The harvest festivals are over, and the Thanksgiving turkey hasn’t been made yet; it’s obviously time to prepare for that year-end holiday, Christmas.
I’m firmly in the “not preparing for Christmas until after Thanksgiving” camp, (and by after I mean, at least a week after) but I know that not everyone procrastinates as I do.
Many people even prepare for Christmas right after Halloween.
So for those of you who are already knee-deep in Christmas music and decor, this series of posts is for you.
To begin the series I’m including gift ideas for that Christian woman on you shopping list (or maybe for you, if you’re looking to treat yourself).
This post does contain affiliate links, so if you do decide to purchase something through one of the Amazon affiliate links in this post I’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
12 Christian Gifts for Women
Mansy Women’s Vertical Faith Tee makes a comfortable and stylish gift for any woman who is boldly living their faith, and it comes in several styles and colors.
Titanium Therapy Bracelet
Crosstraxx titanium therapy bracelet with Philippians 4:13.
Delicate Cross Bracelet with Isaiah 41:10
This cross bracelet is both beautiful and delicate. A gorgeous gift for the stocking or under the tree.
BPA Free Glass Water Bottle
I’ve heard nothing but good things about these glass water bottles, and the inspirational quote will get you through the tough moments (like finishing all the water you’re supposed to drink each day.)
How gorgeous is this table cross? Do I really need to talk it up anymore? I actually want to add this to my personal list. It will look great on my seasonal shelf–and would likely stay there throughout all the seasons.
Cozy Faith Blanket
This “blankiegram” faith blanket would be super comfy to cozy up with during chilly nights. It comes in several colors as well as different themes.
Coffee for Jesus
Even though I don’t drink coffee, this Bold3 coffee delivers the Word of God to three children with each bag purchased. If that doesn’t sound like a perfect Christmas gift, I don’t know what does. I hear it tastes pretty good too. If you like that sort of thing. 🙂
Vintage Coffee Cups With Verses
To go along with that Bold3 coffee, this set of four biblical mugs is a perfect compliment. Maybe a nice gift basket arrangement.
Sterling Silver Infinity Necklace
I’d be willing to wear jewelry again with this necklace. How beautiful.
What gift list would be complete without a gratitude journal? This one is gorgeous and would make a great gift by itself or as a stocking stuffer.
Too Blessed to Be Stressed– by Debora M. Coty
Too Blessed to Be Stressed 3- minute devotions for women. A nice gift that will keep blessing your loved one long after the holiday has passed, and the leftovers are gone.
Too Blessed to Be Stressed for Moms– By Debora M. Coty
This one, Too Blessed to Be Stressed for Moms is a perfect gift for the harried and overwhelmed mom. Or, if you’re reading this honey, for me. The title alone is a good reminder for our daily lives, right sisters?
Hopefully this guide will be a helpful starting point for you holiday shopping.
Something to Consider:
While you’re searching for the perfect gift for your loved ones, have you considered helping another family in need? Local churches often adopt families for Christmas, providing gifts for the children. Our church does an event called Holiday Hope, and it is such a blessing to be able to help another family this year since we struggled so hard last year.
Something to Pray:
May this holiday allow us to share your love and Spirit with all those we come into contact with.
In Your Glorious Name,
Until next time,
Before you go, might I recommend this article for your reading pleasure?
Also, make sure you’re following the real life of this crazy mom on Instagram.
Marriage: 5 Frugal and Simple Ways to Date Your Spouse
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using the links in this post, I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you.
Why It’s Important to Date Your Spouse
According to Christine Hammond, a counselor who has personally worked with over a thousand couples, it’s important to date your spouse because:
In the beginning, the reason for dating is to get to know someone better to see if this is a good fit. After marriage, the reason for dating to know your spouse better to ensure a good fit. The best explanation I’ve heard is that dating prior to marriage is the equivalent of an elementary education of a person. The education should not stop there. Rather, it should be just beginning with a desire to have a Ph.D. level of understanding of your spouse.
With this in mind, it is important to make time to be a couple again; to take off the “mom” hat and take time to embrace the role of woman and wife.
Finding Time to Date Your Spouse
Between over-time hours and commuting (my husband), and children’s activities, keeping up with the house, and homeschooling (me), dating my spouse rarely happens in our family.
I’m aware of the damage this can cause, and I’m working to remedy my tendency to focus on tasks instead of on building a lasting relationship with my husband.
Knowing I need to make time for this important aspect of married life, I’ve been considering how to “find” the time.
What it comes down to isn’t that I need to “find” the time.
I need to use the time I already have. I must decide that stoking the fire in our relationship is more important than folding another load of laundry, or even taking a shower.
Although, I think being clean might be a bit more of an aphrodisiac than limp hair and baggy shirts covered in baby snot and dog fur.
I could be wrong, but I doubt it.
Step Away From Social Media
If you’re like me, I can lose track of time scrolling through social media.
I’ve cut my social media consumption way back, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not using up perfectly good “date” time by wiling away uncounted minutes looking at Instagram posts.
Skip Your Workout
I’m not saying fitness is a waste of time (it’s not), but if you’re having a hard time “finding time” to connect with your other half, skipping it one day a week won’t destroy your hard work or set you back.
After all, being healthy is more than just having muscles and visible abs.
Put a Movie on For the Kids
I’ll preface this with saying: I’m not a proponent of children watching television.
Do mine watch TV?
Does it make me want to toss the giant box with moving pictures out a window?
However, there are times when treating the children to a new movie rental, or an old favorite can give you just enough time to have a quick date with your spouse.
You won’t even have to find a sitter.
Put It On The Calendar
If something is on the calendar it is harder to push to the side or ignore. This also has the added benefit of creating anticipation. It allows you to think about the upcoming date with the enthusiasm a date deserves.
5 Frugal and Simple Ideas for Dating Your Spouse
With that newly allotted time you have, here are a few possibilities with what you can do.
Spread a blanket on your floor, grab some crackers, cheese, and your favorite beverage; splurge on dark chocolate and seasonal fruit.
With the kids in front of a movie or sleeping, this is a simple and romantic way to reconnect with your spouse.
Lock your screens away and get to know each other again.
This is not the time to discuss “important” things. Those can wait.
Cocoa Under the Stars
One of my favorite things to do is to sit out on our porch and drink cocoa.
Now that the temperature has dropped below sauna and is feeling more like Autumn, I’m looking forward to some quality dates with my spouse and my favorite warm beverage.
Consequently, I have a nice supply of different cocoa varieties I’ve received with my subscription to Coffee and a Classic.
Luckily for me, they were willing to change it from coffee to cocoa, so I’ve been enjoying their products for the last year.
Watch a Favorite Show
Put those little loves to bed or down for a nap (since my husband works nights we have to be a lot more flexible with date times), pop some popcorn or go all out and make finger foods; then sit back and relaxed together–snuggled up of course–to catch up on all those episodes that have been waiting for you.
This of course should go without saying, but those handheld screens we’re always connected to–they need to be far, far away.
Play a Game
We have a closet full of board games and card games. I have high hopes to one day do weekly family game nights.
Right now with two kids under 6, they’re a bit hit or miss. I have goals though. We’ll get there.
Until then, these games can be utilized for date night.
It’s simple to set up and put away, and if you have a closet filled with them already–entirely free.
You can make this as simple or fancy as you’d like.
Add dinner or dessert, to add an extra dose of special to your evening playing “Clue”.
Complete a Bible Study
Since marriage is a covenant we make to each other and to God, it is important for us to stay connect to Christ as well.
There are several really great Bible studies we’ve done together in years past.
They’ve done more for us than any dinner and a movie in town could.
This doesn’t have to be one done with a group.
In fact, it would be perfect to do together in the comfort of your home, and can fit into short periods of time.
The important thing when it comes to dating your spouse, is that you’re connecting with them. You’re getting to know who they are today, because let’s face it, we’ve all changed since we said “I do.”
I’m not an expert on marriage or even on keeping up a great relationship with my husband. I am however, determined to rectify that. I hope these ideas help you find frugal and simple ways to date your spouse too.
Until next time,
If you enjoyed this post, please check out my article on how the military life strengthened my faith in God.
Follow me on Instagram for sneak peeks of upcoming blogs, and behind the scenes of my real life.
When “Everything” is Going Wrong I Choose Joy in the One True God
Then you will find your joy in the LORD…
Just a side note, this post became a bit longer than intended, and may end up becoming a series of posts in the future.
When Joy Is Hard to Find
2019 has been an intense year. There has been joy, but there has been a lot of “hard” too.
Though, if I’m honest my family has been in a rough season since 2017 when my husband left Active Duty. It appears we’re not quite ready to reap the harvest yet.
If this past weekend is any indicator, we’ve got quite a bit more sowing left in this season.
To those who know us personally, it isn’t a surprise to know we’ve been struggling. The move from Active Duty to civilian life has not been an easy experience. There have been more bumps in the road than either my husband or I ever expected.
Life without the security of the Marine Corps is a constant act of faith.
Never have we been what you would call financially “well-off”, but we’ve always been able to provide for ourselves and our children without too much struggle.
Until we no longer could.
When we moved from Washington State to Virginia, we left nearly everyone we knew.
My children left their friends and Sunday school teachers they loved. I left my sister, my cousin, and my childhood best friend.
We also drove away broke, because of a paperwork error that took months to straighten out before the Marine Corps would release my husband’s final paycheck.
Driving across the country nearly penniless, heading to a state where we still hadn’t found a place to live, could have been terrifying.
Instead, there was joy.
Okay, there was some fear too, but whenever the fear would claw at me I’d remember that everything comes from God. That He would provide in His way and His time.
So, I gladly accepted the joy He provided.
I shared adventures with my favorite people as we explored amazing sites, both created by God and made by man; the joy of giggles and drinking too much caffeine; staying in questionable hotels that would be safer if they were condemned; and cramming three kids, a cat, a dog, and two adults as well as everything we thought we might need, into a minivan.
With excitement like that, who had time for fear?
Joy in God is Accepting Help
After arriving in Virginia things became more complicated.
We needed to find a place to call home.
What should have taken only a couple of days turned into a two-month ordeal.
During this time, God once again provided for us, by opening the hearts and home of our dear friends.
Looking back, I believe God led us to explore Classical Conversations in Washington simply so we could connect with Rachal and her family, because once she moved to Virginia He led us away from CC and in another direction with our homeschool.
When Rachal and her husband offered us a place to stay while we looked for a house, neither our family or theirs expected it would be more than a weekend affair. So when place after place fell through and we were led to purchase a home instead of renting, my heart was filled with such gratitude and love when they welcomed us with open arms.
Let’s just say, there are times I think they deserved a medal (and possibly a parade) for that alone.
Having never needed to rely on others, accepting that my husband and I couldn’t do this on our own was difficult.
Especially since he was in a completely different state going through federal training.
Joy in God Comes When He Provides Family
Rachal and I weren’t close when we lived in Washington. We were friendly, and she was always willing to swing by and get my kids when I was dealing with rough moments during the pregnancy with my youngest daughter; we just didn’t spend time together outside of CC or our small-group Bible study.
God Knew What We Needed
Suddenly my kids and I were part of her family. We did pretty much everything together for those two months. My eldest daughter celebrated her 10th birthday sitting at their dining room table. She finally had older brothers, and she was thrilled to be there with them.
When I discovered I was pregnant with my youngest, Rachal and her husband were the first to know. In fact, they knew before I did, since they were convinced I was pregnant before I ever considered it. Later she was there holding my hand during the early morning hours as I gave birth to my youngest son.
Through every hoop we had to jump through while purchasing our house, to being hit with a stomach bug while pregnant, God filled me with joy.
There was joy in little things: having a second set of hands to snuggle my youngest daughter; someone to love on my “spirited” and struggling son, a church that had everything we were looking for. Things that would often be taken for granted just kept leading me right back to God, and the joy that comes from knowing He is taking care of each and every one of us.
God always provides, and my joy is always because of Him.
I Chose Joy in God Anew This Week
On Sunday as I prepared the kids and myself for church, I received a phone call from my husband. He’d been in an accident on I-95 and his car was totaled.
As the kids and I drove to pick him up, I sang praises to God. My husband’s car was totaled, and I thought I knew the hardship that would cause, but he had walked away from it without physical injury.
My children didn’t have to visit their father in the hospital, and I didn’t have to explain to them why their daddy wasn’t coming home.
Worries, Stress, and Choosing to Be Positive
Each day since the accident more and more obstacles have been placed before us. Some of them God immediately removed.
When He answers a prayer, the only thing I can do is praise Him and focus on the joy flooding through me.
Monday was especially rough, because my husband was trying to process what had happened, and I was as well.
The first wave of adrenaline and relief had past.
I woke up to a panic attack that only God could calm as I prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more, until finally the panic subsided and I was able to sleep again.
My husband was frustrated and bitter, and all I felt was an overwhelming sadness and heaviness of heart.
It didn’t take long before I was irritated with myself and decided to give it all to God.
I wrote out my prayers, my concerns, my frustrations, and my overwhelming belief in God. I wrote out my praises to Him.
Then I spent time in the study of Isaiah.
Isaiah 41 reminds us to stop lamenting and to return to rejoicing. That God provides for all our needs even during our struggles.
His testimony is that He will never forsake us.
We are to trust God as our shepherd and allow him to do it in the His way.
God Trumps Fear and Worry. Every Time.
While I immersed myself in God’s word, the fear and worry began to fade. Nothing had changed about our situation, but I gave that stress to God and accepted the peace and joy that replaced it.
Today things are still “bad” and there are no answers in sight. We don’t know where the next days and weeks will take us.
What I do know, is that I have joy.
Not because of any physical or material thing, but because I know joy in God.
The joy only experienced when you know God is in control, and that this isn’t our forever home.
Joy isn’t just a feeling.
It’s a knowledge that you’re never alone, and Our God is bigger than any problem we will ever face on Earth.
The Perfect Poetry Tea Time Cucumber Sandwich Recipe
Poetry Tea Time: A Family Favorite
The term “Poetry Tea Time” isn’t something I came up with myself, but discovered through the Brave Writer creator, Julie Bogart.
While my family’s tea-time rarely looks as artistically displayed as other families’, and we don’t spend much time on actual poetry.
Generally we read just one or two poems before we jump into other books we’re enjoying; and the tea is often replaced with hot chocolate, chocolate milk or smoothies, the feeling is the same.
It’s a time when we put away the stresses of the week, come together as a family and enjoy good literature and a special treat.
Once in awhile we will invite another family to join us, and the tea setting will look much more sophisticated. That’s half the fun of having others join us. It becomes more of a party atmosphere rather than a cozy time with each other.
Family Favorite Tea Time Treats
When it comes to the special treats at our tea-times, we change it up regularly. Sometimes we eat muffins, or donuts. Occasionally I’ll bake cookies or a cupcakes; once in awhile though, we go all out.
Today’s treat was a full spread. We loaded our plates with freshly sliced strawberries, deviled-eggs, and the easiest cucumber tea sandwiches.
We still didn’t dress up the table; none of our cups matched, and we still drank hot chocolate instead of tea–but those sandwiches were pure sophistication!
8 slices bread of choice–we used our basic honey wheat sandwich bread
8 ounce cream cheese softened
approximately 2 Tbsp parsley flakes
one thinly sliced cucumber peeled
In a medium bowl place cream cheese and allow to soften.
Add parsley flakes and mix.
Peel and thinly slice one cucumber, set aside.
Lay out eight (8) slices of bread. Spread cream cheese mixture on each slice.
Layer cucumbers on four (4) of the slices, then cover with the remaining four (4) slices of bread.
Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.
Using a sharp knife cut into triangles (because nothing says sophisticated tea party like miniature triangles!)
Enjoy with your favorite beverage, or just shovel them in your mouth when no one is looking. They’re that simple and that tasty.
I almost feel guilty sharing this as a recipe because it is such a super simple treat. It’s perfect for children or when you’re looking for something different for lunches.
Another great recipe for tea time is hard-boiled eggs or deviled eggs. You can check out the instant pot “recipe” for perfect hard-boiled eggs here.
Recently I stumbled across and interview Eva Mendes gave where she stated that the end of a marriage can be directly related to the wife wearing sweatpants.
If you want to read the original article that led to this posting click here.
Normally, I don’t pay a lot of attention to what celebrities talk about.
I especially don’t tend pay attention to celebrities who feel qualified to give marital advice when they’re not married.
However, reading many of the comments linked with these articles on social media made me reconsider.
In Society Today, Beauty is Only Skin Deep
There are a lot of women–too many women–who feel Eva Mendes is correct.
They believe in this day of Photoshop and plastic surgery what a wife wears is the true key to the longevity of their marriage.
I need to clear this up.
Or, at the very least, for the people who read my weekly ramblings.
What We Wear At Home Should Not Be a Deciding Factor in the Strength of Our Relationship With Our Spouse.
Marriages are a contract, yes, but they’re a contract that should be tied to a deep and abiding love and faithfulness– to not only our spouse, but to God.
When I got married, I distinctly remember the minister mispronouncing my short name, but getting my husband’s long, long, long name correct. the words, “for better or for worse” among the words my husband and I repeated.
I’m sure there are people who will smirk and say, “For better or for worse doesn’t have anything to do with bad style choices.” I disagree. Completely.
If my husband’s love for me were directly tied to the way I looked, our marriage would have ended years ago.
I may not wear sweatpants, but I also don’t wake up each morning before my husband so he doesn’t see me without my ‘face’ on.
For that matter, I rarely wear make-up, so there’s that.
He’s seen me with bedhead, fighting the stomach flu.
I’ve had chronic migraines, that have done nothing for the way I look; and long ago, he saw me when I drank too much.
None of these sights were pretty, and they’re all a heck of a lot worse than him seeing me in a pair of sweatpants.
Love Isn’t About the Way You Look, It’s About the Connection You Have With Someone’s Heart.
Love is the butterflies you get in your stomach when you know you’re going to see them; it’s the comfort their presence brings you, without them saying anything.
It’s knowing that you don’t have to doll yourself up all the time to impress them, because they’re impressed with the way God created you.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
1 Peter 3:3-4
They don’t love you because of the adornments you use to be fashionable or beautiful for a materialistic world.
I understand what she ‘might’ have been trying to say.
Women Should Take Pride in Themselves.
The biggest problem with associating this with a type of pants, is that people miss the bigger picture.
Pride in yourself is fine–as long as you remember everything you have is God’s.
Be careful about having too much pride in your good looks, your perfect body, or the clothes you wear.
All of those things are fleeting.
The beauty God created inside you–your heart and soul–those are where the true strength of your marriage will come from.
So, ladies if you feel like your husband (or boyfriend) will leave you if you don’t look your best, walk away.
He’s not the one for you.
Don’t sell yourself short for someone only interested in the outer trappings.
Find that person who will love you even when you’re looking your worst, because he’ll see the beauty God created.
Besides, no one wants to be worried about their hair or make-up at two in the morning–when they’re in labor.
My entire life has been connected in one way or another to the military.
I grew up the daughter of a Master Chief in the United States Navy. I joined (albeit shortly) the Army National Guard, and in 2005 I married a Marine.
All these years later, I realize just how much that military life strengthened my faith in Our Heavenly Father.
Each situation, transition, and experience added another brick to the foundation of my belief in God’s almighty power, His endless love, and boundless wisdom.
God is Always There
When my husband and I first married, we were immediately stationed on the island of Oahu, Hawaii.
This sounds like a dream destination, but for us it wasn’t.
We struggled, and there were times it didn’t seem possible for us to make it through together.
Looking back it’s easy to see, God had a plan for us; we just weren’t listening to Him or leaning on Him.
We experienced many different things during our eighteen months there.
Most of it separately.
My husband spent a good portion of the time we were stationed there deployed to Afghanistan–or preparing to deploy.
Because of this, we relied heavily on ourselves, and then expected each other to fill the empty spaces in our lives.
It was rough.
I’d never been away from my family or my friends, and living on an island–basically alone–showed me a weakness in myself I’d never known.
Even though I wasn’t intimate with God during this season of my life, He was there.
Taking the hard moments and using them to help build a strong foundation for my future faith.
The LORD Does it Again
When we left Hawaii we were stationed in Virginia.
We struggled to build our relationship, because neither of us understood the other. We didn’t communicate, and we hurt each other deeply time and time again.
Military Life Isn’t Easy.
Not even for people with strong marriages.
Being young made it harder.
The Marine Corps was a tough employer, and my husband worked long hours and was rarely home.
When he was home he would unwind by playing computer games.
A solitary activity that didn’t include me.
Between the stresses of his job, and our lack of connection I was emotionally exhausted.
After two years, I was ready to call it quits.
Then a Miracle Happened.
I’d been told after the loss of my son I’d likely never carry a child again.
God, however, works miracles all the time; in His time it happened.
With our marriage on rocky ground, we made it through the pregnancy and birth of our eldest.
It wasn’t easy, and we still didn’t turn to God or acknowledge Him in our lives.
We continued to go it on our own, and made each day harder than it needed to be.
Again, the LORD wasn’t deterred.
He used our experiences in this new place to add more bricks to the foundation of my faith.
Deployments, PTSD, and Selfishness
My Husband Deployed to Afghanistan Twice.
The second time he deployed, our eldest was a toddler, and that changed everything. His absence was no longer only affecting me, but was affecting a little girl who didn’t understand why her daddy wasn’t home to tuck her in.
This wasn’t the first time he’d been gone from our lives since her birth, but it was the first time the military had taken him to a war zone.
Those seven months were both a struggle and a blessing.
I just didn’t realize the ‘blessing’ part until years later.
While he was gone I experienced a number of things that would have been so much easier with God actively in my life.
Learning Experience: God is Faithful
My daughter ended up rushed to a children’s hospital when her temperature elevated and the local hospital didn’t feel capable of caring for her. We rode in the ambulance for over an hour, to a hospital in the middle of the desert.
I’d left my car at the local hospital with no idea of how she and I would get home.
Without knowing it at the time, God was there.
Her fever broke and we made it back home.
A problem that seemed insurmountable was solved.
Back to Back Deployments Are Traumatic
When a service member returns from a deployment it takes time for reintegration.
Not only for the member, but for the family he left as well.
We’d spent seven months apart, and during that time both our daughter and I had grown and changed.
He’d changed too.
You can’t deploy somewhere, see death, destruction, and misery, and not be irrevocably changed.
It was really hard to connect.
He and I had never really been great at communicating in the first place, add in the stresses of his returning to a safe place, and the communication was practically non-existent.
God used these struggles too.
I couldn’t see it at the time, and if you’d asked me during those days I would have scoffed at the idea of any god, let alone the God.
Then He Deployed to Okinawa
Within weeks of his return, my husband was back scheduled to deploy again.
Granted, this time it wasn’t to a war-torn country where anyone could be planning to kill you; it still meant he would leave his family for another seven months.
Prior to any deployment, service men train for what might happen while they’re on mission.
This training takes months, and at times feels like a deployment itself.
We never saw him, and when we did he was angry.
I was angry.
Something was going on with him, I knew it and so did our daughter. He didn’t agree.
The week before he deployed to Okinawa, the dam broke. I was tired of seeing my baby girl hurt by her father’s indifference.
It was the first (and only time) my husband has ever sworn at me.
He was in pain, I could see it, but I couldn’t fix it.
I couldn’t help him, and he wasn’t willing to help himself.
My Decision: To Love
The night before he left, I made a choice.
It was time to stop being selfish. To stop placing blame, and just do what I should have done all along.
The same thing Jesus would have done.
I wrapped my arms around him, and loved him.
Regardless of my anger, my confusion, and my own hurt, I felt peace wash over me.
This was the right thing to do.
He wouldn’t leave our home with an angry, bitter wife. He would leave with a wife full of love for her husband.
It’s obvious now what that peace was.
That change wasn’t because I’m a naturally forgiving person.
God had wrapped His arms around me, and said, “trust me”.
Seven months later when my husband returned, he was a different person, and so was I.
This time however, I saw something better in him.
There was a light in him again. The pain wasn’t gone, but it was receding.
God had worked on him too, it seemed.
In the solitude of long runs around Okinawa, God had started to heal my husband.
Military Life: Relocating Time and Again
From the East to the West and Back Again
Our active duty military career continued until 2017.
During those years we moved from Washington State to Hawaii.
From Hawaii to Virginia
Then onto California.
Back to Washington State, just to do it once more– across the Continental United States to Virginia.
We grew our family from that first miracle to four miracles.
How This Helped My Faith
Soon after we had our second child, our eldest son, we were given orders to return to Washington State (where our relationship originally began).
Just like that, a light came on.
Like a program working in the background of your mobile device, God had been working on me.
I’d discovered what had been missing from my life.
For so long I’d been trying to fill the empty space, and nothing had worked.
With the knowledge I was heading back to the home I’d run away from, I surrendered.
God broke through my stubborn pride, and with open arms accepted me: scars, bad choices, confusion, and all.
Through it All, He Remains
Since that summer day in 2013, many things have changed in my life.
I’d be lying if I said my marriage suddenly became perfect, and all our problems magically disappeared once I accepted God back into my life.
That we never struggled.
I’d be lying if I said our lives have been perfect and there hasn’t been a day of worry.
It doesn’t work that way.
There has been pain and loss (My father passed away in January 2015), and there were times of deep fear within this Momma( when the doctor discovered on Mother’s Day 2018 that my youngest daughter has multiple VSDs in her heart)
Being a Christian is hard. Really hard for so many reasons.
Jesus never said it would be easy.
But, I can tell you without a shred of doubt it’s worth it.
He’s worth it.
We’re worth it.
Through all the ups and downs, God continues to strengthen my faith. Not in myself, but in Him.
My family grows, matures, and loves each day, because of His love and righteousness.
And through everything–including the change from active duty military life to reserves–God continues to love me.
When the Marine Corps payment doesn’t come in when its supposed to, and the bank account is too low to cover everything, I trust God.
This post contains affiliate links. Click here for the full disclosure.
For Christmas 2015, I received a Bible study book titled, Women of the Wordby Jen Wilkin.
At first I wasn’t sure what to expect from the pages of this relatively thin book.
I’ve spent a lot of time reading study guides for various themes or books within the Bible, and I figured this would be similar.
I was correct on only one part.
It is a book on studying the Bible.
What it ISN’T is a manufactured Bible study.
Within the first seven chapters of the book, the author shows you how to approach the study of any book in the Bible (and preferably every book in the Bible) for optimal literacy.
This includes studying with the five “Ps”:
Bible literacy isn’t a phrase I was familiar with.
What is Bible Literacy?
According to the Northwest Centre for Biblical and Theological Literacy,
Biblical Literacy describes the ability and motivation of people to read the Bible with sufficient understanding so that they can explain its basic meaning, having sufficient knowledge and skill to use resources that enable them to discern the basic meaning of a biblical text. It includes the ability to apply this discerned meaning, i.e. biblical wisdom, to contemporary life.”
Since I’d focused on the word Joy for the year, I realized I need a better scriptural understanding of it.
I didn’t want to understand how a single verse on “joy” applied to me, but how that verse applied to the bigger picture of God’s love and plan for everyone.
Only then would I be able to see how it applied to me in the present and future.
Why You Should Become a Woman of the Word
In a day and age when more and more people are not only turning away from God, but are antagonistic towards anyone who dares to trust in Him, it is important for us to have a clear, educated understanding of God’s Word.
The Bible is the inerrant Word of God.
It doesn’t change.
It isn’t corrupt.
People will tell you you’re wrong.
They’ll offer you opinion stated as fact.
Some will twist the scriptures to fit their personal agenda.
We must know what the Bible says and what it means–both historically and applicably.
Our own relationship with Christ might not be affected by their misunderstandings, but our children’s relationships might be.
The Bible is Not a Fairy Tale
The Bible was provided for us so that we would know what was expected of us, and what we could in turn expect from our God.
Within the sixty-six books of the Bible we learn how to raise our children, love our spouses, and how to love our neighbors while not loving or applauding their sins.
We see the great love, righteousness and compassion of God who created EVERYTHING, and loves us without fail.
People read these stories and consider them fairy tales.
Stories made up to explain away situations they otherwise had no answers for.
As Christians we know this isn’t the case.
The Old Testament gives us a detailed account of all the things we shouldn’t do–and how God loved the Israelites so much that he forgave them time and time again; finally disciplining out of love when they refused to listen.
In the New Testament we see the miracles.
The unbelievable, awe-inspiring, miracles of Jesus.
Jesus Performed Miracles: The End
There are people who will latch on to these miracles and claim they didn’t happen.
That they couldn’t happen.
The only problem with their argument: It’s wrong.
Jesus performed miracles.
This is a fact.
A fact supported by historical research; not just research done by people predisposed to seeing miracles, but also by secular historians and scholars.
If we don’t study the Bible, we won’t be able to respond to those who haven’t discovered their faith in Jesus.
As a mother I need to be able to guide my children; to help them find the answers they seek, and to know how to articulate the truth when confronted by their secular peers.
We also need to study the Bible, because it’s the voice of God speaking directly to each and every one of us.
When you have a relationship with someone, you spend time with them. You talk to them, ask questions about them, and seek answers to who they are.
The same thing needs to happen when you want a personal relationship with Christ.
You can’t expect a relationship–or an understanding of the scriptures–to happen if you’re not spending time together.
Women of the Word makes it possible to do more than just scan a verse and take it out of context, because it sounds like a verse to make you feel better about yourself.
The more time you spend with God (in prayer, in study, in contemplation) the closer you’ll get, and the more you’ll understand.
You don’t always need to spend hours diving deeply into the Word, but you need to meet up with God, in peace and quiet, each day.
There are dozens of ways to “fit” God into your day; between scrolling social media and running your kids to their activities.
However, we shouldn’t have to squeeze God in.
He should be our top priority.
After all, we’re His top priority.
I know it won’t be easy, but learning a new habit–especially one that will help you grow each and every day, isn’t always going to be easy, but it will always be worth it.
First thing in the morning, before you get overwhelmed by your ‘to do’ list, grab your Bible, colored pens and pencils, and a notebook.
Then take a breath, and say hello to the only one who has loved you without ceasing since before you were born.
He’s been waiting for you.
“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.” -Proverbs 1:5
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Five Ways to Practice Mindfulness:
As a mother of four kids who range in ages from tween to infant, I’m the first to admit that life isn’t one big picnic on a sunny day. Mostly it resembles an angry nest of hornets–at least it does when one or more of my children are having a rough day. For this reason, I’ve started reading about the practice of mindfulness.
What is mindfulness, you might be asking. The dictionary’s definition is as follows:
A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
In a nutshell, (or in exhausted-momma-speak) it simply means be checked in to what is going on around you right then.
Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts.”
It means being single-tasking in a multi-tasking world.
Our society today applauds those who can multi-task. The truth is, however, that no one really can focus on more than one thing at a time. Something always gets dropped or lost in the constant shuffling between tasks.
To truly practice being mindful, we have to accept that we can’t do it all. We have to understand that doing multiple things at one time doesn’t do anyone any good.
We suffer and our children suffer.
The world may worship at that throne, but we, Dear Ones, aren’t supposed to.
Mindfulness Practice #1:
Put Jesus First
Now, to be honest, this likely wouldn’t be found as a recommended practice in most places that educate on mindfulness. That’s because many of the people I’ve come across while reading, don’t know Jesus.
In my own life, and deep down in my soul, I know Jesus is always the first place to begin anything.
First thing in the morning –after the kiddos have chosen their show, and I’ve prepared my full-fat tea— I sit in the easy chair that once belonged to my father, and I connect with my Heavenly Father.
Recently that has looked like me opening my Bible and diving into the daily readings provided by my church as we read through the Bible this year.
This might look different for you.
What’s important is that we focus on God. We take that time, and focus our hearts and minds on His Word.
On His love.
On His devotion.
Mindfulness Practice #2:
Children are smarter and more observant than most parents give them credit for. My children, for example, know if I’m truly paying attention to them when they’re speaking. If they notice my attention is lacking, that’s when things really get out of hand.
My eldest has been known to say on occasion, “You’re not even listening to me, Momma.”
So, I’ve taken to actively engaging with my children when they talk. Even if I’m reading, or working on something.
To be mindful means we have to put down the phone, the book, or whatever has our attention. Giving our full focused attention to the young ones who are chatting our ears off, isn’t always easy.
Listening intently as my eldest son explains his newest creation, when I was enjoying quietly reading about Mother Culture, can be frustrating.
What I’ve noticed though, is giving my children those few precious moments–making eye contact with them, and truly listening to what they’re saying–being engaged with their thoughts and ideas, makes for easier days.
Mindfulness Practice #3:
Put Away the Cellphone
Often when our children desire connections with us, we’re in the middle of conversations with a dear friend. These interruptions take a focused effort to practice mindfulness; to turn off the phone and set it aside.
This isn’t even the biggest problem though. To practice mindfulness, means being present in the moment.
Instead of reaching for our cellphones, digitally capturing the cute moment of our children singing a song to us, what our children need is for us to share the moment with them–while it is happening.
For the record, I’m not saying get rid of the phone completely. As a former professional photographer, pictures are second nature to me, and impossible to not take.
If there is something you want to treasure for a long time, snap those pictures then put it away to enjoy the activities going on around you.
Mindfulness Practice #4:
This might sound like something easy. After all, if we didn’t know how to breathe I wouldn’t be here to write this, and you wouldn’t be here to read it.
Now, before you pat yourself on the back, thinking “Hey, I’ve got this!” take a moment and really think about what it means to take a breath.
What it means to breathe.
Focus on the breath that comes into your body. Then focus on the breath as it leaves your body.
Do this three or four times.
If your mind wandered, don’t fret, because mine tends to scamper about after the second inhale. Luckily, even the people who have been practicing mindfulness for years still catch themselves mentally strolling about.
The point of breathing isn’t just to get air into our lungs. It’s more about being mindful of the breaths, and in doing so, being aware of our bodies and how they feel in that moment.
Those moments when we’re frayed and teetering on the edge of personal sanity–maybe that tween’s sass got a little too bold, or the toddler clogged the toilet with a roll of toilet paper–pausing for a moment, taking a breath (or ten), before speaking and engaging with the situation can be the difference between tears (ours and theirs), and making a deeper, calmer connection.
Mindfulness Practice #5:
Too often in today’s world, motherhood (and life for that matter) is a constant race. It resembles the cinematic cut scenes of busy New York streets filled with blurred people rushing down sidewalks while cars honk beside them.
Frankly, those scenes (as well as their similarity to life) make me nauseous.
As mothers we rush from one task to the next. From one kid’s activity to another.
Our rears spend more time in our vehicle seats than anywhere else.
With all this constant ‘going’, we miss out on so much.
The stress of getting out the door on time causes us to miss the opportunity to warmly and lovingly teach our son how to tie his shoes, and instead we might sigh dramatically and tie his shoes for him.
In our hurry to get everyone in their car seats, we might miss the sweet smooch our little one wants to share with us.
Rushing through bath time, or story time could cause us to miss out on giggles, grins, and little discussions that could open new doors of discovery for our children–or even for us.
Snuggles with littles don’t last forever, because those little ones won’t remain little for long. Taking the time to enjoy the closeness of those little warm bodies while they talk about their day, is something you won’t ever regret.
Even now my three year old is picky about when she is willing to snuggle. I don’t foresee many more years of snuggling in our future.
We need to slow down.
Know Better, Do Better
Or Better Known As Practice Makes Perfect
Mindfulness isn’t easy.
It takes practice, practice, and even more practice. There’s a reason it’s called practicing mindfulness because it isn’t something that comes naturally to us.
Human-beings are selfish by nature, and we focus on our wants and desires to the exclusion of others things. With this knowledge, we need to give ourselves love and grace.
Take those breaths discussed above, and practice really connecting to the moments around us. We must get our heads out of the past or the future and into the present where they belong.
We can’t change the past, and we have no control over the future. What we do have is right now. We must choose wisely.
One of the books I’ve been reading on mindfulness:
Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters, by Carla Naumburg. You can get it here.
As a child I remember hearing the saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.
The problem is, words can hurt.
They can leave scars no one can see.
Unlike sticks and stones, the damage done won’t leave visible bruising to the body; Neighbors, friends, family, and teachers won’t see the injuries.
That doesn’t mean the pain isn’t there.
It doesn’t mean the wounds aren’t real.
Words are the invisible weapon that can do lifelong damage and never heal.
It is not what goes into the mouth the defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person. –Matthew 15:11
I’m Going to Be Real With You
My children have these unseen injuries, and I’m the one who caused them.
How’s that for real?
I can try to rationalize the circumstances when I used words as weapons against the little people God has entrusted me with; it won’t make a bit of difference.
The fact is, I made HUGE mistakes.
I spoke in anger and frustration instead of love and respect.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. –Proverbs 18:21
My tone caused as much damage (if not more) than the words I used. Maybe I could pat myself on the back and say, “Well, I’ve never called them names.” That means nothing when I know I’ve bruised and battered them with words of indifference.
Instead of praising them for their imaginations and efforts, I’ve asked, “Why would you do that?” Instead of saying, “Thank you for trying to help”; it’s been, “Look what you’ve done.”
These words have hurt them time and time again.
Realizing this now, tears at my heart. I’m bleeding from each of the wounds I caused my children.
I swore I would never treat my children the way my siblings and I were treated when we were growing up. I swore my kids would never have a reason to question whether they are loved.
Yet, here I am.
A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perversness in it breaks the spirit. –Proverbs 15:4
When my children acted out, I wondered what was causing them to misbehave. I never stopped to consider it could have been my actions and reactions leading to their outbursts. That my words, said in frustration, anger, or disinterest, might have led them to lash out in search of some sort of control.
This family the LORD has blessed me with deserves more than that.
I Can Change
My children will not grow up questioning my love, or remembering only the harshly spoken words.
I will not be the reason their self-esteem suffers, or they turn away from God and family. I will not push them away with my own actions.
Our Heavenly Father knows my sins. He knows my heart, and my weaknesses. He trusted me to raise these children, and I will do my best, and when I stumble I’ll turn to Him.
I will control my words–both the words themselves, and the tone of my voice. I will focus on praise; on building up my children into strong, mature, loving, adults. I will do my best to let them spread their wings, to make mistakes, to be helpful, to explore life, and be the people God created them to be.
Most of All, I Will Pray
I’ll pray for guidance.
I’ll pray for a kind tone and a joyful spirit.
I’ll pray for a million questions from my almost three-year old, so that I may show her through actions and words that she matters.
I’ll pray for my son to try new things–even when they involve me sitting back and ignoring the mess, because I want him to see as well as hear how proud I am of him, and how much I believe in him.
I’ll pray for understanding as my tween daughter finds more and more interests that feel far too worldly for someone still so young.
Finally, I’ll pray for each and every one of you who have faced these same problems. Those who have hurt their friends, families, and loved-ones with weapons so powerful they can damage people indefinitely.
I pray today that you help each of us control our tongues. That we may build one another up in this world. That we use our words to soothe and encourage, not to draw blood. Give us pause when we speak, that our children will not be a casualty of our sinful ways.
If you feel led, please share this post so it may remind others they’re not alone in their struggles with the words we use.