Dear Newlyweds, Be “Ring Polishers”

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3 NIV

Dirty dishes, soapy residue, cleaning chemicals, lotion, Playdoh, and sand…. My wedding band (the most precious piece of jewelry I own) has been through it all.

I remember the night I received the first half of it… It was our private engagement at a very special restaurant called Berns’ Steakhouse, in our own privately enclosed booth of the Harry Waugh Dessert Room.

It was Valentines Day 2010.. And I had a feeling this would be the night my amazing boyfriend would propose to me… (But, of course, I didn’t let on that I knew. )

Yes, I was aware from my own inquisitive probes that he had already requested permission from my dad to marry me… And with him having previously asked me to look at rings for ideas as to my preference, I knew it was only a matter of time before we would be engaged.

Jim was not content, though, with my preference in a ring. To him, the one I chose was just “plain vanilla” and he wanted it to be way better and have “sprinkles” as well.

That evening as we sat across the table (with me awaiting my Macadamia nut ice cream and Jim his creme brulee dessert), Jim got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife.

He pulled out the most beautiful ring, which he had personally chosen for me- the one with the sprinkles- and, of course, I gladly accepted.

It is a request, I will cherish forever.

That evening at my sister’s home, after Jim had dropped me off…and after all of the excitement of knowing I would soon be Mrs. Adams’… I sat on my bed admiring my ring.

It was beautiful.

When the light hit the diamonds, they sparkled so beautifully every which way.

It was absolutely gorgeous.

And more importantly, it was symbolically the promise that I was now in the process of fully belonging to someone forever.

It’s so amazing how every once in a while the memory and feelings I had from that special evening of admiring my ring alone in my room tend to return to me…

No, it’s not an everyday occurence… But  do you want to know when those memories do reappear?

It typically happens after I’ve cleaned my ring.

Yes, just as smells and songs take people back to certain times or events in their lives, seeing the sparkle in my ring literally brings me back as well.

But you know what…..

The messes of everyday life often get in the way of the sparkle of my engagment ring/wedding band… The dirty dishes, the soapy residue, the sand, the playdoh… All of those things.

It isn’t always easy to see the rainbow of colors that love to glimmer when I turn my ring this way and that on just any given day.

No…It takes a toothbrush and a cleaning agent to get my ring to sparkle again as it once did the day I first received it.

And you know what…. Life in marriage can be that way too.

Work, chores, routines, financial hardships, children, reponsibilites, school, health issues, activities, etc… All of those things are a part of life on this earth, and they can often “fog up” the “sparkle” couples  once knew when their life together first began.

Sadly in our day and age, though, rather than taking the time to “polish”, give better attention to the marriage and find the sparkle once again, couples these days sometimes choose to sling their own “mud” on the “ring”. They begin taking each other for granted and begin showing signs of disrepect toward each other both in private as well as in public. They unfortunately have lost the value they once placed on each other and may even venture as far as to toss away “the ring” in search of the “sparkle” in a new relationship.

You don’t have to look very far to see this.

In fact, the cashier’s aisle at the grocery store is just one proof of this. It’s a relationship graveyard.

No, it’s not enough anymore these days to just have magazines dedicated to fictional Soap Opera dramas. Rather… Beside these you will find very REAL  ones that expose the lives and broken relationships of the most beautiful people in entertainment.

The tragedy and ugliness of broken relationships is shared all over magazine racks and online.

I don’t which behind-the-scene “exclusive” interviews are true or not. And it doesn’t matter. The sad reality is….Another beautiful relationship  that should have lasted “bites the dust”….

Whatever happened to “In sickness and in health? Till death do us part? Before God and this company of witnesses?”

Were these vows meant to be merely poetic lines shared with the “hopes” that they would be kept?

No.

These vows were meant to be upheld.

And yet couples need to be reminded at the very start of their marriage that throughout their life together…

Through the mundane…

Through the hardships of life…

Through thick and thin…

It is each spouse’s job to be a “ring polisher”… 

Yes, there will be days when the excitement of being newlyweds subsides and everyday life kicks in…

When there’s laundry to be done…

When the bills pile high…

When the car breaks down…

When there’s an unexpected job loss…

When you have a noisy house filled with little people…

And a floor littered with toys …

When the date nights grow fewer because things have become tighter  financially…

In all of the clutter and fog of life…

Remember to clean your ring.

The sparkle is still there…

But throughout the marriage it takes faithfulness, love, and a strong commitment to God and each other to continually keep that sparkle shining at its brightest.

No diamond ring ever gets tossed when it loses its sparkle… Rather, one who values his/her ring will take the time to get it polished and cleaned in the most gentle and effective ways.

And You, Dear Newlyweds… Must always remember that.

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Here’s a small slideshow that I made back in 2010 of our engagement. If you click the link, it will take you back to that special day with us! http://www.smilebox.com/playBlog/4e4455774e6a41334d6a6b3d0d0a&blogview=true

 

 

Living wiith Sincerity

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7 (KJV)

A W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G life is the kind of life I believe the Lord wants us to live.

“What does that even mean?” you ask.

Simply this. “What you see is what you get.”

So, often it can be easy to show one face in public and another at home. One face in front of others and then another when we walk away.

We all want to look good… Don’t get me wrong. Putting one’s best foot forward is always a good thing.

In fact, we should all strive for that.

The only problem is… Sometimes, I think we feel that once we are no longer in the presence of others, we have the freedom to be different from how we just represented ourselves to be.

Of course there are always going to be people we just simply don’t mesh with and situations where it takes God’s grace to wear a smile when inside we feel just the opposite.

And yet, I believe the Lord is calling us to live above that… To be a W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G kind of person.

As I look back, I remember a day when I knew I was going to be having someone over our home that I really struggled internally with. In times like these, the tendency is to build up all kinds of scenarios of what might happen during your time together. Or you find yourself focusing on all of the things that you don’t like in the other person. (Can I be real for a minute?)

But you know what….  I remember that on this one particular day, before the guest arrived, God spoke a verse into my heart. I absolutely know without a doubt it was from God because it came to my mind in a translated version of the Bible I don’t normally used in my personal Bible time.

The verse that came to mind was from Romans 12:9, and it said, “Let love be without hypocrisy.”

(As I said before, believe me, it had to be the Holy Spirit speaking that into my heart because I don’t usually use the NASB (New American Standard Bible) version, which is where the verse is translated that way.)

Another version, the New International Version (NIV) translates the same verse as “Love must be sincere.” (NIV)

And that’s what W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G living is… Sincerity. Genuineness.

As followers of Jesus, God wants our lives to be true reflections of Him, reflecting his heart and His attitudes towards others in our interactions with them…not only when we are in their presence, but also when we walk away.

No…He doesn’t expect us to put on a face that we wouldn’t normally wear. But what He does want is to so transform our hearts and lives so that who He is and His kinds of responses are what supernaturally flows out of us by His power.

How is this possible? You ask.

Well, if you reflect on the verses shared at the beginning of this post, it’s vital that as Christians we live in the Light.

While it’s true that others may only be able to see one side when we are in their presence, God wants our lives to be the same everywhere we go.

Everywhere we go our lives are open books.

And while we may be able to hide some things from others…

Nothing is hidden from our Heavenly Father.

And anything we do want to hide must be brought out into the open for God to clean away and change.

Because, you know what…. Those hidden things… At some point, they’ll come out anyway. (Luke 8:17) And on top of that, it is those hidden things that bring us the most bondage.

And God has called us to Freedom.

Am I still a work in progress in living a W-Y-S-I-W-Y-G life? You bet I am.

But the more I allow the Lord to work in my heart, and realize the freedom living in the Light brings, the more joy I will experience and the more I will live the kind of sincere and genuine life Jesus has called me to….

…The kind of life that pleases God and is a genuine blessing to others.

Make 2017 a Year of No Regrets

Regret is a joy thief that hijacks your present and also your future.

It keeps you ever-grieving over the past and incapable of moving forward into a brighter tomorrow.

Rather than making the progress you’d like to see, regret keeps you circling the same mountain again and again…wishing for change but not seeing much at all.

And instead of seeing “failures” to meet your own expectations as mere “potholes” along the journey, you set up camp within them, defining yourself by your setbacks.

We all have expectations for ourselves.

For some, it’s living a healthier lifestyle and getting in shape…. For others, it’s following a better daily routine and becoming more organized… And for others, it’s giving more attention to the people and things that matter most…. The list could go on and on…

We all have goals and areas we want to work on….

And these are all good things.

But, hey! “No biggie” on meeting these goals…

The New Year is approaching, and our New Years’ resolutions will be the cure to everything we want to see different in our lives, right?

Everything will be better on January 1st… when the “magical” refresh button is pushed and change finally becomes possible.

Um….The only thing is…

Let’s be honest…

What typically happens to us when…

…After two weeks into the New Year of dieting, we cave into eating that delicious looking gourmet donut that was calling our name in the break room?

Or…

…We procrastinate too long on a project we promised ourselves we’d finish right away?

Or…

…We miss an opportunity to express love to our family or friends because we allowed ourselves to become distracted with things that were less important?

Then what?

I’ll tell you, because I know…

We beat ourselves up and define ourselves by our failures.

“I’m so undisciplined,” we tell ourselves.

“I just can’t get my act together,” we sigh.

If you’re anything like I know I’ve been, we subconsciously label ourselves based on our failures to meet our own expectations…

And so the cycle continues….

Because… “As a man” (or woman) “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV)

In our minds we have labeled ourselves based on our inabilities to fulfill the expectations we have of ourselves, and what’s even worse is that when we do see someone else who meets the expectations we have for ourselves, we rank ourselves lower, causing us to lose even more joy and perpetuating the cycle of defeat.

If this sounds familiar at all to you…I have some refreshing news for you.

There is hope.

And it doesn’t have to wait until January 1st to be experienced….

Because…. “His mercies are new every morning”… (Lamentations 3:22-23 KJV)

No, the Lord doesn’t want us to continue defining ourselves by our failures to meet our expectations.

He so lovingly and faithfully offers us a clean slate every day…if we choose to accept it. 

We can start each day to move forward little by little with His help and strength.

And thankfully, this doesn’t have to wait for the New Year… (Although I know we often enjoy the “newness” of a completely brand new calendar where the details of life have yet to be written.)

But, here begs the question… Will there be days in this New Year of 2017, where I will feel displeased with the decisions that I’ve made? When I eat the slice of cake and bowl of ice cream that I “promised” myself I wouldn’t or when I fail to keep the daily routine I’ve made for myself?

Yes, I’m sure there may be days like this…although I do aspire to be more disciplined in my choices.

And yet, while I continue to hold high expectations for myself, something I feel the Lord speaking into my heart as this year comes to an end is this…

When you fail to meet your own expectations, rather than camping out in regret, and allowing it to undue your day… keep moving forward.

Don’t stay there. Don’t dwell on the short coming. Press on.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to live in the joy and freedom His Son came to abundantly give us (John 10:10), and we have His mercy, grace, and love to rest and run to at every moment. (Hebrews 4:16)

Neither my successes nor my failures are what defines who I am.

I belong to God, and I am His forever. 

He chose me. He loves me. And He has great purposes for my life. (1 Peter 2:9 & John 3:16)

It was the Lord that started the good work in me, and He promises to be faithful to complete it. (Philippians 1:6) No, I won’t stay where I am forever. My life is always forward moving, because I have Him in it.

It is Him working in my life that causes me to “will and to do according to His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

So, as I yield myself to Him and follow His leading, I know I will arrive at my desired destination.

And as for regret….?

That’s something I don’t want to carry into the New Year. Instead, I want to carry God’s mercy and grace everywhere I go, running to Him when I fail and allowing Him to pick me back up again so that I  can once again stand and move forward into all that He has planned and purposed for my life.

“For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.” (Proverbs 24:16 NASB)

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 KJV)

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Dear Mom: Don’t Give Up

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

Mom, sometimes you may feel that what you are doing does not make much of a difference.

But don’t give up.

You may feel that you are constantly repeating the same thing to your child without seeing any results.

But don’t give up.

You may get tired of teaching your child what God’s Word says because it doesn’t seem that anything you are saying is sticking.

But don’t give up.

dont-give-up

Why?

Because when you least expect it, when you are in the middle of something completely unrelated to the lesson you have been trying to teach, when you are in a place where you cannot even fully appreciate the moment…..

it will happen.

At the moment of decision, your child will repeat verbatim the truths you have been teaching him.

Your child will recognize a lie and rebuff it with the truths you have shared.

Your child will stand up for what they know is right when you are not around, and you will only know because someone else will tell you.

God knows when we need those breakthrough moments. Those are the moments that keep us going. He uses those moments to remind us that we are more than the grocery shopper, launderer, housekeeper, and cook on top of other responsibilities and titles we may hold. He uses those moments to remind us that we have an important roll in molding the hearts of our children.

dont-give-up

These moments do not happen in an instant. They happen after Mom has repeated herself so many times, she can say the lines in her sleep. And when Mom thinks there is no point in repeating herself one more time, her moment happens.

And that moment is the shot in the arm she needs to say the words one more time, to speak truth to her children again, and to remind them of what God says in His word. That moment fills her tank with hope that her words are not in vain and her efforts are not for naught. That moment opens her eyes to the realization that her actions have not gone unnoticed. Her labors of love have been received for what they were.

You moment will happen, Mom….

Just don’t give up.

dint-give-up

lesson-termites-nest

The Lesson from the Termite’s Nest

Song of Solomon 2:15- Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.

A few years ago, my husband and I went on a cruise. One of our stops was Playa de Carmen, Mexico.

As we walked for what seemed like forever to the bus that would take us to the Mayan Ruins of Tulum, Brian and I noticed that all of the trees were painted white from the ground to part of the way up the trunk.

lesson-termites-nest

At first I didn’t think anything of it, but as we drove through the city, we noticed that EVERY tree had been whitewashed. I just chalked it up to “that’s just how they do it here” and didn’t think anything else of it.

Until……

We finally reached our destination a little more than an hour later. As were walking the mile and a half from where our bus dropped us off to the entrance of the ruins, Tour Guide Juan stopped us and had us look over into the trees.

He continued, “Did you notice that all of the trees in Playa de Carmen were whitewashed from the ground to halfway up the trunk? There is a reason for that. You all know termites eat wood, but something happens to their bodies when we take a mixture of limestone and water and paint our trees. As the termites begin climbing up a whitewashed tree, the temperature of their bodies rises and they burn up. If we didn’t whitewash our trees in Playa de Carmen, you would see termite mounds like this one everywhere.”

We went on into the ruins and I forgot all about the termites, whitewashed trees, and the vendors we would have to push through a second time as we made our way back to our bus.

lesson-termites-nest

As we were leaving the ruins, I saw this termite nest (pictured above) and something hit me. With all of the green around, the tree hosting this nest had no healthy foliage on it. The tree itself could not grow while something was sucking the life out of it. It could only die.

Our homes, families, and lives are living things. Satan wants to destroy those things. If he came with a hack saw, motorized saw, or ax, we would recognize him immediately and protect those things that are so precious to us.

Instead he comes into our lives as a termite- something so tiny that we would not even notice it or recognize the harm it could do (overly busy schedule, television, Internet, food, harmful relationships, etc.). He comes as a termite that doesn’t mind how long it will take to suck the life out of us. He comes in the form of a thousand little things that slowly drain our will, desire, and ability to fight back. Before you know it, there is no life left in you.

We need a whitewash!

We need to take preventative measures before those little termites even have a chance to climb into our lives.

We need to set time alone for ourselves with the Lord and His Word.
We need to set boundaries.
We need to learn to say “no” to things that take our time away from what is important.
We need to invest time in our marriages and children.
We need to let go of the desire to have more and be content with what we already have.
We need to be willing to let go of some of our material possessions that bog us down.

It is possible to remove the termites once they have made a nest, but it is hard work and, in some cases, can be costly. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

lessons-termites-nest

That day, Brian and I made some wonderful memories at the Mayan ruins, saw some amazing structures that have lasted a thousand years, saw the bluest water on the coast of Tulum, and took some amazing photos.

But I think the one thing that will never leave my heart from that day was the lesson I learned while looking at a termite’s nest.

I pray I never forget what it looks like. I want it to be a constant reminder to me that I need to keep my “tree” whitewashed.

This post was originally featured on my previous blog The Joy of Homemaking.

Tactics to Thwart the Cheerleader in Us All

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Insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, judgement…

Oh….It’s an ugly band of bullies, each one with its own strategy to keep us locked away in our own little boxes… away from genunine friendship and true confidence.

We were created by God for relationship. And aside from the most important relationships we have as women- with God, our husband, our children, and our families…

We also desperately need good friends in our lives who will be there to pray for us, to give us good advice, a kind word, a listening ear, someone to identify with, and a cheerleader to encourage us along life’s journey.

friends

But have you ever stopped and wondered why it is that women seem to have so much conflict with each other? (Okay, well… Maybe you’re not one of these women… But just think about women in general and how they can respond to each other at times.)

Unfortunately, we all have the ability at one time or another to allow ourselves to be badgered by insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, and judgement when it comes to others.

But if you really stop and think about it…Perhaps, it’s for the very reasons listed above- showing how beautifully good relationships can affect our lives- that this happens…

Yes, insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, judgement are tactics from the devil to thwart the good that God wants to give us through relationships with others.

Yes, friends, healthy relationships with others- if left without threat- could actually help us become stronger and more encouraged in our roles as wives, mothers, and followers of Jesus.

And while those feelings may not always be visible above the surface in our words or actions, they can be seen in more subtle ways in our lives via our thoughts and attitudes.

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For example, when we see someone else who looks the way we wished we looked, achieves something we wished we could, or acquires something we wished we had- although we may not say anything outright against her- have you ever found yourself either feeling badly about yourself or maybe envious of her?

I know I have. (Gasp!!!)

I know…Shocking, isn’t it? Lol. But, rest easy… God’s working on me, and He’s helping  me to learn more and more how to line up my heart and feelings with His…one reason why I’m writing this post.

You see, something I’m learning is that, instead of allowing those ugly feelings to go unchecked, God wants my heart to be filled with His love towards others.

He wants me to reflect who He is to those around me. That’s what a “Christ-ian” is afterall, isn’t it? A follower of Christ!

So it just makes sense that our heart and our thoughts towards each other should ilne up with His, right?

tactics to thwart the cheerleader

I think the following Bible verse sums this up pretty well…

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:”                       Philippians 2:5 NIV

Would Jesus be jealous of someone else’s success? Resentful? Absolutely NOT! And that’s how we are supposed to be as well, if we truly belong to Him and wear His name.

No, it’s just not “okay” to allow those ugly feelings to remain and fester in our hearts. Rather, they must be brought back to God in repentance, and we need to ask His help to move forward with the right kinds of attitudes that He wants us to have.

God created each of us and loves us all so much, and what He wants is for us to be a blessing, support, and cheerleader for others… to be a tangible demonstration of His love in the world.

And when we choose to follow His heart and have His mindset… not only are we doing others good, but we’re doing ourselves a whole lot of good as well….

…Because instead of beating ourselves up for not being where others have arrived, allowing seeds of resentment to grow, or allowing a sour attitude to ruin us on the inside, we’re instead choosing to focus on someone else’s good and trusting God to make all things beautiful in our very own lives as well in His perfect timing. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Just think about it. What if we lived in a world where we didn’t envy each other?

A world where we didn’t feel as if we were “less than” everytime we saw someone who had a little more sparkle than us?

Or, on the other hand, what if we didn’t look down on others who maybe didn’t have as much as we do?

In that kind of world, we would all be there for each other. We would all be cheerleaders on the bleachers of life spurring each other on rather than jeering because we found some flaw or were resentful of the other’s success.

The Bible sums this idea up well when it tells us:

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 ESV

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That’s the kind of world God wants us to live in…And those are the kind of women He wants us to be…

Not selfish or self-seeking, but expressions of God’s love, grace, and encouragement toward each other.

Which is why we should continue to pray to our Father in Heaven, “May YOUR kingdom come. May YOUR will be done…On Earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

Life should never be about any of us building a kingdom for ourselves, where we become the focus.

Our lives and any successes we have should be pointing everyone to the One Who loves us all more than anyone ever could, Who gave us more than anyone ever could, and Who can do above and beyond what we could ever ask or think in EVERY life that is yielded to Him. (Ephesians 3:20)

So, Sisters! Let’s pick up our pompoms and totally disarm the devil of those tactics in our lives with God’s power, His love, and His Word.

We’re not in a competition against each other.

We were meant to be each other’s cheerleaders in life…women of impact and influence for the glory of God and the good of each other.

So, let’s cheer loud and strong, not allowing one negative feeling from the band of bullies to have any place in our lives.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 ESV

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”                         1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

 

A Letter to My Little One

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Dear Little Treasure of Mine,

You are so very young and have so much to learn. And we are so excited to have been given the privilege of guiding you along in your journey.

As your parents we’ll teach you so many things to help you get a good start in life.

You’ll learn your first words in our home… You’ll learn the right ways to speak and behave. You’ll learn how to use proper manners. And, hey, we’ll even teach you how to use the potty! (A lesson we’re currently working on now that you’re two…and one that I hope you will learn very soon.)

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Most importantly though, as Christian parents, we are excited to teach you the most important thing you’ll ever need to know… And that is teaching you about God…

Who He is.

What He has done.

What He says.

And most importantly how you can know Him as your Heavenly Father…

I want you to know I am praying for you as you grow…

As I rock you before bedtime, I pray for you… My heart’s truest desire is for you to see and know God as He really is…I want you to know that He really  does exist and that He is good… Always.

His finger prints are on everything.. so many of which we take for granted…

The vegetables, fruits, and herbs that grow and hold the perfect nutrients our bodies need…

The way our bodies repair themselves after an injury.

The way a baby grows inside its mother’s womb and is equipped with a food supply from its mom immediately after it is born.

The amount of hours we have at night, giving us rest to prepare for a new day.

The way our earth rotates and the seasons change giving us a variety of fruits and vegetables in their perfect time.

The air we breathe and the exact distance of our planet from the sun, giving us an ideal  environment in which to live.

I could go on and on forever describing all of the amazing things God has done and yet which so few give Him credit for….

Yes, Dear One, God did all of these things.

letter-to-my-little-one

Unfortunately, though, many people only give God credit….when things go wrong.

“Why did God let this or that happen….?” They ask.

But, you know what…. Really… None of it is ever His fault.

He designed everything to work in its perfect order.

He called everything He made at creation “good”. (Genesis 1)

He did not invent evil. Evil is the choice to go against God’s way of doing things, resisting His order and authority.

It was sin entering the world through man’s choice that caused things to go awry.

Never forget that.

God did not make us robots, but instead gave us a free will. And the first man’s choice to listen to the devil and go against God’s direction gave entrance to all of the things that go wrong in the perfect world God originally designed for us to live in. And it continues that way to this day.

No, we may never understand everything that we go through in life. We may never understand all of the reasons why tragedies take place and pain and suffering come into our lives.

But one thing I want you to remember in all of this is….God is always good.

He went to great lengths to restore us to a relationship with Him after “we” were the ones to cause the separation. Man’s choice to sin is what separated us from Him…and it is also what tainted this beautiful world.

And yet, God still extends His love, His hope, and His peace to us…

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He knew we could never be good enough to earn back what we lost by our sin. We could never make ourselves right or earn a place as His children on our own.

And so, He sent Jesus…His Only Son…to die in our place. To take our punishment.

He got what we deserved… The punishment, the shame, and separation from God.

Jesus felt all of that on the cross.

In fact He cried out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

And you know what….He went through all that because of His great love for you and me… So that we wouldn’t have to cry out that same question ourselves…And so that we could know we have a Father in Heaven who hears us and will never forsake us.

In dying for us and rising again, Jesus gave us what we could never earn ourselves….the privilege of being able to call God our Heavenly Father.

Because of what He did for us, and by faith in Him, His death and His resurrection, we can now call the God of the Universe Our Father too! What an amazing privilege that is….

I don’t want you to simply go through this life just knowing about God…but actually knowing Him personally as your Heavenly Father for yourself.

And you will.

I have dedicated you to God. I know He has your heart and life in His hands, and I have been praying that He will reveal the reality of His existence in your life just like He did for Samuel in the Bible. (1 Samuel 3) He will draw you to Himself.

Yes, you will know Him…because it will be God who opens your spiritual eyes to really know that He exists, that He is real, that He is ever present, and that He is your everything in this life… just like He has done in Mommy and Daddy’s lives.

If there’s anything I want you to know, Dear One, it’s that you have a Heavenly Father who is waiting with open arms.

He loves you so much…. Way more than Mommy or Daddy ever could…

And He wants you to know that you can come to Him freely anytime you want because Jesus made it all possible.

This is something worth celebrating…and definitely good news worth sharing with the  whole world!

And I’m so glad I have the privilege of sharing this news with you.

Balancing High Expectations with Love This School Year

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As a new school year begins, kids are excited to return to their classrooms, meet their new teachers and begin another season of learning.

Yes, “new” is always fun and exciting! Well…. for most children at the start of the school year at least.

But what do we do as parents when the excitement or “newness” wears off, like it so often does with most things?

When homework becomes drudgery and begins to interfere with the things our children would rather be doing instead?

When excellence in effort begins to diminish and work returns home disorganized and messy?

When an hour’s worth of homework becomes a never ending evening of pain that feels more like a root canal than spelling practice?

Where tears are spilt and impatience flares?

What do you do?

Might I suggest….

Balance it all with love.

Balancing high expectations with love this school year post for parents

As a third grade teacher for a little over ten years, I remember one year feeling quite frustrated with a particular class I had… And although I had been enthusatic and passionate about my career in education, this particular year I was  beginning to lose my joy in teaching.

I had a few chatty kids and- at the time- I just didn’t feel as if they were giving the attention, focus, and behavior I felt was needed to have a “good year”. It was- I guess- a bit overwhelming to me as well, because my focus on these students gave me a sense that the “whole” class was just a mess.

As a teacher you can begin to feel somewhat justified in feeling frustrated during times like these because of the way your students are acting, despite your efforts. Oh… And you can certainly feel justified in handing out consequences pretty quickly in times like these as well.

But you know what… That’s not how God wanted me to respond…

And I remember one day, He totally shifted my perspective…

Yes, He certainly did!

And it was a much needed shift that totally remade my year.

So, what happened so drastically to reshift my perspective and give me a great year?

Well…. The Lord began to open my eyes to the students who actually “were” paying attention, and He inspired me to begin majorly highlighting them verbally in front of the class when I needed the class to “come back” to me.

When things began to get chatty, I would all of a sudden start naming the students I saw behaving appropriately, and it was totally amazing!!! You could see how everyone else started to follow suit so that they could get recognized as well. Yes, friends, love and a positive outlook took over as opposed to stress, pressure and a focus on negativity.

It was a miracle!!!! 

Furthermore, something God also opened my eyes to was the fact that I also needed to change my preferred style of teaching a bit to accomodate the students who enjoyed talking more… So, it actually helped me grow as a teacher too! (Yes, many times it’s not simply about changing others’ attitudes or actions, but it’s about God changing us in the process as well…. Something we don’t often like to hear, but it’s so true.)

Balancing High Expectations with Love this school year

No, our children are not going to always give us the responses we want from them…and so often it’s so easy to fall into the trap of highlighting the negative…

“Stop acting  that way… Sit down… You’re not doing your work. Pay attention! Why don’t you ever clean your room or your desk?”

We often highlight the negative things our kids do with our words… Don’t we.

And while it may at times produce the result we want… I’d like to suggest a more effective way of achieving the responses we would like to see while still holding high expectations for our children.

It’s something God has helped me learn over the years and something I can always continue working on, as I raise my own little one.

Balance your high expectations with love, highlighting your child’s positive behaviors and alllowing the Lord to use your words and actions to inspire them to continue following the path you want them to be on.

Instead of saying, “Johnny, you’ve been sitting at the table all night doing your homework. You have to get your work done, or your teacher won’t be happy!” (Or whatever other phrase you normally use….)

Why not instead say something like… “Johnny, I know this is hard work, and sometimes it’s not all that fun. But I want you to know I am SO proud of you for working so hard. Remember when you did that paper last year and we thought you’d never get through it… You did it, right? I’m SO proud of you! And I know you can do this too! How about we step away from it for fifteen minutes? Then, we’ll come back to it and get it done together.”

Try it out and see!

Afterall, there’s no reason why you need to add to the chaos of the moment by pulling your hair out when there’s something positive you can do to redirect your child in following through with the task.
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Our children are still little people with hearts that can be wounded by our harsh words spoken “in the moment”, hardened by stubborness because they’re tired and just not motivated to follow through, and yet softened and encouraged to press on when they see your patience, love and admiration.

Children truly want the caring adults in their lives to be proud of them and will do what they can to reach the expectations we set for them. And yet it is our repsonsibilty to continually give them positive reasons for striving to meet our expectations… Expectations that will ultimately have long term benefits in their lives.

(Hey, and as adults, we don’t simply go to work everyday just because we’re always just so excited to get up and go, right? We have reasons for going beyond just a passion for our career. Don’t we? And the same is true for our kids…)

So, yes! Go ahead and throw in some tangible rewards for your kids during the year for them to work towards and to celebrate their success!

Put their good work on display for all to see. Take them out for a celebratory meal or fun day after a hard test or project that they worked hard on. Give them opportunities to share their successes and their excellent work with you and others. Tuck little notes into their lunchboxes to let them know you are proud of them.

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…Because we understand our children are not learning robots, simply storing and computing information just for the sake of it. They are little human beings with beating hearts longing for our approval and a reason to give their personal best.

And whether it’s sitting behind a desk answering phones in the workplace as adults or studying for a spelling test as a second grader, we all need daily reasons to strive for our personal best.

Let’s all give our children good reasons to pursue excellence and give their personal best throughout the year… setting high expectations that are motivated and inspired by the love they see in our eyes and the words and tones they hear in our voices.

“A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” Proverbs 15:1 NET

 

Worth the Wait: Our Love Story

“When will he ever come? Will I ever get married? What will he look like?” I’m sure every single girl has had these thoughts.

And although I don’t think I ever had a mental picture of what I wanted my future husband to look like, I did know the kind of man I wanted him to be.

I wanted him to have a heart for the Lord, have character and integrity, a man who honored his parents, and would love me and treat me with kindness and respect. Someone who worked hard and was financially stable and mature.

The years dragged on, though, and it seemed as if meeting my spouse was something that would happen “sometime” in the ever-looming future… a future that always seemed so out of reach.

It wouldn’t be until I turned 29 that I would finally meet my husband, who had also been waiting a while himself. At the right time, though, we did finally meet… through a new (and now more popular) platform for meeting one’s future spouse… via an online dating site that you all may have heard of…. called Christian Mingle!

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My dad was actually the one who suggested the idea to me, so I knew that in my case it would be okay. In his words, “They’ll never know you exist unless you put yourself out there”. And with the pickings being slim in the area where I lived at the time… I decided to go ahead and check it out for myself.

(One thing I will say to my single adult readers, though is this… While there are many “fish in the sea” on dating sites, not all of them are the perfect catch. So if you are considering online dating, be careful and very selective. If you’re too desperate, you can certainly end up with a guy…but not the one God has for you. And that could be devastating. Waiting for the right one is always best, and surrounding yourself with wise counselors and friends that can help you avoid many Mr. Wrongs is also highly advised.)

After a while of looking through a few online sites and seeing a lot of “Mr. Wrongs” myself, the day after my birthday in 2009, I happened to notice that one particular handsome guy had looked at my profile on Christian Mingle. And what he had to say really proved to me right away that he was the real deal- not simply a Christian in “name” only but in life as well.

How did I know this?

He had written in his profile that “Christ has to be at the center of the relationship.” (Hmmm…not many other guys seemed to be that serious enough on a Christian site to post a comment like that. I could just tell this guy was legit.)

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So, “brave” little me (who was usually pretty shy around guys) decided to initiate the talk by sending a pre-made comment. He then replied and asked if I was interested in us getting to know each other better. We weren’t actual subscribers at the time to the site, but both of us decided to join to move along further in conversation. Later I learned that (just before meeting me), he was considering getting off the site completely. So, YES!!! I got him just in time!

We then began chatting by instant message and by phone, and he was just so kind and respectful. He amazed me by always wanting to know details about my day. (Wow, a guy who could actually be interested in the details of my life?! I was impressed.) And after meeting my dad and getting the “green light” to date me, we began the process of getting to know each other in person.

Throughout our dating relationship, Jim was always so respectful and kind, and from the start he proved that he was really investing in me personally as a potential mate. He would drive a distance of an hour and fifteen minutes for each date just to pick me up and take me out for the day. After the date, he would then return me to my sister’s home where I lived at the time, and then make the drive all the way back to his home. He was a true gentleman and still proves to this day that chivalry is still very much alive.

Together we chose to save our first kiss for our wedding day and also chose to remain abstinent until marriage, out of our respect for God and each other. It is a decision we will always be thankful that we made. No regrets.

A year after our intial meeting we were married, and it just so happened that my 30th birthday fell on a Saturday that summer. So, I was thankful that he actually allowed me to choose the day, because he is definitely the best birthday gift I have received or ever will receive for my birthday. Hey, and I waited 30 years for him! What an awesome present to celebrate a milestone birthday, right?!

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While as a single the time may have seemed to drag on in wondering how or if I’d ever find my husband, at almost 36 years old now looking back, I can see how God’s timing in my life was just perfect. I honestly don’t think I could have been the woman my husband needed before that point.

You see, when you feel like you need a husband in your life in order to give you the affirmation and confidence you need, it’s probably not the right timing. I know I needed to learn how to find my contentment in the Lord without having another person in my life to provide that affirmation first.

Yes, I had to learn to be content apart from any other person and also learn to be the kind of woman my husband would need as a blessing in his life… Because true love is really about giving of yourself for the benefit of another… not “mainly” looking for all that you can get out of it for yourself and simply your own “happiness”.

But you know what the awesome thing is… When Jesus is at the center of your relationship and both hearts (of the husband and wife) are yielded to his leading, both individuals become equal beneficiaries in the marriage relationship. It isn’t as if one is sacrificing so only the other is happy in the marriage. With both people having a heart to freely give their love away and looking out for the other’s interests (as opposed to simply looking out for their own), the two end up being a blessing and meeting the needs of the other while also reaping the blessings themselves.

That’s the kind of marriage we have, and that’s the kind of marriage I want to see other singles have when they find their future spouse… And it happens when Jesus is at the center of your life and marriage… and when you choose to wait on His perfect timing for the one He is preparing for you.

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Confessions of a “Self-Diagnosed” ADD Mom

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Bored and easily distracted… It wasn’t long before I realized my problem and decided to just go ahead and personally diagnose myself.

Let’s just go ahead and say it… I was experiencing an attention deficit disorder when it came to playtime with my son.

Okay, so no, I wasn’t always distracted… I did “try” to play, but I’ll have to admit that when I became bored of playing with cars or couldn’t find my imagination when making conversation with dinosaurs (I don’t know how many times I’ve asked how they’re doing), my mind could easily take me and my attention away from my son and either straight to social media or something else that I might find to be more interesting in that moment….even cleaning up.

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Okay, okay… you need to give a mom some grace, right? (I know what most of you are thinking. “You’re with your little guy 24/7. A mom’s job is never done. You need a mental and emotional break every once in a while, right?”)

While I certainly appreciate the love and support from you all, there was still another side of me that believed things should look differently. (Well…For me, at least.)

Yes, being a mom is a 24/7 job, filled with to-do’s like changing diapers, feeding hungry bellies, cleaning house, and kissing boo-boos. But what I was finding was that the quality of my focus and attention during playtime with my son became diluted if I allowed distractions to freely come as they pleased. Thus, my real priority in that moment- my son- could easily take a back seat to the things that really weren’t that important at all.

Facebook was a good example of that. (Um…. At least for me it had been.) …Which is why I had to delete the app off my phone…

“What?!!! No!!!” You gasp.

Oh…….believe me. It was hard at first… And, no… No  one asked me to do this…

(Now, please don’t misunderstand me… And my wonderful Facebook friends can even tell you…. I AM still on Facebook. However, now in order to access it, I must go onto our office desktop. Yes, my app is gone. And although I can and still do share photos via IOS on my iPhone, I have been extremely intentional in not using my phone to actually view Facebook newsfeeds, comments, messages, “likes”, etc. Our office desktop is now where I must go to do that…making it less convenient for me to access it during a normal weekday, and that ‘s just how I want to keep it.)

This came out of necessity and in some sense out of obedience. Let me explain.

A while back, a phrase came to my mind out of the blue which I believe is something I really needed to hear at that time (and still do)…and that phrase was… “Eliminate distractions”. I honestly believe this was God speaking to my heart, but to be perfectly honest, I didn’t begin working on this until about a month ago. Since taking that step, though, I’ve begun to notice that my focus and engagement in the present moment has greatly improved.

You see, over time, I began to notice that social media so easily became a welcomed distraction for me when I either got bored or didn’t feel in the mood to play, and it really wasn’t doing much to help me build quality time with my son. 

It’s kind of sad to think how we as adults are so quick to judge kids and young people these days on their lack of attention in school or their lack of engagement with their families… And yet, when you think about it… Do we as adults even realize the things that are distractions in our own lives, preventing us from focusing on what mattters most? Are we really enjoying the moments? Or is something else occupying our mind and our attention as well?

purposeful-moms-iphone-distraction-social-mediaYou see, just as we, as adults, get “bored” playing with cars or dinosaurs- which may not make much sense to us or be as fun as checking social media- our kids too will face those same kinds of challenges when they are also expected to learn and focus on something new (and maybe not as engaging as their favorite games, toys, or activities).

So, if there’s something I’m learning through this, it’s this… The same expectations I have of my child, should also be the same I have of myself. And furthermore… Being engaged and focused during time with my little guy are gifts that tangibly demonstrate my love for him, especially as I’ve noticed quality time to be one of his primary love languages. (By the way, if you haven’t read The 5 Love Languages by Gary D. Chapman, I highly recommend you do.)

No, I’m not saying I have to play with cars and dinosaurs 24/7 or even have the greatest ability to do so. But in this moment… For this 30 minutes of playtime and throughout my day when I know I should be giving him my fullest attention… It’s in these moments that I must remind myself that I am there for someone else- not myself. I am there to be engaged and present in his life… To show love in practical ways by putting myself aside so that he can have joy in this moment.confessions-ADD-mom

And you know what? I’m actually beginning to enjoy my days a whole lot more because of it. It’s funny how even over a brief timespan, you can already begin to see changes happen. And that’s how it is with many things in life. (Sometimes, it takes making a somewhat “hard” decision- in letting go of the familiar and the convenient- to help you begin seeing the results you always wanted but just didn’t know were there for you to have.)

Over just a short amount of time, I’ve really begun to enjoy playing with my son. Not only have I seen myself grow in my “career” as a Mega Block engineer and a fan of Mighty Machines, but even more than that, with God’s help, I’m becoming more creative just in general during playtime.

For me, being a “self-diagnosed” ADD mom is choice… And, while I still have opportunity to grow in this area, I’m finding that as I continue to allow the Lord to work in my heart, and as I continue making the daily choices to focus on what matters most, my days are becoming more filled with God’s peace, rest, and opportunities to tangibly demonstrate love to those closest to me.

And these are the choices that one day, with God’s help, I’ll look back on and be thankful that they weren’t sacrificed for something that was less worthy of my attention.
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