How To Leave Well

79167807As a former pastor’s wife, I’ve wanted for a long time to write a post titled “How To Leave A Church Well.”  When I look back on our 20+ years of church ministry, the biggest pain points were connected to people leaving the church.

It wasn’t that they actually left.  It was HOW they left.

Church leaders know that people will come and people will go. They expect that to happen to a certain extent.

What no heart can be prepared for is the crickets. You know the silent slip out the door without as much as a thank you.

Thank you for dropping everything and coming to the hospital when our son was in his accident.

Thank you for meeting with me weekly when my wife left.

Thank you for the marriage counseling you and your wife provided when we were in a crisis.

Thank you for organizing meals when I went through my cancer journey. 

No ministry couple gives to get. When you go into ministry, you know that serving is what is needed.  However, you’re human and you are touched positively and negatively by the actions of others.

Please, if you’re going to leave a church that has made any investment in your life, take time to thank those who invested in you and let them know personally of your decision to attend elsewhere.

You won’t hurt them more by having the conversation.  You’ll hurt them more by NOT having the conversation.

My friend, Angie Reedy, recently wrote about the topic of leaving well. Her words express my feelings well and they were written to encourage all of us to leave well, in general.

Do you need to move on in some area of your life? May Angie’s words give you additional direction for how to leave a positive lasting impression.

Angie 3_2012If first impressions matter, then last ones do too.

I’ve spent hours planning a first day of work outfit, deciding what to say when meeting someone for the first time, or memorizing the right descriptors I’ll use to introduce myself. A smart suit. A warm smile. A witty response. All good for the firsts.

But what about the last? The last impression is just as important because it’s based on so much more than outer appearances. It’s about grace, character, and leaving a good reputation.

It’s important to stick with our commitments, be someone to count on, and not take the easy way out. But we change and life circumstances change. Through all of the changes, our commitments evolve and sometimes it become obvious that the time to move on to a new season is now.

So how do we graciously stop doing something that we’ve always done? Let’s start with these:

  1. Be truthful about the reasons for leaving. Easy if you’re moving out of town. More difficult for most everything else. If you’re leaving for a less than positive reason, don’t lie. Don’t make up an excuse. Your friends are smart and they’ll see right through it. Affirm the good things about the group, but state a careful explanation about why it’s time for a change.
  2. Be kind. Once the decision to leave is made, it’s not time to bombard the group with a million ways they could be better. Be respectful to the group and affirm support of each individual in their involvement in the group.
  3. Be available. Especially if your leaving will create a vacancy in a leadership position, offer to meet with your successor. Document helpful tips of wisdom you have gleaned in the position.
  4. Keep in touch. Leaving a group doesn’t mean friendships with individuals need to end. Maybe there will be just one or two people to remain in contact with. Make specific effort to exchange contact information with them. Then be the one to initiate a friendship outside of the group.

These ideas are certainly not the easy way out.  It would be less painful to simply turn and walk the other way. But the easy way out is hardly ever the right way out. Put in the extra effort and challenge to leave a good last impression.

What about you? Would you add any other suggestions to what Angie and I have shared?

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Eight Principles For A Marriage That Goes The Distance

mark and JillMark and I have started talking about the next No More Perfect book.  Yep, No More Perfect Marriages is on the radar screen.  While it’s release will be several years from now, Mark and I are talking through the messages we want to include in the book.

If you’ve been hanging out here for a while, you may remember the Marriage Mondays we used to do. They were very popular posts where we talked honestly about the realities of marriage.

Then we hit a crisis and things got hard…very hard. Marriage Mondays had to stop for a while while we lived out very hard Marriage Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, well you get the point.

I did a blog survey about 9 months after our very hard season and many of you said your “would love to hear more about your recent hard season when you’re ready to talk about it.”  It’s been 2-1/2 years since Mark returned home and we’ve spent that time healing.  We needed to spend time privately healing before we could publicly share about that very hard season. But God has redeemed the broken places and He’s done an incredible work in both of our hearts and we are ready to start talking about what happened, lessons learned, and wisdom gained.

We want to help others who are experiencing hard times to know they’re not alone. There is hope even in the hardest of times. We also want to help other couples steer clear of some of the pain we’ve experienced.

In the coming months, we’re going to start sharing about lessons learned during that hard season.

As we venture back into the marriage arena, I want to share some basic principles we stood on during the good times and the bad ones too.

1) Nothing is impossible with God.  God’s word is absolute truth.  Luke 1:37 tells us, “Nothing is impossible with God.”  During the hardest season, there were many times that I felt nearly hopeless but it was God’s Word that kept even the tiniest bit of hope alive in my heart.

2) “A change in prayers from “God, change him/her,” to “God, please change me,” can make a huge difference. This is what maturity is all about.  For many years, I prayed “God, change him….and quick!” But not much happened to improve our relationship.  It wasn’t until I began praying, “God, change me,” that our relationship improved.

3) Marriage is hard work.  Marriage is much harder than anyone realizes.  It takes time, patience, intentional communication, and a lot of give and take to make a marriage go the distance.  Most of us don’t know how to be married.  Seeking out marriage events, retreats, or even reading marriage books alone or together can help us learn how to really make marriage work.

4) Counseling can be a good thing. Sometimes a third party can help a couple hear one another. They can also help identify root issues that you both keep tripping over. During our most recent hard season we did weekly counseling for 18 months.  We went weekly to a counselor that was one hour away from our home which made it a 3 hour weekly commitment. That was the furthest we ever drove and the longest stretch we’ve ever done…but it was worth every minute.

5) Stop trying to change your spouse.  Learn to love them as God created them.  Probably some of the things you don’t like about them are ways they are different than you.  That doesn’t make them wrong, it just makes them different.

6) Focus on yourself and how you need to change, grow up, or mature.  Mark says, “When I look at my contributions to the messes in my marriage, I have to admit that sometimes I needed to grow up.  My anger was a form of control and it was time for me to grow up and learn how to lead and influence rather than control.  I had to pursue change because it was hurting me and it was hurting our marriage.”

7) Don’t be afraid to go back and look at your home internship. Your family of origin taught you about conflict, communication, expectations, sex, responsibility, and more! It’s valuable to evaluate the strengths your home internship gave you and it’s helpful to identify places where your home internship didn’t serve you well.  Once you identify those, sometimes it’s helpful to pursue a new internship in an area of weakness.

8) Commit to learn about marriage, what normal marital challenges are, personality differences, etc.  Mark says, “Much of what I’ve contributed to our difficulties have been my unrealistic expectations of what marriage should look like.  The more I’ve learned about marriage and the blending of two lives into one relationship, the more I’ve come to understand that our challenges have not been unique.  In fact, they are quite normal.”

This is why I’m returning to Marriage Mondays. It might not be weekly posts, but they are on the radar screen once again and Mark and I are praying about how we can share the “inside” of our marriage with you so that you will not feel alone in the challenges you experience in your marriage.

What about you? When it comes to marriage, what topics would you like us to explore? Where do you find marriage challenging?

Posted in Marriage | 4 Comments

Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.”

                                                                     ~Lewis Carroll

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Lessons From A Cherry Pie

Tina cropToday’s post is from Tina Hollenbeck. Tina serves with Dr. Kathy Koch at Celebrate Kids, Inc.  She describes herself as a wife, mother, teacher, writer, survivor, and a voice.

Tina’s story addresses raising resilient kids. I love seeing how moms carry out the principles in No More Perfect Kids!


One of my daughters has recently become interested in baking pies.

She picked up a pie-making cookbook at the library and determined to start with cherry. She knew we could buy pre-made crust, but she was set on attempting the entire pie from scratch – with minimal input from me. I’ve never made crust from scratch myself, but I know it can be tricky. However, I chose not to plant that idea in her mind ahead of time; I wanted to let her experience the process without any preconceived notions.

She did wrestle. First, she added too much water, making it sticky. She was relieved to know she could fix that issue by adding flour, and she eventually kneaded it into a usable consistency. But when we tried the finished pie – which was beautiful and had a very yummy filling – we quickly realized the cream cheese crust was too thick and very tough.

NoMorePerfectKids_COVHer face fell. At that point, my husband and I both chimed in with our knowledge of how difficult it can be to make a light, flaky crust. We assured her that her experience was very normal, and we brainstormed with her some possible reasons for the crust’s consistency.

We encouraged her to keep trying, but I wasn’t sure she would because she struggles with perfectionism. I wondered if she’d fear a second “failure” too much, but I didn’t mention my concern. I just asked what she’d try next.

A week later, she attempted a strawberry pie with an easy oatmeal crust. And it was scrumptious, through and through. I wondered if she’d only continue with that type of simple, basically foolproof crust. But she surprised me the following week by announcing her intention to make a coconut cream pie with a butter crust very similar to the cream cheese one.

I gently reminded her of the suggestions my husband and I had given her after the first crust. But I didn’t dwell on our recommendations, and I made a conscious decision to stay out of the kitchen. Reminding her of useful feedback was important, but so was giving her space to do her own thing.

9-16-14 Tina#19 AbbieAndPieAnd she did great! While not “flaky,” the crust was delicious and much lighter than the first. After her first bite, she beamed. We gave honest praise, and asked her to think about what she’d done differently that time, knowing how specific feedback is a key toward repeating success.

This week, she announced that she’s going to try the cherry pie again. She said, “I want to redeem myself with the crust!” But she said it with a smile, so I knew she wasn’t beating herself up for her original results.

Because I want my kids to be inoculated from the Perfection Infection, I want them to be resilient. I want them to be able to pick themselves up from a fall and try again. I want to communicate – with my words and actions – that mistakes are not failures. They are merely reasons to try again.

Of course, that’s an on-going project – something I’m responsible for nurturing through their childhood and adolescent years and something I’ll aim to reinforce even after they’ve grown to adulthood. But I’m thrilled that Abbie seems to be catching on. And I can’t wait to try her new cherry pie.

What about you? How are you building resilience into your kids? 

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” 

                                        ~A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh)

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

                                                                                ~ John Piper

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Love Your Triumphs

Third-Thursday-ThoughtsMy friend Amy felt great after stepping off the scale. She dropped fifteen pounds

However just moments later, she saw a picture on her phone of her lying on the beach. She felt disgusted by her chubby arms and dimply thighs. She was near tears as she stared at the picture, taken by her son.

“You looked so beautiful lying there, I couldn’t help it, mom!” he exclaimed.

His comment caught her off-guard.

Her son saw a beautiful woman resting on the beach after swimming with him all day, something she did not have the energy to do fifteen pounds ago.

He focused on how far she’d come while she wallowed in how far she had to go.

She understood then, that this was a triumph to love!

Are you feeling defeated?  Today is our Third Thursday Blog Hop where other moms are sharing about their experiences in seeing life as it really is instead of how it sometimes feels.  Hop around to some of the blogs below to enjoy a few minutes of an online moms group! (If you get my posts by email you can access the Blog Hop links here.)

What about you?  Have you ever had a perceived defeat that with a tweak of perspective you could see as a triumph? 

Posted in Taking Care of Me | 1 Comment

What My Kids Taught Me In Their “Jesus Loves Me” Sweaters

JJG_1313Today’s guest post is from Emily Wierenga. Emily is a wife and mom of two. From her home in Canada, she writes from the heart and isn’t afraid to talk about issues she’s dealt with like eating disorders, infertility, body image, and more. Last year, Emily wrote a letter on her blog to Princess Kate about body image after pregnancy. It went viral with over 6 million views.

Emily’s most recent book Atlas Girl: Finding Home In The Last Place I Thought To Look is her memoir of how her broken places led her face to face with God.  I’m giving away a copy of the book today! You’ll see how to enter below.

In June of this year she founded The Lulu Tree, a non-profit dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers in the slum of Katwe, Uganda. All proceeds from Atlas Girl will benefit The Lulu Tree.  


They insisted on wearing their matching knitted Jesus Loves Me sweaters.

My three and four-year-old sons had been invited to a birthday party where I knew they’d be the only Christians and I’d been hunting through their wardrobe trying to find the coolest second-hand clothes we had.

But they wanted to wear their Jesus Loves Me sweaters.

I’m ashamed to admit, I tried to convince them not to. How quickly I revert to the self-conscious girl in junior-high with the braces and head gear who spent every dollar she earned on brand-name clothes hoping someone would like this awkward preacher’s kid.

And so we went to the party where toddlers walked around in Tom’s shoes and seven-year-olds sported high-tops and low-hanging pants and the other parents couldn’t stop remarking on how sweet and lovely my boys were—because they were that day. They stood out, not just because of their sweaters, but because of the hugs they gave the other kids, because of the way they waited their turn and didn’t demand, because of the way they giggled over the babies and said “Thank you” after receiving cake.

I just stood with tears in my eyes as my sons shone in the darkness.

Jesus tells us to become like children. He tells us to gain their humility, their lack of self-consciousness, their truthfulness and curiosity. He tells us to walk fearless into the world, in our knitted Jesus sweaters, not because we’re trying to make a statement, but because the sweater delights us and that’s what matters. We are to know no shame, much like Adam and Eve before eating the forbidden fruit.

I still remember standing in a gas-station parking lot; I was five years old, and people-watching as I always did. I watched the family in the car next to ours, laughing and talking and then the father noticed me staring, and gave me the finger.

I didn’t even know what the finger was, but he did it with such venom I felt the meaning. Storyteller Al Andrews talks about the moment the snake comes into our garden and steals our innocence, and while it wasn’t a seemingly huge moment, I’ll never forget the way my innocence was stolen that day. I became ashamed. I stopped openly observing the world, and began to fear people’s responses. And ultimately, this led to me starving myself at nine years old.

But the thing about regaining our freedom, our “child-likeness” in Christ is— it means no longer letting our identity be determined by this world. And this means, desiring not only for us to know Jesus—in his death, and his resurrection—but for our children to know Him too.

I was so afraid of people’s response to my children’s clothing I’d forgotten my God-given role as their mother: it was not to protect them from this world, but to lead them to the heart of their heavenly father. They will never be able to openly admit needing Jesus if I try to cushion their falls. If I try to keep them from knowing rejection or loneliness, or from being given the world’s finger.

It was through my eating disorder that I met God face to face.

If I truly want my children to know Christ, I need to step back and allow them to break.

It’s the hardest thing in the world.

Remember that mother in Matthew who brought her sons to Jesus and requested they sit next to him in the kingdom?

It’s all any of us wants, isn’t it? For our children to be recognized and praised?

But Jesus’ response was, let those who want to become great, become servants. The last shall be first.

So often we think we are teaching our children.

But that day at the birthday party, I realized how much I had to learn from them.

To become like a child is to encounter heaven on earth.


What about you? Can you think of a time that your kids taught you a lesson?  Anyone who comments on today’s post, will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Emily’s memoir, Atlas Girl!

Posted in Faith, Parenting, Taking Care of Me | 9 Comments

Connecting With Your Teen: The Power of a Pillow Journal

478209273Dear Jill,

I’m needing wisdom in dealing with my teenage daughter. I’m going through a divorce. It saddens my heart that my soon to be ex isn’t wanting to be a dad. This is causing my daughter to struggle with her depression and the choices she’s making. This is where I’m recalling a  Hearts at Home conference where another mom shared her story about needing to reach her daughter.

I’m at a loss in how to handle being a single mom to such fragile teenager. Anything I say i push her further away from me or she just shut downs. My job is to protect her but I feel I’m failing at that, too. I’m trying to get her into counseling.  How do other moms get through this fragile stage of teenage years without having a heart attack or stroke from the added on stress?  Any words of wisdom would be appreciated.

Overwhelmed Mom


Dear Overwhelmed Mom,

I HIGHLY suggest that you make counseling a priority.  I would pursue counseling for her but also family counseling for the two of you.  This is really important because it will keep the communication lines open.

Got TeensAlso, you might start a pillow journal with your daughter.  Get a journal and then write her a letter telling her how proud you are of her and how you know that this is a hard season.  Tell her a few things about how it is hard for you and how God is growing you even in the midst of it.  Ask her a few questions like “what’s been the hardest thing for you in this season?” or “If you had to describe your feelings, what are three words that could describe them?”  Tell her to just answer when she can and put the journal on your pillow.

Then put it on her pillow when she’s at school.  It may take some time for her to respond, but it’s worth a try.  When I did this with my son it took him about 3 weeks for him to reply and then we started back and forth within a few days.  I did it with another one of my kids and they never responded.   So there’s no promises, but it’s worth a try for sure!

The best part of a pillow journal is that it keeps communication lines open without having to sit face to face or feel awkward.  It’s emotionally safe for teens to write (they are used to texting!) and is a great way to bridge the sometimes challenging teen years.



Dear Jill,

I took your advice with starting a pillow journal for my daughter. Believe or or not she read what I wrote her and responded back! You helped me come up with a way that I can know communicate to my daughter in a honest, open relationship!

Cant wait to see all of my Hearts at Home mom friends in November at the North Central Hearts at Home conference!

Overwhelmed Mom Who Now Has Hope!


What about you?  Do you have any other strategies for connecting with a teen going through a hard time? 

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My Heart’s at Home

bookmyheartsathome Today is another Focus on the Family broadcast day!  Today I’m talking with Jim Daly about how to make your home an emotionally safe place to be based upon the My Heart’s at Home book!

You can catch the broadcast on your local Christian radio station or listen online!

If you’re a Focus on the Family listener who has dropped by for the first time, please take a minute to say hello. While you’re here you can subscribe to receive my posts by email. That will also get you a FREE printable of I Corinthian’s 13 for Parents out of the No More Perfect Kids book.

Take a minute to hop over to the Hearts at Home site and the No More Perfect site where you’ll find all kinds of parenting resources including the FREE 13 Day No More Perfect Kids e-Challenge.

2014posternc Registration is open for our Hearts at Home North Central conference for moms! Fabulous speakers and practical workshops make this THE continuing education event for moms!

I’d love for you to join me in November!

Want to see a “behind the scenes” video of the broadcast conversation?  Here’s a peek:

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