When He Leaves

Three times this week I’ve received an email or Facebook message from someone who has a friend whose husband has left. Because I’ve walked through that horrible experience, each of these women are asking, “How can I help my friend?”

It is truly a precious friend who cares enough to ask that question.

Do you know someone going through a separation or divorce she doesn’t want?  Would you like to know how to help her through this hard season?  Here are 10 practical ways to walk with her through this crisis:

  1. Call her when you’re heading to the store to see if she needs anything. I had a friend do this for me and it was so helpful!  I didn’t want to be at the store because I didn’t want to run into anyone I knew because if they asked, “How are you?” I knew I would be an emotional mess.
  2. If she has young kids, offer to take care of her kids for her once a week or once every other week. She’s now parenting alone and probably needs a break.
  3. Just listen. Don’t offer trite responses or empty platitudes. Offer empathy instead in statements like,“I know that’s incredibly painful,” or “I can only imagine how that would feel.”
  4. Offer to spend time with her when she might have been used to her husband being around. Many women whose husbands leave find evening the hardest because they’re suddenly alone. Ask her what the hardest time of the day is for her and then see if you can occasionally spend that time with her.
  5. Text her scriptures that will remind her of truth. Just google “scriptures when you are brokenhearted” and share some of those with her. Here are a few:
    • “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him— my father’s God, and I will exalt him!” Exodus 15:2
    • “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Psalm 9:9-10
    • “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7-8
    • “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14
    • “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
    • “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27
    • The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
  6. Resist the urge to say, “Let me know what you need.” While that’s a very nice offer, it’s rarely taken seriously because most people in crisis don’t really know what they need. They’re in pain, crushed, fearful, lonely, and in the case of a separation, divorce, or infidelity, they’re likely feeling rejected. Instead of a broad offer, be more specific by saying, “I have two hours Tuesday afternoon, what home project can I help you do that’s been bothering you?” or, “I’d like to take the kids to the park to give you a break, would Thursday evening work for that?”
  7. If infidelity is a part of the picture, you might get your friend a copy of my little ebook Your Next Steps: What To Do When Your Spouse Is Unfaithful. I wrote that book to help folks dealing with infidelity to find their spiritual and emotional footing when the rug has been pulled out from under their marriage.
  8. Offer to sit with her at church. If she attends church with you, invite her to sit with you so she doesn’t have to sit alone. (This is also a gift to a widow.)
  9. Stand with her. If she is choosing to stand for her marriage, believing that restoration can happen, stand with her. Even if you don’t want to see her hurt anymore, resist the urge to tell her to give up. Some people choose to stand even after divorce takes place, and there are certainly restoration stories that happen years later. If this is what her heart tells her to do, be willing to go the long-haul with her.
  10. Pray. Pray with her and pray for her. Text her prayers when God lays her on your heart.

Separation and divorce are very isolating experiences. One of the best gifts we can give is the gift of ourselves during this heartbreaking time in a friend’s life. This is a practical way for us to live out being better together.

What about you? Have you been through separation or divorce or helped a friend who was? Would you add anything to this list? 

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?

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.

Jesus Understands

Worn out? Jesus was so tired that he slept in a boat even though a storm tossed it about.

Up at night with a little one? The disciples, who were in the boat with him, were so afraid of the storm they woke Jesus up!

Feeling misunderstood? Even Jesus’ friend Lazarus couldn’t understand how someone could be “born again.”

Been betrayed? One of Jesus’ closest friends, Judas, betrayed him.

Feeling let down by others? When Jesus asked his friends to pray with them in the Garden of Gethsemane, they fell asleep.

Been falsely accused? The Pharisees made up false accusations to get rid of Jesus.

Feeling overwhelmed? Jesus was so overwhelmed with facing the cross that he was sweating blood.

Dealing with physical pain? He experienced spikes in His hands and feet, a spear in his side, and a crown of thorns upon His head.

Don’t think your God understands your struggles?  May you see Jesus truly as a Friend who understands, because that’s what Easter is really all about.

(adapted from Real Moms…Real Jesus)

Why We Never Put Money In the Offering Plate At Church

When I was in late grade school and junior high my father served as the church treasurer for the little United Methodist Church we attended. One of his jobs as the treasurer was to count the offering and prepare it to be deposited at the bank.

One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday afternoon was to help him count the money and prepare the deposit. Little did I realize that I was learning an early lesson on tithing. Not only did I see the giving of others, I also saw my father write out a check of a pre-determined amount–based upon his pay–for our family’s offering.

The Bible talks about giving our “first fruits” to God. Back in Bible days that would have meant bringing the first and best grain, wine, oil, honey, livestock, and produce as an offering to God.  Today, in our cash society, we primarily think of tithing as a money offering.  A tithe is giving 10% back to God from whatever He gave to us through income, gifts, and other earning possibilities.  An offering, in many churches, is considered anything over and above a tithe.

Back when I was a little girl, the only way you “gave” was when the offering plate was passed on Sunday morning. Today, many churches now offer online giving, EFT (electronic funds transfer), app giving, or text-to-give. With online bill pay, some folks choose to automate their giving through online banking. In fact, Mark and I started automating our tithe many years ago when we started paying our bills–and sending our tithe–online through our bank’s website.

Thus why we never put money in the offering plate.

Without forethought and an advanced decision, honestly God could easily get our leftovers instead of our first fruits. I don’t know about you, but we always find a way to spend all of the money we have in hand. However, when we have recurring transfers set up for payday for our tithe and savings, we then become accustomed to living off what is left.

Yes, there have been many times when we’ve had a car repair, a medical bill, or another unexpected expense (really, are medical bills and car repairs unexpected though????) that we’ve been tempted to not tithe and pay that bill instead. It’s the human response!

However, what we’ve found is that when we put God first, He provides in ways we could never have imagined. Sometimes it’s an unexpected refund check because we somehow overpaid car insurance or a medical bill. Sometimes something we’ve had listed online sells. Sometimes it’s a side job someone asks Mark to do and we get a little extra financial gift!  We never know how it’s going to happen, we just have come to trust that God will take care of us. Proverbs 3: 9-10 reminds us to “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”

Of course, the plenty–the blessing–isn’t always financial. God gives to us in many ways including joy, relationships, contentment, and hope. We don’t know how He will choose to work…we just know He will!

Want to watch God work first-hand? Put Him first with your finances. Make an intentional, advance, generous decision of what you will give to God every time He gives (income) to you.

Whether we write out that check every payday to drop in the offering plate or automatically send it through online bill pay, or give through the church’s app or website, what’s most important is that God gets our best!

What about you? How do you make sure God doesn’t just get your leftovers? 

When a Woman is Addicted to Pornography

Today’s post is from my friend Robin Nordhues. Robin is a brave woman who has decided to share her story to help others. She’s also a speaker, blogger and workshop leader with a passion for connecting women to God and each other. A Bible Study teacher and independent business leader for over 15 years, Robin strives to help women discuss contemporary issues through a Biblical lens.

The next movie in the 50 Shades Trilogy comes out on Valentine’s Day and it’s being billed as “the perfect date movie.” Robin’s story illustrates why that just isn’t true.

************************************************************************

What we choose to read and watch and click on matters. 70% of the men and 30% of the women in America are addicted to pornography (1 Million Men study). If this is not an area where you are tempted, you know someone who is.

50 Shades of Grey, the books and the movie, are dramatically increasing the number of women who struggle in this area. Some women who pursue pornography are visually stimulated by images on their computer or smart phones, in magazines or in movies. For me it has always been the vivid pictures my imagination created from the words in a book.

I am one of the 3 in 10 women whose poor choices led to an addiction to porn. As a woman who has loved God since I was a child I knew that the reading material I was choosing was not God’s best for me. The advent of the e-reader made it too easy to access whatever I wanted to read in a password-protected environment. As I became more and more desensitized to the material I was reading I sought out more explicit material to get the same response. I read things in the privacy of my e-reader that I would never have brought into my home in a traditional book format.

As things escalated I slipped farther and farther down the rabbit hole and into a 5-year addiction to pornography that affected every part of my life. At first it was a private, hidden secret that I thought only affected me. It affected my self-image and my self-worth in negative ways. It gave me a sense of self-loathing, guilt and shame that was exhausting to hide from the people around me. My addiction made me feel weak and hopeless as it became a poison that seeped into every area of my life.

From the beginning pornography separated me from the people around me. Brick by brick, book by book, I built a wall of guilt and shame that trapped me on one side and the people I loved on the other. I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I felt helpless to stop.

As the addiction continued it began to affect my marriage. It set my husband up to fail as I compared him to the impossible expectations set up by the pornographic material I was consuming.  It brought things into our marriage bed that sacrificed intimacy for the false thrill of the forbidden.

While I was in the throes of my addiction I had two teenage daughters at home. We had raised them with a philosophy that asked this question – “Could Jesus walk into this house and read, watch or listen to anything you own?” If the answer was no it did not belong in our home. Needless, to say their mom was not practicing what she preached. My lack of integrity (actions not matching words) in this area was a firebrand that never failed to sear my conscience for the entirety of my addiction.

Today I am a recovering porn addict. I say “recovering” because it will always be an area of temptation for me. God healed me from my addiction, and in doing so He clearly called me to share my story so that I could help others.

Before I could go public, however, I had to ask forgiveness from the people who had been hurt by my dirty little secret. I confessed first to my husband and asked for his forgiveness. Although I had never cheated on him physically I had cheated on him mentally through the books I had read.

Then I had to confess to our two teenage daughters. Difficult to say the least! It is so hard to be transparent with our children when it is what they need most from us.

I do not know what temptations you struggle with today. I do now that 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. If this is an area of struggle for you, I want to encourage you to:

  1. Be open and transparent about your struggle. Find accountability partners.
  2. Change your habits and your environment to make pornography less accessible.
  3. Seek professional help.

There is hope and help. You’ll find more of my story and resources on Women & Pornography at www.livingthelifetransparent.org.

*************************************************

I’m so grateful for Robin’s honesty. I’m passionate about this subject and wrote about it first here and then here. Today I ask that you join Robin and myself in making a commitment to not see the next 50 Shades of Grey movie and to determine to be careful about what you feed your mind.

New Years Eve and did we miss you?

So tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. Tonight Erica listed off the multiple invitations she and Kendall received to New Year’s Eve parties and then asked if we could care for  our granddaughter, Marie, for the night. Mark looked at me and said, “So Jill, how many invitations did we get to New Year’s Eve parties tomorrow night?” I responded the same way I did last year, “Zero. Nada. Not a one.”

Honestly, I’m a little over one week out from shoulder surgery so I’m really not up for socializing. And the introvert in me is pretty happy to stay home most of the time. The human in me, however, can still feel lonely, uninvited, or left out. 

In this world of social media, it’s very easy to see all kinds of pictures on Facebook of people attending parties and playing games while you sit home with no plans. Of course, you and I can do the inviting…but that’s another post for another day.

Let’s face it, it’s nice to BE invited every once in a while. It’s also nice to know you’re not the only one who didn’t get an invite.

And it’s always nice to know you’re not alone. That’s what I wanted to share with you today. No big words of wisdom. No simple steps to make things different. Just “I get it and I want you to know that.”

I’m also reminding myself, and you, that our value is not based upon whether we receive an invitation to a New Years Eve party or any other event. Our value is based upon the God who created us. His invitation to have a personal relationship with HIM is the only invitation that matters! RSVP that invite and you’re set for life…and eternity! Let’s keep the main thing the main thing today!

Oh and one more thing before I sign off tonight: Did you sign up for the No More Perfect Marriages Launch Team and then never hear from us? Please let me know if that happened to you! We’ve had some technical difficulties and didn’t receive some of the applications. If you applied and didn’t hear from us, reply to this email and let me know! We still have room for you!

Happy New Year!

The One Question You Must Ask Yourself Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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