Need to Recalculate?

Mark: “Recalculating,” states the voice on the GPS unit. “Recalculating,” she repeats once again as we find ourselves off course on a trip. It’s a scene most of us are familiar with in some way now that smartphone map apps and GPS units are built right into our cars.

Jill: We recently were struck by the word “recalculating” and how that word can be used to describe what happens when we are considering or navigating change. In fact, the concept of “examining” the realities of life and how those measure up to our vision for our family is an important strategy for parents and marriage partners to be doing on a regular basis. If reality doesn’t match up to vision, then recalculating may be needed to get back on course.

Mark: What does recalculating look like practically? Here are some ways families we personally know have chosen to recalculate:

Jeff and Sienna chose to cut back on their volunteer commitments because they realized they were both away from home in the evenings too often.

John chose to say no to overtime hours so he could spend more time with his family.

Todd and Laura chose to move from two incomes to one income to simplify their lives.

As a single mom, Jennifer decided to search for a new job that was less stressful than her current job.

Savannah and her husband realized that they were drifting apart in their marriage. They recalculated and put monthly date nights on their calendar to invest in their marriage.

After trying every consequence and motivational strategy for their son’s academic struggles, Tom and Sarah made the decision to seek professional help for their child who was eventually diagnosed with ADHD.

Paul and Brenda wanted their family to have dinner together at least five nights a week. In order to regain that balance they realized that they needed to limit their children’s extra curricular sports and activities to no more than two per child.

Stan and Sue knew their marriage was not in a good place. They decided to find a counselor and make marriage counseling a priority in order to get back on track.

Jill: The only way we can recalculate is to slow down enough to examine and evaluate the condition of our relationships, the habits of our family, and the daily stresses of our life. By asking questions like, “Is this the life I want to live?” or “Is this the marriage we want to have?” or “Is this all we have hoped for our family?” we can begin the process of evaluating. If the answer is “No,” then recalculate and get yourself, your family, or your marriage headed back in the right direction.

Mark: Life has a way of causing us to drift away from each other. Recalculating helps us get back on course.

What about you? Where do you need to do some recalculating in your life, family, or marriage?

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The Importance of Re-Entry

Jill: This week I’m on the road speaking. While Mark travels with me much of the time, it didn’t work for this trip. So we’re already looking ahead to a re-entry plan.

Mark: Military families are schooled on the concept of re-entry after dealing with lengthy deployments and times of separation.  Re-entry simply means that there is a plan in place to reconnect intentionally.

When Jill and I first learned about re-entry, we started putting a date on the calendar for us to talk without interruption within 24 hours of our return.  We couldn’t believe the difference this made for us.

Jill: One day a friend of mine found herself torn between two feelings as she faced her husband coming home from yet another business trip.  His job required him to travel a lot.  She always looked forward to him coming home but she also dreaded it, too.  When I asked her why she said that one of the first things he wanted was physical intimacy and that was furthest from her mind because she felt emotionally disconnected from him.

I challenged her to do something different when he arrived home this time. I suggested that she meet him at the airport so that the two of them could go get a cup of coffee or dinner together before he was immersed back into the demands of parenting and the chaos at home.

She decided to give it a try and reported back several days later that it had made a HUGE difference for them.  They connected emotionally as a couple over coffee hearing all about the things that had happened while they were apart.  Because they first connected emotionally, there were no issues connecting physically later that weekend.

Mark: I’ve always appreciated our re-entry dates.  When the kids were younger, sometimes we’d go out and sometimes we’d just sit on the porch and talk after the kids are in bed.  Either way worked, as long as we planned it!

Jill: When one of us was gone, it was important to debrief as parents.  If Mark was gone, he needed to know who was grounded, what homework projects were on the radar screen, and anything else that happened in his absence.  And if I was gone, I needed to know the same.

Mark: When our kids were small and having meaningful conversations was difficult, Jill and I even used this concept daily.  We would take 15 minutes after I got home from work to sit on the porch (in the summer) and talk or sit at the dining room table and talk (in the winter).  This allowed us to intentionally reconnect before we headed into the chaos of the evening.

Jill: Even though we no longer have kids at home, a re-entry plan is still important. This allows us to make emotional connection our first priority.

Mark: So the next time you and your spouse are going to apart for whatever reason, put a re-entry date on the calendar!

What about you? What strategies have you found helpful for reconnecting after being apart from each other? 

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Our Kitchen & Bathroom Makeover

It only took ten months, but we finally finished!  Bless Mark’s heart, he would do remodels all day for his Sawhorse Homes business and come home to do our remodel on nights and weekends. It was a labor of love for all of us, but particularly challenging for Mark.

It all started when one of the big box stores that Mark installs counter tops for made a customer’s kitchen countertops wrong…three times!  When Mark expressed frustration to the store about his lost time and wages dealing with these installations, they told him he could keep the countertops that were made incorrectly.

The kids had been complaining about how outdated the green gingham wallpaper was for years. I’m a function gal, though. Outdated doesn’t bother me. If it doesn’t function well…that’s another thing. With countertops being one of the most expensive parts of a kitchen makeover and we now had them for free (yes, Mark had to cut them and “make” them fit our kitchen), we decided to take the plunge and re-do the kitchen as well as the bathroom off the kitchen.

So the decision-making began. Colors, what to do with the cabinets (we painted them), peeling wallpaper, new ceiling, bathroom vanity, sooooooo many decisions. I’m not creative, but I can “borrow” ideas like the best of them! You can bet I was spending quite a bit of time on Pinterest!

In the end we tore out a wall and opened up the staircase, opened up a pass through into the office to let more light in, replaced our kitchen island (with a cabinet a friend found on the side of the road!), turned an antique sewing machine we already had into our bathroom vanity (thank you, Pinterest!), painted walls, and replaced the ceiling (with styrofoam tiles that we LOVE!)

Here are our before and after pics:

img_1964 img_1963 img_1960 img_1961 img_1962 img_1965

Our bathroom vanity was a repurposed antique singer sewing machine!

Our bathroom vanity is a repurposed antique singer sewing machine!

We opened up the wall to let more light in!

We opened up the wall to let more light in!


The styrofoam tiles were so easy to install!

Posted in Miscellany | 5 Comments

Marriage Is A Labor of Love

Mark: It’s Labor Day. For some of us it’s a day filled with family, friends, and picnic food. For others, it’s a day to work on home projects. And still others are just enjoying that extra day provided in this 3-day weekend.

Jill: Labor Day signals the end of summer and the beginning of Fall. No matter what you’re doing today, it’s also a good day to make plans for how you will this Fall to grow your marriage.

Mark: In marriage, we’re always growing. The truth is, though, we’re either growing together or growing apart. If we’re not intentional about growing together, we’ll naturally grow apart.  On this Labor Day, it’s important to remember that marriage takes work. It’s truly a labor of love, in every way.

Jill: Take just 30 minutes today or sometime this week to answer some of these questions and make plans to grow your marriage this Fall:

What new habit could we start this Fall to invest in our marriage? Exercise together? Pursue a hobby together? Take a walk after dinner each night? Put a date night on the calendar every other week? Spend 30 minutes snuggling and talking together after the kids are in bed and before you each slip into your own evening activities?

What Fall activity could we put on the calendar to do together in September? What about October and November?

What can we start setting aside financially to invest in our marriage? $10/week? $100/month?

When could we do a weekend getaway just for the two of us? Who could watch the kids? If finances are tight, could the kids go to friends or grandparents and we do a “getaway” at home?

We’ve been answering some of these questions and here are some of our plans:

Daily: Exercising together (7am kick-boxing class Monday-Friday)
Daily: Praying together–we use our drive time to and from exercise class to pray together
September: attending “Fight Night” with Les and Leslie Parrott in Springfield, IL
October: Day of motorcycle riding with friends
Financially: saving for a week in Florida in January

The fall routines are slipping into place. What will YOU do to make sure your marriage has some intentional growing routines as well? 

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The Lure of Happiness

GettyImages-170109806Jill: I remember the day well. It was about a month after Mark had moved back home. He came home from work, smiled, and said to me, “Do you know what I realized today?” “No, what?” I replied. “I realized I’m happy. I’m actually happy!” he announced!

Mark: It was a huge realization for me because I’d been unhappy for quite some time. In my unhappiness, I ended up “looking for love in all the wrong places.” I didn’t like what God was doing in my life and decided I was taking the steering wheel into my own hands. Of course, I felt happy with my newfound freedom in life. I was leaving my old life behind in pursuit of a mirage that was before me. I guess you could say I was infatuated with my new self-driven direction. I was blind to the destruction I was causing in my life and around me.

Jill: Years earlier Mark and I had become familiar with Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Marriage. The premise of that book was “what if God didn’t give us marriage to make us happy, but instead to make us holy?” I thought it was a great question, but Mark didn’t like it at all.

Mark: To be honest, that question totally ticked off my immature self.  “Of course, God wanted us to be both happy and holy!” I defended. I discounted the book and didn’t give the message much thought. Although deep down that question continued to haunt me.

Jill: Somewhere along our restoration journey we’d had a conversation about happiness and holiness.  Mark began to think through that question once again, now through the lens of a fully submitted heart that was only concerned about holiness (doing life God’s way).

Mark: I knew I’d made a mess of things and the picture I had was that God and I were walking down the road. I was holding His hand and we were staying on the yellow line. I was committed to not moving to the right or to the left and I was definitely staying away from the edge of the road where I could too easily end up in the ditch. I’d played along the edge entirely too long and had ended up in the ditch. I didn’t want to do that again!

Jill: So that afternoon when Mark came home and made his announcement that he was actually happy, I knew it was a huge realization for him. He’d been pursuing holiness and he was experiencing joy!  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. When there’s more Jesus in us, there’s more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control!

Mark: So I found that Gary Thomas was right. Marriage is one big Refiner’s Fire. Because we live day in and day out with another imperfect human being, our imperfections bump into each other and it often feels like our “happy” is gone. But when we pursue holiness…when we respond God’s way instead of how our “feelings” want us to …when we stay steady and focused on being the right person…we eventually experience the happiness we actually desire. It’s a happiness that is not dependent upon our circumstances but is rather a byproduct of an undivided heart.

Jill: Marriage provides companionship. It’s God’s way of allowing us to experience the deepest level of intimacy on earth. However, it also provides a first class ticket to maturity. We get the opportunity to die to self and learn to love, give, and forgive at deeper levels than we knew were possible. When that happens, we experience the joy of knowing and trusting God more. Pursue holiness…experience happiness.

What about you? Are you trying to find happiness without doing life God’s way? Where do you need to change gears and pursue holiness?

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You’re Still At Home?

I was a stay-at-home mom for over twenty years. In fact, my first book, Professionalizing Motherhood was written specifically for moms at home. It’s still in print and making a difference in the lives of moms at home all over the world.

Today’s post was one I wrote in 2002 when my youngest entered kindergarten (and before we adopted child #5!), but it’s still pertinent today for many moms. I was reminded of that after receiving two emails from readers this past month who were struggling with this decision. May this encourage those of you who have kids in school but are still choosing to be at home.  

(If you’re a work-at-home mom, you might enjoy this post and if you’re a working mom, you will find this post just what you need!)



You’re Still At Home and Your Children Are In School?

I can hardly believe the day is here. In fact, I’m not quite sure what to think of the prospect of this new season of life. Because of the spacing of our children, we’ve had a preschooler at home for 17 years. For the first time in my career as a mom, I now have all of my children in full-day school. What will I do with myself?

The question was posed to me the other day, “Now that all of your children are in school what will you do?” When I responded that I would remain committed to full-time motherhood, the second question followed: “Why?”

While there are less moms home full-time when their children enter school, most who remain home do so with the same convictions I have. In our case, this continues to be a financial sacrifice for our family, but one we feel is worth making. Let me share with you why I think the profession of motherhood is still a valid career choice for me:

Maintaining The Energy To Parent—It is so difficult for me to put in a full day’s work outside of the home and come home feeling ready to handle the challenges of parenting children. Keeping a strong marriage takes energy as well. With homemaking as my profession, it is the activity to which I give my primary energy.

After School Hours—A recent study was conducted with sexually active teenagers.When asked when and where they most often had sex, the most common reply was in their own homes between the hours of 3pm-5pm! My children need my presence for accountability, for encouragement, and for communication. Those hours after school are also when they talk most about their day, their struggles, their hopes, and their fears. An after school snack and a listening ear are important parts of my long-term career goal of helping my children mature and learn about the world in which they live. I don’t want to miss that.

Parenting Responsibilities—I don’t believe it’s my oldest child’s responsibility to parent her siblings. While she is certainly capable of caring for her brothers and sister on occasion, and even being an occasional taxi driver for extracurricular activities, she doesn’t need that responsibility every day after school, on school holidays, or during the summer.

Sick Days, Field Trips, Volunteer Opportunities—Being available to care for a sick child at home without concern of how many personal days I’ve used up at the office is emotionally freeing to me. Accompanying field trips or helping out at the school are valuable ways for me to stay involved in my children’s education. The school, the church, and the community need volunteers who have time and energy to help with worthwhile endeavors. I believe that’s a good use of my education and my skills.

Laundry, Meals, and the Fine Art of Homemaking—Just because everyone is in school, there’s still the same amount of laundry, the same meals to prepare, and the same house to manage. There are appointments to make, bills to pay, and groceries to buy. I don’t believe I’ll want for something to do.

Many moms use this season to return to school themselves or pursue part-time employment just during the school year, while keeping family the priority. It’s a good season to explore some of those opportunities. I’ll probably do that as well, with some writing and speaking opportunities. However, with one child in full-day kindergarten, one in sixth grade, one enjoying his sophomore year, and one entering her senior year in high school, there’s plenty of work to be done at home and in the lives of my children with motherhood as my full-time profession.

How about you? Are you at home and your children are in school?  Do you have any other thoughts you’d add to those here? 

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Untangle Your Heart

GettyImages-200133247-002Mark: It was my anger. No, it wasn’t expressed outwardly. I wasn’t raging or blowing my top. Instead the anger was simmering inside of me. I was building a case in my heart against Jill. Everyday I operated as the prosecuting attorney who focused on my own perceived “evidence” to make my case.  In fact, that’s how my affair started…long before there was another woman in the picture. My heart was tangled up in anger.

Jill: It was my criticism. It wasn’t always expressed verbally. Instead it came out in non-verbal ways that caused a “creeping separateness” in my heart with my husband. My heart was tangled up in criticism.

Mark: Heart surgery was desperately needed for me to rest my case against Jill. I had to admit my anger, ask God for forgiveness, and then submit myself fully to Him. I had to come face to face with my unrealistic expectations. I had to trust that the places where marriage was hard and my flesh wanted to “resign” were actually designed by God to refine me.

Jill: Heart surgery was desperately needed for me to come face to face with my criticism. Pride was mixed in there too. I had to admit both, recognize the damage they were doing to me on the inside, ask God for forgiveness, and then submit my head and my heart to God. I had to replace pride with humility and criticism with grace.

Mark: These days of walking out God’s redemptive healing in our marriage we have the privilege of walking side by side with hurting couples. They are in all kinds of stages of conflict and healing, but many times they are stuck and don’t understand why they can’t move forward. When that happens it’s because one or both of them have some untangling work that need to be done in their heart.

Jill: Our hearts get tangled up so easily. In fact, nearly daily I find myself needing to deal with even the tiniest of tangles that threaten to move me away from Mark instead of towards him. In order to keep our marriage healthy, we have to become expert untanglers. Need some practical strategies?  Here are four:

  • Don’t resign. Refine. Too often we want to give up or announce that this is too hard. Then we want to announce that “marriage shouldn’t be this hard.” This quickly moves to “we’re not made for each other.”  Don’t even let the devil get a foothold because that is a slippery slope that will not help you or your marriage. Marriage is hard work. It’s hard relational work and it’s hard internal work. When things get hard, the response needs to be, “God, what do you need me to see?” or “Lord, what is my blind spot here? How am I contributing to the dysfunction here?” or “What am I feeding in my heart? Anger? Criticism? Pride? Unrealistic expectations? Defensiveness? Minimizing?”Ask the tough questions that help you get to the root of what is going on inside of you. This refines–or matures–you!
  • Don’t blame. Claim.  We recently met with a couple who is healing from his infidelity. He’s made amends. He’s rebuilding trust. She can’t seem to let go of the hurt. Her anger is tangling her up so much that they are unable to move forward and heal any further. She continues to blame him for the mess they’re in instead of claiming the steps of healing that have already happened.
  • Forgive. You will never feel like forgiving. You will have to choose to forgive. Forgiveness is far more about untangling your heart than it is about untangling a relationship.  It’s about cleaning out the clutter in your heart so you’re free to love, trust, and engage once again.
  • Don’t fixate. Focus. Focus on the root of what is going on in your heart rather than fixating on what your partner did to frustrate you.  Familiarize yourself with common heart issues like self-righteousness (thinking I’m right), pride (thinking I’m better), unforgiveness, insecurity, demanding my way, control, anger,  criticism, and more. We all have “signature sins.” These are places where our flesh takes over and we want things our way forgetting that “God’s way” even exists.

Mark: Many of our marriage challenges can be resolved by dealing with the tangled mess in our heart. That applies to the big stuff we trip over relationally and the little stuff we deal with on a daily basis. Allow God to use this stuff to make you a better person.

What about you? What do you need to deal with that’s going on inside your head and your heart?

Posted in Marriage | 2 Comments

Home As a Launching Pad

GettyImages-83375931Dear Mom Who is Letting Go This Fall,

Have you shed a few tears? If so, that’s normal. You spend 18 years with them and then they have the nerve to leave. They want to go to college or get an apartment of their own. It’s not easy “letting go” after investing so many years of blood, sweat, and tears.

Have you done the happy dance? If so, that’s normal. You’ve worked hard for this new freedom you’re about to experience! You will have one less mouth to feed at meals, one less to do laundry for, and one less to think about on a daily basis. If you’re letting go of the youngest or an only, you’re going to get a glimpse into all the freedom and possibilities the empty nest season can offer.

Have you alternated between tears and the happy dance? That’s normal, too. There’s a rollercoaster of emotions that happen when you’re learning to let go. One minute you may feel relieved and another minute you may feel fearful. Some mommas throw feelings of guilt into that rollercoaster ride—if that’s you, I want to encourage you to let the guilt go. You’ve done your best. There’s no way you could ever teach them everything they need to know. There are just some things learned best by living on your own in this world.

No matter what you are feeling, you’re embarking on a new normal for your family. Your home is a launching pad and leaving successfully is the ultimate goal. As a mom who’s launched five kids into adulthood, I’ve found some valuable perspective over the years about letting go. Here are some important lessons I’ve learned along the way:

  • See this as the beginning it is, not the end. Sure, the season of raising this child is coming to a close, but the next season is a fabulous one. You are watching your child become more of who he or she is created to be. There is a whole new world of relationship before you!
  • Expect things to change. Your young adult now has a life outside of your family and a world of their own to manage. If home, invite them to join your family in activities you used to do together, but be prepared that they may have other plans or priorities. This is especially hard for moms because we like to do things together as a family.  However, your young adult is making important steps of independence and making their own choices is one of those steps.
  • Take your connecting cues from your child. Some kids leave home and naturally make a connection with mom or dad daily. Others you’ll barely hear from. Both are okay. If your young adult doesn’t connect at least once a week, send a text or give them a call just for a quick connect. This lets them know you’re thinking of them and want to stay connected. It’s also nice to send care packages every once in a while.
  • Don’t be surprised that you will no longer know their every move. One dad shared with me that he and his wife were at a local high school football game. Their son—a freshman in college—had played football in high school so dad took a picture of the field and send it to his son just to let him know they were thinking of him. After a few minutes the son texted a thank you back and then said that he was actually at the game too. His parents had no idea he’d made the trip home for the game! This happens. It’s normal. It’s common to go home with the roommate for the weekend or to come home without telling you because they found a ride at the last minute. You will no longer know their every move—this is an adjustment you may need to make in your own expectations.
  • Move into a coaching/accountability partnership. If you’re paying for your child’s school or still supporting them in some way, you still can call the shots to some extent. This is a perfect time for you to truly let the natural consequences happen. Resist stepping in for grades or issues at school. One family, who was paying for a portion of their son’s school, set a B average expectation for attending/living on campus at his college of choice. If he didn’t have a B average, the expectation was that he would return home and attend community college. After his first year which was spent partying more than studying, they held him accountable and his sophomore year was spent living at home attending community college. He wasn’t happy at first, but actually thanked his parents later for holding him accountable.
  • Move from curfew to communication. When your college student comes home for the holidays or the occasional weekend, it can be hard for them to assimilate back into the family routine. Your tendency will be to want to treat them like you did before they went off to college. In an effort to show them that you recognize their newfound freedom and want to trust their decision-making, tell them you want to move to a communicating place. Simply ask for respectful communication about their schedule so you know how many you’re cooking dinner for and what their general plans are for the evening. Ask them to push this info to you rather than making you pull it from them. This puts them in the driver seat of communication instead feeling like you’re asking them twenty questions.
  • Keep praying. Your young adult needs you to continue to stand in the gap for him or her. Pray for friendships, decisions, and the roommate relationship. Pray for leadership qualities to rise to the top and for skills to be sharpened. Pray for networking opportunities, passions to be identifies, and interests to be discovered. If your young adult still doesn’t know what career path they want to take, pray for wisdom, discernment, and discovery to bring clarity over the next couple of years.

Change is hard, good, challenging, and wonderful all at the same time. As you send off your young adult into a new step of independence, you’re on the edge of relating to your child in a beautiful, new way. Oh there will likely be some challenges along the journey, but if you enjoyed their growing up years you can enjoy their adult years just as much and maybe even more!

What about you? Have you launched a kid or two? What lessons have you learned along the way? 

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The Gift of Grace

GettyImages-469088151Jill: Mark loves his coffee. I love Mark but I’m not particularly fond of his coffee. It seems I find coffee rings and coffee splotches everywhere. In the car. On the floor. On the table beside his chair (he takes the concept of “coffee table” to a whole new level!). After years of dealing with his coffee messes, I’ve decided to offer grace.

Mark: Grace is a free gift from God. Because of Jesus, we deserve punishment but we get mercy instead. It’s an upside down response to what we deserve. God gives us grace because of who He is. We don’t earn it. We don’t even deserve it.

Jill: Several years ago, Mark and I coined the phrase “grace space” to describe the much needed tool of grace in marriage. Grace space happens when we allow another person to be human, to make mistakes, be imperfect, and to have their own idiosyncrasies. When we give grace, it is an internal decision to forgive and a choice to let something go without addressing it.

Mark:  Grace is a first cousin to forgiveness. In fact it requires forgiveness. However, grace is the tool we need to forgive and really let something go.

Jill: We use this tool when dealing with the harmless habits that bug us but don’t really hurt us. Like coffee. Or leaving lights on. Or leaving the toilet seat up. Or doing things differently than we would.

Mark: We also use our God-tool of grace when dealing with our spouse’s human limitations. Jill has to pull out the God-tool of grace when dealing with me being hard of hearing and missing things that are said (I often forget to put my hearing aids in after work), having ADHD (I have too much going on in my mind and have difficulty focusing), and having a smaller emotional capacity (I wear out before she does). Do I do these things on purpose? Nope! I do them because I am human.

Jill: Mark has to pull out my God-tool of grace when he says something to me and my internal-processing brain is thinking about something else so I don’t hear him. He has to use grace when I misplace something (I only buy sunglasses and reading glasses at the Dollar Store because I lose them all the time!). Mark uses grace when I forget to pack something on a trip.  Do I do these things on purpose? Nope! I do them because I’m human. Grace needs to be the tool we choose to use to handle our spouse’s human nature.

Mark: When thinking through whether something needs forgiveness or grace, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Does this hurt me or just irritate me?
  • Does this need to be corrected or simply accepted as part of being married to an imperfect person?

Jill: Grace is a beautiful gift to give to our spouse, especially if he/she is aware of places where he/she falls short or has bad habits. Grace replaces criticism. Even if he/she isn’t aware of their shortcomings, you can use your tool of grace. It’s also a beautiful gift to give yourself because it gives you another option for responding to your spouse’s imperfections than criticizing.

Mark: When we walk through life as grace givers, we have less stress and are happier. It reflects in our life and actions. I spent so much of our early years (1-29ish) trying to change Jill. In the beginning I so loved her strong personality, her decisiveness, her black and white thinking, but I soon became frustrated by it and began to work against those things. As I look back, I wasn’t allowing her to be her. I wanted her to be different. My intense desires were robbing me of life, peace, and happiness. Grace restored all of that to me.

Jill: The next time you find yourself frustrated with your spouse’s human shortcoming, replace criticism with grace. When you do, you’ll give a beautiful gift to your marriage!

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Mom School

12669606_10204939731607432_984638797133494981_nIt was our second or third Hearts at Home conference when a mom stopped me in the hallway and told me that her kids called Hearts at Home “mom school.” I loved that picture!

Think about it: Motherhood is the most important job we’ll ever have and we’re the least prepared for it!  When I started Hearts at Home, it was because I felt better equipped to be a music teacher (which is what I went to college for!) than I was to be a mother (which is what I was doing full-time at that time!)

Moms need encouragement in marriage, parenting, personal growth, spiritual growth, self-care, and more! We need to be reminded that what we do at home matters. We need valuable perspective that helps us remember why the little things in life really are the big things.

Hearts at Home resources are for EVERY MOM in EVERY SEASON OF MOTHERHOOD! Not just when your kids are little, but also when they’re teens and adults. Not just stay at home moms but also working moms.  Hearts at Home is also for single moms and blended families! Our books, our conferences, our e-newsletters are for every mom!

We still have two conferences remaining in 2016:


October 14-15
Rochester, Minnesota
Mayo Civic Center


November 11-12
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga Convention Center

Do you or someone you know live in Minnesota, North or South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, lower Canada, Nebraska, or even Illinois?  Those locations are where most women come from who attend the Rochester, Minnesota conference.

Do you or someone you know live in Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, or northern Florida?  That’s where many of the moms are from who are coming to the Chattanooga conference!

There are plenty of women who get on an airplane and join the fun no matter where they live! Grab a friend, a sister, a sister-in-law, a college roommate and get registered today for mom school at one of our two remaining 2016 events!  If the date or location don’t work out, you can also pick up a Conference To-Go which includes:

  • Conference bag
  • Hearts at Home notebook
  • Flash drive with audio recordings of the afternoon main session* and four workshops of your choice
  • Additional workshops may be purchased for $7 each
  • A few other surprises!

While we’re talking conferences, here’s a sneak peek into our 2017 events: Hannah Keeley, who will be one of our 2017 workshop speakers, is offering a free Frump2Fab online event for moms this weekend! You can find out info here and see why we’re so excited to have Hannah join us at next year’s conferences!


Posted in Taking Care of Me | 3 Comments

What To Do While You’re Waiting

Today’s post is a guest post from Olivia Ryan. Olivia serves as a volunteer on the Hearts at Home radio team.

She’s a Midwest native who lives to inspire women to bear and share hope with the world. Hands down her favorite activity is Tuesday night date night, but tickling her three miracle babies is a close second. She heavily relies on her people, the written Word, deep breaths, and foodie food to keep her sane. She survived the desert of waiting once upon a thirsty time, and lives to tell you that you will too! She sneaks away to write at

Liv’s new book Bearing Hope: Navigating the Desert of Waiting for a Child is an inspirational companion with illustrations and hope galore. You can get your hands on a copy here or start with a free chapter!


Waiting seasons can be agonizing!  olivia
Waiting for an answer to prayer.

Waiting for your child to return.

Waiting for a diagnosis.

Waiting for healing.

Waiting for a child.

Waiting for the next season.

When you’re in a waiting season, the minutes feel like hours and the hours like days.

When my husband and I were going through infertility, we had so many questions for God. We battled through the days of “why me?” and “I don’t know if I can take another step.”

We clung onto our faith for dear life as we lost little life after little life through miscarriage. Six in total, and another through a failed adoption.

We didn’t know how God would ultimately answer our prayer for a child. But we did know that he was calling us to bear hope even when we couldn’t bear a child.

Since I become an expert in waiting, I learned some powerful tools for surviving and even thriving throughout a wait. I think you’ll find great joy in these too.

Pray: Prayer reminds you that you aren’t in control of the situation. It helps you tangibly let go of your cares and worries as you hand them over to a God who hears. Through prayer, you’re trading your heavy burden for one that’s light.

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. (Psalm 107:28-29)

Get plugged into a church: We plugged into a church and small group who wrapped their arms around us when we were hurting. They became like family. Their support and prayer changed us in a way words could never describe.

Take An Adventure: There are thousands of things you can do in this season of waiting that will distract you and allow you to continue living your life rather than staying inside in your bed (where you might think you want to be.

  • Do something crazy like skydiving or bungee jumpin
  • Travel somewhere new and exotic
  • Make a gourmet meal
  • Become a volunteer and advocate for a cause close to your heart
  • Train for a race
  • Watch the sunset
  • Write a book

Tell Your Story. You might share what you’re going through with a trusted friend, small group, Bible Study, or on a blog. You may even start speaking to different groups about your experiences. Your story can bring hope, courage, and healing to people who are going through similar battles. And as a bonus, it will help you heal.

Read. Do you need a mental break? Enjoy some quality fiction. Do you need some practical advice and spiritual wisdom? The words found on the pages of a good book can change your life. Even when you don’t feel like you have the energy, try just a few pages!

Take deep breaths. The deeper the breath, the more calming influence it’s going to have on your body. Your blood pressure will chill. Your brain will think more clearly. Stress will have no choice but to exit your body as you exhale slowly. Breath is a gift from our powerful Creator, and it is yours for the keeping!

No matter what you are waiting for, you can use this season as a time to grow your faith and deepen your soul. God uses all of our experiences to move us from where we are emotionally and spiritually to where we need to be.

What about you? What has been vital to your survival in the desert of waiting? Have you had the courage to share your story with someone?

Posted in Faith, Taking Care of Me | Leave a comment

Will You Come Out And Play With Me?

GettyImages-83162937Mark: The last 9 months we’ve been working hard both on the book and on our kitchen remodel. We were in desperate need of some down time.

Jill: Years ago I remember reading Willard Harley’s book His Needs…Her Needs and learning that one of the needs of a marriage is “recreational companionship.” According to Harley, recreational companionship is most often prioritized higher by husbands but it’s an important need of our marriage. Bottom line, we need to play together!

Mark: Think about it: much of dating is playing together. You go to movie, take a hike, go canoeing, enjoy a picnic, take in a ballgame, or ride bikes.  Once you say “I do” and especially once you add kids to the mix, it becomes harder and harder to remember the importance of playing together.

Jill: With little ones at home, sometimes that play time will include kids and sometimes it needs to be just the two of you. Your marriage needs both.  I admit, particularly when the kids were little I was sometimes a fuddy-duddy about playing together. There was just so much to be done that I didn’t want to take the time. Not only that but I was often too tired to play. I had to learn to prioritize play for the sake of my marriage.

Mark: Jill and I don’t often like to “play” the same things. That was another hump we had to get over. When I first got my motorcycle, she was fearful of riding it. I so wanted us to ride together.

Jill: I decided I needed to step into Mark’s world and ride with him. It took a while to be comfortable on the bike, but now I love it!  Mark’s also been willing to step into my world and do things I enjoy doing like taking a walk in the evening.

Mark: Jill and I set aside this past weekend as a play weekend for us. We’re not taking a vacation this summer so we’ve set aside a few days here and there to enjoy some down time. We spent the weekend with friends and just enjoyed some valuable down time.

Jill: Even just taking a walk, riding bikes after dinner, or sitting out on the porch, chatting, reading, or enjoying a fire in the evening can be playing together.  What’s most important is leaving the “to do” list behind and relaxing. What I love is when we break away from the everyday, let ourselves laugh, enjoy life, and focus on each other for a bit.

Mark: Playing keeps us from drifting apart. It combats stress. It creates time for unhurried conversation.

Jill: It won’t happen without intentionality, though. If you haven’t already, make some plans to play together!

What about you? Are you willing to play? Do you have time set aside to play as a couple?

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Your Spouse Isn’t The Person You Married

GettyImages-sb10065243e-001 (1)Jill: Today is Mark’s birthday! Happy Happy Birthday to my man!

Mark: You know, it’s always been important to me to have a big, birthday celebration. Interestingly, the older I get, I desire smaller celebrations.

Jill: Which brings us to today’s Marriage Monday thought: Your spouse isn’t the person you married.

Mark: It seems like a crazy statement, but it’s the truth. Your spouse will change and so will you. So the question we need to ask ourselves is this: Am I plowing forward with “old info” or am I tuning into the changes happening in me and those happening in my spouse?”

Jill: Celebrations are a great place to ask questions like:

  • Your birthday is coming up. How do you want to celebrate?
  • I’m thinking about Thanksgiving. What would be your perfect Thanksgiving day?
  • Our anniversary is next month, what would you like that to look like?

Mark: It’s easy to assume that we know what our spouse wants based upon past experience. However, your spouse is a changing, developing, maturing, growing human being. If we know that, we can make an effort to explore, discover, and learn about our mate and their changing desires.

Jill: So I asked Mark what he wanted to do for his birthday. “Just a little celebration,” he said. And there was a change from his usual request for German Chocolate cake to something more healthy.

Mark: 56 years of birthdays causes a person to look at what’s really important in life. I’m still an extrovert that loves a good party, but my circle has grown smaller and my desires have changed. So I’m paying attention to those changes and communicating them as well!

What about you? Are you allowing your spouse to change? Are you tuning into his or her changing likes and dislikes?  Is there a celebration coming up where you can give him or her a chance to share their thoughts? 

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