Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

Welcome to the New Christian Living Link-up ~ #GraceTruth

I’m beyond excited to introduce you all to something that has been in the works for several weeks now. Faithful readers and Lofter buddies know that we’ve hosted a link-up called #TheLoft for some months now. Recently our hosting group was offered an opportunity to merge with quite a few other like-minded faith bloggers in a new, bigger weekly link-up. Although we’re sad to lose a little of the intimacy that a smaller group allows for, we are enthusiastic about the opportunities this new link-up brings for all faith bloggers.

So, without further ado, I invite you to join us for Grace & Truth, a weekly Christian link-up!

Jen 🙂

Grace & Truth : A Weekly Christian Link Up

Grace & Truth exists to point people to Jesus! We hope this link-up will be a source of encouragement each and every week. If you’re a blogger our hope is that you’ll use this space as a way to meet new friends within the Christian blogging community. If you’re a reader our hope is that you’ll meet new bloggers that love Jesus just as much as you do! Most of all, we hope you’ll meet Jesus here.

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When Gratitude Comes Hard

It’s Five Minute Friday once again, where we gather at Lisa-Jo Baker’s place and free-write for five(ish) minutes on a one word prompt. This week the word is Grateful. Join us if you like!

Grateful, gratitude, hard times, motherhood

Some days the gratefulness comes easy like those lazy days of summer when the sunlight lingers and the breeze flutters warm and balmy. No deadlines looming on the horizon. No crazy schedule. Those are the days when the kids frolic outdoors like all of the Wild Things that they are. We’re happy and healthy and carefree.

On other days, the story isn’t quite so bright.  The winter lingered a little too long and leftover cabin fever rules the day.  Laundry piles up in one messy mountain, and the littlest boy who’s been potty trained for more than a year now, wets himself not once, not twice, but three times in one day for some unknown reason.

These are the days when children bicker and whine and complain, and we find ourselves unable to help them because the bickering and whining and complaining is going on in our hearts, too.

But in Lysa Terkeurst’s book, Unglued, I read about turning that attitude into gratitude, and I know it can be done.  Because who wouldn’t feel grateful for a healthy child, or food in the fridge, or soft beds to sleep in?

So even when the gratitude comes hard and we must dig deep to find the good in our day, it still comes. It still comes.

And I’m so grateful.

Grateful for grace and the promise of a God who will never give up on me, never quit working in my life (Phil. 1:6).

Grateful for the blessing of a Mom (and Dad) who love the Lord and taught me the truth of salvation.

Grateful for a house full of rowdy, messy children who simultaneously make my days exhausting and wonderful.

Grateful for 15 years wedded to a man who continues to seek the Lord and love me even when life gets a little crazy.

And for so many other things,

I give thanks.

No more attitude, just gratitude.

Because He is good.

All the time.

Jen 🙂

You may find me sharing at any of these lovely places or here:

Christian Mommy Blogger, Missional Women, My Freshly Brewed Life,

Beauty Through Imperfection, Managing Your Blessings

 

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How to Love When You Feel Unloved

In the spirit of truth-sharing, I’ll tell you that being the wife I am called to be is my weak area, my Achilles heel. I never feel so much like Paul in Romans 7, battling with the flesh, as when marital issues arise. How can I love my husband when I myself feel so unloved? Often Satan and sin have me so ensnared that I even become confused as to what “right” really is.
How to love when you feel unloved, Christian marriage, difficult marriage, feeling unloved

Lately I’ve been reminded of this weakness as our marriage is under extra strain.  I could make excuses.  Truthfully, the pressure just brings forth what is already there, lurking beneath the surface, waiting for the perfect opportunity to rise up.  Like many married couples, we tend to get caught up in the cycle of an argument that’s been played out time and time again.  And that can be so frustrating!  Revisiting those same issues makes us feel like failures, trapped by the past, stalled in our progress.

marriage, troubled marriage, feeling unloved, encouragement for marriage

But I’m not satisfied with a marriage that’s merely okay, and I mean that in the best of ways, I really do.  I desperately want to grow ever closer to the type of intimacy God intended for us  to experience as man and wife. I don’t want to be fatalistic or resigned in my outlook, even though I may feel that way at times.  Because if I settle for “this is as good as it gets,” then where is my hope in the God who transforms souls, including my own?

Marriage is hard work, just like parenting is hard work.  If it were easy, we would not be challenged to grow!  Marriage teaches me things about myself that I loathe: how selfish I am, how easily offended, how weak and needy.  But unless I see the truth of where I stand, what chance do I have to move on from that spot?

By far the most difficult times in our marriage occur when we are both bearing unusual burdens that slowly wear us down, burdens like extended illness, or financial stress, or parenting issues, or major decisions, or unpredictable catastrophes.  We’re both weak.  We’re both worn and frayed.  We’re both longing for rest.   You’ve been there before, I’m sure – those times in life when you both feel like you need a good long vacation from reality.  🙂

As much as I’d like to blame our marital strife on my husband’s inadequacies, I know the issues at hand aren’t his alone.  We’re called to be sacrificial in our love for one another, but when I’m already at the end of my rope, I often feel there is nothing left to give.   I become selfish; I withhold kindness.  I justify.  How can I lift my husband up when I can barely lift myself up, Father?

Sacrificial Love, marriage, how to love, feeling unloved, hope

I have a feeling I’m not alone in this, this desire we wives have to be rescued by our husbands when the going gets tough.  This desire to have men of strength come charging in to save the day. This desire to let ourselves be the weak ones for once.  This desire to feel protected and cherished and cared for.  Because for all of our outward strength (and we mamas are masters of disguise), we often harbor needs that remain hidden.

The problem is that in wishing my husband would take on that role of Rescuer, I’m asking him to fill a space only our Father God can truly fill.   When I ask him to fill up that empty space, I’m asking to be disappointed.  My husband is imperfect.  Sometimes he lets me down, as I do him.  Sometimes he needs a Rescuer just as I do.  Sometimes he is weak.  He is only human after all.  My desire for him to be what even I cannot is quite unfair, isn’t it?

I’ll be honest. As a busy mom of four, I wrestle with this idea that God should be my sole supply. After all, God cannot help with the bedtime routine or sweep the kitchen or sign permissions slips or pay the bills, at least not in a physical sense.  I wrestle, too, with feelings of disappointment and unkind thoughts toward a husband whom I truly wish to respect.

So, how can I demonstrate love for my husband even when he’s not demonstrating love for me?  How do I overcome the seeming injustice so that I can be the wife after God that my heart desires to be?  How can I be so filled with the Spirit, with the Father’s love for my husband, that I have a constant and abundant supply to give?

Honestly, I have no clear answers. I have only ideas, inklings of what it takes.  Prayer would be a good start.  Telling God where I’m really at, even if it’s ugly.  Letting Him know how unfair it feels, how hurt I am, how afraid.  Asking Him to bring light to the Enemy’s lies, lies about how it will never change, about how it never has changed, about how you’re stuck.  They are Satan’s favorite lies. You’re trapped in this loveless marriage forever! He’s unfair!  He doesn’t appreciate you!  You shouldn’t have to put up with this! (I think Satan might be the biggest drama queen of all.)

Fear versus Trust

Praying for supernatural intervention helps.  God can change my husband’s heart, as well as my own, quicker than an hours-long “discussion.”  He can give me a supernatural love for my man, something that is not naturally “in me.”  He can help me see the truth in the situation and  who my husband is in the Father’s eyes, a dearly beloved son.

The Father can melt my stubbornness, soothe my anger, hold my hurt, and forgive my sin, too.

He can remind me of how big my husband’s shoes are, how broad his shoulders.  He can help me see clearly the load that often sits there and understand why my man sometimes stumbles beneath it.

When I see that truth, who my husband really, truly is at heart, I’m overwhelmed by compassion and ashamed by my traitorous thoughts.  I may not feel any stronger.  I still desperately need rescuing.  I may even carry wounds from the wrestling.  But at last I see that we two are the same: lonely, weary hearts in search of love and acceptance and a Rescuer.

You’re tired?  Me, too.  You want to escape from life right now?  Me, too.  You feel inadequate?  Me, too. You hurt?  Me, too.

Instead of being angry with my hubby for failing to rescue me, we can turn hand in hand to the Father, the One who rescues us both.

This is how we love, sisters, by gazing into the face of Love Himself.

Greater Love has no man than this…

And so we stand, my husband and I, in the face of Perfect Love.

Side by side.

Fear washed away.

Compassion in our eyes.

Forgiveness on our faces.

Wearing our Grace-colored glasses.

Because we serve the God of all Hope!

We’re merely works in progress here on Earth.

But we are not alone.

And this is not our home.

Jen 🙂

When do you feel strain in your marriage the most?  How do you take it to the Lord?

You may find me linking up at any of these lovely places. 🙂

You can find more great posts on marriage here:

For the Wife Who Doesn’t Feel Like Celebrating Love

6 Ways to Stir Up Love in a Difficult Marriage

Life in Grace

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Why Families Should Play Games

 

We love games!  Perhaps this love of game-playing stems from my MK (missionary kid) roots – no tv, no electricity, but we did have board games!  Perhaps the love for games also comes from many years of working with youth groups.  Perhaps the teacher in me just loves being able to engage young brains in learning activities that are fun and entertaining for the whole family.

I’m sure all of those reasons come into play in one way or another.  Over the years family game night has been something we all look forward to, and I think more families could benefit from it as well!  Even those who don’t have their own families can enjoy similar benefits by playing games with those they have relationships with (friends, neighbors, other relatives, church family).

family game night, why families should play games, what games to play, kids, parents, games, family fun, family night

  1.  Quality family time.  We play games together and laugh together.  Sometimes, we even get mad at each other.  🙂 Often family game time results in more than just playing a game to win.  While we play, we relate to one another and focus in on one another.  Playing games together leads to a lot of good conversation and sometimes even leads to family jokes that last well beyond game time.  Years later, whenever I hear certain phrases, like “rooooo-aaaaaaddd,” I’m instantly taken back to some awesome family memories.  Some games have even become part of our family identity (Settlers of Catan, for example, is simply known as “The Game” in our household). Why not build game-play into your family identity?
  2. Media-free entertainment.  Yes, I’m one of “those” moms.  Even before our children were born, I knew I didn’t want them to spend a lot of time in front of the tv.  My husband and I have compromised by allowing tv, but with time limits.  So, we try to find other ways to encourage our children to entertain themselves when they are bored.  On rainy days, wintery days, or long summer days of boredom, why not break out a board game or card game?
  3. Frugal entertainment. Other than the initial cost of a game, and perhaps some snack food, you can entertain a whole house full of people for very little.  In fact, we’ve entertained guests with games that you don’t even have to pay for, such as Mafia (a story-telling, role-playing, whodunnit? type of game). Family Fun nights are often game nights when the budget doesn’t allow for taking out a family of six.  Also, My husband and I even have mini-dates at home on occasion when the kiddos are sleeping by playing Battleship or other two-player games.
  4. Learning new skills.  Playing games is not only entertaining, but it can also teach your children new skills, such as counting, matching, planning, developing strategy, problem-solving, and more.  The bonus?  It’s so much fun, your children won’t even realize they are learning. 🙂
  5. Learning sportsmanship.  Children have to learn how to be good sports, whether they are winning or losing.  We have one child in particular who is extremely competitive and really struggles with emotions in general.  What a perfect opportunity to model good sportsmanship for him and his siblings during family game night.  Additionally, playing together as a family gives children multiple opportunities to make mistakes and grow in the safety and comfort of their own home.
  6. Learning about others. Whether with family or friends, playing games with others is a great way to get to know them better!  When people are relaxed, they are more open and honest about who they really are as people.  One thing our guests are sure to learn about us when playing games is that some of us are more than just a little competitive and that we all like to laugh!  I especially enjoy playing games with my husband. It brings out the silly side in each of us and gives us an opportunity to tease each other, much like the flirting of our early dating relationship.  Game playing fosters a feeling of friendship between us that is important for two busy parents who sometimes end up feeling more like business partners than soul mates. 🙂

I’m certain there are other reasons for playing games together, as well, but these are our favorites.  I’m happy to know that my children enjoy playing board games just as much as they enjoy playing video games.  Although, I have to also admit that on occasion, family game night does revolve around the wii (Mario Kart, anyone?). 🙂  The main idea is just to take time to play together.  It’s an investment in your relationships that will multiply endlessly.  As our children grow older, we enjoy family game time more and more!

Be sure to check out Our Big List of Favorite Games for ideas on great games for the whole family.  The list is even organized by age and group size!

The family that plays together stays together…..or something like that, right?  I’m putting family game night on the schedule for this week or next.

Will you join me?

Jen 🙂

How does your family enjoy games? What are your favorites?

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Present (A Five Minute Friday post)

This week we’re on family vacation!! 🙂  So, I’m sharing  an older Five Minute Friday post that never saw the light of day.  As such, it is not a true 5 minute friday because I never finished it (for more information on FMF, see the end of the post).  So, it has been editted. 🙂

campfire1

Present is…

a campfire glowing on a warm summer evening,

lightning bugs captive in a glass jar,

faces sticky with marshmallow.

campfire4

campfire3

Present is choosing to look when my littlest son says, “Look, Mom! I caught budderfwy,”

and laughing when I see that it’s really another lightning bug.

But he’s so proud and his smile is so wide that I haven’t the heart to tell him differently.

 Instead I exclaim over its beauty and his bravery.

And I choose to be present by putting the camera away.

campfire2

Present is sometimes peace, sometimes chaos, but always worthwhile.

Present is a gift, not the kind that you open, but one that you give with your time, your attention,

your eye-contact, your helping hands and your listening heart.

It’s laughing at seven-year-old jokes that don’t make sense  and listening to four-year-old speak you can’t understand.

 It’s helping the teenager find a missing item and looking at your husband when he comes in the door, even if you’re busy.

campfire5

Present is patient.  Present is loving. Present is giving.

Let’s choose to be present.

Jen 🙂

What reminds you to be present?

On Five Minute Fridays, we all write furiously for 5 minutes on a word-prompt given to us by Lisa-Jo Baker.  Come join us!

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Through My Grace-colored Glasses

perfectionism, grace, through my grace-colored glasses, work in progress

Last night I had a little run-in with Perfectionism again.  He just won’t leave me alone.

He follows me wherever I go, pointing out flaws in my house-keeping, my parenting, my marriage relationship, even my walk with the Lord.  Some days I can ignore him and others I can’t escape. And I know it’s Perfectionism and not the Holy Spirit because of his voice.  He whispers lies to me: “you’ll never change” or “you’re never going to be good enough” or “why even bother anymore.”

I’ve been enslaved by his words before, but last night was different.

You see, my husband and I were up much too late because we were arguing about a financial issue.  I felt angry and disappointed and fearful.  The familiar panic of how can I possibly do right in this situation and still get my point across welled up within me, and I knew a battle was swiftly approaching.

I know some of you are chuckling right now, and rightfully so!  It’s the quandary every woman who ever lived on the face of Earth deals with.  To obey the Lord and demonstrate respect for my husband or to take control and make my voice heard?  God’s way or my way?

I have to confess to you, my sisters in Christ, that this right here is why I’ve blogged very little about marriage thus far. I know the way I relate to my husband is so, so far from where it should be, from where I long for it to be.

When it comes to submitting to and respecting my husband, I so often feel like Paul in Romans 7. I know what I want to do, what I should do, yet I feel powerless to actually do it.  I’ve believed so many lies for so long.  But the Lord is faithful, and I know He promises to carry that work in me, in my marriage, until completion in the day of Christ (Phil. 1:6).  I’m so thankful for this Hope, this Promise, and for a husband who is patient. 🙂  So, I’m sharing with you anyways, in spite of my weakness, my inadequacy…but, I digress.

confidentingrace verse

Later, after our apologies were spoken and we both felt at peace, we finally turned out the lights in hopes for at least a few hours of sleep.  And that’s when it happened.  In the stillness of the dark, my husband’s voice broke through Perfectionism’s insidious whispers and stated, “Thank you for being so calm and patient with me tonight.”

Stunned, my disbelieving heart rejected his kind words and earlier tears returned. “But I wasn’t patient!” I cried. “I was so angry and so disappointed and I struggled, I really struggled, not to say mean things.”

My husband’s reply was quiet, yet firm, “Babe, even though you were angry, you were patient with me. You didn’t bite my head off. You maintained control. You gave me space and that helped me.”

At that moment, the truth of his words broke through Perfectionism’s grasp.  No, I didn’t handle the situation as well as I would have liked; I wasn’t perfect.  Yes, there was definitely room for improvement.  But his words rang true.

What normally would have developed into a full-fledged, hours-long (if not days!) fight was briefly resolved.  By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, I saw that we were definitely making progress.

That’s when I saw Perfectionism for what he was – one part self, one part Satan.  Self was prideful, Satan was deceitful, and the combination of the two brought me chains of defeat I no longer wish to carry.

In Perfectionism’s chains, I so often measure in black and white, success or failure, either/or.  Praise the Lord that my Redeemer is teaching me to put on my Grace-colored glasses and see the shades of gray, to celebrate even the smallest steps of progress, to proclaim every small victory because of His work in me.

I hope I never forget that moment.  My husband spoke freeing words to me last night, and the Holy Spirit confirmed them within me.

Jen, you are the good that you so desperately want to be, not because your efforts are so grand and your reach so high, but because you are walking a path of progress, trusting in the Promise of redemption.  I never asked you to be perfect, just willing. At the same time, daughter, you are perfect, not in yourself, but in my Son because He already carried these burdens with Him and nailed them to the cross.  They were buried with Him.  But you daughter, you rose with Him in perfection, a new creation, beautiful to behold, born of His glory.  And now, Jen, you live in Romans 8 as more than a conqueror, confident in the promise that you will never be separated from His love!

new creature

I don’t think I’ll ever ceased to be overwhelmed by these truths, these promises.  In the midst of  my sorrow and my shame, my Savior showed up. He handed me a pair of Grace-colored glasses.

Perfectionism, you’re no longer welcome here.

Jen 🙂

When you feel perfectionism’s hold on you, what promises do you cling to?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

You may find me linking up with any of these lovely blogs.

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It Was Ugly (A Five Minute Friday)

Five Minute Friday: Beautiful

It was ugly. There was a bee sting and disobedient children followed by a sudden realization that all was not well. Disappointment, frustration, harsh words, and fear all balled up into one, a wound ripped open in the midst of a beautiful day. It was the kind of deep wound that ruins any thought of fun or enjoyment. And the children were watching, and I felt stuck.

I didn’t want to go to the beach anymore. I didn’t want to spend another second within a five foot radius of him. I wanted to admit defeat, to go home and sob in my bed, alone. I wanted to rage against him and flail my fists and ask, “How could you??”

But the children were there, conspicuously quiet in their seats, and everyone was waiting for me. We could either go to the beach and hope for redemption or we could suffer in silence for hours on the drive home. I didn’t want to go, but I couldn’t leave either. A rock and a hard place. And the children were waiting in the backseats.
It was Ugly, how an argument threatened to ruin a beautiful day, how to recover when you feel stuck,  hope for redemption of a bad day

Silent tears fell, and an inward scream of, “It’s not fair!”  But it wasn’t fair for them, the innocents in the backseat, either.  And I knew he was sorry.  And I knew I should be sorry, too.

A war wages within, and I feel helpless to call a truce. Then a prayer, a pleading for mercy and forgiveness, a desperate cry for joy and peace rather than chaos.  Slowly, the tears dry up as peace floods my being.  He’s with us, our Comforter and Redeemer.  I’m ready now.

The walk to the beach is long, sandy dunes, and four year olds floundering in flip flops, and heavy bags filled with towels and clothing.  And I’m tempted to go back to the struggle, but I don’t.  Instead I focus on the prize, the joy that awaits on the other end, the fun I know we’ll have if we can just get there without falling to pieces.

The sun and the sand, the waves and the seagull calls, the laughter of children happy to be at peace, happy to run and dig and splash – they were all worth it, that sacrifice of giving in when I had the “right” to fight, that obedience to trust that He could bring joy in the midst of pain. He is powerful when we are helpless.

sandcastle

I pray that we won’t remember the ugly, that 15 minutes that threatened to ruin it all. I pray we’ll remember  instead the wild beauty of the dunes, the slippery feel of the clay on the lake bottom, the giant sandcastle that was bigger than any we’d ever built before, the laughter of buckets of water raining over unsuspecting heads, the rocks we collected, the look between just the two of us as we recognize our many blessings.

It was ugly.

And then it was beautiful.

Jen 🙂

Today I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday – where we write for five minutes on a word-prompt she gives us.  Stop by and check it out!

Also linking up at:

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When Temptation Lingers Near

Today I want to share with something I wrote many months ago.  It was written during a time of discouragement and trials galore.  My husband and I were both under a lot of external stress, both personal and from ministry, and our marriage temporarily suffered.  I felt like one of the Israelites in the desert, bemoaning my situation and feeling helpless to enact change.

When I first wrote it, I was not intending to ever share it anywhere.  The words just sort of poured out in the middle of my frustration and attempt to make sense of the chaos around me.  I often find that writing helps me to communicate with God and understand the wisdom He’s trying to impart.  So, I share it with you today, hoping that it may encourage you if you’re facing a situation that seems impossible or a day, or even a moment, that seems unbearable.  I hope you find comfort in the fact that you are not alone and that He always provides a way out!

temptation, marriage, victory

It’s almost supper time, but the stove top sits empty and no pleasing aromas fragrance the air.  I’ve not even yet decided what to cook, let alone made any sort of preparations.  Instead, I’m sitting in my bedroom trying desperately to pray while my preschoolers whine for attention right outside of the bedroom door.  My husband, whom I’ve just argued with, sits just outside the door as well at the dining room table.  He’s grumbling over the budget and seems unaware of the noise around him.  There is no peace, no quiet.

But I NEED to pray because I am one moment away from falling into temptation.  One moment from allowing my impatience, anger, resentment, and frustration to spill over onto my family.  One moment away from blowing any chance at doing right.  At this moment I am certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Satan has set his sights on me; I’m being tested.

It isn’t the first of such evenings in my home.  In fact, our marriage relationship has been under strain for a few months now, and I’ve grown oh-so-weary of “fighting the good fight.”  However, this past week, God has shown me the truth of my situation; I haven’t been doing my part, either.  I have been selfish.  I have been lazy.  I have been avoiding the time with my Lord that I need.  Thus, I recently resolved to make some positive changes, knowing full well that temptation would linger near.

So as I sit here in my room praying while the chaos rages just outside of the door, I laugh.  Yes, I laugh!  It’s absurd, even comical, that every other person in my home (and there are five) would suddenly become distractions at the very moment I attempt to find peace.  I want to complain to the Lord that I’m trying so hard to do what is right, to seek Him in my moment of weakness, but He’s not making it very easy!

no temptation

In that moment of laughter, I realize the truth that as long as I’m trying to do right, to obey God, Satan is not going to leave me alone.  In fact, He’s even going to use good things like bible study and prayer against me by causing frustration and chaos at just the right moment.  Thankfully, now that God has shown me the truth of the matter, Satan cannot win.  I see his game plan for what it is, and prayer is a powerful tool!  Sorry, Satan, I’m getting up from my throne of self-pity and frustration, and I’m cooking supper tonight!

Lord, I thank you for always providing a way out for us, even when it seems impossible or unbearable!  I ask that you would encourage my sisters in Christ today to look for the way out when they face temptation. Help them to see the truth in whatever situations they face.  Remind them that You are with them always, every step of the way, even when it doesn’t feel like it.  Give them the strength they need to resist temptation and to flee the Devil and remind them of your unfailing love and grace for them because of your Son, Jesus Christ.  I ask all of these things in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Jen 🙂

You may find me linking up at any of these lovely blogs.

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