Would You Send A Valentine To a Mom Who Needs It?

a24b74bc-a024-48b6-a642-5ff52adcc969We’ve all been there, feeling overwhelmed, worn down, or just needing a break. Money is tight and “taking care of me” simply has no budget.

That would have been me two years ago during my breast cancer journey. We were over our head in medical bills and registering for a conference I desperately needed would have never made it high enough on the priority list.

It also describes my friend Lisa who is a single mom. She’s barely making ends meet but longs to attend the Hearts at Home conference so she can be the best mom she can be.

We know there are seasons like this in many moms’ lives. That’s why Hearts at Home began our Sponsor-a-Mom program.

In 2015 alone, Sponsor-a-Mom scholarships paved the way for 175 moms to attend conference. Amanda, a recipient, gave thanks saying, “Receiving the scholarship was an intense reminder that there are people on my team, I am not alone, and God is always there for me and will provide.” It is because of the ministry partners like you that these scholarships are made possible.

If you have partnered with our Sponsor-a-Mom program in the past, THANK YOU! You are making a difference! If you never have, it’s possible you just might not have known about the opportunity.  Will you join me in sponsoring a mom this year? With your support, all moms, no matter their financial situation, have access to enjoy a day away to learn, grow, and gain the needed support for their mothering journey.

Visit our website to sponsor a mom today or to find more information.  Your support will help us provide scholarships to women who want to attend all three of our 2016 events!

Sponsor-a-MomBe Sweet!

Posted in Taking Care of Me | Leave a comment

Love The One You Have

Mark: When I met Jill I was drawn to her spunk. Her faith. Her no-nonsense attitude. After we got married that turned into black and white thinking and strong opinions.

That wasn’t what I signed up for.

Jill: When I met Mark I was drawn to his compassion and his sensitivity. After we got married that turned into him being a feeler, a pleaser, and passivity.

That wasn’t what I signed up for.

Mark: After talking to hundreds of couples over the years, our experience isn’t unique. What we’re initially drawn to becomes magnified and seems to morph into something different.

Jill: Somewhere along the way a friend challenged me with these words, “You’ve gotta grieve the loss of the husband you thought you had and love the one you have.” 

That was just the perspective I needed to change my thinking.

Mark: I wish I’d had a friend say those words to me early on because I needed to hear them.  I spent way too many years trying to change Jill and eventually thinking the grass was greener on the other side of the fence.  That was an incredibly painful detour that I hope I can prevent others from taking.

Jill: Even though I had a change in thinking, there were still plenty of times when I prayed “God change him,” and should have been praying, “God show me how to love him.”

Mark: There are two parts to the wisdom Jill’s friend shared with her: Grieve and Love. We first have to let go of the loss of our imagined partner. No one person can probably live up to the dream spouse we have in our mind. Every person is imperfect in some way. Grieving the loss of what we imagined, helps us move into reality.

Jill: Once we grieve, then we love well. Love is a choice. A decision. It’s not a feeling. Often love can actually the impetus of change. When God was teaching me most about love, he took me to Romans 12:9-21:

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Mark: So is it time for you to “grieve the spouse you thought you had and love the one you have?”  I’m so glad I’ve learned to love the one I have.  I invite you to do the same.

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The #1 Reason You Don’t Reach Your Goals

ThinkstockPhotos-82173239I’ll just put this here and put it away later.

I’ll just sleep in this morning and go to the gym tomorrow morning.

I’ll just have one handful of M&M’s.

I’ll just fold the laundry tomorrow. 

Rationalizing. We all do it. It’s a coping mechanism when we’re overwhelmed. It’s a lazy response when we don’t want to put out the effort we need to. It’s an emotional response we back up with logic.  Most importantly, it’s a lie that holds us hostage and keeps us from reaching our goals.

If we break up the word rationalize, it becomes “rational lies” which are exactly what we tell ourselves in a moment of decision. Rationalizing keeps us stuck where we are.

Got clutter? It’s a result of the lie that says, “I’ll put it away later.”

Can’t stay on a healthy eating plan? It’s because we lie to ourselves that “one cookie won’t matter.”

Can’t make it to the gym? That’s because of the lie that says, “I’ll do that tomorrow.”

Did you make a New Year’s resolution?  If you did and you’re not doing so well with it, it’s probably because you’ve rationalized each time you’ve come face to face with the decision to do the thing you said you wanted to do.

I’m personally acquainted with these lies because I’ve used them myself. In fact, I’m a reformed messy. When I decided that my messiness bothered me and I really wanted to live differently, I didn’t have to start new habits. Instead, I had to come face to face with my thought processes. That’s where I discovered how often I was lying to myself!

Want to stop telling yourself “rational lies?”  Here are three steps I’ve found helpful:

  • Watch out for those two little words, “I’ll just…”. You might say them aloud or you might say them in your head. Regardless of how you say them, start paying attention to their existence in your vocabulary. When you hear them, allow an alarm to go off in your head.
  • Don’t believe the lie. Instead of telling yourself “I’ll just put this away later,” simply take the 10 extra steps to put it away now. Instead of saying, “I’ll just sleep in in this morning,” push through your sleepy fog and get out of bed.
  • Smile at your accomplishment. Give yourself an “atta girl” or atta boy” moment of encouragement knowing that you pushed through the lie and did what you needed to do.

Each time you identify a “rational lie,” push through it, and do what you need to do, you’ll be on your way to living the life you want to live!

What about you? Can you identify when you rationalize and how doing so keeps you from reaching your goals? 

Posted in Home Organization, Taking Care of Me | 4 Comments

Yesterday’s Giveaway and Where I’m Headed This Spring

If you tried to enter yesterday’s giveaway, you probably ran into a technical glitch when trying to leave a comment!  I’m so sorry!  

The problem is fixed now so if you want to enter the giveaway, you can leave a comment here!  Take two! (If you emailed me your comment already after you tried to post it, you’re still entered…no need to repost it!)

It’s also possible that I’m going to be in your neck of the woods sometime this Spring. Come say hello and join the fun if any of these events that are open to the public are near you. (Click HERE to find contact info for these events!)

Saturday, January 30–Springfield, IL,–No More Perfect Parents Parenting Seminar

Thursday, February 4 and February 18–Geneva, IL,–My Hearts at Home

Friday/Saturday, Feb 19-20–Zeeland, Michigan–No More Perfect

Saturday, March 5–Avon, Indiana–No More Perfect

Thurs-Sat, March 10-12, Greenville, South Carolina–Great Homeschool Convention

Thurs-Sat, March 31-April 2–Cincinnati, Ohio–Great Homeschool Convention

Fri-Sat, April 8-9–Utica, Illinois–Retreat to the Rock

Let me know if you’ll be at any of these events!  I’d love to connect!



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

Why Are You So Stressed As a Parent?

Today’s post is a guest post from my friend, Dr. Meg Meeker. Dr. Meeker has the wisdom of a pediatrician and the heart of a mother.

She’s the best-selling author of six book and has appeared on The Today Show, Today with Kathie-Lee and Hoda, Dateline with Katie Couric, The O’Reilly Factor, Fox and Friends, The Dave Ramsey Show, and more. Dr. Meg also serves as the co-host for Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk radio show.

Today she shares a simple, yet profound principle, we parents need to understand.


megAfter 30 years practicing pediatrics, I had a huge revelation. I figured out exactly why parents are so stressed all the time! While talking to a mother of three children and chatting about how to implement one of the principles in my new online program, a light went off.

You are stressed because you are micro-parenting not macro-parenting.

What does this mean? Simply put, you spend so much time, energy and money on a multitude of small things with your child, that you’ve lost sight of the bigger picture.

If you stand back and tell yourself to look at the 25 year span of your child’s life, ask yourself what you really want to teach him. Who do you want him to become? When you do this, you’ll come up with a few things and I”ll bet you aren’t focused on any of them right now because you’re so busy!

Here’s the truth: when you work hard at fewer big things in your child’s life (macro-parent)  you don’t have to worry about  the small stuff that keeps you aboard the Crazy Train. What kinds of things am I talking about?

For instance, a macro-parenting principle is teaching your child to be compassionate and empathetic. You do this by teaching him to be grateful and to serve others. How are you doing that right now? If you focus on things like this, he’ll become a much happier adult than by doing travel hockey 12 months of the year.

I also know why you micro-parent: because your friends do and you don’t want your child to feel left behind. I get it. But let me tell you something else. If you shift your perspective from micro-parenting to macro-parenting, you are almost guaranteed to raise a happy, successful child.


Dr. Meg offers a popular online parenting course, The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids, where she teaches parents how to move from micro-parenting to macro-parenting and today she is giving away one complimentary membership ($149 value!) to one of my blog readers!

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment stating one of two things: 1)what stresses you out the most about parenting, or 2) what is one stress-relieving strategy you use to de-stress.

What about you? What stresses you out the most about parenting? What do you do to de-stress from parenting?

Posted in Parenting | 29 Comments

How Are You Investing In Your Marriage?

ThinkstockPhotos-452416919Mark: Did you know that if you divorce and hire a divorce lawyer you’ll spend $250-$400/hour?  Do you know the average marriage counselor costs about $100/hour and many offer sliding scale fees based upon income?

Jill: Why are so many of us willing to put the money out for divorce, but consider “marriage counseling” or registering for a marriage conference, or doing a weekend getaway something we just “can’t afford?”

Mark: Marriage requires investment. Investment of both time and money. How are you investing in your marriage?

IMG_0768Jill: On Wednesday of this week my mom and dad will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary.  I remember when I was small, my parents didn’t hesitate to take time for the two of them. When they would go out for an evening they’d have our favorite sitter take care of us or we’d go to one of our grandparents for the evening.  I also remember my mother accompanying my dad on several business trips so they could have time together without kids. It didn’t hurt me to see that…it helped me!  I felt safe and secure knowing that mom and dad loved each other and took time for each other.

Mark: Last week Jill and I took some time for just the two of us. We have some set aside in Feb and March too. It’s so important to step away from the everyday and just spend time with each other. Maybe it’s a date night every other week, or an overnight once every few months, or a few days away once a year. Maybe it’s having the kids go to grandma’s once a month and just waking up in your own home without kids. Maybe it’s trading sitting with another couple.

Jill: Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Mark: We’re planning for 55 years and beyond. Want to join us? What are you doing to intentionally invest in your marriage?

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Push The Reset Button In Your Marriage

ThinkstockPhotos-474403710Mark: Jill and I have made many changes over the years to improve our marriage. We’ve both looked at our own contributions to the hurts in our marriage and worked to make the changes we’ve needed to make.

Jill: Because we’re not perfect, we’ll have to make those adjustments for the life of our marriage…and so will you if you want to keep your marriage healthy.

Mark: One of the things we talk about is that when things get off-centered in marriage, it’s usually an accumulation of little things. Things that simmer under the surface. Things unnoticed. Unattended. Undetected. Untouched. These can cause an unraveling that gains momentum over time. A fade of one centimeter to another.

Jill: The key to stopping the fades is addressing those little drifts while they are centimeters off-center and not inches or yards or miles.

Mark: Behaviors that are off-center by centimeters can be adjusted with a conversation or two. Sometimes easy conversations…sometimes hard conversations. However, if those “reset” conversations don’t happen, we easily slip back into bad habits or old patterns of behavior.

Jill: Mark and I recently had one of those conversations. Mark provided accountability to me that I had slipped back into old patterns. It wasn’t something I wanted to hear but it was something I needed to hear. I needed to get back to center.

Mark: During our conversation, I realized that I too had gotten off center. The truth is sometimes you drift from center without realizing it; and sometimes you do.  What could lead us to drift? Busyness will definitely leads us to drift because we begin to economize our relationship. Being tired can also cause us to drift. Not taking care of our thoughts, hurts, or frustrations will definitely lead us to drift.

Jill: Relationship drift is normal and yet we can’t allow ourselves to remain there. We have to have the courage to lovingly call it out (in ourselves and in our spouse). We have to be willing to accept the accountability. We have to be willing to be moldable in God’s hands as He matures us through our marriage.

What about you? Do you recognize any of these warning signs in your own relationship? Do you realize you are drifting? Why are you drifting? Will you find the courage to have conversations with your spouse if he or she is drifting? Will you find the courage to admit you’ve moved left of center and reset accordingly?

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For My Stay-At-Home Mom Friends

downloadToday’s post is a message of encouragement for at-home moms from Donna Otto. Donna was a keynote speaker at our Hearts at Home conferences in the early years. Her books, including Loving Life As An At-Home Mom, were a source of encouragement for me during the twenty years I spent as a mother at home.

Donna’s words today will encourage you if you’re an at-home mom.  If you’re a work-at-home mom, you might enjoy this post and if you’re a working mom, you will find this post just what you need!



You may never have thought of mothering as a ministry, but it is. If you’re an at-home mom it is your primary ministry and your daily tasks are an offering to God.

You may find it difficult to think about serving your heavenly Father when your days are filled with such earthly tasks as changing diapers, cleaning, cooking, chauffeuring, and refereeing kids.  So here are several key thoughts that will help you transform every one of your mothering responsibilities into a love offering.

View your ministry to your family as a ministry to Christ. Imagine that you are meeting Jesus upon your entrance to heaven.  He smiles warmly and says, “Welcome, blessed child of My Father.  Come and enjoy the kingdom I have prepared for you.  For I skinned My knee, and you cleaned and bandaged it.  I missed the bus at school, and you came and picked Me up.  I was away on a business trip, and you spent most of your weekend typing the proposal I had to turn in at work on Monday.”

“Wait a minute, Lord,” you might interrupt.  “I never bandaged Your knee, picked You up from school, or typed a proposal for You.”

And He replies, “Oh, yes you did.  Whatever you did in loving ministry to your husband and children, you did to Me.” (See Matthew 15:34-40).

If Christ were here physically, you would be delighted and excited to cook for Him, clean for Him, and care for His needs.  When you serve your family, you are serving Christ.  As you cook for your family, you cook for Jesus.  As you clean up a child’s mess, you do it first for Jesus.  As you care for the needs of your child’s father, you do it for Jesus.  We do it all for Him.

My husband, David, is a semi-retired tax lawyer, and I have had the privilege of laundering and ironing his shirts on a weekly basis.  It brings me joy because David tells me it’s one of the sweet gifts I give him.  I love the “bennies” of his remarks about my doing his shirts.  He knows that I do his shirts with love and care.

Gods inexhaustible reservoir of love is the resource for your ministry of motherhood. The enormous measure of love we feel for a brand-new baby is amazing.  We see his tiny hands, his great need, his dependency on us, and love pours from our heart.  But usually by the time he’s two years old, our supply of human love has dipped very low or completely bottomed out!

You will never possess enough human love to stay at home, sacrifice for your children, and raise them the way God directs.  You simply don’t have that much love.  It is God’s love that gives you the grace that is sufficient to every challenge of mothering.  You need God’s love and grace to live sacrificially for your children and point them to Jesus.

You need a good attitude about being at home.  My most effective attitude check is found in Psalm 24:3-4: “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?…He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”  To me, “clean hands” represent my actions and “pure heart” stands for my attitude.

LovingLifeSmYou must rely on Gods wisdom and understanding for the ministry of training your children. German poet and dramatist Goethe said, “We can’t form our children on our own concepts.  We must take them and love them as God gives them to us.”

The verse we parents so often hear is Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  How are we supposed to know the way each child should go?  I believe that God can teach mothers what needs to be accomplished in their children and how to train them in that way.  He knows you and your children completely.  And He will give you ideas, answers, and plans if you ask and listen.

In the Bible, Jacob blessed his 12 sons with a blessing appropriate to each one.  How did he know what to say about each child?  Jacob understood each one.  He knew their needs, their potential, their gifts, and their personality styles.  He knew them well enough to bless them individually and appropriately.  Study each of your children and rely on God’s understanding.  You’ll be able to bless each one through your wise mothering.

You must carry out your ministry in the authority of Christ. Since motherhood is a ministry for Christ, your mothering must be accomplished in His authority.  In fact, one of my favorite definitions of motherhood  is “a woman in authority.”  Are you a woman in authority over your children?  Do you understand God’s authority and where you fit in His line of command?

God holds you and your husband responsible for your children and gives you authority to direct their young lives.  Your authority goes beyond giving birth and physically protecting them.  You have the authority under God to raise your children to be servants of God.  Are you exercising your authority?  Don’t worry you’ll still find mistakes to make.

Your ministry is to be a servant, not a slave. I see some mothers who are servants to their children, and I see others who are slaves to their children.  There’s a big difference.  To serve is to render aid or help.  Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.” (Mark 10:43).  If you want to be a great mother, render service to your children by training them in the way they should go.

A slave, however, is in bondage, controlled by a master.  Your children should not be your masters.  You should not be in bondage to your children.  For example, consider the mother at the grocery store with a three-year-old chanting, “I want, I want, I want.”  Instead of serving the child by giving him what he needs, the mother runs out of patience, and she becomes his slave by giving him what he wants.

We all succumb occasionally when our children insist on something and we are in a public place or bound by time constraints.  I’m not talking about these exceptions.  I’m talking about the standard.  Who’s in charge at your house – you or your children?  Are you determined to serve your children so they will grow to serve Christ?  Or are you the slave who is in bondage to doing whatever your children want in order to keep them from disruptive noises or temper tantrums?

These five principles help provide a firm foundation for making motherhood your career choice. My prayer is that you’ll have fun serving your family!

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

WE WANT YOU: Join the “Better Together” Launch Team!

Better-Together-Launch-graphicCan I just tell you how much I love my publisher? Moody Publishers is the absolute BEST! They have agreed to allow us to have the biggest launch team for a book release we’ve ever had!  We’re looking for a few…400 to be exact…moms who love Hearts at Home, love books, and love to share with their friends!

My daughter Anne and I have a book coming out March 1: Better Together: Because You’re Not Meant to Mom Alone.  This is a book about friendship. No matter whether you feel like a friendship guru or a friendship flunky, Better Together is for you! As you read, you’ll learn all kinds of wisdom for moving your friendships from TBF to MBF to GGF to BFF (yes, you’ll learn what all those mean!) and you’ll exhale a deep breath and whisper, “Wow…I’m not alone.”

After a fun photo shoot where the five of us were asked to laugh on-command close to 1 billion times, here’s the cover of the book:

cb81a3b5-btcoverNow the book is in its final editing stage and we have an electronic version to share with our launch team so it’s time to put this in the hands of some moms who need it!

As the author, this is where I always break out into a cold sweat. I’ve poured my heart and soul into a book, fed my family too many frozen pizzas, laid awake too many nights agonizing over just the right way to craft the wording of a paragraph, and now it’s time for someone other than my closest friends to read it. Scary, I’m telling you.

Now let me give you the inside scoop on this launch team opportunity!

So what is a launch team?  A launch team is a group of people who help spread the word about a new book. They read an electronic copy of the book, participate in a 6-week online discussion as they’re reading the book, and share along the way about the book in social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Periscope, on their blog (if they have one), on retailer sites like Amazon and Christianbook.com (can you say book reviews?),  and in person with friends, at their moms group, or with the random stranger she’s standing next to in the line at the bathroom at McDonalds.

What would I need to do if I’m on the launch team?

  1. Read an electronic copy of the book before everyone else! This is a pdf you can read on your computer, your phone, or even on your e-book reader (most e-book readers allow you to download a pdf!)
  2. Tell your world about Better Together during the month of February! Share quotes, graphics, and things you are learning as you read the book. (Don’t worry, we’ll give you graphics and some fun things to share plus we know you’ll find some of your own as you read!) You’ll also want to let your girlfriends know all the wonderful freebies they can get if they pre-order the book before it’s March 1 release!
  3. Post an honest review online. It can be on Amazon, Christianbook.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Goodreads, or your favorite online retailer! This helps other moms find the book when they are needing the encouragement!

What do I get?

  1. You get to read the book first! Wahoo!
  2. You get inside scoop about the book and all kinds of goodies to share!
  3. You will have the possibility of earning all kinds of free stuff like a free signed copy of the Better Together book, free mp3’s of Hearts at Home conference workshops, free Hearts at Home conference tickets, and more!
  4. You’ll get to experience a Better Together six-week online moms group led by Anne and I where you’ll find out you’re in good company with both the joys and the challenges of being a mom and forging friendships!
  5. You’ll get the satisfaction that you were part of something bigger than yourself! You helped make a difference in the lives of thousands of moms!

How do I jump into the launch team pool? 

You can apply HERE! We’re taking applications starting today through January 15, or until all the spots are filled. There are 400 spots and we want YOU to have one of them!  If you are selected you will receive an email from Hearts at Home by January 15 (check both your inbox and your spam box just in case it accidentally lands in there!)

If this isn’t for you but you think a friend would be perfect for the job, please share it with her!

We hope you’ll join the fun, because even when it comes to launching a book, we’re BETTER TOGETHER for sure! 

Posted in Taking Care of Me | 2 Comments

The Power of Feedback in Your Marriage

ThinkstockPhotos-86806373Mark says: Performance reviews in the workplace are not usually something most of us look forward to. Even if it helps you improve in your job and provides valuable feedback to help you move up the corporate ladder, most of us resist the process.

Jill says: Yet, feedback is an important part of life. We need to know how our actions affect others, both positively and negatively.  Kind, honest conversation fuels maturity and deepens intimacy.

Mark says: Feedback in marriage is crucial, yet few of us do it well.  We tend to respond with anger, defensiveness, blame, and shame.

Jill says: Performance reviews in marriage–giving feedback, allows us to recognize what is and isn’t working. If the feedback is proactive–we evaluate our relationship a couple times a year–we can identify goals for improvement before problems become ingrained and difficult to deal with. That will be a topic for another day. Today we want to focus on feedback couples give each other naturally. And we’re going to look at it from our natural, but not-always-healthy, responses.

Mark says: There are two sides to feedback in marriage: giving feedback and receiving feedback. How we do each of these parts of assessment makes all the difference in how we interact with one another.

Jill says: While it’s important to know how to give and receive feedback, we want to look at this in a different way. We want to look at the “dysfunctional response” we default to that usually hurts our relationship rather than helps.

Mark says: When I give feedback, I have two dysfunctional tendencies and they are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. The first response is expressing frustration rather than communicating clearly. This often follows hinting which is never an effective form of communication.

The second dysfunctional tendency is to stuff and blow. I tell myself it doesn’t matter when really it does. I stuff it over and over until I blow. Raging is also never an effective form of communication.

Jill says: When I give feedback in my marriage, my dysfunctional tendency is to shoot so straight there’s very little kindness and compassion. My factual approach clashes with Mark’s emotional temperament.

Mark says: While I don’t always get it right, these days I’m learning to speak up sooner, before I’m too frustrated to communicate clearly or keep my emotions in check. I intentionally speak with a calm voice of leadership that helps me stay emotionally steady.

Jill says: And I’m learning to speak with kindness and compassion in order for the message to be received better. Sometimes I take a deep breath to slow me down and give me time to consider how I’m giving my feedback.

Mark says: Then there’s the receiving side of feedback. When receiving feedback, my dysfunctional response is one of shame. My self-talk says I’m never enough. I don’t just do bad things, I am bad, defective, and can never get it right. My second dysfunctional response is one of judgment towards Jill. I tell myself, “She is always critical. I can never make her happy.” Both of which aren’t true at all.

Jill says: When receiving feedback my dysfunctional response is blame. My self-talk is clouded in pride that says I’m not the only one with a problem here. I’m not wrong, just misunderstood.

Mark says: These days I’m working at standing firm in who I am in Christ. When the old messages start to play in my head, I replace them with the Truth I know. I recognize the ploy of the enemy to whisper those lies and I’ve stopped playing into his hand.  This allows me to hear Jill’s communication and recognize the value of what she is saying. I may not agree with all of the feedback, but I’m asking God to show me what I need to own.

Jill says: These days I’m letting Mark know he’s been heard by repeating back to him what he’s said. This allows me to let his words soak in gives me a way to respond that isn’t filled with blame. I too may not agree with all the feedback, but with humility as the lens I’m seeing the feedback through, God shows me what part is true and needs to be addressed.

Mark says: Marriage is a lifetime job. It’s one we’re constantly learning about. Our spouse is usually the best person to give us feedback, but we have to make sure we’re emotionally healthy in how we both give and receive feedback. The more both of us are in tune with where we need to grow, the more we’re addressing our dysfunctional lenses, conflict is replaced by conversation and we strengthen our marriage.

What about you? What are your dysfunctional responses in giving and receiving feedback? What steps can you take in a different direction for the health of your marriage? 


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Heart Remodel

“Honey, you won’t believe this! One of the stores I install countertops for made the quartz kitchen counters wrong for this job I’m doing. The thing is…they made them wrong two times! To make up for the time I’ve not been able to be paid for (no homeowner will pay for the installer’s time for a product made wrong) they are giving me the countertops. We can finally renovate our kitchen!”

pic 2That was the announcement my contractor-husband made just about one year ago. The quartz sat in our garage until we could have a yard sale this summer, netting us $1300 for the remodel, (and cleaning out our nearly empty-nest house!).

Our kitchen cabinets really need to be replaced but we don’t have the money for that so they will be repaired and painted.

A couple of walls have come down, opening up the house in new and wonderful ways.

While taking down the paneling (yes wall paneling we Jan 2016 Blog Photosactually wallpapered nearly 20 years ago when we bought the house!) and replacing it with drywall, we have discovered five layers of wallpaper indicating the decorating history over the last 103 years of our home’s existence.

There’s a layer of dust in every nook and cranny of this house that I’m not even touching until we’re done.

It’s a labor of love for a home we dedicated to God almost 20 years ago when we moved in.

photo 3These walls have watched our children grow, witnessed marriages restored (including our own), welcomed our adopted child into our family, and hosted dozens of back-to-school parties, prom picture-taking, birthdays celebrations, holiday dinners, cookie baking gatherings, Bible studies, Hearts at Home and church gatherings, engagements, grandchildren visits, and more.

It’s only a house…but it’s our home. It’s quite the mess right now…but aren’t we all?

This renovation makes me think of the renovating work God does in our lives. If we allow Him to, He tears down walls in order to open our heart up. He puts a fresh coat of paint on the worn-out places in our lives. He reveals sin and helps us to see our need for repentance. He peels away the layers of hurt and redeems them for His purposes.

Where does God want to do a renovating work in your life? In your heart? In your marriage? No matter your age, season of life, or spiritual condition, there’s always a remodel waiting to happen in some area of our life.

My encouragement to you is to say yes to the change He’s pressing on your heart today.

Posted in Faith, Taking Care of Me | 2 Comments

Fantastic Food: Leeks

ThinkstockPhotos-87971234Several years ago when we were hosting a young man from Poland, he wanted to make a traditional Polish meal for our family. I took him to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients he needed and he asked me where the leek’s were.

This leek came straight out of my garden.

This leek came straight out of my garden.

I had no idea. I’d never heard of a leek.

Fast forward five years and my post-cancer change in cooking.  I’ve been reading about the nutritional value of whole foods and leeks jumped to the front of the list for antioxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Vitamin A.  They also contain small amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

What is a leek? It’s a member of the onion family.  Think of it as a big green onion.


Simply wash off the dirt, peel a couple of the outer thin layers away, cut off the roots and you're ready to roll!

Simply wash off the dirt, peel a couple of the outer thin layers away, cut off the roots and you’re ready to roll!

This year I chose to grow leeks in my garden and have been using them anytime I would use an onion. They are not nearly as strong smelling as onions. You won’t cry when cutting them up.

When you buy leeks in the store, they still have their thick green leaves on them. You simply cut those off and discard.

Then you use primarily the white and a little of the green above the white to chop and use in any recipe that calls for onions.

I use them in soups, stir fry, sauteeing vegetables, and more!  You can even throw them into salads raw.

Slice, chop, and enjoy!

Slice, chop, and enjoy!

What about you? Have you ever used leeks?  How do you prepare them and what recipes do you use them in?  

Posted in In The Kitchen, My Cancer Journey | 1 Comment

Are you a Hostess with the Mostest?

Today’s post is a guest post from Lisa Hurley. Lisa is self described as a psychologist by education, writer by nature, and stay-at-home mom by choice. She lives in central Illinois with her husband, Matt, and their two girls, ages 5 and 3. Lisa serves as a volunteer writer for the Hearts at Home Heartbeat Radio program and I’ve loved getting to know her!

If the word “hospitality” causes you to break out in hives, you’ll appreciate Lisa’s post today! It fits right in with the No More Perfect Moms concept of embracing realistic expectations of ourselves!


Days before Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law sent me the sweetest email. I had messaged her first asking her to bring a side dish, and in her response she mentioned that her family was really looking forward to spending the holiday with us. Then she complimented my sense of hospitality and I was flattered… but also totally confused.

She must be thinking of someone else.

Me? Hospitality? Really?

I had always equated a good sense of hospitality with the “Hostess with the Mostest” type. We all know them well. Everything is beautiful and perfectly coordinated – from the place settings to the serving spoons to the charger plates. Even the scent of the candles matches the occasion. (And if you don’t know what a charger plate is, keep reading. This is for you).

These women make great hostesses because their commitment to their guests’ experience is apparent in their effort. They have handmade centerpieces and homemade pies; and they bustle around non-stop, making sure the drinks stay full and the food keeps coming. Their creative extras add a lot to the party atmosphere, and the fancy touches are endearing. Their parties are so festive and so fun.

And that’s so not me.

If you’re one of those women with over-the-top festive flare, that’s awesome. We admire your effort, we envy your creativity, and we have a great time at your parties.

But hosting events can be intimidating when you don’t have a Pinterest-worthy flare – like the friend who hosted a fall gathering and served the soup in miniature hollow pumpkins. Or the cousin who hosted last year’s family Christmas party and handed out homemade Mason jar snow globes as party favors. When you have Martha-Stewart-type friends and family members, it’s easy to feel like everything you do pales in comparison.

Hospitality was a quality I admired in other women, but it’s definitely never been on my list of my own personal strengths. I don’t own a set of napkin rings or charger plates. (For those still wondering, they’re decorative plates that you put underneath your real plates. I know. I don’t understand it either. But they sure are pretty). My china is boxed up in the basement and my gravy boat has never been used. I don’t have much of an eye for decorating, and I don’t use seasonal centerpieces. I prefer to keep things simple.

So what’s to compliment about that?

Well, it turns out that while people do enjoy the all-out festive fun, they also appreciate the simple, calm, and casual. There’s no need to worry about breaking one of my dishes or spilling red wine on my tablecloth. (The dishes were cheap and there is no tablecloth). No need to offer to help me in the kitchen. Let’s have fun. I’ll get the mess later.

I come from a “come as you are” kind of family, and I’m proud of that. My husband and I host gatherings all the time, despite my mismatched dinnerware and lack of napkin rings. We don’t buzz around for hours beforehand making sure everything is spotless and perfect. We create a “make yourself at home” setting that is nice enough to be welcoming and relaxed enough to comforting. And we’ve discovered that people have just as much fun without plate chargers.

So if you’re next in line to host the big family Christmas, don’t feel like you have to spend hours on Pinterest finding the perfect recipes and creating the perfect table setting. People will appreciate you for whichever kind of hostess you are. A good sense of hospitality goes deeper than what people see when they walk in the door. It’s really about how they feel when they walk out.

Have a merry (and stress-free) Christmas!

How about you? What’s your style of hospitality? How have you released yourself from unrealistic expectations during the holiday season? 

Posted in Taking Care of Me | 4 Comments