Thursday, October 19, 2017

Marriage Is Not a Minimum Maintenance Road

On our way to visit my in-laws we pass by a minimum maintenance road. I always debate on whether or not to stop and take pictures because the sign and the road are beat up making it a cool picture; plus the destination always intrigues me. Where does it go? After passing it by for the umpteenth time on our way to my brother-in-laws wedding, I couldn't help but make the comparison of a minimum maintenance road to marriage, so I finally stopped to take a picture.

One of the reasons it came to mind is my study on marriage. I'll add it to my marriage is like a tree comparison, but this one is what marriage is not like...

Marriage is not like a minimum maintenance road. 
When you look at a minimum maintenance road you'll notice overgrowth, pot-holes, caving shoulders, all because it receives little or no routine attention and resources. It's quite obvious, just by looking at it, that without a vehicle built to travel these roads, you risk damaging it. 

A marriage that looks similar to the above description is not a healthy marriage. It needs weeding, pot-holes addressed, caving shoulders fixed and all of this requires daily attention and hard work.

Good marriages are not perfect; they require routine maintenance.

You see this when you dive into Scripture. God does not direct Christians to do things that are easy. In Ephesians 5:22-33, for example, Paul explains the mystery of marriage in relation to Christ and His bride. Notice that Paul gives clear direction for husbands to love their wife and wives to submit to their husband, with one important emphasis added at the end that is vitally important for wives to notice: respect your husband. He has given direction that is not easy to follow: men are called to cherish and nourish their wives as Christ did the church (25-33a) and women are called to respect and submit to their husband as the church does Christ. It is important to note that if we did these things without any effort Paul would not have given this directive. Women are better at cherishing and nourishing and men are better at respecting because those are the things we want – women desire nourishment and to be cherished, men respect. Therefore it is imperative that we make the effort to honor and respect our husband. It will not come naturally for us; we must work at it! The truth of the matter is this: a woman will not easily love a man the way he desires love if she does not honor or respect him. Both men and women need love and respect, but God gave men a deep hunger for respect and women a deep hunger for nourishment and to be cherished.

Notice the language in portions of Scripture like Ephesians and 1 Peter 3 that command, not request, husbands and wives to behave in such a way that honors God in our marriage. There are no if's. God has given us tasks that require hard work, self denial, daily attention, and (most importantly) reliance on Christ.

With that said, my target audience is not men. I do not feel that it is my job as a woman to address the directives God gives to men. So I will not spend a significant amount of time discussing them. I do, however, feel an overwhelming desire to share what I've learned through God's Word to women. It literally feels like it will spill out of me if I don't. So let's look at one example Scripture gives for us to follow...

Before we dive in, I pray that God opens eyes, as He has mine. That women take it to heart, as God has placed it on mine. And that lives are genuinely affected so that we live differently - so that God is glorified. Then share with others what God has revealed and rely on HIM to do what He has called us to do. Only through Christ, and our faith in Him, are we able to submit as He submitted, respect as He respected, and love as He loveS.

Wives, Be Like Sarah 
We are going to spend time in two portions of Scripture for this one, so grab your Bible and your Bible marking pens. This is how I mark my Bible:
We will begin in Hebrews 11:1-2,
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible."
Then the author gives example after example of people in Scripture who, despite their imperfections, were commended for their faith. One example is Sarah, Abraham's wife,
"By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised." (Hebrews 11:11)
Sarah's obedience was a direct result of her faith. She had the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. What is assurance? If you have assurance you have confidence in the declaration given. You have freedom from doubt, boldness, a guaranty. Sarah had freedom from doubt and set her eyes on the promise God gave her to conceive, even though she was past the age. 

What is conviction? A fixed or firm belief. Or the act of convincing a person by argument or evidence. So Sarah looked at creation with the understanding it was created by the very word of God and because of this evidence she knew that if God said it, it would come to pass. Her faith was sustained by the word of God, because she knew what He said and then looked to his works of the past (i.e. the creation of His universe) to give confidence of future promises.

God has spoken.
And it was so.

I began to underline the phrase, "And it was so." beginning in Genesis 1:7. God said it, and it was so. Over and over and over again. Faith does not focus on the unknowns or brood over uncertainties. Faith instead looks up to the Creator and mediates on His wondrous works. Be like Sarah, who did just that and knew that God is faithful. 

He said it and it will be so.

Sarah was commended for her faith and because of her faith she was obedient to God's calling for her life. At first, she laughed at the idea of conceiving, "After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?" Yet God told Abraham, "Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, and about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son." Genesis 18:12-14

Although she doubted at first (she's human!) we know that her faith was solid. She conceived. And she had evidence that God was faithful.

We also know of her faith in God because of her obedience.
1 Peter 3:1-6 has a lot of pink and red. Pink because it is directly applicable to me as a wife and woman and red because there is a lot of important stuff in this portion of Scripture,
"Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external - the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear - but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Likewise is underlined in red. It's an important word. When you see it you must ask yourself, like who? Like what? In order to find that out you must read the previous paragraph. I'm not going to read the entire paragraph, but understand that Peter's audience there is to servants. And he's telling them, whether your master is just or unjust, obey. Like servants, wives, whether your husband is good and gentle or unjust, obey. Be subject. Submit.

Just like Sarah did in Egypt when Abraham told her to pretend she was his sister in order to save his own life (Genesis 12:10-20). Instead of trusting God, Abraham sinned and she was still obedient. God took care of her and was faithful to His promise. She was obedient despite her husband's disobedience, because she trusted GOD!

Those are not popular words because it requires self denial (like Christ) and an admittance that God designed your husband as the authority in your house. I did not write this, so don't give me a tirade on how you don't agree. Quite frankly, I do not care. I'm not God and I did not design it this way.

He is God and that's just the way it is.

He has called wives to obey.

It is not easy or even fun sometimes, but our obedience to GOD'S way of life reveals whether or not we truly believe what God has to say.

He has said it, do you have faith that it is so?

Or do you doubt?

To have faith requires strength, a high level of discipline, and good theology based on the study of God's Word. We must not see this as weakness! We are smart and strong and fearless - IF we have faith in God's Word and are obedient to it.

If you are obedient to God's word Peter tells us that we can actually win an unbelieving husband by our conduct. I circled conduct in red because it's mentioned more than once. If our faith is strong, our conduct will reveal what we believe. A husband can be won without a word, which is underlined in red. This doesn't mean we shouldn't present the gospel, but we will not win a husband by preaching, nagging, badgering, begging, bugging, hounding - which will irritate him, pick at wounds, plague him, provoke him to anger, torment him. Would you want to come home to that? Instead, we will win a husband by our respectful and pure conduct. When he sees the outpouring of our faith, he is going to start asking questions and marvel at the work of God.

Verse 3 begins with our focus. What is getting our main attention? Is it our outward appearance or the inward beauty? From a distance you can see a beautiful woman. We can all picture her beauty, slender yet curvy, well done hair and makeup, a beautiful smile, bright eyes... and then you hear her talk and it kills the beauty. You can tell that her focus is on her outward appearance. Peter isn't telling women to stop caring about how you look, he's telling women to stop giving that your main attention. Consider the extravagance! You obviously have to wear clothes and you must do something with your hair, BUT focus on the things that will never fade or wrinkle. Exert more effort on your soul. Be more concerned with your inward beauty. Your husband could give a rip if you're beautiful on the outside but ugly on the inside; you will not be a person he will want to spend time with. Most importantly, if you are a woman who's foundation is in Christ, who's theology is based on the very word of God, who rests in God's sovereign hand, who meditates on the word of God and knows it by heart, who hopes in God - GOD FINDS THAT PRECIOUS! That is how the holy women of old adorned themselves! And God found them beautiful. Because they had faith in HIM and were obedient to what He called them to do - submit to your husband because it's a direct reflection of your faith in me. And people will look at you and begin to understand the mystery of my people submitting to Christ. This mystery is revealed in our conduct. Our conduct reveals our faith.

Be consumed by what God thinks of you - not what the world thinks of you.

When you do that - when you do good - when you do not live for yourself (as Christ did not live for Himself) then you will be like Sarah and not fear anything that is frightening. You will know that God is in control, what have you to fear? You will know that nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus, what have you to fear? You will look on the works of God and have faith that what He says He will do, what have you to fear? And as you look to Jesus Christ, you will have strength and dignity as your adorning and laugh at the time to come. (Proverbs 31:25)

That is how you be like Sarah, and work to make your marriage a God glorifying one.

We have MORE than Sarah!
We have the very word of God from Genesis to Revelation. 67 books to reveal God's wondrous works, that tell us of His promises, that give evidence of His faithfulness. We can read about who God is according to His word, see that He is in control and rest in Christ. That is more than Sarah had. Consider yourself blessed to live in the United States of America where we have freedom of religion and equality to learn and study. We as women, can wake up every morning with a cup of coffee and the word of God opened to instruct, encourage, and sustain us in our day to day life.

Wives, Be Like Jesus Christ
Go to Matthew 26:38-39, a passage of Scripture that was most impactful to me in terms of submission (This portion of Scripture is marked in yellow, for WOW, but it also reveals so much of Christ's heart.),
"My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me." And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."
Jesus Christ, as evident from the statement He made to His disciples and from His prayer, did not want to die on the cross, let this cup pass from me. He knew the cost. He knew how painful it would be. He knew that He would have to endure the wrath of God for sin. He knew He would have to die for sinners. He knew He would have to defeat satan and sin and death. He knew that in order to accomplish God's will, He would have to submit to His plan, despite not wanting to endure the pain. So with the joy set before Him He gave His life willingly. He submitted with a whole heart.
"... let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2 (underlining mine) (Verse 1 is pink in my Bible for wisdom to live, verse 2 is yellow.)
Wives, our most important example of how to live is Jesus Christ. He is our perfect example of submission. Even if we don't want to, do it willingly. Even if it's hard, do it willingly. Do it with the strength Christ gives, because without His perfection, His example, and His help, we cannot do it. 

If Christ was able to endure the wrath of God on our behalf, for our sin, willingly submitting to God's will - despite not wanting to - how much more will God give us the strength to submit to our husband?

Rely on Christ in order to be like Him. In order to live as He lived, submitting to His will in our lives - revealing our faith in Him to others, we must set our minds on Christ alone. Look to the joy set before us, an eternity with Jesus.

Focus on Jesus Christ, for it is in Him that you will find sufficiency for your marriage. It is in His life-transforming work on the cross that you will find the provision and the power to maintain the road you journey on alongside the husband He gave you. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Why We Will Only Ever Own ONE Television]

This was a decision my husband and I made the first year of our marriage. That year didn't bear much good fruit, but this decision is actually one we will stick with for the entirety of our lifetime together. That period of our life seems like a lifetime ago already. It was the beginning of our walk as Christians. Since then, we've made a lot of mistakes and learned a great deal. I do not like thinking about myself back then - arrogant, combative, worrywart, emotionally impulsive, easily enraged - but thanks be to God who continually works on my heart - teaching, changing, humbling, and encouraging me through this decade with my husband! And I know it had nothing to do (and quite a bit to do) with the amount of television we watched...

1. Too much television bears little fruit for Christ. If all I do in my day is sit my butt down in front of a television show, what am I doing for the advancement of the gospel? How am I being the hands and feet of Christ? I am not saying that watching television occasionally is a bad thing, I'm not even saying that a restful day in front of the television is terrible, but if that is all I do day in and day out, it is wasteful.

2. I find that the more time I spend watching TV I see the woman I once was. Our world encourages arrogance, concealing it as self-love. Our world cheers on the combative (just watch shows like The View or Judge Judy). Our world worries about anything and everything (just watch the news); we are an anxious people! Our world let's their emotions control them rather than being in control of their emotions; we immediately react rather than patiently thinking about it first (just watch dramatic sitcoms). Our world is easily enraged (you can easily see that in reality television or political debates). The television is a place that encourages behavior that once held me captive.
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind..." Romans 12:2
The more I know about an abundance of television, the less likely your mind is renewed in Christ and the more likely it will become conformed to this world. Which leads perfectly into the next point...

3. It is a mindless activity. Watching television requires little to no imagination and we definitely do not want to encourage our children to spend hours doing something mindless, that is one major reason why they will not have one in their room. JAMA Psychiatry published research that proved that young adults who watch too much television had lower cognitive function than those who did not watch too much television. It was a 25 year study where researchers monitored 3,000+ people between 18 and 30 years of age. Their research concluded that an early couch potato lifestyle actually impairs brain activity. High television activity resulted in poor performance on three different cognitive tests! (source)

Be mindful of Jesus.

4. It is not an active pastime. When you watch, you sit on your tush with minimal physical change - you expend very little energy. Our bodies were made for movement, exercise, imagination, dancing, climbing, learning, exploring. How much of that can you accomplish on a recliner while staring at the TV? USA Today published an article with a claim that watching too much television is directly related to an increase in diabetes and heart disease. Researchers studied more than 13,000 individuals over an 8 year time span to determine whether there was a correlation between sedentary lifestyles and death. Turns out that individuals who spent three or more hours a day in front of the television had a higher risk of early death than those who watched less. Why? A cardiologist said that television watching is a passive lifestyle. Those who spend more time watching spend less time paying attention to diet and exercise. This study proved that diabetes and heart disease were associated with a sedentary lifestyle (too much television was the major culprit). (source)

5. It's too easy to turn on and get sucked in without even realizing it. When it's in one location (ours is in the basement family room) then it's less likely to be turned on and left on. Most importantly, it's less likely to become an addiction.

6. It does not encourage much interaction. If you're in front of the television 3 or more hours a day, how much conversation do you have with others?

7. BUT when it is on, that's where everyone is located, so making it a rarity does encourage interaction. What I mean by this is that we are purposeful in what we watch. My husband likes the survival shows and we watch them occasionally. We also watch football and we hysterically giggle over Parks and Rec. What we do watch (which is less than 5 hours a week) helps us relax, laugh over something together, chat about something new... And when football season or March Madness is on, it's then we have friends and family gathered around eating lots of good food, cheering, and enjoying each other. There are some great memories gathered around the TV when you're purposeful about what you watch and when you watch and who you watch it with and why.

8. Television is not the place to go to fulfill our job as parents. Our biblical job is quite clear: raise up children in the knowledge of the Lord. To resort to television as a source of upbringing is disobedient to this calling. That doesn't mean I haven't learned anything about parenting by watching Daniel the Tiger with my children (seriously) but watching this show (no matter how valuable) will not teach my children about Jesus.

9. Television is not a necessity to living and I do not want to give our children any other impression. It is a luxury. Sunday night is our family movie and pizza night. The girls love it. I do believe that it was left on all the time it would become less of a luxury, which is just what it is. It is a treat, a frill, a symbol of high living and wealth. If you have one with the means to afford movies, football, Netflix, &etc. consider yourself blessed.

10. We do not want it to be the center of our home. We do not arrange our main living room around the television. Our main living room is conducive to conversation, games, reading, comfort, and play.

The center of our home is Jesus Christ and if the television is on all the time, I do believe it will take away from Him. Anything that does that, must go.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Reasons I Decided to Pursue Minimalism]

God began a work in me back in April when I expressed my frustration to a woman with whom I disciple. My problem was that every time it came time to pick up it was a battle. The girls were masters at emptying every tub and then being so overwhelmed with the mess that they would not play. And then when it came time to pick up... it was the worst time of day. I began to realize that the majority of my day was doing a general pick up of our stuff!

Not only that but my closet was overflowing. I dreaded putting my clothing away because the containers I had were stuffed and overflowing. I struggled picking an outfit because I had too much to pick from; I knew that I was wasting a lot of time doing this daily.

Also, our storage room disaster was embarrassing and I hated going into our overstuffed laundry room to attempt laundry each week.

I was over it and didn't understand why.

She encouraged me to check out YouTube videos on minimalism. She told me that I'd find them motivating. When I listened to this TED Talk on minimalism I was beyond ready to solve this problem I had.
This began a crazy minimalism search and what I found astounded me. I read this blog post: How Minimalism is Biblical. I read "The Joy of Less" by Francine Jay. The more I read, the more I began to create a minimalist mindset because it dawned on me, thanks to the wisdom of these people, that I was was not living a deliberate, meaningful life.

It was time to define what it meant to live a God-centered, deliberate, meaningful life.

It's been a six month journey that is far from over. And this journey has changed my perspective in so many incredible ways.

I didn't realize how much my stuff, my piles and piles of stuff, was keeping me from quality time with my husband and girls. It was keeping me from enjoying the day to day moments. My stuff was overwhelming me. Most importantly, I was storing up treasures on earth, I found myself thinking that the value of life was found in what or how much I owned, I found that if it came down to it I would struggle giving it away to someone who was in need of it. My treasure was in things.

Then three months into this journey one of my dearest friends passed away. She left behind a husband, 3 beautiful children, and a home full of decor she created to point to the "things" she valued most in life. It was full of Bible verses (like everywhere you look), it was full of pictures of her loved one's and the memories she made with them; her home reflected what she valued: God, husband, children, friends and family. And above her kitchen sink was one word: SIMPLIFY.

As my sister and I cleaned the home she left behind so her husband and children could come home to rest after the longest 2 weeks of their life, we marveled at what she left behind. It suddenly dawned on me why this journey of minimalism was so important: she could take none of this stuff with her and she is now in the only place every Christian should want to be - in the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She is at peace. She is experiencing joy in His presence. True, unending joy.

That is what I want and that is what I pursue: life in Christ.

As I aspire to become a minimalist and purge the things from my life that keep me from that pursuit, the reasons for this minimalist journey become more and more clear....

1. It's Biblical. It's true that God gives and He takes away (Job 1:21) and also that everything belongs to Him (1 Chronicles 29:14) so we know that our wealth and all that we own is from His hand. On the other hand, we must consider what God says about treasure. One of my favorites begins in Matthew 6:19,
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The things we have here on earth will be destroyed. We must have the right mindset about these things and the purpose they serve. Is it wrong to own a lot of things? If I stay in context of this portion of Scripture, my immediate answer is no. However, if you treasure those possessions more than you treasure God, then you have a problem. I was finding that my stuff was taking priority over my purpose in life (see #4) and it was then that I knew it had to go. And everything I've ever had to let go of has claw marks on it. Still, I am incredibly thankful for this process of setting Jesus Christ as my ultimate treasure. He is my one gain. An eternity with Him is my hope, my encouragement. I found that the value of my life was not found in what I owned,
"Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Luke 12:15
My wealth is in God's kingdom and my life consists in the abundance of grace and mercy and promises and encouragement and wisdom found only in Christ Jesus. When I am satisfied in Him, I am better able to,
"Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no their approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luke 12:33-34
I am content because of what Jesus has done, not because of what I own,
"But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction." 1 Timothy 6:6-9
The more time I spend reading my Bible the more I realize that if anything in this world becomes more important than Jesus and the purpose He put in my life, then it has to go.

2. My husband has always been a minimalist. He always seemed frustrated when I brought stuff home. I didn't understand why until undertaking this journey. Now that we are on the same page, he just keeps saying that it's easier. Taking this on with his full support has been a huge encouragement, but also necessary because I didn't realize how my selfish lifestyle was affecting him. This is one way to bless him. I thank him quite a bit for his patience with me as I filled our home with unnecessary items, overwhelming him and (unknowingly) myself. And although the money I spent was at a thrift store or the clearance rack, the dollar here and there added up rather quickly and was keeping him from his goal. As I gathered items purchased in the 8 years of our marriage I became ashamed of how much money I spent on worthless stuff. Even though I bought it for a killer price, there was no need for it. Kyle understood that. I am so sorry that it took me this long to realize this fact.

3. Overstuffed = Overwhelmed. My day-to-day life was overwhelming. Putting stuff away in an attempt to keep the house clean was hard work. Stuff was making it harder than it needed to be. My mantra is now: if it doesn't all fit in the container dedicated to it, then rid yourself of the extras. For example, there was no reason to own 3 red tank tops. They were each different for reasons I liked, but I finally picked a favorite and most versatile, then donated the rest. I owned 20+ t-shirts! All of my t-shirts barely fit in a drawer! Now I have my workout clothes, t-shirts, and pajamas all in one drawer. Six months ago I had a tub for each of those "categories" (insert eye-rolling emoji here). In our kitchen I had more coffee cups than I ever used (even with company). They had to be stacked to fit into the cupboard. We owned two sets of wine glasses. (Why???) When it came down to it, these overstuffed places were overwhelming. Also, most of what we owned, we never used.

4. Stuff was keeping me from focusing on my purpose in life. This is my purpose statement:
"I, Rebecca, am first and foremost a servant of Jesus Christ because of my faith in the work He accomplished on the cross - in His death, burial, and resurrection. He has called me to be a loving, respectful and submissive wife to Kyle. A loving and kind mother to Brielle and Eleanna who raises them in the knowledge of Christ. I am a disciple and a disciple maker. Lastly, I am a reading and writing teacher."
If anything is outside of what I believe God is calling me to do, it's gone. I let too much get in the way of my God-given calling. It was past time to say "no" to everything else as I found the joy in pursuing a God-centered, deliberate, meaningful life.

5. I am unencumbered by things I do not use. (Everything has a purpose.) Kyle has always said this, I want everything to have a purpose. And I did not understand fully what he meant until pursuing this lifestyle. If it doesn't serve a purpose, if it is never used, then do not become encumbered by it. As I donated boxes I found freedom in letting it all go, and I also marveled at the fact that I could not remember what was in them. I haven't kept a perfect count, but my goal was 40 boxes or trash bags by next April; I'm already at 31. I am enjoying the fact that I am not burdened by things as they become less and less. I find more joy in time with God knowing that my home is not distracting me.  I find more joy in blessing my husband and helping him through my day. I find more joy in the time I have for the girls. Pick-up time is less stressful. Everything has a purpose, down to what is on the wall for us to look at every day. If there is no purpose or joy in it - I find that I do not want it because I find it cramps my purpose in life. It's a load I do not want to bear, nor should bear.

6. Spending less and more intentional spending. One of my favorite pastimes is grabbing a coffee and searching for treasure at a thrift store. I still enjoy uncovering lovely items for a fraction of their original price. In the six months since this journey began, my only reason for going into these stores was to donate much of what I probably purchased in places like that. The last time I visited I gathered an item here or there and found a purpose for it immediately - or I simply enjoyed looking at it. The one unnecessary item I purchased (a cute green hat) I bought for $1 and knew immediately which hat it would replace (my goal is to not add to what I already own). If I cannot do either one of those things, I simply enjoy looking and appreciating it from afar. I was a bit worried about going in, wondering if I would have self-control, and I felt prepared with the tools I had read about and the fixed mindset as a result, but I was super pleased that these strategies I set in place were actually put to use. I walked out of the store with two items, they both had a purpose, and I used the cash I had in my wallet (the limit I set for myself) rather than swiping the credit card.

7. Time. I found that dealing with the stuff in our home was actually keeping me from doing the things I wanted or needed to do. One example: there were times I spent 30 minutes finding an outfit in the morning, trying one on - not liking it - throwing it on the bed - making a mess to clean up later (more time), coming upstairs to dress the girls - digging through their mounds of clothes (making another mess for later), making breakfast (but not until I cleaned up the disaster of dishes from supper the night before), and before I knew it we were running late. Running late put me in a grumpy mood that was taken out on our girls. They were not getting the best of me. Hurrying here and there became our lifestyle. All because I spent too much time on things that do not matter in the long run. When I purged those things I did not like on me, picked my favorites, set in place a color scheme for my closet so that everything went with everything, I spent less time on an outfit and more time enjoying. I knew I liked it on me, so over-thinking about it was not an issue. After going through the girls closet and picking items we both loved, it was easier to dress them. Then cleaning up the mess of supper was easy to do before bed because there was less to clean. I realized that it was easier to live with less. The less I had, the more time I had to read my Bible, memorize verses, teach my children, read a book, write a blog post, enjoy my cup of coffee in the morning, workout, tackle the things my husband needed accomplished, spoil him in ways I neglected before... there is so much freedom in owning less! Less stuff = more time.

8. Spiders. Spiders love piles. On laundry day they come out of the woodwork. I swear that my piles of sorted clothes attract them from miles away. It's so grotesquely strange. The more stuff that was piled on the floor the more spiders and spider webs I found hidden behind or under them. As I rid myself of furniture and cleaned those spaces, I was amazed at all their hidden places. I hate spiders. They are creepy. The more I rid the home of stuff, the less opportunity they had to make a home of our home. Win. Win.

9. I finally came to terms with the fact that I am not an organized person. The more stuff I had, the more I became overwhelmed with my feeble attempts at organizing it all. I had a board on Pinterest dedicated to this task that I tried to tackle (which has now been deleted - WOOOHOOO!). In the process of becoming organized, I'd make a mess - which overwhelmed me - and when I felt overwhelmed I had the tendency to just stare at it, not knowing where to start. Most of the time I left it lay, not knowing what to do with it. IF I did finally get it organized then I lacked the discipline needed to keep it that way. Less stuff = less to try and organize.

10. I held too tightly to things that have no eternal value. I found that some items were packed away in memory boxes that I had completely forgotten about. When I attached a memory to something, I had more difficulty in ridding myself of it. But what good is it to me if it sits in a box?! Not everything was tossed, but if I could not fit it in one container - I joyfully reminisced and then joyfully let go of it. If the item gave me memories of things I'd rather forget, I trashed it - joyfully. Otherwise, I went to the suggestions of others to "keep" the memory attached to the item (i.e. taking a picture of it) and then rid myself of the item itself. The item does not make the memory special and ridding myself of the item does not take the memory away, the joy found in it, or the love for the people in it.

This journey is not over. I have a lot of things on my list yet to purge (i.e. crafting supplies, filing cabinet full of paperwork - and the pile of paperwork on top of it, Christmas decor, teaching stuff, &etc.) but I've come a looooong way. Most of what is sitting in my laundry room are those crafting supplies I have yet to tackle and piles of donation boxes. It is liberating to rid the house of those piles and put tally marks next to my 40 bag goal!

If you can relate to anything in my story, I encourage you to begin this pursuit. This is what helps me: Concepts that Help Me Live with Less

Monday, October 9, 2017

To the Silent, Grieving Mother

Behind the smile is a deep and abiding sadness, that you, unfortunately, feel like you must keep to yourself. I wish I could squeeze you, let you cry on my shoulder, give you freedom to grieve for your baby.

It wasn't long after trying that I knew I was pregnant. I knew because I felt different. So much was taken from me from the moment of conception - energy, appetite, dizzy spells. Still, it didn't take me long to fall for this child I was carrying; so I cannot imagine the heartache had either one been lost. Knowing this, I truly believe that it does not matter how long you carried your baby. You have every right to grieve.

You have every right to grieve.
You have every right to grieve because your baby lived. I do not know how long you carried this child, but everything scientists tell us about life defines your baby. Consider this: if bacteria on Mars is a sign of life, how much more life was in your baby? I'll prove it, beginning with the definition of life. Babies, from the moment of conception, exhibit the four qualities in's definition of life, "the sum of the distinguishing phenomena of organisms, especially metabolism, growth, reproduction, and adaptation of the environment." (

The human embryo metabolizes "carboxylic acids pyruvate and lactate as its preferred energy substrates." (source) In other words, a baby - from conception - uses the chemicals carboxylic acids pyruvate and lactate to produce energy. Think about it, does a non-living organism need energy?

If a baby grew as rapidly as he/she does in the second and third trimester as they do in the first, they would weigh over a ton at birth! That is an incredible amount of growing! And most of their growing occurs during those first twelve weeks. As early as week five a baby's brain, spinal cord, heart, and other organs begin to form; and that's just the beginning! explains that during week six, "Growth is rapid this week. Just four weeks after conception, the neural tube along your baby's back is closing and your baby's heart is pumping blood." (source) Your baby! Also, your baby begins to grow arms and legs!

To further prove this point, Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson won an Emmy award for his microimagery pictures tracking human development as a baby grew from conception to birth! It's incredible! The title? "Miracle of Life" (source).

Growth begins from conception and that is a scientific fact. To further prove it, read about how a baby meets the reproduction and adaptation of the environment "requirements" stated in the definition of life:

Did you know that when twins are produced that is an example of asexual reproduction? (source) Also (according to the same source), "an increase in the number of cells occurs during normal growth and development and when tissues are replaced following injury" (aka asexual reproduction). So while your baby grows, a fertilized egg divides into two and then billions of cells. This growth and division of cells is - yup, you guessed it - reproduction. (source)

Adaptation of Environment 
As one of many arguments in this particular life-quality, let's consider how a baby adapts to an environment in the womb that lacks the nutrients he/she needs. When nutrients are scarce, studies prove that the baby adapts and begins to divert the nutrients to the most vital organ to stay ALIVE: the brain. Studies have proven that the baby adapts to the environment in the womb!

If you want further proof I suggest you read Psychology Today's article that will blow your mind:

You see, you ache because your loss was significant. This loss is not an easy loss. You do not have to be silent. You do not have to go through it alone. Grieving is necessary and so is saying good-bye.

Find Comfort in the Creator
I also hope that my sharing a few verses will give you rest. Not because it will make your heart ache less, but because it will give you a bit of understanding of the sovereign God of the universe. Did you know He set the limits for the ocean waves? (Job 38:8-11) He tells the lightening bolts where to strike? (Job 38:35, 36:32) Did you know that He set the stars in place (Psalm 8:3) and that He knows them all by name (Psalm 147:4)? Did you know that He knows each hair on your head (Luke 12:7)? With that knowledge comes comfort that the sovereign God of the universe knows the aching of your soul and He will work on your heart as you grieve,
"He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure." Psalm 147:3-5
And if He's able to do that, and significantly more, does He also sustain, create, and give life?
"In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." Job 12:10
"his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass." Job 14:5 
I have no idea why He called this baby to Himself so early, but I do know that God does not waste pain. He uses every thing you go through in this life to draw you closer to Himself. I cannot answer why, because I am not God, but I do know that the first time your baby opened his/her eyes, they looked into the face of Jesus, their Creator. That is an incredible thought, isn't it?

I just wanted you to know that I think of you often and pray for you every time you come to mind. I do not possess the power to ease your pain, but I know someone who does. Trust Jesus, the Comforter. Consider the people of the past who experienced extreme persecution, calamity from enemies, loss, &etc. They had a lot to say about the God of comfort,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction," 1 Corinthians 1:3-4  
"When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul." Psalm 94:19
Even Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." Matthew 5:4
On your darkest days, stop and consider the wondrous works of God (Job 37:14), for He alone offers peace when there is none, comfort in grief, and healing in brokenness. I pray that in the midst of your heartache you know more of our Creator, Sustainer, Savior Jesus Christ, and find comfort in His almighty, sovereign hand.

With love,

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tuesdays Top Ten [God Attributes to Help Quiet the Soul]

This post has been in the works for nearly a year. It took me forever to write because I had so many passages for each quality that I finally had to pick. Plus I have so many attributes that this post could go on forever; again, I just had to pick!

As a result of writing this top ten, God has revealed so much of Himself and I -again- cannot fathom His greatness.

As I read through Scripture I mark my Bible with the following color code:
Black = Notes
Purple = Sovereignty
Green = Purpose/Theme
Blue = Gospel, Grace/Mercy
Red = Important
Brown = Human Depravity
Pink = Prayer or Wisdom
Yellow = Wow! (because some things are just, wow.) and I also mark God's Attributes in yellow highlighter as well.
Orange = God Said. (Sooooo ya better listen.)

Obviously, you do not have to follow this color code, but I do encourage you to mark your Bible in some way so that you are focused on God and His sovereignty, His purpose, His theme, His gospel, His grace and mercy, His way of life, and His attributes. It takes the focus away from self and onto Him, the Author. I have learned more about God than ever before! And each time I read I mark something I missed the first and second time through. God is forever opening my eyes to His greatness!

Another reason I encourage marking your Bible is that you can open it to any page, any book, and see purple, proving He is in control. Or blue to remind me of His amazing grace in light of human depravity. I also love opening my Bible to yellow and reading the qualities of this AMAZING God I serve, which is the focus of this post. All of these qualities (with the exception of #8), and the verses given, are highlighted yellow in my Bible because they reveal the attributes of God. They also have the "wow" factor. Reading about God puts me in a state of, wow! Just wow!

1. God is aseity. Aseity is a latin term that refers to one who is able to exist in and of itself. He exists from himself and He is dependent on nothing to exist. He is self-sufficient; completely independent of all things, "I AM WHO I AM" (Exodus 3:14). He is complete in and of Himself. The source of His existence has always been, always is, and always will be Himself. The exact definition is as follows: existence originates from and having no source other than itself (
"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." Revelation 1:8
Knowing that His existence is not determined by anything or anyone should put us in an incredible state of awe! He needs nothing to sustain His own existence! In fact, when Elihu speaks the truth about God he says this about God's existence and how it's tied to the existence of everything else,

"Who gave him charge over all the earth, and who laid on him the whole world? If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust." Job 34:13-15
No one but God gave God charge over all the earth. Therefore the entire earth is dependent on God for our very existence. That's why Elihu answers with, if God set His mind to it and took his own breath everything would cease to exist. God is depended on nothing to exist, but we are wholly dependent on God for our existence. Which leads perfectly to this next quality...

2. He is the creator and sustainer of life. I believe in God's aseity, which goes hand in hand with this next quality. He needs nothing to sustain Himself, but His creation needs HIM in order to even exist. The very first thing said about God was that He created (Genesis 1:1). And He created it from His own thoughts, His own imagination! Just look at His creation - the stars, the mountains, the waterfalls, the trees... newborn babies... and marvel at this quality! Scripture proves that since He created it, He also sustains it,
"In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." Job 12:10 (In addition to Job 12:10 are Job 14:5 and Exodus 23:26, which are two - of many - examples of this quality if you want to look them up.)
"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." Revelation 4:11 (bolded and underline mine.) By His will His creation exists! He is not dependent on anything, but every single thing is dependent on Him.
So much peace is found in those verses, especially when I think about the death of dear family and friends and also when I consider the day that I die. God has my breath, and the breath of all mankind, and all living things in HIS hand. Because He sustains life, I am at complete rest in HIM.

(This quality was written months before experiencing the loss of a very dear friend. As I reflect on this quality of God and also on this friend, I am blown away by the peace I have in God. Knowing Him helps me grieve. Knowing who He is gives me joy in the midst of tears. Learning who He is according to His word comforts and encourages me. As does knowing the big and powerful God I serve has all things under His control - down to our very existence.)

3. He gives all things because all things are His to give. He created it, therefore, He sustains it and He gives it, because all things are His.
"Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine." Job 41:11
This truth is outlined in many places, one of them from David in 1 Chronicles 29:14 with David's prayer of thanksgiving after the Israelites tithed for the building of the temple - realizing that what they gave was from God in the first place. To Job 1:21 when Job lost everything - still blessing his name through a phenomenal statement, the Lord gave and has taken. To Matthew 6:25-34 where Jesus taught us that we shouldn't worry about the clothes we wear or the food we eat, because He gives those things too!

4. He is wise. We will never understand His thoughts or His ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). He is all-knowing and full of wisdom. Pay attention to the questions He asks in Isaiah 40:12-14 that illustrate this quality in such a thought provoking way (I've underlined my personal favorites),
"Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? Who did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?"
To answer those questions: No one is able to measure the Spirit of the Lord. No one can offer Him counsel. He goes to no one for consultation. And not one piece of His creation has given Him understanding. No one taught him the path of justice or knowledge or shown him understanding. Because wisdom came from God and He gives it to whom He will. See Job 32:8-9 or read Proverbs 2:6,
"For the Lord gives wisdom, from his mouth come knowledge and understanding...
5. God is faithful. To be faithful is to be strict or thorough in the performance of a duty, or to be true to one's word, promises and vows, or to be steady in allegiance or affection, to be loyal, reliable or trusted, and to be one who adheres to a standard. God is all of this and more. When I searched for each statement revealing this truth I had so many that I finally had to pick. When Moses was giving the Israelites his final address before passing away, he sang a song. In that song is this statement:
"The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he." Deuteronomy 32:4
Paul also reminds Timothy of God's faithfulness in his second letter to Timothy: 2 Timothy 2:12-13, which is also debated to be a hymn of old,
"If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful - "
That statement, if we are faithless, he remains faithful, was one that cut me to the core. We are faithless. Yet, He is faithful. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). That is faithful.

6. God is holy. If you want a small taste of God's holiness, go to Revelation. He is the only one who is worthy of songs like,
"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" Revelation 4:8 
"Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.

Revelation 15:3 (bolded, underline mine)
He is the only one worthy of such worship because Jesus alone is pure. Faultless. Immaculate. Spotless. Holy. Holy. Holy.

7. He is powerful. Creation stands as an awesome testimony to the power of the almighty God we serve (Romans 1:20). If you look at the stars, that He holds in His hand and knows them all by name, you catch a small glimpse of His power. If you attempt to climb a fourteener (a mountain with an elevation of 14,000 feet) you'll stand in awe of His might.  If you visit the west coast and try to wrap your arms around a giant sequoia tree, His greatness will become unfathomable.  It wasn't just in creation that He revealed His power. The Bible illustrates His power from Genesis, with His creation, to Revelation when HE WINS over Satan. He reveals Himself in powerful ways from beginning to end; with His revelation of His sovereign attributes when He speaks to Job out of the whirlwind in Job 38-41, to the destruction of the Egyptians in Exodus (read 14:31), to His destruction of the Baal god in 1 Kings 18:20-40 when fire rains down from the heavens so hot a drenched altar does not stop it, to Jesus' healing power when He raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11) or how the very touch of His robe heals a 12 year ailment (Mark 5:24-32) to the very gospel of Jesus Christ when He defeated death by His death on the cross and resurrection! And is now seated on the throne as King, reigning over all, and through all, and above all, and above every name that is named (Ephesians 1:17-23)
"He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs." Hebrews 1:3-4
I had the hardest time picking a favorite verse to illustrate His POWER, so I just picked one from the bunch: Psalm 19:1-6, 33 (WOW!), 65, 66, 89, 115:3, Jeremiah 10:6, 32:17-19, Job 9:12, 11:7, Exodus 14:31. I finally picked a praise psalm that illustrates the fact that we should tremble at the presence of the Lord - His power is that great!
"The sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs. What ails you, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back? O Mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs? Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water." Psalm 114:3-8 
Or that His power does not rest. He is at work from the rising of the sun to the setting of the sun...
"The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting." Psalm 50:1
8. He is sovereign. The word sovereign can be either a noun or an adjective, and I think they both apply. Noun: a monarch; king, or supreme ruler. A person who has supreme power or authority. Adjective: having supreme rank, power, or authority. Greatest in degree; utmost or extreme. Being above all others in character, importance, excellence, etc. Some synonyms solidify the meaning of sovereign: absolute, commanding, directing, majestic, independent, self-governed, supreme, unlimited... . Anything that I read that reveals His sovereignty is in purple. Purple for royalty. So if I come across passages like Psalm 139:16 written by King David,
"Your eyes saw saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." 
I highlight it in purple and double underline the strong verbs (in purple) that reveal what God does. I have Ecclesiastes 3:14-15 thumbed as a favorite because it is one I go to often when I need a clear reminder that God is sovereign and I simply need to rest in HIM,
"... whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people ear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away."
When I listened to a sermon series on the book of Ecclesiastes there were many things I wrote beside this passage: What God does is eternal. "Life's mystery: God is on control. What He does He does eternally and He can be trusted." He does things for His purpose and for His own glory. "God has decreed everything that is going to happen. And my note for the final statement, God will go and get an event and show how perfectly it fits into His plan. 

Ecclesiastes teaches an excellent lesson. Since God is in control, we should enjoy life all the more,
"Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil - this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy is his heart." Ecclesiastes 5:18-20
Soul satisfaction settles in the source of sovereignty. If you want your soul to be quiet and at rest, know God. Know that He rules His creation. He is in control.

9. His love is steadfast. In fact, He is love. But think about that word steadfast in a world who's love is conditional. His is unconditional. We sin, He forgave. We fail Him, He remains faithful. We neglect time in His Word, in prayer, in praise, but we are always on His mind. We become lazy, He is always at work. We are impatient, He is patient. He is always kind, even when we are not. That is love and even though we are like Israel in Hosea - rejecting, neglecting, and unfaithful - His love never changes.
"The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and fourth generation." Exodus 34:6-7 (Also, 
10: He is unchanging! God is immutable, everlasting. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8) He says it of Himself in Malachi 3:6, "For I, the Lord, do not change." Everything I just listed will never, ever change! He has always been and all that he has ever been, He will always be. He is perfect. He is faithful. He is holy. He is sovereign. He is powerful. He is without limits. He has no beginning and no end. He knows-all. He is beyond measurement. And He is all these things from before time began, and He will remain these things for all eternity. He will not change. And that should bring us comfort in a world that is limited, imperfect, and fragile - a world He created for HIS purpose.
"I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witness! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any." Isaiah 44:6-8

Do not underestimate Him, for He is unfathomable. His holiness, wisdom, power, sovereignty, all of these qualities are immeasurable, and are perfect, and will never, ever change. No matter what happens, knowing these things about Him should help you sleep well at night. Take a deep breath and praise God for giving that breath to you. And then rest. Be at rest because you serve a big and powerful and amazing God.

Knowing God according to His word quiets our soul and the bible states that He finds that beautiful.

And just when we think we might understand Him consider this,

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, 
so are my ways higher than your ways 
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Things I Never Thought I'd Have to Say to My Children]

I'm sure all mom's could add to today's top ten!

1. "Do not wipe your boogers on the curtains!" (or the wall, or the furniture, or the dinner table) Seriously. I never thought that would be something I'd have to teach.

2. "Stop using your hair as a napkin!" Does anyone else say this as your children wipe their grubby, greasy, spaghetti-sauce-stained hands in their hair? Gross.

3. "Ew! Do not lay on the bathroom floor!" (of a public restroom)

4. "Do not suck the toothpaste out of the container!" Strangely enough, poison control was not at all concerned about this.

5. "Did you just lick me?!" or "Did you just bite my toe?!"

6. "No, I did not put slobbery juice in your cup." My child was hysterically crying one morning because that's what she thought I did.

7. "Let's not try on other people's shoes." Once while we visited a busy splash pad a bunch of children lined up their shoes on the grass. Instead of playing in the water, my baby Briella Bean decided to go and try them all on... and later on in life she was telling a stranger all about her life and the people in it. Poor biker dude was bored out of his mind, but I hysterically giggled about her description of her best friend, "Addi is my best friend. She likes to try on my shoes and I let her." As she shrugs, "it is weird." Well, kid, I remember very clearly telling you not to do that once... or twice...

8. "Ahhhh! Don't throw ____ away!" _____ could equal anything from shoes, underwear, clothing, or anything laying about they deem worthy of the dumpster... I realized this too late once with a pair of shoes Brielle wore only once.

9. "Honey, not every playroom will have princess dresses." This is a statement on repeat these days. Whenever we visit someone the first question out of Brielle's mouth is, "Can I wear their princess dresses?" So I ask her, "What if they don't have princess dresses?" And she looks at me like I'm a crazy person.

10. "How did you get up there?" This one is common with our Ele girl. Sometimes it's said in a freaked-out-hyperventilating voice...

And one does not just make this stuff up.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Prayer for Faith

A book I refer to often is titled, The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by Arthur Bennett. In it I witness rich language that reveals sound theology based on Scripture, deep and abiding worship, biblical meditation, and dedicated devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When I pick up this book to read one poem, it takes time to process each word and phrase because it digs into my heart and soul, making a profound impact on my attitude towards the Christian religion. These God-centered prayers illustrate a strength of character I do not possess. Therefore, it aids in my practice of prayer and in my devotion to studying Scripture. The prayers in this book play a significant role in my spiritual growth. I highly encourage you to get one for yourself. 

In the mean time, read these words and soak in the meaning behind them:
"Help me honor you by believing before I feel, for great is the sin if I make feeling a cause of faith."

One of Jesus' twelve disciples coined a term many of us may be familiar with, "Don't be a doubting Thomas!" Unfortunately for him, his doubt in Christ's resurrection serves as a wonderful reminder to Christians today. John told the story of Jesus' resurrection beginning in John 20 when Mary Magdalene noticed His body missing from the tomb. Jesus appeared to her and she told the disciples exactly what had happened. Later Jesus appeared to the disciples in a locked room, Thomas was not with them. When they reported what happened to Thomas he said, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe." (20:25) He doubted the word of the others. It wasn't until eight days after this that Jesus once again appeared to them, again behind locked doors! Jesus told Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." (20:27-28) Thomas believed and after saying so Jesus' response should solidify our faith, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (20:28-29)

We have witnesses who recorded the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ - a story, they claim, saves those who have faith in its events. History has proven that these authors died for what they claimed to have seen. The disciples for example: Peter was crucified on the cross upside down. Andrew was scourged, and then tied to a cross. It took him two days to die, and while he hung there he preached the gospel to those who passed by him. James was beheaded. Philip was scourged. Thomas was speared. Thaddeus and Simon were both crucified. (source:

Why would these men die such tragic deaths - which historians prove true - for a cause not worth death itself?

They died for their faith in Jesus Christ, because of what they witnessed Him say and do. Then they wrote it down and shared it with many others. They wrote it down for future believers such as ourselves. So that we are those who Christ says are blessed because of our faith in what we have not seen.

John's purpose for writing down signs Jesus performed was written in John 20:30-31, "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written  so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." So that you can read those words and have faith that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write down exactly what happened based on what he witnessed, encourage our soul and give us perseverance during this life - and for our death. Do not mistake faith for a feeling.

Faith is not a feeling. 

Faith is built on truth.

Jesus died on the cross. He was buried in a tomb. And based on countless witnesses, and the apostles who wrote about Him, we have faith that He defeated death by rising again. So we either take what Jesus says about Himself as complete truth, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) or we take him to be a crazy man. Because that is a huge claim. He claimed to be God, John 8:58. He claimed to be the truth, not a truth. He claimed to be the way to God, not a way. He claimed to be the life, not a life. These are huge claims, claims that we must take by faith.

So when I read prayers like that, I pray for a faith built on the authority of Scripture. I pray for unwavering faith in the truth found there. I pray that God reveal His purpose in each word, each sentence, each paragraph given so that I learn more about Him. I pray for encouragement and perseverance. I pray for a faith that honors God - not based on what I feel - but what I know. I pray for a faith that helps me live and die well.

And I know that Jesus died on the cross, was buried and rose again. Every leap of faith I take from that point on is because I rest in that truth.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Mom's Cleaning Tips]

My mother is a professional cleaner. She owned her own business cleaning homes back in the day and it continues today with high end condos. Whenever I scrub my house I hear her chanting in my ear those tips I once found so annoying, but came especially helpful in high school when I cleaned hotel rooms (and now as I manage my own home). I abandoned these cleaning tips in college and a few years following graduation; probably because I was over it. My poor husband suffered through disaster after disaster in our first few years of marriage and every college roommate probably grew tired of me as well. Sorry! Eventually I became fed up with living like a slob and the hours I had to spend cleaning when I did grow tired of it; and finally embraced my mom's cleaning concepts. (Still, not at her level. Like I said, she's a pro.)

Rule #1: Clean from top to bottom. This is common sense because that's how gravity works. Whatever you wipe at the top will come crashing down to the bottom. If you wipe the bottom first, you'll end up cleaning it twice. And when I say "top" I mean ceiling. The ceiling in my kitchen hasn't been touched in years and you can tell. Grease splatters in amazingly high places. A duster with an extension is especially handy for those cob webs in corners. Also, do not forget your ceiling fan.

2. If you can touch it, you need to clean it. This may seem like a duh, but you will be absolutely amazed how many finger prints I wipe off our walls every week. Walls are gross places when you have a toddler. This list could be extensive, but it seriously does not take long. Light switches, door knobs, handles, arm rests, buttons, book covers, etc. etc. Whatever you touch, needs a wipe down.

3. Clean the hidden places. Just because you can close the door on something (or it is above your eye level) does not mean it should be ignored. I remember my mom telling me that you can judge cleanliness by the hidden places: microwave, drawers, linen closet, under the couch, refrigerator shelves, the tops of the frames on your wall, etc. "Don't forget to dust under the decor!" (And yes, if this was a chore she gave, she would always check.) Please, for heavens sake, do not look too closely inside my kitchen cabinets. They haven't been touched for... well... a while... and we'll leave it at that.

4. If you think it's clean, it's probably not. "Don't be satisfied with a once-over!" If I had to complete a list for mom I always had to ask myself, will this pass mom's inspection? Now my question has changed slightly, would this pass a mom inspection? 

5. If you're not huffing and puffing you're not scrubbing hard enough. I often thought of my mom during basketball practice when my coach would remind us, "If you're not exhausted after playing defense, you're not defending well enough! Defense is not a time to rest!" Cleaning is not a time to rest! On the days I scrub, I don't worry about a work out. I know I'll get a couple hours in and my arms will be on fire.... On the days I do scrub next to my mom, I have a hard time keeping up with her. She's super woman who fuels on coffee.

6. If you can do nothing else, clean your floors. You would be amazed at how a general pick-up and a quick sweep or vacuum will do wonders for your home's overall appearance.

7. Make your bed. I don't always follow this one. But I've heard it said that the first thing most successful people do when they get out of bed in the morning is make it.

8. Go to bed with a clean kitchen. This rule makes sense because this room is the center of every home. But here's a bout of honesty: this one I don't always follow, but my mom does. She cannot sleep if there's a dirty dish in the sink! I like this rule in the morning when I wake up to a clean kitchen, but when I'm tired and ready to relax... grrrrr... I want that inner-mom-voice to shut up.

Thanks to my mom's super-human-cleaning-powers I've learned a lot, but I have learned the last two all on my own (I hope mom is proud):

9. Magic Erasers are actually magic. If I encounter something that can't even be scrubbed off with one of these suckers and a bit of elbow grease, well, it's there forever. And that's a rare occasion. I buy these things in bulk.

10. Overstuffed = Overwhelmed. If there's too much stuff and items are falling out of whatever bin/drawer/basket/etc. you've put it in - it's time to go through it and trash, sell, or donate the extras. It's not worth having a mess that you can't even properly pick up. Less stuff = less mess = less stress.

Do not mistake my sharing this list with expecting or having perfection. My home doesn't always sparkle. I have two children who love making messes and hate cleaning them up. Ele loves to throw dirt on her legs as she sits in it and I had "Don't wipe your boogers on ______!" repeated to my Briella Bean for many years of her little life. (The blank space held places such as curtains, walls, furniture, pillows, etc.)

While I truly believe in loving and enjoying life, I do not believe in living like a slob. For five or six years of my life others had to endure, with great patience, my sin in allowing life to get too messy. I sincerely apologize to those who had to live with my hoarding, disgusting self. With that in mind, I try to balance life with cleanliness, and I do not always do it perfectly. I do believe in hard work and serving your family. Sometimes making messes fits perfectly into both categories. I encourage you not to live for perfection, because that is impossible. Instead, I encourage you to work hard, serve your family, teach lessons, make memories, point them to Christ, and then clean up afterwards.

Some of the best advice I soaked up from Deb who disciples me is this: serve your family so well that you hit your pillow at night from pure exhaustion and satisfaction of a job well done. Laziness is never rewarded, hard work, however, brings profit. Consider the ant, Proverbs 6:6-11 and observe those around you, for you will learn much:
"I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man." Proverbs 24:30-34
In other words, look at the home of a sluggard, of a woman lacking sense and see that it's overgrown with germs, the floor covered in dirty clothes, scattered toys, and dirty dishes. Note that a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and you will reap the consequences. Work hard and the fruit of your labor will be noticed without you having to draw any attention to it. People will take note and will learn from you. What will they learn?

My mom taught me the value of hard work. What will you teach your children?

Friday, August 25, 2017

I am so glad I hemorrhaged.

This October 1 marks five years since I nearly lost my life.

My Briella Bean was only ten days old and had it not been for my mother-in-law attempting to wake me from a nap I would not be here today. There are so many perspectives of that day from those around me. From a friend who did my paperwork at the local hospital, to the doctor on duty that day, from those who can tell me exactly where they were and what they were doing when they found out I was being shipped out on flight for life. I enjoy hearing this story from their perspective because I begin to understand how much they care for me.

That's one reason I'm glad I hemorrhaged.

The main reason, however, goes much deeper. Before Brielle was born I struggled with wanting to be in control, down to the very minute of her birth. I wanted everything to go a certain way. I believed a natural delivery was the only way to go and I wrote about it in such strong language that I now see it as a pride issue. As I reviewed posts written before the birth of my first child, I was so ashamed of this person writing and posting and sharing these words, that I had to take a break from blogging and determine whether or not this was something I should continue.

I truly believe God used this incident to humble me.

I do not like the person I was five years ago, or even ten years ago before the gospel came alive for me and changed me. Thankfully, God has done a marvelous work in my heart. He continues to work in me and I've realized that the biggest growth, the times when I'm drawn closest to Himself, is in times of pain and heartache.

Seven units of blood,
Two units of plasma,
One flight for life,
One ambulance ride,
Two surgeries later,
Five years of reflection,
Countless perspectives shared,
One amazing learning experience,
And I am incredibly thankful that I hemorrhaged.

It was painful, but through it I learned that God does not waste pain. He used it to draw me closer to Himself and there is no greater purpose than that. For that is why Christ died. It wasn't just to save His own from the hell we all deserve. He died so that His own will spend an eternity with God. While we walk this earth as Christ did, we cannot - we will not - evade the cross. If we, "take up our cross and follow Jesus" (Matthew 10:38) we too will suffer. For how can we call ourselves followers otherwise? To take up our cross means certain death. Death to self. Alive to Christ. And while our faith remains faith, until the day our faith becomes sight, be thankful in sorrow. Find the joy of putting Jesus first, others second, yourself last - especially in hard times. Be glad in suffering.

For it is in suffering that I learned more about myself and who I am in Christ.

Here's something you must know. Being glad for an experience does not take away the hardness of it. It defines your identity. It solidifies what you believe. Pain draws you closer to God as you wait for that glorious day when you finally shed the weight of pain and peer fearlessly into the eyes of your Creator.

Be glad for pain, even as you weep.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


Since studying Job my fascination at Leviathan is as big as Leviathan itself. Not because of Leviathan, but because of what God says about this sea monster. When God answered Job "out of the whirlwind" beginning in 38:1 He begins by asking Job questions like, Can you do this? 'Cause I can and I did. Job's answer after two chapters of listening to God's great works is this,
"Behold I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further."
Yet, God was not done because there are two more chapters of His greatness. One of my favorite parts is in chapter 41:1-11 because of what God reveals of his power in His description of Leviathan,
"Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook or press down his tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many pleas to you? Will he speak to you soft words? Will he make a covenant with you to take him for your servant forever? Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you put him on a leash for your girls? Will traders bargain over him? Will they divide him up among the merchants? Can you fill his skin with harpoons or his head with fishing spears? Lay your hands on him; remember the battle - you will not do it again! Behold, the hope of a man is false; he is laid low even at the sight of him. No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up. Who then is he who can stand before me? Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine."
That last part where God dares Job to lay his hands on Leviathan - you will not do it again! Why? Because man is laid low when they see him and there is not a man in existence that is so fierce that he would even think to stir up this dreaded sea monster. And yet, God draws him out with a fishhook! He presses down his tongue with a cord. Leviathan pleas to God! God plays with him as with a bird!

And then there is this incredible question God asks of Himself, "Who then is he who can stand before me?" If you cannot stand before Leviathan, how on earth do you think you'd be able to stand before God?!

God is so incredibly big! I cannot fathom His greatness. Reading scripture like this puts me in a complete state of awe over God.

Today I was reminded of this portion of Scripture while reading Psalm 104. In this Psalm the author spends 35 verses describing God's greatness. When I read through verses 24-26 my mind was blown,
"O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play with.
Which you formed to play with.

I could not get over this! God is so mighty, so powerful, so great that he created a sea monster to play with.

Ponder that.

And then stand in awe of Jesus. Because of His work on the cross - when He died, was buried and rose again - we are able to stand before God. This powerful, mighty God who formed Leviathan to play with Him - a sea monster we would never dare to stir up and live to tell it - is more powerful, is greater than, this creature He formed. If we cannot endure meeting Leviathan, then we sure as heck have no hope before God. BUT because of Jesus, and our faith in HIS work, we can be in God's presence. I cannot wait for that day when I can behold His greatness with my own eyes - and live!