The One Thing Families Can’t Survive Without

It’s been said that “A good marriage is the union of two forgivers.” I couldn’t agree more. Family life is no different. It requires even more forgiveness and grace than marriages does, simply because there are more people involved!

I would go so far as to say that without forgiveness, families don’t survive. An unforgiving, unyielding parent sets the tone for heartbreak and ruin in years to come.

Family life requires a daily laying down of self, doesn’t it? Motherhood is a series of little and big opportunities to die to ourselves so that our children might flourish. Think of the mom with the newborn who would give almost anything for some sleep—yet cries from the bassinet beckon and she can’t help but smile at the beautiful infant she sees looking up at her. Suddenly, sleep becomes less important than taking care of her baby. On and on it goes, this laying down.

Forgiveness is a laying down, too. It’s a laying down of pride and the selfish desire to be “right.” Learning to be a good forgiver is one key to successful parenting and marriage.

Over the years, I’ve spoken to many moms about this and it seems it’s a common struggle. Sometimes it’s easier to be kind to the woman at WalMart than it is to be gracious to my own kids or my husband.

We easily take our most precious relationships for granted, because we feel the most comfortable with the ones with whom our relationships are the most secure.

I have been on both ends of un-forgiveness in relationships. Both sides hurt. When we refuse to forgive, bitterness is the sure result—and bitterness is the death of real relationship. Over time, unforgiveness becomes poisonous—and the one who suffers the most is the one who won’t forgive.

Unforgiveness is like swallowing poison—and expecting the other person to die.

Refusal to accept another’s apology is equally damaging. Our pride gets in the way and it keeps us from letting the offender off the hook. Of course, in the end, the person on the hook is the one who can’t move on in freedom and forgiveness.

Life is hard. Sometimes, we wait our whole lives for an apology we will never get. I want to challenge you to forgive—even in the absence of a deserved apology. Sometimes, I’ve learned, we must accept the apology we will never get in an effort to bring peace to our own soul and move forward.

Of course, there are things that are not easy to forgive, but forgive we must. Forgive for yourself. Forgive for your children. If you want your children to learn to forgive and move on, they must see you do it first.

As mothers, we are setting the example. Our children are watching us—and actions speak louder than words.

Do you need to be forgiven? Ask for it. Do you need to forgive? Don’t put it off.

Your family is worth it.


Heidi St. John

 Photo courtesy of Lifesong Photography 

What I Did When My Husband Confronted My Parenting


My husband sat across from me over breakfast. Our son sat in his highchair playing and eating. It was over this morning meal my husband confronted me about my parenting.

He gently and respectfully asked,

“Honey, what has changed with you when it comes to feeding our son? We use to be on the same page, but lately I feel like you have thrown out things we have agreed on. You give him whatever you want to and disregard what I think is appropriate.”

I immediately wanted to defend my parenting abilities. I wanted to justify why I give my child portions of things that are not nutritionally valuable including: I don’t want him to miss out, he is over one so its ok, and a little won’t hurt him. I heard these excuses jump out of my mouth before I could soundly consider them. None of which answered my husband’s question as to why I decided to deviate from the plan without his consideration. I wanted to fight for what I had done, for the choices I’d advocated for our son, and for the example I lead in my own eating habits, but as I was confronted, God showed me the best thing I could do was apologize.

I wasn’t able to apologize right away because my flesh always gets in the way of that! We got hung up on a few frustrating arguments surrounded around he said/she said, what was generally said and exactly mentioned. Then finally I came around…

“I am so sorry. I am aware that I lack self-control when it comes to my eating habits and I am sure that a part of me that justifies poor eating for me, also does the same thing with our son. I am also sorry for choosing to disregard decisions we made as a family to offer him healthy food over junk food. That was disrespectful of me. I want to be on the same page with you as we parent together.”

Those words took a little more effort to blurt out than the ones that seem so confident about justifying poor behavior. But once said, I realized how much they were truly needed.

My husband is a patient man. Although he had made small comments here and there over the last few months to encourage healthy eating, I pushed his words and his intentions to parent a specific way aside, pridefully believing that it would be ok.

The truth is that I neglected to follow through on goals we made together to feed our son in a healthy way. Although my son receives some of the best nutritional food on the market, I was sneaking him ice cream bites, cookies, crackers, fries and many more types of foods that are not as nutritional all under the banner of acceptability. I told myself a little won’t hurt him, in fact he will love it!

If my actions were never confronted by my husband, I could have been a catalyst for poor eating throughout my child’s life. If I am not careful, I still can be. The choices I make for my son will influence how he makes decisions as an adult. I am helping shape him.

Parenting also affects marriage. If my parenting disrespects my husband the contention from that will cause strife and bitterness. It is vital that I am aware of the choices I make in parenting and consider how they will affect my marriage.  All of which I should be submitting to God.

I believe it is important for husbands and wives to parent on the same page and give each other room to confront each other. We are our children’s greatest advocates and there is a lot of responsibility that comes with that, there nutrition being a big part. After being confronted, I was humbled and then I was inspired to make changes to better the quality of life my family experiences. I want to respect the goals my husband and I make together and I want to help advocate for good clean eating, as well as so much more.

If any of you have been confronted as a parent, especially if your spouse confronted you, I urge you to grip the defense that wants to fight and prayerfully consider if God wants to use that confrontation to show you how you can be better!

- Jennifer Smith 

When Femininity Becomes a Bad Word

I smoothed the soft lines of my favorite lilac suit jacket as I returned to my seat. As a second-semester graduate student studying television producing, it had been my task to pitch a script to my classmates. Once I’d finished, my female professor kicked off her comments with, “Your suit is too feminine.”

Twelve years later, it’s the only feedback I remember from that day: That my femininity – my femaleness – was something to shy away from and mask if I wanted to succeed in this field.

And perhaps it’s true. After all, it was spoken by a woman who’d come to her professorship with at least a decade of on-the-set experience.

That day, in that classroom, in that Christian graduate school, femininity had become a bad word.

What I also remember, though, is that I left the classroom that afternoon determined. Not determined to donate my suit to Goodwill, but determined to continue wearing it. Determined to not lose sight of the fact that I was, as David wrote in the Psalms, “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and this included my God-given femininity. That it wasn’t something to mask or shy away from, but to embrace.

I didn’t go on to pursue television producing as a career. But I did go on to get married and produce four little girls.

And here’s what I’m realizing: Our culture tells us the same thing when it comes to our marriages. That our femininity – the unique way we are different from our husbands – isn’t something to celebrate. Rather it’s something to fight against. Because embracing it? Well, that makes us not equal to the task. Weak. Less. Doormats, even.

As a result, femininity becomes a naughty word. A bad thing. Something we should eagerly throw off in pursuit of sameness. Because in this lack of diversity, there’s strength, right?

But this couldn’t be further from the truth, of course.

I love what Suzanne Venker has to say. She writes, “The problem with equality is that it implies two things are interchangeable – meaning one thing can be substituted for the other with no ramifications…. But the truth must be heard. Being equal in worth, or value, is not the same as being identical, interchangeable beings.”

So what’s the answer for us as Christian wives and mothers? How do we respond when culture tells us that our femininity makes us weak? Less? Doormats, even?

It’s fairly simple.

We need to remember that in God’s vocabulary, femininity is a good word.

You see, on that historic sixth day in that first garden – the day when God created His greatest masterpieces in man and woman – he looked at these two very different beings and called them both good. He said masculinity and femininity were equally wonderful. Each worthy in their own right, but clearly different. And not just different, but complementary.

And when God says something is good, it is. Without a doubt.

Today, I no longer have that lilac suit. Even if I did, I doubt it would fit. After five pregnancies and four full-term babies, my waistline isn’t what it used to be. But that’s okay. I don’t need a lilac suit to remind me that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made,” my God-given femininity and all.

It’s my hope that you don’t either.



For practical ways to cultivate and strengthen unity in your marriage, check out my book, Team Us: Marriage Together. Also, take my fun quiz, What TV Couple Are You and Your Love Most Like?


An Ordinary Hero

An Ordinary Hero

Lori Greiner of the ABC hit show Shark Tank, states that she can spot it instantly: a hero or a zero. Greiner is an entrepeneur and visionary, able to do what most cannot- deduce quality at a mere glance.  Longevity and quality, Greiner would maintain, stand out to her.

And so it was when I met my husband.  Sitting in the class at our church that Sunday morning, I glanced around the room and my vision locked in on him.  Kindness, was the first thought.  Gentleness, the second.  My college-honed eyes were accustomed to weighing guys in the balance.  Nope, not for me, was the regular inward refrain.

Until that Sunday.   The day that changed his life, and mine.

Twelve years have since have come and gone, and with them stretched skin and shadows and lines around our eyes.  Our life together shows itself, and not all of the lines are from laughter.

What Makes a Hero, Anyway?

The past dozen years have also displayed that I made the right assessment, and that he is indeed, a hero.  Not the kind of hero my toddler still believes exists.  But the kind that flies below the radar of recognized greatness, quietly owning his obligations.  To borrow the words Aunt May spoke to Peter Parker’s Spiderman: With great power, comes great responsibility.  And it is in his exercise of responsible leading, my husband has become ever admirable to me.

hero quote

Let me show you what ordinary heroism has looked like to a Mom with a handful of small children:

  • Committing to vows which defend, guard and maintain a marriage
  • Standing beside a hospital bed, gently coaching our little ones into the world.
  • Staying up long nights, to share the challenge of months of broken sleep.
  • Focusing on his life at work, so that he performs not one role, but two.  And well.
  • Noting the discouragement of an overburdened wife, and encouraging her to continue on, because it matters.
  • Defending the values of our home, so that our family is protected and bettered.

And in all of this, exercising patience and mercy. If your husband does any or all of these things, you have a good man on your hands.

The Heroism of Ordinary

In many ways, it would be easier for my husband or yours, to be the kind of hero our media- minds are accustomed to.  The kind that bursts into life at terrifying moments- saving, rescuing, solving.  And is then whisked away until the next time he is needed.  Ultimately, that would be more exciting.

But instead, he vows his faith and single-minded commitment to each day.  Always waking to greet his responsibilities.  Always going to sleep when they have been met.  There is very little excitement and to be honest, not enough praise.  And this is where his ordinariness plants him in a category reserved for those brave enough to face thesame old with grace and love and determination.

Hebrews refers to the ordinary as something far greater than we make it.  By faith Abraham, Isaac, David and the prophets lived.  By faith they persevered.  And by faith, they attained the crown of righteousness.  Simple men living ordinary lives, yet by faith.  God calls these men out as worthy of notice and praise, and we should do no less.

Your ordinary man is gifted by God to do what he does best – to live by faith, and through that example to inspire faith for future generations.  It takes grit.  It takes resolve.

And in that daily and determined expression, lives a quiet but inspiring heroism.


Maryanne Helms is Mom to 4 beautiful children.  She has a passion for encouraging women in the high call the Gospel places on their lives.  She blogs at For Your Tomorrow.  (

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