Saturday, January 17, 2015

{Marriage is Hard}: 10 Ways to Keep it Going Strong

It was April 1, 1995. April Fools Day. Flannels and droopy hair were in style. Either that or everything black. To express our teenage angst. 

I was sitting at table with a friend and all his other friends at a Denny's restaurant way past midnight. My parents weren't worried about me. As long as I was in a group, it didn't matter how long I stayed up.

And that is when we met. Sleepy-eyed and trying to be cool. Telling jokes and eating appetizers.

When it was time to go, I hugged him goodbye and the rest is history.

It's amazing how we have come from this...

To this...

The first few years of marriage were pretty easy. Just living life and loving each other.

Then, the winds and rain of tragedy hit our house, threatening to make it fall with a tremendous crash. There were times it very nearly did, but by the grace of God and our holding onto Him and His faithful Word, we made it thus far.

And, as we healed, forgave and were restored, we are glad we stayed together. And, thankful to the Lord neither of us gave up.

So what did I learn along the way? Tons. I wrote it all down in journals to look back on. Because I know marriage is hard, but the Lord is strong enough and His grace is sufficient enough to help us weather life's storms.

And it is good to be reminded, encouraged on those hard days. From my journals, I noticed the following reoccurring themes...

10 Ways to Keep a Marriage Strong:

1. Be Thankful: keep a notecard of all the reasons you are thankful your spouse to keep tucked in your Bible and look back on when you aren't feeling so loving toward him.

I am thankful that he...

opens doors for me
holds heavy things for me
encourages me
makes breakfast for the kids...

2. Be Prayerful: Once a week, I set aside a day to pray for my husband. A good book that helped me to start was The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. Life is a battle (Ephesians 6:12-13). Your spouse needs you on his side in prayer to fight the temptation to be selfish. To love sacrificially.

3. Be Grace-full: The times when you have the hardest time loving your spouse is the time when you need the most grace. These are the times I have asked for "multiplied grace and peace (2 Peter 1:2)."

4. Be Humble: We need to be humble enough to let things go. Some battles are worth fighting, but most aren't. It is more about saving face and saving pride.If the issue isn't crucial enough to be resolved at that moment, give your spouse some time and space to be lead by the Lord in loving you.

5. Be Open: Sometimes you will need to use unconventional methods to encourage your spouse to be a godly husband. If there are things in your marriage that are not healthy, ask the Lord to show you ways to help keep the good things in and the bad things out. Be willing and open to do the hard things to stay together. A helpful book to consider is Boundaries in Marriage and consider getting good Christian counselling.

6. Be Submissive: Submission is not as bad as it sounds. We look to the Lord and do what is pleasing to Him. And as we do, our desire to do things that please our husband grows (Ephesians 5:22-24). This doesn't mean being less or burying our wants and needs. It just means living in peace and harmony and not doing things that would put a burden on family life without first coming to a consensus with our spouse. Communication is key in true submission. Not silence.

When I felt passionate about going on a mission trip to Ukraine, at first Billy didn't want me to go. It would be burdensome to be apart from me and be the sole caretaker of our child, but I gave him ample space and time to think and pray about it. He eventually came around and gave me his blessing. We need our husband's blessing to flourish in whatever our pursuit.

7. Be Alone With God: If we can't be alone with God, we can't grow. Our faith walk is not dependent on our spouse. We have to make the time every day cultivating our own relationship with the Lord, apart from our husband. In heaven, there is no marriage (Matthew 22:30). We will be close to our husband, but in a different way. Our most important relationship is with God.

8. Be Patient: Being in a "marriage rut" is no fun. But, we must remember we are on a journey of faith. This world is not our home, but there will be times of refreshing. Wait for those times and seek God's face. He will bless you in the waiting.

9. Be Creative: It is imperative that our spouse is not our sole means to purpose and fulfillment. All the Disney princess movies have a "happily ever after" after the prince marries his bride, but what happens after that. What happens after Mr. Darcy wins over Lizzie in Pride and Prejudice? We need to seek ways to use our gifts to the glory of God in our family, but also in the world. To be a light and let it shine for Christ.

10. Be Loved: "We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)." When we know who we are in Christ are hearts are filled with love. And we can share that unconditional, grace-filled, agape love with our spouse. And, with the world. When they see our love for each other, they see Christ in you the hope of glory !

"Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness."

Lamentations 3:22-23

"Finally Free" by Rend Collective

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Make Every Effort Count: Doing Every_Thing

Life is short. With the new year already begun, we only have another 355 days left in 2015 to choose spending our time doing something, nothing, or every_thing.

Do Something:

This is usually the fail-safe of most people, including myself. I think most of my time is spent going and doing. Like worker bees, we buzz from project to project, sunrise to sunset without much thought as to the long term purpose of it all. This isn't a bad thing. We have to brush our teeth, eat three square meals a day, pull the weeds, mop the floors. It's part of being responsible and good stewards of all the Lord has given to us.

Do Nothing:

What a luxury, to be able to do nothing. I can't imagine what life is like in situations where people have to work just to survive. Reading of the life of pioneers in the Little House on the Prairie series, I see how hard life used to be in America.

But, look at us now. There are so many technological advances to make living easier. We have so much free time on our hands, we seek ways to entertain ourselves.

Still, life can be hard. I think of the many who struggle with depression. We can get stuck and unable see past the heaviness of hopelessness. It's as if the weight of the world is on our shoulders.

It is only as we seek the glimmers of God's grace, His glory, can we be lifted out of those dark places. He is ready and able to give us a renewed sense of hope and purpose in our suffering.

As the Psalmist says,

"I love your sanctuary, Lord,
    the place where your glorious presence dwells." (26:8, NLT)

We do nothing when we wait for the Lord and seek His face. Finding Him in His glory is worth all the wait. And as we are waiting in quiet repose (Isaiah 30:15), our character can grow more into the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). It is during difficult times that we can develop patient endurance. 

Do Every_Thing:

Doing every_thing? Doesn't that sound a bit like going overboard?

There is a difference between doing "everything" and doing every_thing.

Doing "everything" is being over-responsible to the point of getting burnt out.

Doing every_thing is finding that perfect, straight and narrow path laid before us and doing every_thing we are destined to do. Because we don't want to miss a single solitary thing the Lord has given us as our mission in life. 

Doing every_thing is truly our destiny. It is being willing to sacrifice all our time, our efforts, for Him.

We must be willing to change directions from doing something we were in the middle of doing to do what the Lord has planned for us in that moment. Or when we are doing nothing, rely on the Lord's strength to shift the focus from our pain, to helping others in theirs.

Here are some verses that shed light on doing every_thing:

"Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness 

no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14)."

Living in peace with others is not easy, but there are many occasions where we can let it 

go. Being holy means to be set apart for the special calling the Lord has given us. We 

need to seek Him to find out what that is and live according to His will.

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to

goodnessknowledge;and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love (2 Peter 1:5)."

Being mature in Christ is becoming more and more like Him. As we seek to follow 

Him and learn to rely on His strength to persevere (James 1), He will transform us into 

being more like Himself.

"And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to

remember these things (2 Peter 1:15)."

Find ways of passing on the torch of your faith walk with others. Share your story of the

truth of God's power and love in your life through Christ.

"So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be 

found spotless, blameless and at peace with him (2 Peter 3:14)."

Let's live our lives in pursuit of the One who made eternal life possible and ask for His 

help to overcome temptations to put anything above following Him.

Like I said, life is short.

Are we gonna spend our days living for ourselves, forgetting who we really are in Christ?

Or are we gonna live out loud. Not hiding the glory of God in our lives?

Each day we have a choice to love. The world needs love, and we can meet this need 

by the strength God provides. When we do every_thing in His power, His love shines 

through and Christ is glorified. Let us choose this day to love.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13, NKJV)

Jason Gray- "With Every Act of Love"

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A {Resolution} for 2015: Just One Chapter

remember the signs..." 
~ Aslan, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair
by C.S. Lewis

I don't know of anyone who likes staying in the hospital. Between the poke of the needle for an I.V., the uncomfortable bed, or the tests, the tests, the tests! I get no sleep. No rest.

For my last baby, Little Bit, I decided to opt for a birthing center for just that reason. 

But, as much as I don't want to make a visit to the emergency room, I've had to. 

Twice this year.

The first time, was for chest pain. Still don't know what caused it, but I'm still paying for the bill! Then, the week before Christmas, I wound up there again. 

But, thankfully, I was prepared.

Earlier this year, I was challenged to memorize all of Romans 8 for Lent. I was motivated to hide more of God's Word in my heart because I knew I needed it. I need truth. When so much of the seen world is clamoring for my attention and causing me to fear and doubt, I desperately need to know that this is not all there is.

Then, when homeschool started in the fall, I was challenged to memorize James 1 with the children. Now, I had little accountability partners. And, I discovered new ways to cement all that we were learningto make it visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

And, the Word became living and active (Hebrews 4:12) when I was tested the week before Christmas.

I was tired and feeling not quite myself, so I decided to exercise a little. Just a few stretches to help me wake up. With each stretch, my head started to hurt, so I stopped. But, not soon enough. 

I was hit with a wave of intense head pain and nausea and became short of breath. I called out to my eldest daughter to dial my husband and with much hesitation, 911 when I started gasping for air and vomiting.

"I think I'll be okay," I said to the paramedics as they checked my pulse. My stomach had settled some, and I was able to breathe again. Blood pressure was fine. Blood sugar, normal levels. I had no history of asthma or migraines. 

One paramedic said I should go to the hospital. That this episode seemed like more than a head ache. But, I decided to wait until Billy got home and save myself a trip in the ambulance.

I thought maybe it was the flu or possibly food poisoning. But, when the doctor examined me and noted all of my symptoms he said something I had not even conceived of.

"I think you may have had an aneurysm." Dr. S crossed his arms. "I am not letting you leave this hospital until you get a CT scan. But, that will probably show nothing." He paused. "I will probably have to give you a spinal tap to check for blood. Then we'll know for sure."

"Can't I get an MRI?" I asked. I didn't like the thought of exposing myself to all the radiation from a CT scan if I could help it.

"No." The doctor shook his head. "CT scan, then spinal tap and then MRI. And, if we find an aneurysm. Surgery."

"On my brain?" 

The doctor nodded.

I glanced at Billy. He looked at me reassuringly.

I sighed real deep. "Fine. Just do it."

I had trouble praying. Between the headache, the nausea, and overall stress, I just couldn't seem to calm my mind. 

Then I remembered.

"James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ...," flashed in mind.

I focused on each and every word of James 1

Through the CT scan, which showed nothing.

Then, during the spinal tap, my body reacted in weird ways. I couldn't stop shaking and my hip hurt like crazy. So, I couldn't go through with it. But, James 1 was on my mind the whole time.

The doctor wasn't happy that I told him to pull out the lumbar puncture, because it hurt, even with the local anesthesia!

"I'll have to admit you to the hospital," he said.

"Fine." I didn't care at that point. Billy said my veins were popping out on my forehead and the sweat was poring down my brow. He'd seen me birth all our babies, but he said he'd never seen me in so much pain.

Billy piled the blankets over me to stop the shaking. I put on my jacket and  pulled the hood over my head and slid a face mask on my face. Then the orderlies transported me to a shared room.

I few hours later, I was not shaking anymore, but still freezing. A nurse wrapped me up like a woman from the middle east and prepared me for a trip to the MRI.

"So, have you ever had an MRI before?" asked the MRI tech. He had a thick accent and looked like he was from Southeast Asia, possibly India.

"Yes. But, not for me. For my baby. He had no kidneys." Then I shared the story of my son, Luke.

The tech was quiet after that. He helped me onto the bed in front of the MRI tube and gave me earplugs.

The last time I got a MRI, I thought of Genesis. This time, with Christmas just around the corner, I imagined Christ in all His splendor as a baby, born to a lowly maiden, a virgin in a dusty old stable. He came to rescue us from sin and death to bring many sons into glory (Romans 8:28-30). 

 "How did it go?" asked the tech.

"Oh, great," I grinned. "I thought of a story I know from the Bible. That always helps me stay calm."

He blinked at me and looked on in wonder. I remembered that I was dressed in an all-white wrap of blankets up to my neck. No telling what he thought!

The test showed nothing.

And, I went home. Still waiting for the bill!

But, I am thankful to the Lord that I'm okay. I don't know whether or not I had an aneurysm, but no matter what happens, God is good and He works all things out for good in His time (Romans 8:28-30).

With the year ending and a new one approaching, it's got me thinking. What do I want to do next year? What would I like to change?

The number one thing, more important than anything else I could think of is to remember God's Word. To memorize passages of Scripture and by the grace of God, put it into practice.

I'll be waiting and praying for the next chapter to learn, but until then, I'd like to challenge each and every person who reads this post.

Just One Chapter 

Will you learn one chapter of Scripture this year. It took me a good three months to learn James 1. But, I took it real slow. And, used a method that works for me and my children.

I call it the RVA approach: 



and, by the grace of God,


Repetition:  say one verse ten times the first day. Five times the next day to review. And, the next verse ten times. Five-old, ten-new each day until you've learned the whole chapter.

Visualization: for each verse, draw a picture. On a white board, on index cards, or a chalk board. But, keep it high and say the verse while looking at the image. You can also try hand movements that corresponds to the verse to help with memory. 

Application: Pray God's Word. Ask for His help and power to do what pleases Him. 

May 2015 be a year where the blessings of God abound in your heart!

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." (Psalm 119:105)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Through the Ages: 2000-2014

It helps to look back. To count your blessings. 

For 2014, I wanted to count Christmas blessings. 
And, from what I remember, it had a lot to do with family. And, love.

 2000- First Christmas as husband and wife.

 2001- First child was born, our "Bright Girl."

 2002- Snuggled up in our cozy sweaters
 with the baby in a hoodie.

2003- Our first son, Luke, was born on December 5, 
but passed away shortly afterward.

2003- Bright Girl loved music and 
clapped along with her new Alphabet Pal.

2004- Bright Girl loved singing Christmas carols.

2005- "Little Man" was born and 
Bright Girl had another brother to love.

2006-Bright Girl stills loves to bake.

2006-Little Man still loves his cars.

2007-Our newest addition to the family, "Sunshine Girl."

 2007-The awe and wonder of Christmas.

 2008- Family trip to Stone Mountain.
Should have been called Cold Mountain!

2009- Family trip to The Great Smokey Mountains.
At this point we didn't know Little Man had developed autism.
He liked to look away or close his eyes for the camera.

2009- First Nativity play. Can you guess each person?

2010- Family trip to Maggie Valley, NC, where
we were snowed in.

2010- Sunshine Girl didn't mind. She loved the snow.

2011- Stayed home for the holidays.
I didn't want to travel with a newborn.

 2011- Introducing,"Little Bit." 
She thought it was a relaxing Christmas.

2012- First Christmas after Billy's job loss. 
We sold our house and moved into an apartment.
The kids didn't seem to mind as long as we were together.

2013- A new year with a new job 
and more presents under the tree.
But, the kids didn't seem to notice the difference.
They were happy either way.

Because it was Christmas.

No matter where we were or what was happening in our lives, Christmas--the fact that Christ came to rescue us--has brought us hope, joy, and peace. 

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas in 2014!

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
Romans 15:13

Merdith Andrews- He Has Come For Us (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Steps to Peace in Grief

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe,
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow. 

~Elvina M. Hall, 1865


I don’t know if I've always traveled the best way through grief, but the Lord taught me many things along the journey. I learned more about God, myself, and others, and we have choices to make in how we will react to all of life’s difficulties. The following steps are some choices I made on my own journey. And those choices lead to peace.
Steps to Peace in Grief:
1. Focus on the character of Christ in the gospels.  Seeking to know Him more fully will form us more into His likeness.

2. Look back and grieve—everything that has broken your heart, and ask Christ to reveal Himself to you in those times.

3. Turn to Christ and trust Him with your past, present, and eternity, for “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).”

4. Believe that when you are at a disadvantage, you are blessed, because it's a chance to see God come through for you.

5. Be thankful that Christ Jesus has redeemed you—every part of you, past,  present, and future, it all matters to Him.  He is faithful to forgive you and cleanse you of all unrighteous thoughts, feelings, or deeds (1 John 1:9).

6. Rest on Christ, the Rock, whose promise of salvation is a free gift. You don't have to be "good enough" to be loved and accepted by God. The Lord Jesus gave His life to rescue us from darkness and bring us into His family.

7. Immerse yourself in worship and sing songs of both lament and praise, which can stir your heart to hope again.

8. Rejoice that because of Christ, our names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).

9. Live for your Father's smile.

10. Persevere when you feel like giving up. God has a special place, purpose, and work for you to do in His Kingdom.

11. Remember you are precious in the sight of God.

12. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord. The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is like a little child.

13. Love others even in your pain.

14. Be confident that the things that overwhelm you are the very things you can trust in the Lord to give you His strength to overcome (2 Corinthians 12:9).

15. Trust in the Lord to protect you from evil. Suffering is a time when you are most vulnerable. (1 Peter 5:8,9)

16. Don't be afraid to ask for help. The Lord works through His people. You don't have to go through grief alone.

17. Longing, seeking, finding, longing…it’s like a cycle that will end when we see Jesus face-to-face. Until then, stay the course.

18. Jesus longs for me even more than I long for Him. He has known me before the creation of the world. He gave His life for me. He’s preparing a place for me, and He’s waiting for me with a love that is higher than the highest mountain, wider than the widest sky, deeper than the deepest ocean, and longer than the longest road.

19. In this world, we have a lot to grieve, mourn, and wail about, but we must long for the day when we can be in the safest place of all—safe in Jesus’ arms. 

20. When you look your greatest hurts straight in the face, turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
~Helen H. Lemmel, 1922

"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus", Music video featuring Nichole Nordeman