I Can’t Believe in a God Who Lets Innocent People Die

ThinkstockPhotos-491609381Iraq.

Afghanistan.

New York.

Boston.

Kenya.

Paris.

Brussels.

 

All beautiful places in this world. All filled with innocent people whose lives were changed in an instant.

The question posed by so many people is, “Where is God in all of this?”  And too often they resolutely state, “I just can’t believe in a God who lets innocent people suffer and die.”

Have you asked that question or made that statement?  Let me share my heart with you to shed some different light on these unsettling times.

When God made Adam and Eve and placed them in a beautiful garden to live He gave them so many wonderful gifts! There was food galore—fresh fruit and vegetables! God provided the first “fast food” as Adam and Eve could simply look to their right or left and choose from a variety of produce options. Flowers and trees most likely overwhelmed their senses. Water was plentiful from four rivers that flowed through the garden. The rhythm of life was set in motion with the sun and moon carrying out their roles to create day and night.

But this wasn’t all, God also gave Adam and Eve the beautiful gift of choice. Free will. God didn’t create them to be puppets who simply did what He wanted them to do. He equipped His human creations with the ability to think, feel, and make their own decisions.  His longing is for every one of us to choose Him. To walk through life in relationship with Him and to make good choices that benefit the world around us.

What would life be like without free will?  It honestly wouldn’t be much of a life. We’d be robots. Unfeeling creatures who don’t have a mind of our own.  We wouldn’t be able to choose who to love, what to eat, what to study, where to work, how many kids to have, and where to live.

We’d lose the ability to choose how to celebrate birthdays, which holiday traditions mean the most to us, what books we’d read our kids each night, and what music we want to listen to in the car.

Free will is what makes life so delightful!  Choices are the color wheel of life!  It’s what brings joy, hope, love, and happiness to our existence.

Personally I am grateful for free will and for a God who doesn’t force Himself or His ways upon us. It’s similar to parenting where we lead and guide our kids but know that eventually they have to make their own choices.

We all know, however, there’s another side to free will and this is what most of us struggle with.  If we can choose good and wonderful things, we can also choose bad and terrible things.  In the same way that our good and wonderful choices positively affect us and those around us, our bad and terrible choices negatively affect us and those around us.

None of us live completely separated from others. We’re affected by the choices the people around us make. It’s the flip side of the free will we all love and enjoy.

So the choices people have made in Iraq, New York, Afghanistan, Boston, Kenya, Paris, Brussels and other places in the world have so sadly affected innocent lives. This is the outcome of free will used wrongly.

So where is God in all this pain? It’s a fair question to ask and one we have clear answers for.

He is understanding.  God watched His Son, Jesus, be stoned, beaten, and hung on a cross suffering a horrible death because of free will misused. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God (they had to have the apple off the one tree God said not to eat!), relationship between God and man was broken. Adam and Eve had to leave the beautiful garden and consequences for our poor free will choices were introduced. Because we are like Adam and Eve—prone to use our free will for both good and bad—we are forever separated from God. However, Jesus died to bring reconciliation between us and God. So Jesus represented us as the wrongdoer to build a bridge between us and the Father we have wronged. When Jesus suffered his horrible death on the cross, it was God’s greatest hour of suffering. His heart was broken. He knows what it feels like to be affected by free will used wrongly. He understands.

He is present. Psalm 46:1 reminds us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Just because we lose sight of God, we can be assured he never loses sight of us. He is the God who sees us (Genesis 16:13).

He is comforting.  Psalm 34:18 tells us that “God draws near to the brokenhearted.” The most effective person to have by our side is someone who understands.  God can comfort because He has personally experienced the ripple effect of bad and terrible choices.

He is working. We often can’t see God working but that doesn’t mean he isn’t. Ecclesiastes 3:5 declares, “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”

He is good. Psalm 34:8 reminds us “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” And in Romans 8:28 we know that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” Just like a child can’t see good when a parent puts a boundary in place, sometimes we can’t see good in our circumstances either. Just because bad happens doesn’t change God’s heart and his goodness.

He is redeeming. God is all about taking bad and turning it into good. In Isaiah 61:3 we are reminded that God turns “beauty into ashes.” The same verse tells us He turns mourning into joy and replaces despair with praise.  When my marriage went through a horrible crisis 5 years ago, I experienced the ripple effect of someone I love exercising their free will with a very bad choice.  My life was changed forever. Initially the pain was horrific and I could barely breathe and function. Over time I found my footing and began to see how God was using the broken places in my life to grow and change me in a good way.  Now both Mark and I look back and are grateful for the many ways God has redeemed our pain to help others. God often does His best work through the pain in our life.

This world is a broken place. There will be pain, there will be hurt, and because of free will—we will be both helped and hurt by the actions of others.  However, this world is just a stopping point before eternity.  There is a place God has absolutely designed to be pain free. A place where we’re protected from hurt. A place where joy is present at all times. It’s called heaven.

In the same way, however, that God won’t force himself on us here on earth, He also won’t force heaven on us either.  We choose where we spend eternity.

I can’t believe in a God who allows innocent people to suffer and die either. Thankfully I don’t have to.

God is not the author of pain, nor does He cause it. This broken, imperfect world wasn’t His idea at all but He’s done the unthinkable to fix it…offering the sacrifice of His only Son so we can experience the beauty and perfection of heaven.

I’ve made the choice of heaven by accepting Jesus as my Savior and my Lord, and if you haven’t, I invite you to do that too. After all, isn’t heaven really the kind of place we’re wishing earth would be like? It does exist. Just not in this stop on our journey towards eternity.

Father God, I’m sorry I’ve wondered where you are in the midst of these challenging times we’re living in. I can see how your heart is as broken as mine is. I understand that this wasn’t what you wanted for us either. Thank you for creating us and for loving us enough to send your Son to be the bridge between our wrong and your Right.  I accept Jesus as my Savior–my bridge builder. I also accept Him as my Lord–my True North–the Leader of my life. Thank you for loving me, for saving me, and for being my Solid Rock and Firm Foundation in a world filled with crashing waves. In Jesus Name…Amen. 

Posted in Miscellany | 3 Comments

Are You A Fountain of Life to Your Kids?

ThinkstockPhotos-100613224 (2)Dr. Todd Cartmell is a speaker at our 2016 Hearts at Home conferences. His newest book 8 Simple Tools For Raising Great Kids, is also one of our newest Hearts at Home resources!

Every time I sit in on one of Dr. Cartmell’s workshops, I learn so much! I asked him for a sneak peek at his 8 Simple Tools book and he sent today’s post to share with you! What I love is that the chapters are short and sweet! Seriously this is such a readable book—today’s post is one chapter! Wow! Now any busy parent can read a book like that!

By the way, if you’re thinking about coming to the Hearts at Home National Conference April 22/23 in Peoria, IL, I want to make sure you know that Best Value Registration ends next Monday, April 4. That’s a savings of $30 so I wanna make sure you are aware of that!

No Hearts at Home conferences close enough to you? Check out the Conference-To-Go option!

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Todd-Cartmell-thumbA proverb written almost 3,000 years ago by King Solomon paints a powerful picture of the impact of words: “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.” (Proverbs 18:21).  Let’s put that into parenting terms: The mouth of the righteous parent is a fountain of life to their kids.

Ever think of yourself that way?  A living, breathing, hard-working, laundry-doing, play-date organizing, homework-correcting fountain of life?  Because that’s what God says you can be to your kids.

Your words can rejuvenate your kids from the inside out.  They can give your kids hope and vision they did not have the eyes to see.  You can help them see past their limitations and failures.  Your words can build them up, teach them, love them, encourage them, and guide them.  Your words can leave your kids better off than before you spoke.

Todd Cartmell graphic for freebiesYour words will strengthen your kids when they face adversity and comfort them when they fall.  Your words can help your kids use their God-given imaginations to dream big, work hard, and be open to all that God wants to do through them.  Your words will communicate to your kids that you believe in them and know that they are capable of great things.

Because they are.

That is a fountain of life.

Every kids needs a fountain of life.

That is why God gave them you.

Posted in Miscellany, Parenting | Leave a comment

5 Ways to Fill Your Little One’s Love Tank!

ThinkstockPhotos-481934968A year ago I spoke at the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati (and I’m speaking there again this coming weekend!). While there, I decided to sit in on one workshop that caught my eye. The speaker was Kathy Lee and it was on maximizing the preschool years. All three of my grandkids are preschoolers, and I’m always looking for new ideas, so I decided to attend this workshop with a friend.

Ten minutes into the workshop I turned to my friend Rhonda who was with me and said, “This is great…we HAVE to have her at Hearts at Home!”  I brought her info back to our Speaker Team and we’re so excited Kathy Lee is a part of our 2016 conferences!  If you have preschoolers in your life, you need to be at one of our 2016 conferences to hear Kathy speak!

I asked Kathy to offer some encouragement to all of you so today’s post is from her. Don’t have a preschooler? I betcha know someone who does and you’ll definitely want to share this with them because TODAY KATHY IS GIVING AWAY HER PRESCHOOL CURRICULUM MEGA BUNDLE valued at $285 to one of my readers! I think that’s one of the biggest giveaways I’ve ever had! To enter, leave a comment sharing a favorite activity you love to do with your preschooler. 

By the way, you can find Kathy online at www.kathyhlee.com and www.thehomegrownpreschooler.com.

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Kathy-Lee-thumbKids just wanna have fun and parents just need some fresh ideas to teach their preschoolers!  Here are five ways to fill your little one’s love tank:

Sing a song – Little ones love singing and dancing and being silly. Take a moment today and teach them one of my favorite songs, Blow the Balloon. As you can see by this video, you DO NOT have to be a singer to enjoy singing with your children.

**This song was taught to me by one of my favorite early childhood musicians. You can purchase his music at hughhanley.com.

Facilitate a child directed activity – One of the best ways you can keep your sanity is by making sure that your children are engaged in some quality sensory experiences. These three are my favorite:

GlarchGlarch – Mix equal parts of liquid starch and school glue. I suggest starting with a small amount of each. Knead the ingredients until a putty substance is formed. If the putty is too runny, add more glue; too sticky, add more starch.  You can add some watercolor or food coloring to your putty. Try adding some shaving cream to change the consistency. After your child is finished enjoying their glarch, put in a baggie and store it in the refrigerator.

Fly Guts– Fly Guts is a favorite among little ones. You will need a large container, 2 rolls of toilet paper, 2 bars of ivory soap and water. Invite your children to unroll the toilet paper (this is a fun activity all by itself) and place in the large container. Offer a plastic grater for your children to grate the soap or you grate the soap yourself, if it is a metal grater. Grate both bars of soap into the container with the toilet paper. Lastly, add enough water to form a gooey consistency, it doesn’t have to be exact.  A thicker mixture can be used for molding and sculpting.  A thinner mixture can be used to bury items and squish around.

clouddoughCloud Dough – Mix 4 cups of flour and 1 cup of baby oil to create this moon sand, type dough. Add is come silicone cupcake holders, measuring cups and large candles to create a great birthday party/cupcake experience. Adding rainbow rice for sprinkles is an exciting addition.

Invite your child to tell a story – Grab a blank journal or a few sheets of construction paper to write down your child’s story, word for word. Invite your child to illustrate their story any way they desire. When the story is finished, read it back to your little one and watch their delight. This is a great memory maker and language arts activity, all in one. If you have a minute, you can watch Madeline Ann tell me her story of The Dream Pony.

makingabookTell them a childhood story – Our children often forget that we were once babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Pull out some photos and share some childhood memories with your little one. This will be a moment that will definitely turn into a memory. I often tell my kids the story of me sneaking across the street to the local elementary school to climb this GIANT slide. My mom always quietly watched me “sneak” to the slide and even snapped a photo during one of my escapes.

Get outside – Ahhhh… nature! One of the greatest things you can do for your little one is to help them fall in love with the outdoors. Start exploring this beautiful earth at a young age. Take them on hikes, stop and smell the roses, jump in the mud puddle, or have a picnic in the back yard. The time together in nature does wonder for the soul of a child (and a mom).

hiking

Memories are made in the everyday moments. Love tanks are filled one YES at a time. Say yes and make some memories with your little ones today!

Posted in Parenting | 35 Comments

Absolute Surrender

These are the nametags we wore at church yesterday to represent what Easter means to us. Mark's is on the left and Jill's is on the right.

These are the nametags we wore at church yesterday to represent what Easter means to us. Mark’s is on the left and Jill’s is on the right.

Jill: Yesterday was an odd Easter for us. There were no family pictures, no Easter eggs, no Easter dinner. Not because Easter isn’t important, but simply because of the season of life our family is in.

Mark: The kids were either too far away, celebrating with the inlaws or their significant other’s family, or busy with church responsibilities.  Jill and I served at church at both the morning and the evening services, and believe it or not, we spent the five hours in between church services cutting trees from this winter’s ice storm and burning limbs.  Yep….Happy Easter to us!

Jill: Yet both of us remarked that we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Why?  Because of the word US. We were together. We were working together. We were celebrating the resurrection.

Mark: Easter is very important to Jill and I, first because of Christ’s resurrection and what that did for our faith. Second, because of my resurrection and what that did for our marriage.

Jill:  There are three parts to Easter: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Friday was darkness, Saturday was silence, and Sunday was the resurrection.  Sometimes we experience something similar in life.

Mark: 2011 was a year of darkness for me. I had transitioned from 20 years of ministry to being a business owner. As that transition merged with my 50th birthday, I began to lose my footing emotionally and spiritually.  I moved from discouragement to disappointment to disillusionment. In my disillusionment I decided I wasn’t going to do things God’s way anymore. I was doing it my way. As I gave into my own selfish flesh, I ended up a full blown mess. I had an affair. I left my my wife and family. I believed, in my own desperation, that I could ride off into a new relationship and life would be great. I created a huge mess and that “Friday,” metaphorically speaking, was dark.

Jill: When it’s dark you’re holding on for dear life. I knew Mark was struggling but nothing I did or said made any difference. When I discovered the affair, the dark became even darker.

Mark: Over 9 months of time, I went back and forth between my marriage and the other relationship 7 times. I was a conflicted man during the “Saturday” of that season. God seemed silent and I remained lost. In the midst of all of that a friend introduced me to the writings of Andrew Murray. Andrew was an 18th century pastor whose writing reminds me of a loving grandfather leading you to understand God better. Andrew wrote a powerful book called Absolute Surrender that really spoke to me in the midst of my confusion. I learned from Andrew that absolute surrender was a must for the successful Christian life. I thought that Jesus had been Lord of my life, but as I read Absolute Surrender I discovered I had really never fully surrendered to God.

It was Easter Sunday 2012, when I heard Father God clearly speak to me saying, “Mark, if you will trust me for the mess, I will take care of everything else!” I was desperate for peace. I knew I’d made a mess and I wanted that mess to be gone. I knew that surrender was what I needed to do.

Were there things in my marriage I wanted to see change? Absolutely. Was I scared to recommit? Absolutely. Was it the right thing to do? Absolutely.

Sitting at home Easter morning, I surrendered. Fully. 100%. I stopped fighting God. I stopped telling God what to do. I can’t even begin to describe to you what that felt like. It was an incredible peace.

The image I have carried since is that I am walking down the middle of the road holding the hand of my true Father, going at His pace, where He wants to go and how He wants to get there.  I am fully surrendered to Him. This was completely foreign and new in the beginning, but I have really grown to be at peace with this and Him.

Jill: Mark is truly a different person since Easter 2012. There is a steadiness to him I’d never seen in the first 28 years of our marriage. He’s loyal, committed, and peace-filled. He has inspired me to learn to surrender more, as well.  To surrender control. To surrender criticism and judgment. To surrender to God’s plan and God’s way.

Even yesterday when Easter played out the way that it did: no family celebration. No ham. No deviled eggs.  Cutting trees and working together in the yard was all right by me. It was God’s plan for two people who have learned to surrender to celebrate the beauty of the resurrection.

Mark: Where are you fighting God today?  What do you need to let go of and let God lead? How are you trying to “lead God” instead of let God lead you?  I’m telling you, absolute surrender will give you a resurrection experience you are longing for!

Posted in Marriage | Leave a comment

What Easter Is All About

ThinkstockPhotos-502281792“I just can’t believe your skin can stretch like that!” my husband declared one day in my ninth month of pregnancy.  Honestly, I couldn’t believe it either.  I was long past being able to see my feet, my ankles were swollen, and I was definitely feeling like a beached whale.  This was my fourth pregnancy…you would have thought we’d seen it all, but the reality of what new life does to an old body was still a miracle (or travesty!) to behold.  I couldn’t sleep comfortably, suffered from terrible indigestion, and was absolutely miserable, but just a few days later, we were holding our new bundle of joy.  The sacrifice was worth it all.

Six years later, Mark and I sat in a run-down courtroom before a Russian judge.  After months of paperwork, expense, and unimaginable hours of time, we were on the verge of adding another son to our family…this time through adoption.  We knew that Kolya belonged in our family; we now had to convince the judge of this.  The judge just couldn’t understand why we would want a 9-year-old child from Russia when we had four of our own back in the United States.  After many hours of answering questions with the help of a translator, the judge finally agreed to sign the papers.  The sacrifice of thousands of dollars and hours finally paid off.  Aaron Nicolai became a Savage.

Motherhood and sacrifice…the two words are synonymous.  Whether you arrived at motherhood biologically or by adoption, you find out very soon that sacrifice is a part of the job.  For most of us the sacrifice begins with pregnancy or those first steps toward adoption, but for moms who deal with infertility, sacrifice begins months, even years earlier.

I find it interesting that the root word of sacrifice is sacred—a word that means worthy of respect or regarded with reverence.  Another meaning of sacred is something that is made or declared holy or something associated with divinity.  Understanding that leads us right to our example of sacrifice: Jesus Christ.

To understand Jesus’ life and ultimate sacrifice, and to really understand why Easter is important, we have to go back to the beginning…the beginning of time.  On page one of the Bible, in the book of Genesis, we begin with God creating heaven and earth, water and dry land, light and darkness, and eventually man and woman.  Man and woman lived in this perfect place called the Garden of Eden.  It was a place where they had a perfect relationship with God, one another, and where all their physical needs were met.

God gave Adam and Eve free will.  In other words, He created them to live by His design and according to His ways, but He allowed them to make those choices on their own.  God gave them full access to the garden, putting only one boundary on them: they could not eat from one tree: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God’s boundaries are always given to protect us.  Even in this case, God was protecting Adam and Eve from having knowledge that would complicate their life and introduce them to the concept of death.

One day in the Garden, Satan tempted Adam and Eve to eat from the forbidden tree and they fell for his lies hook, line, and sinker. When they ate the fruit their eyes were opened and they suddenly saw life differently.  They saw their nakedness and made themselves some clothes.  Then, in shame, they hid from God.  The garden, which had been a place of joy and fellowship, was now a place of fear and hiding from God.  As a consequence of their disobedience, God required them to leave the Garden of Eden.   Because of that, life became harder and now the fellowship with a holy God had been broken.

The entire Old Testament of the Bible tells the story of man’s existence from creation until Jesus Christ was born.  During this time, the only way that sinful people (thanks Adam and Eve!) could have a relationship with a holy God was through sacrifice and a high priest who would stand in the gap between the people and God.  The Israelites understood that God could have chosen to be a judge with no grace and mercy when Adam and Eve disobeyed.  But instead of wiping the slate clean, he chose to give them a second chance!  This second chance was an opportunity for man and woman to be reconciled or reconnected to their Creator.   But coming into the presence of God required an admission of sin (disobedience) and because a Holy God can’t exist in the presence of sin, a sacrifice was offered to “cover” the sin.  Most of the sacrifices offered in the Old Testament were lambs and they had to be offered through a priest who represented the people.  The shedding of the blood covered the sins of the people so they could have relationship with a Holy God.

But for God, this was a temporary plan.  His decision to send His Son to earth was his ultimate plan for reconnecting to His people.  Jesus came to this earth as fully God, yet fully man.  One way God connected to us was by becoming one of us.  We have a God who truly understands our human experience.  But God’s plan was more than simply understanding our human experience.  He sent his Son to be the ultimate sacrifice and our High Priest. The Bible says,” We have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus. When he served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good—not only ours, but the whole world’s.”

Jesus came to share truth and eventually die on the cross as the final sacrifice for our sin.  He died, then three days later he rose again and eventually went to live in heaven where He is the only priest needed—He’s our High Priest, the only one who stands in the gap between us and God.  Here’s what the Bible says about that in Hebrews 7 (The Message)

This makes Jesus the guarantee of a far better way between us and God—one that really works! A new covenant.

RMRJ comp1 - Copy

This post adapted from Real Moms…Real Jesus.

Earlier there were a lot of priests, for they died and had to be replaced. But Jesus’ priesthood is permanent. He’s there from now to eternity to save everyone who comes to God through him, always on the job to speak up for them.

That’s a big picture to comprehend; yet it illustrates the purpose of Jesus’ life.  He was a living sacrifice, known as the Lamb of God because there was no more need to sacrifice lambs or anything else after his death on the cross.  He took our sin upon himself and shed his blood so we wouldn’t have to do so ourselves.  He died so we could live.  You don’t get a better picture of sacrifice than that.

And that’s what Easter is all about.

Posted in Faith | Leave a comment

8 Healthy Expectations You Should Have In Marriage

ThinkstockPhotos-504644938Mark: We’ve shared before about the challenge of expectations in marriage. Unspoken, unrealistic, and unmet expectations are dangerous in any relationship.

Jill: However, there are some expectations that can actually be helpful for marriage. These are things that will happen in most every marriage.

Mark: Once you say “I do” it’s healthy to:

  • Expect Conflict: You are two different human beings with differing personalities, temperaments, opinions, and preferences. Conflict will happen. This was one expectation I didn’t have and then I became disillusioned when conflict happened.
  • Expect Disappointments: Your spouse will make mistakes. He or she will let you down. They are not perfect and disappointment will happen.
  • Expect to Be Annoyed: When you live in close proximity to someone else like you do in marriage, there will be things that annoy you. In fact, the very things that drew you to one another in the first place will often be the things that will annoy you later on!
  • Expect to Need Continuing Education: Marriage requires a lifetime of learning. In order to have a deepening intimacy that lasts a lifetime, you’ll need to keep learning about yourself, you spouse, God, and about marriage. You can do that through books, marriage conferences, counseling, and reading blogs like this together.

Jill: But that’s not all, here are four more:

  • Expect to Over-Communicate: Your spouse can’t read your mind. He or she has their own balls to juggle in life. You’ll need to work hard to make sure you listen well and communicate clearly. I confess that too often I have thought, “I shouldn’t have to tell him _____________.  He should just KNOW!”  Don’t make that mistake! Make no assumptions and over-communicate.
  • Expect to Lose That Loving Feeling: Feelings will wane and that’s a normal part of a lifelong relationship. Feelings of love and attraction will come and go. There will be seasons where you’ll have to choose to love because the feeling just won’t be there. However, the feeling almost always follows the choice in time!
  • Expect to Keep Investing: Your marriage relationship will need to be invested in on a regular basis. You’ll have to continue to date, to flirt, to communicate, to learn, to play together, to spend time, to listen well, and to have fun together. Is time together on your calendar?  If not, put some time on the calendar today!
  • Expect to Ask For Help: It’s very possible that there may be times where you need to seek accountability or perspective or help from a mentor, another couple, or a professional counselor to get through a tough season. Asking for help is not a weakness. In fact, it is a sign of wisdom and strength.

Having the right expectations can make all the difference in the world.

What about you? Do you have any more healthy expectations you would add to this list?  Of these 8 expectations, which one(s) do you need to figure into your thinking? 

Posted in Marriage | 2 Comments

A Change in Vocabulary

ThinkstockPhotos-453072785Over the past few years Mark and I have worked to change our eating. We now eat very little to no gluten, no refined sugar, and no additives or preservatives as much as possible.

My friend and co-worker, Lori, has also been changing her diet over the same time period. Lori shared a vocabulary change she has made that has helped her move from deprived to empowered.

Instead of saying “I can’t eat ice cream,” she says “I don’t eat ice cream.” Instead of saying, “I can’t eat gluten,” she says, “I don’t eat gluten.”

That little word exchange is a game-changer for attitude.

Sometimes the littlest things can make the biggest changes. Changing from “can’t” to “don’t” gives her an empowered sense of choice.

Several weeks ago Michael Hyatt wrote a blog post on a similar word swap, exchanging “get to” for “have to.” As Hyatt reminds us, “Our words have power. They impact others but they also impact us.”

Mark and I have been using “don’t” instead of “can’t” and finding it very helpful in staying true to our choices. It’s taking away the feeling of deprivation and replacing it with a word choice that is empowering.

What a difference exchanging a few words can make!

What about you? Where can you substitute one word or one phrase for another in an effort to change your perspective? 

Posted in Taking Care of Me | Leave a comment

Need To Do A New Home Internship?

The marriage relationship is directly affected by the emotional health of each partner.

Once we get married, it’s important that we continue to grow emotionally, because it will strengthen our ability to relate to our partner.  Today’s Marriage Monday is about evaluating your past in order to have a great future.

Mark:
Jill and I have coined a term for the home we grew up in.  We call it our “home internship,” where we learned about communication, conflict, God, marriage, roles of men and women, sex, and so much more!  Our “growing up” experience, or “home internship,” is comprised of what our parents taught us–directly or indirectly–as well as the choices we made independently of the family.  These provide a filter to how we view relationships, in general.

Jill:
The reason it is valuable to evaluate our past is to assess whether our home internship served us well or whether there is a need to do a new home internship in some areas.

Mark:
For instance, one spouse may have come from a home where conflict was handled with rage.  The other spouse may have come from a home where they pretended there was no conflict.  Neither are healthy.  So both partners might consider the value of doing a new internship in conflict management.

Jill:
A new internship might be pursued by reading books on the subject, pursuing the counsel of a more mature couple or a pastor, attending a marriage retreat, or seeking the help of a marriage counselor.

Mark:
Jill and I have used all of the above resources to pursue some of the new internships we’ve needed to rid ourselves of baggage from our past that wasn’t serving us well in marriage.  It requires a willingness on our part to pursue the new internship, but we’ve found that the more emotionally healthy we are, the stronger our relationship is.

Jill:
If you’ve never evaluated your past before, take a few moments to think about these things:

  • Communication
  • Conflict
  • View of God
  • Marriage
  • Role of Men and Women
  • Sex
  • Insecurity
  • Negative self-talk
  • Critical Spirit
  • Addictions

Do you find that you consistently have trouble in any of the above areas in your marriage?  What was modeled for you in the home where you grew up?  What was spoken or unspoken concerning these issues?  Would it be valuable for you to do a new internship in any of these?

Mark:
Evaluating your past is not something we do to “blame” our parents or even “blame” ourselves for choices we made before marriage.  Instead it is to help us understand our views and perspectives on issues that affect our marriage and to evaluate whether those perspectives are helping or hurting our marriage.

What about you?  Have you evaluated your home internship?  Have you ever done a new internship in order to improve your relationship or your own emotional health?

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6,000 Moms In One Place!

12669606_10204939731607432_984638797133494981_nI can’t wait!

This Spring I’ll be hanging out with over 6,000 moms from 40 states at the National Hearts at Home conference in Peoria, Illinois! It is the premier event for moms and I’d love for you to join the fun!

Women come to Hearts at Home conferences from all over the United States.

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In addition to the fabulous keynote sessions there are dozens of workshops offered to design your day to meet your needs as a mom.

No matter if your kids are 2, 22, or 42, Hearts at Home is for YOU!

If you like a good deal, you’ll want to register by April 4 so you can save $30 on your registration for the National Conference!

It’s gonna be a blast! I’d love to meet you at Hearts at Home!

Are you going to be there? 

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The Birthday Wish

IMG_1021Jill: Friday was my birthday and it was a perfect birthday! Mark did a wonderful job celebrating it the way I wanted to celebrate it!

Mark: It’s only taken me 32 years to figure this one out but I think I finally got it!

Jill: We’ve been slowly remodeling our kitchen. It’s taking forever because we’re doing it nights and weekends and as we have the money.  We had recently removed all the cabinet doors and drawer faces to paint them. Then we needed to antique glaze them so they would be finished and we could get them hung again.

Mark: When I asked Jill what she wanted to do for her birthday, I wasn’t surprised when she said that she wanted to glaze the cabinets and get the cabinet doors and drawer faces back in place so the kitchen would have some sense of being finished.

Jill: This is really what I WANTED for my birthday.  I wanted us to work together and get the job done. I’ve asked for these kinds of gifts in the past and Mark has often argued, “That’s not a birthday present. What do you really want?” He would then try to talk me into celebrating MY birthday the way he would want to celebrate HIS birthday.

Mark: Doing a project would definitely not be a birthday gift I would EVER want.

Jill: My two top Love Languages are Quality Time and Acts of Service and finishing those cabinets was truly a gift to me!

Mark: I prepared my heart and mind to do what Jill wanted. We worked several hours on Friday evening and most of the day on Saturday to get the cabinets finished.  Jill was beaming!

ThinkstockPhotos-478145098Jill: I felt very honored by Mark this weekend. You see, we honor our spouse when we place value on what he/she finds valuable even if it isn’t something that’s important to us. You and I don’t get to decide what matters to our spouse; we get to discover what matters to them.

Mark: Too often we minimize things that really are important to our spouse. When we do that we build a wall instead of a bridge in our marriage.

Jill: Mark built a bridge, walked across it, and visited my priorities this past weekend and I love him for it.

cabinetsMark: I’m glad I did because it really did mean a lot to my girl (and the kitchen really looks great!). I will tell you, however, when my birthday rolls around in July, we won’t be painting cabinets. We’ll probably be playing a couple rounds of golf.

Jill: And I’ll be driving the golf cart!

What about you?  Where do you need to build a bridge in your marriage? What is important to your spouse that you have minimized in the past? How can you step into his/her world and make that important to you because it’s important to him/her?

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Who’s In Your Tribe?

cb81a3b5-btcoverOne year after our first Hearts at Home conference, I found myself driving across town alone in my filthy minivan filled with carseats and the last five weeks of Sunday School papers. I was having a conversation with God about the unexpected place he had me. I was leading a moms group in our church that had held what was supposed to be, a one-time conference for moms. We expected 400 moms to attend and 1100 showed up. It seemed that God’s vision was much bigger than mine.

We were now within a few weeks of our second conference and over 2800 women had already registered to attend! We had assembled a Board of Directors, incorporated as a non-profit, and were growing faster than I felt I could keep up with.

“You have to be laughing, God.” I uttered with a mix of humor and resignation. “You now have me leading a huge ministry to moms and I DON’T EVEN LIKE WOMEN!”

I’m a late bloomer when it comes to female relationships. Growing up, most of the kids in our neighborhood were boys.  My two sisters and I played softball with the neighborhood guys in the empty lot next to our house nearly every night during the spring, summer, and fall.  Even though I went to all twelve years of school in the same school district, I never had one girlfriend who was my “best friend since first grade” like some people have.

I did have friends who were girls. I went to a few birthday parties and sleepovers over the years. Some girls eventually moved into the neighborhood and we had fun together…playing baseball in the side lot. I had some girlfriends I ate lunch with in high school.

Maybe it was growing up in a neighborhood of boys, or maybe it was being attracted to the simplicity of guy friendships, but female friendships weren’t exactly a priority to me. I liked my guy friendships because they seemed to be less complicated. These weren’t boyfriends…just guy friends who didn’t get their feelings hurt easily, communicated at face value, and protected me fiercely. They were more like the big brothers I never had.

I met some friends late in high school and I spent a year living in a sorority my freshman year of college (that, honestly, never really met my friendship expectations), but I never seemed to really “click” with the whole girlfriend thing. While I privately longed to have girlfriends to share secrets with, laugh together, and talk on the phone for hours, I summed it up in my mind that I just wasn’t meant to have many girlfriends and I needed to be content with what I had.

And then I became a mom.

Suddenly I had this desire to spend time with other women who understood what my life is like. I needed to learn from them. I needed to know if what my kid was doing was normal. I needed to know if my feelings were okay. More than anything, I needed to know I wasn’t alone!  Seeking female friendships to meet those needs, I discovered that I longed for a mothering community around me, but I had no idea how to find one.

I stumbled my way through those early years of mom friendships. I lived far from family, so my friends became family. I experienced both the high of “doing life” with other moms and the low of being rejected by those I thought were my friends. I’ve made lifelong friends and experienced friendship “break ups.” I’ve come to learn that my personality and temperament affect the number of friends I will likely have. I’ve discovered that some friendships are seasonal and others are lifetime. Finally, I’ve learned some strategies along the way for making friends, keeping friends, and even understanding when it’s ok to let a friendship go.

Friendships change as motherhood changes. Yet in all seasons of motherhood we need to be with other women who understand our life.

Knowing that, my daughter, Anne, and I wrote Better Together: Because You’re Not Meant to Mom Alone that will officially release next Tuesday!  We all need a tribe and once we have one we need to know how to nurture those friendships.

I love a good deal and there’s a great opportunity being offered by Moody Publishers and Hearts at Home if you pre-order Better Together before it releases next Tuesday!

If you order the book before next Tuesday, March 1, you will also receive:

1 Printable: 33 Bible Verses to Share with a Friend Going Through a Hard Time

7 Hearts at Home Audio Workshops
• Keep It Shut–Karen Ehman
• Embrace Your Mothering Personality–Jill Savage
• Living and Laughing Together–Ken Davis
• Could Someone Please Remind Me Who I Am–Juli Slattery
• Bad Moments Don’t Make Bad Mamas–Lysa Terkeurst
• Created to Be–Dr. Kathy Koch
• Confessions of an Imperfect Mom–Julie Barnhill

3 Wallpapers/Backgounds for Phone and Computer

Bonus Video: No More Perfect Kids Workshop–Jill Savage

Want to get in on the Better Together Bonus Offers!  You can pre-order the book and submit your receipt for the freebies over at www.bettertogetherbook.org!

Got a friend you do this mom thing with? Make sure she knows about it too!

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The Myth of “I Don’t Love You Anymore”

ThinkstockPhotos-478896468It’s happened again.  Yesterday we learned of another family that has been broken up because one person in the marriage says, “I don’t love you anymore.”

There’s a common misconception that married couples will always “feel” love for one another.  Today’s Marriage Monday looks at this myth and what to do about it if it happens to you.

Mark: If you’ve been hanging around here very long, you know that Jill and I have had our ups and downs over the years.  We’ve hit the lowest of lows when we both felt no love for one another.

Jill:This was a very scary place to be for both of us.  And we both feared that “falling out of love” meant that our relationship was over.

Mark: When we sought out help through professional counseling, we learned that our experience was actually quite common.  Feelings of love can come and go in a marriage.  That’s real life and real marriage.

Jill:There are certainly relationships that never experience the “falling out of love” feeling.  If that describes you, you need to thank God for that right now.

Mark: However, if you or your spouse has ever felt like the love has left your relationship, you need to know that is normal.  It happens to real people and real marriages.  You also need to know that you can put the love back in an empty relationship. Your marriage can survive the ebb and flow of feelings.

Jill: You also need to know that another relationship is not the answer.  Because the same thing will likely happen down the road in another relationship.  All relationships have ups and downs.  Don’t run to a new relationship because you feel “love” or “passion” there and you don’t feel it at home.  Those feelings will wane someday, as well.

Mark: So what do you do when you no longer have that “loving feeling?”  Here are seven steps to take to redeem the love:

Seek help. Don’t try to navigate this challenge alone.  Help can come from a professional counselor, a minister, or even a trusted couple that is a little further down the marriage road than you are.  Sometimes, help can also come from a friend who will help hold you accountable to think and do what is right.

Evaluate your thought life. What are the thoughts that you think about your spouse? If they are primarily negative thoughts, begin to “take your thoughts captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  Apologize to God for believing lies about your spouse.  Replace those lies with truth about the strengths of him or her.

Choose to love. Love is a choice…not a feeling.  Begin to act lovingly to your spouse.  If you need help making this happen from a practical perspective, pick up a copy of the book The Love Dare.

Invest in your marriage. Work to deepen your communication.  Turn off the television, step away from the computer, and spend time with your spouse.  Step into your spouse’s world and help them with a project or even with household tasks like dinner, dishes, or the laundry.

Re-engage in your relationship. If you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling, you’ve likely let your eyes and your heart wander away from your marriage.  Re-engage in the relationship you’ve got.  You may not feel like it in the beginning, but you can still choose to do the right thing.

Grow up. Remember that God uses marriage to mature you.  Maturity often happens when we resist the flesh (what we want to do) and pursue the Spirit (what God wants us to do).  When we do things God’s way, there’s always a blessing to follow.

Recognize the true enemy.  Your spouse is not the enemy.  There is a spiritual battle raging against your marriage.  The Bible says that Satan divides and destroys.  Recognize the reality of the battle and fight it with God’s truth and prayer.

What about you?  Have you ever lost that “lovin feeling?” What did you do to re-ignite the love in your marriage?

PS….Congrats to Beth (wier111) who won last week’s Marriage Monday giveaway from Arlene Pellicane! 

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Progress Not Perfection

I started a “read the Bible in a year plan” on January 1.  I’ve always wanted to do that, and I decided 2016 would be the year.

I did well the first 15 days of January.  Then I got behind a few days, but was able to get caught up with a little bit of extra reading.

Then I got really behind.

And discouraged.

I poured out my heart to God that I had failed and felt so frustrated. Just as I was ready to give up on my reading plan, God brought to my mind three words that formed the foundation of No More Perfect Kids, the book I co-authored with Dr. Kathy Koch:

Progress, not perfection. 

Dr. Kathy and I wrote, “The middle ground of grace is where we need to plant ourselves and our kids. After all, progress is the goal. It’s not at all about being perfect, but it is about being perfected by the God who has a plan for our lives.”

Oh how I needed those words.

When we expect perfection, fail, and then give up, we stop growing.

When we progress–even imperfectly–we grow.

So I’m still reading. I’m planting God’s Word in my heart on the grace progression plan and I’m loving it.

I’m two weeks behind on the reading schedule, but I’m plugging away and not worrying about doing it perfectly. What’s most important is that I’m progressing.

And that’s the middle ground of grace I’m choosing to embrace.

What about you? Do you need to give yourself grace? What are you doing imperfectly that you need to keep plugging along and making progress in? 

Posted in Faith, Taking Care of Me | 2 Comments