Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“Unconditional love or respect is never wasted.”  

                                                        ~ Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

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Step Into My World

ThinkstockPhotos-450798763Mark says: Today we start another round of Whole 30 eating. We did it initially in January and I was amazed at how much better I felt after dropping 10 lbs and eating healthier. I admit, though, my motivation is based upon Jill’s desire.  Left to my own, I would probably not pursue healthy eating.

Because of Jill’s cancer journey, I know it’s important to her. Therefore, it’s important to me. 

Jill says: Yesterday we spent the day on the motorcycle. Mark loves to ride. I’m learning to enjoy it, but left to my own, I’d not pursue riding at all.

I know it’s important to him. Therefore it’s important to me. 

Mark says: Marriage is the blending of two lives. Each spouse has unique interests, likes and dislikes, hobbies, and talents.  Some couples have shared interests, but more often than not, most couples have differing interests.

Jill says: In order to deepen intimacy, blend two lives, and live out our commitment to one another, we sometimes need to step into each other’s world.  We do this out of our love for our spouse.

IMG_20150830_182933970Mark says: Sometimes we discover we actually enjoy the activity and it becomes a shared interest. Sometimes, however, we have to learn to simply love being together.

Jill says: If we’re honest, it’s often selfishness that keeps us from stepping into our spouse’s world. Sometimes it’s a priority issue that fuels our justification. “We don’t have time” is an easy excuse to use.  Yet, it’s important that we make time, prioritize, and give selflessly to invest in our marriage.

What about you? What are you making important because it’s important to your spouse? What do you NEED to make important because it’s important to your spouse? 

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“Worry is an indication that we think God cannot look after us.”

                                                                  ~Oswald Chambers

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Fantastic Food: Green Beans

ThinkstockPhotos-dv1356071We’ve had a wonderful harvest of green beans this summer!  Whether it’s garden harvest or fresh beans from the grocery store, I’ve grown to prefer fresh beans over canned or frozen beans (although canned or frozen beans are perfectly fine to eat!)

Fresh green beans are pretty easy to prepare; they take just a little time to cook. Simply break off the end of the beans and break the beans into the size you want. This is a great project for your kids to help with. I’ve had many conversations with my kids over the years as we sat together breaking fresh beans!

green beansOnce, the beans are broken, boil them in salted water for 20-30 minutes, based upon the tenderness you prefer.  I usually start testing them at 20 minutes with a fork.

The key to yummy green beans is adding bacon grease. I know it sounds odd to say that…but it makes a ton of difference!  We now buy the Naked Bacon brand of bacon because it contains no sugar, nitrates, phosphates, or preservatives. It’s definitely more expensive, but if we’re going to do bacon, we’re choosing a healthier option.

Every time we make bacon, I throw the grease in a glass jar and put it in the freezer. I just keep adding more grease to the glass jar until it’s full.  When I make green beans, I add a couple of heaping tablespoons of the bacon grease to the beans. So yummy!

How about you? How do you prepare fresh green beans?

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The Power of Your Words

ThinkstockPhotos-97700999Mark says: What we say and what we don’t say in our marriage is a measuring stick for the health of our marriage.

Jill says: Did you know the Bible talks about the power of our words over 3,500 times?  That alone indicates that our words are pretty important!

Mark says: Too often couples let their tongues go and their words flow. This damages relationships.

Jill says: I’ve been working hard on taking my thoughts captive and stopping critical words from exiting my mouth by dealing with them while they’re forming in my mind.

Mark says: I’ve also been working hard on taking my thoughts captive as well as choosing to encourage rather than condemn, and lift up rather than criticize.

Jill says: There are some things that simply do not need to be said. In fact, a lot that comes to our mind should never be said.

Mark says: “Loose lips sink ships.” This was a phrase used during WWII reminding citizens and servicemen to avoid careless talk about secure information that might be of use to the enemy.  A similar phrase could be used for marriage, “Loose lips sink relationships.”  We need to avoid careless talk that will definitely be used by the enemy to steal and destroy our marriage.

Jill says: Here are some of the things God says about our words:

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:6

“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Proverbs 29:20

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” Proverbs 18:21

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

life or deathMark says: So today the challenge we’re giving ourselves and passing along to you is this: Are you bringing life or death to your marriage with your words? 

Jill says: One of the most important things we can do is learn to PAUSE before we speak. Just stop and ask yourself: is what I’m wanting to say going to bring life or death to my marriage? 

Mark says: Self-control is resisting the urge to do what we FEEL like doing and choosing instead to do what is RIGHT.

Jill says: Sometimes we need to operate as if there really is tape over our mouth. We need to measure our words carefully.

What about you? Do you need to change the words you speak to your spouse? 

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.”  

                                                    ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Is It The End or The Beginning?


It is the way we see something.

It’s the compass for our emotions.

It’s the change we sometimes need to get our head and our heart in a better place.

Perspective is something moms need every August as we wrestle with how we view our kids growing up.

So is their start of preschool, their new grades, their movement from one school to the next, their start of college an end or a beginning?

Of course, the answer is these steps of maturity are both an end and a beginning.

Yet, as moms, we usually see them more as an end than a beginning.

If you’re experiencing a new season of school with one or more of your kids, can I lend you my perspective for a moment?  My perspective as a mom of five with my youngest heading back this coming Saturday his second year of college?

New seasons are a beautiful beginning. They are a window into who our children are becoming. They represent accomplishment for us as mothers. They are a reminder that our children are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing…growing up!

When we focus on their growing up as an end, we’re making their next steps all about us. When we focus on their growing up as a beginning, we’re making their next steps all about them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that shedding a few tears on the first day of preschool, or the first day in a new grade, or when dropping a child off at college is wrong. Those tears represent the joys you’ve experienced with your child and the love you’ve poured into him or her.

Allow yourself to feel the reality of the end. Then, turn your head and view this as a beautiful beginning.

The beginning of new knowledge.

The beginning of new opportunities.

The beginning of discovering new interests.

The beginning of a new way of relating to you.

The beginning of more mature conversations.

The beginning of seeing glimpses of who God has created them to be.

Your ability to see their new seasons as a beginning more than an end gives your kids the freedom to mature and move forward in life. It’s also a gift you give your child and a gift you give yourself.

Our children need us to be excited about their future. They need us to celebrate their next steps. They long for us to embrace the new and let go of the old.

May you and I give the gift of beginning today.

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Doing Nothing Together

ThinkstockPhotos-179044139Mark says: “We need to do this more often.” That’s what I said to Jill yesterday morning as we spread out a blanket on the grass along the shore of Lake Michigan.  The International students we were hosting really wanted to see the Shedd Aquarium.  We’ve both been there and didn’t really want to go, so we took a blanket and found some shade along the lake.

Jill says: I asked him, “We need to do what more often?”  He said, “We need to do absolutely nothing together more often.”

Mark says: For many of us, Jill and I included, we often have a non-stop “to-do” list in our head.  Between kids, work, and home projects, there’s always something that needs to be done!

Jill says: It was good to just spread a blanket, talk, read, nap, talk some more, and daydream a bit.

Mark says: We often do that when we are on vacation, but not usually outside of vacation.

Jill says: A couple weekends ago, we kept our grandkids so our daughter and her husband could do “nothing” together. They didn’t go anywhere. They brought the kids to our house (we live a little over an hour from their house) and went back home to spend a low-key weekend together.

Mark says:  We know another couple who, after they put the kids to bed, they go out and lie on the trampoline to talk and gaze at the stars together.

Jill says: When our hot tub is working (it often is NOT working!) we use it to “do nothing” together. We have some of our richest conversations in the hot tub where we are not distracted by the television, cell phones, computer, or the everyday activities of life.

Mark says: You can “do nothing” by spreading a blanket in the park and picnicking a couple times a month.  It costs nothing, and requires only intentionality. It doesn’t even have to take much time. A 30 minute “nothing” date is far better than not doing one at all.

Jill says: It’s hard for us “Type A” driven personalities to slow down and do nothing. Yet, it’s important for our emotional and relational health!

Mark says: We’re going to be more intentional about occasional times of doing nothing together. Want to join us?

What about you? How do you and your spouse “do nothing” together? How about making a date to do nothing sometime in the next two weeks?  

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“Constant criticism makes people bitter.  Constructive criticism makes people better.”  

                                                                       ~Todd Clark

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Fantastic Food: Cauliflower Rice

photo 4When my daughter mentioned that she’d made cauliflower rice, I admit that it didn’t even sound good.  Of course, at that time, I wasn’t motivated to change my eating like I am now post-cancer.

I was at her house one day when she made it for dinner. After helping her prepare it and having it for dinner, I was in love!  So yummy!

I confess I’m not a huge cauliflower fan. I can eat it…preferably covered in cheese, please. However, cheese isn’t really on my diet right now so cauliflower rice is a great way to get in this veggie!

photo 5Cauliflower has so many nutritional benefits, but it’s a huge provider of Vitamin C more than anything else!

A food processor (of any size) is helpful for making cauliflower
rice. You can also use a knife if you don’t have a food processor.

Start by cutting and washing your cauliflower. Then process it in the food processor until it is the size and texture of rice.

Put a little bit of coconut oil or olive oil in a pan and cook (sautphoto 2e) the cauliflower. You can also add chopped bell peppers, diced zucchini or yellow squash, chopped green beans, or any other chopped veggie you want to add to it. If I have fresh broccoli, I sometimes throw the broccoli in the food processor with the cauliflower. So yummy!

photo 3My daughter also introduced me using coconut aminos in place of soy sauce.  Honestly coconut aminos taste just like soy sauce…but they are healthier!  I buy mine at HyVee Grocery Store or our local health food store.  I often use coconut aminos to flavor my cauliflower rice. I also use onion powder, garlic, salt, pepper, turmeric, paprika, and any other spice I feel like throwing in!

Don’t be afraid to try different spices or to just experiment with food.  You need recipes with baking more than with cooking!  Try different things and taste test along the way to see if you should add more.

photo 1What about you? Have you ever made cauliflower rice? Would you add any other ideas for how you like to prepare it?

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Quote of the Week

Quote-of-the-Week pic“Comparison robs us of the joy of obedience.”  

                                                                            ~Jennie Allen

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Fantastic Food: Bell Peppers

ThinkstockPhotos-481247983My husband loves to eat bell peppers raw. He just slices them up and enjoys!

I’ve not always been a fan of bell peppers, and I don’t particularly care for them raw, but I’ve learned to love them in stir fry or sauteed  vegetables. Last night I made cauliflower rice (that will be next week’s Fantastic Food!) and added diced bell peppers to it. Not only did it add flavor and color, but it added so many additional nutrients!

Bell Peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C (more than twice the amount of vitamin C in an orange!) and they offer a very broad range of antioxidants.  Not only that, but they’re pretty! The more color you have on your plate, the more nutrient and antioxidant power you have in your food.

Peppers are a pretty commonly used vegetable so I may not be introducing you to something new. However, you might not know that peppers are one of the easiest vegetable to freeze. You need to know this even if you don’t have a garden because you can take advantage of “pepper season” at the grocery store.

If you’re going to freeze most veggies, you have to blanch them to stop the actions of enzymes.  However, bell peppers don’t have to be blanched. Just cut them up, bag them, and throw them in the freezer!

I love this for two reasons:

peppers1) I have instant diced peppers. I just pull the bag out of the freezer, squeeze it to separate the frozen diced peppers, pull out however much I need, and throw the rest of the peppers back in the freezer.

2) I can take advantage of sales. Right now you can find pretty good prices on bell peppers–yellow, red, orange, and green. In the winter, however, the prices go up. I can buy peppers now at great prices (or harvest them from my garden), wash them, dice them, and throw them in the freezer to use over the next few months!

Add some color to your food this week with bell peppers! While you’re at it, dice up some extra and throw it in the freezer. It will make reaching the goal of eating 27  different vegetables a week so much easier! (And yes, if you use four different colored peppers, that’s four different veggies…if you’re counting!)

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Look At Me!

ThinkstockPhotos-77741634Jill says: Last week I was chatting with an event photographer who told me, “I shoot a lot of engagement sessions and weddings. Sometimes I get the opportunity to do a photo shoot of a couple celebrating a longtime wedding anniversary. I find it interesting that it’s the couples who are married the longest that seem to have the most trouble being comfortable with holding eye contact with one another.”

Mark says: That’s amazing to me. Surprising for sure. I would have expected it to be the other way around.

Jill says: Me too. However, as Mark and I talked about it we began to think about how much we do side by side and how little we do face to face.

Mark says: When we ride in the car together, we’re side by side.

Jill says: When we watch TV, we’re side by side.

Mark says: When we go to a movie, we’re side by side.

Jill says: When we cook together (IF we cook together!), we’re side by side.

Mark says: Even if we go to the ocean together, we’re sitting side by side on the beach.

Jill says: Add to that our addiction to smartphone, computer, and video game screens, face to face communication most likely will not happen unless we become intentional.

Mark says: Communication in and of itself is a skill. Just because you’re human doesn’t mean you know how to communicate. You have to learn communication skills and constantly be improving them throughout life. Eye contact is a communication skill.

Jill says: Eye contact is also intimacy. It’s a form of vulnerability.

Mark says: And many of us are afraid of real intimacy…even after being married for years. We’re experts at building walls instead of opening ourselves up to our life partner.

Jill says: So what do we do with our lack of eye contact? We increase it intentionally. Here are six ways to do that:

1) Sit down for dinner. At least a few times a week, sit down to dinner as a couple or as a family. Make sure the dinner table is a no-screen zone—no television and no phones. Look at your spouse as you ask questions and talk about your day.

2) Play a game. Instead of sitting down and watching television every evening, a couple times a week keep the TV off and pull out a deck of cards to play a game of double solitaire. If you’d prefer a board game, pull out Yahtzee or another favorite. Laugh, tease, and enjoy some face to face time.

3) Greet. When your spouse arrives home after you do, resist the urge to yell, “I’m upstairs,” and instead stop what you’re doing and go greet them face to face.

4) Look. When you’re talking to your spouse, look at them directly. If they’re not looking at you, say something nice like “I love your eyes. Let me see them.”

5) Evaluate. Are you fearful of emotional intimacy? Does being vulnerable scare you? If so, you’re not experiencing all that God designed marriage for. Challenge yourself to tear down walls you’ve constructed. If you feel you need help, make an appointment with a Christian counselor to dig into why you keep your spouse at arm’s length.

6) Open your eyes. One of the most powerful places to pursue eye contact is during sex. Yet according to one survey we’ve read, 65% of us keep our eyes closed during sex. Open your eyes and look at your spouse when you’re making love. If you’re not in the habit of doing this it will likely feel uncomfortable at first. However, the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll become, and the more connected you’ll feel to your spouse.

Mark says: Marriage is too important to fall into side by side habits. Commit today to increase your face time and deepen your intimacy.

What about you? Do you have any ideas you’d suggest for increasing eye contact in your marriage?

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