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.

What’s Your Plate Size?

Understanding and Accepting Your Capacity

Today’s post is a guest post by my friend, Kathi Lipp. Coathored with Cheri Gregory, Kathi’s new book, Overwhelmed: Quiet the Chaos and Restore the Sanity, is a breath of fresh air for those of us who get overwhelmed with all that life requires of us!

I loved their book so much I asked if they’d share some wisdom from it and allow me to give away a copy. They said YES!

When she sent me this guest post, I was so excited that it was about the concept of capacity. Mark and I wrote about how capacity differences affect our marriage in No More Perfect Marriages and my daughter Anne and I wrote about how capacity difference affect friendships in Better Together! If you want to find out your capacity, you can hop over and take our Better Together quiz for some insight into how God has made you!

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January is a great time to ask yourself this question: “What size is my plate?”

Here’s what I mean.

Trying to live out all the roles we have can be overwhelming, especially when each of us has a different pre-set capacity.

I was speaking for a women’s group when one woman asked me, “I get so jealous because my friends are always able to accomplish so much more than I am. What do I do about that?”

My answer: Understand your God-given capacity—the size of your plate.

 

What is Your Plate Size?

We talk about having “too much on our plate.”

But it’s more than that: I think we over-estimate the size of our plate.

I would say that I have a dinner plate—a pretty big dinner plate. I can get a lot done in a day. But I don’t have little kids at home. And since I run my own business, I have a lot of flexibility.

Most of us probably have a dinner plate capacity.

Some of you have just a huge capacity—a turkey platter. Like the PTA mom who can do everything and still have energy left over.

Some of you have more of a demitasse saucer capacity. And, my precious friends, I do not want you to feel bad. I believe this is how God has designed you, and it was not a mistake. Maybe you’re like my friend Cheri, who is a Highly Sensitive Person and gets extra easily overwhelmed.

We each need to recognize our capacity.

Because we have to fit everything we value on the plate we have.

Once you’ve added all the vital aspects of your life to your plate—God, marriage, kids, family, friends, church, work etc.—how much white space do you have left?  Hopefully some, but I’m betting not a ton.

Here’s the thing: You still have to do things, like go to the grocery store. You still want to read the occasional book.
So you have to be very careful about what you put on your plate. We don’t get to pile our plates high. We have to manage the space we actually have.

Here are some questions I want you to ask yourself today:

  1. What size plate do I have? (Get really visual. Maybe even make a drawing of it.)
  1. Is there space on my plate?
  1. Do I need to take a few things off my plate? If so, what?
  1. Do I have room for anything new, or do I need to wait for something to fall off my plate?

 

God is Not Limited by Our Limitations

Cheri and Kathi

And here’s a little bonus for those of you who feel your plate is too small:

I was having a great conversation with Cheri; we were talking about the size of her plate. Cheri was whining (she agrees it was whining), “My poor little saucer! I want a cafeteria tray sized capacity!”

I told her, “Cheri, I feel like that’s what you have. You get so much done!” Our friend Angela told her, “Cheri, you must have the largest saucer in the world!”

Cheri said, “Then God has got to be multiplying things along the way. Maybe that’s when he can multiply things: when we accept what we have and quit begging, borrowing, and stealing what isn’t ours.”

So friend, if you have an underwhelming sized plate—if your capacity seems small—I need you to know God is not surprised by your capacity or limited by it.

He’s not saying, “You have to do more to please me.”

He’s saying, “Put the right things on the plate, and I can multiply it. Give me your best, and I can do the rest.”

Do not feel gypped if you have a small plate. Put on it only what God has asked you to, and leave the rest up to him.

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Instead of making New Year’s resolutions (that will only last for a week), how about creating a Personal manifesto that will carry you through the rest of your life?  Sign up for great ideas and resources about how to get out from Overwhelmed and you will receive “How to Write Your Personal Manifesto” as our gift to you. Get off the overwhelming cycle of making and breaking resolutions and create a gentle plan for lasting life change.

 

Kathi and Cheri would like to send a copy of Overwhelmed: Quiet the Chaos & Restore Your Sanity to one of my readers!

To qualify for the drawing, you just need to do TWO things:

#1. LEAVE A COMMENT below about either what overwhelms you most OR what you do to restore the sanity in your life.

#2. SHARE THIS POST on social media.

That’s it! Once you do both, your name will be entered into the random drawing. Be sure to tell your friends so they can sign up too. The drawing will take place this Saturday, January 14 and the winner will be notified by email! {Contest is limited to US & Canadian readers only.}

This post contains affiliate links. You can read my disclosure policy here.

Give the Gift of Holiday Freedom

gettyimages-489349424-1We didn’t spend Thanksgiving with a single one of our five children.  Did it feel odd? Yes. Was it the best for everyone? We think so.

Our oldest daughter and her husband alternate holidays with his family and our family; this year Thanksgiving was with his family. Our oldest son lives in California and coming home for Thanksgiving just wasn’t in the budget. Our middle daughter and her husband and our granddaughter were already expected at two different Thanksgiving gatherings on his side of the family. Child number four was planning to spend the holiday with some friends, and our youngest and his fiancé would have been happy to join us, but we decided to give them the freedom of no expectations and the ability to enjoy the day fully with her family. Instead of gathering our immediate family, Mark and I drove a couple hours to spend time with our parents.

I love the holidays but I don’t love them more than my family. I love traditions but I don’t love them more than the people I share those traditions with.

Too often the biggest “gift” given at the holidays is guilt. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do is give our family freedom.

So instead of turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie on Thursday, we had a family gathering of whoever could come for pizza and games last weekend. Instead of ham, sweet potatoes, and persimmon pudding on Christmas Day, we’ll gather everyone who can come together on a day that works best for all either before or after Christmas.

One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to allow change to happen as your kids get older. Their sphere of relationships grows exponentially when they marry and start a new family. These days I’m using phrases like these more often:

“We understand. It’s not the day that’s important. We’ll find another time that works better!”

“Your heart is most important to us. We don’t want to add any additional pressure by piling on expectations. If you can join us, we’ll be thrilled and if you can’t, we understand.”

“I love you. I love you the same no matter what decision you need to make for your sanity and what’s best for your family.”

Want to give a powerful gift this holiday season? Give the gift of freedom. Flexibility. No expectations. Unconditional love. Your loved ones will thank you!

We’re Better Together!

gettyimages-618849248-1I met her at the park this summer. Mark and I had two of the grandkids for the week and I had decided we would spend the day out and about visiting some of our city’s parks.

She was playing with her kids but then one kid wanted her to play tag and the other wanted her to push her on the swing. My kiddos were busy playing so I offered to push the swing while she played tag.  She was grateful for the extra hand and her daughter didn’t seem to mind someone else pushing her.

We started chatting and I found out she was new in town. We talked about all the activities available in town. Eventually one of my littles wanted a drink and we were all out of the drinks I had brought with us. As we began to gather our things, I invited her to come over.  Just follow me home and let the kids keep playing at home. She accepted the invitation and we headed to our house for an impromptu play date.

Once home, the kids immediately picked up playing on the swingset and I set up two chairs for my friend and I.  The littles were ready for a snack so I did a quick pantry scan and found some graham crackers we could spread with peanut butter. We spent the next couple of hours visiting about everything two moms can find to talk about. It was definitely a “better together” afternoon!

BetterTogether_COV_FlatThis has been the year of better together.  The Better Together book that my daughter Anne and I wrote released in March.  The free Better Together video curriculum that many moms groups are now using became available in June (some groups are saying the “tip of the day” we offer at the end of each video are some of the BEST tips!). And I’ve had the privilege of speaking about the importance of “doing life together” dozens of times this year.

We’re not meant to do life alone. We’re meant to do it in community with one another. We’re meant to link arms and to do life together as much as possible. Jesus modeled this first. He shared meals, life experiences, and down time with friends. He invited others into his life journey. He was generous to others and he accepted the generosity of others.

Today is GIVING TUESDAY. It’s another opportunity for a better together experience. Hearts at Home is a non-profit organization that depends on the partnership of others. If this blog, or a Hearts conference, or the Heartbeat Radio program, or one of our books has been helpful for you, would you make a gift today to help us keep the encouragement coming your way? A gift of any size makes a difference!

facebook-profile-and-timeline-graphicWe’re hanging out LIVE over on the Hearts Facebook page today.  We have some fun challenges and giveaways for those who partner with us on Giving Tuesday.  I’ll be there and I’d love for you to join me too!  In fact, from 7am-7:30am, Mark and I will be doing a Facebook LIVE talking about some of the marriage lessons we’ve learned over the past few years! (Don’t worry if you miss the LIVE interview—it will still be on the page for viewing throughout the day.)

Would you make a gift to help Hearts at Home reach more families? It’s a great opportunity to virtually link arms and have a better together moment.

I’ll bring the peanut butter if you have the graham crackers!