Mark says: We’ve all been there. Our spouse does something that frustrates us. We react in frustration and let them know how we feel.
Jill says: Because we’re frustrated, we come across very strongly in our communication. Our spouse responds to our strong words and emotions with defensiveness.
Mark says: Before you know it, you’re in an all out argument that will likely not end the way you hoped.
Jill says: There is another way: Don’t talk about frustration IN frustration.
Mark says: Wait until you’ve cooled off and moved past the moment. In a time of non-conflict, tell your spouse you need to talk through what happened earlier.
Jill says: There’s still the possibility that the conversation will elevate to an argument, but you raise the odds that it won’t if you wait to communicate it at a time when you’re no longer super-charged and frustrated.
Mark says: I recently used this strategy to talk to Jill about the way she said something to me.
Jill says: I recently used this strategy to talk to Mark about my frustrations of how a large purchase was recently handled.
Mark says: Those conversations were still hard conversations to have. We don’t see eye to eye on some things no matter how we approach things. However, the way we had the conversations did make a big difference.
What about you? Can you resist the urge to deal with frustration when you’re frustrated? Can you communicate in a time of non-conflict?
My friend Cheri Keaggy released a powerful album three years ago. “So I Can Tell” is the light that has come out of a dark season of Cheri’s life. The songs are heartfelt expressions of a woman who has come to know God deeply.
She sent one my way three years ago when my marriage when through it’s darkest season of Mark’s infidelity and decision to leave for three months.
When I got to the 3rd song on the album, the tears started flowing. The song was titled, “When You Were Jesus To Me.” Until the night that Mark left, I had never experienced anything close to an emotional crisis. I was so crushed by grief that it was squeezing the life out of me. Even cancer wasn’t as hard as the emotional pain I experienced in that season of my marriage.
As I walked through that dark season, God greatly increased my empathy, compassion, and mercy. More than that, through the loving actions of my dearest friends, He also showed me how to respond in a crisis. My friends were truly Jesus to me.
You may not need this now…but at some point, it’s likely you’ll have the opportunity to “be Jesus with skin on” to someone else. Here are some tangible ways to make a difference when a friend faces a crisis:
1) Be there. Stay with her. Don’t feel like you need to say any words, just hold her and let her weep. My friend Becky did this for me. She was at my house within the hour and she didn’t leave until two days later. I’m grateful even three years later to Becky’s husband, Dave, who supported her staying with me for that long. Eventually my sister came for a couple of days and then my dad came and stayed for 4 more days. This support was so important for me and for my boys who were still at home.
2) Think for the person. When crisis hits, the last thing that person can do is think about taking care of themselves. In those first few days, I honestly don’t think I would have had anything to eat or drink if Becky or my sister Juli had not actually put the plate of food or the glass of water in front of me and said, “Eat” or “Drink.”
3) Provide food. My friends Crystal and Lisa, who also stayed with me until well after midnight the first night, brought meals throughout that first weekend. Eventually my Hearts at Home family and church family set up a meal plan for several weeks. This was so helpful because I suddenly had so many other things I had to tend to.
4) Help with daily routine stuff. Becky, Crystal, and Juli cleaned, did dishes, made guest beds, ran to the store, picked up prescriptions…you name it…they did it. I was so thankful. For the first month, my friend Crystal called me anytime she was running to the store to see if I needed anything. I was so thankful because this kept me out of public settings where I could lose it emotionally so easily.
5) Do any “unpleasant” tasks. When Mark requested more of his personal belongings, I could not handle packing those things up. Crystal and Becky did that job for me. If the crisis involves a death, this can particularly be helpful when that friend is ready to part with the personal belongings of the person who has died. Even answering phone calls can be an “unpleasant” task…don’t hesitate to do that for the person to protect them from having to share the story one more time.
6) Don’t be afraid to help. If you are a close friend or you seem to be the only person reaching out, you are not infringing on their privacy…you are helping them survive. I always worried about infringing on someone’s privacy in times of crisis until I was on the receiving side of crisis. I had trouble functioning, especially in the early days. I was so thankful for friends and family who didn’t leave my side.
7) Pray with and for the person. When in crisis, there are sometimes no words to utter to God…just tears. Sometimes you can just be there and sometimes you can be the one to utter the words to God on their behalf.
We all need each other. In good times and bad, we’re designed to live in community with other people. That’s why I’m writing the next Hearts at Home book Better Together. That’s why we’re focusing on mom relationships at our 2016 Hearts at Home conferences. And that’s why I wanted to share with you today some practical ways to live that out.
Because your friend will never forget when you were Jesus to her.
What about you? Have you ever been loved well through a crisis? What would you add to this list?
Mark says: Jill and I heard a story the other day that ended with this line, “They could have known love but they settled for a truce.”
Jill says: The moment we heard it, we both looked at each other and said, “Wow, that is a sad statement.” It launched a conversation for us about how too many of us tend to “settle” in our marriage.
Mark says: Settling happens when we rationalize why we can’t take time for us as a couple. Love says, “Our marriage is too important to put it on the backburner.”
Jill says: Settling happens when we say, “We can’t afford marriage counseling.” Love says, “We can’t afford not to go to marriage counseling. There’s too much at stake.”
Mark says: Settling happens when we tell ourselves, “We’ll just stay together until the kids leave home.” Love says, “There is no Plan B. We have to figure this out.”
Jill says: Settling happens when we stuff our feelings and don’t share them with our spouse. Love says, “When you said ___________, it hurt my heart. Could you please be more careful with your words?”
Mark says: Settling with our spouse happens when we are careless with our words and attitudes. Love happens when we are patient, kind, and gentle with our spouse even if we deal with the same challenges over and over.
Jill says: Settling happens when we’re okay with “good enough.” Love says, “There’s always more to learn about myself and marriage.”
Mark says: Settling happens when we’re unwilling to leave our kids to spend time with our spouse. Love says, “I’ll push my fears aside and go on that business trip with you.”
Jill says: Settling happens when we say, “I’m not trying any harder than he/she is.” Love says, “I will be the person God calls me to be no matter how much my spouse does or doesn’t do.”
Are you settling? Have you traded intimacy for a truce? Is it time for you to advocate for your marriage? Time to get some help?
It’s hard when one person “settles for a truce” and the other spouse longs for love. That’s when we need to have a heart to heart conversation with our spouse outside of frustration. (And that’s what we’ll be talking about on our next Marriage Monday!)
What about you? Have you settled for truce when you could have love?
Over 30 years of parenting, we’ve been all over the map on this issue. We’ve done allowance, we’ve done no allowance. We have tied allowance to chores. We’ve separated allowance from chores. The options of how parents handle this issue are endless!
Several years ago, Mark and I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace class (which, by the way, we HIGHLY recommend!). Dave is not a believer in allowance. He believes there needs to be a connection with work and money. He also believes there are certain responsibilities that kids need to do because they are part of their family. This caused us to once again look critically at the whole allowance thing.
We eventually came up with a system we found to work well with our two youngest who were still home at the time. We determined there were certain jobs our boys did because they are part of the family: mow the yard, shovel snow, clean the bathrooms, clean their rooms, etc. These were not jobs they were paid for.
However, there were other jobs that were done on a daily basis such as vacuum the lower level (we vacuum nearly daily because of living in the country!), dishwasher and dishes, and emptying trash throughout the house. Following a chart I created, the boys were responsible for one of those jobs every day.
The boys had three parts to their chore: 1) Do the chore, 2) Do it before 5pm, 3) Record your work on your timecard (a.k.a. the dry erase calendar on the fridge). See the “A” and “K” written in the corner of some of the calendar blocks in this picture? That’s how the boys “reported” their work and that’s what I used to figure their “pay” at the end of the month.
If they did all three, they got $1/day (weekdays only). If they didn’t, they didn’t get paid. No nagging. No reminding. Our agreement was that if mom or dad saw that the chore hadn’t been done after 5pm, we could require it to be completed but they would not be paid for it. They had to be responsible and have it done on their own and by the pre-determined time to get paid. If they forgot to write it down, they also didn’t get paid.
I loved this system. It was self-motivating. It had natural consequences built into it. Not only that, but it mimicked a real work environment where you have certain responsibilities that need to be done within a certain timeframe. Some jobs require that you punch a timecard. If you forget…you don’t get paid.
Once paid, we worked with our boys to manage their money just like a paycheck. They did the 10-10-80 thing…10% to God, 10% to savings, 80% spending. That’s why I always paid them in $1 bills so it was easy for them to divide and manage intentionally.
When they hit the teen years, we had them “manage” even more intentionally with a financial notebook and “paycheck worksheets” we created. Six months ago our 18-year-old made his first $1000 mutual fund investment using this plan throughout his teen years. He also uses a portion of every paycheck (he works two part-time jobs) for his college tuition. (Looking for some tools to teach your teens to manage money? You can download the financial notebook for free on my website here.)
What about you? How do you handle the chore/no chore/allowance/no allowance thing?
Marianne loves to teach about finding financial freedom. I asked her to share some wisdom that would help a mom on a tight budget have some practical strategies for saving to attend a Hearts at Home conference ($98 registration).
So if you’re looking to make a Hearts at Home conference part of your continuing education as a mom and finances are tight, tap into some of Marianne’s strategies below! You can also download this FREE poster of 10 Savvy Ways To Save For Conference!
I live on a budget. Sure, lots of people do, but what makes my situation unique is that I LOVE living on a budget. It’s freeing. It’s empowering. It brings me security. Certainly things come up during the year that I didn’t plan for, but the budget enables me to “find the money” and minimize the potential stress of this unexpected expense. Here’s what that might look like:
My friend from MOPS tells me about a life-changing conference she just returned from called Hearts at Home. I’m immediately interested as she rambles about how God used the weekend to refresh, renew, and equip her as a wife, mother, and woman. I ask about the cost and she explains that it’s only half the price of the MOPS convention but it is still around $150 with travel and a hotel room.
I begin to brainstorm how I’ll find the money for this event that I had no idea about when I created my monthly/yearly budget. Here are just a few ideas:
*I decide to not stop at Chick-Fil-A even though there is whining in the backseat. I save $14 by tossing a box of Cheerios into the backseat instead.
*I thank God that I didn’t get pulled over when I drove through a speed trap (net $150)
*I remember the conference at the checkout line in Meijer, and I remove the box of cherry Poptarts from my cart. No one will die without their Poptart snack. ($3) That was so easy I leave the Poptarts on the shelf the next three weeks as well. ($9)
*I commit to only spending $50 a week in gas so I fill up on a Wednesday with exactly that much and I watch the tank all week. I omit a couple frivolous trips as I stretch the tank for the full week rather than the tank demanding a refuel on Monday. ($12)
*The circus is in town but I realize the kids and I don’t need to attend. No lives will be altered by not seeing a tiger jump through a hoop or a man walk on a wire. We Youtube circus videos and eat popcorn. ($75)
*The new Disney movie comes out and we decide to wait until it comes to Redbox. Kids learn the lesson that going to the movies is a special treat so we don’t see every movie when it comes out. ($30)
*I skip Kohls even though I have a 30% off coupon AND it’s Kohl’s cash week. The kids actually have drawers full of clothes already. ($50)
*I skip buying a half-gallon of ice cream once a month until the conference. No one will notice and they will appreciate ice cream more than ever before. ($50)
*My MOPS table is having dinner at a nice restaurant. I eat before I go and just order dessert instead. ($15)
*My son is invited to a birthday party for a boy he barely knows. We decline the invitation. ($15)
*My car is dirty but I wait for the rain. ($10)
*Girl Scouts descend on my house and I only buy one box of Thin Mints this year. ($15)
*The Scholastic Book order comes home and I realize that my child has enough books already. ($15)
*I commit to collecting spare change in a jar until the conference. ($56)
*I add a week between haircuts or have boys’ hair cut shorter. ($12x 4 boys)
*I take $40 off my grocery budget one week and get creative with food in my pantry and freezer.
You don’t have to have a budget for this method to work. You just need to be purposeful and actually place the “saved” money in one place. Then feel the power that you have by “earning” money simply by not spending it!
A second bonus is that you’ll enjoy the conference thoroughly knowing that you saved the money purposefully for the event. (And you might even have some extra to pick up books and other resources to keep you encouraged after you go home!)
Remember taking care of YOU is taking care of YOUR FAMILY! Take care of your family today by putting one of these Hearts at Home conferences on the calendar and starting to save towards it!
North Central Conference, Rochester, MN, November 13-14, 2015
National Conference, Peoria, IL, April 21-23, 2016
North Central Conference, Rochester, MN, October 14-15, 2016
Southern Conference, Chattanooga, TN, November 11-12, 2016
What about you? How do you save purposefully? Do you have a budgeting strategy that helps you get to a Hearts at Home conference each year?
Mark says: Navigating conflict is one of the hardest parts of marriage. We see situations through different eyes. We hurt one another without realizing it.
Jill says: When we try to talk about our hurt, too often we both try to put our perspectives—our hurt—out there at the same time.
Mark says: It’s too much at once and instead of making things better, we actually make things worse.
Jill says: We end up throwing gasoline on a small fire and before you know it, there’s an explosion of emotion and we’ve both been burned in the process. We also neither one feel safe to put any hurt out there again so we stuff our emotions, build walls, and separate our hearts from each other.
Mark says: There is a better way. We actually discovered it by accident, but what a difference it has made!
Jill says: When we were rebuilding our relationship after the affair, there were so many layers of emotions to work through. As I put my hurt on the table, one piece at a time, Mark responded ONLY with acceptance and apology. No defensiveness. No “yeah, but you….” Nothing but, “I can see how that hurt you. I’m so very sorry for _________________ . Would you please forgive me?” I felt heard, valued, and loved.
Mark says: Sometimes that’s all that needed to happen. Jill’s heart was mending as I owned the hurt I had caused.
At other times, there was something more I felt I needed to communicate. Sometimes there were things that Jill had done that were related to the situation she brought up. When that was the situation, I waited until another time to put that on the table. It might be an hour later, a day later, or a week later. The key was that it was later. One person’s hurt dealt with at a time.
Jill says: When Mark would come back with something he needed to communicate with me, it made it much easier to listen to his heart and respond well to it because he had listened to my heart and responded well when I put it out there.
Mark says: Here’s what I learned in the process: You have to be careful in the waiting because there may be a temptation to just let something go. That’s not a bad thing if you realize that you have made a mountain out of a molehill and you need to give grace and move on. It is a bad thing, though, if you tell yourself “It’s not worth it,” or “I don’t want to risk conflict so I’m just gonna let it go.” All you’ll do then is add to the fire inside your own heart and that’s not healthy at all.
Jill says: There are three keys to handling one person’s hurt at a time:
Humility-– When your spouse brings up a way that you have hurt him or her, you have to lay pride and defensiveness aside. Own whatever you can own of the hurt that happened. Apologize specifically. Ask for forgiveness.
Self-control— You have to be patient and have self-control, asking God when the best timing is to put your hurt on the table.
Perseverance–If you need to communicate any hurt or perspective you want your spouse to understand, follow through as the Holy Spirit leads.
Mark says: The process continues in this manner until everything that needs to be communicated and cleaned up has been communicated and cleaned up. It takes longer, but we found it was far more effective at bringing resolve and closure.
Jill says: If you and your spouse are both reading these blog posts, talk about trying to do this the next time you have some conflict. It may take some time to get used to a new rhythm, but you’ve got to try something new if the old isn’t working.
Mark says: If you’re the only one who is reading these posts, ask God to help you to respond differently the next time. One person’s hurt at a time.
What about you? What strategies have you found helpful for resolving conflict?
Jill says: Last Thursday was our 32nd wedding anniversary. (Of course, we both thought it was #33 until we did the math!) If you’ve been hanging around here very long, you know that celebration has been hard won!
Mark says: Anniversaries can offer a bit of a “reboot” for your marriage, if you’ll make a priority to celebrate it in some way.
Jill says: It’s a time to talk about memories, share hopes and dreams for the future, play together, and take some time for just the two of you.
Mark says: Jill and I chose to do a four day getaway to Holland, Michigan for this year’s celebration. We’re not “dress up and go to an expensive restaurant” kind of people. We’re more “lay on the beach reading books side by side and finding a not-too-expensive place for dinner” kind of people.
Jill says: What are you planning for your next anniversary celebration? Need some ideas? Here are 10 ways to celebrate your anniversary:
1) Write love notes to each other.
2) Go away for an overnight at a hotel in town. (We use Priceline.com to bid on a local room. We can usually find one at about the $45 bid price.)
3) Go away for an overnight for a couple nights in another town. (Two of our personal favorites here in the Midwest were Lazy Cloud Inn in Lake Geneva, WI and The Barn in Dahinda, IL.)
4) Have friends or family keep the kids for a night and stay home alone in your own home. (One year the kids went to Grandmother and Granddad’s for a week and we stayed home alone for a week! Wahoo!) Just having dinner for two in the quiet house is quite refreshing!
5) Take a staycation. One year Mark took the day off work and we spent the day sightseeing in our own town. We ate at restaurants we’d never been in, shopped at downtown stores we had never shopped in, and enjoyed museums and art galleries we didn’t even know existed!
6) Take a tour of your dating spots. When Mark and I started dating, I was living in the Alpha Chi Omega house at Butler University in Indianapolis. Mark was living in a mobile home across town. We have revisited the mobile home park and my sorority house as well as favorite restaurants and parks where we used to spend time.
7) Plan a big trip for the future. If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay. Just adjust. We had planned to take a cruise for our 10th anniversary. As we approached that summer, it became obvious we still couldn’t afford it. So Mark took me to a local lake, rented a canoe, and we “cruised” the lake! Sometimes you have to adjust!
8. Plan for a big trip in the future and actually do it. After our 10th anniversary cruise didn’t work out, we saved for many years and were able to do a cruise with our family for our 25th anniversary!
9. Do a Getaway with God retreat. One year we went to a retreat center to set aside 24 hours to read God’s word together, pray, walk, and talk. We thanked God for years He gave us together. We thanked Him for redeeming the broken places in each of us and in our relationship, and we sought God’s direction for the next season of our life.
10. Head out on an unplanned roadtrip for the day or the weekend. Pick a direction to head in and see where you end up. This is hard for those of us who like to plan and know all the details, but is a gift to the spouse who’s more spontaneous!
Mark says: Doing something special for your anniversary is important. It says “we are important,” “our relationship matters,” and “we have something to celebrate.”
Jill says: Honestly, we’ve not always “felt” like celebrating. Sometimes our anniversary has fallen during hard seasons. However, even in those times, we’ve done something special to celebrate the commitment. We’ve set aside our differences or conflict for the day and done the right thing by celebrating.
What about you? How have you celebrated your anniversary? You can post your ideas as comments on this post here!
Yes, they’re big enough to be on their own. Yet, they’re still home. You know your time having them home is limited.
No matter whether they are working, home between college semesters, or just trying to figure out what to do with their life, here are 10 summer activities you can do with your young adult who is still at home.
1) Coffee. Take time with your young adult one-on-one when you can. Talk about things they’re thinking about. Ask questions. Resist the urge to lecture. Listen well and enjoy the budding adult sitting before you.
2) Cook Dinner Together. Make meal prep a community event. Your young adult needs to know how to cook so there’s no better way to teach them than doing it side by side. Be patient, grace-filled and lighthearted as you work together.
3) Games. When they are home suggest a game of Life, Settlers of Cataan, Yachtzee, Euchre, or whatever game your family loves. Take advantage of summer days where the sun goes down later and homework isn’t calling.
4) Porch. Sit out in the yard or on your porch after dinner and read. Invite your young adult to join you. They may not choose to read, but might instead sit down and talk. Take whatever you can get. If they choose not to join you at all, that’s ok. Remember they’re still watching you and how you use your time does influence them.
5) Dialogue. You’ve taught your kids your values for 18 years. Now they are figuring out what to do with what you’ve taught them and the values they are developing themselves. It’s time to move from monologue to dialogue. Instead of telling you what you think, ask them what they think. Instead of lecturing, listen. You may not get large doses of conversation, but watch for opportunities for connection and capitalize on those moments.
6) Shop. Let your young adult do some grocery shopping for you. Make a list, walk them through specifics on the list, and let them experience the store on their own. They might call you ten times during their trip, but they are learning important skills as they shop on their own.
7. Plan a trip together. Whether it’s a day trip, a long weekend, or a family vacation, let your young adult be part of the planning. Let them weigh in on things they’d like to do or people they’d like to see. If your teen has a summer job, be prepared for the possibility they might choose to not participate or participate in a limited way. This is part of letting them have wings to fly.
8. Geocaching. Kids and adults enjoy geocaching. It’s something you can do in your own hometown or as you travel somewhere. You’ll find details on how to do it at www.geocaching.com/guide.
9. Bible. If your young adult is open to it, suggest you each read a book of the Bible on your own and then do coffee or a lunch out to discuss what you learned. Some great short books to read are James, I Peter, II Peter, Philippians, I and II Timothy.
10. Hometown tour. What is available where you live that you’ve never done before? Museums, sporting events, restaurants, stores, shops? Take a day to pretend you’re a tourist where you live and explore some places you’ve never explored before. Invite your young adult to join you!
What about you? What would you add to this list?
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Your teens and pre-teens seem independent at times, but they still need some ideas to stay busy through the summer!
These frugal, fun activities will keep the brain cells growing, give an alternative to screens, and help change up the routine!
1) Video/Picture Scavenger Hunt. Teens love competition. Send them out on a hunt to find a specific list of pictures or videos. Create your own or find a list options here.
2. Meal Plan. Put your teen in charge of making dinner one night each week. Give them the requirements (meat, fruit, vegetable), let them be in charge of the meal from selecting the menu, doing the shopping, and making the food. This is a great opportunity for them to learn a variety of skills!
3. Solitaire. Not on the computer…with real cards! Teach your kids to play solitaire. Once they get the hang of it, you can turn it into a competition of double and triple solitaire where they play with different style decks of cards and compete to build up the Ace piles. The winner is the one who has the most cards in the Ace piles.
4. Cut Out Cookies. Why reserve the fun of cut out cookies to the holidays? Summer is a great time to enjoy the process of making, cutting out, baking, and decorating cookies! Need a good recipe and practical steps. You can find that here.
5. Board game playoff. Choose a game you’ll play nightly as a family for a week. Keep track of who wins in order to identify a grand champion!
6. Puzzle. Keep a 500 or 1000 piece puzzle out on a card table so your teens can work a little each day. If you have trouble with screens, require they put in 15 minutes on the puzzle to earn 15 minutes of screen time. (You can do the same with reading!)
7. Grandparents. Have your teen call their grandparents once a week to find out how they are doing and to ask them about one memory from their teen years. The first time they call, have your teen tell them they’ll be calling once a week to check in and hear a story from their teen years. That way grandma and grandpa can be thinking about stories to share. (If your teen’s grandparents aren’t living, an aunt or uncle could do the same!)
8. Maps. Teach your teen to read a map and to navigate by a map. Get a city map for day to day trips. If you’re taking a road trip, an atlas will provide the maps needed. This will help them identify North, South, East, and West as well as the location context for places they go. (With the invention of GPS, too many kids have no spatial, location context. This is a skill they still need to know!)
9. Geocaching. Everyone loves a treasure hunt! Geocaching is the way to search for treasure! You can find all about geocaching at www.geocaching.com/guide.
10. Plan a trip. Have your teen plan a trip for your family. It could be a day, weekend, or week-long trip. You give the guidelines of dates, cost, number of days, and distance limitations, and then let them make the plan! As long as they’ve stayed within their guidelines, resist the urge to change up their plan. This will give them an incredible sense of accomplishment!
What about you? What activities would you add to the list?
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Jill speaks on the topics of motherhood, marriage, adoption, parenting, living with less, and women’s issues in both church and business environments. Some topics can be presented along with her husband, Mark.
Jill will work with your theme, your audience, and your needs to provide inspiration and practical takeaways for every person in the audience.