Better Together For Over 35 Years

Last week was a first for me. At age 53, this was my first-ever, week-long girlfriend trip.

If you’ve read my Better Together book you know that finding my mom tribe has not been easy for me. Growing up I had far more guy friends than girlfriends. I just found guy friendships to be a bit less….complicated, you might say.

My sophomore year of high school I decided to try out for the school musical, Fiddler on the Roof. I ended up getting the role of Hodel…one of the daughters. That was when I met Jody, Lora, and Julie. Jody and Lora were my “sisters” in the musical, Chava and Tzeitel. Julie played our “mother,” Golde. Those three girls were seniors…two years older than me, but we became fast friends. When they graduated several months later, I was left behind to navigate two more years of school without my newfound friends.

circa 1979 L-R: Jill, Julie, Jody

We stayed in touch over the years, Jody serving as the maid of honor in all of our weddings! To celebrate their 55th birthdays we started planning a girls trip last year (this is where being two years younger is a benefit–my 55th birthday is still two years away!). We set our sights on a week on Okaloosa Island (near Ft. Walton Beach, FL) in my parent’s beautiful condo that they rent out.

Two weeks ago, we drove down to Florida…a 14-hour one-day drive. We discovered, by the way, that when you’re traveling with four mid-life mamas, a longer rest area stop may result in at least one of you needing to go to the bathroom once again (like 10 minutes later!) before piling back in the car!

With my introvert personality, I was a little worried about being in a group setting all week, but we talked about those kinds of needs right up front so nobody would misread any of our needs for space.

We laughed, talked, cried, and caught up with each other’s lives.  Relaxed conversations with no time limitations were plentiful, opening the door for a depth of conversation you just can’t have when you meet occasionally for coffee.

Personally, the theme for the week was rest and I read three books along that theme. Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton, An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling, and Come Closer by Jane Rubietta.  The Ruth Haley Barton book is one I’ve read several times. It always reminds me to stop doing for God and focus on being with God. Such a good reminder for my high-capacity-achievement-oriented personality!

This was a first read of An Unhurried Life and wow, I love this book! Such a powerful reminder of the need to put “hurry” to rest for good.  Jane Rubietta’s books are always favorites of mine! She takes you by the hand to sit at Jesus’ feet.

I’m a huge advocate for getaways. I believe it’s valuable to do a personal getaway every once in a while. (My friend Julie told her husband she wanted 24 hours alone in a hotel for her birthday–Go Julie!) I think it’s incredibly valuable to do marriage getaways. But my recent week in Florida really helped me to see the value of getting away with girlfriends in some way. Maybe it’s attending a conference together (ask a friend to join you at one of the upcoming events I’m speaking at in Springfield, IL, Atlanta, GA, or Chicago, IL!). Maybe it’s just hosting an overnight with a girlfriend while your hubby is out of town. Maybe it’s a long-planned girlfriend week away.

Taking care of yourself is never convenient. It takes effort, sacrifice, and planning to make it happen, but it’s definitely worth it!

 

 

Lessons from a Day of Travel

This guy.

Last night he was a champ. When my flight was delayed leaving Florida and I texted him that I worried about making my connecting flight in Atlanta, he immediately pointed me to Christ with a simple text that said, “God’s got this. I am praying.”  I needed that reminder in that stressful moment!

Then when I got to Atlanta and found I did indeed miss my flight, he stuck by me. Delta gave me a hotel voucher and I asked about getting my checked luggage. They said I could request it and get it in 35-40 minutes. It was already 10:30 pm but I decided to go ahead and request it. It actually took a little over an hour to get it but I was never alone in the waiting. Mark stayed connected the whole time.

When I got my luggage and went out to catch the hotel shuttle, I watched it drive off before I could get there. When I went to the pick up area, I learned that after 11pm, the shuttles no longer came every 15 minutes but now every 30 minutes!  A kind driver from another hotel asked me who I was waiting for. I told him and he confirmed it would be another 30 minutes. He said, “I can drop you in the gas station right by the Crowne Plaza Hotel if you want to hop on my shuttle because I’m driving right by there.” He explained that they would frown on a Candlewood Suites shuttle pulling into the Crown Plaza Hotel, but dropping me off right next door would work and it was just a walk across the parking lot to the hotel. I was so grateful for his kindness and I could tell Mark was praying!

Sure enough, he dropped me off right next to the hotel and I just had to walk across the parking lot, arriving 30 minutes earlier than I would have if I’d had to wait for the other shuttle to pick me up and drop me off. Considering it was nearly midnight, I was grateful for this man’s generosity to add me to his shuttle when he had no other reason to do so but just caring for another person.

Just knowing I wasn’t navigating all of this alone really made a difference for me! Mark is usually asleep by 10pm so I knew this was a sacrifice for him staying up with me, supporting me with his “presence,” encouragement, and prayers.

When I arrived home today, he met me with flowers….my favorite, roses! I nearly cried!

This whole situation was a reminder to me of several things:

  1. Sometimes we can’t be physically present with a loved one, but our “virtual” presence can still be powerful. Just knowing someone is praying and staying engaged through a challenging situation can make a huge difference. I certainly felt that with Mark last night!
  2. Prayer is a powerful tool. I truly believe that kind shuttle driver was moved to generosity by the power of prayer.
  3. Flexibility is an important trait in this journey of life. All around me folks were getting so angry at the situation. However, we were delayed because of a tire with a cut in it! I certainly don’t want to land in a plane with a bum tire!  While I was disappointed in my delay arriving home, I found it much less stressful to be flexible than angry.
  4. Kindness can be key to getting good customer service. When I interacted with the gate agent today in a very kind manner she told me to call and ask Delta for a travel voucher for the inconvenience. I honestly would have never thought to do that since they put me up for the night in a hotel and rebooked me on the next flight out. Today when I kindly called the airline to ask about a travel voucher or they’re willingness to replace the award miles I had been traveling on, they very generously offered to put 9500 miles back on my account. I was very pleased with that!
  5. We need to keep an eye open for ways to serve. As we share in Better Together, “God will use you to help, encourage, and care for others if you’ll keep your eyes open to see the need and your heart available to meet the need.” I believe that shuttle driver did just that!

What about you? What “life lessons” have you experienced in a challenging situation?

YOU Make a Difference!

This summer has been a summer of grief for me with the Hearts at Home organization bringing their season of ministry to a close. I never thought that would happen.

A few weeks ago I heard the news that Women of Faith had cancelled all of their Fall conferences in order to regroup. It honestly didn’t surprise me at all. In the 24 years that Hearts at Home existed, we watched event attendance and registration responses change greatly over the years.

Many have asked what could have been done to change things. It’s not easy being an event planner these days…in fact it’s downright scary at times.

Because I’ve been asked several times this summer, here are a few ways you can support the organizations and events you value:

With your EARLY registration. When Hearts at Home started 24 years ago, we filled up fast. Today’s audiences tend to wait to see if some better opportunity might come along. They resist commitment and tend to register late. They’d rather pay the $20-$30 higher late registration fee and keep their options open than to save $20-$30 with the early registration fee and commit themselves.  This alone gives event planners major stress.  Often thousands of dollars have been committed for speaker fees, event liability insurance, facility rental, minimum food requirements, and hotel blocks. When registration lags, it causes great stress for everyone on the event-planning side of things. Your early registration not only prioritizes self-care or marriage-care, it also helps event planners rest well and know that the financial obligations they’ve committed to will be covered.

With your ATTENDANCE.  It’s tough to make a decision to attend an event, but your attendance is a vote of confidence in the value of learning, growing, and stepping away from the everyday to find refreshment for yourself or for your marriage. Conflicts will always arise and you will likely miss out on something when you decide to commit to a valuable growth opportunity. Ask yourself, “Is this conflicting event repeatable?” If the answer is yes, then it’s okay to miss it on the rare occasion. One of ten soccer games might be an example. However, if it’s not repeatable, like your son receiving an award at an awards ceremony, then you’ll likely want to attend the “not repeatable” event.  We also often tell ourselves, “I’ll attend that event next year.” There’s no assurance, however, the event will be available next year…especially if the organizers run into the challenges mentioned above in #1.

With your FINANCIAL SUPPORT. Many organizations that plan events are non-profit ministries. These organizations depend on the financial support of those who value the ministry. Sure, you pay to attend the event, but often that only covers a portion of what it takes to run the organization year-round. If you love what an organization brings to your life, support them financially to help them keep the encouragement coming your way. Don’t tell yourself others who have more resources will do that. Even small monthly amounts can make a huge difference when they’re paired with other small monthly amounts from other ministry partners.

With your PRAYERS. Folks in the public eye and event planners with vision endure a lot of criticism and often take some pretty big financial risks. Support your favorite organizations, authors, and speakers with your prayers. When we’re stepping out in faith, it makes a difference knowing that people are praying!

With your ENCOURAGING WORDS. There’s nothing better than knowing that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life. If a book, an event, or a speaker’s message made a difference in your life, let them know!  Hearing the God stories is the fuel that keeps their servant heart full!

When Mark and were deciding whether to bring a No More Perfect Marriages Couples Retreat to Rochester, Minnesota the November 10-11 weekend that Hearts at Home was supposed to be there, we  prayed long and hard.  Knowing everything we know about folks not committing these days and last minute registrations balanced against all of the financial obligations. It left us in a scary place that would require a step of faith. Ultimately we decided to take that step of faith. Now we’re in waiting land…will we get enough support to not go in the hole financially? Ultimately, however, we are trusting God’s provision and leading because are passionate about our message and solid in our mission to help marriages go the distance.

What plans do you have over the next two to six months to take care of yourself or to take care of your marriage? Isn’t it time to prioritize refreshment and recharge that will help you BE, not just DO?  Here are some events I’ll be at where I’d LOVE for you to join me!

October 21–Springfield, IL–The Leader Within You–Register Today!

October 27-28–Alpharetta, GA–Birds on a Wire SOAR Mom Event–Register Today!

November 3-4–Elmhurst, IL–Moms In Prayer UNSHAKEN Event–Register Today!

November 10-11–Rochester, MN–No More Perfect Marriages Couples Retreat– Register Today!

February 9-10–Springfield, IL–No More Perfect Marriages Valentine’s Retreat–Register Today!

If you’re planning on being at any of these events, let me know! I’d love to see you! 

A Mom Study You Can Do In Your Jammies!

Being a mom is hard, but it doesn’t have to be lonely.

Need to find your mom tribe?

Looking for inspiration in building your mom community?

Want to sharpen your relationship skills in order to take care of the friendships you have?

I’ve got an opportunity for you!

It’s the Better Together book study!

Better Together shows you how you can:

COMBAT ISOLATION and enjoy a supportive mothering community

INCREASE YOUR SOCIAL CONFIDENCE and stop the comparison game

DEEPEN YOUR FRIENDSHIPS as you share life with others

STRENGTHEN TRUST and build friendships without fear

INCREASE YOUR JOY and thrive as a mom

All of these are possible! Hop over and join the group, pick up a copy of the book, read one chapter a week, and participate in the Facebook group discussions whenever it works best for you!

I hope you’ll join the fun!

What Weeding Taught Me About Taking Care of My Health

Most mornings I spend an hour or so weeding before I take my shower and get ready for my day. I love being out in the quiet of the morning. It’s my time with God, time to think, and my opportunity to get my hands dirty. God teaches me so many lessons while weeding. Last week I shared a principle God taught me about parenting while I was weeding. Today I want to share with you a principle God reminded me of about taking care of my health.

After helping both our parents with some landscaping, Mark and I made off like bandits with a ton of new hostas! We have several areas in our yard where grass doesn’t grow well due to the shade, so we decided those areas would be just perfect for the hostas.  We planted them and then mulched around the plants. Once every week or two I go out to keep the hosta gardens cleaned up and weed free.

Dandelions are one of the worst weeds to deal with. You can’t just “pull” them. Instead you have to dig deep to make sure you get the entire root. And those puppies are looooooooooooong!

However, when I stay on top of the weeding and I catch the dandelions when they’re small, I don’t have to dig at all. Most of the time I can just grab hold of the plant right where it enters the ground and pull. The root isn’t very long when the plant is small and hasn’t yet flowered.

In October 2013, after my annual pap smear and breast exam appointment, my doctor scheduled my annual mammogram. Because my aunt, mother, and grandmother had all had breast cancer, I’d been getting an annual mammogram since the age of 40. My doctor found nothing to be concerned about in her breast exam. I’d found nothing on my regular self-exam either. But we always followed my annual “female” appointment with a scheduled mammogram.

This time, however, the mammogram showed something of concern so a biopsy was ordered. And the biopsy came back with a cancer diagnosis.

Nothing could have prepared my heart for that day.

Cancer.

The following days and weeks were a blur as I discovered more about breast cancer than I ever wanted to know. Mark and I learned about the treatment options and decisions were made.

One of the most important things I learned, however, is HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO CATCH CANCER EARLY.

Just like extracting those dandelions out of the ground when they’re small, if you catch cancer early you have a much better chance of extracting it out of your body. We caught my cancer so early that I most likely would have only needed surgery and possibly radiation. However, my type of breast cancer–triple negative–also required chemotherapy regardless of when the cancer is caught.

Still, my chance of recurrence is quite low because we caught it early, treated it aggressively, and I made many lifestyle changes concerning food choices, weight control, and exercise.

You and I need to take a lesson on self-care from nature and be intentional about catching things early. Been waiting to schedule that colonoscopy? Don’t wait…do it today. What about a mammogram or your annual pap smear?  Pick up the phone now and make the appointment. What about taking care of your teeth? Been to the dentist in the last six months? Get an appointment on the calendar! Need to lose some weight? Today’s a perfect day to get serious about that.

It doesn’t have to be cancer we’re preventing with early care. Last year I was dealing with knee and shoulder pain. My knee had been bothering me for some time but I just pushed through it. I’d also had a pain in my shoulder and it was becoming harder and harder to do push ups in the kickboxing class Mark and I took together. I chalked it up to my 52-year-old body that was simply revolting against all I was asking it to do. I didn’t have either one checked out but just kept pushing forward until one day when my shoulder wouldn’t hold any of my weight and it hurt to raise it above my head.

A trip to the doc and a couple of MRI’s later, I found out I had a torn meniscus in my knee and a full rotator cuff tear in my shoulder. Oh joy. Had I listened to my body when it first started talking to me I might have saved myself shoulder surgery in particular. I could have possibly strengthened my shoulder when it was a small tear and prevented it from fully tearing.

So last week when I was weeding, God used those little, easy-to-pull-out baby dandelions as a reminder of why it’s important to do both preventative healthcare AND to pay attention when my body is telling me something is wrong.

What about you? What do you need to pay attention to? Do you have a genetic history you need to take seriously? What regular preventative healthcare do you need to put on your calendar? 

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? 

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? 

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.

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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.

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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.