can be hard. It’s much more difficult to secure childcare and things like that. And especially when they were younger, we needed to be available for bedtime and things like that. While I think dates are so valuable, I think there’s a lot of pressure on young married couples, who have little children at home, to figure out a way, even if it’s: “Let’s watch TV and eat Ramen on the couch, where it’s just us and it’s intentional.” We’re tired! [Laughter] That’s a very real thing to be very, very exhausted because your kid’s not sleeping.

I think that the Lord is kind to sustain us, no matter our season. We have to trust that marriage is not dependent upon a special kind of set-aside night, but that God can sustain a marriage through so much more than that in heavy, big seasons, where maybe we don’t have capacity to even say, “Hey, every Tuesday night, we’re going to get on the couch, and we’re going to have ice cream.” I only say that to relieve some pressure.

Ann: That has relieved so much pressure. [Laughter] We talk to a lot of military families, where one of the spouse is deployed.

Laura: Yes!

Ann: “We can’t have date nights. So, can we not make it?”

Laura: Right. Is it good? Absolutely! Please, no one hear that. If you can do that, go for it! That’s going to be incredible. But also, you can have a very great marriage.

Dave: And the things that happen on a typical date night, whether it’s at a restaurant or whatever, you still do somehow: communication—

Laura: —exactly!

Dave: —connection, intimacy; you name it. I’m guessing you still do that, even in a different way.

Emily: Yes, it’s kind of like quiet time, where you have to be able to think outside of the box of: “If I can’t be with God from 6:15 am - 6:25 am—with my coffee, with my Bible—can I not meet with God?” It’s like: “You absolutely can! You can immerse yourself in the Lord all day, every day. You have to just be a little bit more creative and think more openly.”

I think, for us, that’s what we’ve done in each season: be creative about what it means to stay connected in that season. For us, right now, we have school-aged children; so, they’re gone during the day. Guess when my husband and I go do stuff together and hang out? While they’re at school! We rarely go on an evening date or a morning date; but if he’s free around lunch, and I’m free around lunch, I’ll say, “Hey, can we have lunch together?”

Laura: But as an alternative perspective: [Laughter] as someone who shared my husband worked really long hours, so we would not see each other very often; and still, he works away during the days, so that’s probably not practical for us to see one another during the daytime.

But that being said, one of the things that helped us was that we took trips together. We found that, for him, I always joked that we had to get him out of state in order for work to leave him alone. I know there will be women here who will resonate with that statement.

Dave: Yes.

Laura: I would plan us a little weekend away, or we would take a week away and do something a little bit longer. That was something we didn’t bring our children on, and it carried us a lot longer through things.

There were hard years! When my daughter was diagnosed with disabilities, and we were working through a lot of big life changes—please, no one hear that our marriage is good all the time. Especially in that season, things were really, really hard. But we both promised that we would make good on a covenant that we made before the Lord. It wasn’t an option for us to explore anything else, because we both knew that we wanted to make this work. This is assuming a healthy marriage that has its normal struggles and ups and downs, and there’s no abuse—there’s nothing like that. So, there are assumptions that I’m putting in here that I hope [everyone] hears those caveats are there and [have been] said.

But this is where we—Emily and I—keep saying, “We want the same thing.” We know that our husbands want to honor God. They want to be faithful to God, and they’re going to do it a different way than what we think is best. [Laughter] Their quiet times are going to look different than what I would suggest. Their time in men’s ministries is going to look different than what I think is the right way to do it. We have to give them freedom to be able to figure that out on their own, just like we have freedom to figure that out as wives.

There’s a lot more we could say, but I think it’s really just important to recognize your season of life and allow—talk with your husband: “What is right? How often should we have one-on-one time together? How often should we try to pursue a date night? “Should we take a yearly trip instead?” Having that open communication—when you’re both not hot-headed; you’re not coming in mad, saying, “I haven’t seen you in a month! What in the world…”

But instead, you’re saying, “I prayed about this. I feel like I’m in a good state right now, where I’m walking in grace,” and have that communication with your husband. Decide, then and there: “This is what we would like life to be like…”—knowing that it’s probably not going to measure up to that, but that’s something you want to pursue. I think that can be really helpful: “What’s practical? What’s realistic?” and “What do we want?” that fits in there.

Ann: I think that’s really good. And I’m guessing—I’m imagining—you’re having Emily praying for you as you’re having hard conversations or vice versa. And I’m guessing, too, because you talk to so many women—and this is kind of your job—you probably talk to a lot of women who don’t have husbands who are on the same page, spiritually. How do you encourage them?

Emily: Yes, that’s really challenging. What we try to do all the time is push moms toward their local church and their local community, because you really—I think, if you’re in a situation like that, you really—need people in your real life, who you see on a regular basis, who can be praying for you and who can speak into your specific situation. You need someone who knows your husband and your challenges, who can help give you wisdom.

It’s really, really difficult. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to feel like, “My husband and I aren’t on the same team.” But we know that she can trust the Lord, and she can rest her identity in Him, and that He is doing things in and through her life for His glory, for her good. There are scriptural promises that she can absolutely believe and rest in, even if her husband isn’t who she hopes that he would be.

I think, too, about the ministry of prayer that she has for her husband. Regardless of where he is spiritually, she may be the one person in his life who is going before the Lord on his behalf. Think about what a powerful thing that is and what a gift you’re giving in honoring him in that way. He may not know that or appreciate that, but that’s unseen work that the Lord sees, that He is rewarding, and no one else may care about in your life. That’s important work.

Dave: I would love for you to speak to the dad—the husband, because for years—probably, decades—I didn’t understand how hard it was for Ann, for a mom. I think I do now, maybe, but I didn’t. I wouldn’t come home and judge you, but I was like, “My life is really hard! I’m leading this…”—and I’d come in the door, and she was exhausted. Speak to the guy. Tell him: “This is what it is like for your wife…”

Laura: One thing I was going to say I’ve noticed throughout the years, is how over-stimulating it is, even just the physicality of it. Imagine you’re in a room all day, and there’s loud music blaring, and there are lights flashing; and there are little things coming out of the wall, punching your body. [Laughter] And you can’t leave except for when you go to the bathroom! And then, it’s like the room follows you. [Laughter]

Emily: It comes! It follows you back to the bathroom! [Laughter]

Laura: There is a very real component of it that is exhausting, because it’s so over-stimulating.

Ann: That’s so true!

Laura: The other day I actually heard—this was on some social media—a dad was saying (and I thought this was really cool): “I actually have the privilege to go work because my wife gets to be a stay-at-home mom. She serves me in that way.”

It was just interesting, because I think we say that a lot, as women: “We get to serve our husband when he’s at work,” especially, if that mom is a stay-at-home mom. But to hear a dad say, “I have the privilege of working outside the home because my wife is serving me in the home.” It’s saying the same thing but hearing it from a guy recognizing the privilege that that is because sometimes, it can feel like: “That’s his right. He gets to do that because he’s the head of the household.”

It can feel—especially, I’m someone who’s probably a little bit more ambitious, and has to use my hands and my mind all day, and I really enjoy that—and I think that was something that was hard for me. It felt like, “That’s his right, and so I have to be home in order to support him in that.”

Instead, for him to hear and recognize what a privilege it is. As we speak to dads, I think recognizing the privilege it is that you get to go off to work every day, and that you come home, and whatever state your home is in—it might be a total disaster; [Laughter] and depending on your wife, it might be neat as a pin—but to be able to tell her that: “I’m so glad that I’m able to go off to work and come home, and I want to help you, and I want to engage in this.” I think to be able to say that to her, that affirmation piece—that piece that says, “I see your work,”—because I remember I would go through my list with my husband, and say: “And I did this.” [Laughter] “And I took the trash out, and then, I mowed the lawn.” I was doing it all. I needed to hear; I needed someone to say, “I see the work you are doing.”

We know that God sees all the work—and that’s what we say at Risen Motherhood all the time: “Nobody may ever see your work, but Jesus sees.” But sometimes, you just need another human being that you love and care for to recognize it. That’s what I would to say to any guy who is listening: “Go home, and whether your wife is working outside the home, and she’s coming home and feeding those kids dinner and getting them off to practices, or she’s at home all day, tell her you love her. Tell her all the reasons why. Tell her why she’s incredible.” That, I think, will do so much for her as she goes into the next day and the week beyond. Put it on your phone. Make a little reminder, and do it once a week—or every day. [Laughter]

Ann: And if you’re hearing this, and you have a friend that you know her husband will not do that, you do it for her.

Laura: So good.

Ann: We just need to remind each other, as sisters: “I see everything you’re doing, and I know it’s hard. Way to go!”

Dave: And I’ve got to add this: “Dude, if you’re the guy that’s saying, ‘I can’t do that,’ do it.”

Laura: Yes.

Dave: Seriously!

Shelby: We’ll hear more encouragement from Dave about how a husband can practically honor his wife in just a second; but first, I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler on FamilyLife Today. I love how straightforward and simple it can be to bring life into a specific context by being intentional to encourage.

I know today’s conversation gave you some good tracks to run on when it comes to the practicalities of doing that. If you want to hear more from Emily and Laura, they’ve written a book called Risen Motherhood: Gospel Hope for Everyday Moments. You can find some practical ways to see connection between your faith and everyday challenges that you go through as a mom. And you can get your copy right now by going online to

While you’re at, you’ll discover that there’s a little button at the top of the page that says “Donate Now.” That gives you the opportunity to partner with us, here, at FamilyLife®. The really cool thing is that, all month long, in the month of May, every gift that you give will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $500,000. We really encourage you to become a monthly partner with us. Join us in the ministry of reaching families and marriages all over the world. You can do that by going online to, or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Alright, here’s Dave Wilson with some encouragement about how a husband can practically honor his wife:

Dave: Dude, if you have a moment where you can get quiet, say, “Honey, tell me about your day.”

Laura: Yes.

Dave: Hear about her day! She’s had a hard day, probably. I know you have, too, [Laughter] but she’s had a hard day. She would feel honored to be able to say: “Well, I did this. I changed 18 diapers, and I picked up”—

Ann: “—I mowed the grass.” [Laughter]

Laura: And be impressed!

Ann: “You’re amazing!”

Laura: Yes, exactly! [Laughter] Genuinely impressed, yes.

Shelby: Now, coming up tomorrow, be sure to join us as Emily and Laura talk about the complexities of what it’s like to be a mother of children with disabilities and how they share their faith and find strength in supportive communities. 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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