TODAY ONLY: $5 off $15 Amazon Book

I love to both give and receive books and because I’m a living with less girl, I also love to pass along a good deal.

I just learned that Amazon is offering $5 off any print book purchase of $15 or more by simply using the promo code: GIFTBOOK.  Today (Sunday) is the last day for this deal so I’ll be taking advantage of it for some Christmas gifts and I wanted to make sure you knew about it too!


If you’re thinking about picking up a copy of No More Perfect Marriages when it comes out, you can go ahead and pre-order it and use this coupon! (The book under $15 so you’ll need to package it with another book purchase.)

If you’re looking to purchase for a special mom in your life, you can also check out my Hearts at Home books!

While we’re talking about books, here are some of my favorite reads this year:

Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud
How We Love by Milan and Kay Yerkovich (I read it at least once a year!)
Invitation to Silence and Solitude by Ruth Haley Barton
8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids by Dr. Todd Cartmell
Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst

And here’s one on my list to read in the future:

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
Love Does by Bob Goff (he’s going to be one of our keynote speakers at the 2017 Hearts at Home mom conferences!)

What about you? What were some of your favorite reads in 2016?

Some links are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission if you make a purchase. It’s important to me that you know, however, that I only recommend products and services I love and personally use! Thanks for your support in this way!
Posted in Living With Less | Tagged | Leave a comment

Give the Gift of Holiday Freedom

gettyimages-489349424-1We didn’t spend Thanksgiving with a single one of our five children.  Did it feel odd? Yes. Was it the best for everyone? We think so.

Our oldest daughter and her husband alternate holidays with his family and our family; this year Thanksgiving was with his family. Our oldest son lives in California and coming home for Thanksgiving just wasn’t in the budget. Our middle daughter and her husband and our granddaughter were already expected at two different Thanksgiving gatherings on his side of the family. Child number four was planning to spend the holiday with some friends, and our youngest and his fiancé would have been happy to join us, but we decided to give them the freedom of no expectations and the ability to enjoy the day fully with her family. Instead of gathering our immediate family, Mark and I drove a couple hours to spend time with our parents.

I love the holidays but I don’t love them more than my family. I love traditions but I don’t love them more than the people I share those traditions with.

Too often the biggest “gift” given at the holidays is guilt. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is give our family freedom.

So instead of turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie on Thursday, we had a family gathering of whoever could come for pizza and games last weekend. Instead of ham, sweet potatoes, and persimmon pudding on Christmas Day, we’ll gather everyone who can come together on a day that works best for all either before or after Christmas.

One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to allow change to happen as your kids get older. Their sphere of relationships grows exponentially when they marry and start a new family. These days I’m using phrases like these more often:

“We understand. It’s not the day that’s important. We’ll find another time that works better!”

“Your heart is most important to us. We don’t want to add any additional pressure by piling on expectations. If you can join us, we’ll be thrilled and if you can’t, we understand.”

“I love you. I love you the same no matter what decision you need to make for your sanity and what’s best for your family.”

Want to give a powerful gift this holiday season? Give the gift of freedom. Flexibility. No expectations. Unconditional love. Your loved ones will thank you!

Posted in Miscellany, Parenting, Taking Care of Me | 6 Comments

We’re Better Together!

gettyimages-618849248-1I met her at the park this summer. Mark and I had two of the grandkids for the week and I had decided we would spend the day out and about visiting some of our city’s parks.

She was playing with her kids but then one kid wanted her to play tag and the other wanted her to push her on the swing. My kiddos were busy playing so I offered to push the swing while she played tag.  She was grateful for the extra hand and her daughter didn’t seem to mind someone else pushing her.

We started chatting and I found out she was new in town. We talked about all the activities available in town. Eventually one of my littles wanted a drink and we were all out of the drinks I had brought with us. As we began to gather our things, I invited her to come over.  Just follow me home and let the kids keep playing at home. She accepted the invitation and we headed to our house for an impromptu play date.

Once home, the kids immediately picked up playing on the swingset and I set up two chairs for my friend and I.  The littles were ready for a snack so I did a quick pantry scan and found some graham crackers we could spread with peanut butter. We spent the next couple of hours visiting about everything two moms can find to talk about. It was definitely a “better together” afternoon!

BetterTogether_COV_FlatThis has been the year of better together.  The Better Together book that my daughter Anne and I wrote released in March.  The free Better Together video curriculum that many moms groups are now using became available in June (some groups are saying the “tip of the day” we offer at the end of each video are some of the BEST tips!). And I’ve had the privilege of speaking about the importance of “doing life together” dozens of times this year.

We’re not meant to do life alone. We’re meant to do it in community with one another. We’re meant to link arms and to do life together as much as possible. Jesus modeled this first. He shared meals, life experiences, and down time with friends. He invited others into his life journey. He was generous to others and he accepted the generosity of others.

Today is GIVING TUESDAY. It’s another opportunity for a better together experience. Hearts at Home is a non-profit organization that depends on the partnership of others. If this blog, or a Hearts conference, or the Heartbeat Radio program, or one of our books has been helpful for you, would you make a gift today to help us keep the encouragement coming your way? A gift of any size makes a difference!

facebook-profile-and-timeline-graphicWe’re hanging out LIVE over on the Hearts Facebook page today.  We have some fun challenges and giveaways for those who partner with us on Giving Tuesday.  I’ll be there and I’d love for you to join me too!  In fact, from 7am-7:30am, Mark and I will be doing a Facebook LIVE talking about some of the marriage lessons we’ve learned over the past few years! (Don’t worry if you miss the LIVE interview—it will still be on the page for viewing throughout the day.)

Would you make a gift to help Hearts at Home reach more families? It’s a great opportunity to virtually link arms and have a better together moment.

I’ll bring the peanut butter if you have the graham crackers!

Posted in Taking Care of Me | 1 Comment

Get Help Sooner Rather Than Later

gettyimages-495693724Mark: Since I’ve been down in my back, I’ve been enjoying a Netflix series called “Longmire.” One of the episodes I recently watched was about post military service PTSD. One of the characters made this insightful statement, “When there’s shrapnel in the soldier’s body, they want the doctor to fix it immediately. But issues of the head and the heart they want to fix themselves.”

Jill: I recently read some statistics about something similar as it applies to marriage. Research shows that when there is pain in our chest, most people seek help within 1 week. When there is pain in our marriage, most of us wait 6 years to seek help.

Most of us underestimate when we need to ask for help with our marriage. We tell ourselves that it’s not that big of an issue. We blame our partner…if he/she would change, then things would be fine. We tell ourselves that only weak people need to ask for help. While we’re doing all that rationalizing, we’re often closing our heart to our spouse and moving away from them one centimeter at a time. We’re drifting apart and we don’t even realize it.

Jill: The reality is that we all need help at times for our heart and our head. This truth and action is truly what saved our marriage.  We found that we were truly incapable of fixing ourselves. In fact God has made us to need community. He has made us to need one another. It is within community that we find the help we need.

Mark: In my family growing up, my step-dad joked about counselors and the pursuit of them as DUMB. Out of desperation I decided to seek counseling help anyway and I found that our counselor helped unpack my corrupted and distorted heart and mind.  He helped me to not only hear Jill but to also find clarity in my own thoughts and feelings, and to be able to communicate them to Jill.

Jill: We are truly indebted to our counselor and the healing he brought. Of course, we did the hard work of digging, changing, and healing, but he led us well.

Mark: To seek help is to be willing to humble ourselves and “go to school” on our upbringing and life experiences that have imprinted our heart with fears, expectations, assumptions, and lies. Once we understand what makes us tick and what makes our spouse tick, we begin to look at why we tick each other off and how to sync our heads and our hearts. We replace lies with truth.  Fear with courage. Expectations and assumptions are replaced with healthy communication.

Jill: One of the best ways to find a counselor is to ask for referrals from a pastor or a friend who’s sought counseling. If that’s not an option, pick up the phone and make an appointment with a counselor you can find in your area. When you look for a counselor this is what you’re looking for:

(1) Someone to hear your story, unravel it, and lead you to a healthy, principle-driven direction (preferably biblical principles),

(2) someone who expects to work themselves out of a job,

(3) someone who will give you resources and assignments to work on outside of your counseling appointment, because the other six days and twenty-three hours matter greatly in the process of marital change.

Mark: If you meet with someone for a couple of sessions and you aren’t comfortable or don’t feel like he or she is asking good questions, don’t hesitate to go to a different counselor. Counseling draws you out and helps you gain insight into how your experiences have shaped you, good or bad. Good counselors will then assist you in discovering new ways of thinking and behaving in order to have healthy, successful relationships.

Jill: When we talk about marriage counseling, most of us think about couples counseling, but there is incredible value in seeking out individual counseling as well. A marriage is made up of two broken people. If we can better understand the “junk in the trunk” we brought into marriage, it can make a huge difference in learning to relate to our loved ones in new, secure, emotionally healthy ways.

Mark: Whatever you do, don’t wait 6 years…your marriage is entirely too important.

What about you? Do you need to seek help for yourself or as a couple? What’s a next step you can take to find that help?


PS…Looking for an encouraging podcast today? Jill recently visited with Dr. Jen Riday about learning to be more compassionate with your family. You can find it here:

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I’m Grateful…for Online Shopping

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I want you to know I’m grateful for YOU!  I love hanging out in the cyberworld with you. I love hearing your ideas and benefiting from your wisdom when we interact!  I truly hope tomorrow and the coming days are filled with family and fun wrapped up with a lens of faith. I Thessalonians 5:18 reminds us to “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” That’s a scripture I’m personally focusing on today.

Christmas shopping seems to creep into Thanksgiving weekend and even Thanksgiving day for some.

I’m not much of a shopper. At. All.

Black Friday shopping doesn’t even tempt me. At. All.

Yet, I still have Christmas shopping to do. Thank goodness for online deals! I just discovered some great deals I wanted to share with you!

When Austin started college, we joined Amazon Prime. It was so helpful in ordering his books online. We’ve now found it to be helpful in all our online ordering!  I just found out that you can get a 30 day trial for Amazon Prime! Because it provides FREE 2-day shipping on many items, it’s perfect timing for online Christmas shopping. I just had to pass it along in case you’ve never tried it:  Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial.  (Tip: If you decide not to keep the membership after 30 days, make sure and mark your calendar so you can remember to cancel it on Day 29!)

I also recently discovered that Amazon has some great “groupings” of products….kind of like stepping into a store at the mall! I wasn’t aware of these until recently and in case you’re not, I thought I’d share a few below if you’re looking to do some online shopping over the next few  days of deals!

Happy Thanksgiving and happy shopping no matter if you’re a Black Friday ninja or a stay at home online shopper like me!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products, systems, and services I love and use personally so I know you’ll be in good hands! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Posted in Miscellany | Leave a comment

Six Healthy Ways to Express Frustration

A couple talking to each other.Mark: Two weeks ago, the headlines in our local paper read: “Woman shot husband over lack of attention.”  Such a sad story and an extreme way to handle frustration.

Jill: Most of us have been frustrated with our spouse being distant or distracted at one time or another. Life can throw all kinds of curve balls that interfere with our ability to be fully present and attentive to one another.  Even if things are smooth sailing, kids, jobs, and everyday household responsibilities keep us pretty busy.  Investing in our marriage seems to slip down on the priority list.

Mark: But what if we feel neglected by our partner? How do we communicate that in a healthy way? I’ll admit that I haven’t always expressed my frustrations well. This is a place God has been growing me. Here are some strategies I’ve found to be helpful:

Be Compassionate: If your spouse is distracted, put yourself in his or her shoes.  Have things been difficult at work? Is this a tough parenting season? Is he/she struggling with other difficult relationships?

Be Direct: Don’t hint.  Simply say, “I miss you. It feels like you’ve been distracted lately. Is there something heavy you’re carrying on the inside?  How can I help you?”

Be Specific: Don’t hesitate to say specifically what your partner can do to connect with you. “I love it when you hold my hand when we’re driving. Can we do that more?”

Be Grateful: Sometimes we can’t see the efforts our spouse is making because our expectations are set on specific desires that aren’t being met. What is he/she doing that you haven’t noticed?

Be Forgiving: Before you have a conversation with your spouse, make the choice to forgive them for not seeing what you see or not feeling what you feel or for not meeting your needs that you think are obvious. Forgiveness helps us downshift our emotions so we can move from debate to dialogue.

Be Inquisitive: Don’t settle for just asking for what you need. Also ask your spouse for what he or she needs. They may not be as frustrated as you are, but they still have needs.  This helps provide a two-way street for giving and receiving.

Jill: It’s hard for most of us to ask our spouse for what we need. We tell ourselves that he or she should just KNOW! But the truth is that our spouse is not only another gender but also another temperament and another personality. What’s important to you isn’t important to them. And what’s important to them isn’t important to you. So we have to communicate….using kind, gentle, caring words.

What about you? What have you been communicating non-verbally that you need to communicate with words?  How can you better tune into what’s going on in your spouse’s world?

Posted in Marriage | 2 Comments

Are You Digging For Gold?

Today’s guest post is provided by popular Hearts at Home author and speaker Dr. Todd Cartmell. Todd is a child psychologist who offered great content as a workshop speaker at our 2016 conferences. He’s also the author of the Hearts at Home book 8 Simple Tools For Raising Great Kids

If you’re looking for encouragement as a parent, Dr. Todd’s post today is very practical and just what you need!


Be a Gold Digger
By Todd Cartmell

download-1I admit this is a risky title for a blog for primarily moms, but I thought I’d go ahead and live dangerously.  I’ll let you know how it works out.  Needless to say, this blog is not about how to find an old rich guy to marry.

But it is about gold.  Lots of it.

Gold digging is actually a great term, because it carries two ideas with it.  First, there is some gold.  That’s good news.  Second, you have to put a little work in if you want to get it.

Here’s a reminder that every parent needs from time to time.  There is a lot of gold in your kids.  In fact, I like to think of kids as God’s gold nuggets.  Corny, but accurate.

The problem is that they probably don’t see the “gold” that God has hidden within them.  An even bigger problem is when mom and dad don’t see it either.  The writer of Hebrews tells us to, “encourage one another daily.”(Hebrews 3:13).One great way to encourage your kids is to point out the “gold nugget moments” that your kids have on a regular basis.

Your kids need your daily encouragement to remember who they are and who they can become.  Your kids are God’s handiwork and we don’t want them to forget it.  They are imperfect, they make mistakes, and they make their share of sinful choices, as do we all.  But no matter how challenging their behavior may be, God is working in them to develop traits that reflect his character, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

And God is counting on your daily encouragement to help make that happen.

God wants you to be a gold digger.

One day, I asked my youngest son, Luke, to bring down his laundry basket so we could get some clothes washed.  He said, “Sure,” and came down with a basket filled to overflowing with dirty towels and workout clothes.  My options:

1) Say nothing.

2) Say, “Thanks.”

3) Say, “Thanks for bringing your clothes down so quickly.”

4) Say, “Thanks for bringing your clothes down so quickly, that was very helpful.”

Option 2 is okay, and option 3 is great, but option 4 will knock the ball out of the ballpark.  If you think about it, there is a positive characteristic or trait that underlies every one of your kids’ positive behaviors, even if it is in the embryonic stage.  And if you want that trait to grow, there is one thing to do:  Point it out.

You are digging for gold.  Your kids display positive “gold nugget” traits each day.  As a child psychologist, I work with extremely challenging kids and they all have gold nugget behaviors and traits that they display.  The question is whether you are looking for them.

Are you a gold digger?

For instance, if Emma spends thirty minutes working on her homework, what positive traits does that behavior display?

Possible answers: Hard working, diligent, responsible, flexibility, perseverance, self-control.

That’s not bad for half-an-hour of homework.

If Daniel lets his sister choose a game for them to play, what positive traits does that behavior display?

Possible answers: Friendly, flexible, considerate, fair, thoughtful, caring, kind.

Do you see what I mean?  Your kids may display more gold nugget behavior and traits than you realize.

When you point out your kids’ positive behaviors and the character traits that lie underneath, you are reminding them of the little ways that they are obeying God in how they treat others and handle situations throughout the day.  You are helping them to see that a good day doesn’t just happen by accident.  It happens as the result of many respectful and friendly choices – gold nugget choices to be exact.  You are reminding them that when they treat others the way they would like to be treated (Luke 6:13) it helps to make your family a fun place to be.

Let your encouraging words show your kids that you see God’s handiwork in them on a daily basis.  Point out at least one positive characteristic each day for each of your kids.  You will see their faces light up as you show them that you see the best in them, not the worst.  Better yet, your steady stream of encouragement will be shaping them from the inside out and helping them experience the joy in becoming all that God wants them to be.

In other words, be a gold digger.


todds-bookThis post is adapted from 8 Simple Tools For Raising Great Kids and I have good news for you! Right now…for a few more days…Todd’s book is available for $1.99! That’s a great deal that I wanted to make sure you knew about!

Not only that, but Dr. Todd has been featured on the Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast yesterday and today. You can listen to those programs FREE using the Focus on the Family smartphone app or online!


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products, systems, and services I love and use personally so I know you’ll be in good hands! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Posted in Parenting | Leave a comment

5 Travel Tools I Use On Every Trip

gettyimages-498190054-1“The Sound of Music” is one of my favorite musicals and “These Are A Few of My Favorite Things” is one of my favorite songs in the musical!  It’s one that I find myself humming without even realizing it.

That’s why I’ve created a new category of blog posts I’ll be sharing: My Favorite Things!

Good friends share their favorite things with each other. I have so many favorite things I do and use that I decided it was time to share them on occasion! I hope that you’ll share some of yours along the way as well so we can learn from each other!

Here are today’s favorite things and since holiday travel is just around the corner, they all have to do with travel:

airbnb-logoAirbnb-Mark and I just did a two day getaway to Nashville, Tennessee, this past weekend. It was our second time to use Airbnb instead of a hotel.  We found it not only less expensive, but so comfortable to stay in a home.  Our first Airbnb experience was last December when we went to California to visit our son. Because he lives near Hollywood, all hotels were about $250 a night and we were staying 5 nights! Instead we rented a whole apartment for $85 a night through Airbnb! The couple who lived there was traveling so we had the place to ourselves. This also allowed us to cook many of our meals at the apartment rather than eating out which would have broken the bank over 5 days!

This past weekend in Nashville we booked a home where the owners were present. We not only had affordable and comfortable accommodations but we met new friends! The couple we stayed with were delightful and we had some wonderful conversations over our two day stay!

Focus on the Family App–Mark and I love listening to these 30 minute radio programs when we travel by car. The app features the last two weeks of programming completely free! We love listening to the programs and talking about what we learned.

Adventures in Odyssey App–Got kids 8-12? Adventures in Odyssey is for you!  These audio stories teach kids about faith and values. When our kids were younger they LOVED listening to Adventures in Odyssey as we traveled (back then they were on CD’s!). This app requires a subscription, but right now they have a two week FREE TRIAL! Just in time for Thanksgiving travel!

51pictadml-_ac_us160_Lara Bars–These are our favorite travel snacks! Since my breast cancer journey, we’ve greatly changed our eating. No processed foods for this girl anymore. These date-based Lara Bars are gluten free and our favorite “clean eating” snacks for the road!  My favorite flavor is Blueberry Muffin and Mark’s favorite is Cashew Cookie!


Rest Area Guidebook Galactic App–This app shows you where the rest areas are along the interstate. If you need to make a stop and you’d prefer a rest area, you simply click on the rest area that shows up on the map closest to you and it will tell you how many miles away you are from it! We use this app all the time when we travel!

Now it’s your turn! What are some of your favorite things when you travel? 


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products, systems, and services I love and use personally so I know you’ll be in good hands! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Posted in Miscellany | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

10 Cancer Resources for You or A Friend

It was three years ago this week that I heard the words, “You have breast cancer.”

One simple phone call turned my world upside-down as words like lumpectomy, mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy forced their way into my well-ordered world.

My cancer was caught early on a routine mammogram. If you’re one of my female readers, I implore you to do a breast self-exam. If breast cancer runs in the family or if you’re over the age of 40, schedule your mammogram. Today. Right now. Before you even finish reading this post.

Yes, it’s that important.

You may be walking through a tough cancer journey yourself or you may know someone who is so today I’m posting 10 links to some of the most popular blog posts written during my cancer journey.

The Practical Posts:
The Value of Nose Hair and Other Things You Might Not Know About Cancer Treatment
Five Things You May Not Know About Radiation Treatments
How To Be Jesus With Skin On

The “Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus” Posts:
Seven Reasons Why I Have Hope In The Hardship
Eight Promises You Can Count On In A Crisis

The “Feelings” Posts
Cancer Humor
When Mom Is Sick
Dear Cancer…Thank You (my son’s blog post)
An Open Letter To A Woman Who Has Breast Cancer
An Open Letter To A Woman Who Doesn’t Have Breast Cancer

My cancer “journal” was kept on CaringBridge and is still providing insight into the journey for others who are dealing with a diagnosis. Feel free to share that link with someone who needs to know they’re not alone.

I’m often asked how to help a friend who’s received a cancer diagnosis.  The “Jesus With Skin On” post (above) offers very practical, tangible ways to help. But more important than anything else is simply being present. No fixes. Just sitting in the middle of the muddle together.

Today I’m celebrating three years of being cancer free. If my pain, my experience, and my transparency can help someone else, God will have surely redeemed it for His purposes.

He’s in the habit of doing that, you know.

Posted in My Cancer Journey | Leave a comment

Is Your Heart Open Or Closed?

gettyimages-92712273Mark: I can remember the day like it was yesterday. I had determined I was leaving. I had communicated to Jill that I had closed off my heart to her months ago. I was looking forward to a soul mirage, determined to ride off into a new relationship and live happily ever after.

Jill: I remember the day well too. I had asked Mark for the hundredth time to leave the other relationship and recommit to his marriage and his family.  His answer once again was no. This time he added, “I closed off my heart to you long ago. I don’t think I could even open it again.”

Mark: I was looking at love as a feeling, not a commitment. I assumed because I didn’t “love” her anymore, our relationship was over.  This lack of love closed off my heart. I couldn’t imagine ever opening it up again.

Jill: But God.

Mark: But God is in the business of changing hearts. I’m so grateful I allowed His truth, His love, and His redemption to creep back into my heart. As I surrendered to Christ, my heart began to open up to Jill once again.

Jill: Mark and I were reminded of this when we listened to Greg Smalley’s message on Focus on the Family yesterday. When we travel, we open up the Focus on the Family app on one of our phones and listen to the last two weeks of radio programs. Greg’s message talked about having a closed heart and an open heart in marriage. His message was right on. It took us back to that crisis point in our marriage.

Mark: Jill is often asked how she was able to forgive just a big infraction of trust. I can tell you that one reason was that she never closed her heart to me. She kept believing in us. She had compassion for the lost place I was in. In fact, she saw it more clearly than I did at that time.

Jill: As Greg talked about in his message, our heart opens and closes to our spouse on a regular basis. When we disagree, the heart can close. When we forgive, it opens.  When we feel disconnected, our heart closes, when we feel connected our heart opens.

Mark: Sometimes we have to work to keep our heart open to our spouse. When Jill ticks me off, I have to remind myself of Jill’s good traits.

Jill: And I have to do the same when Mark frustrates me. It’s hard work to think positively about someone when you’re angry with them.

Mark: When my heart was so closed off to Jill and I pursued another relationship, Jill was steady, and strong, and safe. She became even safer when she owned her own stuff at a time it certainly would have been easier to throw stones my way. She was safe when she spoke words of life to me when it might have been easier to throw harsh, angry words my way.  The safer she was, it primed my heart to open up to her again.

Jill: Of course, there were plenty of times harsh, angry words were spoken. But the more God gave me compassion for Mark’s confusion and how he had lost his way, kinder words became the norm. Those not only kept my heart open to Mark, but eventually helped him open up his heart to me.

Mark: No matter if your heart has been closed to your spouse for years, months, days, or just a few hours, here are three steps to take to open up your heart to your spouse:

  1. Confess your part. Are you critical? Judgmental? Angry? Quick to cast blame? Unwilling to compromise? Prideful and always thinking your way is right?
  2. Push your thoughts. Instead of ruminating on your partner’s shortcomings, think about his/her strengths.
  3. Surrender. Raise the white flag of surrender and stop pursuing “what you want to do” by replacing it with “what God wants you to do.”

So what about you? Is your heart open or closed?  What do you need to do to open your heart back up? 

Posted in Marriage | 1 Comment

The One Question You Must Ask Yourself Today

gettyimages-155280494-1It was a suggestion Dr. Kathy Koch made at a Hearts at Home conference that changed my after school question. Instead of asking, “How was your day?” I began to ask, “Who were you today?”

Because our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter live with us, it’s now the question I ask my granddaughter when she gets home from school.

Today is a defining day for our country. This election is one of the most polarizing elections in the history of our country. It’s made social media an unsafe place to be, its divided families, its made work environments challenging. Regardless of where we stand on issues and candidates, our country will have a new president elected tomorrow morning.

At the end of the day, how will you be able to answer the question, “Who were you today?”

4-year-old Marie answers that after school question with, “I was a helper today when my teacher needed help with papers,” or “I encouraged my friend when she went on the monkey bars.” Sometimes she says, “I was a good sharer today and I shared my crayons.”

At the end of today and tomorrow and the day after, what will our answers be?  I hope they’re something like these:

“I measured my words and resisted needless arguments on Facebook.”

“I was kind, no matter how those around me were acting.”

“I was grace-giving and allowed others to have different opinions. If it was appropriate to share thoughts and opinions, I did it in a respectful way.”

“I was loving to even the most unkind person I came in contact with.”

“I was a prayer warrior. One who absolutely believes that God is still in control.”

This is the time where we get to not just talk about our faith, but to live it out. To be the hands and feet of Jesus. To give others the chance to watch us and say, “There’s something different about her. I want what she has.”

After you vote, after the election results are in, after our country has established a new leader…who will you be today? 

Posted in Faith | 2 Comments

What Do You Want When You’re Under The Weather?

gettyimages-154887454-1Jill says:
A week ago last Friday I had knee surgery for a torn meniscus. The first few days I was pretty much attached to my recliner and Mark served as a wonderful nurse.

Just a few days ago, Mark injured his back at work. He’s been down for the entire weekend alternating between ice and heat. Now we’ve flip flopped our roles.

Mark says:
Within the span of one week we’re once again reminded of our differences. When I’m sick or injured, I want to be left alone. When Jill is sick, she wants to be tended to.


Jill says:
The worst thing a married couple can do is assume the other person wants what you would want in a certain situation. Instead of imposing our likes and dislikes on our spouse, we have to seek to understand their likes and dislikes when they are feeling under the weather.

Mark says:
A great time to talk about this is when you’re both healthy.  There’s nothing worse than having unmet expectations when you’re already not feeling your best!

Jill says:
If you don’t already know the answers to these questions, take some time to get to know each another’s preferences:

  • When you are sick, do you want me to anticipate your needs like getting medication, making meals, etc?
  • When you don’t feel well, do you want to be left alone and trust that if you need something, you’ll let me know?
  • Do you want me to rub your feet, rub your back, or comfort you in any way, when you’re not feeling well?
  • Do you want me to just take care of myself and let you take care of yourself, when you’re under the weather?
  • When you’re not your best, what household responsibilities would you like me to pick up so you don’t have to worry about them?

What about you? What do you prefer when you’re sick or injured? What about your spouse? 

Posted in Marriage | Leave a comment

6 Ways to Help a Grieving Parent

gettyimages-174686441-1In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan Proclaimed October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  Today’s post was written by Emily Fawcett who understands the reality of infant loss.  I asked Emily to share how a mom can help another mom who is grieving the loss of a child.  These are her words of wisdom we all need to hear.


dsc_0314On Sept. 6, 2015, our family joyfully welcomed Sawyer Ruth into the world, and seven days later, we grieved our loss and celebrated her gain as she was healed in heaven. Then as quickly as our world exploded, it quieted again, and the stillness laid heavy on us. Not everyone walked away, we were and still are blessed with many people who chose to circle their wagons around our family. Their cards, messages, talks, and prayers cover and carry us still. However, we had others who just couldn’t handle our loss and our deep grief. For reasons I will never understand, they chose distance. And in that distancing, they lost us too. Perhaps if I had known these truths at the beginning, relationships would have lasted; but at that time, I was just trying to breathe.

At a little over a year, I am better able to understand what I need during what I pray is my lowest valley. If you are a mother who has lost a child, perhaps these truths will resonate with you. If you know a grieving mother, please take these truths and support and surround her as she struggles to find her new path.

I need you to walk alongside me. I know you can’t know my loss, nor do I want you to.  One mother described our need for companionship as the fellowship of grief. To have others gather alongside and say this is too much, can I help carry it.  “Bear each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galations 6:2

I need you to be messy with me. Grief is not pretty or neat or quick. Walking away or distancing yourself because it is too much for you hurts. It may be too much for you, but it is unbearable for me. Yet I bear it. I have no other choice.

I need to hear my child’s name. Please say her name to me; include her as part of your story. One of the greatest gifts, my mother has given me is to always tell people she has twelve grandchildren, though only eleven are here.

I need your “how are you?” to be genuine. Small talk is impossible; I just don’t have the energy. But if you really want to know how I am, I would love to tell you. I long to talk about my child.

I need you to remember dates along with me. I was paralyzed every month on the 6th and the 13th. My sisters never missed a date. They remembered every month along with me, which made me feel a little less alone. A card, a text, or just a simple, “I’m thinking of you” is enough.

I need to grieve. Don’t rush me or push me. We may not get to do very much for our children in the time we have with them; however, we all get to grieve. Let me grieve as long or as deep as I need to. Our counselor told us, “that our grief is proportionate to our love.” We love deeply; therefore, we grieve deeply.

For parents walking this lifelong journey of grief, please know that you are not alone. And for those who are watching others grieve, please let them know they are not alone. Let October 26th be a day for you to remember us, the ones who have lost, for not a day goes by where we need a calendar to remind us.

Posted in Parenting, Taking Care of Me | 2 Comments