What Weeding Taught Me About Taking Care of My Health

Most mornings I spend an hour or so weeding before I take my shower and get ready for my day. I love being out in the quiet of the morning. It’s my time with God, time to think, and my opportunity to get my hands dirty. God teaches me so many lessons while weeding. Last week I shared a principle God taught me about parenting while I was weeding. Today I want to share with you a principle God reminded me of about taking care of my health.

After helping both our parents with some landscaping, Mark and I made off like bandits with a ton of new hostas! We have several areas in our yard where grass doesn’t grow well due to the shade, so we decided those areas would be just perfect for the hostas.  We planted them and then mulched around the plants. Once every week or two I go out to keep the hosta gardens cleaned up and weed free.

Dandelions are one of the worst weeds to deal with. You can’t just “pull” them. Instead you have to dig deep to make sure you get the entire root. And those puppies are looooooooooooong!

However, when I stay on top of the weeding and I catch the dandelions when they’re small, I don’t have to dig at all. Most of the time I can just grab hold of the plant right where it enters the ground and pull. The root isn’t very long when the plant is small and hasn’t yet flowered.

In October 2013, after my annual pap smear and breast exam appointment, my doctor scheduled my annual mammogram. Because my aunt, mother, and grandmother had all had breast cancer, I’d been getting an annual mammogram since the age of 40. My doctor found nothing to be concerned about in her breast exam. I’d found nothing on my regular self-exam either. But we always followed my annual “female” appointment with a scheduled mammogram.

This time, however, the mammogram showed something of concern so a biopsy was ordered. And the biopsy came back with a cancer diagnosis.

Nothing could have prepared my heart for that day.

Cancer.

The following days and weeks were a blur as I discovered more about breast cancer than I ever wanted to know. Mark and I learned about the treatment options and decisions were made.

One of the most important things I learned, however, is HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO CATCH CANCER EARLY.

Just like extracting those dandelions out of the ground when they’re small, if you catch cancer early you have a much better chance of extracting it out of your body. We caught my cancer so early that I most likely would have only needed surgery and possibly radiation. However, my type of breast cancer–triple negative–also required chemotherapy regardless of when the cancer is caught.

Still, my chance of recurrence is quite low because we caught it early, treated it aggressively, and I made many lifestyle changes concerning food choices, weight control, and exercise.

You and I need to take a lesson on self-care from nature and be intentional about catching things early. Been waiting to schedule that colonoscopy? Don’t wait…do it today. What about a mammogram or your annual pap smear?  Pick up the phone now and make the appointment. What about taking care of your teeth? Been to the dentist in the last six months? Get an appointment on the calendar! Need to lose some weight? Today’s a perfect day to get serious about that.

It doesn’t have to be cancer we’re preventing with early care. Last year I was dealing with knee and shoulder pain. My knee had been bothering me for some time but I just pushed through it. I’d also had a pain in my shoulder and it was becoming harder and harder to do push ups in the kickboxing class Mark and I took together. I chalked it up to my 52-year-old body that was simply revolting against all I was asking it to do. I didn’t have either one checked out but just kept pushing forward until one day when my shoulder wouldn’t hold any of my weight and it hurt to raise it above my head.

A trip to the doc and a couple of MRI’s later, I found out I had a torn meniscus in my knee and a full rotator cuff tear in my shoulder. Oh joy. Had I listened to my body when it first started talking to me I might have saved myself shoulder surgery in particular. I could have possibly strengthened my shoulder when it was a small tear and prevented it from fully tearing.

So last week when I was weeding, God used those little, easy-to-pull-out baby dandelions as a reminder of why it’s important to do both preventative healthcare AND to pay attention when my body is telling me something is wrong.

What about you? What do you need to pay attention to? Do you have a genetic history you need to take seriously? What regular preventative healthcare do you need to put on your calendar? 

CEU’s for Marriage?

Marriage Monday

Mark: Last week was a week of rest for Jill and I. We spent time enjoying Lake Michigan along with Jill’s parents. It was one of the most restful weeks I’ve had in a long time.

Jill: It was a four hour drive to Holland, Michigan and a five hour drive home because we decided to avoid the interstate and take the scenic country drive home.

Mark: One of the ways Jill and I continue to grow our own marriage is by listening to podcasts, conference recordings, or radio programs on marriage. Last week, the Focus on the Family app provided us three excellent programs:

Getting Unstuck In Your Relationships

Working Together As a Team In Your Marriage

Making Healthy Financial Choices for Life

Jill: We listened, paused, talked, listened, paused, talked all the way to and from Michigan. Learning together gives us shared vocabulary and new perspectives.

Mark: Marriage isn’t a once and done activity. We have to keep learning about marriage, ourselves, and our spouse. We have to be intentional about pursuing CEU’s (Continuing Education Units) in marriage!

Jill: Marriage Monday blog posts are a continuing education opportunity! If you’re not already sharing them with your spouse, consider doing so to give you an opportunity to learn together.

Mark: Attending marriage seminars and retreats are another way to keep learning together. (We currently have No More Perfect Marriage events scheduled for Rochester, MN, Springfield, IL, Scottsdale, AZ, Claremore, OK, and Westerville, OH! Come join us!)

Jill: Reading a book together is also a great option. We’ve done it several ways: 1) Read one copy individually–Mark highlights in blue and I highlight in pink. Then we talk through our highlights and marvel at how little purple there is! We are so different! 2) Read aloud together each night as we crawl in bed. This takes us the longest time to finish a book but usually nets the best discussions as we read. 3) Listen to an audiobook as we drive. 4) Get two copies of a book and each read our own copy, talking about what we’re reading along the way. (No More Perfect Marriages has both Think About It and Talk About It questions at the end of each chapter so it’s a great book to read together in some way!)

Mark: Our No More Perfect Date Night membership site is also a great continuing education opportunity!  Membership is not currently open but you can get on a waiting list to be notified when it opens up again.

Jill: Life gets busy and it’s easy to let our marriage slip to the backburner. It takes intentionality to keep it front and center.

What continuing education strategies are you practicing? Would you add any other strategies to this list? 

Come join me?

Summer has been wonderfully relaxing! My speaking schedule almost comes to a complete halt in the summer. That’s completely fine with me.

With Fall right around the corner, my speaking schedule will ramp up once again. And that’s completely fine with me, too! I love the rhythm of the seasons!

Many of the events I’m speaking at are open to the public and I want to personally invite you to step away from the everyday, take some time for yourself or your marriage, and do an emotional/spiritual/marriage reboot!

Can you join me at one (or more!) of these events?

August 24–Ft. Branch, Indiana–Women’s “Daycation”–Register!

October 6-7–O’Fallon, Missouri--Altered Women’s Retreat–Register Now!

October 21–Springfield, Illinois–The Leader Within You–Earlybird price thru Sept 1

October 27-28–Alpharetta, Georgia–Birds on a Wire SOAR Mom Event–Register today!

November 3-4–Elmhurst, IL–Moms In Prayer UNSHAKEN Event–Earlybird price thru Aug 31

November 10-11–Rochester, MN–No More Perfect Marriages Couples Retreat–Super Earlybird thru September 6! Register now!

The Most Complete College Packing Checklist!

FREE PRINTABLE

It was 15 years ago that I packed up my first kid for college. This month will be my last time I’ll do that job.

I’m definitely feeling all the feels with that!

One day I’m excited for the new season ahead. After all, the last kid will be off the Savage payroll! Wahoo!  We can make love in any room of the house at any time of the day! Wahoo! My husband and I can take off and go somewhere on the weekend without worrying about anyone else! Wahoo! I can pursue some of the things I’ve set aside for years because there was a family to raise. Wahoo!

Then other days I have a sadness about me. I’ve enjoyed raising my family. I loved tucking my littles into bed and listening to their heart. I loved those first few minutes after school or sitting at the dinner table hearing about their day. I’ve loved watching my kids grow into beautiful young adults finding their way in this world. I’ve loved nurturing their faith. Oh it’s not been easy, and there were many days I wanted to figure out how I could resign, but still it’s been fulfilling!

If you’re sending one off to college, I’m betting you’re experiencing all the feels, too!

YOU.ARE.NOT.ALONE

Because I’ve done this for a million years (it feels like it!) I have a few tools to help you along the way!

1) Download my brand new FREE College Dorm Packing List! This is an incredibly complete packing list that will help you and your student think through all he/she needs to take to school!


2) Get Amazon Prime or Amazon Prime for Students. This can be a big help when ordering books and dorm items online.

3. Check out some of my previous blog posts about sending kids off to college:

4) Take my online class They All Flew Out Of the Cuckoo’s Nest on Tuesday, September 12, 7:30-9 pm CST! If you’re getting close or embarking on the empty nest, you will definitely want to sign up for this powerful class that I first taught at the April 2017 Hearts at Home conference and received five-star feedback. I’m so glad technology offers a way to bring this to you without leaving your home! Early bird pricing is available until September 1! Register today and invite your empty nest friends to join you!

If you still have littles at home, share this post with a friend or family member who needs it.

And then hold your kiddos a little closer today. Smile when they talk to you. Take a deep breath when they frustrate you. Apologize when you lose it. Say yes when you can and say no when they need it. As my friend Charlene Baumbich put it: Don’t miss your kids…they’ll be gone before you know it!

What Weeding Taught Me About Parenting

I love to weed. 

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

There’s just something about weeding that I find satisfying. Maybe it’s the sense of accomplishment. Maybe it’s playing in the dirt. Maybe it’s being in the midst of God’s creation. Maybe it’s the beautiful flowers, landscaping, and garden produce I get to enjoy when I keep things weeded.

Weeding provides me an incredible quiet time with the Lord. Talking. Listening. Thinking. Praying.

Last week God really spoke to me during my weeding on three different topics. He used my weeding to help me better understand parenting, taking care of my health, and the condition of my heart. Three diverse topics, but all illustrated well in weeding. So over the next few weeks I’m going to share my discoveries! I’ll start today with parenting.

One of my favorite spots for me to enjoy our flowers and garden plants is sitting on the porch swing on our wrap-around porch. From a distance, the lush green plants seem to be healthy and thriving.

Last week, however, I spent some time fertilizing and trimming up some of the garden plants and I discovered some of my plants weren’t as healthy as a quick glance from a distance made them appear. The heat and humidity had brought powdery mildew to the leaves of my yellow squash and cucumber plants. A closer look revealed that my peony plants had it too! I had to begin to give these plants some individual attention to nurse them back to health.

I chose to simply prune the peony plants down to stubs in the ground as they were covered in the mildew.  I remember my Papaw telling me to just mow over the peony plants every year after they were done blooming and they always came up beautifully the next Spring. The squash and cucumber, however, needed some TLC. I mixed 1 tbsp of baking soda with one gallon of water, poured it into a spray bottle and then treated them daily for 3-4 days and every other day after that until it cleared up.

So what’s that have to do with parenting? 

In our book, No More Perfect Kids, Dr. Kathy Koch and I talk about perfection infection parenting. When the perfection infection invades our parenting we have unrealistic expectations of our kids and we unfairly compare our kids to others. This puts pressure on our kids to perform, breeds disappointment and discontentment, and robs the parent/child relationship of joy.

But there’s good news! There are four antidotes that kick the perfection infection right out of our parenting. One of those is PERCEPTION.

As parents, it’s important to be in tune with our kids. What do they like? What do they dislike? Do they need alone time? Are they creative? Athletic? Musical? What is important to them?

I’ll admit that, with five children, there were times when I simply parented “the herd.” I saw them as a group rather than the individuals that they are. It was like looking at the plants from the porch. They looked okay from a distance, you might say.

The more perceptive I became, the more I was able to see them as unique human beings who have different personalities, temperaments, and skills. When I gave them individual attention, I was better able to see where their “leaves” were wilting, where they were struggling, and where they needed a little TLC.

(PHOTO: What I saw from a distance and then what I saw up close.)

Perception increases when life slows down. It expands when we spend one-on-one time with our kids.

Perception not only helps us see how a child is wired, but it also helps us connect with how he or she is doing emotionally. Kids don’t usually walk up to you and say, “I’m sad today.” Instead, they will lash out at a sibling with words or they will withdraw and be unusually quiet. Perception reads the cues a child is sending.

So my weeding last week reminded me to slow down and look closely at how my loved ones are really doing.  In the same way that I couldn’t see the condition of my plant’s leaves until I looked closely, I can’t see the condition of my kids’ hearts until I give them the individual attention they need and deserve…even as the young adults they are today.

What about you? Where do you need to increase your perception? What are you looking at from a distance that you need to be looking at more closely? 

What Are You (Wrongly) Assigning Meaning To In Your Marriage?

Mark: We do it all the time.

Jill: We see things through our own experiences, history, temperament, personality, and family of upbringing perspective and we determine what someone else means with their words or body language.

Mark: The only problem is that the meaning we assign to it isn’t accurate.

Jill: When that happens, we become offended when offense wasn’t even something the other person meant. Or we become defensive when we misread body language. Or we start an argument with our spouse because we misunderstood what he or she meant with their words.

Mark: I did this for years before Jill learned to be emotionally vulnerable with me. She was strong in crisis and rarely expressed emotion or processed grief with me. This had everything to do with her slow fade of avoiding emotion. However, I read it as “you don’t need me.”

Jill: I can easily do this when Mark expresses apprehension about something. I read it as “unwilling to do something new” when the external processor in him is just expressing his thoughts or feelings about doing something new. He’s not saying he’s unwilling to do it, he’s just talking through his feelings.

Mark: We can also do the same thing with body language. When Jill is quiet I can misread her quietness as a rejection of me or that she’s angry with me when what’s really going on is that my internal processing wife is simply thinking about something.  I tend to misread this because when I was young and my stepdad didn’t talk to me he was usually angry. So I’m assigning meaning to this same experience in my marriage based upon my childhood. The problem is that I’m assigning a wrong meaning to it!

Jill: So what can we do about this bad habit most of us do in marriage? We can ask our thoughts!

Mark: When we ask our thoughts, we simply put what we’re thinking on the table. For instance, I might say to Jill, “When I was a child and my step-dad got silent, he was usually angry with me. You’re quiet today…are you angry with me?”

Jill: Or I might say, “You’re expressing fear about doing this. Are you saying you don’t want to do it or are you just talking through your thoughts and feelings about it?”

Mark: When we ask our thoughts we take away the wrong assumptions and clarify what the other person is thinking, feeling, or communicating.  Go ahead and give it a try! You’ll reduce conflict and increase communication!

What about you? Where are you wrongly assigning meaning in your marriage? Where do you need to ask your thoughts? 

When He Leaves

Three times this week I’ve received an email or Facebook message from someone who has a friend whose husband has left. Because I’ve walked through that horrible experience, each of these women are asking, “How can I help my friend?”

It is truly a precious friend who cares enough to ask that question.

Do you know someone going through a separation or divorce she doesn’t want?  Would you like to know how to help her through this hard season?  Here are 10 practical ways to walk with her through this crisis:

  1. Call her when you’re heading to the store to see if she needs anything. I had a friend do this for me and it was so helpful!  I didn’t want to be at the store because I didn’t want to run into anyone I knew because if they asked, “How are you?” I knew I would be an emotional mess.
  2. If she has young kids, offer to take care of her kids for her once a week or once every other week. She’s now parenting alone and probably needs a break.
  3. Just listen. Don’t offer trite responses or empty platitudes. Offer empathy instead in statements like,“I know that’s incredibly painful,” or “I can only imagine how that would feel.”
  4. Offer to spend time with her when she might have been used to her husband being around. Many women whose husbands leave find evening the hardest because they’re suddenly alone. Ask her what the hardest time of the day is for her and then see if you can occasionally spend that time with her.
  5. Text her scriptures that will remind her of truth. Just google “scriptures when you are brokenhearted” and share some of those with her. Here are a few:
    • “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him— my father’s God, and I will exalt him!” Exodus 15:2
    • “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Psalm 9:9-10
    • “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7-8
    • “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14
    • “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
    • “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27
    • The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
  6. Resist the urge to say, “Let me know what you need.” While that’s a very nice offer, it’s rarely taken seriously because most people in crisis don’t really know what they need. They’re in pain, crushed, fearful, lonely, and in the case of a separation, divorce, or infidelity, they’re likely feeling rejected. Instead of a broad offer, be more specific by saying, “I have two hours Tuesday afternoon, what home project can I help you do that’s been bothering you?” or, “I’d like to take the kids to the park to give you a break, would Thursday evening work for that?”
  7. If infidelity is a part of the picture, you might get your friend a copy of my little ebook Your Next Steps: What To Do When Your Spouse Is Unfaithful. I wrote that book to help folks dealing with infidelity to find their spiritual and emotional footing when the rug has been pulled out from under their marriage.
  8. Offer to sit with her at church. If she attends church with you, invite her to sit with you so she doesn’t have to sit alone. (This is also a gift to a widow.)
  9. Stand with her. If she is choosing to stand for her marriage, believing that restoration can happen, stand with her. Even if you don’t want to see her hurt anymore, resist the urge to tell her to give up. Some people choose to stand even after divorce takes place, and there are certainly restoration stories that happen years later. If this is what her heart tells her to do, be willing to go the long-haul with her.
  10. Pray. Pray with her and pray for her. Text her prayers when God lays her on your heart.

Separation and divorce are very isolating experiences. One of the best gifts we can give is the gift of ourselves during this heartbreaking time in a friend’s life. This is a practical way for us to live out being better together.

What about you? Have you been through separation or divorce or helped a friend who was? Would you add anything to this list?