Can I please go to the bathroom alone?

Today’s post is an excerpt from my Real Moms…Real Jesus book. If you have little ones…this is for you! If you don’t have little ones, would you share it with a mama who does? She needs to know she’s not alone and that Jesus is a friend who understands!


I stumbled down the stairs in my early Monday morning stupor. Mornings aren’t my strong suit and it takes quite a bit of time for me to feel lucid. I closed the bathroom door for my first trip of the morning only to hear my teenage daughter yell up the stairs, “Mom, did you wash my gym clothes?” Within seconds, I heard her slightly younger brother bellow, “Mom, if you are picking me up early today, I need a note.” I’d barely been in the bathroom for a full minute before 8-year-old Erica was knocking on the door announcing that her two-year-old brother was awake and had produced a very dirty diaper sometime during the night.

I closed my eyes and thought, “Can’t I just have two minutes alone in the bathroom?

When Jesus walked on this earth, the Bible tells us “large crowds followed him everywhere he went.” People wanted what Jesus had. They were intrigued by his message of a personal relationship with a loving God, which was starkly different from what the Pharisees taught about religion based upon works. The message of the Pharisee’s came down to one word—“do.” “Do this, do that, and be more like us!” they exclaimed in word and action. The message Jesus proclaimed also came down to one similar, yet vastly different, word—“done.” Jesus’ message was one of grace, given through his sacrifice on the cross. You don’t have to “earn” salvation. You just have to accept the free gift.

This was a new message that people longed for and thousands flocked to hear him speak when he was in town. People wanted to be near him. They had questions for him. They wanted to know more about this unique message of hope. Jesus’ message represented an anchor during the storms of life.

For our children, we too are an anchor. Our presence represents security in their budding lives. They want to know where we are and be assured that we will be there when they need us.

Whether you have one child or a whole houseful, the concept of being followed everywhere you go is one you have to get adjusted to when you become a mother. It begins right after birth or adoption. Suddenly you can no longer walk out the door without considering the needs of this new little one. A simple trip to the store requires a diaper bag full of baby supplies and a vast array of baby paraphernalia.

If you add more children to the family, the crowd becomes larger with time. And as children grow older, it’s rare that they want to embark on any endeavor without a friend in tow. Let’s face it, large crowds follow us everywhere we go!

Some moms relish in this constant activity of kids and their friends and some moms find themselves overwhelmed and stifled by it. I enjoy the constant activity but can only handle it for a limited time. Because of my people skills and ability to handle most social settings with ease, I’ve assumed that I was an extrovert. However, as I’ve become more in tune with myself, I’ve actually discovered I’m an introvert. I’ve also discovered that the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” don’t really have much to do with your people skills. Instead they are really more about how you are emotionally drained and refueled. Simply put, being with people refuels an extrovert and being alone refuels an introvert.

So what does an introvert mother of five children do? She learns to take care of herself and get the alone time she desperately wants to find emotional refueling she desperately needs. I’ve learned to find a bathroom in the middle of the day, or to seek the refuge of my front porch during the kids’ nap or rest time. I’ve asked my husband to take the kids to the park occasionally so I can have time alone at home. I’ve learned to take an evening out once a week to go for a walk alone, or meet a friend for pie and coffee. This is not only beneficial for me, but for my family as well. When I’m running on a full emotional fuel tank, I’m more patient, more effective, and far more enjoyable to be around.

Conversely, what does an extrovert mother of one do? She learns to take care of herself by seeking out a moms group she can become a part of. She invites another mother and her children over for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. She organizes a ladies night out for the moms in the neighborhood. And even though being with people refuels her, an extrovert mom still needs to find quiet moments to nourish her soul.

Jesus was intentional about finding time to refuel. He knew there were many demands upon his time and energy and he had to be a good steward of his body, soul, and mind. Nobody had to tell him, “Jesus, go rest.” Instead he recognized his need to pull away from the crowds and find the refreshment he needed.

As moms, we need to do the same. People and responsibilities demand much from us and we have to be good stewards of our body, soul, and mind. We can’t wait until we’re drained dry or until someone comes along and offers to watch our kids (like that happens very often!). Instead we have to learn to be proactive about our self-care so that we can be ready to meet the needs of our family.

Talk to God about the demands you feel upon you. Where do you feel smothered by them? What wears you down? Pour your heart out to Him about how you feel and where you feel pulled in a dozen different directions. After all, “large crowds followed him everywhere he went.”

He really understands.

Thank you, God, for having an understanding heart. You didn’t have much personal space in your life and I often feel I don’t have much personal space in mine. Thank you for your example of intentionally refueling with rest, prayer, and intentionally pulling away from the crowds. Help me to learn to do the same and to recognize the benefit for my family and myself when I do so. In Jesus name…Amen.

What Do You Need To Leave For The Sake of Your Marriage?

Marriage Monday

Mark: Yesterday at church, our pastor, Mike Baker, preached on Genesis 12:1-9. It’s the story of when God told Abram he needed to leave where he was to go where God wanted him to go. It was an 800-mile, 8-10 year journey where Abram had to depend upon God to show him where to go and what to do.

Jill: Mike shared that the journey of faith is a constant leaving from where you are and walking towards where God wants you to go. That’s what growth and maturity looks like in real life.

Mark: While God may ask us to physically “leave” and “go,” often what he asks us to leave are our hurts, habits, and hangups, as they put it in the Celebrate Recovery ministry. These are the things that get in the way of us being about to move forward in life and relationships. They keep us from reaching our full potential as a person. They knock us off course and headed in the wrong direction.

Jill: What struck Mark and I was how much yesterday’s message applied to marriage. You see, our marriage is strengthened as we grow and mature personally. As we personally reach our full potential, our marriage experiences it’s full potential as well!

Mark: So the question we need to ask ourselves is: What does God want me to leave today?  Here are some thoughts to get you started thinking in the right direction:

Hurts: abuse, rejection, fear, mistrust, self-protection, anger, unforgiveness, dysfunctional family of origin, or personal vows (“I’ll never let another man hurt me.” Or, “I’ll never let another woman control me.”)…

Habits: Pornography, steamy (erotica) novels, laziness, selfishness, drugs or alcohol, smoking, criticism, lying, workaholism, spending issues, all types of control…

Hangups: Thinking your way is the right way or the only way, greed, impatience, lack of self-control, procrastination, pride, perfectionism, people-pleasing, materialism, lack of faith in God…

Jill: At some point we need to drive a stake in the ground and say, “Today’s the day I’m getting serious about this.” Sometimes it’s just a decision that needs to be made and followed through on. Other times it will take extra effort like counseling, asking for accountability, or even attending something like Celebrate Recovery.

Mark: I remember when I knew I had to leave my affair relationship in order to go where God wanted me to go which was a restored marriage and family. It wasn’t easy because I had to die to what I wanted in order to experience what God wanted. What He wanted was best for me and I can now fully attest to that, but making that decision required a “leaving” and a “going.” It also required counseling and accountability.

Jill: I remember the day God convicted my heart of criticism. I was reading Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you see the speck that is in your husband’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your husband, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your husband’s eye.” Yes, yes, I know…that verse doesn’t say “husband.” It almost always says “brother.” But that day, I read it as husband and God took the plank in my eye and hit me over the head with it. I made a conscious decision to “leave” criticism and “go” to grace. It’s been an imperfect journey for sure, but one I’m glad I’m on.

Mark: We never stay where we’re at when we’re truly following Christ. So, for the sake of your marriage, what do you need to leave today? 

10 Summer Activities To Do With All Your Kids!

Summer’s upon us and I’m guessing you’ve already heard at least one “I’m bored” already. If so, I’ve got you covered!  No matter the age of your kids–babies all the way through college age–I’ve got some rock solid ideas to keep things fun this summer!

Just click on the graphic that applies to you!

Got more ideas to add to the mix? Share them in the comments so we can learn from each other!

What’s Your Plan To Invest In Your Marriage This Summer?

Marriage Monday

Mark: Jill and I are in South Bend, Indiana today doing a television interview on No More Perfect Marriages (the interview starts at 8:23 if you watch it online!) It’s a 24 hour road trip, but it gave us time to talk on the 3 hour drive from our Central Illinois home.

Jill: We both brought our calendars and determined to figure out our plan for date nights this summer.

Mark: We chose Thursday nights. We talked about the fact that, because we’re in a tight financial season, we won’t be going out to dinner very often, but we’ll plan to do something after dinner each Thursday like take a motorcycle ride, enjoy a walk around a local lake, or even try out a new arcade in town (skee-ball anyone?)

Jill: Date nights don’t have to be weekly–they just need to be regular. On the calendar. Protected fiercely.

Mark: We also talked about taking a short 15-minute walk after dinner each night and maybe reading a marriage book aloud over the summer (still discussing that!). These efforts will help us connect daily.

Jill: When the kids were all home, we would often do 15 minutes on the porch swing after dinner. Now we have the freedom to take a walk since there’s no one we have to be home for!

Mark: “So what’s our plan for investing in our marriage this __________ (fill in the season)?”  This is a question we’ve learned to ask at the beginning of each “season” where new routines are created: Spring, Summer, and Fall.

Jill: Have you asked that question for summer yet? If not, put it on the table! Because if you don’t plan, it won’t happen.

Mark: Oh and by the way…how about putting “Attending the No More Perfect Marriages Morning Out in your plans?  You can find more info and register for the July 15 event in Illinois at! We’d love to have you join us!

What about you? What are your plans to invest in your marriage this summer? Share your plans in the comments so we can inspire one another! 

Hospitality at Home

Why We Choose To Be Airbnb Hosts

We’d been married just about six months and lived on the west side of Indianapolis. Mark drove a delivery truck all over Indiana for his family’s glass and plastics business. He’d been in southern Indiana that day and I was waiting for him to come home to a spaghetti dinner I’d spent the last hour making. This was 34 years ago, before there were cell phones or texting or other easy ways to stay in touch when you were apart.

I heard Mark’s truck pull up outside our mobile home. I greeted him at the door with a smile. He kissed me and said, “Hey, I brought someone home for dinner.” Surprised, I asked him who it was. He said, “I picked up a guy at the truck stop in Evansville. He was trying to get to northern Indiana so I told him I could give him a ride as far as Indianapolis. We talked as we drove and he could really use a good meal before I run him up to the mission where he can spend the night. I hope it’s okay for him to join us.”

I was surprised, but happy to share what we had. Thankfully, I was raised in a home where there was always room for one more at the dinner table.

Mark went out and invited Foster to come inside and join us for dinner.  We added a third chair around our little table for two, making our dinner for two into a dinner for three. After dinner and delightful conversation, we all jumped in the truck and drove to the homeless shelter in downtown Indianapolis.  It was the middle of December and terribly cold. I remember noticing that Foster wasn’t wearing gloves. When he confirmed that he didn’t have gloves I took off my own pair–a black stretchy pair that easily fit a man or a woman–and handed them to him wishing him the best along the journey.

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Those words in Hebrews 13:2 have always stuck with me.  While we never heard from Foster again, Mark and I were bonded together that day by our shared value for hospitality.

That’s why we decided six months ago to start hosting Airbnb. We’ve loved sharing our home and meeting so many wonderful people. So far we’ve hosted dozens of folks: a family coming to visit their ISU student on Parent’s Weekend, a businessman from China, a couple driving from Florida to their home in Wisconsin, a mother needing a break from everyday life and wanting a long weekend away, a family coming together to celebrate their son/grandson’s graduation from ISU, three families on house-hunting trips preparing for a move to our community, a father and daughter taking a trip down Route 66 before the daughter headed off to the mission field.  We even hosted a baseball team of free agents playing AAA teams like our local Cornbelters, each one living the baseball dream and hoping to get picked up by one of the teams they played (and one of the guys ended up getting picked up by the Cornbelters that day!)

Sometimes we get the opportunity to visit with folks and sometimes they arrive just in time to head to bed and head out early in the morning. Either way, we get the opportunity to give them a home away from home for the night.

We have a big, nearly empty home now that most of the kids are gone. Why not use it for hospitality? I can truly say it’s become quite a mission field as we’ve encouraged marriages, helped folks new to town, and even shared deep faith-building conversations when the opportunity has presented itself.

We set our own calendar and choose to approve each reservation request, always screening their reviews from previous stays before saying yes. We’ve had a few first time Airbnb users who didn’t have reviews, but our interaction with them through the Airbnb app or website always allows us to get to know them and their reason for travel before saying yes. All money is handled through the Airbnb app, allowing us to earn a little extra income on the side. We’ve been pleased with Airbnb as a company and they’ve set up a great plan for establishing trust and safety into their program.

If you have the gift of hospitality, you might consider joining the Airbnb family as a host. We’ve found it a wonderful way to meet people and provide a warm, safe place for folks traveling to or through our community.

We now use Airbnb in our own travels and prefer it over a hotel. It’s less expensive and we often meet wonderful people. Our first experience was in December of 2015 when we traveled to visit our son, Evan, who lives near Hollywood in Los Angeles. Every hotel in the area was $250/night and that was simply out of our price range. We found an apartment to rent on Airbnb for $85/night. The couple happened to be out of town so we had the place to ourselves, including a kitchen where we could make our own meals for the week. We caught the Airbnb bug on that trip and decided to start using it for other trips.

Want to use Airbnb on an upcoming trip? You can get $40 off your first stay of $75 of more using this linkAnd if you’re ever in Bloomington-Normal, come stay with us! We’d love to have you!

I am still amazed that a hospitality seed was planted some 34 years ago when Mark and I shared an impromptu spaghetti dinner with a man named Foster. Maybe he really was an angel and we didn’t know it. He certainly made an impression on us and we’re still living that out today.

What about you? Have you ever used Airbnb or any other home sharing experience? What do you do to reach out to those around you?

Be a Circle Breaker Not a Circle Maker

I bought the tickets months in advance. I’d heard about this event for several years but was never able to make the date work.  This year it did and this Nana was taking her two granddaughters to a special tea.

When we arrived, we were escorted to a round table. The girls and I took up three seats and the other four were initially vacant. In time two moms and their daughters joined us at the table. It soon became evident they came to the event together. And they were tight…so tight that no one else could get in.

Because I’ve learned the value of being a “there you are” person rather than a “here I am” person, I started asking them questions. They would give one word answers and turn back to each other and talk. Their small circle didn’t have room for anyone but the two of them.

It’s easy to do. We focus where we’re comfortable. We see what we want to see.  When our circle is tight it feels good to us…but not to someone on the outside of the circle.

My friend Rhonda made a cross-country move with her family several years ago. She immediately put herself in Bible studies and groups where she could meet women and possibly plant new seeds of friendship. At the end of her Bible study one day she helped clean up. So many moms had little ones they needed to get from childcare, but Rhonda’s kids were all in school so she had the freedom to help with the tear down after the meeting.

There were several women helping to clean up and it soon became evident to Rhonda that these women were planning to go out to lunch after they were finished. One gal said to Rhonda, “You don’t need to be somewhere?” Rhonda replied, “Nope my afternoon is wide open.”  The clean-up continued another 10 minutes or so when the group announced to Rhonda they were leaving and heading to lunch. “Have a great day!” they said as they exited.

It’s obvious this was a tight circle and also obvious there wasn’t room for one more. Rhonda headed home to eat lunch alone.

One of the most beautiful gifts we can give another person is an invitation into our circles. We do that best by keeping our circle broken….always looking for who God wants us to reach out to, or invite, or notice, or include in our conversation.

After reading Sarah Horn’s fabulous blog post on the subject, my daughter Anne and I wrote about this in our Better Together book,

“Too often we don’t stop and think about whether we’re making it easy for a mom to enter into our circle of friendship. We’re so focused inside the circle that we miss seeing who’s outside the circle. In the same way we need to be a “there you are person” when stepping into new environments, we all need to be “there you are people” keeping an eye open for those who are new to an environment in which we’re comfortable. Doing so will ensure that others are seen and valued. Making someone feel cared for doesn’t commit you to friendship for life. Your friendship plate might be full, but you can still take the time and make the effort to “see” someone new and make them feel cared for. You can also help them break into the circle by introducing them to others.”

When a circle is made, polite usually happens. But polite doesn’t make people feel included. Warm, friendly, and interested make people feel valued, cared for, and seen.

Let’s commit today to move from polite to caring. It could be the difference between someone going home alone or feeling included.

What circles are you in that need to be broken?  What do you need to do to really “see” people around you? Who could you invite this week to join you for coffee or a playdate at the park?