Monday, December 22, 2014

Keep calm!! It's only Christmas!

Whoa. Christmas is only a couple days away. How did this happen?? Raise your hand if you're mentally still in the month of November (both of my hands are raised)!

There's much to balance during this time of year, right? Family, baking, shopping, baking, wrapping, decorating, baking, baking, baking.... And we all do it with a smile on our face, joy in our hearts and a gleam in our eyes! Yeah right. More like a frustrated frown, a Grinch-like heart and tears in our eyes. Well, maybe that's just me. 

The Christmas season is the perfect opportunity for me to glorify God and His son. I have reason to talk about God, talk about the birth of His son, and the miracle that our Savior is to all of us. I'm allowed to put up nativity scenes without question or persecution, I'm allowed to sing songs praising His birth, I'm allowed to shout it from the rooftops because that is acceptable at this time of year. Want  to know what I'm doing instead? Stressing out about the gifts I have to buy, how many strands of lights are on the tree, where am I going to put up my new Christmas village, how am I supposed to wrap all these gifts by myself, don't eat all the cookies because then it means I just have to make more, etc, etc... Nowhere in there am I doing what I have the opportunity to be doing: talking about God. In fact, my moodiness and Grinch-like heart has done everything but glorify Him. What happened to my joy? Why am I wasting this perfect opportunity?

Because I'm human. I'm a mom. I'm a wife. I'm an employee. I'm a friend. I'm a daughter. I'm a sister. I'm teaching in the kids' ministry at church. I'm just downright busy. How about you? 

As a Christian woman, we have the beautiful opportunity to talk about God during this time of year because it's acceptable by others. The audience of those who won't listen grows smaller, while the audience of those who will listen grows larger. We hear songs on the radio that praise the birth of our savior and it's not considered offensive or inappropriate. We can send Christmas cards to friends and family boasting our love of God and gratitude for His son. It's everywhere, ladies! This is our golden opportunity!

Well, allow me to share about my missed opportunities:
Each year, our family group at church gets together for a fun Christmas party and white elephant gift exchange and it is so much fun! Well, this year, I was asked if we wouldn't mind hosting the party in our home. I was nervous to ask my husband because, ya know, these are "church people" I want to have in our home. For several hours. And there is no escape. So I mustered up the courage and I asked him, "babe, a couple of the girls asked if we could have our family group Christmas party at our house..."

He waited only a couple seconds to answer, but it felt like a couple of minutes. He said, "am I off?" He's a firefighter and his schedule is forever rotating, so I told him that yes, he was scheduled to be off that day. And then, without hesitation, he gave me permission to host the party at our home! I was so excited! He began feverishly putting up more Christmas lights outside, he bought a huge 10ft Christmas tree to place in the middle of our living room, he cleared out furniture to make room for seating, he let me have a cleaning crew come in to help me clean and prepare for the party - this guy was rolling out the red carpet for my church family. The evening of the party arrived quickly and we had a total blast - nearly 70 people in our home, tons of chatter and laughter, it was amazing. Once everything was over, my husband was telling me about a couple of the guys he was able to hang with and whose company he enjoyed during the party. I was taking mental notes and sent those women text messages the next day, practically begging them to schedule a dinner or a double date with us soon. Strike while the iron is hot, right?

The next week was the children's program at church, in which both of our children had singing solos. My husband had to work the day before, meaning he doesn't come home until the next morning. He told me that he would try to come to the church performance, but may have to come straight to church from work, so I ironed some clothes for him, packed his nice dress shoes, even made sure to bring along dress socks - can't forget those! And then he surprised me by showing up, not in the clothes I brought for him, but in clothes he went home to change into before coming to church! He raced home to change, for us. I didn't know he was there until I saw both of my kids light up with the biggest smiles and, from on stage, they waved and yelled, "Daddy!" Hearts and butterflies filled the air!

Man, I had two amazing experiences to really let God shine...and instead I let my enemy get a foothold on me. Oh, don't get me wrong. I was elated about hosting our party, and even more so about having him at church, and I made sure to encourage him in both instances. But you know what outweighed my encouragement those two times? My daily living. 

I let all the other stresses outweigh this joyous holiday season...and that is what my husband sees. What does your husband see? Has he been more open to listening to you talk about church or God during this time of year? How are you using this opportunity? 

My husband said to me one afternoon while I was snapping at everyone, "I thought you called yourself a Christian?" Ouch. Dagger to the heart. Deep cut. Definitely bleeding to death. Call 911, I'm in spiritually dying. My husband, the "non-believer," called me a faux Christian...why? Because even he recognized my ungodly behavior. Those two experiences with my church and church family were completely erased. Gone. As though it never happened. All because of my daily living. See, what I tend to do is rely on church and my church family to help impact my husband's heart - and they do! They greatly impact my husband's heart. But not as much as my daily living impacts my husband. To him, I was almost phony during the party and at church, because when I was in the privacy of my own home, without observers, I was moody, I was snippy, I was anything but joyful, gracious or happy. 

Spiritually single women, and women married to Godly men alike, what do our husband's see? Are we different at church than we are at home? Is our behavior consistent no matter where we are? Do we let the "stress" of the holiday season bury the Christian women we claim to be? 

Whether he ever says it or not, he is watching you. He is observing you. Not in a creeper kind of way, but in a "is she for real or is she fake" kind of way. Our husbands are not church goers (yet) because they are skeptical and we, their wives, are the windows into the church and into God's love. So, what exactly are they seeing?

Like I mentioned before, we have only a couple of days left until Christmas. The chance to really let the love of God shine all around us. Does that mean go overboard and shout "hallelujah" at the end of every sentence? No...even I would think you're kind of weird if you did that. "Baby, that tree is so beautiful. Hallelujah!!" And I certainly don't mean to shove Jesus down his throat with every word that leaves your mouth. "Aww, this table setting is perfect for a king. A king like Jesus." 

So what do I mean? I mean living out your convictions and keeping your attitude consistent with your beliefs. That saying "practice what you preach" has great truth behind it... The holiday season allows us the chance to openly celebrate and talk about our amazing Savior; it can also allow us the chance to squash our Godly wife behavior (omgsh that totally rhymed). This is a very busy time of year, of course. But don't lose sight of the fact that we ARE celebrating an incredible King and our husbands want to celebrate with us. 

Be the light. Be the joy. Be the example of gratitude for the birth of our King. All the gifts, all the lights, all the food will be gone...but the light you leave behind has the chance to glow long afterwards. 

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Merry CHRISTmas!!!!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lesson learned (or learning)

For a while I joked with one of my best friends that I wasn't going to write as often because each time I would write a post about something, I was immediately tested in that area. I told my girlfriend, "that's it, I'm not writing anymore because every time God is like, 'ok girl, you talk the talk, let's see you walk the walk.'" Yeah, sounds a little comical now, but when you know that impending test is coming, it's not so funny. Kinda like when we pray for God to give us patience. I don't know about you, but I just want God to clothe me in patience...not give me situations to test and try my patience. But, like the Father He is, He is allowing us the tests and trials to build our character. 

I often like to think of trials like this: a teacher doesn't just give you an "A" in the class. You have to study, work, put in the time, and are ultimately tested on your knowledge. If you were just given the "A," what good would it do? You would have no knowledge of the subject nor would you be able to help someone who may look to you for guidance in that subject area. Now, in some cases, like my statistics class in college, sometimes even going through the trials and testing gave me a grade high enough to pass the class, but I still have no clue what the heck I was taught. If someone stuck a statistics problem in front of me right now, I would laugh and shove it aside. I have no clue where to even begin. I would have to go through it all over again....because I didn't learn from the lessons taught. My teacher appreciated my hard work and he knew I wasn't a flake in his class, so when my final grade percentage was two percent shy of a passing grade, he mercifully bumped my percentage up and I passed the class and never have to take a math class again. Can I get an amen?!

Well, much like math, I'm not always the best student when God is trying to teach me something. I try to skate by, skirt around the edges, and hide from the truth. It never works. I'm pretty sure God looks at me and says, "how many times do we have to do this?" That's my guess because it's the same thing I say to my children, "when will you listen to me?" Lessons are hard to learn. Lessons that test your character are especially hard to learn. 

Tonight was one of those nights, which followed another one of these nights yesterday. My husband and I have just been butting heads like two rams on a mountain side. Almost everything one does or says, the other thinks is wrong. And over silly things like when is the best time to carve our pumpkins for Halloween; how many pots of chili do we need to make; we don't have enough chairs to seat everyone; is it that hard to load the dishwasher; how do you forget to put the potatoes in the crockpot with the roast, etc, etc, etc. Just one (or two) of those nights. 

You know what's funny about it? Just today I was telling a girlfriend of mine at work about how she needs to be the one to break the cycle in her marriage. She and her husband are not in the best place, and she came to me for advice. I told her that she has to be the one to make the move towards improving her marriage. She kept saying, "but I don't want to, it's one sided if I do that, he needs to learn and understand. Why should I always have to be the one to change things?"  Ooh and let me tell you, I was full of answers, including: "It's not one-sided, it's breaking the cycle." Once those words left my mouth, I knew I was in for a good test. Because the night before, I knew that this was the answer to the problem in my home, but I skipped that question on the test and plowed through the night like a bull running through the streets of Madrid. 

Let me give you a helpful hint when you are going through one of the many tests of faith you will encounter: the two H's. Humility and humble. I know what you're thinking, "aren't those just two different ways of saying the same thing?" Yes. And out of the entire English language, these are probably the two most difficult words to add to our own vocabulary.

For the last two nights, I've been anything but humble. I've displayed everything but humility. I've sat back and waited for my husband to realize his wrongs and come to me begging for forgiveness. In the meantime, my irritation has grown, multiplied and become something my pride will not allow me to surrender. I'm ugly right now. And I most definitely am not acting as a godly wife. This is where God is trying to teach me a lesson on the two H's. He knows this is equivalent to math for me - I just don't get it. And He insists on repeating the lesson until it clicks. 

Let's look at the perfect example of the two H's: Jesus. If there was ever a man to walk this earth who deserved to be treat like a king, of course it was our Lord. But the entirety of his life, from birth to death, was filed with humility. He could've demanded everyone's respect, he could've called on angels from high, he could've sat comfortably and been served. But instead, he served. The king of kings served. And he served with a humble heart. He said, "...just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28
I don't know about you, but nothing humbles me faster than to see that my Lord, the King of Kings, considers himself a servant. Who am I to think I should be sitting around waiting for my husband to come crawling to me, begging for forgiveness and kiss my ring like a queen who sits on a throne?

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:3-5

Do you remember cliff notes, a study guide, when studying or reading a book for a class? It was a helpful summarization aimed to help you better understand a difficult reading. Well, this bit of scripture acts as my cliff notes during times of testing. It's highlighted and underlined in my bible, and my handwriting covers the borders with words like, "imitate Jesus. Put others before me. Ultimate humility." It's my go-to. It's my "check yourself, Jenn, where is your attitude?" And it's God's repeated lesson for me.

We are forever learning. Even Jesus was learning throughout the days of his life here on earth. Each day he was faced with something that would test his faith. He was not immune to God's lessons, he was a student like you and me. He battled through temptations (I would've given in on the first day out in the desert), he battled through the loss of friends and betrayal, he battled fears and sorrow...he was human. And he was the perfect example of the kind of student we need to be. He went through every trial, every test of faith, relying only on God and His promises.

What kind of student are you? Throughout life we are going to be tested. It shapes our character. It helps us grow and mature as Christians. Do you trust the lessons God allows into your life? And don't forget, God is very much a "practice what you preach" kind of teacher. Do you only talk the talk or do you also walk the walk? Our Father is not a mean God who likes to see if you'll sink or swim...He is the perfect Father who wants to see you rise above. Remember what Jesus tells us, "for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Mathew 23:12

Now, if you'll excuse, I have a man downstairs I need to apologize to. 


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hold up, what'd she say?

I love kids. And sometimes, I love their honesty. Sometimes. I once saw this thing on Pinterest that said, "if a woman says you're ugly, she's jealous. If a man says you're ugly, he's mean. If a kid says you're ugly, you're ugly." Kids are great like that, aren't they? We can always count on them to share embarrassing truths with a stranger.

My kids have said plenty of things to embarrass me over the years, and I'm sure they'll continue to embarrass me in years to come. But there have also been times when the truths that have spilled from their cute little mouths have made me proud and have at times surprised me with the depth of their understanding.

Not long ago my daughter came home after spending some time with a friend, and I could tell that something was bothering her. It didn't take much coaxing for her to share with me that a conversation she had with her friend "really got her fired up." I asked her what the conversation was about and she lowered her head as she told me that it was about me and my husband.

Me: "what was said?"
Cute daughter: "that you and Daddy aren't living right because he's not a Christian."

Whoa. That's not a light topic.

I asked her to tell me more about their conversation. 

Cute daughter: "she said that you can't be married to him because he doesn't go to church. And she said that the bible even says that. She said that something is wrong if Daddy isn't a Christian."

I listened intently as she continued to divulge details of their conversation and I painfully watched her eyes fill with tears. I asked her how she responded to her friend's comments:

Cute daughter: "I told her that I didn't want to talk about it anymore but she kept telling me stuff. I didn't want to argue with her."

Ugh. My initial reaction was to call up the mom and tell her to quit talking about my marriage at their dinner table, but of course, I didn't. Instead, I followed my daughter's example and kept my ugly thoughts to myself. I grabbed my bible, sat down with my daughter and we looked at the only words she needs to believe.

1) "Yoke"
I first showed my daughter the scripture that her friend was most likely referring to when she accused us of living "wrong." It reads:

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God." 2Corinthians 6:14-16

It's important to know that this book of the bible is a letter written by Paul to the church in Corinth and at this point in time, the church was weak and was struggling with division and spiritual immaturity. Paul was wanting to encourage the faithful believers to stay committed to God's truth as Paul's authority was being challenged and attacked. So who was Paul addressing? A group of spiritually weak believers. And who loves to prowl around weaklings? The enemy. So Paul was warning the believers about the idea of linking up with an unbeliever, especially in areas of partnership. He's not limiting it to emotional or physical relationships, but in business and work relationships as well. 
Do you know what "yoke" means? I didn't know what it meant when I read this for the first time. A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that was placed over the neck of two animals and was attached to a cart or a plow, therefore the animals had to work closely together and where one went, the other had to follow. Knowing this, it's clear to see why Paul would state such a warning...when we are spiritually weak, it's easy for us to be lead astray. Maybe you're single and the temptation of that cute guy is crying out to you, 'oh I want to be yoked to him!' Maybe a business deal will promise you a small fortune, but you have to partner up with an unethical person. Maybe you reconnected with an old friend and they want you to go out, drink and party with them...ya know, revive the partners in crime status. Maybe an outsider is challenging your convictions and wants you to explore a different religion with them. Whatever it is, when we are spiritually weak, pairing up with an unbeliever is never a good idea.

2) "but, my husband..."
So here we are. Married to a non-believer. And Paul said not to get tied up in that! Well, yes. I agree with Paul...if you are already a believer and find yourself wanting to be with an unbeliever, are you willing to leave God to follow a man?
A long while ago, a dear friend of mine was dating one of my best friends. They were both believers and involved in a pure relationship. My best friend, we'll call her Sally, was feeling the temptation of doubt and eventually she walked away from God. My friend, we'll call him Larry, was devastated by her decision to leave God. But he loved her so much, he tried to hold on, hoping it could still work and that she would come back to God. But after some time, Larry realized that it would never work. He said to me, "I was gonna marry her. But, you can't build a house on two different foundations." And, that was the end of their love story. 

So true. It's impossible to build a home on two different foundations. Which is why heeding Paul's warning is important if you are a single woman of faith. Imagine starting off your marriage with such different views! The first year of marriage is difficult enough. 
But then there are cases like mine: married, found God while married, husband thought he wanted God, turns out he doesn't (for now), and now we have to build on two different foundations. And boy can it be a rocky foundation at times. When I married my husband, neither of us were believers. I wasn't exchanging one for the other. I wasn't choosing man over God. I didn't idolize my husband instead of worshipping God. What happened after we married, well, I believe is all part of God's master plan. 

3) "so, is my marriage wrong?"
No way, sister. In fact, Peter addresses the spiritually single woman...which tells us that women married to non-believers has been going on for quite some time, and he didn't condemn them. But rather, he encouraged them:

"Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husband so that if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives when they see the purity and reverence of your lives." 1Peter 3:1-2

How incredible is that. Peter wasn't telling you that your marriage is wrong in God's eyes. He wasn't saying, "nice job picking that one, good luck with that whole unbelieving husband thing." He was doing quite the opposite. He was encouraging us to respect, honor and serve our husbands. He was giving us hope. He was filling our hearts with encouragement. He was not telling us that we are living wrong.
Spiritually single women have obviously had a presence in God's church for so long that He wanted to make sure that we were instructed how to love our husbands, even if they're non-believers. 


After talking with my daughter I could see the relief in her eyes. I explained to her my story of finding God after we had been married. I told her that Paul's warning is something to keep close to her heart if she chooses to make Jesus the Lord of her life (God willing she will)'s always a better idea to start your life with one who shares with you the same love for God. But for those of us who found God after we were married, or even some of us whose husbands were Christians but they walked away from God, our marriages are not wrong. We are not living wrong. We are simply a vessel in God's plan for our lives, as well as the lives of our husbands.

Don't let the words of others try to drown your hope. Remember that God's words are the only words we need to believe. He is 100% supportive of your marriage. He needs you there. He's going to use you in many wonderful ways. Listen to Him...and only to Him. But if you need to hear it from the mouth of a child's pure heart, my daughter will happily tell you, "if God says it's good, then it's good." Ahhh, out of the mouths of babes.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What's your status?

I love social media. I love it! I've heard so many people complain about it. So many people say "oh, no, I won't ever do social media, it's too much drama." Or "nobody needs to know what I'm doing."  Ok, I get that. My feeling of it? I love it. I don't see any drama because I don't invite those people into my social media outlets. I've gone through and weeded some less than mature people out of my space and I've learned to block those whose posts I'd rather not see but don't want to offend by "unfriending" them.  But, I am of the crowd that loves social media.  My primary reason for loving it? I get to stay updated with friends and family I would have never otherwise been able to keep up with regularly.  I've reconnected old friendships - even with one of my high school teachers! I get to watch the children of my cousins growing up across the country. I love social media for what it's meant to be...a place to connect. 

And here's my other thought on social media: if you don't like what you see, then get rid of it.  

Today my husband and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. So, of course I posted about it on two of my social media platforms with this adorable photo:
Awww! We're so cute! And so young!

Along with the photo, I posted a little blurb about us, the difficulties we overcame to get to 14 years and how grateful I am for my husband. Why? Because it's true.  Well, wouldn't you know it. There's always a sour grape in the bunch. I received a private message from someone who is less than an acquaintance congratulating me on our anniversary, but with a taste of bitterness as the author of the note wrote, " must be nice to have such a perfect life and perfect marriage, but not all of us have that, so your posts can be somewhat offensive." Huh? First of all, in my post, I clearly stated that we had been headed for divorce, but my guy hung in there and didn't give up (maybe the author misunderstood what I meant?).  My first reaction was anger, which is my sinful nature. Oh man, the things I wanted to say were ready to pour out of my mouth but would not have been appropriate at all. So I waited, I calmed down, and I simply replied, "my posts are never meant to offend anyone, I'm sorry that you found my post offensive. But, if you knew the entirety of our story, the details of our history, you would understand that I am proud of us as a couple, which is why I post many things about my husband. Much like you do when your child does well athletically or receives an award. You are proud of the accomplishments. I am proud of us. And I will continue to post about it."

Ok, so maybe the last line could've been left off, but I couldn't help it. I felt like I needed to warn the author that my posts would continue. But then I decided that I didn't need to worry about that one person each time I posted something, so I "unfriended" the author so they no longer live in fear of reading my offensive happy wife posts.

Obviously this person was not somebody who reads my blogs, or knows me personally, or heard me speak at a Women's Day event a few years ago. Because if that person had, they would've known that our marriage is and has been far from perfect.  Even if you follow my blog and you don't know me personally, you would know by now that my husband and I have come a very, very long way.  I am an open book. I openly share about our hardships. I openly share about our difficulties. And the reason I do that is because it gives me the opportunity to share about God's glory in our marriage, because we all know that it was by God's grace and miracles that we made it out alive. It gives me the chance to give hope to women who are hurting in their marriage.  It gives me the chance to share what did and what didn't work.  My story, my heartbreak, my marriage is my testament to God's incredible victory.

Here is my general rule of thumb when it comes to social media: don't ever post anything negative about your husband. Ever.

You're not pretending your marriage is perfect or that your husband is your knight in shining armor every day. You're not lying about bad days you have together. You're just not exposing your dirty laundry.  There are plenty of days my husband and I are at each other's throats!  But what would happen if you frequently read something like this on one of my social media platforms: "I am so tired of doing everything. Must be nice to live like someone else in this house..."

*Number one: I would sound like the biggest, um, witch, if those were my frequent posts.
*Number two: you as the reader are left to assume that my husband does nothing.
*Number three: you can't wait to read what complaints are coming tomorrow.
*Number four: you tell your friends ("omg, did you read Jenn's post? She must be miserable.")
And the other reason you don't ever talk badly about your husband:
*Number five: you open yourself up to others....("hey Jenn, I see how much you do and what a good mom you are, I would appreciate you if you were my wife...")

Five reasons right there why you don't ever air your dirty laundry. You know the unspoken rule about not speaking badly about your spouse to your mother (if you don't, now you do)? Why is that a rule? Because your mother will naturally side with you and begin to pass judgement on your husband because of what you tell her about him.  My husband and I could be in the biggest argument, but I won't bash my husband to my mother. No way. She's the captain of Team Jenn. Much like my mother-in-law is the captain of Team Ryan. And my brother is Team Jenn. And my sister-in-laws are Team Ryan. You get the point...

The problem is that when one of us is doing the verbal bashing, the listener is only hearing one side of the story.  Let's continue with that faux post I mentioned above: "I am so tired of doing everything. Must be nice to live like someone else in this house...." What you didn't get to know is that my husband worked the last 48 hours straight with minimal sleep on an uncomfortable bed at the fire station, so when he's home, he likes to sleep and needs to recover. What you didn't get to know is that it's quite possible my hormones are on high that week. What you didn't get to know is that on other days my husband is busy fixing things I can't repair or planting a garden in the yard for the kids or helping a friend fix their car. All you know is that on that one day, I do everything and my husband does nothing. 

And that's where the social media can be a problem. Assumptions are made all over the place. Look at what I experienced today! Someone who doesn't know the entirety of our life assumed I'm painting our lives to be perfect. They probably didn't even read the entire post that accompanied the photo. They took one look at it, saw the first couple sentences, gagged a bit, and sent me that message. 

Unfortunately for all the dirt seeking, gossip loving users of social media, I for one will never post negative things about my husband. It doesn't mean I will paint a portrait of perfection, nor will I lie about the status of our week. But when he does something to make me feel special, or when he does something out of the ordinary, you can bet you're going to read about it. Because for the most part, everybody knows our story. Everybody knows that him bringing me flowers on his way home from work is something he would've never done before. Everybody knows that where we are today is because of God. It's not because we're perfect, it's because we surrendered. I want to give that glory to God. I want to tell our story. I want to give hope to those who need it. 

God uses our trials for His glory. God will never waste our tears. No matter how frustrated you are, don't blab about it on social media. Respect your husband. Respect your marriage. There are two sides to every story and two sides to every status update.

Glorify your husband. Lift him up! Shout it from the mountain tops when he does something kind for you! And if somebody doesn't like it, well, you can pluck that weed right out of your garden of friends.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Comfort in the storm

Today was one of those days. I felt defeated. I felt unloved. I felt sad. I felt weak. I wished that God was tangible and I could just curl up in His protection and cry.

I imagined sitting next to God. I let my imagination soar and pictured the two of us sitting on one of those large porch swings, beneath a tree, the bright green and fresh grass tickling the bottom of my feet with each swinging motion. I imagined talking to Him, telling Him about my broken heart, as tears filled my eyes. We just sat there, He and I, on the swing. I spoke, He listened. I imagined the way it would feel to be able to curl up next to Him, my perfect Father, and feel the love He has for me. I asked God to help me not to rely on the words, the approval and the acceptance of others. I asked God to help me feel His love and the ability to see myself in His eyes. I asked God to fill me up with His love and His acceptance. And the rest of my prayer was without words, just tears.

I hope I'm not the only woman who goes through these moments of doubting my self-worth. Despite the possibility that there must be other women out there who have felt this way before, the feeling can leave us to believe that we are completely alone.  And that's exactly what our enemy wants us to feel. He wants us to believe that our value is at zero and we are alone on the battlefield. Why? Because then our faith is not strong and his power over us is strengthened. But we are never alone.

Call me crazy or weird (I can be both at times), but allowing myself to just cry and imagining myself wrapped safely in God's protection greatly eased my heart. Before I knew it, my sobs quieted, my eyes stopped producing tears, my breathing slowed and I felt myself falling asleep. It was like God let me get it out and then hushed me, much like we do with children. Think about it: when a child is hurt, they're crying loudly, they're difficult to console, and no matter what we say, it doesn't take away their hurt. But when we cradle them in our arms, offer to kiss their hurts and just let them cry it out, their sobbing slowly ceases, they are no longer loud and their body begins to relax. Why? Because we made them feel safe, loved and protected.

Just like our God. He is the perfect Father. His heart breaks each time he sees us hurting. He knows what is going on in your world. He hears the hurtful words said to you, He witnesses the unjust actions against you, He watches as you try to get through each day. And He's waiting for you to come to Him with your concerns, your worries, your fears and your broken heart. And just like you open your arms for a hurt child, He's doing the same for you.

If you've had a rough day, a rough week or even a rough month (that was me), you have the ultimate comfort waiting for you with open arms. And it's ok to break down. It's ok to cry. It's ok to tell God that you can't take another step. It's ok. Break down in His comfort. You are not alone in this battle. You have something that many are still searching for: God. And He is ready for you with open arms. 

Keep going, sweet sister. Every day is a battle. Every day is a challenge. But every day you have an Almighty God who is ready to comfort, console and love you as a parent loves a child. And that's exactly what you are: His daughter.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Testing, testing...

So. All morning I've been thinking about the lesson taught during our midweek service at church the other night. It was a deeply convicting message to the ladies by our Women's Ministry leader about having the heart of Christ when it comes to having compassion for the lost.

I woke up, spent time with God and began to write about my convictions as a spiritually single woman. I had a lot of stuff written down...I closed my fancy little iPad on which I was scribbling down my thoughts and got ready for work with the intention to finish writing during my lunch hour. At the lunch break, I walked to the store, picked up a salad and some fruit (and a huge slice of cheesecake, as well as a bag of chocolate chip cookies stuffed with brownies), placed myself comfortably in the lunch room, opened up my iPad and picked up where I left off. Ahhhhh....I was smiling with each word as I recalled Cheryl's lesson. Deep into my thoughts, I clicked out of the app I was using to find a scripture in my bible app. I came back to the app I was using to write....and found a blank screen. Everything I had written was gone. Nowhere to be found. Gone.

I first wanted to cry. I kept whispering, "no! No! Where is it?" That didn't help me to find it. Then, on comes the anger. I could feel my face getting red, now I was going to cry out of anger. "Ugh! Stupid gadget!" That still didn't help. My work was still missing. 

I sat there, staring at the blank screen. I opened it up, trying to see where it went...when I notice a tiny 'save' button at the top right corner of the screen. Yep. Don't remember touching that little rectangular button before I clicked out of the app (by the way, Blogger, how about prompting the writer to save their work before exiting out of the app? Just an idea for lame-o's like me). 

Ugh, what a let down. And wow, how quickly I was to jump to anger! The moment of shocked disappointment lasted only a second because then I realized it was the gadget's fault. How dare it erase my work! Didn't it know I wasn't done?? Stupid technology. Smart phones, smart aren't so smart after all, are ya?

I'm pretty sure you read that last paragraph and thought to yourself, "'re the one who forgot to press 'save..." So what right do I have to get angry with the iPad? I don't. As much as I want to blame the app and the iPad, I can't. It's ultimately my fault. I didn't press 'save.' 

Don't we do that a lot? Something goes wrong and we want to shift the blame onto something or someone else. I do that a lot in my marriage and I am very good at manipulating a conversation to take the focus and the blame off of me. It's not something I'm proud of, but it's definitely something I'm guilty of doing and I quite frequently have to apologize for my manipulation. 

But I'm also guilty of blame shifting when it comes to my husband...and church. So often I'll blame him for my lack of heart. There used to be a time when I would really struggle to come to church on Sunday mornings. I would tell my girlfriends, "oh, I won't be there this morning, my husband is giving me a hard time about going, I don't want the argument." And I wouldn't go. Now, my husband may have been giving me a hard time, but he definitely wasn't holding me back from going to church. That was my own lack of heart. Or I would miss several events that were outside of church "because of my husband." Poor guy, I was blaming him for everything, when in reality it was my own fault.

Sometimes as spiritually single women, it's easier for us to lose our heart to simply attend church. Why? Because it can be hard just to walk out the door as we're listening to snarky comments as we leave. We want to throw up our hands and say, "forget it. It's not worth it." And then we want to blame our iPad, I mean, our husbands. Yes, there are some of us who have husbands who love to make comments about our love for God (I was writing all about in my piece that went missing). My husband is one of them. And many, many years ago, his snarky comments were downright intentionally hurtful.  He would persecute me in front of his entire family. He would call me names like "bible thumper," and "Jesus freak." Every Sunday morning as I would get ready for church, he would spill hurtful words from his mouth. And then, I quit. I quit on God. It wasn't abrupt, I didn't wake up on Sunday morning and decide to never return to church. It happened over time. I'd miss a Sunday because I was running late, or because the family had something planned, or because I wasn't feeling well, or because my husband wasn't feeling well. I blamed my situation for my lack of heart. I blamed my situation for losing faith. I blamed my situation for losing my trust in God.

Jesus reminds us that we will be persecuted and we should expect it.

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: 'a servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecute me, they will persecute you also." John 15:18-20

A couple things here: first, I love knowing that Jesus chose me. He chose you. He plucked us right of the world and said, "sorry, you don't get to keep this one, she's with me." Did that not just fill your heart with love bubbles? Second, the reminder that the world will hate and persecute us for following Him. But, don't miss out on his encouragement about it. "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If they persecute me, they will persecute you." In other words: if you're getting flack about being a follower of Christ, take it as a compliment, because he received flack for being the Christ. That means, you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. 

People will oppose you because you are not part of their world (side note: I almost started singing that song from "The Little Mermaid" when I read that...did you?). And believe it or not, that is a good thing. If the world is applauding you, you may want to recheck your heart. Now, that doesn't mean the world can't admire you or applaud you at all. You have worldly people watching you and wondering how to be like you, those are the hearts you need to find and lead to God...that is, after all, our purpose. But, if you never receive some kind of flack for being a Christian....are you exuding Christ-like qualities in your daily living? 

Take the persecution as a compliment. Sounds weird, I know. But it's true. My husband was opposing the changes I had made in my life and he didn't like it. So he persecuted me, almost daily, and often in front of people. Take it as a compliment. Don't let your heart harden towards God or His church because of the persecution you receive....Jesus told you that it was going to happen. So, when we decide to walk away from God because it's too hard to follow him or we don't want to deal with the arguments anymore, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. That is our own heart losing faith. We're saying that we don't believe God will deliver us.  We lose trust that God will protect our hearts. So we blame our husbands. We blame our situations. We blame our lack of heart and faith on others around us. But in reality, it's our own fault. 

Don't be like me. Don't blame the iPad because you forgot to hit 'save.' Don't be a blame shifter. Don't blame your husband for your lack of heart. It all comes down to us. Our decisions. Our hearts. Yes, there are still days when the persecution feels intense, often unfair, and frequently unprovoked. But when those times come (because Jesus said they will), I stand firm and say to myself, "thank you, I'll take that as a compliment, because that means you see Christ in me."

Smile through the persecution and through the testing, let it strengthen your heart, not weaken it. When you do, Jesus looks at you and says, "she's just like me!"


Friday, September 12, 2014

Piles of dirt

My husband has been working really hard on the front yard landscape of our home. We bought our house a little over two years ago and the previous owners had not done much to beautify the front of the house. And our house has such potential to be gorgeous! Cute front porch, lovely hillside, and it rests on top of a hill. Our entire neighborhood is filled with homes that are beautifully landscaped. You drive up a street that is lined with beautiful trees, green grass and a variety of flowers and plants, then you turn the corner onto our street and there stood our house: bleh.

For months, we had talked about just what to do with the front of our home. We drove the neighborhood over and over again looking at everyone's front yard, trying to gather ideas for our own yard. Once we figured out what we'd like to do, then comes the issue of cost. Ugh. Buy one plant at a time, then buy a tree or two, then add some lights, oh and by the way, redo all the electrical and the entire sprinkler system because it was previously done incorrectly. Our home is only 11 years old, but everything from the inside out was as though it had just been purchased. Before we knew it, we became quite jealous of all the neighbors whose yards were already done and no longer required work. Looking at their homes, we definitely could see that the grass was greener over there. And we wanted what they had. And we were irritated that we didn't have the money when we needed it. We were frustrated that we had to wait until each pay period to buy a couple things. For months our front yard was a mess: dirt piles, plants unearthed, the EZ-Up serving as shade for my husband, and plants that were on their way to the big nursery in the sky. It looked like it was never going to be the beautiful yard we had imagined.

And then, while my husband was outside watering the grass, a neighbor was walking by the house when she stopped to talk with my husband. She complimented him on his work, she told him that each day she'd pass by our home on her walk and she could see that he was working hard to turn it into something pretty. She told him that his hard work greatly improved the outside of the home and she just felt the need to tell him. He worked hard to transform our yard from unattractive to eye catching and it was noticed by a passerby. Let me tell you something, my husband was beaming with pride. And our yard is even more beautiful because of the hard work and sacrifice he put into it.

Sometimes our marriages can be like my front yard. Unattractive, a lot fixing and redoing, and seemingly endless work. But when we put in the hard work, it can become something beautiful.

One of my many struggles is that of envy. You know that saying, "the grass is greener on the other side?" I have to remind myself of that almost daily. And it's not just limited to other couples or marriages, it includes the envy of a nicer car, a better body, prettier hair, wealthier living, even seemingly perfectly behaved children. I remember having a conversation with a coworker about how much we admired a particular family that would come into our office. The mom was pretty and fit, the dad was good looking and funny, their kids were adorable, and you could see they had money to spend. As time went on, the mom was becoming even more thin, which we food lovers envied. "She obviously watches what she eats and works out, it's nice that her husband works so she can stay home." Her husband would come in occasionally, and he was always so friendly to each of us. "What a great guy, she's so lucky. My husband doesn't have his sense of humor." What it lead us to believe: their life is perfect, the grass is definitely green over there. Fast forward some months later, the wife came in, looking unlike herself. When asked how things were, she broke down in tears. They were getting a divorce. Things had been bad for years. They each sought another outside of their marriage. The cost of lawyer fees drained their accounts. She was becoming so thin because she was depressed. What happened to such a seemingly perfect family? They didn't water their own grass, they didn't work hard on their yard...they fell for the enticing greener pastures. And the realization of what we saw: things aren't always what they seem.

The want of what we can't have has been an ongoing internal battle for human beings since the beginning of time. Look at Eve, she wanted that forbidden fruit because the enemy enticed her with its beauty and its promise to give her wisdom. She was drawn to what she couldn't have...and why? Because it sounded so good. She couldn't see the wrong in taking just one bite. That fruit wasn't what it seemed to be...and the enemy made sure of that, much like he does with all the things we desire but don't possess. God knew that the want of what we can't have would be a struggle for humans for the remainder of all he used Moses to lay down the law:

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male or female servant, his ox or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." Exodus 20:17

Covet? If you're like me, when I first heard the word covet, I had not a clue what that meant. Covet means to desire, to crave or to yearn for something that belongs to another. I would say that God chose the perfect word for that commandment. He didn't use the word "want," and he didn't use the word "like." Nope. He chose "covet." For a very specific reason. I also love how he starts listing things not to covet, your neighbor's house (I'm pretty sure that includes the front yards my husband and I were coveting), your neighbor's spouse (uh, I've been there before), your neighbor's servants (do kids count as servants?), then God started listing things like the ox and the donkey, and I think at that point He was like, "ya know what, if it ain't yours, leave it alone."

Now, you may be looking around your neighborhood and thinking, "nothing to worry about here. I don't desire my aging next door neighbor and I don't envy the parents of those brats across the street." But, the word "neighbor" isn't restricted to those living within walking distance of you. In Luke 10, an expert of the law wanted to test Jesus and asked Him how he can inherit eternal life; Jesus was like,"bro, you tell me what's written in the law, how do you interpret it?" The expert recited: "love The Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27). But the expert had one more question..."who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29). Jesus went on to share a parable about the Good Samaritan who helped a man that had been attacked, beaten, stripped and robbed. Others walked past the man and intentionally avoided him. But the Samaritan took pity on him, bandaged him, took him to an Inn and paid for his stay. At the end of the parable, Jesus asks the expert, "which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" To which the expert replied, "the one who had mercy on him." (Luke 10:37-37). What was Jesus saying? Who is our neighbor? Anyone and everyone. That means your coworker, your best friend, your kids' teachers, your postal carrier...everyone you come in contact with is considered your neighbor.

Uh that we know whom God considers to be our neighbors, maybe we should re-evaluate that commandment. You may not covet your aging next door neighbor, but what about the husband of your friend? You may not covet the beat up Buick in the driveway a couple doors down, but what about the brand new Mercedes the mom of your daughter's friend is driving? Now the game has changed. And if you're like me, you can write a list of things you want but can't or don't have that others possess.

For years, our marriage was my ugly front yard. It appeared to be doomed and it was on the road to dissolution. I envied everybody around me. I coveted their marriages. I coveted their men. I coveted their lives. I desperately sought greener grass, I completely ignored my own yard. During the time my husband and I were separated, I began a relationship with another man. He met every need that my husband couldn't. I quit on my husband. I turned off the water and let the grass die. He was going to have to reseed somewhere else. We were that couple that came into my office. Nobody knew we had such problems in our marriage and then one day, our whole life was exposed and everyone was shocked. Things weren't what they seemed.  I later found out that others had been coveting our marriage, well, the fake marriage that they saw from the outside.  They didn't know the truth of what was going on behind closed doors.  They wanted what they saw: high school sweethearts, firefighter husband, part-time working mom, two adorable cherubs for kids, (ok, that last part may be a biased comment), a house and nice cars. To them, our grass was so green it was being confused for Astroturf. I can promise you they were no longer coveting our marriage once it was exposed.

God works in amazing ways...that relationship I had with the other man fell apart. It gave me the chance to revisit my marriage. I made my way back to God. I started paying attention to the man I married. We worked on it. We fixed and rebuilt. We watered the grass we planted years ago. With hard work, sweat, tears and long days, our marriage went from being that ugly, torn up front yard into something beautiful for others to see.  Our hard work is obvious, especially to those who walked through it with us.  But that's the point.  Without that hard work, it could have never grown into something that could be admired by others. And, like any garden, it takes continuous work. Continually watering, replanting, and caring for it.

Ultimately, we don't know what it took for our neighbors to transform their front yards into the landscaping we admired. They may have gone through the same thing: dirt piles, frustration, shortage of money and feeling like it would never be right. All we saw was the finished product and we wanted it. We coveted it. We couldn't stop thinking about. We wouldn't be happy until we had it. We felt inferior because we didn't have what they did. But we worked at it. And when that woman complimented my husband on his hard work to transform it, he knew that the work was worth it.

We don't always know what goes on in the marriages of other people. We see one thing, it looks desirable and suddenly we can't stop thinking about it. We look at our own marriages and think, "I'll never have that as long as I stay married to this guy." You know what? Someone is saying that about you. Someone out there is admiring what you have. Someone out there thinks your grass is greener than theirs. We're all so busy thinking about what we don't have, that we're neglecting what we do have.

There's a reason God tells us not to covet what doesn't belong to us. He made sure it was one of the 10 commandments! It can ultimately destroy what He has so carefully planted in our lives. Pay attention to what you have growing in front of you. It's true: the grass will always appear to be greener on the other side....but remember that the enemy is over there fertilizing that grass with a bunch of, you guessed it, poop. He will do anything to make your eyes wander, make your heart lust and make your cravings burn. Keep your eyes focused on the garden God has planted at your feet. It may take time and work, a little bit of sweat and some elbow grease, but you have the chance to water your own grass and make it flourish.

The dirt piles aren't forever. One day, the dirt will fill all the holes and all you'll see is the beauty of your hard work and perseverance. Put on your garden gloves, it's time to do a little work.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What'd He Say?

Happy Wednesday!! I came across this little pearl of wisdom and wanted to share it with all of my friends. I absolutely fell in love with this and it was exactly what I needed to plug into my heart.

So often I hear the argument that the bible is "so old, it's not relevant in today's world" or, my personal favorite, "it's just fiction." Nothing could be further from the truth. There is an answer for everything in God's word. 

I work 4 days a week and on my one weekday away from the office, I don't usually watch television. I'm either running errands or trying to clean or, on a lucky day, having coffee or lunch with a girlfriend. But there was a day, a long time ago, when I actually was able to sit and watch some daytime television. After indulging in my guilty pleasure of a soap opera I remember my grandmother watching during the summer days I would spend at her home, I caught a daytime talk show. Dr. Phil. Now, don't get judgmental, I know some people love him and some people can't stand him. I'm neither. But the one thing I do remember about the advice he was giving was that it was actually biblical. I don't know much about Dr. Phil; I don't know about his religious beliefs or his background. Part of me thinks, "hmmm, I don't think he realizes this is biblical advice," but then part of me wants to think, "he must know scripture!" I have no idea. Maybe you do. But either way, he gave that particular piece of advice to this couple because he knew it would work. Why is that? Because it was actually advice given by God, whether Dr. Phil knew that or not. And any advice given to us by God will work. Hello, book of Proverbs. An entire book with little nuggets of advice. Go ahead, take some time and read through Proverbs. Start with chapter 1, verses 1-7. There is a specific purpose for the book of Proverbs:

"...for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair."

And you know what's amazing? Everything in there still holds true today. I'm pretty sure that living in a desert is a better option than living with a quarrelsome and nagging wife (Proverbs 21:19) and I'm convinced that a gentle answer is better than harsh words, which bring up anger (Proverbs 15:1). How about that. Biblical advice is still relevant. Because guess what?? All the problems, attitudes, difficulties and annoyances then are the same as today's. Why? Because we're human. 

God's word is alive. It's meant to be used. In every area of your life. So when you say you can't, God says you can. When you don't feel loved, God says you are. Dig into that awesome, incredible and perfect book. He wrote it for you.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Reach for your suits, ladies

It's the eve of my husband's birthday. It's amazing to me to realize that this will be his 19th birthday we've celebrated together as a couple. He was 16 years old when we started dating and I remember celebrating his 17th birthday together. And I remember how absolutely infatuated I was with him. Oh, that silky blonde hair, crystal clear blue eyes, his laugh, even his braces were cute. I adored everything about him. I was only 15. I wasn't allowed to go out on dates, but my parents allowed him to take their car (he didn't have one of his own) and take me on a date so we could celebrate his birthday. We went to Red Lobster. I felt so grown up, at 15 years old. There I was, in a restaurant, with my 17 year old boyfriend who drove us there because he had a driver's license. We thought we were so fancy and I was in a love so deep. Now that we have an almost 11 year old daughter, our view on that little scenario has changed quite a bit. New view: ain't gonna happen, little girl.

Infatuation in full effect: Junior Prom
Do you remember that feeling? That infatuation? It didn't matter if you were 15, 20, 25 or older. When you first met and began spending time with your guy, there was nothing he could do wrong, right? Everything about him was adorable, sweet, understandable and attractive. And then, after some time, some of his quirks aren't so cute anymore. But then, you're engaged and planning your wedding! Awww, he's so perfect again! Then you're married and he's your new husband! So what if he leaves a trail of clothes and can't find the hamper, it's so fun to do his laundry! Who cares if he misses the toilet every time he pees, at least he tried! And then a year or two pass and his quirks aren't so adorable anymore.

5 years later, infatuated again: Engagement

Ahhhh, infatuation. God's way of helping us to fall in love with the little things and Satan's way of blinding us and then pulling back a curtain as though he played a trick on us.

"Annnnnnnd, let me introduce you to the real man you married!"

Suddenly you're blindsided.
"Really? How hard is it to put his socks in the hamper??"
"Are you kidding me? We just leave dirty dishes in the sink? The dishwasher is 6 inches away!"
"More video games? Seriously? That controller gets touched more than I do."

And the whole time, Satan is just laughing and smirking and he is quite pleased with what's happening. Because what's happening? You want to quit. You want to walk away. You start thinking about that *other* guy you dated before you met your husband. You start playing the "what if" game. "Ugh, had I just stayed with my ex, he would've never talked to me like this. He would've cherished the very ground I walk on. He would've not only put his clothes in the hamper, but he would've done his own laundry!" Then you start distancing yourself from your husband. You start shuddering at his touch. His breathing is all wrong. Did he ever snore that loud before? You try to talk to your husband about what you're feeling, but he's as confused as a kid who asked for a lollipop and was given a banana. "Huh?" He's been thinking everything is great! But you tell him you're done you can't do this anymore, you want to leave. And Satan wins.

You forgot about all those little things God showed you about your husband when you first met or when you first married. Because while God used infatuation to show you the little things about your guy, Satan used infatuation to make you feel as though you were tricked into loving this faux-fabulous man.

I speak of this, only because I've been through it. And you know what? The longer you stay together, the more often it happens.

"Wait, so you're telling me not to be with my husband for a long time because I'm going to dislike him over and over again?"

No. What I'm saying is that every aspect of our lives is involved in a spiritual battle. Especially our marriages. The spiritual battle is a very real thing and it's happening all around us all day long.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Ephesians 6:12

I know what you're thinking: "great. I can barely battle against the fatigue I feel each night, how am I supposed to battle evil forces? Do I look like a Jedi?" No, you don't. At least, not without God. But you sure can look like and fight like a Jedi (or a warrior princess if you prefer). How??

"Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." Ephesians 6:11

Look at that. One scripture before we are told that we are going into battle, we are told to put on the armor God. Why? So we can stand firm against the devil. What's the armor of God?

"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:14-17

Ok, have your armor? Let's put it on.

1. Don't forget what you love
You fell in love with many little things about your husband. It may be many years you've been married, it may be only a few years. It may be less than a year! You may still be completely in love with and infatuated with his quirky, laundry leaving ways...that's awesome! Write it down. I'm not joking. Write it down. Make a list of all the things you first loved about him, especially in that infatuation stage. Was it his laugh, even though he snorted? Was it the way he'd play a video game to unwind after a long day? Was it the way he sniffs everything before he eats it? Whatever it is, write it down. Go back to the beginning and write it down.

Why? Because when you think about your husband in that light again, it will remind you of why you fell in love with him in the first place and before you know, you'll be smiling and giggling while thinking about him. And, bonus, you now have a list to look back on when you feel yourself struggling to love him and his quirks.

2. Don't forget that you have quirks, too
Ah, humility. So we meet again. Keep in mind that while things have changed with regards to your husband's quirks, I'm sure there are many things about you that have changed, as well. Don't forget that both men and women experience infatuation. He probably didn't mind that it took you an hour to get ready to go out; now he can't stand it and wants you to speed up the process. He probably overlooked the fact that you incessantly remind him of the location of the hamper, but now he's feeling as though you are more of a mother than a wife.

There are things about you that have changed, sweet sister. Don't lose sight of humility. Feeling brave? Ask your husband to tell you what made him first fall in love with you. Take note of it and try to be that again for him.

3. PRAY & be prepared
The power of prayer is incredible. And it's part of that armor of God:

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people." Ephesians 6:18

Being in God's word and being consistent in your prayer life is imperative. How can you fight a battle without first preparing? A king or a president doesn't enter his country into battle without first having prepared for it. Neither should you. Each morning you face an enemy. An enemy who is ready to take you down. Don't let him! Arm yourself with prayer, with scripture, with God. This is a battle that will be won if you let your King fight it for you. Pray. Be in your bible daily. Know scripture, memorize it, have it ready for battle.

By the time you read this, it will already be my husband's birthday. In the morning, I'll bring his coffee to him, I'll have to step over the clothes he dropped on his way to his closet, I'll have to pick up the wet towel he left on the floor and I'll have to bring down the half empty water bottles he left on his nightstand. I'll shake my head at the repetitiveness of this routine, but I'm going to smile because I remember the feeling I had when he chose to spend his life with me. I'll remember the way his once long blonde locks used to get in his eyes, and I'll remember the way I used to practice writing his name next to mine while we were dating. I'll relish in the infatuation I felt 19 years ago, because God wants me to. That's why he allows the heart to feel it.  The infatuation is something that fades over time, but the love that grows from it is meant to last a lifetime.  It's a fight to keep that love, it's a fight to remember those months of infatuation.  It's a battle.  Not against each other, but against our enemy.  

Suit up, girls...we have a battle to win.

19 years later...
July 2014