What Do You Need To Leave For The Sake of Your Marriage?

Marriage Monday

Mark: Yesterday at church, our pastor, Mike Baker, preached on Genesis 12:1-9. It’s the story of when God told Abram he needed to leave where he was to go where God wanted him to go. It was an 800-mile, 8-10 year journey where Abram had to depend upon God to show him where to go and what to do.

Jill: Mike shared that the journey of faith is a constant leaving from where you are and walking towards where God wants you to go. That’s what growth and maturity looks like in real life.

Mark: While God may ask us to physically “leave” and “go,” often what he asks us to leave are our hurts, habits, and hangups, as they put it in the Celebrate Recovery ministry. These are the things that get in the way of us being about to move forward in life and relationships. They keep us from reaching our full potential as a person. They knock us off course and headed in the wrong direction.

Jill: What struck Mark and I was how much yesterday’s message applied to marriage. You see, our marriage is strengthened as we grow and mature personally. As we personally reach our full potential, our marriage experiences it’s full potential as well!

Mark: So the question we need to ask ourselves is: What does God want me to leave today?  Here are some thoughts to get you started thinking in the right direction:

Hurts: abuse, rejection, fear, mistrust, self-protection, anger, unforgiveness, dysfunctional family of origin, or personal vows (“I’ll never let another man hurt me.” Or, “I’ll never let another woman control me.”)…

Habits: Pornography, steamy (erotica) novels, laziness, selfishness, drugs or alcohol, smoking, criticism, lying, workaholism, spending issues, all types of control…

Hangups: Thinking your way is the right way or the only way, greed, impatience, lack of self-control, procrastination, pride, perfectionism, people-pleasing, materialism, lack of faith in God…

Jill: At some point we need to drive a stake in the ground and say, “Today’s the day I’m getting serious about this.” Sometimes it’s just a decision that needs to be made and followed through on. Other times it will take extra effort like counseling, asking for accountability, or even attending something like Celebrate Recovery.

Mark: I remember when I knew I had to leave my affair relationship in order to go where God wanted me to go which was a restored marriage and family. It wasn’t easy because I had to die to what I wanted in order to experience what God wanted. What He wanted was best for me and I can now fully attest to that, but making that decision required a “leaving” and a “going.” It also required counseling and accountability.

Jill: I remember the day God convicted my heart of criticism. I was reading Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you see the speck that is in your husband’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your husband, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your husband’s eye.” Yes, yes, I know…that verse doesn’t say “husband.” It almost always says “brother.” But that day, I read it as husband and God took the plank in my eye and hit me over the head with it. I made a conscious decision to “leave” criticism and “go” to grace. It’s been an imperfect journey for sure, but one I’m glad I’m on.

Mark: We never stay where we’re at when we’re truly following Christ. So, for the sake of your marriage, what do you need to leave today? 

10 Summer Activities To Do With All Your Kids!

Summer’s upon us and I’m guessing you’ve already heard at least one “I’m bored” already. If so, I’ve got you covered!  No matter the age of your kids–babies all the way through college age–I’ve got some rock solid ideas to keep things fun this summer!

Just click on the graphic that applies to you!

Got more ideas to add to the mix? Share them in the comments so we can learn from each other!

What’s Your Plan To Invest In Your Marriage This Summer?

Marriage Monday

Mark: Jill and I are in South Bend, Indiana today doing a television interview on No More Perfect Marriages (the interview starts at 8:23 if you watch it online!) It’s a 24 hour road trip, but it gave us time to talk on the 3 hour drive from our Central Illinois home.

Jill: We both brought our calendars and determined to figure out our plan for date nights this summer.

Mark: We chose Thursday nights. We talked about the fact that, because we’re in a tight financial season, we won’t be going out to dinner very often, but we’ll plan to do something after dinner each Thursday like take a motorcycle ride, enjoy a walk around a local lake, or even try out a new arcade in town (skee-ball anyone?)

Jill: Date nights don’t have to be weekly–they just need to be regular. On the calendar. Protected fiercely.

Mark: We also talked about taking a short 15-minute walk after dinner each night and maybe reading a marriage book aloud over the summer (still discussing that!). These efforts will help us connect daily.

Jill: When the kids were all home, we would often do 15 minutes on the porch swing after dinner. Now we have the freedom to take a walk since there’s no one we have to be home for!

Mark: “So what’s our plan for investing in our marriage this __________ (fill in the season)?”  This is a question we’ve learned to ask at the beginning of each “season” where new routines are created: Spring, Summer, and Fall.

Jill: Have you asked that question for summer yet? If not, put it on the table! Because if you don’t plan, it won’t happen.

Mark: Oh and by the way…how about putting “Attending the No More Perfect Marriages Morning Out in your plans?  You can find more info and register for the July 15 event in Illinois at seminar.jillsavage.org! We’d love to have you join us!

What about you? What are your plans to invest in your marriage this summer? Share your plans in the comments so we can inspire one another! 

Hospitality at Home

Why We Choose To Be Airbnb Hosts

We’d been married just about six months and lived on the west side of Indianapolis. Mark drove a delivery truck all over Indiana for his family’s glass and plastics business. He’d been in southern Indiana that day and I was waiting for him to come home to a spaghetti dinner I’d spent the last hour making. This was 34 years ago, before there were cell phones or texting or other easy ways to stay in touch when you were apart.

I heard Mark’s truck pull up outside our mobile home. I greeted him at the door with a smile. He kissed me and said, “Hey, I brought someone home for dinner.” Surprised, I asked him who it was. He said, “I picked up a guy at the truck stop in Evansville. He was trying to get to northern Indiana so I told him I could give him a ride as far as Indianapolis. We talked as we drove and he could really use a good meal before I run him up to the mission where he can spend the night. I hope it’s okay for him to join us.”

I was surprised, but happy to share what we had. Thankfully, I was raised in a home where there was always room for one more at the dinner table.

Mark went out and invited Foster to come inside and join us for dinner.  We added a third chair around our little table for two, making our dinner for two into a dinner for three. After dinner and delightful conversation, we all jumped in the truck and drove to the homeless shelter in downtown Indianapolis.  It was the middle of December and terribly cold. I remember noticing that Foster wasn’t wearing gloves. When he confirmed that he didn’t have gloves I took off my own pair–a black stretchy pair that easily fit a man or a woman–and handed them to him wishing him the best along the journey.

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Those words in Hebrews 13:2 have always stuck with me.  While we never heard from Foster again, Mark and I were bonded together that day by our shared value for hospitality.

That’s why we decided six months ago to start hosting Airbnb. We’ve loved sharing our home and meeting so many wonderful people. So far we’ve hosted dozens of folks: a family coming to visit their ISU student on Parent’s Weekend, a businessman from China, a couple driving from Florida to their home in Wisconsin, a mother needing a break from everyday life and wanting a long weekend away, a family coming together to celebrate their son/grandson’s graduation from ISU, three families on house-hunting trips preparing for a move to our community, a father and daughter taking a trip down Route 66 before the daughter headed off to the mission field.  We even hosted a baseball team of free agents playing AAA teams like our local Cornbelters, each one living the baseball dream and hoping to get picked up by one of the teams they played (and one of the guys ended up getting picked up by the Cornbelters that day!)

Sometimes we get the opportunity to visit with folks and sometimes they arrive just in time to head to bed and head out early in the morning. Either way, we get the opportunity to give them a home away from home for the night.

We have a big, nearly empty home now that most of the kids are gone. Why not use it for hospitality? I can truly say it’s become quite a mission field as we’ve encouraged marriages, helped folks new to town, and even shared deep faith-building conversations when the opportunity has presented itself.

We set our own calendar and choose to approve each reservation request, always screening their reviews from previous stays before saying yes. We’ve had a few first time Airbnb users who didn’t have reviews, but our interaction with them through the Airbnb app or website always allows us to get to know them and their reason for travel before saying yes. All money is handled through the Airbnb app, allowing us to earn a little extra income on the side. We’ve been pleased with Airbnb as a company and they’ve set up a great plan for establishing trust and safety into their program.

If you have the gift of hospitality, you might consider joining the Airbnb family as a host. We’ve found it a wonderful way to meet people and provide a warm, safe place for folks traveling to or through our community.

We now use Airbnb in our own travels and prefer it over a hotel. It’s less expensive and we often meet wonderful people. Our first experience was in December of 2015 when we traveled to visit our son, Evan, who lives near Hollywood in Los Angeles. Every hotel in the area was $250/night and that was simply out of our price range. We found an apartment to rent on Airbnb for $85/night. The couple happened to be out of town so we had the place to ourselves, including a kitchen where we could make our own meals for the week. We caught the Airbnb bug on that trip and decided to start using it for other trips.

Want to use Airbnb on an upcoming trip? You can get $40 off your first stay of $75 of more using this linkAnd if you’re ever in Bloomington-Normal, come stay with us! We’d love to have you!

I am still amazed that a hospitality seed was planted some 34 years ago when Mark and I shared an impromptu spaghetti dinner with a man named Foster. Maybe he really was an angel and we didn’t know it. He certainly made an impression on us and we’re still living that out today.

What about you? Have you ever used Airbnb or any other home sharing experience? What do you do to reach out to those around you?

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? 

Chicken That Fits Our Living With Less Lifestyle

I love chicken.

I love saving money.

I love buying in bulk and getting a great deal.

I love any deal that keeps me out of a grocery store!

I love Zaycon Fresh meats and especially their chicken because it’s the best of everything I love!

Zaycon Fresh is a unique way to order meats where you can save 30-50% off store prices by cutting out the middleman (i.e. the grocery store). You get meat for much less and most of their meats are farm fresh and from local farms. It is comparable to the highest quality, non-organic meats in the grocery store. I’ve been buying my chicken from Zaycon for several years and I have never been disappointed. They are very diligent in ensuring the quality of their meats and I’ve recently learned that if a local farming supplier does not meet Zaycon’s standards, they will stop business with that farm. I love knowing that!

So here’s how it works: the meat is ordered in bulk 1-4 months in advance. The product is delivered to the local areas in a refrigerated truck, with pickup in a private business or organization’s parking lot (I pick up my order in the Eastview Christian Church parking lot in Normal,IL–just two miles from my house!). Here’s the best part: I NEVER EVEN GET OUT OF MY CAR! I simply pull up in the car line, give the representative my name. I  pop open my trunk and the volunteer lays down plastic to protect my car from leakage and loads the box(es) in my trunk for me!

I get value, quality, and convenience with Zaycon and I never have to go to the store!

Want a little peek at the process?  Here’s a video Good Morning America did on Zaycon Fresh. It’s a few years old but shows you how Zaycon works!

Zaycon is best known for it’s chicken but I have friends who rave about their ground beef and bacon and other goodies! They only offer their chicken a few times a year but you can order now for the next delivery!

And here’s an even better deal! If you’re a first time customer of Zaycon, you can use promo code SUMMER25 to save $25 off your FIRST order of $99 or more (coupon code is good until August 15, 2017)! Wahoo!

Wanna give it a try? If it’s available in your area, my guess is you’ll love it!

Shop Now at Zaycon Fresh

 

What’s Your Summer Strategy for Connecting As A Couple?

Marriage Monday

Jill: Summer is just around the corner and it’s likely our routines will experience some changes as we head from one season to another.

Mark: Longer days in the summer allow for different ways of connecting as a couple. Jill and I enjoy sitting on the porch in the evenings or taking a walk after dinner.

Jill: It’s easy, however, to find ourselves at the end of June without a plan in place for utilizing the warm weather and extra daylight hours for our marriage. So now’s a great time to talk about our plan for the summer!

Mark: Yesterday Jill and I were talking about our routines, our pace of life, and changes we need to make as we head into summer. It’s not a finished conversation…we’ll keep talking over the next couple of weeks.

Jill: What are your strategies for connecting as a couple this summer?  Here are some ideas to put on your marriage bucket list of summer fun:

  1. Lay on a blanket and look at the stars (download a stargazing app to help!)
  2. Take a walk.
  3. Go to the drive-in movie.
  4. Picnic in the park.
  5. Have dessert by candlelight outside on the porch.
  6. Take a bike ride.
  7. Play putt-putt golf.
  8. Fly a kite together.
  9. Snuggle in a hammock.
  10. Take a shower together after a day of working in the yard.

Mark: Set up time to talk this week about how you’ll prioritize your marriage this summer. Don’t let half the summer pass by without setting a strategy in place!

What about you?  What ideas would you add to this list?  What regular routines do you do as a couple in the summer? 

My Faith-Filled Friend

One of the hardest parts of having cancer is making new friends only to lose way too many of them in death. I don’t believe I’ve ever grieved the loss of so many friends as I have the past three years.

It happened again two weeks ago when my friend Angela passed away. Angela was about six months ahead of me on the breast cancer journey. She was one of a small group of women I fondly called my “chemo coaches.” They had gone before me and helped me know what was on the road ahead.

Angela wasn’t a new friend, though. She and I had known each other for a long time. We shared a love of music, we homeschooled together, we both served on the Board of Directors at Hearts at Home in the early years of the ministry.

When I saw her husband’s post on her CaringBridge page that she was now safe in the arms of Jesus, I bawled my eyes out. Another. Friend. Lost. To. Cancer.

I silently told myself I wasn’t sure I could attend Angela’s memorial service. It’s just too hard. I would probably uncontrollably cry the whole time. Then I got a Facebook message from her husband…. “Would you be willing to say a few words at the memorial service, Jill?”

How could I say no?  She was my friend.

This world is a broken place. It’s a place of joy but also a place of pain, brokenness, and unanswered questions.

If your heart is broken for whatever reason, you need to know you’re not alone. If you’re asking why and getting no answers, you can still trust the unknown answers to a known God.

Life is not so much about finding the answers but rather living with the questions.

I don’t understand why my friend’s life was cut short. But here’s what I do know: Angela’s faith never wavered in the midst of her four-year cancer fight. When I last visited with her and she shared such excitement about her new Bible reading plan, she challenged me in my faith journey. She knew God and couldn’t get enough of Him and His word. Even in the midst of cancer, Angela’s light shone bright.

Angela understood that even when it is not well with our circumstances, it can be well with our soul.

May it be the same for each of us.