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!

6 Ways to Help a Grieving Parent

gettyimages-174686441-1In October 1988, President Ronald Reagan Proclaimed October as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  Today’s post was written by Emily Fawcett who understands the reality of infant loss.  I asked Emily to share how a mom can help another mom who is grieving the loss of a child.  These are her words of wisdom we all need to hear.

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dsc_0314On Sept. 6, 2015, our family joyfully welcomed Sawyer Ruth into the world, and seven days later, we grieved our loss and celebrated her gain as she was healed in heaven. Then as quickly as our world exploded, it quieted again, and the stillness laid heavy on us. Not everyone walked away, we were and still are blessed with many people who chose to circle their wagons around our family. Their cards, messages, talks, and prayers cover and carry us still. However, we had others who just couldn’t handle our loss and our deep grief. For reasons I will never understand, they chose distance. And in that distancing, they lost us too. Perhaps if I had known these truths at the beginning, relationships would have lasted; but at that time, I was just trying to breathe.

At a little over a year, I am better able to understand what I need during what I pray is my lowest valley. If you are a mother who has lost a child, perhaps these truths will resonate with you. If you know a grieving mother, please take these truths and support and surround her as she struggles to find her new path.

I need you to walk alongside me. I know you can’t know my loss, nor do I want you to.  One mother described our need for companionship as the fellowship of grief. To have others gather alongside and say this is too much, can I help carry it.  “Bear each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galations 6:2

I need you to be messy with me. Grief is not pretty or neat or quick. Walking away or distancing yourself because it is too much for you hurts. It may be too much for you, but it is unbearable for me. Yet I bear it. I have no other choice.

I need to hear my child’s name. Please say her name to me; include her as part of your story. One of the greatest gifts, my mother has given me is to always tell people she has twelve grandchildren, though only eleven are here.

I need your “how are you?” to be genuine. Small talk is impossible; I just don’t have the energy. But if you really want to know how I am, I would love to tell you. I long to talk about my child.

I need you to remember dates along with me. I was paralyzed every month on the 6th and the 13th. My sisters never missed a date. They remembered every month along with me, which made me feel a little less alone. A card, a text, or just a simple, “I’m thinking of you” is enough.

I need to grieve. Don’t rush me or push me. We may not get to do very much for our children in the time we have with them; however, we all get to grieve. Let me grieve as long or as deep as I need to. Our counselor told us, “that our grief is proportionate to our love.” We love deeply; therefore, we grieve deeply.

For parents walking this lifelong journey of grief, please know that you are not alone. And for those who are watching others grieve, please let them know they are not alone. Let October 26th be a day for you to remember us, the ones who have lost, for not a day goes by where we need a calendar to remind us.

You’re Still At Home?

I was a stay-at-home mom for over twenty years. In fact, my first book, Professionalizing Motherhood was written specifically for moms at home. It’s still in print and making a difference in the lives of moms at home all over the world.

Today’s post was one I wrote in 2002 when my youngest entered kindergarten (and before we adopted child #5!), but it’s still pertinent today for many moms. I was reminded of that after receiving two emails from readers this past month who were struggling with this decision. May this encourage those of you who have kids in school but are still choosing to be at home.  

(If you’re a work-at-home mom, you might enjoy this post and if you’re a working mom, you will find this post just what you need!)

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You’re Still At Home and Your Children Are In School?

I can hardly believe the day is here. In fact, I’m not quite sure what to think of the prospect of this new season of life. Because of the spacing of our children, we’ve had a preschooler at home for 17 years. For the first time in my career as a mom, I now have all of my children in full-day school. What will I do with myself?

The question was posed to me the other day, “Now that all of your children are in school what will you do?” When I responded that I would remain committed to full-time motherhood, the second question followed: “Why?”

While there are less moms home full-time when their children enter school, most who remain home do so with the same convictions I have. In our case, this continues to be a financial sacrifice for our family, but one we feel is worth making. Let me share with you why I think the profession of motherhood is still a valid career choice for me:

Maintaining The Energy To Parent—It is so difficult for me to put in a full day’s work outside of the home and come home feeling ready to handle the challenges of parenting children. Keeping a strong marriage takes energy as well. With homemaking as my profession, it is the activity to which I give my primary energy.

After School Hours—A recent study was conducted with sexually active teenagers.When asked when and where they most often had sex, the most common reply was in their own homes between the hours of 3pm-5pm! My children need my presence for accountability, for encouragement, and for communication. Those hours after school are also when they talk most about their day, their struggles, their hopes, and their fears. An after school snack and a listening ear are important parts of my long-term career goal of helping my children mature and learn about the world in which they live. I don’t want to miss that.

Parenting Responsibilities—I don’t believe it’s my oldest child’s responsibility to parent her siblings. While she is certainly capable of caring for her brothers and sister on occasion, and even being an occasional taxi driver for extracurricular activities, she doesn’t need that responsibility every day after school, on school holidays, or during the summer.

Sick Days, Field Trips, Volunteer Opportunities—Being available to care for a sick child at home without concern of how many personal days I’ve used up at the office is emotionally freeing to me. Accompanying field trips or helping out at the school are valuable ways for me to stay involved in my children’s education. The school, the church, and the community need volunteers who have time and energy to help with worthwhile endeavors. I believe that’s a good use of my education and my skills.

Laundry, Meals, and the Fine Art of Homemaking—Just because everyone is in school, there’s still the same amount of laundry, the same meals to prepare, and the same house to manage. There are appointments to make, bills to pay, and groceries to buy. I don’t believe I’ll want for something to do.

Many moms use this season to return to school themselves or pursue part-time employment just during the school year, while keeping family the priority. It’s a good season to explore some of those opportunities. I’ll probably do that as well, with some writing and speaking opportunities. However, with one child in full-day kindergarten, one in sixth grade, one enjoying his sophomore year, and one entering her senior year in high school, there’s plenty of work to be done at home and in the lives of my children with motherhood as my full-time profession.

How about you? Are you at home and your children are in school?  Do you have any other thoughts you’d add to those here? 

Mom School

12669606_10204939731607432_984638797133494981_nIt was our second or third Hearts at Home conference when a mom stopped me in the hallway and told me that her kids called Hearts at Home “mom school.” I loved that picture!

Think about it: Motherhood is the most important job we’ll ever have and we’re the least prepared for it!  When I started Hearts at Home, it was because I felt better equipped to be a music teacher (which is what I went to college for!) than I was to be a mother (which is what I was doing full-time at that time!)

Moms need encouragement in marriage, parenting, personal growth, spiritual growth, self-care, and more! We need to be reminded that what we do at home matters. We need valuable perspective that helps us remember why the little things in life really are the big things.

Hearts at Home resources are for EVERY MOM in EVERY SEASON OF MOTHERHOOD! Not just when your kids are little, but also when they’re teens and adults. Not just stay at home moms but also working moms.  Hearts at Home is also for single moms and blended families! Our books, our conferences, our e-newsletters are for every mom!

We still have two conferences remaining in 2016:

NC-Conference

October 14-15
Rochester, Minnesota
Mayo Civic Center

South-Conference

November 11-12
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Chattanooga Convention Center

Do you or someone you know live in Minnesota, North or South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, lower Canada, Nebraska, or even Illinois?  Those locations are where most women come from who attend the Rochester, Minnesota conference.

Do you or someone you know live in Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, or northern Florida?  That’s where many of the moms are from who are coming to the Chattanooga conference!

There are plenty of women who get on an airplane and join the fun no matter where they live! Grab a friend, a sister, a sister-in-law, a college roommate and get registered today for mom school at one of our two remaining 2016 events!  If the date or location don’t work out, you can also pick up a Conference To-Go which includes:

  • Conference bag
  • Hearts at Home notebook
  • Flash drive with audio recordings of the afternoon main session* and four workshops of your choice
  • Additional workshops may be purchased for $7 each
  • A few other surprises!

While we’re talking conferences, here’s a sneak peek into our 2017 events: Hannah Keeley, who will be one of our 2017 workshop speakers, is offering a free Frump2Fab online event for moms this weekend! You can find out info here and see why we’re so excited to have Hannah join us at next year’s conferences!

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