Fifteen Things to Look for in a Man

Today is our 15th anniversary! And while it is commonly known that the traditional gift for 25 years is silver, and the gift for 50 years is gold,  it is a lesser known fact that the gift for 15 years is a blog post. So since I am a slave to convention,  here ya go babe! This one’s for you!

Fifteen Things to Look for in a Man

1. A man that knows and loves Jesus and the Word of God

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2. A man that will join you in your hobbies

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3. A man that loves Chik fil a….. enough to wear cow ears

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4. A man that puts your happiness above his pride

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5. A man that understands your love for Movember and is not threatened by your pre-teen crush on Magnum P.I.

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6. A man that will drive 23 hours straight to take you to the place of your birth

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7. And drive you the very next summer across the country to California to see your college roomie

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8. A man who cares for and respects the elderly

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9. A man who loves your family

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10. A man that loves and respects his mom

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11. A man that will fly you back to NY, just to meet your fav talk show host

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12. A man that dances. Your daughters will thank you

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13. A man that regularly shows affection963860_10153121206960510_998525973_o

14. A man who can wrestle. Wrestling is really important

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15. And last, but definitely not least, a man with whom those sparks fly!13567184_10157067265085510_1930858657536733103_n

Here’s the truth. Having a list is important. But a list won’t get you to fifteen years or even fifteen months. It takes more than ideals and standards to build a thriving marriage. You need love. But not just any love. You need the greatest love. Jesus told His disciples that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for another. Listening to Kelly Minter recently brought new depth to that verse for me. Yes, Jesus laid down his life at the cross, she reminded us. But that wasn’t the first time He laid down His life. Every day that he stepped foot on this earth was a day that He laid down his life in heaven for us. Having a beautiful marriage requires this kind of love. Laying your life down every dang day for the person on the pillow next to you. That is the greatest love. That means laying down your right to be right. Laying down your pride. Laying down what’s fair. Laying down past pains. Laying down insecurities. Laying it all down and loving with an everlasting love that can only come from God. Without a doubt, Paul is truly more than I could have hoped for or imagined, but we have been through many ups and downs. We are broken people with hurts we are healing together.  We have had horrible fights (aka “strong fellowship”) that left me doing the ugly cry,  and we have had utopian moments when I thought my heart would burst. Yet without exception, our marriage is the strongest, happiest, and the sweetest when we are mutually seeking to serve the other through the power of our loving Creator.

How I lost 30 pounds and my husband’s shocking response.

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First off I have to let you know that I had no desire to lose 30 pounds. Yes, I had some old dresses in the back of my closet that I dreamed of wearing again one day, but I was quite sure I only needed to shed about 10 pounds to squeeze back into them. Talk about delusional! But I digress.

Last November I started a 3 month journey on a candida diet using this book. If you know what candida is, congratulations! You are officially a health nut! I grew up eating whole wheat cookies, tofu, and carob, so…yeah. I am well acquainted with the term candida. But for those of you that do not know, candida is a fancy word for yeast. Yeast is kind of like bacteria in that we all need some in our bodies, but an overgrowth spells trouble. To fix an overgrowth, you need to starve the candida, which means eliminating certain foods that contain sugar, gluten, dairy, caffeine or anything that produces happiness and joy. I kid. Not really.

So I did this. For 3 months. Religiously.

Let me just tell you that I have tried EVERYTHING to lose the “baby weight,” and been somewhat successful. Over the course of the last 13 years I have gained and subsequently lost over 150 pounds total! However, my youngest baby is almost six, and the numbers on the scale were only going up, so there’s that.

My attempts as of late consisted of crash dieting when big events were approaching and packing the pounds right back on when said event had passed. But this time it was different. This time, I had an impetus even greater than fitting into that perfect dress.

If your paying attention, you may have noticed that I started this diet only weeks before Thanksgiving. Yes, I actually lost weight during the holidays while following this diet. While everyone else was indulging on seasonal sweets and decadent delights, I was abstaining like a diet ninja. How, you may ask, did I conjure up such paramount powers of self control? Well, it was easy actually. The alternative was torture.

You see in September I developed this slightly annoying rash in my underarms. Apparently this is more common then I would have thought, because I have talked to many of you that nodded your heads in understanding. Over the course of several months the irritation went from annoying to unbearable. I tried several doctors that all treated the symptom, giving me steroids that led to vertigo, and then antihistamines that left me virtually unconscious. Realizing that a trip to an allergist would likely cost our summer vacation fund, I was determined to try a natural remedy. It was then the Lord reminded me of a friend that put her husband on the “Candida Diet.” Graciously she lent me her book, The Candida Cure. However after thumbing through the pages, I felt very discouraged.  There was no way I could do this. I lived on caffeine. How could I function and take care of my ever growing laundry list of responsibilities without my dear friend, Chai tea?

The next morning I woke up and simply decided to skip my daily dose of black tea. One choice at a time, I ended up following the diet to the “T,” (pun intended,) and after about 2 weeks I saw a huge improvement.

I made myself plain sweet potatoes and green beans for Thanksgiving and found it easy to say no to dessert. I felt stronger than ever and realized it actually felt good, almost empowering to take back control over my food choices.

 

However a few weeks later I had one slip up. Events were the hardest. Eating plain salad at a memorial service catered by a delicious Italian restaurant is hard to explain. Discussing my armpits is not a comfortable conversation starter. So I caved. I ate a dish that I knew had sugar in it, and all the way home I looked like an orangutan scratching my armpits till they were raw. From that moment on there was no messing around. I had gotten to “that” point. The truth is that change only happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain (literally in my case) of change.

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I would like to say that it got easier as time when on, and to a certain extent it did, but there were many days when my texts to my dearest friends would reveal otherwise. While the practical side of preparing foods did get a bit easier, it was often exhausting and even depressing to avoid the foods that I had always associated with happiness!! However as time went on, and I began to easily fit into clothes that had been busting at the seems, my resolve did strengthen.

Here are a few things I learned:

  1. Caffeine makes you tired.

    I had more energy without caffeine than I had with it. Caffeine brings your body to an unnatural high and then crashes you mercilessly to the floor also increasing moodiness.

  2. Sugar affects your mood more than you realize.

    Since finishing the diet, I have indulged in sweets more than once. And now I notice it more than ever. Sugar not only depletes my energy level, but also affects my mood. In fact, midway through this 3 month experiment my husband uttered these terribly brave words that shocked me. “Don’t take this the wrong way,” he began. “but, you’re a lot less moody these days.” And friends, it is so true!! We have no idea how easily we are affected by our food. Yes, in the beginning I felt depressed and exhausted by the need to say no to everything I had indulged on before, but once my body and mind got over the initial detox, I felt stronger, happier, and less crazy than I had in over a decade! Knowing my mood will be affected by sugar has actually given me strength to say no more than i used to (which was never! ha!)

  3. Carbs are no joke.

    Between the infamous carb coma to the extra belly weight, carbs leave a lasting impact. Growing up with a Sicilian mother, pasta was a major food group. So I denied this reality for so long. However, since I have now felt the positive benefits of reducing carbs, I’m a believer.

  4. Real food tastes better.

    I actually like the taste of grilled meat.  You can actually taste the meat when it is not slathered in ketchup (sugar) and encased in bread,!

  5. Making healthy and delicious substitutions is key. 

    I didn’t put my family on the diet in order to keep some semblance of sanity. But when I would make them burgers, I would saute some onions for me, and while they ate a typical burger, I would enjoy mine sans bread and condiments, but covered in caramelized onions that I legitimately now prefer. And now some of them have joined me. Last Monday, half of us had no bread and covered our burgers in homemade salsa instead!

  6. Food isn’t supposed to be that convenient and cheap.

    When you have to spend time or money making your food, you tend to eat less. Bottom line. A cheap bag of chips is easily demolished, but if it takes you 20 minutes  to make some kale chips, you are less likely to eat them all in one setting.

  7. Three months was the perfect time frame to change my habits.

    Contrary to popular belief, 21 days is not nearly enough to change a truly established habit.See here.It’s actually closer to three times that.

  8. Weight loss is 80% diet.

    Since I regularly over share on Facebook, including posts about running, everyone I bump into since losing the weight says the same thing. “Wow, that running is really working!”

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    But the irony is that I have been running LESS then ever before. And this relates back to number 2. Apparently the sugar combined with the caffeine in my life was making me really anxious. And the endorphin rush I got from running was the one thing that seemed to ease my anxiety. I would literally run out of complete desperation, same time every day. By 3pm I felt like my head would explode it I didn’t go running. So I would throw my shoes on and run my cares away. But since changing my eating habits, I finally realized that I don’t have that same daily need to go running! It was an amazing and sobering discovery. All these years I lived with anxiety and didn’t have to! And now when I have that feeling again, I quickly identify the culprit, and reduce those problematic foods.

In the spirit of full disclosure, during the last few weeks, I have slipped back into some old patterns which simply underlines the importance of accountability. Although I started this alone, midway through a friend joined me. We would text each other food ideas when we were feeling successful,  and sobbing emojis when we were over it! It is also imperative to process and share what we learn. The small act of writing this blog has reminded me of all that I learned during those three months and inspired me to get back to some healthier choices.  It is so easy to forget isn’t it? In the Bible we are commanded to remember or “Do not forget” hundreds of times. We forget so easily!

Maybe you feel like you could never change. I feel like that a hundred times a day. The world would tell you that you actually don’t have to change.

 

Change isn’t possible, they say, but I serve a God that changed water into wine!

You deserve it, they say, but we are called to crucify our flesh, daily.

Obedience to Christ is always the hardest option. But it is the only option that will truly satisfy. None of us are walking this path perfectly. We all need grace. Surround yourself with people that will encourage you in your pursuit of Christ’s calling on your life and pray for you when you fail.

I cannot take credit for the power to make this huge change in my life, it only came from Christ. And in my case, that power came in the form of a trial, a weakness, an irritation that left me no choice but to obey. I pray that you would take that hard step of obedience whether it relates to choices in diet, lifestyle, or relationships. But even if you don’t have the strength to change, because of His love for us, God will often allow trials into our lives that will bring us to the end of ourselves, forcing us to run to him, and finally experience the joy He had waiting for us all along! Run to Him today. Confess your failings, pick up your cross, and follow Him!

 

 

 

 

9 facebook friends we all have!

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I want to tell you about some of my facebook “friends” although I am pretty sure you already know them. They are likely in that “Mutual friends” box. See if you recognize them…..

1. The Vaccine Vixen- Ok I have 2 of these. One is adamantly for, and the other is adamantly against! But they are passionately seeking the truth, which makes me so glad.  I have “researched,” (whatever that means) and prayed and made choices, but I rest assured that if there is new information out there she will find it, she will post it on facebook, send out a group email, and fight against big pharma (or not). I am exhausted just thinking about all that!

2. The Organic Organizer- She knows all about organic food, raw milk and free roaming chickens. She buys beef by the cow, and posts recipes with ingredients I can’t pronounce. It used to intimidate me. I can’t afford that stuff right now. Maybe never. Or maybe I don’t have time or won’t make time, but this girl is getting the word out, and we are actually seeing positive food changes!

3. The Missionary Mentor-  She is fighting hard for the least of these, and for those that haven’t heard the gospel, and I am so proud of her. Her status updates make my complaints seem very small, which is kind of perfect.  I need that perspective more often than not.

4. The Political  Provoker- He fights against the political lunacy that surrounds us every day. His words are harsh at times, but the Bible does actually say that we should answer a fool according to his folly. It’s actually a type of math proof. Reductio Ad Absurdum. To prove something is true, you prove the opposite is false. Sometimes perceived as sarcasm.

5. The Culture Warrior- This “friend” is on the radio every day fighting the culture war. I am so glad she is taking up these battles for me. Her voice reaches a lot farther than mine. I imagine that she has lost some friends because of the public stand she has taken, and I am incredibly grateful for her sacrifice.

6. The Essential Oil Educator- Girlfriend is in love with oils. She has used them to cure just about everything and no longer has any over the counter products. I wish I had about 20 less laundry loads to do a week so I could learn more about the benefits of oils. But she has always been so generous to share with me what she has learned, even though I don’t go to her meetings.

7. The Workout Announcer- This friend posted her workouts for 60 days in a row. She is working hard to accomplish her goal, and ya know what? It inspired me, and I started posting my workouts too, and realized how motivating posting your accomplishments is!

8. The Devo Diva- When I saw that picture of her coffee cup and Bible, I realized I hadn’t done that yet. And it looked so good. I needed that. I needed the reminder of how good it is to sit for a moment at the feet of Jesus.

9. The Baby Biographer- The older generation always says to treasure every moment. And my friend does this well. Soak it in and remember. Babies are precious. Children are a gift. And sadly undervalued. Please fill my feed with sweet baby pictures every chance you get and remind me how fast it goes!

As different as all these friends are, they have one thing in common. They have chosen to follow Jesus. They defend His words. And they are each reaching different people groups.

I confess that I used to roll my eyes at some of these friends. Enough with the vaccines, food worship, political rantings, culture war fights, oil sales, working out and devo pics!

But here’s the thing. God has given us all different passions. And typically we can’t help but share them with everyone we know.

I am grateful for those fighting the battles that I am not fighting because somebody has to do it! Can you imagine one person taking up all of those causes?
It wouldn’t work.
Ya know what else doesn’t work? Belittling the passions of another.
Case and point. I remember reading one poverty focused blogger waxing wise about how a legal minded blogger needed to focus more time on the poor instead of our religious rights. She somehow missed the reality that the  legal blogger is actually fighting for the poverty bloggers right to keep fighting poverty…in Jesus name. So there’s that little bit of irony.

If I go on the politically passionate friends page, I will read people warning him that his fervor is turning people away from Christ. But I didn’t see Jesus worrying about that when He walked the earth. In fact it almost seemed like he tried to turn people away.

“Follow me” Jesus said.
“But I have to go bury my father”
“Let the dead bury their dead”

Yikes.

“What must I do to be saved?” someone asked.
“Give away every single one of your possessions.” Jesus answered.

Sounds reasonable.

See? Jesus was offensive and radical, and yet He didn’t seemed bothered that they walked away.

Here’s my point.
We, in the body of Christ need each other.

This passage of scripture in 1 Corinthians 12 brings it home. You may have read this a thousand times. But yet it seems like no remembers the truth expressed.

 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
All too often in family settings when trouble hits, we turn against each other instead of turning to each other. Now is not the time for that. Now is the time to pray for each other, stand beside each other, support each other, in Christ, for His name’s sake, humbling serving the body of Christ.
I pray that we as Christians, followers of Christ, would do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, (Philippians 2:3) Because they will know we are Christians by our love for one another.

Amen!

Strength for the Season- Psalm 18

I will love You, O Lord,
The first time I read this verse I missed one simple word that changes everything.
Will.
I will love you.
That’s different.
Just this morning my sweet littlest child told me he loved me. In fact, he loved me super duper much. And my heart melted. Like it does every time.
I am not sure, however, that I would have had the same reaction if he would have said “Mommy, I will loveyou.”
You will? Like, when?
This whole passage is future. You will do this, and I will do this.
And that is so good. You may not feel it now. But take hope. God is going to deliver you, and you will love him.
my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
We all need supernatural strength. All of us. For different reasons. But none of us can do it on our own. If you think you are doing fine on your own, I guarantee you the people around you might beg to disagree. But this is the good news. He is our rock. Our strength. In whom I will trust. 
My God, my strength, when I blow it again.
My God, my strength, when my will is weak. 
My God, my strength, when the answer isn’t clear.
My God, my strength, when my doubts are overwhelming.
My God, my strength, in WHOM I WILL TRUST!

My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I will call upon the
Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.
Prayer.
The action is simple, but the result is profound.
I will be saved from my enemies.
We all have enemies. Can you think of any?
No, not your boss. Not your ex. Not your (fill in the blank.) Don’t be confused. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Sometimes we can feel like people are against us. But the Bible tells us in Ephesians 6 that our battle is not against flesh and blood. This is the most exciting news. If we can remember that, we are so home free. The devil’s best offense is to set us against each other.  You see, we cannot change people. We try. We manipulate. We punish. We conspire to get people to change their offensive ways but all to no avail. Here is the good news though. Despite what you may have been told, you CAN change people. Namely, but not limited to, yourself. Prayer changes everything. And everyone. Can you change someone by nagging? Not likely. With passive aggressive behavior? Doubtful. On your knees with humbled prayers ? Oh yes! But be forewarned, if you truly spend time on your knees with a humbled heart, the person that will be changed the most is you!
So shall I be saved from my enemies? Yes, because oftentimes, our greatest enemy is our own self.
 
Ok, now read the next part slowly, and drink it in because it is so good. And it is all for YOU!!

For You will light my lamp;
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
29 For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
30 As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He isa shield to all who trust in Him.

31 For who is God, except the Lord?
And who isa rock, except our God?
32 It is God who arms me with strength,
And makes my way perfect.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of deer,
And sets me on my high places.
34 He teaches my hands to make war,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

35 You have also given me the shield of Your salvation;
Your right hand has held me up,
Your gentleness has made me great.
36 You enlarged my path under me,
So my feet did not slip.

The Lord lives!
Blessed be my Rock!
Let the God of my salvation be exalted.
That portion needs no commentary, but it probably needs to be read again. Slowly.
FOR BY YOU, I can leap over a wall!!
THE WORD OF GOD IS PROVEN!!
HE IS A SHIELD TO ALL WHO TRUST HIM!
IT IS GOD WHO ARMS ME WITH STRENGTH!
Alright that’s it. This one is going on the wall. I just love it!! Who is God, except the Lord? Not me, that is for sure! His gentleness has made me great! Let Him enlighten your darkness!
This time, this season, although it brings great joy, for some, it actually brings great pain. My prayers are with you. My heart is holding you up. I bear these burdens with you and bring you before my God. I pray that you would feel His support, that you would feel His right hand holding you up, and that your feet would not slip. This is a great time of year to meditate on a verse that can hold you up and this passage is full of great ones. Choose one, write it down, hang it up and hold on to it.
The Word of God is proven!!  

And tell someone! Allow them to bear your burdens, share in your story, and be Jesus’ arms around you.
What verse do are you needing to meditate on? Tell us in the comments 🙂
My verse,hands down, is “My God My Strength.”  Because I blow it a lot. Like even moments after typing “Publish” on this blog. And I need to know that it is His strength, not mine. And He is proven! Amen!!

All I want for Christmas is a grateful child.

We are about to launch into that season where parents and grandparents (that’s right, I’m going there) are about to spend copious amounts of money in hopes of making children happy. “Slow down,” we plead as they rip through present after present with barely slowing down to enjoy the gift purchased with blood, debt, and tears. Or worse, if they stop to enjoy one present, they are encouraged to, “Keep going” and “play with that later, we have a lot of presents to get through!” Finally, after the ripped up Christmas/Hanukkah paper has settled, we expect to see one particular yet elusive emotion evoked from said little ones.
Gratefulness.
Yet more often than not, only moments after this grand display of affection, we find ourselves saying the same thing.
“You should be grateful!”
Similarly, this same fruitless technique for producing gratefulness is utilized at popular theme parks. Thousands of dollars are shelled out for a week of extreme delight, yet this sacrifice is quite often met with temper tantrums, melt downs, and requests for more! A visit to see Mickey isn’t enough. We want a special Mickey ice cream too. A picture with Elsa isn’t enough. Next comes the request for the Elsa doll. All is given in pursuit of the much sought after grateful child. Yet no matter how much is doled out,  we find ourselves saying,
“You should be grateful!”
Here’s the reality. We have it all wrong.

 

Material possessions will not satisfy.
You may feel thankful, in that moment, yes. But it doesn’t last. I have attended many churches that told us that healing and prosperity would lead people to Christ. If I was healed, people would see that, marvel, and be saved. While this absolutely can happen, it is actually not the norm. Take this example from the Bible in Luke 17. Against all odds, these 10 lepers received the one thing they all craved with every fiber of their being. Healing. All ten! Healed. However, what was the result?
15 Then ONE of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not TEN cleansed? Where are the NINE? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Getting doesn’t garner gratefulness.
Like almost never.
True heartfelt gratefulness decidedly comes from want,not plenty.
This concept clearly resonated with me a few years ago while listening to Pastor Doug Sauder in a parenting class. “If you want to make someone grateful for hot water, take them on a missions trip where they will get one cold shower for the whole week. When they get home they will feel more grateful for that hot water than ever before.”
Prosperity without perspective can never produce gratefulness.
I do not think that I am unique in my desire to make my children happy. I want them to open their presents and discover that present they were dreaming about. I want them to have that moment of sheer bliss when their dreams are fulfilled but at what cost? Because more than wanting them to be happy, I want them to be grateful. I want them to find joy rather than pursue happiness. Godliness with contentment is great gain. This is what I want for my children. This is what I want for me. I want to be content. I want to be grateful. I need to remember that I am indebted. I am an indentured servant. I deserve nothing but have been given everything.
However,  it is uncommonly easy to forget these goals and trade them in for a momentary feeling. Case and point: I sat at a friends house watching my 4 year old son launching hot wheels into the air on a loop-da-loop contraption yelling “AWESOME!” and thought….”I need that. He needs that. Look how happy that would make him. I know I said that we had enough toys, but that should be an exception. Clearly.”
 But then I remembered. We have no room. We don’t need it. He doesn’t need it. This moment is a moment, and he can experience it whenever he is at someone’s house that has this toy, and it will be special.
I want him to be grateful. I want him to be content. This goal is more important than that momentary, and I do mean momentary, happiness that will come from opening the “perfect” gift.
This point was reiterated to me on Facebook with a map showing the unique things for which people were thankful. People that had experienced drought were thankful for rain. People that had experienced power outages were thankful for electricity.
Here is the point.
Take a deep breath. Step away from the internet. Put down the credit card. And pray. Ask the Lord to show you how to cultivate gratefulness in your own heart and your children’s hearts. If you can’t afford those sought after toys of the season put down that mom-guilt right now. God has a plan and a purpose for this season of your life, and it is not for you to acquire debt or ignore other financial responsibilities (like saving for a rainy day) simply to chase the ghost of false joy. You can take confidence in the truth that if your children have less, you are likely closer to the ultimate goal of gratefulness. On the other hand however, if you can afford whatever your heart desires, pray even harder to keep from indulgence which is the enemy of a grateful heart.
This is not another post about Thanksgiving. It’s not even necessarily about Christmas. It’s bigger than that. Grasping gratefulness and cultivating contentment is a year round adventure. Living in the world we do, this is no humble task. Every commercial, every friend, every Facebook status tells you ….you need this!!! Fight it. Do not accept it. The only thing you need more of is Jesus. And he will supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory.
If you are a Christian, you have prayed for God’s will to be fulfilled in your life. If you are a parent you have prayed for God’s will to be fulfilled in your child’s life. That is why this lesson is so important!
I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us in no uncertain terms what His will is!!
Gratefulness!
Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
But how?
Read this powerful point in Job 20:20:
Because he knows no quietness in his heart,
He will not save anything he desires.
If you are not satisfied in Christ, you will grasp at everything!
The apostle Paul was able to be content in everything. Why? Because of his great prosperity? His easy life? No. Because he was satisfied in his appetite, in the quietness of his heart with Christ. That is how we produce gratefulness. When our hearts are filled day by day, moment by moment, with God’s word, when our mouths and hearts are filled with praise, there we will find gratefulness. The best gift you can give your children and/or yourself is a thirst for Christ and His Word, at every age and stage. Amen!

Sweet November-From Bratitude to Gratitude! *


November 2000 I met a boy. Cute laugh. Piercing green eyes. Just so handsome. He made me laugh. He made me feel special. He made me hope. And he loved Jesus. Four months after meeting and already falling for him, he dropped a bomb. He had forgotten to mention that days before we met, he made a vow to the Lord that he would not date anyone for a year. Having just gotten out of a long and “unhealthy” relationship, (because this is what wives say about all prior relationships)  he was encouraged by a mentor to get His relationship with the Lord right, and take a year to do that. And he was just telling me now, four months into this friendship. So in March the countdown began- to November. I remember flipping through my CD collection (so archaic) when I found the soundtrack to a movie called Sweet November. On that CD was this song by Enya, and I thought of it today.
“Only Time”
Who can say where the road goes
Where the day flows, only time
And who can say if your love grows
As your heart chose, only time

It was so true. God knew, but only time would tell. It was the perfect song. I couldn’t believe it. On a Sweet November CD of all things! Only time would tell. Well, long story short, and 5 kids later, November is still a very sweet month to me. If I close my eyes, I can still remember the day he told me it was me that he wanted. I can remember the feeling in my heart as I held his hand for the first time. I can remember so many sweet moments- moments that I dreamed of, all coming true.
But when I open my eyes, there is a full trash can, a crashing computer, an unfinished bathroom, and a toilet roll hung the wrong way. Their are obstacles, difficulties and failures. My heart forgets that I am living a dream. My heart forgets how I begged God for this man. We are imperfect people needing grace. Over and over again. Seventy times seven times.
I know I am not alone because I have heard your stories, the amazing God stories that need to be written down and published. My mother who saw a spray painted letter from God on the subway wall “Choose Bill.” My friend that pointed to a football players face on an FSU flyer and told her mom she was going to marry him and years later did just that. These beautiful stories that make the creations of Nicholas Sparks look woefully small, can so easily be forgotten amidst the monotony and difficulties of everyday life. And discontentment grows.
The eye never has enough. The ear can never hear enough. There is nothing new under the sun.
No matter how many dreams God fulfills, we always want more.
It is so popular to “vent” to let out your frustrations. But maybe instead of a venting partner you need a gratefulness partner. Never are we told to confess other peoples sins, only our own. Of course we need to share each others burdens, but when the majority of our conversation is a burden, we have a problem.
Be grateful. You cannot be grateful and discontent at the same time. You have to choose.

Colossians 3:15-17
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Do you want peace? Be thankful. Do you want to be thankful? Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs! And whatever you do- do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus!! AMEN!!
November is a month that we all focus on gratitude. I pray that you would do more than make a list, but that you would close your eyes and remember. Remember the prayer that you prayed ,remember the dream in your heart that the Lord fulfilled and walk in gratitude. Remember the love that you felt and don’t let the enemy steal that from you. Remember the person you dreamed of and how they are standing in your kitchen, perfectly imperfect. And be grateful. Remember the child you prayed for, acting like a sinful human, and be grateful. Remember the job you fought for and be grateful. Remember the parents that raised you, the siblings that played with you, the friends that loved you, and when they inevitably do something to annoy you, be grateful. In everything, give thanks!

* Title credits go to the one and only Jewel Keefe 

A Critical Critique of Criticism- I Samuel 31

So the craziest thing happened this week. I was being critical of my husband.
I wish I could say that was the unusual part, but sadly it was not. I’ll get to the crazy part in a minute.
But first, confession time.
More often than not, my problem solving, black and white, over analyzing brain comes in handy. However, on the “not” side I struggle with being critical. The strange thing is I am more critical of my own self than I am of anyone else. God is freeing me, little by little.
Being critical is obviously wrong. Except when it’s not so obvious. For instance, often times we may have good motives. Take my beloved, late, great-aunt. Truly, her motives were good. She legitimately wanted to help. But her methods could appear critical. Here’s an example. Just today my mom and I were remembering how I finally got braces. My teeth weren’t awful. They were mostly straight, but I had this one tooth that did not quite fit. One tooth. Of course that was enough for which the boys to tease me.
Sabe. Short for sabor, as in the tiger, with the teeth.
Nice nickname huh? I like to believe the teasing I received during those years taught me grace and compassion. But as a middle-schooler, it just really stunk. Anyway, my sweet, well intentioned aunt would ask me weekly if that tooth had settled in. After the 36th time, during my senior year, I finally smiled and said, “I think this is as good as it gets. But if you would like to sponsor some braces, I will gladly make an appointment.”
“Make the appointment.”she declared without hesitation. “ I’ll take care of it.” And that was it. I got braces.
Was she critical? Yes, but her motives were true, and she was willing to help.
So I guess I come by it honestly. Critiquing. It’s human nature. Monday morning quarter backs. Blogs criticizing any and everything. Editorials. It’s what we do. But it can kill any marriage, any relationship, or any church, and on the grand scale, make this bride of Christ look less than bridely.
And I was doing it.
Again.
“Lord,” I thought. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Knowing my strength comes from God’s word,  I decided  to grab my Bible.
What are the chances that in I Samuel 31, my next chapter, God would have a lesson for me? I remembered reading about being an armor bearer  earlier this year and wondered, would that concept be revisited.
A little discouraged, but mostly determined, I picked up my Bible and read. Tears in my eyes, and an overwhelming feeling of being loved in my heart, I could not believe what I was reading. How, over and over, does this keep happening? God’s word. My daily bread. Just what I need.
This is what I read. This is the crazy part.
 The Philistines fought against Israel, and Israel’s men fled from them. Many were killed on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons and killed his sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua. 3 When the battle intensified against Saul, the archers caught up with him and severely wounded him.[a] 4 Then Saul said to his ARMOUR_BEARER. “Draw your sword and run me through with it, or these uncircumcised men will come and run me through and torture me.” But his armor-bearer WOULD NOT DO IT ….
Saul had an armor-bearer. He was trained to do whatever Saul commanded. And in his moment of utter despair Saul asked his armor-bearer to take his life. But he couldn’t. In this moment,when it came to choosing between following orders, or preserving his master’s life, Saul’s armor-bearer chose the latter.
He would not and could not take part in destroying the man to whom he had committed to serve.
Even if it made sense. Even if his motives would have been right.
And this is the power of God’s Word. I started writing this a week ago and have been meditating on it ever since. If you only knew the number of times it has come to mind, how many times God reminded me of what I had read, and how many times these words stopped me in my tracks, well, it would be embarrassing.
But the point is not my weak nature, the point is the power of His Word to change.
It’s easy to say, “Don’t be critical.” But there is no power in my words. Thankfully, however, you don’t have to depend on my words. You have better than that. You have God’s word. And it does not return void.
The next time you are tempted to be critical of anyone, yourself included, take it to God first. What is the point of your criticism? To make yourself feel better? Going to God will solve that! Is it to “help” a person or situation? Going to God will solve that too!! Of course there is a time and a place to step into someones life and lovingly address an area that in so doing would bring them closer to God. But that never looks like harsh or angry criticism.
I want to be a true armor-bearer.
For my husband, my children, my friends and family. I pray that we would go to our knees when our reaction is critical. I pray that we would take our concerns, our burdens, our plans to Him first. And that we would go to God’s word which is active and living and sharper than any two edged sword. Always. And watch the light of the Lord dispel the darkness of sin every time.