Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Glamour of Wedding Vows


Happily Ever After
Riding off into the sunset

As a young girl the image of what a marriage relationship would look like was formed by our culture- by Hollywood, by marriages I looked up to. It isn't that these dreams of what I would one day experience and live out were 100% wrong, I am married to a great man who I deeply respect. He has been faithful, is an excellent dad to our boys, loved me unconditionally and has weathered ups and downs alongside of me through the years. But I wasn't prepared for how hard marriage is in real-life. Until you are in the thick of it, you really can't grasp the challenges a relationship will face, how life will press in hard on all sides and try to choke the life out of your relationship. Pressures from work, school, taking care of a home, car and yard maintenance, PARENTING, schedules, balancing it all. And the ever present but sometimes far too ignored spiritual battles that go on in a home; there is an enemy who wants to destroy us. It's not easy, and over the years we've had patterns of living more like peaceful roommates than that deeper connection of husband and wife that we dream of. We've had seasons of storms, and deserts. But marriage is GOOD, I know this because God created it. He made for Adam a help-meet, and said Eve was in fact not just good but very good. He created the blessing of intimacy that comes with a marriage relationship, He created us with different needs that when we put the other first can be met. He created marriage to draw us closer to eachother and I truly believe to draw us closer to Him as well. So real-life marriage isn't the same as a Hollywood movie, but it IS such a blessing to live out in real-life.  

To take someone for better or for worse, in sickness and health, richer or poorer, as long as you both shall live seemed almost glamorous when those vows were spoken on our wedding day almost 14 years ago. I'll never forget the actual rawness of our first real "worse" we weathered together- how it almost took the breath out of you how hard those storms can be. The glamour was gone and what was glaring in our face was two selfish people trying to work together as one.  It was about as unnatural as could be! We didn't think the same, we didn't respond or communicate the same, we didn't have the same priorities, or emotions or even expectations.  But we DID have the same foundation- we built our marriage on Jesus, and what has shown itself time and time and time again over the years, is that having that common ground, that solid Rock we are building our life upon IS ENOUGH. And not just enough, but is what really matters. It doesn't make everything easy, but it is what makes it possible. Establishing our marriage, our home, our family on Him has been the best decision we as a couple have ever made and one that we've never regretted.  He is the strength to get us through, He is the wisdom, the balm of forgiveness, the joy that comes. He is the love that is far far greater than any love we could muster up on our own. He is what has made this marriage work. He is our courage, our eternal perspective, our peace in the storm. He gives us Living Water when we are in a desert chapter. As we continue to grow in our faith, we continue to give Him glory in all the ways we can look back over the years and see His faithful hand at work in us. We are thankful! I am humbled and awestruck to see the miracles He has worked! Being married to this man of God is really good!   

So if your marriage is rocky, I encourage you to look at your
I promise to keep
standing firm
foundation and see if it's built on The Rock. If your relationship is feeling a little too suffocating, I challenge you to turn to the one who Breaths in the breath of Life.  If you are feeling restless or discontent, I'm telling you to replace those emotions with thankfulness. Serve a little more, love a little harder, laugh a little longer, pour out more grace, and let the natural mountain tops and valleys be a journey you continue to embark on together. Vows fleshed out aren't nearly as glamorous as when they were spoken on your wedding day, but how incredible it is to get through a time of "worse" and realize you're back in a time of "better" again, having grown through the challenges, and are now stronger. Your foundation never once faltering.  

A wise man builds his house upon a rock and the rains came down and the floods came up but the house on the rock stands firm.

Stand firm.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Floods in life and The Living Water

This week we had some major storms move through our area- a tornado demolished an entire section of homes not far West of us, extremely large hail (baseball size reported) caused damage to buildings and vehicles, and the rain just kept coming.  Strong wind knocked down trees and took out powerlines in widespread areas. We weren't effected as badly as some, but our power was out. The duel combination of no power and heavy heavy rain, we were at risk for flooding.  My husband was out of town for work, so I was trying my best to handle the situation on my own-  Lugging out 5 gallon buckets of water from my basement couldn't keep up with how rapidly both of the sump pump tanks were filling. I was unable to handle the situation so I called for help.  My dad, who lives not far from us, hauled over his generator and got it started. Once connected to its source of power, the sump pump could function to do it's job, it started pumping out the water from the basement. We caught it in time, we acted quickly and with urgency and prevented it from becoming a much much worse situation with much more damage to our home.  

The rain has stopped, puddles are slowly going down, the concrete is drying out. As I reflect over the past few days, I can't help but feel relieved it's over and grateful for the help that I was able to get. I also can't help but look to the bigger picture- it's always there, but I don't always make the connection. Taking the time to make this connection really helps my perspective with the real-life situations we all face.  It helps me process it all, cope in a healthier way and also fixes my eyes on Eternity, where my hope is anchored securely.

In the basement of my home we were fighting the flood waters, we were pulling a late night, battling the storm and getting the damaging water out of my home.  We worked hard. My back and shoulders feel the strain of the 5 gallon buckets I hauled. Upstairs in my home we didn't have power, so that meant no running water, no flushing toilets, no washing hands, doing dishes, or having fresh water to drink.  The same storm - 2 different problems on both ends of the spectrum.  Water that we needed to get out absolutely as soon as possible, and water we needed to live; water to sustain us.  

I know there are areas of my life, looking back through the years and also presently that flood waters came rushing in, flood waters that in reality were and are sin. I need to get that damaging water out. It came in the form of bad decisions and continual bad choices, unforgiveness, a bad attitude, how I react in moments of stress (this one is really something I keep dealing with)... the list could literally never end. If left alone, if ignored or justified or even just "hidden", the flood would keep rising. The damage would take place. Even the smallest amount of flood water has the potential if left undealt with to cause problems. I called my earthly dad in for reinforcement in my emergency during the storm, but we also have a Heavenly Father who alone is capable of bringing in the necessary tools, the machinery, the knowledge far greater than our own to enable us to deal with sin in our life. He alone has the "Power Source" that can offer forgiveness of that sin. Complete and total forgiveness that not only can get the flood waters out, but can restore us and make us new.  Those floods of sin left un-taken-care-of will destroy us. They rob us of the present, and effect the future. They will crush our joy, wreck our relationships, wipe out our purpose. Wash away the reason we're here. Water left to rise in a basement would eventually destroy the entire building, mold would grow and it would become a contaminated place to live. Sin is much the same, even if we think "it's not really effecting anything" even if we believe that lie or justify the situation, or think it's hidden, the damage IS taking place.  We need to treat sin with urgency and in order to do that we need to connect to the life giving power source of Jesus, who alone is able. But not just able, He is available & willing.

During this storm I also needed the life giving water to drink, to cook and wash and clean.  Just like we need water to live here on earth, even more desperately we need The Living Water.  In John 4:14 Jesus is speaking and says,
"whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life"

How our life literally depends on this Living Water- on the work Jesus did on the cross that was, is and will forever be, the only sacrifice offered that can forgive sin. Our eternal destination is hinged on our response to the free gift He is offering us. Just like most would consider it foolish if I would have denied my Dad's offer to come help, his offer to rescue, to bring over his power source that could get the job done. Foolish! How much more foolish is it if we deny the gift Jesus is offering each and every one of us. But how incredible that it doesn't end there, He isn't just out to save us for eternity (as if that wouldn't be enough to offer!) He loves us so completely, so thoroughly and FULLY, that He even wants to come along shoulder to shoulder with us through each and every storm we face in life, and help us with those too.  The small ones like we face everyday, and the HUGE ones that threaten to wipe us out. We are't facing any of it alone when we make the decision to do life with the Life Giver, the only TRUE power source that exists! My heart is completely overjoyed!

Thank you for taking the time to read, 
                Blessings, Stef

Monday, May 15, 2017

From Broken to NEW!

Brunch had ended, we were putting leftovers into smaller containers to save for later- washing the table, sweeping up the crumbs on the floor. Visiting and catching up while we worked alongside each other- The sweet melody of conversation filling the air. A new friendship beginning to take root as our paths were merging and we were now part of each others lives.  "Oh, be so careful, there's a broken glass in the sink"  Not entirely sure how it happened, but in the hustle and busyness of the morning a glass had broken. Carefully and thoroughly all pieces were gathered, double checking to make sure none were left, and wanting no one to get cut on the sharp edges, and the glass was thrown away. Because in our culture, broken things are often just tossed aside, thrown away, and replaced. That glass was no longer functional.  

A broken glass couldn't be used for its original purpose any longer because the water would't hold; Any liquid put inside would just spill out because of the break.  We don't think of brokenness being the first step to fullness. The message of the cross is entirely different though. He willingly became broken to offer us restoration, and newness of life.  We are shattered without Him,and when we accept His free gift of salvation through the work on the cross He makes us new. Now able to live victoriously and with a purpose we were created to fulfill. When we can begin to see ourselves the way He created us to be, there is a deeper meaning than we could ever experience outside of this relationship.  Through His gift of complete brokenness, suffering, sacrifice, ransom & redemption, we are offered NEW! We start out broken, in every sense of the word- and are transformed. What an incredible gift! 

What season are you living in right now? Maybe it is one of brokenness and you need to be reminded of His deep love.  Maybe you are trying to piece the brokenness of life back together on your own, and instead you need to bring all that mess, all that brokenness, your shattered edges, sharp shards of glass and burdens you are trying to shoulder on your own to the foot of the cross. He takes brokenness and makes it new.  He takes our messiness, our ugliness and our sin and washes it clean! He takes our lives and breathes in the breath of life. 

Maybe you just need that reminder- and to allow that joy to sink deep into your weary soul. 

2 Corinthians 5:1Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Or the Message translation puts it this way: anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!

What is God doing with brokenness in your life right now? Where is He during a broken season or chapter? Who is He asking you to share this message of Newness with? To share this HOPE!  

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:1

My prayer is that we can all live life in the fullness of life that He offers!  

Friday, May 12, 2017

From behind a couch to living in His strength.

Let me describe for you a day that was a turning point for me... it was back 6 1/2 years ago, when I had 3 boys, ages 4, almost 2 and a few months. When I had 2 kids I really felt like I had this figured out, or it was at least manageable. I didn't feel overwhelmed, transition from 1-2 had been smooth... then came surprise number 3! I wouldn't trade him for the world now, but getting used to caring for 3 was a bumpy ride. The day had been unraveling before it even had a chance to begin.  I was woken up to a fight between brothers, and then a fussy little one.  The house was turned upside down and shaken hard. Dishes were piled. Laundry was a mountain. my nerves were fried. I felt like I was failing, no, that's not quite how I felt,  I actually felt like I WAS a failure.  There's a big difference between the two,  we can fail at a task, or a job... but it is still just a task or a job. When we start to take on the persona of Failure... Like we're identifying with that as a term to describe ourselves, that's a whole world of difference.  My strength was gone.  I was overwhelmed, spent, stressed to the max.  I wasn't functioning well at all. I would have complete anxiety take over at the mere thought of going anywhere with three kiddos in tote, so typically I just stayed home.  Isolation was at least comforting. No one had to KNOW how much I was in desperation mode.  I could just be in these 4 walls... and survive. When I would muster up enough courage or energy to venture out, it wouldn't match my expectations, and it was completely exhausting anyways, so it only pushed me further into the feeling of being completely trapped.  I felt like a prisoner in my own home and it was so claustrophobic.  I really was trying to manage it all. I really was putting in my best effort, but it wasn't cutting it!  I wasn't able to keep up with chores. I wasn't able to multitask on the small blips of sleep I was fitting in. I wasn't juggling the daily stuff well at all.  As this day wore on, I remember just feeling so exhausted: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I was running literally on empty.  I couldn't get the baby to take a nap, my 4 year old was tantruming it up and fighting me on every turn. My almost 2 year old was getting into trouble any time by back was turned.  I wanted to escape. I wanted to hide from it all. I wanted to run away.  I put the baby in his crib hoping he would give into the sleep he was so fiercely fighting and I quietly snuck behind our couch and hid. I hid from the mess. I hid from my kids. I hid from the pressures of the day and my life that honestly felt like it had fallen apart all around me.  I sobbed. like soul wrenching cries. Then my sobs of overwhelmeness, exhaustion, frustration and failure turned into a plea for help.  As I sobbed my heart out, my heart made a shift. Not one of defeat, although at the time that's how I would have described it.  But one of surrender.  I had been trying and trying and trying to get through each day (and night) on my own strength... and a quick inventory would reveal that it wasn't enough.  My strength had depleted about 2 months prior when the sleep deprivation really took root.  In that cry of defeat and surrender a few things happened that will be a bit of a challenge to put into words, but I'm gonna give it a shot because maybe, someone needs to hear this chapter of my life, this chapter of my testimony to get a dose of some encouragement, a friend coming shoulder to shoulder along side of you and saying "girl, I get it.  I was sooo there a handful of years too"  Maybe someone needs to hear this washing of grace that filled my spirit with renewed hope.  As I cried and cried and cried, hidden from life's pressures, life's blessings, life's responsibilities and challenges, my Savior met me right there in the disaster.  And wrapped His love around me, in a way I can't really describe, and poured His strength into me.  See, my strength wasn't enough, that's why I was feeling the way I was. I wasn't created to do this on my own, in fact I couldn't.  I needed Him to fuel me. 

This was the first time in my life where the saying we all quickly say "rely on God to get you through" Really became authentic to me. Like I learned how to flesh out this relying on God thing.  I NEEDED Him. Desperately. and man, was I at a desperate place.  He met me there behind my couch, with all the cheerios, dust, toys and probably a lost remote... and He didn't disappoint. He hadn't abandoned me before that, but I had turned blindly from Him. As the days started to compile into a longer amount of time, I started reading the Word while my coffee was brewing first thing in the morning. I'd get at least a verse into my soul... and I started giving Him my challenges, my areas that seriously felt suffocating to me, and He breathed in me new life. New breath. The breath of Life.  Real-life didn't go away.  It's not like I got to come back out from behind that couch and my house was magically clean, and my boys were suddenly angelic well mannered little cherubs.  Nah, that's not how it works.  But my soul was less weary, and I KNEW... like not in my brain knew, but in my heart KNEW, I wasn't in this alone.  I didn't have to try to juggle this all on my own and on my own strength.  His grace sunk deep into my spirit, and that identity of failure was no longer one I claimed. I am in no way what so ever a perfect mom. and in no way what so ever do I feel like I've got this figured out... but my prayer is that I won't forget the lesson learned through hidden tears that day that I'm not in this alone. I don't have to do this on my own strength... because His strength is infinitely greater. His wisdom is infinitely deeper. His patience, His love, His joy exists right there in sleepless nights, and brother fights, and sass.  In the raw, ugly, realness of life, He can add so much hope, and perspective and courage. He can replace our anxiety with trust.  He can give us courage to invest in friendships that bring life!  He can fuel our days and calm our souls at night to rest.  He wants to do real-life with us.. and until that day, hiding from my real-life, I didn't really get what that meant.  He offers us Salvation for eternity and Salvation and grace for Today! We have the privilege to walk through life (real-life) with Him! So if you are on your face, in the dust and cheerios today... trying to hide from it all.  Girl, I get it.  You are NOT alone, and you aren't meant to do this alone.  That defeat you are feeling can actually be a moment of great strength. 

Isaiah 40:29 He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak.   

Happy Mother's Day to all the real-life moms!  

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Recognizing false sources of joy

Have you guys ever tried to squeeze your joy out of your relationships, or home, or work or kids? What I mean is, I've noticed a little tempting pattern that pops up now and again in my life during different seasons. I've noticed that Satan hits me where it hurts and whispers this lie to me that my joy is somehow linked to how close I'm feeling to my hubby, how clean and organized or decorated my house currently is, how fulfilled I am feeling from the work I put into homeschooling or how well my kids are behaving. 

Like seriously, his lie to me says that these things are the sources of tremendous joy... And that when these things are performing above a line that I invent for myself, then my joy can be full and I can just kick back and really truly and even finally enjoy a "perfect life, perfect marriage, perfect clean home, perfect school days and perfect kids" woah...... When I buy into that sneaky lie a few things happen, all according to Satan's plan.

The Bible tells us that​ the thief comes to ruin us, I love the way the verse says it 

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 

If I'm putting it all on Josh and relying on my marriage to supply my joy, when the feeling of close, or expectation of perfect fails.... It actually robs my joy, according to Satan's plan. He's the joy thief so he tricks us to put our trust in other things for joy, and then makes us feel so incredibly miserable when that source doesn't follow thru. 

Same with house stuff, if I'm holding off on joy until I get my checklist complete, or find the best New "10 tips to juggle it all", finally decluttering, or a little decorating shopping spree that I "owe myself"... Woah, Satan isn't an amateur at this, he knows how to link our vaulnerablities in and is so vicious! He is a pro. Joy doesn't come from these things! Any of them. So we're left feeling jealous, or empty or like we just can't get this figured out, not just joyless but actually like failures.

This one differs for all of us, but I know how great a smooth school day feels, where the kids are actually dillegent at work, excited with what I'm teaching and not complaining. A few things in this area are a struggle for me; if I am relying on that kind of day to give me joy I'm seriously asking a lot of my kids.... they aren't responsible for fulfilling me. I can't ask that of them! And I can't blame them for "failing to give me that joy" when honestly guys, that's not their job.

Here's where we need a good heaping dose of wisdom, now don't get me wrong, those things would be amazing, those things would be incredible to enjoy, it would be wonderful to feel like I've got things all figured out, that I'm "above line" performing at life... but the lie here is that seeking those things as an idol, as if they are the source of my joy. Guys, we need to get this distinction down, we need to know with all our hearts how to recognize this lie so we can start soaking up true joy, not counterfeit joy, or fleeting happiness. Or investing everyday in search of "the perfect day"... It doesn't exist. And even if you have seasons where marriage is wildly awesome, you've got this cleaning stuff down pat, work is rocking and rolling and your kids are a-m-a-z-i-n-g.... These things don't compare to the joy that comes from Jesus. The verse talks about the true, only, authentic lasting joy, He comes that we can have LIFE and have it ABUNDANTLY! 

When we set our focus on a relationship with Him as our source of joy, all the things He blesses us with are just that, blessings we can enjoy! We are free to enjoy marriage, kids, work... All of it... Because we aren't depending on people, or things or performance to fill us. And we also will be anchored in truth and ready to face the challenges in imperfect relationships, and imperfect lives because our joy is already full!! To be able to abide in joy, while living real-life!! That means when I have a bad day like yesterday, I can sing "victory in Jesus" and have my heart mean it, because a good day or a bad day isn't the definition of joy to me anymore. Real-life, all of it's crazy, ugly, hard and amazing can be considered joy when I'm living it with my Savior! 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Our identity layers, and Who is at our very core

My Identity

When asked who I am when first meeting someone, there are a few go-to answers you would hear from me.  "I'm a stay at home, homeschooling mom of 4 boys" Is my typical ice breaker answer.  I stay home. I teach. I have 4 boys.  Your answer would likely be different from mine-  (Shout out to any other sahms, who homeschool 4 boys- message me... girl we are soul sisters)  lol. Maybe you work and you'd tell me about your career. Maybe you are a student and I'd hear about your education you're pursuing. Maybe you're a grandmother and you'd show me pictures of your grands. You might share something you're passionate about- art, animals, fitness.  If you are trusting and I'm making you feel especially invited, after introductions you might share a challenge you're facing, a fear or even an especially hard circumstance you're going through.  We share these different layers, to different people, at different times. Our roles. Our responsibilities, commitments, schedules. Hopefully we share struggles and prayer requests, ways we're being convicted, and growing as well.  It's this layer of vulnerability that I'm really passionate about this year.  As a New Year unfolded, I made it my intentional focus to find joy in the daily- the mundane real-life.  And to be transparent about ways I need prayer- ways I'm struggling to grow in my faith. Things God has really broken my heart over, and areas I'm experiencing HIS victory in.  

Identity is very layered, and each layer is unique for each person you cross paths with. We might share a layer of motherhood, but differ in # of kiddos, ages, gender. We might both be married, but differ in hobbies or passions.  We might both have a love for camping, or hiking. However, at our very very very core, as Women of Christ, we get to the deepest sense of "who we are". We are Redeemed. Daughters of The Most High King. We have been ransomed at the ultimate price and given a free gift that would have never been earned, bought or awarded. An undeserved gift of eternal life... forgiveness of sins.  This is what (WHO) truly defines me, and starts effecting all other layers of my identity.  I shouldn't try to find fulfillment in other roles, or responsibilities, but this is a constant internal war. In all honesty, one that I often times lose.  If I'm basing my identity on my kids, they become an idol to me... With good intentions of taking this mom gig seriously, I unintentionally bump their status up a bit too high and pretty soon my whole existence is orbiting around them. Life is good if they are "behaving", if they are obeying or happy. I'm learning that this is a sin struggle for me. My fulfillment comes from a relationship with Christ.  My identity isn't a wife, or a mom, although both are very important relationships that have shaped me and been life changing. My CORE identity and what needs to remain as FIRST place in my life is Jesus Himself. He brings fulfillment to my other roles, to the gifts He has given to me. He pours strength into my weaknesses, courage to keep going through a trial and His faithfulness in my life won't alter or shift. His GRACE is deeper than I can even grasp, and when He convicts me and then follows my repentance with such covering, cleansing grace!  So let me formally introduce myself,  

      "I am Stef, a saved sinner, Daughter of the King"

My prayer for you is that if you are born again, you will truly seek to find your identity in Jesus.  If you don't know what all of this means, or these are some new concepts for you- my prayer is that you will seek and find. The book of John is an excellent starting place, reading the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Himself... meeting Who He is and how it effects you and your eternity.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

a bad day isn't the same as a bad life

guys, this week Tuesday and honestly part of Wednesday were those days where your nerves are fried. Where instead of feeling like you're making any progress in things like laundry, cleaning, parenting, or honestly even feeding your family, you are moving backwards at warp speed.  How can it be possible to move backwards in feeding people?!  We finish a meal no one likes and they ask for snacks-  for real. The kitchen is still a war zone from cooking and they are asking for snacks?  I can't handle this nonsense and it started to really really get to me.  

For those that don't know I'm a homeschooling stay at home mom with 4 boys.  we have a 5th, 3rd, 1st and a 3 year old who is into tantrums and screaming.  Also he likes to find markers and use his hands like paper. I'm doing my absolute best raising this crew- but somedays, like this week, it's just a LOT overwhelming.  Add to that (confession) a certain celebrity giraffe kept me up too late one night, (anyone else feel like this is the longest pregnancy ever- like even longer than my own 4?!) and my coffee wasn't quite making me bright eyed. 

The kids were bickering
I was grumpy
School was both hard to teach and hard for them to learn
the house was a mess
I was on edge
the giraffe was still expecting. (this feels good to admit) lol

It was the perfect recipe for me to give myself the big old green light to feel sorry for myself.  Like full blown pity party style. For me, once that green light is given, chocolate is consumed, dishes sit unwashed, and the woe is me mentality takes root.  I am not proud of this.  This isn't a brag post, this is me being real.  Why does having a bad day make me feel like my whole life is a mess?  I think Satan is such a pro at that... I think there is a spiritual battle waging with such intensity that we don't even recognize. and sometimes giving myself the "green light" is really just as excuse to sin... and I need to recognize that too.  

His lies to me:  
   kids are fighting = I am failing at being a mom
   the house is messy = I can't juggle all of this like other people can
   a giraffe hasn't had a baby on facebook live = it EFFECTS me
   A tantrum = I can't handle this anymore

Once lies are recognized, they can start being replaced with truth... and truth is freeing!  So kids are fighting, I need to deal.  They can go outside and get out some of this energy in a healthy way. they can do chores, they can lose a privilege, they can be assigned to help clean up this mess around here. I need to be ready with a plan.  Then I need to follow thru.  If they still fight, there can be things like early bedtime... and sometimes that's exactly what we all need. 

The house is a mess- I can clean!  and it'll still get messy again. Seriously, this one is just something I need to come to some kind of reality check with.  Our house is in use 24/7.  Because 5 people are HOME living, schooling, eating, projecting, playing, watching giraffes all day everyday it's an ongoing thing to pick-up, sweep-up, laundry-up.  It's just the season we're in.  I need to set my mind on other things and not get depressed with the constant state of mess. 

a giraffe.  ok, this one is hard.  Come on April!!!  You have the whole world on edge!!!

a 3 year olds' tantrum.  Again, I need to have a plan... and it still won't always follow the script... because life is like that.  life is as messy as a 3 year old with markers.

Bottom line, bad days don't equal a bad life. They don't make me a bad mom. I need to step back, get a big picture focus again and remember that God is working on each of these hearts... mine included!

This verse soothes my soul at least as much as chocolate does, Hope you find some hope in it too

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Time Tithe

Recently I've been thinking about time.  There are so many sayings that come to mind that each paint a different word picture. 

  • Waste of time. 
  • Time flies. 
  • Burn some time. 
  • It's about time. 

The category I've been thinking about is investing time. What holds enough value to exchange hours of my life for? If you ask me what my values are, my spoken list would include: God, prayer and service. But if examined, would my days show proof of these things? Being transparent and open, honestly not as much as I'd like. It's been humbling and convicting to see how much nonsupporting evidence there is that I'm living these values out in real-time, that when examining my day there is a very real lack sometimes. I found this saying written in the inside back cover of my Bible: and it tugged at my heart in a new way.

Am I giving time to study the Word?  Sometimes yes and sometimes flat out no.  I want this to change.

Am I investing time praying for things? 

Am I serving where God has asked me to serve? Or am I grudgingly doing my "jobs" 


verb (used with object)tithed, tithing.

to give or pay a tithe or tenth

We tithe money, and I believe this to be a very important Biblicaly supported practice. But what about time? What about service? I want to dig into the idea of a tithe of my time, investing more in prayer, and service from the heart, not from duty, or obligation. I'm looking forward to seeing what God will reveal to me, and ways I will experience spiritual growth as I take a step further... Maybe giving deeper, praying more earnestly, serving more intentionally. My focus narrowing in and centered on things that hold eternal value. Feel led to join me? I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

A time tithe of my waking hours.

Monday, February 20, 2017

My Personal Mission Statement- and the different resources that helped me draft it

My Personal Mission Statement-

This is something I've heard of and looking back I remember I had to compile a career centered one in college years and years ago. It's a topic I've come across from time to time in devotion books or on Pinterest. But honestly, not something I've ever officially put together for myself. This weekend I decided to dig into this a little more, with a few different resources kind of all coming together to form the version I came up with. I don't think there's a right or wrong way to do this- and also no right or wrong way to finish.  But different ways to emphasize or focus. 

A few things I knew I wanted to include were:
       1. my spiritual gifts (a topic my friends and I have been discussing/how they fit into ways we serve at church and how to use them the way God intended. We've also been curious what ours actually are- and how to learn more about them)
       2.  my strengths (this includes my personality strengths) 
       3. the areas God is asking me to give in during this season of life (Eg. homeschooling.  This is a high priority role I'm filling right now, but likely only for a season of life- not my entire life like the role of wife or mom)  
       4. the bigger picture questions that include- eternal perspective, earthy quests/topics that make my heart beat a little faster and things I would consider myself passionate about. 

Saturday afternoon rolled around and I brewed some fresh coffee, sent my kids outside with Josh (let's be real-life here... coffee and quiet pair up perfectly for a great work environment) I gathered all the different resources together and took notes in a notebook as I went through.  It was interesting and deep, and I found it fun and fulfilling to explore and contemplate.  It was not a project that felt like a drag at all- actually it was all-consuming and I didn't want to stop!

This blog is where I started, it had me list a few different things:  3-5 things that I want out of life, 3-5 things I'm passionate about, 3-5 goals or life improvements. I'd say this one was lighter- not as deep as other resources, but did get my gears turning and was a great starting place. A pretty great outline to kick off this journey. A questioned posed that really stood out was, "how do you want to be remembered?" 

The book, You're Already Amazing by Holley Gerth, (Amazon Link) is one a group of friends and I did a few years back when we were doing a Bible study/walking group together...  in chapter 8 titled "What does God want me to do with my life" it digs into answering this question by eventually drafting a version of a personal mission statement.  I had mine already there, written in messy black ink waiting to be revised and revisited. It reads: 

 "I am created and called to express my faith through love by encouraging growth to the hearts of those around me through time, prayer and obedience to God's prompting" 

It still fits, but I was ready to do some revamping. 

After taking 4 different spiritual gift assessments online

This one covers 9 task orientated spiritual gifts and gives an overview on how they can be used within the Church. This one covers what are called motivational gifts. (Disclaimer:: I still want to dig deeper into the passages in scripture where spiritual gifts are covered and gain a better understanding of them as a whole) 

I scored what I anticipated I would, highest in Exhortation (encouragement) and second in shepherd (Which explains the joy I feel in teaching Sunday school or Kingdom Quest) That's the whole reason God has given us these gifts in the first place, is to USE them for His glory- so finding this out and plugging in to a local body is really (REALLY!) important.  Serving is key in living a life that is meaningful and fulfilling.  It breaks me out of a selfish mindset and invests in someone other than me. It's rewarding in the deepest sense and I believe we are hardwired and created in a way that gives us satisfaction to serve in ways that you are gifted!

The next step in my notes was I compiled a rough draft statement for each major role I'm living right now.  marriage, mom, friend, teacher etc. Here is an example of my ministry one 

"To serve in church by using my gift of sheparding
 to teach Sunday school and kingdom quest.
Faithfully presenting the Gospel,
 praying for the hearts of the kids in my class
 and cultivating a classroom that encourages spiritual growth"

Then I worked on combining each of my separate ones into one main mission statement that highlighted and joined them together. 

Reflecting on the process as a whole, it was really enlightening. One that I would say each step in the journey was worthwhile, meaningful and I learned a lot as I worked on it.  My prayer is that having this will help me focus my life, my time and the ways I serve in ways that have eternal meaning.  That having this will help me know what's the best yes for me for this season of life. (the best yes book is on my to-read list!) If this isn't a project you've experimented with or a step you've taken I would encourage you to give it some time, some thought and prayer (and of course coffee & quiet!!) and see where God leads you.  I love that each person's statement will be as unique as they are- with different gifts and passions included!  I'd love to hear yours, and to know any other resources that helped you put yours together.  

I think mine may change (likely) as the chapters in my life unroll, but here's my finished (for now) personal mission statement.  

Cultivating a life of service, rooted in Biblical truth and sincere compassion to encourage the hearts I encounter, through investing time, sharing hospitality and speaking truth in love; by obedience to God's prompting. Keeping an eternal perspective and embracing the joy in the daily real-life.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

second guessing- everything.

Free Time

These are my constant balancing challenges. How do I manage our days home with making sure we tackle school, keep the house in a real-life lived in "clean-ish" state or at least not an episode of hoarders? How do I give responsibilities to the boys and have them do the "right" amount of chores? And one of the benefits of homeschooling is that they can have time for their hobbies, how do I find a good balance for this? 

I DON'T KNOW! It's like juggling bowling pins.  And that's not a strength of mine either.

Just like a ton of moms I've talked with, we have this thing we're really good at. (and it's not something to brag about) We excel at constantly second guessing ourselves. I've seen those posts about the mom being in bed and not able to sleep at the end of the day wondering if she loved enough, gave enough, did enough, etc... the message we play is "everyone else has this figured out" Why do we torment ourselves like this? I've been spending some time thinking over this- and have a few ideas. 

First, I think we compare. I compare other homeschooling schedules, I compare other people's fb posts of their clean homes, I compare life, compare kids, and compare talents.  Why do we do this? Our lives are all different, and as my friend Amy says, comparison is the thief of joy.  I believe this! When we look at other homes, other marriages, other schedules... we are pulled away from contentedness. We are pulled away from thankfulness and gratefulness and joy.  My life isn't yours... so unless we can encourage eachother in our own unique journeys please please please don't compare.  

The second reason I think we get trapped in this, is we aren't transparent enough.  I was just talking with a friend Sunday evening at church and it came up in our conversation that how on earth can we encourage eachother, support eachother or be there for one another as sisters in Christ if we pretend life is perfect?  This goes hand in hand with a passion I've had recently to celebrate real-life, not perfect life. To find the joy in DAILY. And it's true!  We need to open up, let others in, and share our struggles with the people God gave us to do life with. We need eachother.  I don't have it all figured out, but I can relate to the struggles in marriage, mom-ing, even in our walks with Christ. And the point of sharing isn't to complain, but to get in the trenches with eachother. We can't get in trenches or have anyone come meet us in our trench if we pretend life is great... and are never willing to share struggles, challenges and hard stuff. Transparency is a powerful thing.  It shines light where darkness is. The thing about darkness is that's where lies thrive, sin thrives, struggling alone thrives. So let's open up a little more. Let's get alongside eachother, not in comparison, but in a heart of encouragement, empathy, compassion and growth. So that we can do this real-life thing together. 

The third thing I think happens with this constant second guessing thing we do as women is having discernment to know what is guilt, and what is conviction.  Satan wants to point out our failures over and over again.  He wants to remind us of all the ways we aren't meeting the bar.  He wants us to feel defeated and not worthy.  To make us believe his lie that everyone else is thriving and we're alone over here failing. We need to call out truth in that battle, because Christ's message to us is SO different than that.  He wants to call out our sin, not to keep us wallowing there, but because HE PAID for that sin on the cross and it cost Him everything in order to set us free! (John 3:16) He convicts us in order to FORGIVE and to give us VICTORY over those struggles.  He wants us to live a life that's free.  Not free to keep sinning, but free from the trap of sin! He wants us to live out our unique stories in a way that shines our lights blazing bright into this dark world... and to shine in a way that gives Him the glory!  But we need His wisdom to know the difference between guilt over things we really don't need to claim guilt in.  And wisdom to know the voice of conviction and to have a heart willing to repent. A heart tender and seeking Him. The best way to grow in discernment is to get in the Word... to study it, learn from it, and make that a priority.

The last thing that I've had on my heart is our pride. Man it gets in the way of making changes that will actually benefit us. We want to do this well, but we don't necessarily want ideas to change things up a bit. This is an area I want to let go of.  I want to be confidant in the roles I'm living, but I want humbleness and a heart that's willing to be taught, nurtured and sometimes flat out called out. (ouch) Pride is ugly, but it's clothed in a really tempting garment. It's deceiving but it hides itself well. 

So sisters, let's rise above! Let's let go of some of these traps we have blindly fallen into and let's do this real-life journey together.  To HIS glory! Let's live an abundant life.