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? 

Chicken That Fits Our Living With Less Lifestyle

I love chicken.

I love saving money.

I love buying in bulk and getting a great deal.

I love any deal that keeps me out of a grocery store!

I love Zaycon Fresh meats and especially their chicken because it’s the best of everything I love!

Zaycon Fresh is a unique way to order meats where you can save 30-50% off store prices by cutting out the middleman (i.e. the grocery store). You get meat for much less and most of their meats are farm fresh and from local farms. It is comparable to the highest quality, non-organic meats in the grocery store. I’ve been buying my chicken from Zaycon for several years and I have never been disappointed. They are very diligent in ensuring the quality of their meats and I’ve recently learned that if a local farming supplier does not meet Zaycon’s standards, they will stop business with that farm. I love knowing that!

So here’s how it works: the meat is ordered in bulk 1-4 months in advance. The product is delivered to the local areas in a refrigerated truck, with pickup in a private business or organization’s parking lot (I pick up my order in the Eastview Christian Church parking lot in Normal,IL–just two miles from my house!). Here’s the best part: I NEVER EVEN GET OUT OF MY CAR! I simply pull up in the car line, give the representative my name. I  pop open my trunk and the volunteer lays down plastic to protect my car from leakage and loads the box(es) in my trunk for me!

I get value, quality, and convenience with Zaycon and I never have to go to the store!

Want a little peek at the process?  Here’s a video Good Morning America did on Zaycon Fresh. It’s a few years old but shows you how Zaycon works!

Zaycon is best known for it’s chicken but I have friends who rave about their ground beef and bacon and other goodies! They only offer their chicken a few times a year and June is one of those times so I wanted to make sure and share it with you!

And here’s an even better deal! If you’re a first time customer of Zaycon, you can use promo code FIRST25 to save $25 off your FIRST order of $99 or more (coupon code is good until June 15, 2017)! Wahoo!

Wanna give it a try? If it’s available in your area, my guess is you’ll love it!

Shop Now at Zaycon Fresh

 

What’s Your Summer Strategy for Connecting As A Couple?

Marriage Monday

Jill: Summer is just around the corner and it’s likely our routines will experience some changes as we head from one season to another.

Mark: Longer days in the summer allow for different ways of connecting as a couple. Jill and I enjoy sitting on the porch in the evenings or taking a walk after dinner.

Jill: It’s easy, however, to find ourselves at the end of June without a plan in place for utilizing the warm weather and extra daylight hours for our marriage. So now’s a great time to talk about our plan for the summer!

Mark: Yesterday Jill and I were talking about our routines, our pace of life, and changes we need to make as we head into summer. It’s not a finished conversation…we’ll keep talking over the next couple of weeks.

Jill: What are your strategies for connecting as a couple this summer?  Here are some ideas to put on your marriage bucket list of summer fun:

  1. Lay on a blanket and look at the stars (download a stargazing app to help!)
  2. Take a walk.
  3. Go to the drive-in movie.
  4. Picnic in the park.
  5. Have dessert by candlelight outside on the porch.
  6. Take a bike ride.
  7. Play putt-putt golf.
  8. Fly a kite together.
  9. Snuggle in a hammock.
  10. Take a shower together after a day of working in the yard.

Mark: Set up time to talk this week about how you’ll prioritize your marriage this summer. Don’t let half the summer pass by without setting a strategy in place!

What about you?  What ideas would you add to this list?  What regular routines do you do as a couple in the summer? 

My Faith-Filled Friend

One of the hardest parts of having cancer is making new friends only to lose way too many of them in death. I don’t believe I’ve ever grieved the loss of so many friends as I have the past three years.

It happened again two weeks ago when my friend Angela passed away. Angela was about six months ahead of me on the breast cancer journey. She was one of a small group of women I fondly called my “chemo coaches.” They had gone before me and helped me know what was on the road ahead.

Angela wasn’t a new friend, though. She and I had known each other for a long time. We shared a love of music, we homeschooled together, we both served on the Board of Directors at Hearts at Home in the early years of the ministry.

When I saw her husband’s post on her CaringBridge page that she was now safe in the arms of Jesus, I bawled my eyes out. Another. Friend. Lost. To. Cancer.

I silently told myself I wasn’t sure I could attend Angela’s memorial service. It’s just too hard. I would probably uncontrollably cry the whole time. Then I got a Facebook message from her husband…. “Would you be willing to say a few words at the memorial service, Jill?”

How could I say no?  She was my friend.

This world is a broken place. It’s a place of joy but also a place of pain, brokenness, and unanswered questions.

If your heart is broken for whatever reason, you need to know you’re not alone. If you’re asking why and getting no answers, you can still trust the unknown answers to a known God.

Life is not so much about finding the answers but rather living with the questions.

I don’t understand why my friend’s life was cut short. But here’s what I do know: Angela’s faith never wavered in the midst of her four-year cancer fight. When I last visited with her and she shared such excitement about her new Bible reading plan, she challenged me in my faith journey. She knew God and couldn’t get enough of Him and His word. Even in the midst of cancer, Angela’s light shone bright.

Angela understood that even when it is not well with our circumstances, it can be well with our soul.

May it be the same for each of us.

Welcome Focus on the Family Listeners!

No More Perfect Marriages

Today is Day 2 of our two-day Focus on the Family No More Perfect Marriages interviews.  You can listen to Day 1 here.  

If you’re a Focus on the Family listener who has dropped by for the first time…welcome! We’d love to meet you…please take a moment to introduce yourself in the comments!

Mark and I are committed to helping marriages in any way we can.  Here are some commonly requested resources we offer:

  • Looking to bring a No More Perfect Marriages seminar to your church? You can find info on that here.
  • Looking to pick up a copy of the No More Perfect Marriages book? You can do that here. (You can find free small group curriculum videos here!)
  • Are you walking through the mess of infidelity? Need to know some essential next steps to find hope and help? Jill has written a short, but powerpacked e-book to help you with that. You can find info about that here.
  • Want to join the No More Perfect Marriages Date Night community?  Registration is currently closed and won’t open again to the public until sometime in the Fall, but we’re opening it up for Focus on the Family listeners only for this week–register by Friday, May 19! You can find that info here!
  • Looking to take our FREE No More Perfect Marriages 4 week E-Challenge?  You can sign up here for that!
  • Want to attend our next No More Perfect Marriages Morning Out in July? You can find out info here.

We write Marriage Monday posts nearly every week. You can find some of our past posts here. (And you can subscribe to the blog if you want to get those in your inbox!)

No matter if your marriage is in a great place or a place of pain, we’re here for you and so glad you stopped by!

Let’s stay connected in some way so we can do this thing called marriage together!

 

 

Join NO MORE PERFECT DATE NIGHT!

Special Registration Opportunity for Family Life, Heidi St. John, and Focus on the Family Listeners!

Join the No More Perfect Date Night Community today!
Find out more info at www.NoMorePerfectDateNight.com!

Spring Registration is closed but we’re opening it just for Family Life, Heidi St. John podcast, and Focus on the Family listeners until Friday, May 19, 2017!

(Public registration only opens twice a year…don’t miss out!)

Margin For Marriage

Marriage Monday

Jill: I’m most impatient when I’m overscheduled.

Mark: I tend to take things personally when I am tired.

Jill: My tone of voice has exasperation in it most often when I’m running late.

Mark: I lack the ability to listen well when I’m trying to do too much.

Jill: Just like the margins in a computer document or the pages of a book, the white space arounds the words allow us to read the black typewritten words. The white space is critical to keeping our eyes seeing what’s most important.

Mark: Our lives need margin—white space—in order for us to live and love well. When we get too busy, too overcommitted, or spread too thin, we become too impatient, too self-focused, and too easily irritated than what is healthy for relationships.

Jill: Marriage needs margin. We need to slow the pace to give love space.

Mark: Need to increase margin in your marriage? Here are three types of marriage margin you need to consider:

  • Time Margin: Are you overcommitted? Are your kids overcommitted?  Do you need to learn to say no to good things so you can say yes to the most important relationships in your life? What do you need to start earlier to allow space for kindness and patience in your communication?
  • Energy Margin: Are you giving your best energy away and coming up empty for marriage? Do you need to take a short nap in the afternoon so you have the energy for intimacy in the evening? Do you need to submit your resignation for some volunteer positions so you can be the best you for your family?
  • Financial Margin: Are you budgeting for marriage? Setting aside money each paycheck to take regular time for the two of you? Do you have a “getaway dream” trip for the two of you that you’re saving for? Are you trading sitting with another couple to make date nights more affordable?

Jill: A marginless marriage is a slow fade waiting to happen.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll slow down later. Decide today to do whatever it takes to increase the white space in your marriage.

What about you? Where do you need to increase margin for the sake of your marriage?

Oh and one more thing…We’re on Focus on the Family Tuesday and Wednesday this week talking about marriage!  If you’d like to catch the programs, you can listen online at www.focusonthefamily.com!

Two Ways To Make Money Without Working At It

Living With Less

Several years ago Mark and I wrote Living With Less So Your Family Has More. The book is about living with less stress, less activities, and less money than what is culturally acceptable.  It’s actually about standing up to adult peer pressure and doing what is best for your family.

Most books about living with less would be about actions you can take to save money everyday. Instead what we look at are the attitudes needed to successfully live with less.  Attitudes like contentment, sacrifice, frugality, simplicity, and creativity help us to live out our values for the long haul.

One creative way to live with less is to actually earn on activities we do everyday.

I’ve never been much of a shopper. If I hit the mall once a year…that’s too often for me.  Online shopping, however, has been a game-changer for me. I don’t have to fight the crowd. I don’t have to go from store to store trying to find the best price.  And most of the time, I’m able to find a coupon code for my purchases.

Just the other day, I ordered something online and the store site was advertising a 20% off coupon code. At first I thought, “Great…there’s already a coupon code on the site!” On a hunch, I googled “coupon code for [store name]” and found a 30% code! Gotta love that! (My personal favorite site for finding coupon codes is www.retailmenot.com. What’s yours?)

In addition to finding coupon codes for nearly all my online purchases. I’ve also found two ways to earn on online purchases: Ebates and Swagbucks!  Each site gives you back a percentage of your purchase on most online shopping sites.  I use the browser extensions for both which reminds me to choose one for my purchase (if I had to remember on my own…I’d surely forget!)With the extension installed, this is what it looks like when I go to a store’s website:

 

 
I then click on whatever site offers me the best percentage back and continue my shopping.

Ebates sends you a check (or deposits into Paypal) your earnings every quarter. Swagbucks allows you to earn “Swagbucks” that you can use to purchase giftcards to some of your favorite stores (I recently “bought” an Amazon gift card with my bucks.)  Honestly this has been a great way to fund our Christmas fund.  If you buy much online, make sure you’re getting the benefits with Ebates and Swagbucks!

Don’t miss out on earning money on something you’re already doing!

What about you? Are you using Ebates or Swagbucks? What’s your experience been? Do you have other strategies you use to save or earn money with your online purchases?