Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus.” 

                                                            ~Neal A. Maxwell

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We entered the crowded restaurant during the very busy lunch hour.  It was a rare occasion for our large family to have the opportunity to eat out, but an unexpected monetary Christmas gift made it possible.  As we took our seats, our kids chatted with excitement about Christmas.  Anne, who was almost sixteen at the time, was telling me a story about what had happened in Sunday School that morning and I was doing my best to focus intently on her conversation.  Austin, age 4, sat to my right and was working to get my attention.  Without losing eye contact with Anne, I gave Austin a little bit of sign language indicating that I knew he needed me but I wanted to finish my conversation with Anne first.

Soon the whining moved from “Mommy…Mommmmmmmy,” to “Mommy, I have to go potty.”  I again motioned to Austin that I had heard him and would be with him in just one moment.  But he couldn’t seem to wait.  Impatiently he said louder, “Mommy, I gotta go potty.  And do you know why I know that I gotta go to the bathroom?”  In a moment of exasperation I finally turned to Austin and said, “Ok, Austin.  Tell me why you know that you need to go to the bathroom.”  In his loudest four-year-old voice Austin responded with, “I know that I need to go to the bathroom ‘cuz I just farted!”

Third-Thursday-ThoughtsThe restaurant went quiet and all eyes focused on our table.  I couldn’t believe he had said that and said it so loud.

I wanted to crawl under the table, but instead I carefully got up from the table and began to escort Austin to the bathroom.  There was one woman over to our right that was visibly offended at what my child said.  She had an appalled look on her face.  Then there was a couple over to our left that was working hard to stifle their laughter.  I know that my face had to be as red as the Christmas lights that were strung around the room.

Once I was in the bathroom with Austin I began a dialogue with God.  “So what do I do about this one, God?”  I asked.  “I don’t know that this was really disobedience as much as it was simply childish foolishness.” I continued.  “And why do I find myself so humiliated when my children do something foolish in public?  This isn’t the first time that’s happened.”

As I stood there looking in the mirror, God spoke to me in that moment. Oh, it wasn’t some audible voice that came out of heaven, but rather God brought his Truth to my mind to answer that question.

He said to me, “Jill, your value and your self-worth is not based upon your children’s behavior.  Your value is based upon who you belong to.  You belong to me and I love you enough to come to earth for you.  I don’t give you value because you are a good person or a good mom.  Your value is based upon my grace-filled love. That doesn’t change just because your child misbehaves or says something foolish in public.”

That’s a message for every one of us mommas.

With less than one week out from Christmas, let’s remember that Jesus came to this earth to give us a rock-solid identity. One that doesn’t change with the wind…or the emotions…or the behavior of your child…or the color of your teen’s hair.

You and I are defined by a God who doesn’t change. He’s the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

That’s something we can celebrate this Christmas.

Need some more encouragement on the identity piece of life?  Hop around to a few of our Hearts at Home blogger’s posts to get some much-needed perspective on loving your identity!

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Sometimes I’ve Been Known To Whine

Many times over the years I’ve been asked “Did you ever imagine Hearts at Home would be the International ministry to moms that it is?

The answer is no. Not at all. That was God’s vision, not mine. Usually I respond with a little laugh…because honestly I’m amazed.

Sometimes I’m asked, “Did you always want to speak and write?” 

The answer is no. Not at all. God’s vision there, too.  Not mine at all.  I was supposed to be teaching music, not leading a ministry.

Honestly, leading Hearts at Home has been an overwhelming responsibility at times. I knew how to teach someone to sing, but I didn’t know how to lead hundreds of volunteers. I knew how to teach chord progressions and scale fingerings on the piano, but I didn’t know how to create well functioning teams.  The learning curve has been huge for me and the many moms and dads who help make Hearts at Home all that it is.

You wouldn’t believe how many times someone has said, “What do we do about this?” I’ve had to answer it with, “I have no idea. But I know the One Who Has The Answer.” And we hit our knees once again.

The blog posts, the conferences, the books, the websites, the conference-to-go, the radio program…those resources that encourage you take time, people, and finances to make them all happen. Every year somewhere around October and November is when we do our annual budget for the following year. That’s usually when I’ve been known to whine, “But I just want to encourage moms! I don’t want to deal with Board meetings, budgets, and bottom lines.” 

I bet you’ve felt that way with parenting. You dreamed about rocking your newborn to sleep, not being up at 3am with a crying baby who can’t seem to be comforted.  You imagined your family playing board games and laughing over meals, not arguing about who empties the dishwasher or who takes out the trash.

In this life, we all have to do things we don’t want to do.  Honestly that’s how God stretches us. Dealing with a colicky baby at 3am teaches us patience. Dealing with argumentative kids teaches us leadership. If I can stop seeing those things as a negative and instead see them as a positive–an opportunity for growth, it changes the way I approach them.

It’s been the same way in ministry for me. I’ve always dreaded raising money as a ministry leader. However God’s been stretching me and I’m coming to understand that it grows me in sharing the mission and vision of Hearts at Home. Board meetings, budgets, and bottom lines are necessary to accomplish our mission of encouraging, educating, and equipping moms.

I know God has used Hearts at Home to change lives because you’ve told me it has. Your emails, Facebook messages, your stories of ah-ha moments reading books, your comments on blog posts, and your stories of conference takeaways.  We want to continue that investment in moms which transforms families!

We can’t do what we do without you, our friends who pray and provide financial support.  All donations are tax deductible and go directly into the operations and expansion of our ministry to moms. Last year Hearts at Home became ECFA Accredited which requires us to pursue the highest levels of financial accountability.

HOPE-left-posterToday is the last day of our Hope Multiplied Campaign. Thanks to a generous donor, every gift given will be matched dollar for dollar.  They will double up to $100,000 of donations. As of 5:00 tonight we have had $67,089 given. I am beyond thrilled at that number, but I’d love to see us hit the full amount they will match! To maximize this match, we need to see $32,911 come in by midnight tonight (Wednesday, 12/17/14, CST).

Hope Multiplied will provide the resources for:
1) conference registration scholarships for moms who want to come but can’t afford the registration fee,
2) seed money for a new conference location in 2016, and
3) expanded online resources that will truly make Hearts at Home a mom’s best place for answers.

This is too big for me. It’s too big for you. But it’s not too big for God. 

If every person who reads this would give an average of $20, we’d be done. Some would obviously need to give less (even $5 makes a difference!) and some could give more. But if each person gave something, we’d meet our goal of $100,000 which would then be doubled!

That’s Hope Multiplied: More Hope, More Moms, More Kids, More Families, in More Places! 

If you’ve already given hope, I want to thank you. Your partnership means the world to us!

If you haven’t partnered in giving hope, would you prayerfully consider doing so today? 

I’m sitting on the edge of my chair just waiting to see what God will do! I hope you are too!


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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“When it comes to my children, God teach me the difference between guidance and control.”                                                                                                                               ~Megan White

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How To Bake Cut-Out Cookies With Your Kids

186261718Today I have the privilege of being a part of Karen Ehman’s 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways!

I’ve been baking Christmas cookies with my kids for 29 years.  Through many disappointments and trials and errors, I’ve finally learned how to do it well at every stage of mothering.  Let me share my secrets with you!

Here’s the recipe I use:

Christmas Cut-Out Cookies

1/2 c. Crisco
1 stick butter
1 c. sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
3-1/2 c. of flour  (I usually add more until the dough isn’t sticky)

Chill 1 hour.  Roll 1/4″ thick with rolling pin. (I disinfect my kitchen island and roll the dough right on the counter top. Make sure and flour the surface you are rolling on and flour the rolling pin–just rub flour all over it–so the dough doesn’t stick)

Use cookie cutters for shapes.  Bake 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes until shine is off (do not overcook–you don’t want them brown on the edges).


2 sticks butter (softened–I leave the sticks on the counter for about 30 min)
4-1/2 – 4-3/4 c. powdered sugar (I usually add more until it peaks when you mix it)
1/2 c. milk
1-1/2 tsp vanilla or peppermint (we use peppermint!)

Beat butter to fluffy and add 1/2 of the powdered sugar. Add milk and vanilla and rest of sugar.  Divide into smaller bowls and add food coloring as desired (we usually do red, green, blue, yellow, and white)

Note: Cookies can be frozen either before icing or after icing, if you want to decorate or eat at a later time.

12-days-graphicHere’s how to successfully make cut-out cookies with kids of any age:

Preschool Years: 
1) Day 1: You make and chill dough while they are napping.
2) Day 2: You cut out and bake cookies while they are napping.
3) Day 2 or 3: You make icing and ice the cookies
4) Your preschooler can put sprinkles on while the icing is still wet.
5) Enjoy eating, giving away, and sharing the yummy cookies you made!

Grade School Years 
1) You make and chill the dough
2) You roll out the dough and let them use the cookie cutters to cut out the shapes
3) You put them in the oven.
4) Once all the cookies are cool, the kids and you can ice them and decorate with sprinkles.  (this can also be done on the next day if cookies are stored in an airtight container.)
5) Enjoy!

Note: Grade school years is a great time to teach your kids to make cookies from scratch. Since Christmas cookies have five parts to them–1) making the recipe  2) chilling the dough  3) rolling the dough and cutting the cookies  4) baking the cookies  5) decorating the cookies—I find this isn’t the best time to teach them to bake.  The process is too long and they are impatient to get to the cutting out and decorating.  Teach them to follow a recipe some other time with something like Chocolate Chip cookies or Oatmeal Raisin Cookies that you just mix up, bake, and eat!

cookie collageJunior High/High School Years
1) You make and chill the dough (if you have a teen that wants to do that, let them!)
2) You show them how to roll out the dough and cut out the cookies, then let them do it themselves!
3) You help with the baking.
4) Enjoy decorating the cookies with your family!

Even when the dough is already made and chilled, it’s usually about a 3 hour process to roll out the dough, cut out the cookies, bake, and decorate them. That’s why I’m a believer in already having the dough made and chilled no matter the age of the kids! 

Once I bake and decorate cookies with my kids, I want to sit back with a book and a cup of tea!  Today I’m giving away “Christmas Cookie Recovery Gift Basket” that includes all kinds of goodies including my No More Perfect Moms and No More Perfect Kids books! After you bake those cookies you can sit back and enjoy a little “me” time! Just hop over to www.KarenEhman.com to enter to win!

If you’re here for the first time, I write about faith, family, motherhood, and marriage. If you don’t want to miss out on future giveaways and encouragement, you can subscribe over on the right! If you do, you’ll receive a free printable of I Corinthians 13 for Parents from my No More Perfect Kids book.

What about you?  What holiday baking traditions does your family have?

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Let It Go!

sb10067750g-001Several Christmases ago I was feeling stressed as a ran errands and listened to Christmas music in my car. The song “Let It Snow” came on and without thinking I found myself singing along to the tune. When it came to the chorus, without thinking I changed the words and began singing “Let it go, let it go, let it go!”

That was the beginning of simplifying Christmas for me.

That year I decided not to do Christmas cards. The following year I reduced the amount of holiday baking I did. This year I have about one half the decorations up in the house.

This is a “less is more” mindset for me.  Less stress means more time for Jesus in my holiday season. That’s a gain that’s positive for me and my family in many ways.

The next time you hear “Let It Snow” on the radio, sing along with me the new words that will give you freedom in the holidays: “Let it go, let it go, let it go!”

What about you? What are you letting go of this Christmas to make room for the birth of Christ in your heart? 

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“Determine to pray more words over your marriage than you speak about your marriage.”  

                                                    ~Lysa TerKeurst

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Two things…

2015-Poster-ConfBothGuess what?

Registration is now open for our 2015 Hearts at Home National Conference in Bloomington, Illinois!

Just in time to ask for attending the Hearts at Home conference as your Christmas gift!

Our 2015 speakers include Dr. Gary Chapman, Lysa Terkeurst, Ken Davis, Karen Ehman, Tracey Eyster, Dannah Gresh, Sara Horn, Courtney Joseph, Dr. Kathy Koch, Ruth Schwenk, Arlene Pellicane, and more!

We are so excited and we hope you are too! 


HOPE-left-posterWe have 13 days left in our HOPE MULTIPLIED campaign.  Our goal is to raise $100,000 to provide scholarships for moms, expand conference locations, and improve our online resources for moms all over the world.

WE’VE RAISED $45,000 and are absolutely thrilled at that!

However, we have a generous donor who will match the first $100,000 we raise.  We need to hit that $100,000 mark so we can turn $100,000 into $200,000 with their match.  We have $55,000 left to raise.  If you think you can’t make a difference, think again!  Here’s what will make the goal:

500 $10 gifts
400 $20 gifts
400 $50 gifts
200 $100 gifts
4   $500 gifts

It’s not big numbers that will get us there, it’s hundreds of smaller, but just as significant donations that will help us accomplish this God-sized goal!  Can you pick one of the above and give it today?  Remember, your donation will be DOUBLED during this incredible matching gift opportunity! 




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Bullied to Better:  Helping Girls Thrive After Being Bullied

466168847Today’s guest post comes to us from Marcy Van Fossen. Marcy is a mom of four who attended the Minnesota Hearts at Home conference in November. She caught me during the conference and shared her passion to help girls who have been bullied. I encouraged her to write a guest post on the topic and she did!

Residing in Winona, MN, she Marcy is a licensed Clinical Psychologist who worked as an adult and child psychologist, and also as a psychology professor at Saint Mary’s University, MN, before staying home with her children.

I asked Marcy if this article could be about bullied kids rather than just bullied girls. Her response to me was intriguing, “You are right, I think that much of what I wrote may apply to boys who are bullied.  In fact, I believe that much applies to trauma survivors in general.  I am regularly humbled by how people can shine after awful life events. However, I do suspect that it would “ring true” much more for the girls experience, and speak to a hurting niche out there.  There is pretty good research now showing that boys and girls are bullied differently.  Not surprisingly, boys tend to experience direct bullying (by the bully himself) and physical aggression.  In contrast, girls tend to experience indirect (from alliances the bully has formed) and relational aggression (rumors, exclusion) which is much harder for adults to see and stop.  Perhaps this is why it often goes on for a long time for girls, and can be quite severe before people take notice.”

With all that in mind, here’s Marcy’s encouragement for helping a daughter thrive after being bullied.


Bullied to Better: Helping Our Girls Thrive After Being Bullied
By Marcy Van Fossen, Ph.D., L.P.

Many parents deal with the heartache of watching their girls recover from being bullied.  Often they see their child’s pain but feel helpless to do anything about it.

Likewise, a girl who has experienced bullying often feels angry and wounded from the experience and fearful of encountering it again.  The prospect that the bullying experience can make one stronger–even better in important ways is often lost in the pain.

From the viewpoint of a therapist, though, this silver lining is very real.  I have seen girls survive bullying to become deeper, more compassionate, stronger people than they might have otherwise been.  Some kinds of growth are hard-earned.  And this is the hope that I would like to give to bullied girls and their parents.  You can emerge better, or heal to better.  I’d like to share with you how.

First a note about what this article is NOT.  It is not in any way an endorsement of or a prescription for bullying.  It is also not a guide for how to stop the bullying, about which much has already been written.  If your child is experiencing bullying, use all resources at your disposal to stop the bullying or remove your child from the bullying situation, if possible.

This is an attempt to meet our girls in the aftermath of “mean-girl” bullying, shore them up, and point them in the right direction.  Pretending that the bullying wasn’t a big deal, or conversely, viewing our bullied girls as victims, forever wounded, are both unhelpful responses.  I have come to view these girls as veterans–veterans of a difficult life experience that taught them a lot and likely helped them earn qualities that will serve them well if they can become aware of them, consciously cultivate them, and forgive.

Here are the seven hard-earned qualities:

Compassion.  She knows what it feels like to be targeted, outcast or different.  She is no stranger to suffering and will see it more readily in others.  It will be harder for her to overlook the person who has no one, and she will be gentle with the socially unlucky. Her humanity will cry out at injustices, as everyone’s should, because she can’t pretend they don’t really hurt real people.  In other words, the experience of a hurting person is no longer the experience of an “other.”

Identity. She has been forced to form her own sense of self apart from what others think of her, because, in the case of bullying, the external messages are too negative. This means that her identity becomes defined in opposition to the social forces that surround her-rather than by them–and this is a strength.  During years when her peers are overly dependent on peer judgement for their self esteem, she is developing an internal metric on which to base her sense of self.  It is an identity in contrast to the mirror others hold up to her.  She has learned to look inside herself to determine who she is.

Strength.  She is becoming stronger than she probably realizes.  First, she knows that she can survive the cruelty/disapproval of others.  Through this realization, she has earned a kind of freedom many never have-the freedom to live according to her inner compass–even if that means upsetting people when necessary.  In addition, she encounters the mystery that there is something inside herself that can not be taken from her.  Even disrespect and humiliation can’t touch her God-given dignity.  Her value in God’s eyes is not less (or more) than any other person’s.

Understanding complex social situations.  She has been forced to think about why people act the way that they do at a much deeper level than most of her peers.  Bullying, like many traumas, is an intense learning experience, though a painful one.  Countless hours are devoted to making sense of another’s hurtful behavior, anticipating danger situations, and ruminating.  The complexity of people’s personalities (e.g., how someone can be liked by teachers and cruel to peers, or a friend one minute and betrayer the next) gets processed at a deep level in a desperate attempt to understand and protect oneself.  For survival, bullied girls often get good at reading complex social situations.

Discernment of friends.  She VALUES the precious friend who saw her through and his/her loyalty will never be forgotten.  Sometimes these friendships have almost veterans-of-war-like bonds.  Some people never know friendship like that.  Additionally, she may also have developed a “sixth sense” about people.  She can spot a “mean-girl” a mile away and has a gut sense that directs her to kinder people.  This will save her some unhealthy friendships in the future.  She will simply KNOW that she doesn’t want to be around certain people.  She should listen to this when she feels it although it may puzzle many around her.

Character.  She has had made hard decisions about how to respond to the bullying–and how she keeps responding to it, whether it continues or not.  When choosing right behavior becomes a habit that is stronger than her circumstances, she has developed strength of character.  And if she can feel good about nothing that has happened to her, she can at least feel good about her response to it.  Choosing to behave well, even when others mistreat us, honors God.  This does not mean submitting to victimization.  It means that God sees the injustice, and He sees her response to it.  It means that she has decided to serve God rather than her own anger and vengeance.  Choosing Christian standards for her own behavior also assures that she is not simply reduced to being hostile and revengeful herself–hardly a springboard to growth.  Character forged in the fire of persecution will shine easily in more peaceful times.  Again, this is not a recipe for getting out of bullying–but rather how to thrive despite it.

The skill of forgiveness.  People who have earnestly wrestled with what it means to forgive a bully can testify to the power of it.  In this circumstance, definitions of forgiveness such as “surrendering the right to revenge,” or “giving up the wish of having had a different past,” can sometimes be helpful.  If she has fought to cultivate a heart that can pray for it’s enemies, she has taken a major leap down the road of Christian wisdom.  Priceless.

As you can see, our veterans of bullying can grow from their painful experiences. And our ability to see that possible outcome can help our daughters to see it as well.

What about you? Were you bullied as a child or teenager?  Have any of your girls experienced this? Would you add any hard-earned strengths gained to this list? 

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Screens and Teens

Dr. Kathy Koch’s new Hearts at Home book is due out in the Spring. This is an important read for parents of all ages and stages of parenting. It may have “teens” in the title, but this will benefit you even before you’re parenting teens.

I was honored to write the foreward and I want to share it with you today. You’ll want to put this on your 2015 list of books to read!  –Jill


9780802412690Less than 24 hours after we dropped him off at college he began asking to come home.  This wasn’t what he thought it would look like. It was too hard. There were topics being taught that he didn’t want to learn. “I want to come home,” he texted every single day during the first week of school.

We listened, encouraged, spoke wisdom and ultimately said, “No, you need to stay at least one semester.” It was so hard as a parent and there were times that my husband and I wanted to cave in or even questioned if we were doing the right thing.

After a week of dealing with this, Mark and I decided that it was time to get some reinforcement from the school.  We made a call to the Dean of Students and explained the situation. He thanked us for the phone call, reassured us that they could help from their end, and he encouraged us that our “no” was exactly what we needed to be saying.  Then he said these words, “You know, I’m finding that this generation of kids does not know how to persevere.” We continued to talk about the fact that today’s teens are accustomed to quick wins in front of a video game screen. They fix problems with one click to cut and another click to paste.  Thanks to the internet, information can be found at their fingertips without much effort to research, dig, and come to conclusions on their own.

Our ever-changing technology has, without a doubt, made our lives easier in many ways. However it’s made our parenting harder and is affecting the mind, body, and soul of our kids in a way that we desperately need to understand.

Should we box up our computers and cell phones and return to encyclopedias and landlines? That’s not the answer as technology will only move forward and we have to move forward with it.  We do, however, have to change the way we interact with our kids. We have to give them opportunities to persevere. We have to teach them how to think. We have to help fill the gaps technology is creating, believing wholeheartedly that we can make a difference. Technology may be here to stay but so are parents and both play a major role in our teen’s lives.

If you don’t know where to start with tackling technology, you’re holding a book that will give you the direction you need.  At our Hearts at Home conferences, Dr. Kathy Koch’s workshops are standing room only. She has dedicated her life to understanding kids and helping their parents do the same. Screens and Teens will give you hope and hope is the fuel that keeps us going as parents.

You can connect with your teens in a wireless world.  This book will help you find out how!


What about you? Have you noticed anything different about this generation of kids? As a parent, how are you handling technology in your home? 

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