Category Archives: Marriage

Summer Challenge: The Details

backlit-beach-boy-694587sumer-challengeSo…How does this work? Well, that’s a good question. There really aren’t any hard and fast rules.

Well, okay. I guess there are 2. Only 2!

First, pick just one thing. If you’re like me, you probably thought of about 10 different areas that you would like to work on. That’s great. Keep a list. Challenge yourself again in the future! But, for now, one thing. Don’t get overly ambitious. Don’t try to multi-task. Take this time to focus on just one thing, one area.

And, second, it has to be something related to an area of spiritual growth. I realize that leaves a lot of leeway. Wouldn’t it be better if we all did the same thing? Maybe. But, not necessarily. While every Christian should be growing, we all grow at different rates, and are all at different points in our spiritual life. I cannot lift the same amount of weight that my husband does. He is much stronger than I am. If I tried to match him pound for pound, I would give up before I even got started (and hurt myself trying!). But, he doesn’t even break a sweat lifting my tiny little dumbbells. He wouldn’t get any stronger doing my “workout.”  So it is with this. You have to start where you are. Push yourself…to the point of growth, but not to the point of discouragement or burnout.

The challenge will run for 3 months: from June 1st through August 31st, 2018. Technically, that is 92 days, and, actually works out to a little over 13 weeks…not 12 like I said in my original post.

And, that’s really it…

But, while I wouldn’t consider these “rules,” I would like to encourage you to do a few more things throughout the challenge:

  1. Share what you have chosen to focus on this summer, and how you plan to accomplish it! Share it here in the comments…share it in a post on your own blog (be sure to link back so we can follow along!)…share it on Facebook. This isn’t about pride, spiritual bragging rights, or “one upsmanship.” It is simply about accountability. Let people in. Let them know what you are doing, and let them hold you accountable. (Who knows, you might even inspire someone else to join you!)
  2. Update! Tell people how it is going! As the summer goes on, share what you’re learning, how you have been encouraged, and yes….even where you are struggling. Let’s encourage one another, and learn from one another!
  3. At the end, take some time to evaluate how the challenge went. Did you accomplish what you set out to do?
    If so, what changes did you see in your spiritual life as a result? Were they what you expected…or were they different?
    If not, why? What happened?
    Either way, what did you learn? How did you grow? And, how will you continue to apply what you learned beyond the summer.

I am so excited to begin my own challenge…which I will be sharing in an upcoming post. And, I hope you are prayerfully considering, and looking forward to yours as well.

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Filed under Biblical Womanhood, Life in Ministry, Marriage, Mommyhood, Pastor's Wife, Summer Challenge, Thinking Biblically

Summer Challenge Facebook Group

Several years ago, a friend and I decided that, as young moms, with busy husbands, and ministry commitments, we wanted to make sure that our time with the Lord wasn’t getting overlooked in the chaos that was our everyday lives. We both realized that, for us, this was going to mean getting up early. Neither of us were really what you might call “morning people,” so, we decided we were going to need help. So we took turns calling each other, each morning to make sure the other was out of bed. While the desire to ensure that I had some time in the Word and in prayer before my daughter was up and ready to go for the day was certainly there…there were definitely mornings when the promise (threat?) of her phone call would propel me out of bed, when I might have otherwise decided to slack off, sleep in, and put it off until I got around to it…”later.” Sometimes I was the one making the wake up call. And, not wanting to let my friend down was also a strong catalyst to get myself going when my alarm went off. Neither of us wanted to be the one who was still sleeping when that accountability call came in! Now, we were young moms, and even though we each only had one child at the time, there were some mornings that truly did call for a little extra sleep (illness, teething, bad dreams…sometimes that’s just how it is). But, we still made sure to ask about what the other had read, or learned later on in the day. And, we prayed for one another. Consistently.

It’s easy to start out strong, and enthusiastic. But, eventually, the newness wears off, and having someone else to encourage you (or push you) along, when you feel like sleeping in…when “life” begins to get in the way of your new commitment…when other activities look easier, or at least more enjoyable.

That is the purpose of this Facebook group. Consider this group your virtual wake-up call. We will check in regularly. Expect to be asked where you are, or how you are doing in your challenge. We can encourage one another to keep going when we would rather give up. We can pray for one another when we are discouraged, or behind, or not seeing any real progress. And, we can rejoice with each other as we see these ventures to completion, and see the fruit of challenging and stretching ourselves to grow spiritually!

While each of these challenges are personal, and are being undertaken for a variety of reasons, we are not designed to live our spiritual lives independently of one another.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~Philippians 2: 1-4 (ESV)

As promised, I have created a Facebook Group for this challenge. Join us here:

Summer Challenge Facebook Group

backlit-beach-boy-694587sumer-challenge

If you would like, share the challenge, and invite others to join as well!

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Filed under Biblical Womanhood, Life in Ministry, Marriage, Mommyhood, Pastor's Wife, Summer Challenge, Thinking Biblically

Listen.

Over the past several years, I have noticed a trend of choosing a “word of the year.” This seems to be the new New Year’s Resolution. A mantra, of sorts, to inspire change, growth, or simplicity (all common words-of-the-year, by the way) in the upcoming year.

I have shied away from this particular blogging/social media trend, because it has always seemed to be just a little too close to “name it and claim it” territory for my comfort.

Until this year.

It was quite unintentional, I assure you. And, as I have actively, and quite intentionally avoided this particular blogging/social media trend, I figure it is only appropriate that I am also bucking the common practice of declaring my word at the beginning of the year…

Last Christmas, my husband gave me The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women. And, as the Lord often does, it was exactly what I needed to read…starting in the very first chapter!

The chapter was on Anger. And, while I do not typically think of myself as an angry person (oh, I have my moments!), maybe it would be better to say that I do not like to think of myself as an angry person. But, it wasn’t the specific topic of anger that resonated with me. It was the idea of listening.

John and Janie Street explained it this way:

“Listening is hard to do when you’re angry, because true listening involves submission. This requires a silent, inward confession that your demands and anger are not right and that you need the correction and help of another. This is not listening for some audible voice from God, because He has already communicated to you everything you need in His Word. When you try to hear an audible voice, you betray your lack of trust in the sufficiency of His Word (2 Peter 1:3, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Instead, listen to God through the truth of His Word – the Bible. … But, you must not stop with just listening. To listen carefully, you must not continue to speak.” (The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, pgs. 31-32, bold mine)

My family talks…a lot. I think it was a bit unnerving for my husband when we started dating. Family dinners were loud. Words flew at a furious pace. Good-natured arguments and friendly debates were common. We interrupted, and talked over one another. Sentences often overlapped. Thoughts were often left incomplete. None of it was done maliciously, or with the intention of being rude or inconsiderate. That’s just how we communicated.

It was the polar opposite of his family’s way of doing things. His family was quiet. Conversations were slow and deliberate. They waited for someone to finish a thought (maybe a sentence, maybe an entire paragraph) before chiming in. And, the general pace of conversation was much slower.

So, early on in our marriage, my husband frequently pointed out my propensity to interrupt him. Honestly, I dismissed his observation, and his rebukes. I wasn’t doing it to be rude. I was doing it out of habit.

But, it bothered him.

And, the truth is, it was inconsiderate. It was rude. It was disrespectful.

And, if “true listening involves submission,” this was an obvious lack of submission on my part.

Instead of listening to him, to his perspective, and his opinions…I would cut him off, or talk over him, in order to share my opinions, and defend myself and my perspective…again. And, I am not only talking in the context of disagreements, although those types of conversations would definitely fall into this category. Sadly, I am mostly talking about normal, everyday communication.

“Speaking when you should be listening only interrupts the valuable insight that you are lacking.” (The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, pg. 32)

To say I have been a slow learner in this area would be a gross understatement. I am embarrassed to say that we had been married almost 15 years…and I was only just beginning to recognize the enormity of my problem in this area. And, as I began to realize the years of wisdom and valuable insights I had missed out on (both from him, and from others), by insisting on speaking, when I should have been listening…I finally wanted to take his concern seriously.

Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” (ESV)

And, James 1:19-20 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (ESV)

There is no sugar-coating it. Scripture calls an over-abundance of words, and the speed with which we rush to verbalize them, sin.

So, I took those verses as my starting point for this past year. Even though I had read them numerous times, I began to meditate on them, daily. And, I made it my goal to prayerfully apply them in every single conversation and interaction that I had…with my husband, with my children, with the people in my church, and online.

To listen carefully, you must not continue to speak. This became my motto (not mantra!) for this last year.

Did I do it perfectly? No. I think, this side of Heaven, it will always be a struggle.

“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” James 3:3 (ESV)

In his sermon on Taming the Tongue, John MacArthur says,

“if I want to focus my Christian life on one thing, if I want to get my act together, if I want to bring my whole spiritual life into control, I ought to work on my what?  My tongue.  Well, now we realize that it’s not fully possible to totally have a holy tongue, but to the extent that one controls his tongue, he will control his body.  Why?  Because whatever spiritual dynamics work to control your tongue will therefore work to control the rest of you. But it makes it so simple and so dynamic if we can just concentrate on the tongue.  Isn’t that practical?  I mean, just get it down to that. Focus on your mouth. And if the Holy Spirit gets control of the most volatile and the most potent member, the rest will be subdued.” (Taming the Tongue, part 1)

And, over the course of the year, I found that I could sum up my goal in one simple word:

Listen.

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” James 1:26 (ESV)

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Momentary Light Affliction

This blog is (or, perhaps has been) my attempt to encourage and challenge primarily myself, but other women as well, to view every area and event of life through the lens of Scripture. And to be joyfully content as we recognize God’s undeserved grace, mercy, and sovereign care in the big, unexpected joys, as well as in the difficult trials, but especially in those little, often overlooked, everyday moments.

Because, most of life is lived in the simple and the ordinary.

But, in doing so, my desire is not to paint our life as one of sunshine and unicorns, untouched by reality and troubles.

Like everyone, my days are filled with joys and failures, blessings and trials, celebration and suffering. My children are sinners. Their mother is a sinner. (I know Scripture says that I married a sinner as well. But, I’m beginning to wonder about that one. He’s amazing.)

I detest the trend of airing one’s dirty laundry to the whole of the worldwide web, under the guise of “transparency.” I don’t want to complain. I don’t want to “vent.”

My desire is to focus on that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). To look for the grace and mercy that God has so richly, and undeservedly given, not in spite of the difficult times, but through, and maybe even because of them.

Amy Carmichael wrote, “A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred.”

So, it is rare that I will write from a place of discouragement and weakness.

But, you want transparency? Here it is…

Life is hard.

I am not making that statement in relation to the suffering, trials, or circumstances of anyone but myself. The comparison game is futile. Comparing my situation to that of someone else is like comparing apples and oranges. No. It’s like comparing apples and turtles. You just can’t. There is always someone else going through something bigger, something worse, something harder. (And I know many who are.)

I am just stating the simple fact that, life can be hard.

And, recently, it has been.

“In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33 (NIV)

In addition to multiple minor illnesses hitting every member of our family, teething toddlers, night terrors, mastitis, our recent miscarriage, migraines, and a stint in the ER, I have been living with severe anemia (and the accompanying symptoms and side effects) for at least a year…likely a lot longer. I am now on a prescription iron supplement, which I am praying might remedy some, or maybe even all of that.

Oh. And, did I mention that, as a result, we are still trying to finish up our school year? And the laundry and dishes have continued to multiply at alarming rates.

So, those simple, everyday, real life moments are still very much there, very much demanding that we keep up.

And, somehow, in the craziness of caring for, and keeping up with us, my husband still has to do his job. He still has to prepare sermons and Sunday school lessons. Some weeks, I have wondered if he isn’t writing his sermons on the back of a napkin on his way to church! (Don’t worry. He’s not!) People are still coming to him for counsel. Each one a judgment call. Is this an urgent need? Can they wait? And, meetings that have been canceled, long-postponed, and rescheduled (multiple times), have to be attended.

There are just not enough hours in the day.

“Why does our heavenly Father seem at times to be steadily shoveling suffering into the lives of those he loves so deeply, when he could easily relieve it?” (Running on Empty, pgs. 15-16)

You may thinking, “Stop complaining. That’s nothing.”

And, you’d be right.

“Suffering, even in its mildest forms – inconvenience, delay, disappointment, discomfort, or anything that is not in harmony with our whims and preferences – we will not tolerate. We even reject and deny it.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 13)

We do not like to suffer. We avoid it when we can…except in the cases when, as a result of our own sinful stupidity, we run headlong into it.

But, I say that all that to say this…I am just weary. Physically, mentally…and yes. Spiritually.

I love what Gloria Furman says in her new book, Missional Motherhood (I am quoting from a much larger section, and, I hope, doing justice to the original context. But, I would encourage you to read the entire section, or even the whole book, for yourself.):

“Things that are part of our design – our need for others in community, our physical limitations, being embodied in an “earthly tent,” and our lack of knowledge – are not failures. We have no need to repent of those things, for this is the way God designed us. God has no need to repent of making us this way, because he reserves the right to create in whatever way his holy will desires. Moms don’t need to be redeemed out of their God-given design. But here is another place where we have to “use our words” very carefully. We must be very, very hesitant to name something sin. If it is sin, it requires atonement. But we often place worldly blunders on the same level as unholy sins….The eternal Son of God did not go to the cross and suffer crucifixion and the wrath of God to atone for a moms inability to accomplish everything she wants to do in a day…..Before we call upon the great doctrine of justification by faith alone to redeem us out of our so-called calamity, or before we herald the massive truth that we are counted righteous in Christ by faith in him, we ought to consider the nature of our need….If that neediness is owing to your sin, that vile rebellion against your Maker, then you repent….But if your neediness is simply because you are a human being (i.e., not omniscient, not omnipresent, not omnipotent, not God), then you have reason to rejoice.” (Missional Motherhood, pgs. 124-125, bold mine)

Rejoice?

In weakness? In weariness? In suffering?

Yes.

And, more than that, we can be thankful for it.

“Who can be grateful for pain? Only those who see beyond to the ineffable mercy, tender and severe, which is silently at work.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 56)

It is a gift.

It is a gift because it teaches us about the character of God. As discipline, it confirms God’s love for us, and our position as His child. It tests, strengthens, and refines our faith. It produces endurance, character, and hope. And, it is a condition of discipleship.

If we are to follow Christ, we must expect to suffer.

“He accepted suffering. He willingly laid down His life. He poured out His very soul unto death. Shall not we, His servants, tread the same pathway?” Pg. 39

But, perhaps, just maybe, our troubles, our inconveniences, our sufferings are not for us.

Lilias Trotter, in her book, Parables of the Cross, wrote “God may use…the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessings of souls unknown to us….” (as quoted in Elisabeth Elliot’s A Path Through Suffering, pg. 15)

It has been unintentional (on my part), but many of the books I have been reading recently have had a providentially similar theme. Suffering.

In her book, Running on Empty, Barbra Bancroft says,

“Ministry brings suffering into our lives. It is the hardest gift for us to accept from God. None of us enjoys suffering and it is one aspect of ministry we are always trying to avoid. God brings his gift of suffering and our response is to begin negotiating for a different one. We want to return this gift for one we think would better meet our needs. This is why Paul’s description of himself in Philippians 3 is so startling. We are attracted and repelled by it. We want his passion for Christ. We identify with his desire to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, but to share in the fellowship of his suffering is frightening.” (pg. 15)

Now, I don’t think for a moment that our church, or my husband’s vocation has been the source of the difficulties, trials, and yes, genuine suffering that we have faced in recent days.

Quite the opposite. Our church family has been a source of help, encouragement, strength, and comfort in all of this.

But, it is true that ministry brings suffering. It has a cost. Our family, our marriage, our children, our parenting, our faults, our sins, our quirks, our sufferings…our lives are all put on constant display. And, we are willing to live in that proverbial fishbowl for the sake of others.

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 1 Corinthians 4:15-16 (ESV)

Paul prayed three times that God would remove his “thorn in the flesh,” his “messenger from Satan.” (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

“God said no to Paul’s plea because He was to bring forth, for the sake of the rest of us, the beautiful flower of acceptance, a gift of grace, enough for his need. But that flower was to bloom, not in spite of, but because of the thorn…Could he know the millions who would be cheered and comforted by his example of quiet acceptance of a painful thing which he knew God could have removed? No, he couldn’t.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 45)

Maybe our troubles, our inconveniences, our trials, our sufferings are not for us at all. Maybe they are put in our life for the spiritual benefit of someone else.

We do not know. And, frankly, it isn’t for us to know.

“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)

“We may take heart from the suffering of Job. Suffering was the necessary proof of the reality of his faith – to us, as to his contemporaries and his enemy Satan (his and ours). The suffering of our Savior proved the reality of His love for His Father. The world still needs to be shown that there are those who, no matter what the circumstances, will, for love of Him, do exactly what God commands. The end He has in view is a glorious one. We can fully count on that…” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 53)

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 1 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV)

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12 Years

This was us 12 years ago…

Wedding Day

“We start out believing we know love so well
But through the years we find
True love is a story only time can tell
And God has made this lifetime yours and mine…”
(
Steven Curtis Chapman, Love And Lean)

Family 2012

And, here we are today.

And, I love him even more today than I did then.

Happy Anniversary!

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