Love Me Challenge #26

I have a bottle of J’Adore, given to me by my sweet love, and because it is costly, I don’t wear it very often. Yet, every time I do, I feel beautiful. 

I have to say, it makes me feel beautiful not because of the particular smell and not because it costs so much. It makes me feel beautiful, because my husband and I had previously had a conversation about fragrances and how I’d like to know the kind he liked on me. So, that holiday season, he went off to the mall (keep in mind, he does not like to shop!!), wandered around the fragrance counters of a particular store, smelling all the different colognes and perfumes, and he finally came across this one. 

He said it made him think of me. He had it wrapped and gave it to me at Christmas. Call me a sap, but it made me cry.❤ This is one of the many reasons I love him…he makes me feel beautiful every day!

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The Little Things

I know last week was Valentine’s Day, and we celebrated “love” and all that ‘mushy stuff’ then, but I was thinking about my marriage today, about our 20th anniversary coming up in a few months, and I’d like to share a little secret with you…

It’s not always the big stuff that will make you fall in love with your spouse every day. It’s not the dozen roses that he might bring or the expensive ring he might buy. It’s not the extravagant dinner or the fancy theater on which he splurges. It’s not even the great big words used to describe his love or the great big card on which he wrote them. 

Yeah, all those things are beautiful, fun and exciting. They make celebrations special, memorable and great posts for social media. But the things that make me fall in love each and every day are the little things…

The placing of reservations in the nice hotel the night before he speaks at the State Capitol; so, we don’t have to fight the traffic at 6am…because I’m just not a morning person.

The patience he has to wait beside me in the coffee line before we leave the hotel…when he doesn’t even drink coffee.

The phone call he makes to see where I am, because I dropped off our son a half hour ago and decided to drop by the grocery store before coming back home.

The walk down the hall and around the corner to ‘drop by’ my office just to see what I think about a new idea.

The excitement he brings our boys by taking them on an adventure while I have a meeting or other obligation to attend.

The way he looks at me across the room, without saying a word, to tell me he believes in me and knows I can do this thing.

These are just a few of the many little things that make our love so big, and it turned my thoughts toward God and His love for us. He is so much greater, and His love runs so much deeper than anything we could ever imagine. He shows us His love every day in so many big ways; yet, it’s the small ways that often bring me to greater emotion…

The song that comes on the radio to lift my spirits just at the moment I’m feeling a little blue.

The flower that blooms despite the wind and the rain.

The people who just “happen” to be there when my husband and I are meandering through the halls of the wrong building trying to find the office we are looking for.

The snow that falls on the day it wasn’t supposed to, but it falls anyway just to show the weatherman it can.

The peace He brings my heart right as I step up to the podium wondering why in the world I am going to speak on what I chose.

The voice mail left on my phone by a friend who calls just to say how much her pastors mean to her and the difference they make.

It’s the little things, sometimes, that bring the biggest impact…the little words, the smile, the hug, the phone calls. Why don’t we try today to share our love toward others in those little things? Why don’t we make an effort today to share our love in the little things toward our Heavenly Father?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22: 37-40

 

 

 

A Note of Thanks

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“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up…. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12
Yesterday was our Staff Appreciation, and I, personally, just have to give a note of thanks. I think we have the best pastoral staff on the planet! Now, I know. You don’t work with them; so, some of you might like to argue that your personal team is better, or some could argue that they “can’t be the best, because no team can be a ‘dream team’,” and that’s ok; you are entitled to your own opinion. However, from where I stand, we couldn’t ask for better.
First and foremost, they love God with all their hearts. Each one of them, in their own way, portray their love for God in the way they speak, the way they teach or preach, in the way they carry themselves on and off “the stage,” and even in the way they treat each other. They are gracious, honorable, full of integrity, servant-minded, and deep of character. They are never competitive, slanderous or spiteful toward one another. They are always seeking to be better Christians, better husbands or wives and better influences to those around them.  I have worked alongside each of them for the last 3 1/2 years here, as well as, for some of them, much longer, and I am a witness to their depth of Christ-like characters and servant-minded lifestyles. They may not always be what everyone expects them to be, nor do they always react in the most “pristine, perfect, superhuman” fashion that some may believe they should, because they are, after all, still very human.  However, I will say that each of them is the most humble individual I have ever met, and they seek with all their hearts to be closer to God while they serve in the ministry to which He has called them.
There are so many qualities they possess, it would take me all day to list each of them, but I have to say, one of the most valuable characteristics they give to our team (aside from loving God, of course!) is they truly love my husband and our family. This is such an important asset to the unity of this team, and I, as a pastor’s wife, am so appreciative. Honestly, it brings tears to my eyes when I think about the graciousness with which they treat my husband, our boys and me. You just don’t find this with every staff dynamic, and we have not always found this to be 100% true everywhere we have been.
Let me share a little of what I mean…
Sometimes, I watch their eyes as my husband challenges them with a new idea, or maybe even a needed rebuke, during a staff meeting. I hear their words of comradery and encouragement to our oldest as he walks into one of their offices and their tone of warmth and acceptance to our youngest, even when they might have better things to be getting accomplished. I see when they go the extra mile to make an adjustment that their pastor has suggested, even when they might not yet completely understand or be incredibly enthused about.  I have even caught a glimpse of their sincerity when they have encountered someone with ill intentions toward me, my husband or our family, as they speak words of admonishment and confrontation to that individual.  These are just a few of the acts of kindness which each of them shows to my family day in and day out, and these are the things which make me love them like family.
Rest assured, these members of our pastoral staff whom we celebrated yesterday are not simply employees of our church nor are they just plain co-workers who ‘pitch in to get a job done.’  They are each a part of, what I choose to call, a great “dream team” helping my husband to be a better pastor, and our church to be a better Body of Christ for the betterment of God’s Kingdom. They and their spouses are a true blessing to us, and I am thankful to have them and to consider them friends, as well as, staff members. These words don’t seem quite adequate today, but I’d like to say, “THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. I love you guys!” ❤
*Note: I do not own, nor do I possess, this picture. Found it simply through Google and sharefaith.com.*

Blessed Heart and Home

I read this article the other day, and it really hit home…

18 Things That Are Hard to Explain to Third World Country Friends

Please, know I’m not bragging at all, but I have to say, I consider myself an incredibly blessed person. God has blessed our family so much that, many times, I am simply overwhelmed to tears because of the favor and blessings we have. Please understand, I’m not going to be one of those “prosperity preachers” who claim you will always have favor, you will always be blessed if you just do (blank) and (blank). No, you don’t give to get.

That’s not how God works, but He does honor obedience. He does give wisdom, and when you walk in it, you find blessings. He does honor prayers when you diligently seek Him, and, sometimes, He simply blesses; so you can, in turn, bless another. I can’t tell you all the reasons our family is blessed; I’m sure I could write another post on that later, and I won’t tell you that I’ve never gone through sufferings and pain. That, too, can be saved for another post…and another, and another… but all I am saying is I count myself a very blessed woman.

With that being noted, I really try to keep a grateful heart at all times, and I guess I do pretty good most of the times, but there are moments in life when I forget to be thankful. I forget to remember there are greater struggles in this life than the ones I am facing. There are people in this world who do not know from where their next meal will come, or even, if it will come. There are those who don’t even have a roof over their head, much, much less, an abundance of stuff that they’re needing to throw out!

I read this article the other day, and what the author described reminded me, again, of how very blessed I am…

Each of our family members sleep in their own beds every night.

When I’m hungry, I simply walk over to our refrigerator and decide what I’d like to eat.

When I’m cold, I put on a jacket, cover up with a blanket, or turn the heat up.

When I’m hot, I pour a glass of ice water, go outside and feel the cool breeze, or in the summertime, go stick my feet in a creek or waterfall.

Both of our boys have all the clothes they need, food they can eat, and even too much of material things they want.

When I want to go to the store, I simply jump in my car and drive over to the nearest store.

If we want to travel, we drive the car, fly in a plane, rent a boat, or ride in a train.

I take all the pictures my heart desires on my little smartphone and download them onto a “cloud” program to be retrieved at a later time.

When I want to share with the world what’s going on in mine, I simply sit here at my desk and begin to type, clicking the little blue button when I am finished.

When compared to our daily lives in America, these things I’ve listed seem like little, meaningless things, things that we each take for granted. Yet when compared to the daily lives of those from a third world country who don’t even live at the level of poverty, these simple things seem monumental. We all have something for which to be grateful. We all have someone for whom we can be thankful.

Can we take a few moments today to remember what and who those might be?

Appreciate the things you have. They are just things, and we should never be obsessive nor materialistic; yet, we can acknowledge the ease those things bring to our lives. We can enjoy them and not take them for granted.

Cherish those whom you have in your life. You never know which moment may be the last. Never let the sun go down on your wrath, and never let a moment to be cherished be one forgotten. Live. Love. Laugh, and remember what and who is most important. ❤

Joy and Gratitude

2015/01/img_9402.png Is the height of my [abundant] joy dependent upon the depths of my [grateful] thanks?
– Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts*

As I read this book, and ponder this thought, I am challenged to live beyond my current state of stagnant being. I have more to give. I have more to experience. I have more to live.

Too often, we miss the abundance of joy, because we fail to recognize our lack of gratitude that is blinding us to His truths. When we humbly appreciate His grace, when we kindly receive His mercy, these are the moments we truly live. We are freed from the weight of expectation. The cage of our own ideals is broken and crushed. We are able to take flight and fully live.

Grace. Thanksgiving. Joy. The true meaning of life. The true life to living.
Joy in the moment. Life in the minute of giving thanks… These are all wrapped up in heartfelt conversations with Him.

This is why I have begun my own personal list of one thousand gifts. I need this like I need air to breathe. This will be my eucharisteo, my praise, my joy. This will be my message of gratitude to my Creator and my God.

I began 2 days ago, and I am just shy of reaching 100. Will you join me this year? This list to 1,000 may take a little while to pen down, especially if we do it right. Will you join me in reading her book; so, you can further understand this incredible concept and, with me, become challenged to live fully right there in the place you have found yourself to be?? Will you join me in penning your One Thousand Gifts?

“The only real fall of man is his noneucharistic life in a noneucharistic world” -Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy*

*Both quotes from One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, by Ann Voskamp. Find her book and more info. here.

**I do not personally know this author, not have I been asked to promote her book in any way. I have simply been inspired by her words, and my hope is others will read this and be inspired as well. 🙂

Train Them Up

The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6. As we strive daily to teach our children strong values and Godly principles, I often wonder how we’re doing. Dealing with the ever shifting cultural standards, the pressures from the outside that scream, “You’re too old fashion!” “You’re intolerant!” “You’re behind the times,” I am tempted, almost daily, to question my motives, intentions and purpose for setting these “rules,” these boundaries, these standards by which we live. Having a young teen in our home, one who is striving to find himself, to determine his own faith, ‘not that of mom and dad,’ and to become the man he so longs to be, it causes me, at times, to pause, to ponder, to almost take a poll to see if I’m doing right by him, if I’m teaching him these things for his own good or for mine.
Good parenting doesn’t come easy. Good parenting isn’t a popularity contest. It isn’t a survey we take to see who approves and who doesn’t. Good parenting takes faithfulness to the One who created it. It takes a lot of love, mercy and grace. Good parenting takes tenacity to carry on, to uphold your standards and to stick to your convictions, even when you’re all alone and “nobody else is doing it!”
The best kind of parent has the faith to remain a boundary while all others run away in fear of ridicule. The best kind of parent stands with courage in the face of rejection and loneliness. The best kind of parent has also learned when to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong,” even when it hurts their pride to do so. The best kind of parent loves beyond the failings, keeps believing beyond the mishaps and keeps cheering beyond the cold winds of adversity. The best kind of parent knows when to push forward and when to pause and let them breathe. Lastly, the best kind of parent keeps loving when the door to their child’s heart has been slammed shut, and it appears he/she will never come back home.
Good parenting skills don’t come easy. It’s not a game in which you roll the dice and see if you hit the jackpot. No, good parenting takes faith. It takes determination. It takes a strong heart to love deep and remain true. It takes a strong mind to think the unthinkable, to plan for the unpredictable and to dream the unimaginable. It takes humility, love and grace for success to come, and, sometimes, that success may not be realized for almost a lifetime.
In this one thing you can rest assured, His Word does not fail. His promises are true. You train that child to follow Him, they will know the way home. Yes, it will have to be their choosing; He will never force their hand. He will never demand their love, but He will be ever present, ever drawing them with His love that is unconditional, His love that never fails.
So, keep the faith, Mom. Hold up that standard, Dad. Remain true to the One who called you to this purpose. You can do this! You can survive! Those little hearts are counting on you. They need your love. They need your guidance. They need your boundaries that protect them from the evil outside. They need your standards that protect them from themselves. Keep the faith! You only have a few years to fight this battle for the souls of the next generation. Don’t give up. Don’t give in, and never let them see you cower in fear. You were made for this. This is your destiny. Win!

…These are the moments when my heart is reassured that we are on the right path…

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His dream is to be a Christian Rapper…so, we work hard to help him realize his dreams even while he is still young…

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At bedtime, we find him like this more often than not… (He’s fallen asleep reading his Action Bible.)

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At a summer youth camp, I looked up and saw him immersed in worship…

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On top of the mountain, he said, “Mom, take this picture. I want to post it to [social media] and talk about pondering things of life and faith…”

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I told them I’d like to get a picture of them with the mountains behind…
(Note: I didn’t ask them to “huddle up,” but they did.)

…Parents, be encouraged today. Sometimes, it’s the little things that we fail to notice, and sometimes, those are the very things that matter the most! 🙂

Life In the Little Things

the little things I asked Joey the other day, “What are some reasons you like me?” Without hesitation, he said, “I like how you see things. I like the way you see the little things.” That simple statement stayed with me for days. It birthed something inside of me that had been growing for a while: another layer of confidence in who God has called me to be. It birthed inside me the confidence to begin this blog…the one I’ve been thinking about for years now but never put into action…
You see, I do have quite a “knack” for the little things…the details, the small things, the minute things that, to some, may seem unimportant or even insignificant. Often in my life, I’ve tried to hide this trait from others, or at least, not relish in it, for fear of being the “odd man out.” Sometimes, I’ve even tried to deny or ignore it within myself, because it seemed like a petty flaw. To shed a little light, I grew up with a single mom for many years of my young life, and she has a real “knack” for the more unstructured, artsy way of life; then, I married a man who is incredible at seeing the “big picture,” and who really doesn’t like to get bogged down with the minute details of things. In addition, we have two growing boys who are just that: “boys;” details to them just sound like a lot of work and rules, and “it definitely takes up too much time, Mom!” LOL.
Oh, but how I relish in details! For example, one of my favorite things to do is to edit/review papers for grammatical errors. I love to journal in full detail all of the happenings of the day…and sometimes, of a particular hour! I thrive when I can share every fact I know about personality traits or leadership styles. I get excited when I can evaluate, analyze and project about a particular subject I’ve been reading. I also love to sit by a campfire and watch the moving and crackling of the tiniest flame. I enjoy watching the flight of the small butterflies around the edge of a beautiful waterfall, even as one decides to land on my son’s shoulder (see pic). I smile as I watch a young mom on a crowded putt-putt course stop to teach the youngest of four rowdy children just how to correctly hold that club. I just love details! However, details take time, and in a society that seems destined for the fast lane, in a culture where things must be achieved this instant, and in a generation for whom waiting for a microwave to finish seems like utter torture, time isn’t something we always have, nor are quite willing, to give.
So, my love for details can, often, get in the way.
My love for the little things can often be a speed bump in this fast paced life in which we live, and sometimes, I do have to work to move beyond my hang-ups…like while telling a story, and I can’t remember the date and time of the given event! (If you’ve ever heard me tell a story, you know exactly what I mean!) I do have to strive to overlook the not-so-rinsed-off dishes that my sons just loaded into the dishwasher (because after all, they did load it!) I do need to not get so uptight when my husband decides it’s time to make a change which I wasn’t quite expecting.
However, I will choose to thrive in the small things which bring life back into focus. I will choose to recognize the small things that bring life back into life. There is life in those tiny hands and feet which remind me of days gone by, those days I won’t ever get back again. There is life in that little smirk my 12 year old gives me as he sees me “trying to dance” while doing the laundry. There is life in the unpredictable moments of my husband’s love for adventure and spontaneity. There is life in that tiny star which shines through the clouded sky as I gaze at it tonight. There is life in that small moment we set aside to make a call or visit to an elderly with failing health. There is life in that small, un-praised minute you take to pick up some trash so someone else just sees the park’s beauty. There’s life in that blooming flower which reminds you to stop a moment and breathe it all in. There’s life in that tiny trickling brook which brings refreshment to a weary soul. There’s even life in that rainbow which you send as a mobile pic to someone just because they were sick and couldn’t get outside to see it.
There’s LIFE in the little things of life. Don’t miss them!