Happy Valentines!

February 14, 2017

I love Valentine’s Day. It has to be one of my favorite holidays. I like the whole holiday that revolves around love and flowers and sweet things. And I don’t just say this as a married person. I’ve always loved Valentines. I loved it back in elementary school when I would take such care to make a unique Valentines Mailbox to collect valentines from my classmates. I loved writing kind messages to my classmates, especially the ones who I knew others wouldn’t take the time to write kind messages to. I loved the sweet gifts my mom would buy me each year (and still does!). As I grew up, the day before Valentines was a busy day. You’d find me in the kitchen making as many homemade chocolates for my friends as possible. Now I find myself enjoying walking through my favorite flower shops, watching men try to pick out the perfect bouquet and admiring the perfection of beauty found in a rose.

Have I mentioned that I love Valentines? I love a holiday where I can remember the greatness of God’s love that far surpasses a holiday that our culture tries to hype up, and I love reminding others of how loved they are.

I also love celebrating with my favorite guy. So here’s a shout out to that guy. February 14- and 14 things that make me glad I get to celebrate Valentines with you!…

  1. I love that you support me in all I do.
  2. I love that you love me even when I’m at my craziest.
  3. I love your laugh. It’s one of my favorite sounds in life.
  4. I love how you help me so much at church.
  5. I love when you try to hold back a smile, but your dimple still shows.
  6. I love how smart you are and how humble you are about it. (Seriously, this guy has a wealth of information beyond belief stored in his brain!)
  7. I love how you listen when I want to share what God is teaching me.
  8. I love how amazing  you are with kids- our nieces/nephews, the kids at church… even children at the store-  You want to play with all of them and you are so gentle and sweet with all of them.
  9. I love how you’ll do just about anything to cheer me up when I’m down.
  10. I love how stable you are. You are the steady to my crazy.
  11. I love how inventive you are… how you can build, create, and fix just about anything.
  12. I love how loyal you are.
  13. I love that you love God.
  14. I love it that you picked me!

To all of you, today (and every day) may you know the love of those around you and the love of a God whose love far outshines any love we can ever imagine.

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I’ve been reading about marriage. I love reading about marriage. Actually, I love reading about relationships and God’s intentions in them.

Before I was married I loved reading about singleness. I gobbled  up a lot of those books (however I came to realize there are more bad books about singleness than good ones- my fair warning). Then a sweet gentleman stepped into my life which got me reading books on dating, because I was kind of stuck in the single world. I needed a little advice if this was going to work. After that sweet gentleman offered me a pretty diamond ring, I figured I should probably start reading some books about marriage. One friend told me, don’t rely on those books too much. Once you read a couple you’ll probably have enough wisdom to go on your own. But for me the thing about reading is the gentle reminders. Sure, by now I’ve probably read a chapter about respecting my husband written in six different books, with similar points, just worded differently, but these are the gentle reminders I need.

Tonight I found one of those reminders again. This time I wasn’t even reading a book about marriage. I was reading a book about Worship which had a chapter in it about marriage (I think the marriage wisdom keeps following me)!

As I was reading I got this feeling that I needed to stop. There was nothing new about what I was reading, but something told me I needed to pray.

  1. Pray for myself as a wife- for my desire to be a good and godly wife, for my actions to speak the love of Christ to my friends, my husband, and strangers. I need to pray for my first love to always be my God, and for the struggles I face in marriage.
  2. Pray for my husband- I believe I know him well enough to know what he struggles with, to know what God is doing in his life, and to pray a prayer of blessing over him. I could easily pray for him like I prayed for myself. I was ready to hop on to part 3…
  3. Pray for us as a couple. I had this perfectly planned in this spontaneous moment. I was going to pray that we honor God as a couple, that we make time for God in our lives to pray, worship and study. I was going to pray that our marriage would be an example of God’s love and an example to others.

BUT WAIT

I couldn’t get that far. I got to Part 2 and suddenly my praying went in an unexpected direction. Suddenly I started praying about love in my husband’s life, and I didn’t stop there. My original plan was gone and I was following a new pattern. If I told my group of Sunday School kids at church the first couple of words I prayed over my husband they could probably tell you the rest of the words because they sing a silly song that goes like this:

The fruit of the spirit’s not a coconut. The fruit of the spirit’s not a coconut. If you want to be a coconut, you might as well hear it you can’t be a fruit of the spirit. Cuz the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…

That’s it right there… The fruit of the spirit. As I prayed it seemed so right and so God-inspired. I see blogs and books and articles about praying over your husband or spouse. I’m sure someone (probably many!) people have thought about this before, but sometimes we need those reminders, just like I need those gentle reminders in my marriage books. Maybe it will help you in praying for your husband (or future spouse, boyfriend, or father, or brother, or wife, girlfriend, etc).

Here was my layout to my prayer:

Love- pray that God is your husband’s first love. That He learns to love God passionately and expressively in His own unique way. Pray that God’s love would be rooted deep inside Him and that love would overflow into the other areas of his life. Pray for Him to show God’s love to you, so that you can see a beautiful picture of our loving Jesus.

Joy- Pray that your husband would experience the ‘Joy of our salvation’ (Psalm 51:12) in his life, and that God’s joy (not simply happiness) would fill Him. Pray that he would experience joy in every area of His life, even when things are not so easy, and that his joy would be a light and encouragement to others.

Peace- Pray that God’s peace would ‘guard your husband’s heart.’ (Philippians 4:7) In the midst of stress, difficulties, and uncertainty may God’s peace and calm rule and guard Him. May his mind and heart be steadfast and set on God because of His perfect peace.

Patience- Pray your husband would be a man of patience. Pray for the places in His life that you know he struggles with patience, and thank God for the patience you see evident in His life. Pray that He would be patient with others, with your children (if you have them or want to have them someday), and with God when things aren’t going as your husband thought they would.

Kindness- Pray that kindness would be a driving force in your husband’s life. In an age where men are admired for their strength, let us pray (and encourage) our husbands in their humbleness, meekness, gentleness, and sensitivity to show kindness to others when it isn’t easy (or considered ‘masculine’). Pray that your husband can show kindness to children, to friends, family, co-workers, the elderly, those who rub him the wrong way, those in need, and the strangers he comes in contact.

Goodness- Pray that goodness would be His guide- That when making choices, those choices are good. When he speaks, that He speaks with integrity and goodness. When he must choose between culture, power, money, and passion, pray he chooses goodness first. And pray that all of the thoughts that go through his mind are good and pure.

Faithfulness- Pray that faithfulness is the core of your husband’s relationship with you and with God. Doubts and struggles in His relationships with God are understandable, but pray that even in the midst of adversity, He is always found faithful by God. And in a world that belittles faithfulness (in marriages), ask God to make this a core value in your husband.

Gentleness-Pray that God’s ‘gentleness would be evident’ to everyone in your husband’s life (Philippians 4:5). Pray that he takes a humble approach to the world, and doesn’t think too much of himself to serve gently and humbly.

Self-Control- Pray that every part of your husband’s being be in submission to God. When lust creeps in, when His eyes want to wander, when something online, on tv, in pictures or behind closed doors calls His name, pray that God would give Him the strength to resist and to focus His eyes on what is true, noble, good, and right. Pray against the struggles that he may face daily, and that God would equip Him to guard His heart, His mind, and His loved ones in honorable and controlled ways.

That’s how my prayers for my husband have looked lately. Maybe this will ignite a spark as you pray for a special person (or people) in your life

Hopeless Waiting

March 26, 2016

I find today to be an interesting day. I call it an in-between day.

I’ve heard plenty of talk about Good Friday and Easter over the years, but I can’t remember an occasion where we talked about the day between Friday and Sunday.

This day intrigues me. It’s like the part of a movie right before the resolution, where the hero is ready to give up. The audience wants to encourage the hero, because the hero can’t see what is up ahead. Just like that, the people in Jesus’ day didn’t know what tomorrow would bring.

The Saturday before Easter is like a day of waiting. The people who experienced that day before the resurrection were left waiting… waiting on God. But it’s harder than simply waiting. They felt like God dropped the ball. There was a time they could see the finish line. They were filled with hope at what God was going to do, but when His main plan is killed they are left waiting. But waiting for what? Their hope had died.

I haven’t experienced a lot of funerals in my day (at least not for those who I am really close to). But from what I hear, the day after the funeral is very difficult. The family that gathered for the funeral departs. The body is gone, the encouraging words were left at yesterday, and you are left there to cope, to face reality that you have to go on without that person.

I bet that’s what Jesus’ followers felt like.

I imagine all the experiences we have in life that help us to relate to this Saturday. The waiting. The feeling forgotten. The mourning, and feeling hopeless.

Can you think of all of the times that you felt like you’re waiting, and not just waiting? It seems so much bigger than that. The word ‘waiting’ doesn’t sound so difficult, but when you’re waiting on something important, waiting feels like forever. It’s like every sign around you points to a dead end, or you had been left waiting so many times that you can come to your own conclusions.

Today speaks to me of all of the times that I was not only left waiting, but waiting and hopeless. It reminds me that even when you can’t see the light at the the end of the tunnel, or you think nothing good could come of this, we serve a God who can do the impossible. He can raise the dead to life. If He can do that, what is He capable of doing in your life? Be encouraged and filled with hope on this in-between day.sunday-is-coming

Oh Martha, Martha

September 18, 2015

I went into this week with a goal… a goal to accomplish as much as I could.

Everyday I would wake up and my first thought was- ‘Here we go.’ As I would get ready I would make a mental list of what I needed to get done before work. At the same time I would already be running through the list I needed to accomplish today. My list was long. Just go and look at the massive amount of sticky notes covering my desk.

I’m known to try to pack too much into one day. My husband and mom remind me of this when I get a little over zealous. I think I can fit all of my errands into 2 hours, when in reality it will take me 4. In the end that leaves me with too much on my plate and not enough hours in the day to accomplish them.

So I go into my work day with enough work to do for not just a day but probably two. I wake up with a goal, and I go to bed with my last thought focused on what I will need to do tomorrow.

Today was no different. I wanted to get as caught up as possible. This is my busy time of year. If I don’t work ahead, I know I’ll be behind and I probably won’t be able to get caught up until after Easter. So I was determined. I’m running around church trying to get tasks done when I keep hearing this whisper.

I ignored it… well at least for the first couple of hours. I have a devotional book on my desk that kept calling my name (‘Just give me five minutes,’ it whispered) and my internal reply was, ‘let me first get this next thing done then I’ll stop.’ Except that next thing led to a few other next things. The nagging whisper could not be ignored (actually it wasn’t nagging me. It was gentle and hopeful, yet I found it’s presence a nuisance).

Finally I set my work aside and read the short devotional twice to soak it in. Then I flipped to the passage and it was there God stopped me in my tracks.

It was the story of Mary and Martha.

“Martha had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was continually listening to His teaching. But Martha was very busy and distracted with all of her serving responsibilities; and she approached Him and said, “Lord is it of no concern to you that my sister has left me to do the serving alone? Tell her to help me.” But Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, and Mary has chosen what is better.”

Right there I felt called out. I was the definition of Martha.

I’ve never really cared much for the lady Martha. I always thought Mary’s gentleness and earnestness to be with Jesus admirable. But I totally get Martha. Martha saw nothing wrong with what she was doing. She thought Jesus would take her side. She wasn’t wasting her time. She wasn’t distracted by frivolous worldly tasks. She wasn’t caught up in herself. She was ‘serving.’ That’s what I remind myself as I’m running around the church in the name of accomplishment.

However Martha’s serving wasn’t strengthening her spiritually. It was making her worried, bothered and anxious. (This story might be super old, but I can picture many well-intentioned Martha’s today, me being one of them).

But as someone taught me a long time ago, ‘serving begins first with receiving.’ In order to serve well, you have to receive what God has in store for you first.

Today I think that meant getting away and just resting like Mary did beside Jesus. (Even if that means I’m putting off some tasks. I think Jesus will be able to handle those things if I give Him more of my time).

When I think of the name Martha, I think of my sister and brother in law’s dog. I think they named their dog perfectly. Martha has more energy than I’ve seen any dog possess. In the time it takes me to walk through their door and take my shoes off Martha has already ran about 5 laps around the living room (and that probably doesn’t include her jumping up and over the couch).

I don’t want to be a Martha. I want to be able to slow down. 

When I wake up, I don’t want my first thought to be “Here we go.”… or… “Its morning already?”… or… “Not yet, give me 10 more minutes.”

I want my first thought to be one of praise and joy. And the same goes for my last thought. 

To my dear friends out there who understand the drive for accomplishment and productivity all too well, I encourage you to listen to the whispers, even if it’s just for five minutes. Perhaps God will catch you in that moment and speak the gentle reminder you most need to hear and it will change how the rest of your day goes.

Marriage Fears

July 11, 2015

It was just over a year ago that I remember sitting in a therapists room. I remember the excitement that mixed with fear as we talked about marriage and mariage counseling. I was well informed when it came to marriage. I was only newly engaged but I liked to read…. read books, blogs, articles,…So I knew a lot of facts. Let me share some of the tidbits I collected in my head and remembered for my future marriage:

-The first year of marriage is the worst. More people divorce in the first year than any other year.

-After 9 months of marriage your relationship will transition into a time that you are no longer as physically attracted to the other person.

-You’ll know when you meet ‘the one.’

-You will be the most beautiful on your wedding day. After that it all goes downhill.

-If it doesn’t feel like you are living in a chick flick, you are with the wrong person.

-“Marriage is the closest you’ll ever get to heaven and also the closest thing to hell.”

-The seven year itch- after 7 years of marriage other people start to look a whole lot more attractive that your spouse.

With all these thoughts… and more swimming around in my head I was more scared of marriage than excited. I had heard of brides that stood frozen in the back of the church terrified to walk down the aisle. I didn’t want that to be me. Thankfully that wasn’t me, but maybe because of one really important lesson- marriage is different for everyone. You can read all the books and get all the advice, but marriage has a lot to do with your mindset and your unique experiences. If you go in with fears galore you’re probably going to make your fears come true- a form of self-sabatoge.

Today marks our 1st anniversary of being married and my mindset has changed a ton since those first marriage meetings with a therapist. From all that I had heard and read, I thought the first year of marriage was going to be the worst year of my life. I knew it took a lot for 2 different people to unite and live together amidst their differences and imperfections, but looking back, this year really exceeded my expectations. Of course everyone has learning experiences their first year, but personally I see those as good things and I remember wonderful experiences we’ve shared together that far outweigh any difficulty we’ve had so far. My mindset has changed from what I first heard about marriage. Now I can see everything in light of my (minimal) experience wih marriage.

The first year of marriage is the worst. More people divorce in the first year than any other year.

I hear this A LOT! I remember people saying- “I remember my first year of marriage. (snort) Good luck!” I know people say this to prepare you for marriage but this terrified me. Who wants to have what everyone says is “the best day of your life” followed by the worst year of your life? Perhaps that’s why so many people shy away from marriage. Over the last 12 months I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought- “Wow, this is way better than I expected.” (but that probably has a lot to do with the fact that I married a very compassionate and selfless man…and of couse we have a lifetime ahead of us to learn, grow and face plenty of obstacles). Obviously every couple’s first year is going to differ and I’m sure some people’s first year are very trying. If I could have given my pre-married self any advice I would say- Obviously change takes work, but look for the good and cherish those moments.

After 9 months of marriage your relationship will transition into a time that you are no longer as physically attracted to the other person.

I believed this one enough to plan a celebration on our 9 month anniversary in Chicago. Both Steve and I agree we’re not any less attracted to each other after 9 months, but after about 9 months I believe you are more physically comfotable with each other.

You’ll know when you meet ‘the one.’

Goodness gracious this one messed with me when we first started dating. One of my biggest pieces of advice to people dating- don’t expect to know if that person is the one you will marry right away, but don’t go in blind. Before Steve, I had thought long and hard about what I was looking for in a man, so much so that I was sure I would know who that man was as soon as I met him. Plus I’ve heard those stories… kind of the love at first sight… more like ‘we had a connection right away’ stories. That wasn’t my experience. When I first saw my husband he was in one of the front rows of church. His mom had been hinting that her son was coming back from the army and all I could think was ‘please don’t walk him up on the stage to introduce us.’ I remember after our first few dates still telling people I wasn’t sure about this guy. He was quiet, proper and seemed uncomfortable with me. (That’s apparently how he comes across when he’s nervous). I kept thinking, he’s really sweet but he’s not what I imagined. Turns out the man I thought gave the most awkward hug on our 2nd date now gives the best ones. The one I thought was too proper and stiff to have a good conversation or any fun is the one who is known as ‘Silly Uncle Steven’ by his nephews and can make me laugh like no one else. Funny how sometimes the ones you never imagined you’d marry are the ones that fit so well next to you.

Once you make it to the altar it’s no longer about if this person is ‘the one.’ (If that’s your mindset you are never going to be content with your marriage). Once you stand at the altar the person before you is ‘the one’ because now they are the only one for you.

You will be the most beautiful on your wedding day. After that it all goes downhill.

This might be true for me… I mean I paid money to have the most expensive dress of my life, the perfect hair found on pinterest and make-up put on by an expert that I could never recreate. My husband says I’m still just as beautiful but I think my husband has me beat. I don’t know how but he keeps getting cuter. Physical beauty aside, as we get further from our wedding day I hope that inner beauty is the one that increases in each of us. I hope that I rely on that more than outward, and that in that manner we both become more and more attractive the longer we live.

“If it doesn’t feel like you are in living in a chick flick, you are with the wrong person.”

This was actually advice given to me by a therapist (not to be confused with my marriage counselors). I left that conversation feeling very confused. This lady believed that the person you marry shouldn’t just have good character and admirable traits. If there is no passion and flame than you need to move on. I might be counter-culture here but I think there is more to marriage than passion. My biggest advice to someone looking to build a long lasting relationship- Passion, sparks, and fire are not a necessity. I think you grow to love that person more and more. I know I have. And if you go in with expectations of crazy passion and sparks eventually you will find yourself disappointed with marriage and your partner somewhere down the line. I think chick flicks are more damaging to females than helpful. As one young lady called them- they are porn for women. They give unreal expectations. Men have a hard time living up to those high standards. But there are other high standards you can look for in a spouse- that’s character traits like loyalty, compassion, patience, trustworthiness, loving, selflessness. Those are the things that make a person a good fit for the rest of your life. The rest I think can grow over time.

“Marriage is the closest you’ll ever get to heaven and also the closest thing to hell.”

When I read that one I was terrified. I mean, who wouldn’t be? I certainly don’t want to experience hell simply because I get married. But as someone reminded me- If you go into marriage thinking that you’re going to face hell, you’re probably going to. But if you go in and say that you are going to work your hardest to make this a healthy, godly and strong marriage, you can also make that happen.

The seven year itch- after 7 years of marriage other people start to look a whole lot more attractive that your spouse. 

Well I haven’t reached 7 years, but I have a hunch this viewpoint might have a lot to do with your personal view of commitment. Commitment is about lasting through the tough times- when you don’t find everything your spouse does attractive, that lasts through ups and downs and the changes in life, not one that blows wherever the wind goes.

I think culture bombards us with many views on marriage. Some of it might have good intentions but doesn’t set a newly wed with a good mindset. Other stuff might be very true for many people, and still a newly wed has to experience it to know it.

What I learned was the most improtant this year:

-Go into marriage with the mindset that marriage can be and is a beautiful thing but requires work, effort and attention.

-Don’t go into marriage hoping to change the other person but embrace their differences- no matter how unique or different.

-Don’t make a big deal about the small things.

-Don’t be critical. Be an encourager.

-Tell your spouse daily something you love about them.

-Be quick to say I’m sorry.

-Have Christ at the center of Your marriage.

-Marriage isn’t about finding someone who makes you happy. It’s about holiness.

-(Steve’s piece of advice)- Have patience and don’t expect everything to mesh immediately.

I know in the grand scheme of things I know very little about a marriage. Having one year behind me certainly doesn’t make me an expert. But I find it fascinating how much a year can teach you and hope God continues to give me wisdom and a heart that grows in marriage with every passing year.

Buzzing of bees

May 28, 2015

green grass under blue sky

It’s just me. Me, a book, a blanket and the great outdoors. The sun shining and it’s perfect as I soak up the words in my book, that is until I hear that familiar sound of summer.

The buzzing of a bee. I’m not the type that goes crazy when they hear a bee (as long as it isn’t touching me, I’m all good). After the entrance of the bee I hear another sound… a less familiar one.

The best way I can describe the sound is with the word ‘whacking.’ It sounds like something is whacking against something else.

I can’t help but assume the two noises (the buzzing and whacking) are related since it begins with buzzing, the buzzing stops with the whacking noise and then the buzzing continues again.

Take note that my back is to all this and my book is good so I’m not too worried about the business of the bee behind me. But eventually my curiosity gets the best of me.

I turn around to see this giant bee (and I’m not exaggerating). It’s one of those puffy round bumble bees (I’m not an expert on bees so I don’t know the exact kind… anyways). I watch as it buzzes along the side of our garage. Then suddenly the bee flies directly into the siding of the garage. Kind of strange. I have the answer to the mysterious sound. Keep in mind that I’ve been listening to this bee run into the garage for a while now and now I’m watching it continue in it’s strange behavior. Seeing the force of this bee hitting the wall you would think it would learn to not do that a second time (let alone another 15 times).

I turn around kind of shaking my head thinking how silly this bee is until I realize I’ve done just as stupid of things. Suddenly I see my sin staring me in the face.

How many times have I been like that bee with my sin? I run into a wall over and over again and still I don’t change my behavior? What is that definition of insanity again? – doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

Sounds a lot like sin to me… And for some reason I feel like we don’t go through life making small sins and never making that mistake again. For some reason we are like that dog that returns to its vomit or the bee that keeps running itself into a wall.

It isn’t healthy. It only is hurting us. And we are the only one who can put a stop to it.

I’m looking at my life right now. I’m looking for those moments where I’m like that bee- so obsessed with my ways that I don’t realize how I’m hurting myself and how I’m holding myself back from a deeper relationship with God.

Can you see the walls in your life? Can you see where you’re running into them repeatedly? I fear we all have a good example of this. But the better question is what we are going to do differently going forward.

Seeking Joy

April 28, 2015

I remember as a child my mom gave me and my brothers each a small rock with a word etched into it. I remember opening my present to see the word “Joy” engraved on my rock. My mom went on to explain that she prayed I would find joy in my life. That was my middle name and she hoped I learned to find and express the joy that God has in store for me.

For some reason that memory sticks out to me, maybe because I was kind of offended that I wasn’t living up to my name, maybe because I wasn’t old enough to understand the depth of joy, and maybe because I didn’t have an immediate answer to fixing this problem.

It’s been years since I received that rock and while I think I have found a lot more joy, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about joy lately. Joy. A simple 3 letter word that is so difficult to wrap our minds and lives around sometimes. Some would say that joy is easy to find in the good times of life, but many of us fail to remember to be joyful even in the good. Most agree that it’s difficult to be joyful when we hit the rough patches of life.

Experts say that joy is key to making it through the difficulties we face. In order to be joyful always we must work at being joyful even during the ordinary parts of life and if we want to live a wholehearted life we must find joy.

When it comes to joy, there are two verses in the Bible that have always eluded me:

Be Joyful always.

Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of any kind, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 

For the longest time I just couldn’t understand why and how God could expect us to be joyful always, especially during our deepest pains and struggles. My ah-ha moment came when I realized that Joy cannot rest in happiness alone. We usually think one comes with the other. If we have happiness, we have joy. But joy and happiness aren’t interdependent. Happiness can come through good experiences and fade quickly when we hit hard times. Joy can still endure. If joy rests in happiness alone, the difficult times are going to be rough. I have learned that my circumstances cannot determine my joy.

My key to finding joy lately is gratitude. While happiness and joy are not interdependent, I believe that joy and gratitude are. You hear stories of people with heart wrenching sorrow in their lives and they somehow find joy. How? Through gratitude.

Joy is never a constant in our lives. Even in our happiest times, we can choose to not find joy. We can live in fear that these happy moments are so good that something bad is bound to happen soon. The key is finding gratitude in these situations. If joy is only for the good times, our joy is certainly going to dissolve when we hit the valleys of life. But I am led to believe that that kind of joy isn’t real joy, just an elated version of happiness. To be happy during difficult times is nearly impossible… to be happy during a trauma seems fake and avoiding what is really inside. But joy… joy is different. When we find joy through gratitude it gives us reason to wake up even when we don’t want to face the truth of what’s going on in our lives. Joy gives us reason to fight for the broken things in our lives or pick ourselves back up after our hearts have been shattered. Joy gives us reason to share our difficult stories. Joy gives us reason to take risks. Joy gives us reason to love deeply. Joy gives us reason to live like today is our last day.

But this can only be done if we find the gratitude in the situation.

It’s easy to forget about gratitude and in affect lose our joy. But it’s about choosing to be grateful and choosing joy. It means we don’t take what we have for granted, but we celebrate it- the big things and small things.

May you find the ability to be thankful wherever you find yourself today. And may you find the lasting joy that endures through happiness and hardship.image1 (1)

Overwhelming abundance

December 25, 2014

I’m overwhelmed with the abundance around me. Spending Christmas with 2 families (our first Christmas as a married couple) means we had twice as many presents, twice as much food, twice as much wrapping paper, and if it’s at all possible- twice as much joy.

This brings me to the end of the Christmas day, snuggled by the fire with my family and I reflect on everything this holiday has brought us. I can’t even begin with how much we have at Christmas in comparison with many others around the world. I’ve certainly thought of that as present after present is handed to me. And as I’ve watched the traffic become busier around the mall, Meijer become even more impossible to get in and out of quickly, and my days in this month filling up with plans, I was brought back to how much we make of this holiday (whether we have Christ at the center or not). Yes, it’s all a lot and often overwhelming in its abundance. But the fact that this is all quite overwhelming for many of us, maybe that’s a good reminder that Christmas is overwhelming. 

The first Christmas was overwhelming. It didn’t go according to Mary and Joseph’s plan (I’m pretty sure no pregnant woman wants to do major traveling at 9 months pregnant, not knowing where she may end up in labor). I don’t think the shepherds expected their typical boring night with their sheep to end with an angel chorus above their heads. And I don’t think the people in that tiny town of Bethlehem could ever imagine the wonder of what was happening in their town that night.

It was overwhelming.

The plans, parties, presents, the food, the wrapping paper, cooking, cleaning and other abundance of details in this season… well they might not be ideal. And perhaps they are not always the most godly way we can spend our holiday, but the reminder that this holiday is often overwhelming helps my heart remember that God’s gift to us was not a simple or easy gift to be given. It required a huge sacrifice.

I’m not suggesting anyone try and make this holiday more overwhelming than our culture already makes it. But when I’m overwhelmed by the details of this holiday, I want to remember that what’s even more overwhelming is God of the universe sending His own precious and most treasured son to live among us imperfect people in a broken messed up world, all because He wanted to show us His unconditional love.

That is overwhelming.

The massive amount of paper littering the living room floor, the abundance of chocolates given (so much that you can’t eat it all), the variety of gifts we end this holiday with (some treasured and others returned to the store) and the messy plans this holiday can call for is absolutely nothing in comparison to the overwhelming gift of God in the form of a baby, coming to live among us… all because of love.

May you be overwhelmed not by the holiday this year but by the precious reminder of God’s gift to us through Jesus our Savior.

gift

Cotton Eye Joe moments

November 19, 2014

Where did you come from,  where did you go, where did you come from Cotton Eye Joe

The words of that song for some reason make me think of one of my family members. Years ago I remember her singing that song with a twang in her voice, and it still sticks with me to this day.

While I really don’t know what that song is about, I came across a verse that actually brought to mind that line of the Cotton Eye Joe song (yes that probably sounds a tad crazy)

Genesis 16 says: “Where have you come from and where are you going?” God asks the slave Hagar.

I’ve been learning to really meditate on Scripture so as I read I waited for what jumped out at me during this chapter. And it was that verse. Not only does it make me think of Cotton Eye Joe, it reminded me of the journey I’ve been on with God.

Where have I come from? I could list the places, the good times, the hard times, the times where I felt lost, hurt, and on a mountain top. As I look back and remember, there is only one thing that every moment from my past has in common. He was there. No matter the experience. No matter the condition of my heart. No matter the joy or sorrow, the waiting or moving, God was always there. (even when I couldn’t always see or feel Him)

Where have you come from and where are you going?

Sometimes that second part scares me. When I’m struggling, it sure gives me hope that there is something up ahead. But when I start to wonder, fret or worry about the unpredictable future, I know one thing… He will be there.

If what I have learned in the past has taught me anything, I better take that lesson into my future.

Every place I’ve been, He has been there too. And every place I go, He will go too.

That’s reassurance.

One run on prayer

October 28, 2014

My prayer:

To love deeply, and to accept the love of others,

to understand that holiness is the goal… not happiness

to always be graceful, even in the face of gracelessness

to be thankful in the midst of difficulties

to know when to listen and when to speak

to always remember the times God has carried me,

and know that completeness can only come from Him,

to sing praises even when I feel empty inside,

to always be more selfless than selfish

to show forgiveness even when it cuts me deep

to not take for granted the people around me

and remember that true joy only comes through Christ

to learn from my past… as well as my present

to give to others even when I don’t think I have much to give,

to never forget the power of encouragement

and enjoy the inner beauty of the saints around me

to soak up every moment,

to fall in love with God again every day

to take time for silence

and know it’s ok to show emotion,

to share my story

to follow His Spirit,

to know I’m never alone

and when all else fails, remember His love never will.aaac