This is the Day to Choose Joy

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I was a brat, there was no two ways about it. My husband was having shoulder surgery and things were quickly slipping from my control. Additionally, after a misunderstanding, I learned I wouldn’t get to sit with him in his pre-op room. Whereas one paper said yes and the other no, I had to sit out in the waiting room an extra hour and a half.

First, his surgery started late, and I even had to ask if it had started. The surgery lasted an hour longer than they said it would, making me very anxious. Finally, I waited over and hour to hear from post-op when everyone else in the waiting room was asked back after just 15 minutes.

I wish I could say I calmly handled that day, but I cannot. It’s a good thing “the force” isn’t real because Darth Vadar and his death glare would have had nothing on me that day. Also, I wish I could say I chose kindness, but I can’t. I really wish I could say I chose to trust God, but I didn’t.

My friend had a moto last year: Choose Joy. I knew I should choose joy the day of my husband’s surgery, but I was scared. My husband and anesthesia don’t jive well, and I also can’t stand when my he is in pain. My fear comes out in ugly, ugly anger. So instead of choosing joy, I pouted.

Fast forward 2 weeks when a missionary came to our church and helped us observe the Passover. While all of it was fascinating, the part that stuck out to me was how after the Passover the Jews always sing “Psalm 118.” He commented that Jesus observed the Passover (the Last Supper) right before his death. In the middle of Psalms 118 is the verse 24:

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Jesus was singing about rejoicing on that day … which makes Him my hero. The day His friends betrayed him … the day they lied about Him… the day He was tortured … the day He died. I’m sure He feared the pain ahead, He was human after all, but despite that fact, He chose joy.

Today we go back to the doctor for my husband’s first check up since his surgery to have the stitches removed. I’m choosing to sing “This is the Day”; Not because there aren’t nerves, but because I want to be more like Jesus and chose joy even when I’m scared. This is the day I choose joy.

What type circumstances makes it harder for you to choose joy?

12 Ways to Choose Joy

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We all have those times when our hearts feel overwhelmed. Maybe it is a death of a loved one, perhaps you are feeling all alone, possibly it is a financial crisis or job loss, could be you received bad news about your or a loved one’s health. Maybe your child is going down a dark path and you feel helpless, or maybe it is just something as simple as a fight with your husband. Whatever it is, we all have times when it is difficult to find joy. For me, I have learned a few simple steps that help me regain my joy and turn my focus off of my circumstances and back onto my all-knowing God.

What I do when I have trouble finding my joy:

  1. Simple Prayer
    – Sometimes when I am distressed I have trouble praying a long prayer or I don’t know what to pray other than just a simple, “Help me, Father!” Eventually, I pray longer, but this is my appeal when I don’t feel like praying.
  2. Cry
    – I do not cry often, but I have found that when a situation is overwhelming me, getting out the emotions helps me to move through my feelings faster. The bible is FULL of verses about crying out to God, and even Jesus wept. God gave us the ability to cry for a reason (other than just cleaning our eyes), and I believe a reason why is so we have the ability to release pent up emotion. I think this is a gift He gave us after the fall, because He knew our hearts were not created to hold pain. I love the fact that God even says that he bottles our tears. One day He will wipe away all my tears forever, until then I am grateful for His gift.
  3. Write About It
    – Granted, I will admit I like to write and not everyone does, but personally I have found that it really helps me to process what I am going through. Whether by writing out a prayer about how I am feeling, or a letter to a person I am upset with this method works well for me. No one ever sees my prayers and I always destroy the letters, it still gives me the release I need without saying anything I will regret.
  4. Listen to Good Music
    – I really believe that music is a balm for the soul and can really help brighten our outlook, just like David’s songs soothed Saul. Sometimes they remind us of truths that we might not be willing to hear any other way. When we are depressed they remind us of God’s truths.
  5. Keep Going to Church
    – Sometimes the last place I want to be when I am upset about something is church. I don’t want to be around people, I don’t want people to know I’m struggling, and I certainly don’t want to act like everything is okay. However, church is normally just what I need whether it is a song that is sung, a sermon preached, or maybe someone encourages me. I think that is one reason why God created the church. We can worship God on our own, but we can’t encourage ourselves.
  6. Confide in Someone I Know Will Pray
    – It is a great comfort to me to know I have a very small circle of friends that if I call and ask, I KNOW they will pray, and they will also not share it with other people. The bible says where two or more come to Him …”there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) It always immediately makes me feel more at peace knowing that I’m not the only one petitioning God in a situation.
  7. Write Down One Thing I’m Grateful for Each Day
    – This very small act has helped me so many times. When I had a miscarriage, and was is a dark place for a few months, this one act really helped me to see how much I still had to be thankful for. I got a small pocket calendar that had squares just big enough to write one thing a day on. I then made myself find something in that situation to write down each day to be thankful for. It really helped me step outside of the situation and see how God used even an awful situation for my good.
  8. Read Psalms
    – If anyone knew despair, pain, and joy is was David, he had moments of feeling utterly alone, friends turn on him, he had deaths of loved ones, etc. (Ps. 16:11) Every time I need encouragement or need to feel like someone knows how I feel, I read Psalms. It never fails to encourage me.
  9. Write Out Verses
    – I write down encouraging verses on note cards and tape them to my mirror or window over my sink so I am continually reminded of God’s promises, which encourages me. It’s hope to cling to right in front of my eyes all day long.
  10. Go for a Walk
    – I have learned in recent years that when I am upset walking greatly helps me to clear my head. Not only is it peaceful and quiet enough for me to gather my thoughts, it also is great way to expend pent-up frustration.
  11. Do Something Nice for Someone Else
    – It never helps to sit around just feeling sorry for yourself, because the more you sit, the more you brood. When I get up and do something for someone I turn the focus off myself and start to notice others again.
  12. Doing Something I Enjoy
    – After doing all the above I chose to do something which normally brings me joy. A date with my husband, reading a good book, taking a walk, going somewhere fun with my kids…eating chocolate cake… are all things that make me happy. Yours may be totally different, whatever it is, make sure you do something that leaves you smiling.

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All of this doesn’t happen by chance. I have to CHOOSE to do it. I must CHOOSE to find joy. What are some of the things you do during a rough patch to help you regain your joy?

Seeing God Around the Distractions

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“Mommy look at the sunset!”

I had to agree with my 6-year-old son, the sunset was breathtaking. I had already noticed it, but the fact he did as well spoke to how awe-inspiring it truly was that evening. Due to my picture taking obsession, I wanted to photograph the awesome scenery, but there were power lines and buildings obstructing my view. While I could have gone ahead and taken a picture, they distracted from the grandness, making the picture look… blah.

I have a “thing” about taking pictures with distractions in the background.

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The distractions frustrated me so I drove for a bit and tried to find a setting where there were no power lines, houses, cars, buildings, etc. Without all those interferences, I would have been able to see the sunset better, appreciate it more, and have been less distracted. However, it was not meant to be that night, and it got me to thinking…

Sometimes I wonder if “no distractions” is one reason people love the beach so much. There are fewer things to distract you from of the grandness of God. No one permitted to build on the beach, and there are never any power lines blocking the view. There is just the beach, the ocean, and the sun. Also, I think this is the reason why the Grand Canyon, the Smokey Mountains, and other breathtaking wonders have such an awe-inspiring effect. With fewer man-made distractions, people are drawn to their beauty and are overwhelmed at their splendor.

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The point is that God’s beauty is everywhere, and is not limited to these locations; however, distractions are also everywhere. Take our lives, for instance, most of the time it is hard to see the magnificence of God.

For example:
-Just like power lines obstructing our view of a sunset… maybe it’s the phone disrupting us during our quiet time.
– Just like how buildings block our view … maybe it is TV (etc.) keeping us from focusing on our family.

Those examples are just a drop in the bucket of distractions in our lives, but these disruptions will not go away on their own. Whatever the distractions maybe we must be intentional in our attempt to notice God. We must make the time to get away from them just like Jesus did when He wanted quiet time. Just like I had to drive to a spot without powerlines to enjoy the view, it is necessary to make time to appreciate God. All throughout the Bible God reminds us to “be still” (Ps. 46:10) so we can concentrate on Him and see Him for who He truly is.

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“Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.” Psalms 4:4

There are a few ways I try to daily obtain undistracted time with Him; I try to get up each morning and have time with God before the craziness begins, and I also try to go for a short walk daily. This may only amount to 20 minutes a day but it helps me to lessen my distractions, to notice God’s creation, and refreshes me.

Sunset happens every day – but if I want to see and experience it I must take time each day to notice it. It’s the same way with God, He is waiting for me every day to take notice and really see Him; whether, it is a sunset, wildflowers on my daily walk, or even just my kid’s smiles, it’s up to me to be aware and to make it happen.

What are some ways you set aside time to notice God?

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Love Sacrifices Time

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“Mommy I go for a walk with you?”

I’m very territorial over my daily walk since it is my time to have quiet and recharge. I started doing it for exercise since I wanted to fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes. Even though it may have started for exercise, but it ended up being a sanctuary of peace … just me and God and quiet.

This day in particular though, my four-year-old looking at me with pleading blue eyes and begging to join me on my walk and I knew he probably needed some mommy time. The selfish side of me wanted to say no, but instead, I put aside my desires and said yes.

I looked at his little hands in mine and his big smile melted this mommy’s heart. Even if we did have to stop and pick up a “pokey” …and stop again to get a rock out of our shoe… and even if my walk was cut short. It may have been and more leisurely and less exercise, but was glad I sacrificed my “personal time” and said yes.

It is easy to forget that one day his hand will be bigger than mine and he will be holding another girl’s hand other than mine. Even though he was in trouble all the day before, that day I just wanted to squeeze him and tell him to stop growing up so fast.

Many times when doing menial tasks for my kids I wish I was doing something else instead. For instance, tasks like…wiping a butt for the 700th time… working a math problem out with a child who is in tears … or moping. However, sacrificing “my personal time” is what God has called me to do: Being a mom and teaching my children he has seen fit to bless me with.

Hear me out. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take care of ourselves and allow time to recharge. Most days I walk alone, telling my kids that I need some time to myself so I will remain a “happy” mommy. Also, there are days that I sleep in so that my attitude will be what it should …  However, it is important that we strive for a balance in our lives.

Jesus was never hurried, in fact, He made sure to take the time to help others with their problems. Jesus knew the importance of recharging and alone time, and regularly spent time alone early in the morning. However, when people found Him and asked something of Him He didn’t snap at them and say things such as: “Leave me alone! Are you all trying to go for a record of how many people I can heal in a day”? Also, Jesus never said, “You want to be fed too?” or, “I have a job to do, and I don’t have the time to help you right now.”

In fact, he tried in several bible passages to go off by himself and people still followed him. (To be honest, I wonder if he was trying to use the restroom since this is always when I have a following.)

He sacrificed His time… He sacrificed His sleep… He knew His Father’s purpose and He fulfilled it.

His purpose was: “And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” Luke 2:49

Isn’t that what we are called to do? Should we not open our hands to God and say, “Here are my 24 hours how do YOU want me to use it?”

This is super hard for me.

I am a type A person. Planning is one of my favorite things to do. I use a little notebook to plan out my days and everyone close to me knows it. It greatly upsets me if my day does not go according to my plan. It shouldn’t be my plan though… It should be HIS!

Also, sometimes I fill up my plate so full that I fail to recognize the opportunities to serve others that God places before me, or I think I just don’t have the time to do it. Like

  • Feeling like I should take a meal to a friend who is having a hard time … but don’t because I don’t have “time” in my schedule.
  • Knowing I should spend time with God each morning…. But I choose to sleep in and my hour for getting stuff like that done goes out the window.
  • Not writing a note to someone God has laid on my heart … because I don’t feel like giving up watching my favorite TV
  • Saying no to coloring with my kids … and chose to scroll facebook instead.

I’ve learned the hard way to pray before I say yes and make sure it is the best “Yes” for our family so my plate is not too full to serve my family. There are so many good things to say yes to, but what is best for me may not be the best for you.

It is important to remember that we can only manage our time so well on our own, but when we turn our time over to God He is able to do things with it that we never could. Sometimes it is hard to remember that He has my best interest at heart and will help me have the strength to serve others. However, in my quest to be more Christ-like I will attempt to say yes to opportunities for service He provides, and not become upset when my plans go off course.

How about you? Do you find it easy to let go of your plans?

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When God Threatens to Take Away Your Friends

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One day recently I was planning a much needed girl’s night out while my husband was out of town. Two friends and I had been trying for 4 months to get together, and I was super excited to finally get a chance for some girl talk, Italian food, and chocolate. At first, I was just going invite the two of them, but then I decided to pray about who God wanted me to invite. Reaching out is not a strong quality of mine, but I was in a bible study that was encouraging us to be willing to pray and step out of our comfort zone. After praying, I felt lead to invite six other women. I mentally shook my head at God because I was so sure they would all say no, but I obeyed anyway, and to my surprise all but one accepted.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. I know that may sound a little strange, but growing up I never had a friend whom I believe considered me their best friend. I had friends, and wished to be closer to them, they just normally had friends they were closer with than me. I knew what it was like to be lonely, to wish that I was in the “in-group,” and to feel like I was on the outside always looking in.

Although I may not have had a best friend in Tennessee while growing up, I did at least have friends. When I was 16 my family moved to Indiana so my Dad could a pastor of a church there. The closest girls to my age in the church were either 7 or 21. It was a very hard adjustment for me, but after a year of living there God sent me a best friend who lived just 10 minutes from my house.

Having someone that I could trust close by was like a breath of fresh air. We were opposites in many ways, but alike in the ones that mattered. She encouraged me, and became a safe place. I was always able to bounce ideas off her and knew they would go no further.

However, just two short years after meeting her I got married and moved six hours away. While she and I still call each other often and make sure to see each other once a year, it just isn’t the same as having her 10 minutes away. I am very close to my husband and consider him my best friend, but I still longed for a friend again that I could go hang out with. Someone to talk significant girly things with like: the importance of chocolate …. how awesome Pride and Prejudice is …. trade birth war stories with … and commiserate with how hard potty training or the difficulty of teaching long division.

Fast forward seven years, God has blessed me with not just one close friend, but several.  I can call these gals and they will pray for me right then. Also, they will not share my struggles with the world, and even better, they can put up with my blunt honesty. To be candid, the past 5 years have been pretty awesome and I have been very content with my little circle of friends God has seen fit to finally bless me with.

However, When so many women accepted my invitation to the girl’s night, God showed me that I had become very self-absorbed and had not noticed other women who needed friends. God convicted me of several things I needed to watch for, such as:

  1. Running to my friends first before Him.
  • He reminded me he is a jealous God and to make sure when something has happened my first thought is to come to him and not pick up my phone.

 

  1. Talking to my friends more than Him.
  • He longs to hear about my day or troubles a lot more than they do, and unlike my friends, He can change life circumstances.

 

  1. Not being friendly and excluding others.
  • I make really horrible first impressions. Also, I normally need time to warm up to you before I feel like putting myself out there and being friendly. (Hence, the horrible first impression.) Until I feel you are worthy of my trust I tend to be very reserved.

 

  1. I need to be aware of those around me who are needing encouragement and a friend.
  • If that girl’s night out taught me anything it is that even though I already have several friends that does not mean I should quit reaching out to others. We both will receive a blessing if I do. It is easy to forget the feeling of loneliness when it no longer is happening to me. Women just want someone to notice them show them they care.

God has plainly shown me that he gave me each one of my friends to meet a certain need in my life, but if I abused His gift He could easily take them away. Friends are just that – wonderful gifts to help encourage us along our walk – but He is to stay my one and only. The tighter I hold my friends, the more I force God to start doing things to release that grip.

Remember, even though you may have some great godly friends, we need watch running to them first. God loves us more than they ever will. I may enjoy my friends and love their support, but my first focus needs to stay on God.  We need to be willing to reach outside our little circle of comfort and be willing to let God open our eyes to people who need a friend.

Can I encourage you to do two things this week?
First, run to God the next time something happens to you that makes you want to pick up a phone and call your girlfriend.
Second, stop and pray and ask God who might need someone to notice them and then act on it. Write someone a note, invite someone out to coffee, set up a playdate at a park.

VIP Pass from God

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Sometimes…okay…a lot of the time I take for granted the fact that I can:

“…come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

I love the fact that anytime I want to talk to God, I can. Sometimes though, it causes me to forget who I am talking to and bring Him down to my level. A song that really hit this home for me is “King of the World” by Natalie Grant.

It hit me even harder the other day when my preacher asked us the question:

Can I just go see the president anytime I want?

I wish.

Just the thought of being invited to the White House every day and being able to tell the President my ideas and concerns is humbling and exciting. If the President told me he had me a special job he wanted me to do, I’d be ecstatic. Not many people get to talk to the President…much less every day. If I went right now, hundreds of people would stop me from even getting close to the President.

Then I thought of Queen Esther in the bible and how she couldn’t go see her king anytime she wanted. Imagine being away from you family, friends, your home – the only life you’ve ever known. You are the queen. His chosen bride. Yet, you are not allowed to hold hands with your husband and share your daily struggles with him. You’re lonely, but you must be summoned be the King to even catch a glimpse of him. Not only can you not see your husband anytime you wish, you can possibly lose your life for trying.

We have things in common with Queen Esther. We are chosen. We are royalty. The similarities end there though. We don’t have to be summoned. The door remains open.

In the old testament, people waited years to hear from God. Thanks to Jesus Christ I can come, without fear, into the presence of the one who controls the universe and hear from Him each day.

No one can stop me now. God won’t stop me. Not only will He not stop me, but He is longing to hear from me. For me to tell Him my concerns, desires, hopes, dreams, fears. I have his favor. He is waiting for me to ask what I can do for him. Oh, to be as eager to serve Him as I would the president or a king! He deserves so much more. Unlike Queen Esther, I can tell Him I love Him, any second of any day.

 “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1-2

Let that sink in.

I don’t have to be invited.

I don’t have to ask permission.

“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” Ephesians 2:13,14,16-18

Anytime we pray to God He has already extended us mercy by listening to us.

He is always there.

He’s always listening.

He says I can come boldly to his throne.

Anytime.

Anywhere.

Let’s not take our VIP passes for granted and use them every day and never forget that we are talking to God.

Pray Instead of Hate: How to Show Love to Those that Don’t Deserve It

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“I wish I could punch that woman in the face… how dare you call my daddy a liar.”

Words like those are very humbling coming out of the mouth or your 8-year-old, especially, when you have those same thoughts. While I may not have threatened to punch the offending party in the face, I sure had a few choice words regarding her…. and my kids heard me.

Not only did they hear me, they mimicked me. I don’t know about you, but seeing your own behavior in your children is like a slap in the face, and very humbling. I couldn’t get on to her because I was just as guilty…and God let me know it.

I had to apologize to my children and tell them I was wrong. I showed them Matthew 5:44 where it says that we should: “… Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” 

Honestly, this is very hard for me. Some of my earliest memories are getting mad at people and holding grudges against them for things they did to my little brother. Not that I treated him well, mind you, but no one else could touch him. For instance, once when we were toddlers (I have a very good memory) my Dad was speaking at a church and Philip and I were in a class together; I won a big piece of gum for coloring my page, but my brother didn’t win anything although I thought his picture was better than mine. This infuriated me, and I tried to run down the hall to find my parents. (I didn’t say I was a rational child.)

Then there was the time that I took on a boy twice my size because he threw the ball at my brother, hit him in the head, made him cry, and proceeded to call him a baby. Only I could call my brother names! I can take people being mean to me, I just don’t listen. I rarely hold a grudge against someone for long when they have wronged me, but my family is a different story. I wish I could say I’ve matured and gotten better, however, the truth is that I’m probably worse now that I’m married and have children.

A friend shared this thought with me the other day: Other people’s enemies are not our enemies. God only give us the grace to forgive people who have offended us, but not others. When we take up offenses for others, we don’t have the extra grace from God to forgive them. Only the people who have the right to be offended receive the grace to forgive.

So, what do we do when people have wronged us or the ones we love? Pray for them.

My kids have a little prayer board in their bedroom that holds all kinds of prayer requests people have asked prayer for. We pray down the list every night, and so many of these prayers have been answered and marked off it. We also added the people we didn’t like to their wall, and they are still on this list. These people still aren’t nice and still say things they shouldn’t. Honestly, it is a daily struggle and the temptation is real to skip over their names, but we still pray for them.

In Luke 6:27-28 the bible also says to even go a step further and to bless them: “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”

Ouch! I’m sure God is on to something, because everyone deserves kindness. Maybe the reason they are so hateful is because no one has ever been kind to them. Often, if you are kind to someone they become nicer. God has continuously shown me this year how important it is to notice people and the importance of being kind like Jesus was, but goodness it’s hard. I was God’s enemy though and He had grace on me. Not only did He show me grace, He also continues to bless me every day. If I don’t show grace to others after I’ve been forgiven so much, how can I look my father in the face? I can’t.

So, I’m going to keep praying and working my way up to blessing these people. One day I’d like us to bake them a plate of cookies and smile at them (instead of looking at them like Darth Vadar) while we hand them the plate. Maybe … one day. Until then, we are going to keep praying for them every night and I’m going to work on making sure that I don’t make someone else’s enemy mine as well.

Do you have a spiteful person in your life? How do you have handle it? Do you find it harder to forgive those who have hurt you or someone who has hurt a loved one? Do you have any tips on how to show kindness to those who don’t deserve it? 

Dressing Nice Again

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For 10 years after having children I never felt like I fit half the clothes in my closet. I was one of those nursing, pregnant, or may become pregnant commercials. I literally had clothes that fit when I was just a few months pregnant and not showing (but too big for normal clothes), pregnant, clothes that were better while nursing, and then clothes for after the baby was weaned but before I was pregnant again. Having four babies in six years made my wardrobe always in a flux. Easter was my one time of the year I splurged on clothes so that I felt nice for one day. Crazy I know, but I didn’t want to buy any clothes because I didn’t know what my size would be the next month.

Then I turned 30. I had just had my last baby in August, and my birthday was in November. I thought I was doing pretty good with the fact I was turning 30 since I had no major crying fits or dark depression. Then I went to Cato’s with my friends and spent $290, and I had probably spent $290 TOTAL on clothes for myself in the past 10 years. Well…maybe I spent more than that…but not much more. I didn’t know what was the matter with me and chalked it up to being happy about it being my birthday. Then that January I stepped into Victoria Secret for the first time (no judging) and spent $190 at the Semi-Annual Sale. I don’t think I owned a matching pair of underwear before then as I had been in a nursing bra over half of the past 10 years anyhow, and had picked up cheap pretty underwear from TJ Max here and there.

I felt SO guilty spending that much money on myself, but I felt SO good in those clothes. What’s more, my husband didn’t flip out about the money. In fact, he loved my new clothes as he is far more a fashionista than I. My motto for years had been “As long as it is comfortable I don’t care what it looks like.” However, I learned you can look cute and attractive while being comfortable, and even better, it helps you feel like yourself again after having babies. My husband appreciated me dressing up so much, he now takes me every birthday on a spending spree for clothes and helps me pick out outfits we both like. I now own…. ehm…. several pairs of matching pretty underwear that help me feel more like a wife than a mom.

Does that mean I can’t have a frumpy day? No. We all have days we feel bad or are just tired, but that shouldn’t be every day. Yoga pants are the new sweat pants, and we think we can get away with wearing them since they are tighter. Guys do appreciate tight, but they also appreciate variety and a woman who spends time on her appearance. I notice when my husband looks good, and he notices when I look nice as well.

I can hear a lot of you now. “The kids will just cover it in snot by the time he gets home.” (I hear ya), or maybe you’re thinking, “If I get a shower I consider the day a success.” Also, “I’m barely surviving on such little sleep” (I get that too), or maybe you work all day and want out of your work clothes as soon as possible (I don’t blame you). However, I’m just saying maybe we could change into a nice (non-stained) shirt and cute jeans before he gets home, or stay in our nice clothes until he gets home to appreciate it (bonus: he can watch you change!). Even if you can’t change that snotty shirt, wearing pretty underwear underneath your clothes make you feel a lot more attractive than regular ones and gives him something to look forward to.

If we don’t try to catch our husband’s eye someone else will. If you have had a baby recently (or maybe not so recently) and don’t feel sexy in your clothes, go out and buy one outfit you both like and you feel I’m giving you permission to shop! good in, and add a matching pair of underwear. Seriously… Today. What woman doesn’t like permission to shop, and every woman needs a “date” outfit, unmarried or married.

Now, for those of you like me who are protesting that their pocketbook won’t allow it, I’m sure you can find an extra $50. Say no to a few more groceries, go fewer places for a week, pinch those pennies. I don’t have money in abundance either. We are on a strict budget. You don’t have to go to Victoria Secret… go to Walmart… or TJ Max if you need to, but the effort alone will mean a great deal to your man.

So, if you are willing, this is your assignment this month:

  1. Go through your closet and find an outfit that makes you feel cute. If you don’t have one, buy one.
  2. Wear something other than yoga pants one day this week.
  3. Wear or buy a sexy matching set of underwear.
  4. Comb your hair right before your husband gets home.
  5. Put on your favorite piece of makeup – mine is mascara. Bonus points for doing up your whole face.
  6. Spritz on some smell good, it helps cover up the not so nice smells of the day (i.e. spit up/breastmilk smell or grease smell clinging to your clothes after cooking.) 😉 We are attracted to things that smell nice, why wouldn’t our husbands be? I know mine is.

So, what about you? How do you attempt to look nice? Do you splurge on yourself? How do you splurge on your marriage?

Have you Put Away Your Bottle?

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I once saw a three-year-old drinking from a bottle.

Three.

Well, he may have been 2, but if so he was a BIG two.

He was too big for a bottle regardless. It struck me how unnatural it looked. It really stood out. It also made me think about how it must look when Christians don’t grow and still just drink “milk.” Or worse, if they go back to just drinking milk after eating table food. Only new Christians should drink milk:

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:” I Peter 2:2

Milk is important and everyone needs it, but adults need more than just milk. We wouldn’t grow correctly if all we did was drink milk without transitioning to solid food. If I stayed on just milk after turning a year old I wouldn’t survive. I certainly wouldn’t thrive. Just like it is noticeable if our body is growing correctly, it is also evident if we are growing as Christians.

I must eat food…better yet, meat. Once my children began to eat food they were never satisfied with just milk….and once they had meat there was no turning back! The same should be true for us as Christians. Milk isn’t a bad thing as we grow up. We still need it as we grow, we just need other things as well.

One of my daughters sucked her thumb, and we tried everything to get her to stop. She didn’t want to though and we would often catch her at night still sucking her thumb. Finally, she got old enough to realize how it looked and she decided she wanted to stop. She asked me to help her and we came up with a plan.

The deal we made was if she did not suck her thumb for 21 days (how long I had read it takes to form a new habit) then I would buy a new outfit for her American Girl doll. This was a big incentive for her. I never buy something like that unless it is a birthday. Also, if I caught her sucking her thumb one time we started back at day one. We hung the numbers 1 through 21 on little sticky tabs on her bookcase, and each night she got to take one down. It was a long process, but she completed it on the first try and has never sucked her thumb again. She was SO proud of herself.

What was the magic key? Her desire to grow up.

Which brings me back to the bottle: I can be eating food and drinking milk, but still not want to give up my “babyish” ways. If that little boy had been drinking from a cup, it would not have looked out of place. There are baby ways in the faith that I hang on to that I should be giving up as I mature in the faith.
For example:
– whining
– selfishness
– unthankfulness
– bitterness
– worry
– no self-control
– moodiness
– laziness
– being pessimistic
– impatience
– sharp tongued
….. just to name a few.

The longer I have been a Christian and the closer I get to Christ, the more I should be like him and show fruits of the spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

When breaking my children of childish habits such as: nursing, the bottle, a pacifier, the sippy cup, sleeping in their crib, or thumb sucking… it was hard.

It also took time, and it didn’t happen overnight. In fact, I knew to brace myself for a full out battle for at least three days. They fought me, they cried, and they whined. However, through encouragement and perseverance, I helped them take a step from infancy towards adulthood. Furthermore, if I helped them focus on what they gained instead of what was lost, each day became easier.

God does the same for us. He places trials and hardships in our lives, not because he doesn’t love us, but because he wants us to mature as Christians. He knows that sometimes he has to place things in our lives that makes us have a desire to grow up and put away childish things (I Cor. 13:11). Thankfully, God patiently weans us off the “bottles” in our lives and encourages us in our journey towards growing into adult Christians.

Letting Them Go: God’s Will for Our Children’s Life

I will be the first to admit that I am a control freak, especially, with my kids. Regarding them, I like things done for them my way, and I tend to think my way is best. Normally I’m right to a degree because I know them so well (though they do survive quite well when I’m not home and someone else is taking care of them), but not when it conflicts with God’s will. As my kids have gotten older I have come to realize that my control tendencies relate to fear for their wellbeing. Fear that things might not go according to how I think they should, or Fear that something may happen to my kids.

“But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body?”

We must allow our children to be who God created them to be or else the body of Christ will suffer. Things work best when used for their intended purpose/use. Take a hammer, sure you can pound in a nail with other objects, but it doesn’t work as well. Not only that, but it is more frustrating and time-consuming.

I have a question though, one that God has had me mulling over the past few weeks. Does our fear hold our children back from being all they were created to be? The story of Hannah and Samuel has always struck a chord with me as a mom. It’s easy to say “sure God”, “they are yours!” However, it is harder to actually give them to God like Hannah did. There are several things lately that I have pondered as God has pressed them upon my heart that I wish to discuss.

Salvation
I reread in my prayer journal recently that I was scared when one of my children asked Jesus into their heart. I was worried that I did something wrong. I was terrified they would not make it to heaven and that I had given them a false sense of security. I learned that it takes more faith to trust in someone else’s salvation than it does my own. Did I have them say the right things? Were they ready? Did they totally understand or did I pressure them in some way? While those are all valid concerns, if I have truly been praying and asking for God’s guidance, and the child is clearly under conviction then I must leave the rest in His hands. Jocobed had to trust God by placing Moses in the basket, thereby placing control of her son into God’s hands. If she had kept Moses home attempting to save him herself, he would have perished. It is important to keep in mind that God is the one doing the saving, not us.

Letting Them Learn From Their Mistakes
I like my kids to get straight A’s, and look perfect to the world. Why? Because it makes me look like an exceptional parent. However, sometimes the pressure feels even greater since not only am I their parent, but also their teacher. While it is true that people do look at our kids judging them, it is not 100% true that they are a reflection of my success as a parent. For example, God is the perfect parent and does everything right, but his kids are a mess. Sometimes I don’t want my kids to mess up so they won’t have to deal with the consequences. I love it when my kids are happy, but I have had to learn to love them enough to let them be unhappy. When I focus solely on my kids acting right so that I look good or if I protect the from the consequences of their actions, they fail to learn from their mistakes. It’s okay to make mistakes, that is how we learn. We must allow God to teach them lessons so they will grow through the process.

Overnight Stays Away From Us
Overnight stays are an area that I struggle with constantly. While I enjoy the occasional break from my kids, I love them all to be at home tucked into their beds at the end of the night. We are very picky about where our kids stay overnight, but as they have matured I have tried to relinquish control in more supervised settings. The biggest challenge so far has been church camp. We trusted the leaders, the kids were just 3 miles down the road, but it was still a struggle to let them stay for several nights. What if they got scared? What if they were picked on? In the end, they had a BLAST and grew so much in their walk with God, and now they look forward all year to camp. However, If I had allowed my fear to hold them back, they would not have grown and made those wonderful memories.

Moving
Fast forward a few years and we will be facing our kids moving out. To be honest, I’m dreading it. It’s one thing to say that “there is nowhere safer than God’s will”… it’s another thing when your baby moves several hours away and closer to their in-laws… choosing to put themselves in harm’s way for their country… or has been called to share the gospel in the Middle East. I found it so interesting that God didn’t allow the people in several passages in the bible to go back home just to say goodbye. When Jesus called the disciples (Mark 1:17-20) they “…straightway left their nets, and followed him.” He told a mean seeking to be a disciple Luke 9:59-62, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” when he wanted to go back and say goodbye to his family first. Honestly, that always has seemed a little harsh to me. Instead, I wonder if he knows us mamas are great at using guilt trips and tears to change our children’s minds. Instead of finding a source of encouragement to follow God’s plan for their lives, they would discover discouragement and doubt from someone supposed to push them towards God. It is possible that we place too much emphasis on family and not enough on God’s will. (Luke 12:3)

God’s Will
Last week I read the story of Samuel coming to Jesse and asking him to bring all his sons to him so he could anoint one as king. I found it interesting that Jesse gathered all his sons except David. Jesse just took for granted that he knew God’s will for his son. I’m sure he loved his son, he just didn’t see the same potential God did. I’m not sure what made him think David wasn’t king material, but the potential was there. Then there is the story of Jacob and his son Joseph. When Joseph shared his dream with his family, Jacob laughed and got a little indignant. Even though Jacob loved Joseph more than his older children, he still did not see a mighty ruler in his son. He just saw an arrogant teenager instead of the ruler that God knew was inside. Who can blame him, how easy it would be to focus on the sass of a young teenager rather than the meaning of his dream. Take even Jesus’ parents in Luke 2:48-50. I found it amazing that even Mary and Joseph had trouble letting God work his plan through Jesus because all they saw was a child. God has a plan for each one of our kids that will blow our minds, where we see weaknesses, He sees their awesome potential. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) God is in the business of making the weak strong. He is also in the business of sanding the rough edges of spoiled teenagers, BUT FIRST WE MUST LET HIM.

So how can we surpass these enormous and valid fears?

Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please him:”

Showing faith by focusing on God and not our children. We can start by taking baby steps to release our control. (like maybe letting them go to camp) Finally, we must ask God to open our eyes to who HE sees when he looks at our child.

Ponder the following questions with me:

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