Monday, April 21, 2014

Empty Out Your Purse

I am a bit of a collector. Before I had little ones I carried around a gargantuan of a purse (really, it was far more room than was necessary for any one person). I still found a way to fill it up with stuff, though. Anything you could think to need or never want to see again was probably hidden in its depths. Lipstick? Check! Notebook? Yessir! Chewed gum? Probably. *Eww!* There was so much stuff jam-packed in there that I could never find anything I needed! Fast-forward to current day and I have a much bigger purse (some people call it a diaper bag). I have had to pair down my extras to make room for the what-if-my-little-one-might-possibly-need-fill-in-the-blank extras that have replaced them. So no more chewed gum or lipstick...instead there are soggy cheerios and diaper cream. Still one jam-packed bag though! (I have NO IDEA how I'm going to fit the gear needed for baby #2...I might have to upgrade to a duffel bag!)

Anyway...the point of all this randomness is that I think I found my new mantra. It's pretty simple and I have to give a shout out to some friends for sharing it with me. Here goes: "Empty out your purse." Sounds simple enough, huh? Not too profound. And yet, as I was talking about this concept with friends the other day I was floored. Not because I hadn't thought about the benefit of cleaning out my purse-turned-diaper-bag, but because we were talking about the clutter we rack up in our minds and hearts and even our lives. How often do I keep adding things to my mind that I don't need in there? Or how often do I use my time in ways that don't offer me anything in return?

If I want to be a woman who finds peace and contentment in the life I live, than I need to be evaluating...what do I need to take out of my purse today? Sometimes it is an unrealistic expectation I have for myself (oftentimes in the realm of what I "should be" doing as a mom or wife) and sometimes it is an action that doesn't benefit me or those around me (like using my free time getting lost on facebook instead of doing something that makes me thrive, like reading a good book or getting crafty). So to my purse-filling sisters out there...what do you need to take out today? It is a freeing exercise...and the fun thing is that when I choose to "dump out" the things that don't need to be in there, I actually have a little room to breathe and find the things that I want. Now that is something worth celebrating!

Today I am linking up with Mom's The Word and Messy Marriage!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Story of a Man and His Bride...This is My Jesus

As Easter fast approaches I am thinking on how little time I've spent dwelling on the things of God this week. In the midst of checking off my 'to-dos' for each day, somehow I have neglected to sneak away and ponder the happenings of long ago in an ancient town far from here. The interesting thing is, I doubt much would have been different had I been living during the time of Jesus. As his time on earth drew to a close and prophesies of old began to fall into place, the Jewish people were busy with their regular routines. It was Passover week and there was much to prepare for, but I'm sure for many of these ancient men and women the customs and practices had become ritualistic and were done without much thought to their purpose or significance.

Yet, in the midst of the mundane, God was doing a great work. Perhaps it could even be called his piece de resistance...the most profound work the great Artist had yet to accomplish. For within this week there would be celebration, commitment, betrayal, sacrifice, death, mourning, and ultimately--victory. The Bridegroom (Jesus Christ) was sealing his bond with his Bride (us) and conquering the unconquerable...death. That we may have life. What could be a greater work than that?

In ancient Hebrew custom, when a man and woman were to marry, the two would meet with both of their fathers as witnesses. The man would make a duel promise to his bride and her father. First, that he would pay a "bride price" for her (and by doing this show that she was worth a sacrifice of time or money to him and also acknowledge the loss to her family). Second, he vowed that she would be provided for throughout her life and redeemed if she was ever taken captive. Once the man made his pledge to the woman, he presented her with a cup of wine. She had the choice to accept his proposal and drink of the cup to symbolize her "stepping in" to this covenant with her groom. If she made the choice to drink of the cup that was offered, the man and woman were considered engaged at this point. The man would vow to claim her soon (though often bride and groom would wait for several months and sometimes years before consummating their marriage and becoming husband and wife).

Why the long-winded back story? Well, on one Passover night long ago, a man named Jesus sat down to partake of the Passover meal with his disciples. Little did they know it would be his last meal with them. He washed their feet. He spoke into their lives. And he offered them a cup. "This cup," he said, "is the new covenant in my blood." He offered them a choice to step into a sacred relationship with himself. He didn't force it on them. He doesn't force it on us. But he asked then, and he asks now, "Will you be my bride? I will pay the ultimate bride price for you--my life. I will redeem you from those that would come to steal your joy. I will conquer death that you may have life. I will give my all to you and I will come back for you even when it looks like there is no hope. Will you be my bride, and will you drink of the cup of covenant with me?"

The next day, Jesus was hung on a tree by nails from his hands and feet. He was left to die, and die he did. As the clock struck three he cried, "It is finished!" and breathed his last. The bride price had been paid. And yet, this was not the end. For three days later he stripped off his burial clothes and stepped out of his tomb. There was no stench and no decay. Death had been swallowed up in victory. He conquered death and redeemed his bride, just as he vowed he would.

This, my friends, is the story of Easter. The story of a man and his bride. The story of my Jesus. May we remember this, and may we drink of his cup proudly.

I am linking up with Stories of Easter and Fellowship Fridays!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

30 Thoughts From 30 Years

I know a lot of people dread the big 3-0...but if I'm going to be honest, I have to say I'm actually a little giddy to be starting this next decade. I think of all the neat things I (Lord-willing) will be able to see and do and experience, and it makes me excited! To think that I get to see my babies grow into children and watch them begin to learn who they are and what they love is exhilarating to me. To think that I have the opportunity to grow in my marriage and invest in my mate makes me smile. So many of the woman I have admired throughout the years are 30 and up, and now I feel like I get to "join their leagues" and put into play some of the things I have been learning and storing up in my heart from them.

I have seen many lists of things people want to accomplish by thirty or whatnot, and I think there are lots of great ideas. But I look to the future and see all the possibilities that lay before the way I choose to mother my children, in the friendships I develop, in the memories I make with my spouse, in the dreams I pursue and goals I accomplish...and I think, "Bring it on!"

So here are thirty thoughts from my thirty years. I'm sure if I have an opportunity to look back on this list thirty years from now there will be things I think differently on, but for now this is a conglomeration of things being learned by yours truly. Here's to the next decade!
My List: What 30 Years Has Taught Me
  1. Love passionately. You can never give too much love.
  2. Laugh deeply. It feels good and is contagious.
  3. Find joy in the unexpected. Splash in puddles, savor whipped cream, and bask in the sunshine.
  4. Do something silly once in a while, just because. Make funny faces at your kids (or spouse), make up silly songs, or choreograph a goofy dance move.
  5. Give physical affection abundantly. Eskimo kisses for your kids, snuggles for your spouse, and bear-hugs for strangers.
  6. Say "I love you" often. Remind your family of this truth every day.
  7. Smile. Even on bad hair days, it makes you look beautiful.
  8. Be thankful and live a life of gratitude. It changes your perspective in the most difficult of circumstances.
  9. Keep pursuing Jesus. He is worth every moment we invest in relationship with Him.
  10. It's okay to be wrong. Failure is part of the road to success. If we aren't failing on occasion, we probably aren't investing our all.
  11. When you're sorry, show it. Don't assume others know your heart, be an example of reconciliation and repentance.
  12. Find things to celebrate regularly. National pancake day anyone? First picnic of spring? Make life an experience to be enjoyed each day.
  13. Take time to get outside and enjoy the beauty around you. A little fresh air does wonders for a cooped-up soul.
  14. Prioritize family. Make sure they know where they are on your priority list and show them through the sacrifice of your time.
  15. Make the choice to serve others joyfully. Offer help when needed, think of others before yourself, and find joy in the giving of your time, money, and resources.
  16. Usually you're the only one judging yourself. That thought you think everybody is thinking about you? They're stop thinking it about yourself.
  17. Don't take others' bad choices or mean comments personally. People lash out for a variety of reasons, and most of the time it's about them. Don't hold onto the hurt, let it go.
  18. Work hard and be diligent. A good night's sleep always feels better after a hard day's work.
  19. Be honest and trustworthy. Your integrity is sacred. Keep it intact.
  20. Take time to play and make memories. Sometimes this means make messes...they'll get cleaned up eventually. Just have fun and don't worry about it.
  21. Take lots of pictures (and be in some too). You might not remember this moment 30 years from now...capture it for you and your kids to enjoy.
  22. Think the best of others. Most people are doing the best they can with what they have. Give grace.
  23. Be kind to everyone...this includes yourself. Everybody deserves a little kindness.
  24. Live authentically. Just be real. Life's to short to be fake.
  25. Read good books. A good book can grow our brains, challenge our thoughts, and inspire our actions.
  26. Don't wait until tomorrow to do what you are excited about today. You might lose that passion or forget that idea when the time is "right". So just do it now!
  27. Use the "good china" (or whatever it is you think should be saved for a special occasion). Too often things expire or break before I've had a chance to use them for something "special" and they're wasted. So light the candles, make the cookies, and use the fancy teacup. Today.
  28. There's always more to learn. A nearly infinite amount of growth, experience, and knowledge lay before us if we but pursue it.
  29.  We can choose joy and hope no matter our circumstance. It is not always easy and it is not always fun, but it is possible to live with joy whether we are on the mountains or in the valleys.
  30. Life is what we make it. Each day is an opportunity to be the best us we can be and live with purpose. If we failed today, tomorrow is a new page to be written. What will we choose to write?

This week I am linking up with Susannah at Simple Moments StickMom's the Word!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Twelve Months of Loving: Becoming His Biggest Fan

Perseverance is not my strong suit. I'm great a coming up with goals and dreaming big. The follow through, though? Not so much. Grand intentions and lousy completions. So it's no surprise to myself that I am wavering in my goal of loving my spouse more richly and deeply this year. It's not that we're in crisis mode or a season of struggle (though all marriages go through those times). It's more that life's reality in our current season makes it easier to focus on work and kids than on each other.

That's where being intentional comes in. To keep our marriage healthy and strong I have to make a choice each day to intentionally put my spouse on my radar. It doesn't always come naturally, as much as I wish it did. I don't always get butterflies when I think of him and he doesn't always think to romance me the way he did when we were dating. But good-quality riches rarely come without sweat, blood, and plenty of personal investment, and lasting relationships are no different. 

So I continue in my pursuit of learning to love my husband well and kick off April with a focus on becoming his biggest fan. (If you missed January's goal of not holding onto things, February's goal of having fun together, or March's goal of communicating to connect (not to get my way) than feel free to check them out!) This month I am adding the goal of becoming my husband's cheerleader.

When I think of cheerleaders for sports teams, there are some qualities they possess that stand out to me as ones I might think to emulate in my relationship with my spouse.  

They are peppy and full of energy. I know that a positive attitude and energetic outlook are attractive to my husband. I obviously can't have boundless energy all the time (I don't know that any mother of toddlers can) but I can make an effort to give my best to my husband and reserve some energy and fun for him at the end of the day. Some days it may be a sacrifice I don't feel like making. But when I make the choice to save something of myself for my spouse, I am making the choice to show him he is important and worth my effort.  

They cheer for their team whether their team is winning or losing.
Let's face it. Some days our spouses are not in for the "win". Maybe they've brought home a bad attitude or made a lousy choice and they are no fun to be around.  I confess that my automatic response to my spouse in these moments is often one of sarcasm and pettiness. It is not easy to be his cheerleader when he's not "earning" my cheers. But I am humbled to realize that, if my goal is to be my husband's biggest fan, it can't just be in the good times. My faithfulness to our marriage and my choice to maintain a positive view of my spouse will have no greater impact than when he does not deserve it. It could be that in the most difficult moments it is my cheering for him and seeing the best in him that reminds him of the man he truly is. It could be that my loud and energetic "I believe in you!" from the sidelines brings him back from his defeat. Words are powerful and I have a choice to use mine to help my spouse become the winner that I know he is.  

They remember that its not about's about the team. I don't know about you, but even on my best days there's a hint of selfishness in me. I want my needs met, I want to be happy, and I get mad when somebody (namely, my spouse) doesn't seem to have that same end goal in mind. But good cheerleaders don't focus on themselves. They focus on the team they are rooting for...regardless of their aching muscles or hoarse voices. In order to be my spouses biggest fan, I need to lay myself aside and focus on the "us". We must choose to put aside our own expectations when they are getting in the way of the bigger picture. Self-care is important and certain needs do need to be addressed with our spouse. But in the end, if he leaves his big size-fifteen shoes in the middle of the living room floor every evening or puts his dishes on the counter instead of in the's probably not worth the frustration and animosity to nag him to death about it. The bigger picture? He's home after a long day. I can rejoice that he's sitting next to me with his bare feet propped up and his tummy contentedly full. I can simply enjoy his presence.

They actually cheer. It may sound obvious (since cheering seems to be the main job description of a cheerleader) but what am I doing to show my man that I am his #1 Fan? What words am I speaking to him and about him? How am I building him up? What ways am I make him feel respected? Each of our men are different and different things may light them up. Our job is to figure out what it is that makes our man feel like a million bucks. How do we say "You are my hero" with our words and actions to our husbands?

So here we go. An ambitious goal for one who is feeling a bit lackadaisical in her resolution but that's what blogging is keep me accountable! May I (and you!) use the month of April to show our husbands how much they are loved, respected, and appreciated. So grab your pompoms, put on a cute skirt, and let's start hooting and hollering about how blessed we are to have these men as our very own. They need to hear it and we need to say it! Go get em tiger! :)