Tuesday, June 21, 2011

For His Glory

(Isaiah 43:1-7)

As I begin this journey in taking better care of myself, Howard continually asks me what my goal is. More than once I have taken offense and thought he was being un-supportive. As I was running yesterday (yes, I followed through AND yes "I was running" are words I never imagined I would string together.) I had some time to really contemplate things and examine my heart (you know, as I was quite sure it would give out any moment).

As I ran and my legs began to ache I thought, why AM I doing this? What difference does it really make if I exercise or not? What difference does it make if I eat Oreos or apples? Does God even care?

As those thoughts raced through my mind, I plodded along and I feel like I was able to focus and really complete a thought (not always easy with 3 sweeties always around). I asked myself again, why I was doing this and I realized that if it isn't for His glory...it really is all for not. If I am running and eating better to be skinny, more attractive, admired, or to fit in my smaller jeans, it really is all for nothing.

Really, in anything we do, if it isn't for HIS glory, what is the point? The Bible tells us that God created us for His glory. If this is God's goal, then shouldn't all we do be aligning our lives with that goal? When I get frustrated or sad and I fill myself with cake instead of with God, is that bringing Him glory? Of course not.

I am sure it is no coincidence that yesterday in my reading I came across this gem:

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. —1 Corinthians 10:31

WHATEVER we do should be done for the glory of God. This passage even says, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do...this confirmed for me that even in my diet I should be eating to fuel my body not medicate it.

All man's efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied. Ecclesiastes 6:7

We can stuff ourselves until we can eat no more and yet we will never be satisfied. Satisfaction only comes from God. When am I going to get it?

This battle is not about looking a certain way or even feeling a certain way. It is about yearning to feast on the "Bread of Life" and not empty calories. It isn't really about whether we eat apples or Oreos. Oreos can be a gift from God. It is about filling ourselves first with Him and craving that above all else.

As I ran last night and felt my lungs burn, chest pound, sweat pour and body ache, I wanted to quit. Surely something so painful could not be good. Yet my mind was brought back to the one who's body truly was broken for us. He endured more than I can imagine and because God created us for His Glory and because his plans for us are good...beauty does come from the broken.

I can't say that after day one, I enjoyed running and I admit I am relieved that as part of the plan, I don't have to do it today, but I am looking forward to my time on the road tomorrow, more time for solitude and prayer, my body is a vessel to be used for His glory and if it needs to be broken and endure pain to fulfill his purpose, so be it.

A man's spirit can sustain his broken body, but when spirit dies, what hope is left?" Proverbs 18:14

"Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to Me and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." Isaiah 55:2

Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

These shall be new additions to my index card Bible verses all over my home as a reminder...it is not about me...it is all about bringing honor and glory to Him. I also want to thank the many of you who have shared your experience and advice with me. I am honored to share in this journey with you!

Monday, June 20, 2011


Like most of us, I sometimes struggle with being judgemental. I don't always allow the words to come out but often times the thoughts are there. Lately God has really been convicting me that when I find myself thinking about the shortcomings of others, that I probably have some self examining to do myself...you know that whole get the plank out of your own eye kind of thing? We all have struggles and we all have shortcomings. We have weakness and sin and feel unworthy, and the truth I am learning daily is that in our weakness He truly is strong if we just get out of the way and put our focus on Him.

I have shared before that I am an emotional eater. Isaac died...I ate Oreos...Asher died...I ate ice cream...and now many pounds and many months later I sit here weighing about as much as I did nine months pregnant. I have contemplated diets and I have started work out programs only to give up and fail.

I have recently talked with Howard about wanting to jump back on the wagon and he keeps saying, "I will support whatever you want to do...but I am going to tell you right now that if your motive is to fit into smaller pants you will just fail again. REALLY search your heart and find your motive." I felt defeated. That seemed like about the worst thing he could have said. He sounded unsupportive and he expected that I would fail.

I have continued to do some heart work lately and as I have I have found that this love of food and hatred of exercise has become a shackle for me. It is holding me back. When I am sad I eat...before I pray, before I get into the Word...I split open the box of cookies and dive in. Subtly food has become an idol. When I feel broken I crave food...not God. That is an issue.

God has given us the gift of his unconditional love. In Him we are free and to continue to shackle ourselves to our sin is robbing us of the amazing gift we've been so freely given.

So friends...I am doing it...not to fit into smaller pants or to look like a super model because Howard is right. Those motives are superficial and won't change my heart. I am making a change. I am going to seek God before I seek the pantry. I am going to take charge of my life and break free from the chains that are holding me back from being all God wants me to be. This doesn't mean you won't ever see me have a treat...but it won't be a response to stress, sadness or joy! My plan is to seek God first and allow Him to fill me instead of food and see what that does to my craving for cake and Oreos.

In addition, I have decided to begin the C25K running program. If you know me you likely just laughed out loud. My children will be the first to tell you that when it comes to running, "Mommy, only runs when chased by someone scary who has a weapon." :) I have decided that I need to become a runner...I will never have the money to buy a gym membership or equipment. I am going to have to go back to the basics. I have 5 K plans for next year in honor of my boys and in honor of a friend's mom. I am going to do it...hold me to it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

On Father's Day

I am more aware than ever of how blessed I am because of Howard. Words cannot do justice to how I feel for that man. I look at this picture of his strong arms holding Asher as he entered the arms of his Heavenly Father and it speaks volumes to my heart.

Those arms have held each of our five precious gifts as they entered this world and they held two of those babes as they left. Those arms held sweet boys as they tried to understand that their brothers would not come home. Those arms also held me more times than I can count when I carried each babe and was stricken with worry and fear. They held me as my broken body shook and trembled in grief. The muscles in those arms dug the fresh dirt at the cemetery where our sons bodies would rest in peace. To me....those arms are my sacred place.

Those arms also lift squealing children high into the air (nearly giving me a heart attack), spun me around the dance floor on our wedding day, and move furniture around incessantly when I insist on change.

Through the joy, through intense pain, and through the every day, Howard is the rock of this family. He is a leader and a role model for our children. He loves them fiercely, teaches them, disciplines them, prays with them and listens to them. He goes to work each day and pours into the lives of young men and women and comes home and pours out even more on our family. It is evident that he fills himself with God and pours it out onto everyone around him.

He values my role as a mother and places little value on material comforts. Howard reminds me daily to live in but not of this world and to just love above all else, and is a shining example of that to our children.

So, this, Father's Day weekend, I just want to praise God and thank Him for the gift he gave to our family when he blessed us with Howard. I cannot imagine a better husband or father and I am overflowing with gratitude for that man. He has his own struggles for sure, but is always seeking to be better and do better and follow God. I couldn't ask for anything more.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Out of Nowhere

Luke and the very best first grade teacher on the planet on his last day of first grade and the last school day of her career.

I am an emotional girl. I own it. I cry easily and wear my emotions like a hat. My emotions can change rapidly and I praise God each day that He gave me Howard who can just roll with the punches.

Luke was sick yesterday and had to miss his last FULL day of school but he woke up feeling much better this morning and really wanted to go to school today. I got everyone up and dressed...choking back tears all the while. My sweet mother in law came over to keep the little ones so I could pay attention at the last day of school Awards Assembly instead of chasing them. (So thankful for her)

Luke and I loaded into the van and headed to that little school where Howard and I each also got our start in education. I walked into the familiar doors, signed in, placed my bright pink visitor sticker neatly on my dress and headed to Luke's classroom. I have spent quite a bit of time in Luke's classroom this year and have enjoyed every moment. He belongs to a wonderful class of kids and has the best first grade teacher a kid could ask for. I have felt very at home in his class and more than welcome at all times.

You see, Howard and I both were blessed to have this very same first grade teacher. I couldn't love her more. Throughout the year as I would volunteer, I admit, I had to fight my OCD and NOT begin cleaning and organizing her room and I was able to sit back and see the beauty in 37 years of experience that spilled out all over that room.

As I walked into that very classroom this morning I could see a desk, shelves, tables, countertops and a floor. It seemed so empty. I couldn't hold the tears and they began to stream down my cheeks. Luke gave her her gift and again the tears streamed. We then headed to the Awards assembly where Luke was recognized for a few things (citizenship, good student, reader) and Mrs. Camp was also recognized. When she got up to speak, the tears began to roll...then she went on to talk of how our family had blessed her in her last year of teaching and the silent flow of tears became the ugly cry. Once she finished I left the room to gather myself. Yet every time I would pull it together, I would lose it again.

I WAS the crazy mom. The one that just keeps crying at school. It was awful. I stood there...looking around the cafegymatorium and wondering why I was such a basket case. We live in a small community and this particular retiring teacher attends our church...it isn't like we aren't going to see her again, we'll see her Sunday.

As I sat here reflecting on the morning wondering why I was such a lunatic, it dawned on me that it is perhaps because of the same reason I am struggling with the idea of homeschooling. I KNOW that I can teach my kids in a creative and fun way at home and get to be with them all the time and that it will be a fabulous experience, yet I love this little school so much it hurts to think of pulling them out. My reasons for wanting to homeschool are not about protecting our children from the world, or that I think the school is horrible. Just that as one mom with three kids, I think I can give him an education that one teacher with twenty three kids cannot, even if she is super teacher. I can't say enough good things about the teachers and staff at Luke's school.

You see, when I was in third grade, at this very school, my mom died. I remember my dad saying we could take as much time as we wanted from school after her funeral. I wanted to go right back. This school was my comfort, my safe place and my family. It was a constant in the world of a nine year old girl who couldn't keep up with how fast everything else was spinning. I was loved there and cared for. Even though we moved to the next town over to live with my grandma, my dad had someone drive us back to this little school for the second half of my third grade and all of my fourth grade year. He knew that this school had become my family. My security blanket was the old school bell out front, the brick walls and the love inside.

I suppose I have not let go of that. I have been so excited to have my children know the family of this little school. As I walked the halls today feeling those feelings of comfort and familiarity it dawned on me that there are only two teachers left from the family I knew when I was nine. Mrs. Camp was one and her sister Miss Porter (my 3rd grade teacher) the other. SO the idea that one more of those faces would no longer lovingly greet me and hug me as I walked those halls, that there would only be one person left in that school who knew my mom, knew me before she died and loved me after was overwhelming for me. I think that is where my comfort in recent times have come from. There are people there. Who really know my story...who really know all of the junk and they still love me fiercely.

I don't have a lot of memories of my mom or of my young childhood and that school and those amazing people who worked there were my family. They were my bridge over troubled waters and they grew with me and helped me cope when my mind couldn't even comprehend what had happened. They loved me before they pitied me for what happened. In that school I wasn't JUST the girl who's mom shot herself. They loved me before that and didn't just love me because of my sad baggage. I felt genuinely loved there.

So today...I am struggling...I never saw it coming...it hit like a brick wall out of nowhere. I am sad and grateful all wrapped into one. Please pray for my heart...it just feels awfully broken today. I have some big decisions to make about Luke's schooling and I want to be sure I follow God and not just get bogged down by my baggage. I completely apologize if none of this makes sense. :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

10 Marriage Lessons Learned in 10 Years

Ten years ago today, Howard and I stood in front of our family and friends and promised to love each other forever. We had no idea what the coming years would bring but we knew that together with God we could handle whatever came our way.
Ten years of marriage cannot go by without learning a thing or two. I will be the first to admit that marriage is not always easy. It is tough living with someone else day in and day out, but it is also a blessing. Our marriage relationship is supposed to mirror Christ's relationship with the church. Those are some big shoes to fill.
I am far from being an expert and I am still learning every day as well as making mistakes each day, but here are ten of the most important things I have learned in the last ten years:

1. Forgive - We don't deserve it, but God forgives our sins, so should we forgive our spouse when they have wronged us. It doesn't do anyone any good to carry anger and frustration. Forgiveness is as much a gift for yourself as it is for your spouse. We should allow Gods love to overflow from us and onto our spouse.

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" Colossians 3:13

2. Settle disagreements quickly - I think it is perfectly fine to take a little time to regroup and cool off if you are really upset but allowing something to fester within your relationship only gives Satan a foot in the door. We are never promised a tomorrow so try not go to bed angry...it might be the last night you get.

"In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, " Ephesians 4:26

3. Let go of unrealistic expectations - this one is HUGE for me. We are inundated by romance and perfect relationships on TV, in books and all around. Nothing will kill any relationship faster than unrealistic expectations. I have found myself longing for Howard to show his love for me by setting up surprise dates, gifts and romantic gestures and sometimes I lose sight of the fact that he DOES show his love for me each day by caring for our family the way he does. I cannot tell you (and I hate to admit) how many times I have gotten upset with Howard for not reading my mind. I know what I want and yet I don't communicate that to him because I want him to just know. It isn't fair to him and it only sets him up for failure. I can try all my life to change my husband OR I can let go of my unrealistic expectations and love him for who he is and who God is making him.

4. Focus on the positive - you will see what you look for. If you are looking for shortcomings you will find plenty, but if you look for the blessings the Lord has given you in your spouse you will find them everywhere. We all have shortcomings and we all feel better when others notice our strengths so when you see a gift. Thank your spouse for it. Cheer them on and let them know you appreciate them. When you remove the plank from your own eye first you are able to see others a lot more clearly and hearts are changed. God has given us a gift in our spouse. We must commit to receiving that gift and unpacking it daily.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:1-5

5. Pick your battles - some things just don't matter. You like crunchy peanut butter and your spouse likes creamy...just buy both. Howard and I used to bicker about such things until we learned that sometimes both parties can be right. It isn't worth it. You can be right or you can be in a relationship. You can't always be both. Sometimes it is just better to seal those lips! (I struggle with this a lot!)

“Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong. How painful are honest words! But what do your arguments prove? Do you mean to correct what I say, and treat my desperate words as wind? Job 6:24-26

6. Submit - I think often times we remember the part in the Bible where it says "wives submit to your husband" and think we have to be a doormat. This is not what God is saying. we are to be submissive and allow our husbands to rule the roost. The husband should be the leader of the home. This is how God designed it, but that in no way means that a woman's role isn't vital or that she should be disrespected. In a relationship it is important to submit to EACH OTHER. We are called to put the other person's needs above our own.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. 1Peter 3:7

7. Have sex and enjoy it - this is uncomfortable for me to even say as I sometimes tend to be a bit of a prude, but God designed the marriage relationship to include sex. Sex is a vital part in a marriage. I have been surprised at how much closer it really brings two people when a part of a marriage. I think as wives we are supposed to be sexually available and sometimes that is hard especially when raising young kids, but it is important. It is something I struggle with but am learning that God really does want us to enjoy this intimacy with our partner regularly. We need to see it as the gift it is though and NOT a duty. That said it MUST be done within the marriage relationship. When sex is used prior to marriage, or outside of marriage it WILL reek havoc on that relationship. (I have a whole post on my experience with this...but that is for another day.)

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Hebrews 13:4

1 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 1 Corinthians 7:1-3

May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer— may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. Proverbs 5:18-19

8. Put your marriage before kids - GASP! I know, did I just say that? I did. I think one of the greatest gifts we can give our selves, our spouses and our children is to put the marriage before the kids. Kids thrive in homes where there is a great marriage relationship. Anymore it seems that kids don't have many opportunities to witness a good marriage model. That is not to say that anyone has the perfect marriage but it is good for kids to see that you make it a priority. I think that IN putting your marriage first, your kids will feel loved and secure and that is of the utmost importance. Again, this is a struggle as our kids are needy and precious gifts to be cared for, but so is our marriage.

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33

9. Pray together- This is huge. This is something we seem to do well for seasons and then fall out of. I am not just talking about praying at dinner, I am talking about praying for God's direction, for your children and just all things in general. Prayer helps to strengthen the relationship between a couple AND God and when God is the head, the marriage will survive anything, if both partners are seeking His will together. It doesn't give Satan even a chance. And Satan is on the prowl, trying to destroy marriage and take our eyes off of God.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

10. Build each other up - We need to be encouragers for one another. We need to cheer each other on and help our spouses be who God intended. Take time to listen to one another...REALLY listen lift each other up and remember our tongue is a powerful tool. Compliments and genuine praise go a long way. Selfishness has no place in a marriage. We should always seek to build our spouse up. This also means that when we gather with other women we must be careful not to tear our husbands down to others either. This is sometimes tough, but it is essential in building a trusting and caring relationship.

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:10

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Like I said, our marriage is far from perfect and we are still working on all of these things, but I feel like we are headed in the same direction and I am excited to see where the Lord takes us! What have you learned about marriage in your relationship?