Wednesday, December 31, 2014

14 Things I Learned in 2014

I thought I hadn't learned anything of consequence this year but that's nonsense of course. I love blogging because it's a great reminder of what's happened in life. So here you are, in no particular order, fourteen things I've learned this year. (And a recap of what we've done in pictures.)

Broke in the winter playing in the snow

1. Being a Godly woman does not mean I can't be capable.  I can handle money appropriately, learn new skills, and confidently- from a place of obedience- help others.

11 weeks pregnant

2. Nobody thinks about me as much as I think about me. And I'd like to change that. Not so others think of me more but that I think of myself less.

Micah turned four

3. Doing this work that God has given me is not second nature. Matter of fact, it goes against my nature.

We spent most of spring and summer outside playing in the dirt

4. For whatever reason, approaching 30 has changed the way I think about what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. 30 is legit adulthood, folks.

Vacation at the beach

5. Paper planners are the way to get things done, for me at least. I bought one and used it every single day this year.

Kevin turned two

6. Every area I want to grow in starts in my relationship with Christ. I can't pick one area to focus on without majorly dropping the ball in others but if I work at being the woman God wants me to be He can tend to the separate functions.

31 weeks pregnant

7. Limits are good. There is room for art in everyday life.

After Caleb's amnio to test him for IVA

8. I can always obey. No matter how I feel or where I am.

Justin went on a work trip to the Pentagon


Caleb was born on Halloween

10. When you are having a new baby a little planning makes all the difference. Prepare your home, your family, and your spirit.

I joined the Influence Network and started taking classes

11. All the important work is just small work done repeatedly, passionately, and faithfully. It's load after load of laundry, meal after meal cooked, tiny temperatures taken, kind words spoken.

Family of five

12. My attitude and motive in disciplining my kids matters more than just what I do.

Spent the year working in our church's music ministry

13. Being a mom, for me at least, has gotten easier as we've had more children.

We ran away for the day to celebrate our seventh anniversary

14. Love is going the second mile when you didn't feel like going the first. Marriage matters

What have you learned this year? On to 2015! 

Monday, December 29, 2014

So This Is Love: 7 Years!

My two oldest boys love to watch "The Mice." This really means Cinderella and I'm milking it for all it's worth because I don't have anyone to watch princess movies with so far. And I enjoy princess movies every now and then. Tangled is one of my favorite princess movies ever! Now to just get someone to watch musicals with me... 

Back to the movie. When Cinderella and the prince are at the ball they sing "So This Is Love" and waltz around a beautiful garden under a sky filled with stars. 


So this is love, 
So this is love
So this is what makes life divine
I'm all aglow, 
And now I know
The key to all heaven is mine
My heart has wings, 
And I can fly
I'll touch ev'ry star in the sky
So this is the miracle that I've been dreaming of
So this is love

It's a beautiful song; those Disney songwriters are amazing. But it's not the truth. That is not love. Love isn't the beautiful dress with high heels and a uniform dancing in moonlit perfection. Love isn't a memorable date or abundant money or tropical vacations. Love may include those things but they aren't love. 



Justin and I are celebrating our seventh anniversary today. And if love were moonlight and fancy clothes and ease we wouldn't be so in love anymore. 

Love is the promise to stand by each other and do each other good for the rest of your life, come what may. Love is the days that turn into years that include dreams come true and nightmares you never imagined. Love is looking at the doctor and knowing the news is going to be bad. Love is holding hands and hanging on when what you really want to do is run somewhere far away. Love is approving medical procedures, paying bills with money you don't have, and hoping for the best. 

Love is working and squeezing in quality time instead of just sitting in front of the tv. Love is budgeting the money and sharing holidays and traditions. Love is going on dates and discussing the future. Love is serving in church together, staying home with sick kids, and pushing each other toward Jesus. 

Love is beach vacations, late night talks, and breakfast in bed. Love is cookies- just because, someone's favorite meal, clean clothes in the drawers. Love is going to work day in and day out so there's money in the bank. Love is the flu and lots of chicken soup and ginger ale. 

Love is forgiving. Love is overlooking the offense instead of taking offense. Love is trying again in the morning. Love is going the extra mile when you didn't want to go the first one. Love is anniversaries, birthdays, holidays. Love is the everyday: dishes and bills and laundry over and over. 

Love is children. Love is being up all night and smiling at each other in the morning. Love is sharing burdens and ideas about these little ones you are responsible for. Love is changing your ideas about a peaceful family dinner and enjoying the chaos. Love is early mornings instead of sleeping in. 

Love is work and school and dreams you didn't know you had. Love is supporting each other in those things and wanting the best for the other. Love is homework and lesson plans and going back to work at midnight. Love is another night alone with kids after you've been alone with them all day. 

Love is a choice, a decision you make every day when you get out of bed. Love is saying "yes" every day not just once. Love is praying for that person and then getting out of the way to let God work. 


Love looks different in every story because every story is different. But love is more than pretty. Love is more than easy. Here love is seven years of marriage, three boys, and a metabolic disorder.

Love is beautiful and I'd do it all again. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Beyond Christmas to the Cross

This Christmas season I've been teaching the boys the Christmas story. We've read from the Bible and several Bible storybooks that we have. We've sang Christmas songs and acted out the story with our Veggie Tales nativity.  A couple of days in I realized that I couldn't tell them about Jesus' birth without also telling them about Jesus' death. To tell the full story of Christmas you must explain the cross. Christmas without the cross is just a story. 

Christmas is the happy part of the story for us: a tiny baby, angels, a glorious fulfillment of prophecy. We celebrate with Christmas trees, family dinners, carols, and cookies. But it wasn't a warm, fuzzy story for the people involved. Mary risked everything- her reputation, her future, her life- to be the mother of Jesus. Joseph sacrificed his reputation and his plans to fulfill God's will. Mary delivered her first baby, not in a hospital with assistance and support, but in a dark and dirty stable, alone and surely frightened. They spent the first few years of Jesus' life running from Herod far from home and family.

Jesus certainly gained nothing coming to earth. The best experiences we can have on earth cannot compare to what He had in heaven. He experienced hunger and cold, discomfort and sadness. He was mocked, betrayed, and crucified. The time He lived on earth He lived in the shadow of the cross. He didn't expect a warm welcome or a throne or high position. He knew the fickleness of people; the ones who shouted "Hosanna" would yell "Crucify Him" just a short while later. And He still came. 

Why? Why did Jesus come knowing what was before Him? There have been several roads I've traveled that I would have opted to skip if I had been given that option. Jesus came knowing. None of what He experienced, what He suffered, was a surprise to Him. Jesus came and endured because He had a purpose. He came to redeem the world. 

I think I often forget my purpose. When I experience hardship my first reaction is to search for comfort or approval or some bandage for my feelings. But God didn't put me- or you- on earth to be comfortable. We are here to glorify God and to help others. If I lived with that in mind I think my reaction to life would be different. I would evaluate my decisions and my actions in light of what most honors God or how I can best help others instead of wondering what would be easiest. 

Jesus didn't suffer for Himself. He suffered for me, for you, for the world. Am I willing to suffer for others? Will I put up with discomfort and a lack of ease for the good of someone else? Will I experience pain or loneliness or loss of reputation for another?

Will I die to my own wishes for the good of my husband or my children? Will I give up my time and my desires to better the life of an elderly widow or a friend going through a hard time? Will I sacrifice some of my money to spread the Gospel around the world? 

If I'm going to live like Jesus I will have to. When you're celebrating with family this Christmas stop for a few moments and consider what Christmas cost those involved. Look ahead in the story to the cross and remember the purpose. Then ask yourself what you will give for your Savior. 


Jesus knew when He came,

He would suffer in shame. 

He could feel every pain and sorrow. 
But He left paradise, 
With His blood He paid the price. 
My redemption to Jesus I owe.

 "Born to Die" Ron Hamilton

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sometimes You Get To Decide

You get to decide what kind of day you will have.  Every morning when you get out of bed you decide. If you are going to write the day off as bad because you were up all night with the baby. If the day is only fun when you have something "special" to do. If the work makes the day enjoyable or unenjoyable. If this day- regardless of what it holds or what your night was like or whether your kids woke you up fighting- is a gift. 



You get to decide if you will count your blessings in the disagreeableness of your daily. If you will thank God for the children even if they are requiring constant correction. If you will thank God you have a washer and dryer at home when you change wet sheets and wash spit-up covered clothes and more dirty towels from the kitchen. If you will thank God for your husband and his job even if he has to work late.  You get to decide. 


You get to decide how you view those little ones. If you see them as blessings, as gifts that God has shared with you. If you will see them as men you are training for a future purposed by God. If you will train them and love them as tenderly as God loves you.  If you will see the greatness of the work in front of you and fall on your face before God begging for help. If you will show others a joy that comes from God and not your circumstances. You get to decide. 


You get to decide if you will nurture your marriage. If you will love that man and learn him. If you will desire to be good for his life or a detriment to him. If you will water your marriage when you have to dig deep at a well that's running on empty. If you will die to self to serve another sinner. If you will put him before the other people in life you would like to impress. If you will show him the love God has shown you. If you will forgive and try again tomorrow. If you will laugh and enjoy today.  You get to decide. 


You get to decide how you will face your work. If you will dig in and do it with excellence. If you will learn new skills and hone your passions to contribute something lasting to eternity and your arena. If you will do the work when you don't feel like it or when it feels like it isn't accomplishing anything. If you will let other sway you by their dislike of your work ethic. If you will work for Jesus only instead of other people. You get to decide. 

There are a lot of things in life you don't get to decide. But in these- you get to decide. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Five Reminders When You Are Feeling Mediocre

When I graduated high school I was the valedictorian. (I cringe to think of what nonsense I probably said in my speech.) Don't be too impressed; it was a class of thirteen. Then I graduated college with a 4.0. I'm not saying all of this to brag just to let you know that I come to my work with a viewpoint of doing the best I can. And occasionally that best has been better than someone else's best. That's not always the case; high school and college are both years in the past now. 

Lately I've been feeling mediocre. Like I'm not really good at anything, even if I don't actually stink at it. Let's face it, I spend most of my days changing diapers, nursing a baby, and cooking dinner. None of that is exactly rocket science. Now I hope I do it with some flair and excellence but how can I really know that? I have amazing friends and I know they are pursuing their work with equal skill and passion. (Maybe I need some bum friends?)

Now when I start questioning my abilities I want to stop everything. I want to stop going out in public because people might make judgments about me. (They will.) I want to stop playing the piano because so many people are better than I am. I want to hide and let fear win. But that's not the best option. You can't quit life because someone else possesses more skills and abilities than you do. And you certainly can't quit life because people aren't always going to like you. 

Five Steps for Moving Forward 

1. What God thinks about you is what counts. 
I'm trying to remind myself that what really matters is what God thinks. This circles back to my tendency to people-pleasing. I want to only care what God (and my husband) think of me. But sometimes even what I think of me drags me down. I'm trying to replace my feelings with what God says because my feelings really don't matter at all. Confidence comes from obedience, not feelings. 

2. You are not responsible for your talent, only for your work.
In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) the men weren't responsible for how many talents they got, just for what they did with them. Likewise, I'm not responsible for my talent, only for my hard work. I didn't get to choose what talents or abilities God gave me. I do get to choose how hard I work at what God has placed in front of me. I didn't get to give myself an ability to play the piano by ear, but I can choose how much I practice and how focused my practice is.  


3. Don't compare. Work from a place of passion.
I must stop comparing. I want to start thinking, "Oh, I LOVE doing this!" instead of wanting to say I'm good at it and realizing I can't because a large proportion of society probably does that exact same thing much better. But if I do it from a place of passion and give it to God to use for Him instead of seeking glory for myself...if He can use that ability for His kingdom, for some eternal work, then that is enough. I must keep myself from focusing on whether others are impressed or not. That is not the point of life. I don't want to strive to impress others. Do it with love. Do it with excellence. Do it out of obedience. 


4. Remember you are always improving.
I must remember that I'm learning every day. That's why I show up to the work with all my might every single day. That's why I learn from wiser people, why I take classes, why I read books, why I listen to podcasts, why I write to straighten out my thoughts. Because I am learning. In five years I will look back and be amazed at how far I have come. Especially when day by day there seemed to be no difference. 

5. Realize what you are.
I am just the glove. The hands, the feet, the voice, the eyes that God uses. God supplies the power. I can do nothing by myself and God wants it that way. When it is obvious that I can't do anything God gets all the glory for the results.


Recognize those feelings of inferiority. Beverly Hyles once said, "You'll never be what God wants you to be as long as you hold yourself back by feeling inferior." I will never be the best at anything. But I can tackle my work with excellence and passion. 

Don't let not being THE best keep you from being YOUR best. They are two different things. Whatever work God has given you deserves your excellence. 

"Be the best you that you can be."  Marlene Evans

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter Goals

Winter should be one of my favorite times of the year. There's Christmas, our anniversary, and my birthday in there, even if they are squished into one two and a half week span. Instead winter is my least favorite season. It's dark. It's cold. I love sunshine and playing outside with the boys. This year, in an effort to put my least favorite season to work for me, I decided to set some winter goals.


Now goals are different from resolutions, at least in my book. It's really all in the definitions. Resolutions must wait for New Year's and generally don't change your life because you quit about two weeks in. Who wants to even bother? But goals are actionable steps that you can take to change your life. I worked quite steadily through some goals last year and it helped me focus on purposeful work.

A few months ago I talked about where I wanted to be when I turn 30. I won't just magically get there. It will involve working toward those goals day after day. A little work today and a little work tomorrow. 

My winter goals this year are for December through February. I may keep setting goals in three month cycles that coincide with the seasons and different family schedules; this might be a genius idea. I'll tell you in a year. I did have one exciting goal that popped up a couple of days ago and doesn't start until January. But I have been working on it in various forms for a few years and I'll tell you about it last. 

Winter Goals: (in no particular order of importance but grouped by category which are listed as well)

1. Lose 7ish pounds. (personal) Let's say "adios" to the last of that baby weight, shall we? That probably means saying "goodbye" to snacking on chocolate chips. Sad day. 

2. Once a month out-of-home dates. (marriage) We do weekly Friday night dates at home but for these three months of winter we are going to prioritize getting out of the house by ourselves (with baby Caleb probably) once a month. Of course this month it will be to celebrate our anniversary! Seven years, people. I'm starting to feel a tad old.

3. Marriage book club. (marriage/friendship) A friend of mine and I worked through a motherhood book back in the fall and it was so refreshing to get another perspective on the work. This time we are going to use a marriage book and read through it together and discuss what we can apply to our lives. Informal and fun, but very helpful. Ever done anything like that?

4. Read two books on mothering. (motherhood) I have two picked out and I've read them before. But they are good and I guarantee I don't remember everything they said. 

(Am I intentionally not telling you names of the books? Yes. Email me if you want to know but the particular book doesn't matter. Learn something on what's important to you! Use what you have if you don't want to spend money.)

5. Start preschool again mid-January. (motherhood/homeschool) Our homeschool co-op will start back then and Caleb will be almost three months old. Seems like a good starting place. Although I must admit we haven't totally stopped the past weeks, just scaled way back. 

6. Join The Influence Network. (personal grad school) Start attending the free monthly class. Done and done for this month. I got to attend two free classes this month because I got a free class for being a new member. They were both amazing and I took copious notes. 

And the one that surprised me at how quickly it worked out but excites me the most...

7. Start piano lessons in January! (personal grad school) I've been working at piano for five years as an adult and have always thrown around the idea of taking lessons again. So starting in January I'll be taking lessons from a lady that I worked with ages ago at our local university. I am super pumped about this one because I was having a hard time setting goals for my piano work. 

How do you set goals? Do you wait until the New Year? Does that approach work for you? What are you working on now? 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Weekend Reading (and Listening)

Some weeks the internet is just full of extra good things. (At least if you are looking in the right places!) So in the interest of sharing some goodies I've enjoyed this week, here's another edition of 'weekend reading.'


--I recently started reading Design for Mankind. Which means I put the feed into Pulse and skimmed most posts. Until this one. Bring the Crowbar makes me question why I bother to write and then I remember that's what she's encouraging: writing. It's beautiful.

--Phylicia Delta is at it again! She's speaking so many thoughts that make me want to shout, "Say it again, sister!" The whole women's lib movement is beyond me. We're being liberated for what? To be intelligent, insightful creatures who add value to our worlds? No. To parade around in our underwear. Go figure how that's an advance. Take a few minutes and go read why she doesn't watch the VS Fashion Show.

--Now moving on to the listening. I've mentioned before that Ruth Simons from GraceLaced is one of my favorite online people. This week she was featured on one of my favorite podcasts! Check out Inspired to Action to listen to her wisdom. I'm sure I'll listen to it a few more times this week.

My favorite part was when she said that you don't expect boys to sit and crochet for an hour. A few of hers paint with her but they would rather pretend a big stick in the backyard is a machine gun. Until someone hits someone else over the head and then everybody cries. Beautiful... because similar scenarios have occurred here.

--And on another podcast (you did know that I'm obsessed with podcasts, right?) Crystal Stine shared all kinds of wisdom about writing and being online. I did listen to this several times already. You will enjoy it too! That's my solid vote of confidence there.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Work and Results

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.  Thomas Edison 
With few exceptions (none that I can think of but I'm just covering my bases), anybody that accomplishes anything does so because they work. The brilliant men of the past like da Vinci and Einstein probably worked more in a few years than most modern people will in a lifetime!

God loves work. And he loves work done right. Just read Proverbs 6:6-11 for starters. God wants us to do our work on our own motivation, no boss. Sometimes we act like we are supposed to do as little as possible but that was never what God intended. He wants us to do something with our lives; work is discussed over and over in the Bible. The Bible even states that Jesus did so much (work!) that the world couldn't contain the record of all of it if it were written. (John 21:25)



We can do far more than we realize if we are willing to work hard. It's easy to be jealous of what others have without realizing they have worked for it. I don't just have a clean house. I have a clean house because I do the work to have a clean house. Now I have removed most of the mental work from cleaning by having a schedule but I still have to do the physical work. I have to get up, get my supplies, and scrub.

I'm not just learning the Bible. I'm learning the Bible because I'm working at learning the Bible. Do you want to know what the Bible says and how it applies to you? Good! But God's not just going to zap the information into you because it's a good request. You have to read and study and listen. For years. Just keep doing those things and you'll be learning the Bible. 



I have fun and (for the most part) obedient children. But it's not because I'm lucky. I work at that. A lot! If you want the results you must do the work. There are no exceptions to this.



Sometimes work is called something else, like practice or training.

Want to learn to play the piano? Practice and practice some more.
Want to be a better cook? Get in there and cook. 
Want to learn a foreign language? Practice. Read. Study. Exercise your skills.
Want to run a 5K? Run. Train.



Arm yourself with God's view of work. I want to bring all of my views in line with the Bible because that's the way to success in life (Joshua 1:8).  And it's going to involve some work. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It's Not Supposed to Be Easy

Some things in life can knock us off track before we even have a chance to get started. Expectations are like that for me. It's easy for me to have expectations and to allow myself to be guided by what happens to my expectations. For example, I expect my children to behave a certain way. Expectations met? Wonderful; what a great day! But unmet expectations in any little thing could derail my whole day. That's no way to live.

Here's a big expectation for me: It's supposed to be easy. If I were good at what I do- if I were a good Christian- then being a wife and mom would be easy. I wouldn't struggle with being content. I wouldn't struggle with finding my joy in Jesus instead of my circumstances. I wouldn't struggle with selfishness.

But you won't find that expectation in the Bible. The Bible speaks of taking up our cross, dying to self, mortifying the deeds of the flesh, persevering in adversity. It never mentions only doing things that feel good or that you enjoy. Or even that living a life that honors Christ is easy.


You're not necessarily doing anything wrong if it's not easy. This realization is reassuring beyond measure to me. I always assumed that if it was hard or I struggled then I was doing something wrong. Or there was something wrong with me. That's a crippling expectation because I find that doing this work God has placed before me isn't easy. It's not easy to be a wife as the Bible defines a wife. It's not easy to be a mom that loves, teaches, and trains her babies. It's not easy to strive to be the lady that's outlined in the Bible.

We can see this principle in all areas of life. The activities that bring results aren't easy. Working out isn't supposed to be easy; sitting on the couch is easy. Ever tried Insanity?  People push through the hard for the results they get.

Life's like that too. Mothering, marriage, jobs, relationships aren't necessarily supposed to be easy. Some days I have to make myself do the things I don't want to. (And fake a smile while I'm at it.)

Some days it's hard.

So many days I think "Wow, this is not easy." And then I remind myself it's not supposed to be and it takes so much pressure off myself.  It can be hard. That's ok. God knows that I appreciate being a wife and a mother even while I acknowledge that it can be hard. It doesn't mean I'm not trying to be godly or thankful or loving.

But God is using those hard days to make me better. He's using those days to bring results in my life- to make me more like Jesus.

The goal is for me to look like Jesus (Philippians 1:21). Not for life to be easy. I am God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), His masterpiece. He is sculpting me into something useful, productive, and beautiful.  Sculptors use tools like sandpaper, chisels, and hammers. I don't know about you but I would rather prop my feet up on a velvet stool and be pampered than to be molded with sandpaper and chisel. But God has an Image in mind to guide Him and He is working on me. Velvet doesn't seem to bring about much change.

Don't stop because it's hard. Know your Bible principles and follow them regardless of how you feel. Relieve yourself of your expectations and remind yourself that it's ok if it's hard.

It's supposed to be hard.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What About Today?

He who does not serve God where he is would not serve God anywhere else.  Charles Spurgeon

What did you think about today when you got up? Did you see a to-do list miles longer than what you could accomplish? Did you see a dreary day that was covered with burdens and problems? Did you see a chance to serve God right where you are?

One thing I've noticed among the many missionaries I've been blessed to meet and know is that they aren't super people. They aren't the top crust Christians that were just so amazing that God said, "You are exactly what the mission field needs!" And I'm not attempting to slight them at all; I know some amazing missionaries! What I have noticed is that they are normal Christians who were willing and available. They are normal Christians with struggles and problems and slip-ups. They are normal Christians who want to serve God but just aren't sure they are doing a good job. They are just like you and me.


Now I'm not saying that God is going to call you or me to the mission field. (But would you go?) What I am saying is our willingness to serve is proved in our daily lives. We can't claim that we would serve God in big ways if we aren't serving in the little ways. We can't claim we would speak to presidents and rulers about him if we won't speak to our neighbor about him. We can't claim that we would live with conviction in a foreign city if we won't proclaim Christ with our lives where we are now.

Do you want to serve God? Serve Him today. Serve Him in the diapers, dishes, laundry, preschool, homework, filing, bookkeeping, customer service work you do. Serve Him by serving your husband, your children, your boss, your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends. Serve Him by biting your tongue instead of letting those words fly out. Serve Him by putting on clothes that honor God. Serve Him by spending time with Him and then getting up to tackle your work. Serve Him right now, today.

Yes, the daily can seem like nothing. It can seem like it doesn't matter; like it doesn't make a difference. It can seem like nothing but when God is looking for a faithful servant it will mean everything. Don't discount what God has given you today.

If God were to suddenly put you on whatever platform you imagine- the mission field, a speaking position- you would be the same person. You wouldn't suddenly be more godly, more patient, more loving, more anything than what you are now. What are you now? Can God use you as you are right now?

We are so willing to say that God loves us in our mess, that His grace conquers all- and it does. But it doesn't give us an excuse to not grow. Instead it should motivate us to do more than what we are. Christ's love for us is our great motivation for life, for our daily service.

Be who God wants you to be and let God put you where He wants you. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Be Your Best...At Home

There are several people who only see our family a couple of times a year and only for one specific purpose. They don't really know that much about us or why we do what we do.  I once remarked to Justin that I felt incorrectly perceived by a few of these people. He thought for a minute then agreed that I might be. (Not what I wanted to hear!) But then he said, "But you are the same everywhere so I don't think it's anything you are doing wrong."



That was reassuring to me. I can't really do anything about what others think about me or our family, even if they see us more often or we try to explain our motives. What I can do is try to serve God consistently or daily. God wants me to take up my cross daily. I don't get to wear my Christianity only on Sundays or only in front of people I want to impress. I get to live out, or die to, the life God has called me to every day.
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. -Luke 9:23
God doesn't want a parade of my "spirituality" when I am in full view of others. God wants my daily life at home with my husband and my children (and the laundry and dishes) to shine for Him. I find that it much harder.  And this isn't just true in my life; this has been God's way for His people throughout time. Joseph may have run the entire country of Egypt for Pharaoh but it was only after he did his best for God in the prison.
But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper. -Genesis 39: 21-23
Joseph served with excellence when it would have been easy to say that it didn't matter. He pursued the work God gave him with all of his strength and ability and didn't wait for someone important to show up to notice. We form invaluable habits when we pursue excellence in little things, in hidden things. 
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. -Colossians 3:23 (emphasis mine)
God wants me to do ALL in His name: encouraging my husband, changing diapers, cleaning toilets, reading "The Cat in the Hat," preparing meals, disciplining toddlers, teaching preschoolers, or writing blog posts. There is nothing so lowly or menial that God doesn't want me to give it my best. Nothing so unimportant that I can give it less than my best attitude.

God doesn't want me to sit at the piano on Sundays and smile and pretend to be an example of a Godly woman while my family knows that I grouched at them all morning and was too undisciplined to get out of bed in time to manage our mornings.
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. -Luke 16:10
I want to know that if I was nice to someone it was my husband. If I was patient with someone it was my little boys. If I encouraged anybody it was one of the dear people who live in this house with me. I want to give my best to my family, to these people that God has given into my care. I want to pour out God's love on them before I try to give anything to others. I want them to have my smiles, my fun, my heart.

And I don't mean that I don't try to be a good testimony and encourage others. But it won't mean anything if it's just a show that I put on in public and isn't real in my daily life. And who better to tell me than my husband? And if he thinks it's true you can bet that I want it to be. I don't want to disappoint him! 

If we are displaying a Christlike attitude and character at home, you can bet that it will come out when we are in public. Who we are at home is who we are. You can't hide there for long. 

What are you giving your family today? Are you saving your best to impress someone important? Be your best at home and that character will shine in public too. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

All the Days of Her Life

The Christian life is very exciting when you are spending time with God and trying to serve Him. One of my favorite things is how alive the Bible is! You can read the same passage over and over and get something totally different from it every single time. 

I love Proverbs 31. I've studied it, memorized it, and I'm attempting to apply the principles to my life. (Side note: I don't think you have to do all of those things in one day and I'll probably  never make a girdle.) It's one of my favorite passages to go to when I'm studying womanhood

Verse twelve has some interesting marriage advice. It says, "She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life." Before I had only considered that verse in the context of a lifetime commitment. ALL the days of her life or until someone dies. But this time I saw it in the context of all the days. Each and every day: today, tomorrow, the next day. It's not enough to say that I'm committed to my husband for life; I want to do him good today. 




Something over a lifetime isn't always very practical. What's practical is the nitty-gritty, "this is what I'm doing today" work that's really pretty routine. Routine work done consistently adds up to a lifetime of accomplishment in that area. Consistently doing my husband good every day will add up to all the day of my life. 

It's easy to get caught up in teaching the boys because it's such a big job. It's easy to focus on getting the rest of my work done because it's more urgent and noticeable. You try not cooking dinner and see if you can slip that by. (If it works let me know how you did it!) But focusing on my marriage can seem less necessary. After all, we're both adults, right? That may be true but our marriage is worth the effort and needs the effort to stay the wonderful thing that it is. So what can I do today to do my husband good? 

I plan on asking myself this question every day "all the days of my life." 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Center Your Day Around Jesus

Some days just don't go the way we would like for them too. Things (like our attitudes) can seem wrong from the moment we wake up and our feet hit the floor. I know I have spent some of those days flailing and grasping for anything that could help me redeem the day and refocus my heart. Most of the time I take a few minutes to review all the things I have to be thankful for. The below picture is a collage that I made a few years ago when I was having one such day. (Note the cute baby adorableness. Children growing up is fun but so bittersweet.)


But an important principle I have been studying helped me even more. I am supposed to center my day around Jesus. Not around what I wish my reality were or what I want my day to look like. Not around naptime or my husband coming home or drinking Dr. Pepper or anything else I might look forward to. Not around checking everything off my list or my perfect vision of home. 

So many different frustrations can throw off our day. A lack of sleep caused by a new baby (or a toddler!), a late start to the morning, potty-training accidents, unexpected news, or scheduling changes can often change what we planned for our day. But I remember. 
...and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;       Hebrews 12:1b-2a
It's about Jesus. It's not about me or what I want. It's not about my expectations for the day; the race is already set before me. Jesus has mapped out my day. I need to look to Him for strength and grace for my race. It can be a race today because all today needs is today's energy. I don't have to worry about tomorrow. I don't have to worry about getting up and doing this same stuff over time after time.  I just need to be faithful today. 


Our preacher has taught us that patience is "cheerful and hopeful enduring." God's working in me. God's working in my kids. I am not to run impatiently or in frustration. I don't have to finish today. I won't finish until I go home with Jesus. 

I read somewhere that I shouldn't complain about the service God has called me to until I have done as much as Jesus did on the cross. That really stuck with me. I'm not to compare myself to what my husband or my neighbor or anybody else is doing, just what Jesus did.  That means I should never complain. I will never give as much of myself or give up as many of my own desires as Jesus did when He died for me.  

So how can I center my day around Jesus? Here are a few things that help me. 

1. Start your day with Jesus. Read your Bible and pray. Ask God for His help. And yes, this is frequently interrupted by small children. Relax your expectations. Do as much as you can and carry a verse with you. God knows your heart. 

2. Know what's most important. We've recently narrowed our parenting goals down to two concepts. Can you pinpoint exactly what you are supposed to be doing right now? Knowing that relieves some of the pressure because you can shrug off the things that can easily wait until tomorrow. 

3. Release control. This is a mental effort. Actually all of these are. So many of the battles in our lives are mental. That's why we are to bring "into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5) This is Jesus' day. His plans matter, not yours. Give it to Him.

4. Give yourself grace. A lot of times the things that stress me out are expectations I've imposed on myself. I must read x number of books with the boys to be a good mom. I must complete x amount of work around the house to be a good homemaker. I can't give you a verse for those things and while they are good occasionally I need to throw them all out the window.  God's plans for my day may not involve any of my checklist! 

5. Repeat. I have to constantly remind myself to stay focused on Jesus. Everyday is about Jesus.  

Jesus can help me to walk through each part of my day with His grace.  Through the expected, the unexpected, the unpleasant, and the exciting. I don't have to wait for some thing to happen for me to have a good day and then be disturbed or upset if it doesn't happen.  Jesus is enough.  (But a Dr. Pepper never hurts either!)
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:11 (emphasis mine)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

10 Benefits of Being a Third-Time New Mom

When I took Caleb to his first doctor's appointment two weeks ago a nurse commented on how comfortable I seemed with motherhood. I gave my only honest answer, "It's a lot easier with the third than the first."

New mommyhood has its difficult parts regardless of how many times you've done it. Even if it's an easier delivery than your first, you still have some major recovering to do. And the hormones- oh my- let's just settle those down as quickly as we can, ok? I'm really cold, unless I'm hot; which means I'm taken my sweatshirt on and off about fifty times every day the past three weeks! 

But there are some major benefits to having done this twice before.

1. Babies aren't quite as mysterious. It still leaves me in awe that suddenly there's another little person who is dependent on our family and we are taking him home. But I've had a baby before so it's not the same learning curve. I know how to wash a baby, change a baby's diaper, not freak out when they cry, nurse a baby, swing the diaper bag into the car seat and carry it on one arm and the baby with the other. It's second nature instead of a foreign language you never learned and suddenly have to use to communicate. 


2. It all comes to pass and you know it. The baby will eventually sleep more. The hormones die down. Your hair even stops falling out. You find a new normal. And you can remind yourself of that in the hectic moments because you've done it before. 

3. You don't need as much stuff. The baby needs some clothes, diaper and wipes, a place to sleep, a car seat, and some blankets. I also love a baby wrap. But beyond that a little baby doesn't need much more besides love and cuddles. Oh, and food. They definitely eat frequently. 

4. You have built-in little helpers. Now sometimes this can be more of a curse than a blessing but I would rather my older boys were too enthusiastic about the baby than resenting him. Thankfully both my boys have been very excited about their little brother and are eager to help. I enjoy the different ages of my kids and find it to be mentally engaging. (Did I mean exhausting?)


5. Going anywhere with just one child seems amazingly easy. When I took Caleb to his doctor's appointment it was a breeze to leave the house with just myself and the baby. Now when I only had Micah I felt overwhelmed to imagine going anywhere with both of us. Look how far we've come. 

6. You do things with the third you would never have dreamed of doing with your first. We took the boys to the park when Caleb was just 11 days old because it appeared to be the last pretty day of the year. I held Caleb on one arm while he slept and pushed Micah on the swings with the other arm. I would never have done something like that with my first. 


7. You enjoy the baby more. You know how quickly the baby is going to grow up. I'm enjoying newborn snuggles and squeaks and even those middle of the night feedings are more precious because I can sit and hold him and not need to care for anyone else right then. 

8. You see the importance of self-care. With my other two babies, it was easy to write off my needs to take care of the children. Now of course I'm caring for the children, but I've learned that I'm still a person and I need to respect that.  I respect it so much that I'm getting a (free!) postpartum massage that our hospital offers. Doesn't that sound amazing? Take the time to care for your physical and emotional needs. Spend time with adults, squeeze in a nap, care for your recovering body. If you wear yourself out you can't properly care for anyone else. 

9. You have an increased appreciation for marriage. I realize that not everybody is in my ideal situation when they see that positive pregnancy test. Justin and I have been thrilled to welcome each of our sons to our family. The shared experiences of pregnancy, birth, and adjusting our family have only caused us to grow closer. This is not always the case. I appreciate our marriage more as I see the reactions and attitudes toward pregnancy and babies that some people chose to have. 

And perhaps my favorite part of a new baby?



10.  You get a renewed vision for motherhood. Something about holding that tiny infant reminds you of the awesome responsibility that loving and training a little one is. And not just that little one but the others already in your home. It softens my mama heart and I often need that. 

I did have a difficult entry into motherhood the first time. Almost anything is easier than NICU's, helicopter rides, and a rare disorder. This has probably colored my viewpoint of first time motherhood since I now almost feel sorry for people who are having their first baby. I would assume that some people adjust well to first-time motherhood. 

With all that, I don't feel any more overwhelmed with three children than I did with just one. There are some times, even entire weeks, when I want to pull out my hair and go on a vacation. I had days like that with just one child. Matter of fact, I had days like that before I had children. Maybe I'm the common denominator in those situations and not my boys. 

Motherhood is much more comfortable now than it was before and I enjoy it a lot more too. How about you? Did you adjust well to motherhood the first time or was it a learning curve you didn't expect?