Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Living out grace

What if we treated each other with more kindness and compassion?

Recently, my kids were telling me about how someone they thought was a cranky person had done something nice, and they were shocked. We chatted a bit more and I told them to remember that you never know someone’s story. You never know what has made them like they are.

I keep thinking about that conversation. We don’t need to excuse or accept bad behavior. But, this world could use so much more grace. A few years ago, I was driving with my grandma in the car. Someone pulled out in front of me, and I had to slam on my brakes. I honked at them. My grandma admonished me telling me they may be on their way to the hospital with a loved one. I pointed out they were going the wrong direction.

However, just because they weren’t heading toward the hospital didn’t mean they weren’t having an awful day. When I think back over my life to the days that were the worst and I was heartbroken, I don’t know how much attention I paid while driving, so maybe having some grace for other drivers isn’t such a bad thing.

We’ve all heard platitudes and reminders to be kind because everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. It’s easy to gloss over that or roll our eyes or certainly not live it out. But, imagine what the world would be like if we lived that way and people extended grace to each other freely.

What if we let a frazzled mom with a crying toddler checkout in front of us at Target and waited an extra 10 minutes? What if we let another car go first at a stop sign? What if we took the time to actually listen to the older gentleman in the grocery store who just needed someone to talk to? What if we were just plain kind? What if we modeled Jesus everywhere we went? Isn’t that what loving your neighbor ultimately means? Shouldn’t we have patience for one other and give grace to those around us?

I think about how different this world would be if people just tried to understand one another instead of being so internally focused. If everyone walked around wearing a sign telling you all of their struggles, you’d be more likely to show them compassion and grace.

That older lady who knocked into you with her shopping cart and didn’t apologize may have just gotten a cancer diagnosis seven months after burying her husband. That child having a meltdown in the middle of a restaurant (or your own house!) may have had an incredibly hard day at school and is struggling to make friends. People need grace, because not one of us is perfect.

And I would be remiss to not mention that some people are just jerks for no reason. I’ve encountered them, and I’m sure you have, too. There isn’t an acceptable reason for truly bad behavior. But that doesn’t mean the majority of people aren’t good. That doesn’t mean we should stop being kind and extending grace.

You never know if your one act of kindness or grace may change someone’s life for the better. At the very least, it will brighten their day. What are some small ways you can show grace and kindness this week? Join me in seeking them out, living them out and starting to change the world for the better!

Balancing summer break and mom guilt

Mom guilt intensifies when summer break rolls around!

This summer, my kids are 6 and 9. It’s also the first summer I’ve had very much work to do in nearly a decade. With my youngest starting kindergarten last school year, I decided to accept more freelance writing and editing projects like I did full-time before I had children.

All of this combines to me working to find a good balance this summer break between getting work and responsibilities done and hanging out with my kids.

For some reason, parents of my generation tend to feel responsible for entertaining our children. That sounds silly and most of us would say that isn’t a bit true, because we don’t really intend it to be that way. Yet, here we are saddled with mom guilt.

Feeling the guilt

Even though I don’t feel like it’s my job to entertain my children, I feel guilty when I don’t. It isn’t my job to be their playmate or to make sure that they have something to keep them busy or engaged all the time. We are very intentional, in fact, about keeping our schedule from getting too busy so that our kids can have downtime on their own.

So feeling mom guilt for saying no to playing with my children because I have work to do, chores to do or maybe just don’t feel like playing at the moment seems crazy. But, it happens to me and I’d guess it happens to most moms.

Because the flip side is that we know our babies are growing up. My kids are different this summer than they were last summer. I know that all too soon they won’t want me to play with them. Much sooner than I want, they won’t even want toys to play with any longer. So I don’t want to miss a moment.

Perspective on what they really need

Yet, isn’t it important for my kids to see that the world doesn’t revolve around them and that I don’t revolve around them? It is. I know it is. I know my own parents didn’t spend their summers playing with and entertaining me every single moment.

My dad was busy working long days. My mom was home with us on summer break, and she still had household chores and such to do. I remember spending hours playing school or Barbies or even library in my bedroom. I remember making up dance routines. I remember having really good summers!

There were certainly times that my parents played with me and did things with me. They were (and still are!) good parents. But I don’t know that they felt obligated to make sure I was entertained.

Figuring out the balance

And that’s the balance I’m trying to sort out. How do I make their childhood special and memorable without making my life all about theirs? How do I make sure the see what good work ethic looks like? How do I not miss a moment? How do I enjoy them and not make them feel like a burden or distraction to my work?

It’s a tricky balance. Honestly, I’ve been praying about it since the kids were in the last couple of weeks of school. Because I don’t want to get through their childhoods and regret that I didn’t spend more time with them.

This summer I am going to be intentional about making my kids figure out what to do with their own time a couple of hours each day while I work from home. But I am also going to show them that they are a priority and take time to do fun things with them.

I am going to be there. We are going to make memories in the small moments. I don’t know what they will think when they’re grown up. I hope they can look back and say they had good summers. I am almost positive they aren’t going to look back and say, “I wish my mom entertained me more.”

All they want and need is my love. And that is the easy part. My love is something they will always have completely every moment of every day. That doesn’t require a bit of mom guilt!

We need to stop setting dads up for failure

Joking about the incompetence of fathers is damaging our families

We’ve all seen the classic sitcom bit where the mom goes away for a couple of days and leaves the dad in charge. She comes home to chaos and a frazzled husband. That story line has also been used in commercials and all sorts of other ways.

Stop setting dads up for failure

The subliminal takeaway from those scenarios: dads just aren’t as competent as moms. They don’t cut it. And, eventually, they shouldn’t even try.

Complimenting dads for doing what they’re supposed to

We compliment dads for doing things like taking their children shopping or to school. My husband once got a compliment from a grandfather who had seen him taking our kids to school every morning. Why is it that dads doing what they’re supposed to be doing for their children is seen as so out of the ordinary?

I daresay it’s because of the message we get from media, and it’s time for that message to stop.

What dad should be doing

I grew up in a home where both my parents did household chores, especially once my mom started working outside of the home when my brother and I got older. Now both my parents are retired, and my dad continues to do things like vacuum the house and wash clothes.

I didn’t expect anything different when I got married. Then when our daughter was born in 2009, I didn’t even think to question whether my husband would be hands-on and involved with her. Why wouldn’t he? He’s her dad.

Old school attitudes about dads

But, that attitude isn’t always the case. I also very clearly remember an older relative advising a cousin who had just had a new baby not to leave the baby alone with her husband for a while because he was a man and wouldn’t know what to do.

The reality of modern dads

It’s just not true. My husband figured some things out about our babies before I did. He jumped in and changed diapers right from the beginning. We approached parenting just like we do life: as a team.

Stop setting dads up for failure

When my son was a newborn, my husband was driving 60 miles one-way to work every day. He’d stay up as late as he could to help me manage our unhappy little guy. (Our son didn’t sleep much at all for the first three months.) One night in my exhaustion, I went to change his diaper and found a note my husband had left for me reminding me to wake him up if I needed a break.

That’s far from incompetence. That’s a father. That’s love. And that’s what dads do — or should do. That’s part of a healthy family.

The effect on our families

Yet, we treat them like they don’t know what they’re doing with kids. We expect dads will fail and not do something as good as we do. We overly criticize them for doing things differently. We have to stop because that is only harming dads and our children as a result! We are damaging our families by not trusting dads to parent.

People usually live up to the expectations set for them. So if we are expecting dads to fail, eventually that’s what they’re going to do. Or at the very least, they will stop trying if every time they do something they get ridiculed or criticized.

Embracing the differences

Does my husband do things the same way I do? Nope. I usually pack the kids’ lunches during the school year, but sometimes he does instead. He doesn’t always use the containers I use, he cuts the sandwiches differently and sends more grapes than I do. But he is still making them a nutritious lunch. And it’s completely fine.

My husband plays with our kids differently as well. I’m thankful for that. We have different strengths and weaknesses and work together to raise our kiddos. It’s a team effort through and through. We need to recognize the important role that good fathers play.

Set the right expectations

We need to expect all fathers to step up to the plate and do what they’re supposed to be doing. I look around and see all sorts of good dads in my generation. My husband is awesome, but he’s also not alone. I see dads bringing their kids to birthday parties, playing with their kids on the playground and showing up to every school event.

Dads aren’t incompetent buffoons. We need to stop cracking jokes at their expense. We need to respect their role in child-rearing as much as we do mothers’ roles. We can compliment dads and moms alike for the good job their doing, but not just for the mere sake of showing up like they should be anyway.

My message to all the dads out there in the thick of it with their kids packing lunches, taking them to school and practices, figuring out how to put in ponytails and patiently going over sight words: keep up the good work! We know you’re not incompetent and will stop making jokes to the contrary.

Bacon ranch cheese bread

Frozen dough and precooked bacon make this bread as easy as it is delicious!

Affiliate links are used in this post; if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

Sometimes I try recipes and they flop. Other times, they become a staple. This is one such recipe. I first came across it way back in 2001 in a magazine called “Quick Cooking” that was put out by “Taste of Home.” The magazine may no longer exist, but this recipe remains in my family. 

This recipe is the one I make for my husband when I owe him something — like when he overhauls my technology or sets up a website for me. He is a technical genius. I am not so much. I can’t come close to affording his actual hourly rate, but fortunately for me, he accepts this bacon ranch cheese bread as payment.

Most of the time, I make it just for him, but it also works nicely for a carry-in dinner. The best part is that it starts with frozen bread dough and pre-cooked bacon, so it is pretty darn easy.

Of course you can use your own bread dough recipe and cook bacon fresh if you want. Back when I was first making this recipe, I had no clue how to even make my own bread dough. Nowadays I do, but I still go with the frozen for this recipe.

It’s up to you whether to cook your bacon first or thaw your bread dough. I usually cook the bacon first in the microwave. I get it good and crispy then set it aside while I do the dough. The benefit to making the bacon first is that it has time to cool before you have to crumble it up later in the recipe. I’ve done it both ways and have nearly burnt my fingertips breaking up hot bacon!

After your bacon is all nice and crispy, it’s time to thaw the bread dough. When I first started making this bread, I assumed you thawed bread dough much like you thaw anything else. So I put it in the microwave on the setting to thaw for meat. I set it for 1 pound. It’s not the correct way to thaw bread dough, but it works for this recipe. Seriously. You don’t have to plan way ahead or anything. Thaw it in the microwave like you would anything else. You could also leave it out at room temperature for a few hours.

While your dough is thawing, go ahead and turn your oven on to 200-degrees to preheat for dough rising.

Once your dough is thawed, put it on a cutting board and roll it out to about 1/2-inch thick, so it looks something like this:

Next you brush it with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Then it’s time to cut it into about 1-inch squares. You can use a dough cutter for this, but I am a fan of just using a really sharp knife. I love ceramic knives because they really do stay sharp! And your pieces don’t have to be exactly 1-inch in size, but they should be close in size so they all bake at the same rate.

Next you put your bread dough pieces into a bowl. I use my glass batter bowl with a lid, because you have to cover it and shake it. You could cover a bowl with plastic wrap if you want also.

Add the other 1 tablespoon of oil, cheese, bacon and ranch dressing mix to the dough in the bowl. I’ve tried adding the items in various orders and it really doesn’t seem to matter what order I add the ingredients. It will look something like this:

Cover the bowl with its lid or plastic wrap and shake it all around so the pieces get coated. If your kids are helping you, they love shaking the bowl — or at least mine do! When you’re finished, it should look like this:

Next, prepare a cookie sheet. You can spray it with non-stick cooking spray or do what I do and use Reynolds Non-Stick Aluminum Foil. I love the stuff. I use it for recipes like this so I have have easy clean-up and even use it by itself to serve as a baking sheet for smaller frozen pizzas. Parchment paper would also work.

Put the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. I usually just dump it in the center and then spread it out a bit into a large oval shape.

Cover the bread (I usually use foil to do this.) Put the bread into your oven preheated to 200 and turn off the oven. Let the bread rise for about 30 minutes until its doubled. Turn the oven to 350-degrees and once it is at temperature, remove the foil from the top of the bread (but hang onto it for later!).

Bake it 15 minutes then cover the bread with foil and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. It will look like this:

So good! You can serve it warm or at room temperature. My husband likes to dip it in honey, but you can also dip it in ranch dressing or just eat it as is.

Bacon bread


  • 12 bacon strips diced
  • 1 loaf 1 pound frozen bread dough, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil divided
  • 1 cup 4 oz. shredded pizza or Italian blend cheese
  • 1 envelope 1 oz. ranch salad dressing mix


  • Partially cook bacon; drain on paper towels. (I use the pre-cooked bacon and cook it in the microwave until crispy.)
  • Roll out dough to 1/2-inch thickness; brush with 1 tablespoon of oil.
  • Cut into 1-inch pieces; place in a large bowl.
  • Add the bacon, cheese and dressing mix and remaining oil; toss to coat.
  • Arrange pieces in a 9×5-inch oval on a baking sheet lined with Reynold’s Non-Stick Aluminum Foil, layering as needed. (You can also grease your baking sheet or use parchment paper; I like the non-stick foil best for this.)
  • Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled. (I turn my oven to 200-degrees while I’m preparing the bread. Then I turn it off and let the bread sit in the slightly warmed over to double.)
  • Bake at 350-degrees for 15 min. Cover with foil; bake 5-10 min. longer or until golden brown.

When your spouse gives you unsolicited advice

Accepting advice from the person we’re married to can be challenging!

Affiliate links are used in this post; if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

This post first appeared on my former blog in 2014. Its message still applies. While I continue to get better at accepting unsolicited advice from my husband, I am still a work in progress!

It happened this morning. I was in the kitchen making some homemade bread, which in and of itself sounds impressive, right? Add in that I was doing so while the toddler randomly swirled around my feet whining and while keeping track of eggs boiling on the stove for tonight’s chef salad dinner sounds even more impressive, I’m sure.

My daughter was at the table playing. My husband was on the couch in the dining room checking work e-mails and helping to keep the roaming toddler from eating things out of the trashcan. I got the bread going in my beloved stand mixer and set the timer for eight minutes to let the dough get worked around in the mixer. And that’s when it happened.

“Is the mixer supposed to jump around like that?” my husband asked.

I almost rolled my eyes. THIS was my domain. I was the one who was the expert. After all, I’d had the mixer just over a year and had read at least six bread recipes on Pinterest. I’d heard about stand mixers jumping around while kneading dough.

“Yes,” I said. “It did this last time, too.”

A minute later he piped up with, “Does it lock?  Do you have it locked?”

Another silent sigh from me. “Yes, it locks, but it’s not locked.”

“What I’m reading online says you’re supposed to lock the top down.”

Hhmmm. OK. I flipped the switch. “Now it’s locked,” I said.

And I noticed the mixer did settle down a bit. My husband went on to tell me that he had read some tips. He was right on this, even though I had not sought his advice.  

A moment later my phone dinged with new e-mail. I checked it to see if it was a source I’ve been waiting to hear from for an article. Nope. It was an e-mail from my husband with links to a couple of sites with helpful tips about my Kitchenaid mixer that I love so dearly.

“You sent me an e-mail about the mixer?” I asked, incredulously.  

I was trying to remind myself to be grateful for the accurate albeit unsolicited advice. In my head, I was thinking more along the lines of, “Back off, buddy. THIS is MY domain. Do I come into your office and tell you how to test the security of that company’s network?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I found some good information. From what I read, you could actually break your stand mixer and I know you wouldn’t be happy about that.”

I gritted my teeth. He was right. Dang it! “Thanks,” I said. “I appreciate it.”

I’ll pretend like I was gracious in that response. But the fact that he then looked at me and informed me he saw right through me to know I was bristling will tell you that my tone did not match my words.

We get all sorts of unsolicited advice from a variety of sources. If you’re a parent, it comes in from the beginning. Everybody and their brother tells you ways to get your baby to sleep better, eat better, poo better and on and on the list goes. From outside sources, it’s easy enough to be polite and then move on. But inside sources, like our spouses, offering unsolicited advice can be much tougher to handle.

This isn’t the first time my husband has given me unsolicited advice and I’m sure it won’t be the last. And while my response today wasn’t super stellar, it was at least tempered by the fact that I know his advice to be sound and I know it to be coming from a good place. Men like to fix things. He likes to help me fix things.

And he knows me quite well. I have done many tasks throughout our marriage and my life that I’ve made more difficult than I need to. He’s swooped in and saved me multiple times in the past.

I’m learning to listen. I’m learning to try and be more grateful on the outside in hopes that it will follow on the inside. I’ve also learned that I do eventually feel grateful on the inside. At the moment of the advice, I don’t. I feel criticized and annoyed. But later on, I realize that my life has been improved as a result of this advice. Because, shockingly enough, I don’t actually know everything!

I’ve learned this with parenting alongside my husband as well. He’s found tricks to help with the kids that I haven’t (and vice versa). Between our daughter’s and son’s births, I learned to listen better and not be irritated with him. After all, he was the first to figure out what was going on with our daughter’s feeding issues.  

He has good information. My husband is a smart man who thinks outside the box and is tenacious to come up with solutions and easier ways to do things. This is part of what I love about him. This is part of what makes him such a great husband and life partner.  

In fact, I’ve learned to seek his advice in areas of my life that I hadn’t thought to early on because I know he’s so good at coming up with awesome solutions. But when advice comes at me when I’m not looking for it and I think I know the best way to do something, then I get defensive. (And did I mention that I am also a bit stubborn?)

I’m working to accept unsolicited advice as graciously as if I had asked for the help. Later today, I will tell my husband that I am sincerely grateful for his tip about the mixer. It makes sense. His suggestions worked better and if it saves my beloved mixer from harm, that’s even better. I do appreciate it.  

And step by step, maybe I’ll get better at being more grateful sooner than later. Talk to me in another 20 years and we’ll see. I hope I make more progress. If not, perhaps I’ll ask my husband for his advice on how to do so!

With advice from my husband, my stand mixer is still working well five years later. I love it so much! Read more about my love for my stand mixer here:

Be sure to check out some of my favorite recipes I use my stand mixer for!

A reminder for parents: Let kids be kids!

Parenting with grace for who your kids are right now

Affiliate links are used in this post; if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

Last weekend, my in-laws had my kiddos over for the day. My husband and I did some work around the house. Then we went to a late-afternoon movie. My husband likes the John Wick movies. I don’t enjoy the violence in them, but I love movie popcorn, so I was convinced to go along.

As we were waiting for the movie to start, we heard parents with a toddler a couple of rows behind us. We talked about whether they had gone into the wrong theater and didn’t realize it. When they were still there through previews, which included a few for horror movies that had me looking away, we whispered to each other whether we should tell the manager. Because based on the previews alone they had to know they weren’t seeing a children’s movie.

We decided that since the movie is rated R and says you can’t go to see it without a parent’s permission, there wasn’t anything a manager could even do. The parents were clearly giving their child permission to be there even though the child wasn’t even old enough to need her own movie ticket.

Throughout the entire movie, until about 15 minutes before it ended, we heard this little girl. She wasn’t being disruptive, but she was being a typical 2- or 3-year-old who wanted to chat, play and not be in her seat. The mom finally took her out just before the movie ended.

I closed my eyes or looked away for a good portion of the movie. It bothered me all the more that a toddler was seeing these scenes and hearing some of the things being said. Part way through the movie, I whispered to my husband that I just wanted to go get the little girl and take her out to the hallway to play as I heard her parents continue to shush her and tell her to sit and be quiet. (It really couldn’t have been a good experience for any of them!)

I do my best to not judge other parents. I understand parents have different styles, personalities and parenting priorities. I do my best to give people the benefit of the doubt and even assume they are doing the best they can, but this situation bothered me immensely. I’ve thought through various scenarios and can’t come up with one good reason to take a toddler to a rated R movie.

Toddlers are old enough to understand some of the world around them. I know the little girl was seeing and hearing what was on the screen because she commented on it a few times. Her mom thought it was funny when the little girl said that the preview for the movie “Chucky” looked like a scary version of “Toy Story.”

Unfortunately that wasn’t the only bad parenting experience I encountered recently. The next day at the grocery store, a mom walked by with a baby in her cart who was maybe 8 months old. He started to put his mouth on the side of the cart. She yelled at him and told him the cart had germs on it. She loudly told him to go ahead and pout all he wanted.

While she isn’t wrong in what she said, her approach was more suited for a toddler or preschooler than a baby. Her baby wasn’t old enough to understand what she meant. He was just scared because she was yelling at him in a complete over-reaction.

I completely admit I did judge these parents and fully say they are wrong for their actions. Both situations made me want to lecture the parents. I can perhaps give the mom in the grocery store a bit of leeway, because we all have bad moments. But both sets of parents need to hear this message: kids deserve to be kids.

I don’t mean that we let our children get away with anything they want to because they are kids. Heck, no! It’s our job to mold them and teach them. It’s our job to help them understand the world around them, their role in it and how to behave.

But, we also have to understand their capacity for behavior. For example, I don’t expect my 6-year-old to have the maturity of my 9-year-old. I also don’t expect my 9-year-old to have the maturity of a 13-year-old.

And with all of that in mind, we have to also realize that our kids won’t be the ages they are now forever, so making some sacrifices of your own needs and wants isn’t forever and is exactly what you should be doing.

For instance, I remember many times when my kids were younger that I planned things around their napping schedule, which wasn’t always convenient, because I knew they needed those naps and would feel better with them.

Or now they are school aged, I keep our weekly commitments to a minimum so they have time for homework and downtime before getting ready for and being in bed by 8 p.m.

Parenthood is work. It is understanding that someone else’s needs almost always have to come before yours. It’s making sacrifices to do what’s best for your child. Maybe that means you have to wait for a movie to come out to rent. Or that you bring along a blanket or buy a cart seat cover to protect your baby from germs. (I loved having a cart seat cover for my kids; it protected them from germs and had toys attached to keep them occupied.)

Our kids are only kids for a short while. We need to do our best to let them be kids. We need to do our best to embrace the phase they’re in and not expect more of them than they are able to give. We need to remember their ages. We need to let kids be kids.

My test with my own kids is thinking (not saying out loud!), “What are you a [insert their current age]-year-old?” Chances are really good the answer is yes! If this is behavior that is to be expected of a child that age, then our children deserve some grace.

They may need instruction. They may need discipline. But they also need grace, because they are learning and deserve the best that we can give them. They deserve a chance to be their age and not be expected to do things beyond their capabilities or handle situations beyond their understanding.

We have chosen to have these children, whether they were planned or not. And as such, we must be willing to do what is best for them, even when that means inconveniencing ourselves.