What Can I Do To Help?

ThinkstockPhotos-514105293Mark: Yesterday Jill and I spent the afternoon cleaning up from our garage sale. We boxed up the items that were left in order to donate them. Then we cleaned the garage. It was dirty work in many ways. I loved that she jumped right in and joined me.

Jill: Every few days we seem to have a huge garden harvest to take care of.  I’m spending hours preparing veggies for meals or the freezer.  I love when Mark comes in and says, “what can I do to help?”

Mark: As with most couples, Jill and I easily roll into our regular routines. Ours has always been that, in general, she takes care of most things inside the house and I take care of most things outside the house. It works for us. Yet, it’s important to break out of those molds and look beyond our usual roles.

Jill: It means the world to me when Mark “notices” I’m doing something extra and offers to help.  It helps me feel seen and let’s me know I’m not alone.

Mark: I appreciate when Jill is aware of what I’m doing and either jumps in and helps or even just brings me an ice cold drink in the midst of the hard work.

Jill: It’s easy to become “silos” under the same roof.  Each spouse tending to their own projects and responsibilities.  The more we cross over and help one another, the better it is for our relationship. We increase our interaction, awareness, and communication.

Mark: When we intentionally link arms and work as partners instead of individuals, it deepens our intimacy and strengthens our bond.

What about you? Where can you more intentionally interact with your spouse? How can you increase your awareness? 

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success”  


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Fantastic Food: Eggplant

Fresh long purple aubergine on blue table closeup top viewThe first time I remember eating eggplant was when my mother made Eggplant Parmesan growing up. I confess it wasn’t my favorite meal.  Because of that, I’ve stayed away from eggplant until recently.


Yesterday’s harvest!



I decided to give it a second chance after finding some marked down plants at the local nursery. I brought them home and planted them in my garden. Mark and I are both LOVING eggplant, which is a good thing since we’ve had a very plentiful harvest!

Eggplant is so good for you! It’s a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1, and copper, as well as manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, folate, and vitamin K.

Eggplants are quite perishable. You’ll want to use them within a few days of buying or picking them.

So how do you use them? Here are a few ideas:

  • Peel and then dice up to add to any vegetable stirfry. This is yummy!
  • eggplantSaute with onions and tomatoes.  If you’re eating dairy, you can top it with mozzarella cheese. This is a stovetop version of eggplant parmesan.  (We’re not eating dairy, so we just enjoy it with onions and tomatoes.) Season with salt and pepper.
  • Bake the eggplant for about 30 minutes–until it begins to collapse.  Remove from oven and scrape out the inside. This can be added to spaghetti sauce for added flavor and fiber.
  • Cut the eggplant in thick slices, season as you wish, and grill them!
  • Peel the eggplant, slice into fries, season, and bake them!
  • Slice the eggplant and use the slices as crust for mini pizzas, adding your favorite pizza toppings and baking for about 10 minutes.  (The first time I served this to my 19-year-old, he said,”I don’t think I’ll like this.” Then he ate 6 mini pizzas and declared how good they were!)

If you’ve never tried eggplant, pick one up at the store and give it a try!  It’s a fantastic food full of nutrition your body needs!

What about you? Do you have a favorite way to prepare eggplant? 

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Compassion Feels

ThinkstockPhotos-97429813Mark: Last night we spent time with some friends who are coming through a hard season of healing in their marriage. We spent the evening sharing with each other about lessons learned along the way.

Jill: The topic of compassion came up and we talked about the many different facets of compassion in marriage. Increasing compassion has been a big takeaway for me in our healing season.

Mark: Jill’s default is to fix rather than feel. I’m so grateful for how she’s grown in compassion and focuses more on feeling than she did before.

Jill: My friend Tammy Maltby shared with me, “Compassion is a choice. We must choose to see. We must choose to reach out to the other person and weep when they weep. We use our tears and pain to relate, to build a bridge into another person’s reality. It is one of God’s most powerful tools.”

Mark: I love the word picture of “building a bridge into another person’s reality.” That’s what compassion does in marriage!

Jill: Buck up spouses try to fix. Compassionate spouses try to feel. Compassion feels; it builds bridges. Compassion creates a sense of safety and security in your home and in the relationships that mean the most to you.

Mark: Compassion helps our spouse feel validated and loved. It also helps us to slow down, tune in, and really connect to those we love.

Jill: Ephesians 4:32 reminds us to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” When I think of Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well or the woman caught in adultery, He modeled compassion for us.

Mark: Some personalities, mind styles, or temperaments lend themselves more to fixing. Others lend themselves more to feeling.  Regardless of how you are wired, though, we must all learn to be more compassionate in our marriage.

Jill: Need some practical help? Here are three steps to increase compassion:

1) Focus on the feelings, not a solution.  Respond with statements that draw your spouse out like, “Tell me more.”

2) Look at the situation from your spouse’s perspective. Remember that your spouse doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

3) Respond with empathetic statements. Say things like, “I bet that was so disappointing,” or “I’m sure that hurt your heart deeply,” or “That breaks my heart. I would imagine it broke yours,” or “I’m so sorry. I’m sure that was painful for you to experience.”

 What about you? Where do you need to increase compassion in how you respond to your spouse? 



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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“Love never fails. It changes people.”

                                     ~ Bill Hybels

Posted in Miscellany | Leave a comment

Come Join the Fun!

I'm-going-to-NC-2015I can’t wait!

In just about 7 weeks I’ll be hanging out with over 2,000 moms at the North Central Hearts at Home conference!  I’d love for you to join the fun!

Women come to Hearts at Home conferences from all over the United States. Women even come from Canada to the North Central conference held at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota!

2015-NC-ONLY-Conf-Mini-PosterIn addition to the fabulous keynote sessions by Lysa Terkeurst and Dr. Gary Chapman, there are dozens of workshops offered to design your day to meet your needs as a mom.

I’ll be teaching two workshops:

  • Embrace Your Mothering Personality
  • When Your Child Says, “My Life, My Choice”

No matter if your kids are 2, 22, or 42, Hearts at Home is for YOU!

If you like a good deal, you’ll want to register by the October 21 so you can save $20 on your registration!

It’s gonna be a blast! I’d love to meet you at Hearts at Home!

Are you going to be there? 


Posted in Taking Care of Me | Leave a comment

Just One Thing

Mark says: Sometimes in marriage, the little things are really the big things.

Jill says: Today’s Marriage Monday is short and sweet.  A simple challenge to you to do something intentional to connect with your spouse.

Mark says: Here are a few ideas:

  • Send him or her a text just to say “I love you,” or “I’m thinking of you!”
  • Pick up flowers on the way home (If you have an Aldi nearby, they have bouquets for $3.99!)
  • Call your spouse to tell him or her you’re thinking of them.
  • Start planning a getaway for just the two of you. (Include your spouse in the planning if they don’t like surprises.)
  • Listen…really listen to your spouse this evening.
  • Notice. Notice something they do for you on a regular basis and say thank you.
  • Smile at your spouse. Let him or her know how much you enjoy being with them.
  • Give a 15 second kiss.
  • Using a dry erase marker, write a note of love on the bathroom mirror or on the rear view mirror of their car.

What about you? What ideas do you have to intentionally connect with your spouse? 

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“Dwell, not in the past or in the future, but in the moment.”                            


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Fantastic Food: Kale

ThinkstockPhotos-482001077Last summer I fell in love with kale after we grew it in our garden and it produced from mid-summer until Thanksgiving!

Kale is a good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. It’s a superfood!

Some people think kale is bitter, but I’ve found that it just depends on the kind of kale you get.  Regardless, there are still wonderful ways to make kale that takes care of any bitter taste.

I love to throw kale into soup and smoothies. When I make vegetable soup or chicken noodle soup, I chop up the kale to the consistency of parsley and throw it into the soup! When I make a smoothie, I throw some kale in to add veggies to my fruit smoothie (I’m not a green smoothie girl….just can’t drink a green smoothie that tastes more like veggies than fruit!)

I love to mix kale in with spinach and lettuce for a yummy salad.  I add diced apples, raisins, sunflower seed kernals, peppers, and just about anything else I can find to my salads.  I top them off with Flax Seed Oil and flavored vinegar from The Olive Bin (my favorite is Black Mission Fig!)

I also make a cold kale salad that is yummy! I have taken it to pitch in dinners before and people always rave about it. They can’t believe it when I tell them it’s a kale salad.  I don’t measure anything…just throw in a bowl: chopped kale (see below how to remove it from the stem), cucumbers, raisins, slivered almonds, sunflower kernels (if I have them), and tomato. I then squeeze a lemon over the salad, squirt some olive oil (flavored if I have it—love Blood Orange!) and a little bit of flavored balsamic (Black Cherry is a great flavor for this salad!) Toss together and serve. Yum!

You can also saute kale on the stovetop. It will really cook down so start with a lot. I add in slivered almonds, diced peppers, and any other veggie I have that can be sauteed (carrots, yellow squash, zucchini, kohlrabi, etc).  Sometimes I just do kale, onions, garlic, and slivered almonds.  I season it with salt and pepper and sometimes paprika, cumin, or turmeric (an excellent anti-inflammatory when paired with pepper!)

Kale is a yummy veggie that can be used in so many ways!

Cut or break the kale from the stem.

Cut or break the kale from the stem.

Saute with garlic, onion, and olive oil or coconut oil. If you have balsamic vinegar, throw some in...especially flavored balsamic.  Yum!

Saute with garlic, onion, and olive oil or coconut oil. If you have balsamic vinegar, throw some in…especially flavored balsamic. Yum!

Add some slivered almonds and serve!

Add some slivered almonds and serve!

What about you? Do you have a favorite way to prepare kale?

Posted in In The Kitchen | 2 Comments

Put Some Spontaneity Into Your Marriage!

ThinkstockPhotos-468172358Mark: This weekend Jill spoke at a women’s retreat in Grove, Oklahoma. I traveled with her to manage the book table. On the way home, the final leg of our flight was overbooked. They were looking for volunteers to stay an extra leg in Detroit. We had both already taken the next day off as a recovery day from the big weekend, so we decided to be spontaneous and take the deal which included generous airfare vouchers, overnight accommodations, and meal vouchers.

Jill: We could have never done before because we always had kids to get home to. Now that we’re empty nesters, it was a possibility to consider.  However, you don’t have to be empty nesters to put a little spontaneity into your marriage.

Mark: As humans we’re naturally creatures of habit.  Our routines are what makes life comfortable and even gives us a sense of stability. However, our routines can also make our lives stagnant, pushing our relationships into a rut. It’s our responsibility to add a little spice to our marriage life to keep the fires burning!

Jill: Last Monday, on Labor Day, Mark and I were busy getting all kinds of things done on our long “to do” list.  It was beautiful outside and I was longing to be relaxing in the sun. On a whim, I decided to invite Mark to grab a book and a lawnchair and come join me to sit in the sun out in the yard for just 30 minutes.  We could have done that kind of spontaneity even when we had kids at home!

Mark: Need some practical ideas for adding some spice to your marriage? Here are a few ideas:

  • Surprise your spouse with their favorite candy bar for no reason.
  • Pack a picnic and head to the park for dinner.
  • If you’re not the one who usually prepares meals, take over the responsibility for a meal every once in a while.
  • Tell your spouse what you’re NOT wearing today.
  • Decide to have a little “horizontal fellowship” somewhere other than the bedroom. Serve breakfast in bed.
  • Eat dinner as a picnic in the back yard
  • After the kids go to bed, play a board game together.
  • Surprise your spouse with an unexpected night out (if your partner likes surprises!) where you arrange for the childcare and determine what’s on the agenda for the night based upon what your spouse enjoys.
  • Prepare your spouse’s favorite holiday food…at a non-holiday time!  Does he/she love pumpkin pie?  Pumpkin pie in June is a treat!
  • Turn off the television one evening this week, spread a blanket in the yard, and lay out and look at the stars together.

Jill: It’s important that to avoid the ruts of routine. Keeping a marriage fresh and exciting is part of our responsibility as a married partner. Do something unexpected today to surprise your spouse!

What about you? How have you incorporated spontaneity into your marriage?  What ideas would you add to the list? 

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now.”

                                                                        ~Elisabeth Elliot

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Five Questions To Ask Your Kids After School

ThinkstockPhotos-177311801One of my favorite times to chat with my kids has always been after school. As an at-home mom, I loved connecting with my kids as soon as they got home. Later as a working mom, I tried to call within the first 10 minutes of their arrival home.

“How was your day?” was the first question I asked each of my five children over the span of 25 years of after school conversations. Most of the time I got “Fine” as an answer. Of course I would dig a little more and often ask, “What was the best thing about your day?” and “What was the worst thing about your day?” Usually I got a little bit more of an answer with those questions.

NoMorePerfectKids_COVIt wasn’t until my son’s senior year of high school that I learned a different way to ask after school questions. I was co-authoring the book No More Perfect Kids: Love Your Kids for Who They Are with Dr. Kathy Koch. Dr. Koch is a master at drawing out the best in children and she always challenges me to think about parenting strategies from a slightly different angle than I usually do. Her encouragement was to ask questions about character in addition to asking questions about school activities, homework, etc.

Oh how I wish I would have known to ask some of these questions in my kids’ early years, but honestly it’s never too late to make small adjustments, and most of these are good questions for marriage conversations too! Even though I learned these late in the parenting game, we actually started using some of them around the dinner table and we still do today. They felt a little awkward at first, but now they are a normal part of our discussions.

With that in mind, I offer some slightly different after school questions you can use in your after school or dinner table discussions.

Who were you today? Were you a helper? An encourager? A giver-of-hope? Were you kind? Loving? Patient? Asking this question helps us all think about the impact we have on other people. It causes us to think about our character.

What two words best describe you today? Happy? Sad? Overwhelmed? Silly? Excited? Asking this question helps us take the emotional temperature of those we love. It asks the question, “how are you feeling?” without actually using those words. This is particularly helpful for a spouse or child who is more of a thinker than a feeler. It’s a gift to a spouse or a child who is a feeler, because you’re acquainting yourself with their feelings.

What are you most grateful for today? There’s a strong correlation between gratefulness, happiness, and contentment. If we want to grow grateful kids, we have to help them see what they have to be thankful for. In a culture that says “you need more,” any way we can already see what we have and be grateful for it will increase contentment and contribute to a general sense of happiness.

Who did you help today? We want our kids to contribute positively to the lives of others. We want them to recognize opportunities to make a difference. If you answer this question and share a story about helping someone at work, or in a parking lot, or in the neighborhood, you can serve as a role model for your kids.

If you could go back and do something over today, what would it be? Self-reflection is a valuable tool of maturity. It’s important for us to learn from our mistakes and when needed, do something different in the future. This is a good question for adults and children to think about.

Longing to take conversations in your family to a deeper level? It all starts with asking some great questions. Try one of these today!

What about you? Do you have any character strengthening questions to add to this list? 

Posted in Parenting | Leave a comment

Why We All Need a Broken Marriage

ThinkstockPhotos-99899527Mark: Yesterday, Jill and I went to see the movie “War Room.” It was excellent and such a reminder of the power of prayer.

Jill: It’s so easy to become lax in praying for our spouse, yet doing so always changes our marriage in some way. Sometimes it’s the one who is praying who changes and sometimes it’s the one being prayed for.  If one spouse changes, the marriage can’t help but change.

Mark: When Jill mentioned on Facebook that we saw the War Room movie someone offered this thought, I saw the movie and liked it. Priscilla Shirer did a good job. I do have a problem with movies like this that make God out to be some kind of a cosmic Santa Claus. We have several friends divorcing. In each case there is a strong praying Christian spouse. If these marriages are ending in divorce, the message of this movie is that they didn’t pray right or consistently or hard enough. That just isn’t the case, and it bothers me that this movie portrays prayer like that.”

Jill: I’ve been thinking about that comment a lot and decided we’d address it in today’s #MarriageMonday.

Mark: In a way, the “War Room” movie is our story. My heart grew discouraged and disillusioned and I wandered away from my marriage. Jill became a prayer warrior, standing in the gap for me. It got worse before it got better, the affair moved from emotional to physical, I moved out, and I know Jill had to wonder if her prayers were making a difference.

Jill: I never gave up hope, but I knew that my prayers would not be able to make a difference if Mark’s heart wasn’t the tiniest bit open to God’s touch.  For months it seemed like it wasn’t, but eventually the blinders started to come off his eyes and he started to see things as they were.

Mark: In the same way as the movie portrayed, Jill responded to me with a love and grace I did not deserve. I noticed that. It impacted me. Eventually it was part of what broke me, humbled me, and helped me to get myself back in a right place with God and returning to my family.

Jill: The Facebook comment is correct. There are many times when a spouse is praying and standing in the gap for his or her marriage and nothing changes in the relationship. That’s not because the person praying isn’t praying right or consistently or hard enough. It’s because the person they are praying for isn’t allowing God to touch their heart.  God never forces himself on us, He knocks and gives opportunity and puts the right people in our lives, but we have our own free will.

Mark: We’ve been walking alongside a wife who has had this experience. She has been praying, standing in the gap, and loving her husband. However, his heart is as hard as a rock. He’s running away from God, pursuing the life he thinks he wants, and it appears that this marriage will likely end in divorce. Why? Because this husband’s heart is prideful and hard. He rationalizes instead of repenting. He’s unwilling to allow anyone in his life to speak words of wisdom, hope, and encouragement to him.

Jill: The beautiful part of this situation, however, is the spiritual growth of this wife. She has been a strong prayer warrior. She has drawn closer to God than ever before. Her heart is broken to see the man she has loved for so many years be so influenced by the enemy. Yet, she has discovered that even when it is not well with our circumstances, it can be well with our soul. Her marriage may not make it, but she’s keeping her eyes on the Mountain Mover rather than the mountains.

Mark: The best parts of the movie were seeing the changes happening in both individuals. The husband moved from a place of pride to a place of brokenness and humility. That journey was painful and messy, but it resulted in peace, reconciliation, and a joy they didn’t even know they were missing.

Jill: She was changing too. She was moving her focus from criticizing him to praying for him. She was moving out of the way and letting God do the work. She was learning to submit and trust God in a deeper way than she’d ever experienced. One of the best lines in the movie was, “submission is learning to yield and duck so God can hit your husband.” Their marriage was restored because they were two broken people who allowed God to mold and shape them. It is in this way that we all need a broken marriage.

Mark: War Room may only be a movie, but we’ve seen what was portrayed on the screen happen in our marriage. It’s amazing what God can do with a broken marriage when He has the hearts of two broken, humble people.

What about you? Do you need to turn your criticism into prayers? Do you need to tear down the walls of pride that keep you from being open to God and what He can do in your marriage? 

Posted in Marriage | 4 Comments