Welcome!

We live life better when we live life together. Openly authentic. Incredibly transparent. Masks removed.

God often does His best work through the cracks in our lives. We’ve certainly experienced that.

That’s why Mark and I hang out here in the blog world with our Marriage Monday posts. That’s the heart of our authenticity when we speak. That’s what drives us when we write.

I’m glad you’ve dropped by for a visit. Poke around a bit and stay a while! There are all kinds of goodies to be found on the topics of marriage, parenting, living with less, faith, and self-care (especially for moms who often put themselves last)!

I’m a breast cancer survivor–if you or someone you love is walking that road, you’ll find hope and help here.

I also LOVE to encourage beginning speakers who often tap into my Inspire Speaker Course or my speaker coaching.

Lead a moms group or a small group of couples? You might like to know that our No More Perfect Moms, No More Perfect Kids, No More Perfect Marriages, and Better Together books all come with FREE video curriculum that can be accessed in Right Now Media or over on our No More Perfect and Better Together websites!

I also LOVE to provide focused help with these FREE eChallenges:

With the release of our No More Perfect Marriages book in 2017, we’ve got some great resources and opportunities to keep your marriage headed in the right direction:

Pick up a copy of No More Perfect Marriages. Moody Publishers is offering a fantastic BOGO offer of our book packaged with another wonderful marriage book during the month of December only!

Become a No More Perfect Date Night member! It’s a mini-marriage seminar brought into your living room every week! (Membership is normally open only twice a year but is available in December/January only for Samaritan Ministry members–and those who happen upon this post during that time!)

Check out the Flirt Alert to put flirty fun back in your marriage!

See if a No More Perfect Marriages event is in your area or bring one to your church!

Find out about our marriage coaching and intensives we offer both online and in our Central Illinois farmhouse. We love helping couples!

Check out our No More Perfect Marriages 10 Day Blog Series we wrote after our affair recovery.

If infidelity has been part of your story, you might want to check out my short ebook Your Next Steps: What To Do When Your Spouse is Unfaithful.

Finally, if you’re looking for a regular dose of encouragement, you can subscribe to the blog here. I also love hanging out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest!

I’m your biggest cheerleader! Say hello and introduce yourself in the comments. I look forward to meeting you! 

Does Your Marriage Need A Holiday?

Marriage Monday

Jill: December is a full month for most of us. Shopping. Christmas entertainment and school programs. Holiday parties. Church Programs. Baking. Decorating the tree. Holiday gatherings with extended family. Travel. New Years.

Mark: We’re adding a wedding in there, too. Our youngest is getting married on December 21, just about 2 and a half weeks away.

Jill: So we’ve decided that it is healthy for us to take a holiday from our weekly Marriage Monday posts for the month of December.  I’ll be doing the same with my blogging. We’ll start back up in January.

Mark: A holiday is a time we set aside to stop work and rest. It’s a time to re-energize and refuel. To move our focus from one thing to another.  While we rarely think about it from a marriage perspective, we need to sometimes.

Jill: Where does our marriage need to experience a holiday? Do we need to set aside a little time and money for a getaway for the two of us? Do we need to stop going to choir practice on Wednesday nights for a month so we can have a sit down family meal one night a week? Should we commit to set aside one night a week or one night a month for a date night in 2018?

Mark: So while we’re taking our holiday, we hope you’ll think about where you need to re-energize and refuel as it relates to your marriage. Where do you need to move your focus from one thing to another?

Jill: As you look ahead to 2018, we also want to invite you to attend (or bring to your area!) one of our events.  Why not put “attend a No More Perfect Marriages event” on your Christmas list?  Here are the Spring events we currently have on the calendar that we’d love to see you at!

February 9-10, Springfield, IL No More Perfect Marriages Retreat
February 17, Scottsdale, AZ, No More Perfect Marriages Night Out
March 2-3, Galesburg, IL, No More Perfect Marriages Retreat
April 6-7, Claremore, OK, No More Perfect Marriages Retreat
May 19, Westerville, OH, No More Perfect Marriage Morning Out

We’re also speaking at Maranatha Family Camp in Muskegan, Michigan, June 30-July 7. If you’ve been looking for a unique family vacation experience, come join us! We’ll be talking about marriage and family all week!

Mark: Oh and one more thing. For the month of December only, our publisher (Moody) is offering a great Buy One Get One Free offer on our No More Perfect Marriages book!

They’ve paired it with Ashleigh Slater’s book Team Us. It’s a great opportunity to pick up something for  yourself and for a gift! It’s an even sweeter deal with FREE Shipping when you buy $25 or more!

Jill: We hope you’re able to enjoy December to the fullest and you’re making plans for 2018 to be the best year ever!

How To Successfully Bake Christmas Cookies With Kids

I’ve been baking cut out cookies with my kids for 32 years.  It’s one of my favorite things to do!

Several years ago I created a suggested plan for baking Christmas cookies with kids of ALL ages. That’s what I’m sharing with you today!

Through many disappointments and trials and errors, I’ve finally learned how to do it well at every stage of mothering and grandmothering.

Let me share my secrets with you!

 

Here’s the recipe I use:

Cut-Out Cookies

1/2 c. Crisco
1 stick butter
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
3-1/2 c. of flour  (I usually add more until the dough isn’t sticky)

(I’m currently looking for a clean Christmas cut out cookie recipe–if you have a proven one send it my way!)

Chill 1 hour.  Roll 1/4″ thick with rolling pin. (I disinfect my kitchen island and roll the dough right on the counter top. Make sure and flour the surface you are rolling on and flour the rolling pin–just rub flour all over it–so the dough doesn’t stick)

Use cookie cutters for shapes.  Bake 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes until shine is off (do not overcook–you don’t want them brown on the edges).

Icing

2 sticks butter (softened–I leave the sticks on the counter for about 30 min)
4-1/2 – 4-3/4 c. powdered sugar (I usually add more until it peaks when you mix it)
1/2 c. milk
1-1/2 tsp vanilla or peppermint (we use peppermint!)

Beat butter to fluffy and add 1/2 of the powdered sugar. Add milk and vanilla and rest of sugar.  Divide into smaller bowls and add food coloring as desired (we usually do red, green, blue, yellow, and white)

Note: Cookies can be frozen either before icing or after icing, if you want to decorate or eat at a later time.

Here’s how to successfully make cut-out cookies with kids of any age:

Preschool Years: 
1) Day 1: You make and chill dough while they are napping.
2) Day 2: You cut out and bake cookies while they are napping.
3) Day 2 or 3: You make icing and ice the cookies
4) Your preschooler can put sprinkles on while the icing is still wet.
5) Enjoy eating, giving away, and sharing the yummy cookies you made!

Grade School Years 
1) You make and chill the dough
2) You roll out the dough and let them use the cookie cutters to cut out the shapes
3) You put them in the oven.
4) Once all the cookies are cool, the kids and you can ice them and decorate with sprinkles.  (this can also be done on the next day if cookies are stored in an airtight container.)
5) Enjoy!

Note: Grade school years is a great time to teach your kids to make cookies from scratch. Since Christmas cookies have five parts to them–1) making the recipe  2) chilling the dough  3) rolling the dough and cutting the cookies  4) baking the cookies  5) decorating the cookies—I find this isn’t the best time to teach them to bake.  The process is too long and they are impatient to get to the cutting out and decorating.  Teach them to follow a recipe some other time with something like Chocolate Chip cookies or Oatmeal Raisin Cookies that you just mix up, bake, and eat!

cookie collageJunior High/High School Years
1) You make and chill the dough (if you have a teen that wants to do that, let them!)
2) You show them how to roll out the dough and cut out the cookies, then let them do it themselves!
3) You help with the baking.
4) Enjoy decorating the cookies with your family!

Even when the dough is already made and chilled, it’s usually about a 3 hour process to roll out the dough, cut out the cookies, bake, and decorate them. That’s why I’m a believer in already having the dough made and chilled no matter the age of the kids! 

If you’re here for the first time, I write about faith, family, motherhood, and marriage. If you don’t want to miss out on future giveaways and words of encouragement, you can subscribe below!

The Power of Perseverance

I saw the little square notice in our local newspaper. It stated basic information about a college scholarship available for Christian students. I didn’t have anyone in college at the time. My older three were young adults, my younger two were freshman and sophomore in high school.

I cut out the notice and tucked it into a file marked “Scholarships.” Three years later during Austin’s senior year, I opened up the file, pulled out that little slip of paper and prompted him to apply.

Several months later he was notified that he had received a $500 scholarship from the private foundation. It wasn’t a lot but it covered his books. We thanked God for that provision! A year later he was notified by the group that it was time to re-apply for this year’s funds. He applied and this time he was denied. No scholarship his sophomore year.

I tucked the denial letter away and marked our calendar for the next year’s application date. As he was finished up his sophomore year I reminded him to reapply. He protested that he’d been denied last year, but I encouraged him to apply anyway.  A few months later he received notification of another $500 scholarship. Again provision for his books!

As his junior year was coming to a close, I once again rang the scholarship bell. “Mom, it’s a lot of work for $500.”  “I know,” I responded, “but every little bit helps.”  He sent in his application.  This time the response was different. He received a $2000 scholarship!  We were all jumping up and down with excitement!

Perseverance paid off.

We live in an “instant” society. Technology teaches kids that if you have a problem, you just “reboot” to fix it.  Appliance companies no longer make washers and dryers to last 20 years…instead 2-3 years is the life of an appliance. It’s all throw-away. Give up. Quit.

As parents, we have to model perseverance and we have to help our kids learn the value of perseverance.

Romans 5:3-4 tells us to, rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope.

God uses perseverance to grow us and to grow our kids.

When my daughter Anne and I were writing our book Better Together: Because You’re Not Meant To Mom Alone, Anne shared this story about perseverance in friendship:

I began attending MOPS when Rilyn was six months old. I really didn’t have any “mom” friends and was craving same-season friendship. My mom was going to be speaking at a local MOPS group in a few months and I wanted to attend incognito
for a while. I wanted them to know me for me and not for who my mom was.

I was the only one with an infant at my assigned table and so at times I felt like I didn’t belong. I questioned whether or not I should continue to attend, as I didn’t seem to have much in common with these women because our children were in different stages of life. I decided to stick it out, and as the year continued I learned a lot from these women but never found a connection of friendship.

It took me three years to find my Strawberry Pink girls. Our table just clicked, all eleven of us. We shared tears, laughter, struggles, and encouragement. We rallied around the friend whose husband was deployed, encouraged the friend whose husband was living and working in a different state, and supported the friend whose son was killed in an accident. We prayed for one another, played in each other’s homes, and had girls night outs together. These friends held me up when my dad went through a midlife crisis and left for a few months. I had never experienced friendship like this and was relishing in it.

I’ve learned that connection takes time. In our “instant” society, we are often inclined to believe that great friendship happens just as fast as “Confirm” is pressed on a Facebook friend request. That’s not the way it is in real life. Friendships take time
to find and nurture. Then once we connect, it’s both the highs and lows of life that make us better together.”

Honestly most of us would give up after one year let alone two!  However, Anne’s story illustrates the value of perseverance.  And I love how she was able to see the positive even in the waiting as she kept herself in a place to learn from other moms.

For Austin, he learned gratitude in the persevering. He also learned the value of being responsible with the little things to lay the foundation for possibly being entrusted with something more (which is living out Luke 16:10).

I’ve learned there’s power in perseverance. In marriage. Parenting. Friendships. In my relationship with God. In family relationships. In work and play.

Perseverance strengthens our character and gives us hope that the future will look different someday. Missing out on perseverance causes us (and our kids) to miss out on growth opportunities God wants to use to mature us. That alone motivates me to persevere–and encourage my kids to persevere–when it sometimes seems like it might be easier to quit.

What about you? Where do you need to persevere? Where do you need to keep pursuing? Where do you need to keep waiting and trusting that God is at work? 

Inspire Speaking Course–Find The Right Payment Option For You!

Are you thinking about the Inspire Speaking Course but not sure you can swing the single payment?

We’ve got you covered!

Through midnight PST Cyber Monday (November 27) you can sign up with any these options and still grab a significant discount:

Save $75 with one $224 payment
Save $65 with two $117 payments
Save $50 with three $83 payments
Save $39 with four $65 payments

Want to find out more details about the course? You can find that here. Want to sign up? Simply click on the payment option above that works best for you!

Cyber Monday Buys

Looking for just the right gift for that someone special?  Just window shopping in the privacy of your own home? Here are some great deals to check out this Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend!

Inspire Speaker Course–This is my brand new online speaker course for beginning and intermediate speakers. $75 off from Black Friday through Cyber Monday!

 

 

 

 

 

SoulFeed–this is a great gift for the college student in your life. You can order a single month or an entire semester of encouragement!

I love Dayspring! Their gifts blend faith into everyday products I use! Here are some of the best deals:

Shop DaySpring’s $5 Journal Sale today!

Shop DaySpring’s $5 Mug Sale today!

One Day Only! Take 35% off sitewide TODAY in DaySpring’s Cyber Monday Sitewide Sale. Use code MONDAY17.

 

Moody Publishers is running a Cyber Monday special–50% off all titles AND free shipping on orders of $25 or more! My books No More Perfect Moms, No More Perfect Kids, No More Perfect Marriages, Better Together, and Real Moms…Real Jesus are all Moody titles! If you’ve had your eye on one of those for yourself or a friend or family member, today’s the day to grab one!

 

 

 

Over on Amazon you can find incredible deals. If you’re not already an Amazon Prime member, you can get a free 30 day trial–perfect for your online Christmas shopping! Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial!

Here are a few of my favorite deals:

Ancestry Genetic Testing–44% off! Usually $99…today it’s $54.99! My mom had this on her Christmas list last year!

Instant Pot LUX60–I love my Instant Pot! I use almost daily because I can cook dinner from frozen to perfect in just about 30 minutes!

Echo Dot–Still $20 off!

Amazon Fire Stick–$15 off

Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet–$50 off

Amazon Fire HD8 Kids Tablet with protective kids case–$40 off

(Most of my books are heavily discounted on Amazon. Great for you or picking one up as a gift for your sister, sister-in-law, and a friend!)

How To Let It Go

Marriage Monday

Hello Jill and Mark:

I need advice on how to learn to “let it go” when it comes to marriage. This is in relation to things like broken promises about household projects and such. I realized this morning that I need to figure out how to let it go.

Signed,

Hurting

 

Dear Hurting,

It’s so hard when our spouse’s imperfect affects our life.  If their mistakes, shortcomings, and poor choices only affected them it would be much easier. However, most of the time it affects us, too. The opposite is also true–our imperfect affects our spouse’s life, too.

Mark and I talk about 8 God-Tools in our No More Perfect Marriages book. It’s in times like this when we need to pick up two of our God-Tools: Forgiveness and either Grace or Courage, depending on the situation.

Forgiveness is the first God-Tool we need to handle these situations. Forgiveness keeps our heart uncluttered and available to God. It’s how we “let it go.” But it’s a choice…not a feeling. You won’t ever “feel” like forgiving. You’ll have to choose to forgive.

Forgiveness is also not once and done. When your spouse’s imperfect hurts you in some way, you’ll need to forgive. And then if you bump into another consequence of his/her actions, you’ll have to forgive…again.

Forgiveness is only the first tool though. You’ll have to pick up a second tool and that’s going to be either Courage or Grace. How do you know which one?

Does what happened hurt you or just irritate you? 

If it hurt you, you need to forgive and have the courage to tell your spouse how his or her actions hurt you.  Of course, you can’t control how your spouse will respond, but the conversation will have a much better chance of going well if you’ve already forgiven him or her and aren’t emotionally ramped up yourself.

If it irritates you, you need to forgive and offer your spouse grace–grace space–the space to be human, make mistakes, and not get raked over the coals for being imperfect.

Most of the challenges in marriage require hard, internal work. Forgiveness, grace, and courage are all difficult choices to make. They require us to be willing to do things God’s way rather than our way. Ultimately they give us the ability to experience the “peace that passes understanding” the Bible talks about in Philippians 4:7.

So how do we let go? We pick up our God-Tools and do the hard internal work of forgiveness and grace or courage.

Because we’re all imperfect,

 

 

So what about you? Where do you need to use your God-Tools of forgiveness, grace, or courage? 

My Breast Cancer Journey

Four years ago this week my life changed when breast cancer became a part of my vocabulary. 

It had been a part of my extended family’s vocabulary for some time because my aunt, my mom, and my grandmother had all received breast cancer diagnoses before I did. We don’t have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene but as my genetics counselor said, “You don’t have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 breast cancer gene, but there’s no doubt in my mind that your family has a breast cancer gene…it just hasn’t been discovered yet.” This is such a reminder of the need for continued breast cancer research.

Because my diagnosis came before I was 50, the implications for my daughters and granddaughters are tangible.  Our family has to be vigilant about screening, eating well, exercising, and doing self-checks.

When I finished my treatment my oncologist told me I had three jobs:
1) Eat healthy.
2) Exercise daily.
3) Keep my weight and BMI in a healthy range.

My marching orders were clear and I do my best to stay on track. Our family has reduced portions, increased vegetables, learned to read labels (Do you know that most brands of canned tomatoes have sugar in them? Find options without added sugar!), removed refined sugar from our diet, changed from plastic to glass food storage containers, changed cleaning products to stay away from environmental toxins (my new favorite way to wash clothes is Crystal Wash. We’ve been using it for six months and love it!)

My breast cancer was found on a routine mammogram. I can’t impress it upon you enough to make sure that you get regular mammograms. (If you’re concerned about the radiation exposure from mammography, you need to know that, according to my breast surgeon, the radiation level in mammography is similar to the radiation exposure you experience flying in an airplane.)

My cancer was stage 1, triple-negative cancer. I felt no lump. My doctors couldn’t find a lump. But the mammogram detected a tumor and the follow up needle biopsy confirmed it was cancer.

Breast cancer is categorized by what fuels the cancer. It’s either HER2 positive, Estrogen positive, Progesterone positive or Triple-Negative. For instance, if it’s estrogen positive the cancer is being fueled by estrogen in the body. In my type of cancer–triple negative–it’s negative for HER2, negative for estrogen, and negative for progesterone. What that means is they actually don’t know what DOES fuel triple-negative breast cancer. Because of that, they throw everything they have at it–surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.  It was a long six months of treatment for me, but I also have no follow up medication I have to take to reduce hormone levels in my body.

I still see my breast surgeon and oncologist every three months. They don’t consider you cancer-free until you’re 5 years out from treatment. I have one more year to go!

I blogged quite a bit through my journey. I now have all of those posts gathered into one place that can be accessed easily through this graphic on my Home Page:

If you or someone you love receives a cancer diagnosis, click on the graphic to find practical information and spiritual encouragement in the difficult journey of cancer. I even have a video of one of my radiation treatments so those going through it can know what to expect.

October was breast cancer month, but November is MY breast cancer month. It’s my opportunity to share my journey AND remind women to be vigilant about their healthcare and the screenings that are an important part of taking care of ourselves.

Taking care of yourself IS taking care of your family. If you need to get your pap smear, mammogram, or colonoscopy on the calendar, make the call as soon as you are finished reading this.

Early detection saves lives.  My story is a reminder of that!