Monday, October 24, 2011


Fall seems to be a built in time of year for noticing transitions.  (Enjoy these recent photos from around my neighborhood) Aside from the changing colors outside, and the noticeable difference in weather patterns, I start paying more attention to life transitions as well.  Instead of wanting to spend all of my freetime outside, I start looking forward to things like baking, and crafting.  I start getting the "itch" to study, and read.  My menus begin to reflect more fall flavors, and soups and stews start coming back to the party.  I even start to brainstorm ideas for Christmas gifts!

For whatever reason, lately I've been reflecting on life transitions as well.  We've been going through several as a family.  There are the more obvious transitions like going from a couple to being a family, or being a woman in the workforce, to being a stay at home Mom..  Then there are more subtle transitions - like my spiritual growth.

Some of these transitions have felt natural, and came easily to me.  Others have required a bit more effort on my part.  For instance, Nate and I can no longer just go out to dinner on a whim (or eat dinner together, for that matter!).  Our time together has to be planned, and intentional.  Even with careful planning, sometimes our best efforts are thwarted by a baby girl with an early appointment with her crib.  While I was working, I was used to getting up in the morning before dawn (my position at a local coffee shop required early rising!).  Now I'm usually up several times a night, so waking up around 7 am seems ridiculously early to my sleep deprived body.  While before even if my house was a mess, if I'd had a busy day at work I felt productive, now I need to have visible reminders around me to satisfy that need.  "Look, Honey!  I washed and folded six loads of laundry today!"

Even on the days when I've been working hard at being a Mommy, if I don't have "something to show" my husband at the end of the day, I wind up feeling lazy.  Surely there are lots of other Mommies out there who can nod their heads with understanding at this same conundrum in their own household!  After all, no wife wants their husband to walk in the door after they've had a long day of rocking babies, kissing boo boos, feeding babies, cleaning up after babies, reading stories, searching for Mr. Snuggles, etc. only to hear, "So, what did you do today?"

Then there have been the spiritual transitions.  When I was single, I had an awesome routine in place of spending time with God daily before bed.  I tend to be more of a night owl anyway, so this worked perfectly for me.  I remember having sweet times of prayer, and revelation in God's Word at 1 or 2 in the morning.  I could close the door, and I didn't have to worry about disturbing anyone else in the house with my late night devotions.  After I got married, I had to learn to do things a little differently.  Now there was the challenge of finding time to spend with God alone, as well as a time of devotions as a couple.

Needless to say, there were some days when I was much better at this than others.  Then came Mommyhood.  There seemed to be little time for sleep, let alone much else at first!  When Olivia was very tiny, I could put a Bible next to me while I was nursing, and read aloud to her.  To make a long story short, nursing was quite the process in the beginning, so it took a LONG time.  Anyone who has spent much time around a newborn knows that they eat often, so this system worked well for me.  For a while . . .

Then the process of shifting my time around began again - as I'm sure it will continue to do for the next several years!  On the positive side, these more recent life transitions have driven me to a point of utter dependency on God.  All those moments in the middle of the night with a screaming baby led me to cry out more than once "God, I need your grace and wisdom right now!"  And while it may sound trite, Scripture became my food.  I couldn't have gotten through the first few months of sleep deprivation, total cluelessness on what to do for my tiny, helpless baby, total lack of any alone time with my husband, an attention deprived dog, and a house that hadn't seen a good cleaning in weeks without constant meditation on God's Word.

Before Olivia was born, I took on the challenge of reading through the Bible in 90 days.  The entire Bible.  Cover to cover.  About 3 days in, I was thinking to myself how crazy I was to accept said challenge.  However, though it actually took me about 120 days, I was completely changed on the other side of that process.  If nothing else, I developed such a love for the Word of God!  It was and is living, breathing, and active in my life.  No other book could possible have that effect on me.  It was humbling, to know that God created me with the capacity to think His thoughts after Him.  To know that thousands of years after the words were penned, He still speaks to me through them.  Not a new concept - but so eye opening!

Nate and I have grown immensely in our walk with God over the past year, which has led us to transition between churches.  This transition has been anything but easy, and has pushed us even deeper into our trust in Christ.  Friendships have been tested, our character called into question, and the daunting task of finding a new church fellowship looms.  One thing has held us fast through all of this - and that is our unflinching faith in the Word of God.  It has reminded us that His opinion of us is the only one that matters, and His standard of what is right is the only one we will be measured by.  This has been so comforting in the face of criticism!

What about you?  Have you gone through any transitions lately?  What kinds of things have helped you adjust?  I'd love to know your thoughts.  Leave a comment below!  The time in transition may seem interminable now, but be encouraged!  They can be a time of blessing, and growth, if we have the right attitude about them.  If you're in the midst of one, hang in there!  Know that I'll be praying for you.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge

Love.  A single word in the English language with thousands of definitions.  I love chocolate ice cream.  I would love to go to a Cubs game.  I love my husband.  Hmm.  Wait a second!

Several weeks ago I began thinking about the way I use this word so flippantly, and I decided that I probably don't use it well in my marriage.  Just because I told my husband I loved him, did he really believe that I did?  Now don't get me wrong, I don't think that by saying I "love" to do certain things, that I'm automatically equating my husband with chocolate ice cream, or baseball.  However, I do all too often use the phrase without thinking about what I'm saying, thus devaluing it of it's true meaning.

 On the inside of my wedding band, I have 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 inscribed.  It talks about all the things that define true love, and serves as a daily reminder to me of how I should be loving my husband.  When I measure myself by this standard, I fall shockingly short!  All too often I found myself getting angry over petty things.  "I can't believe I have to do _____________ again!  Why do all these responsibilities get dumped on me?"  Love is patient and kind . . .

"It's so frustrating that he won't spend more time with us as a family.  Why do his priorities always have to come first?"  Love is not irritable or resentful . . .

The list could go on and on.  I had become so caught up with frustration, and dissatisfaction, that I wasn't able to enjoy my husband for the incredible man that he is.  God began quietly convicting me that the problem did not lie with my husband, but with my heart.  At first, I responded with annoyance.  I felt like a child again, being scolded for something I had done, and pointing to my little sister.  "Don't forget about her!  What she did was worse!"  But alas, it is not up to me to judge my husband's heart, only to let God cleanse and shape my own.

Enter the 30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge.  I had been listening to the radio one morning, and heard one of the on-air personalities talking about this challenge that she had seen on Facebook.  The more she talked about it, the more I thought I really should investigate it for myself.  Since it happened to be the first day of the month, I thought, "Oh sure, why not at least give it a shot?"

I am so glad I did!  For 30 days, I was not allowed to say anything negative to, or about my husband to anyone else.  After signing up to take part, the challenge website e-mailed me daily reminders about the challenge, and had a specific focus for each day.  There were specific scriptures that went with each day, and a reminder to seek God through the challenge, and not attempt it on my own strength - which of course, would only end in failure.  There were days when it was easy to encourage my husband.  I could tell him about the things that I appreciated so much about him, or even better, praise him to someone else while he was listening!

There were other days where it was more difficult to bite my tongue.  So often, especially as women, we run to others when we're upset about something for vindication, and affirmation.  It is especially easy to do when we're frustrated with our husbands.  The challenge hinges on this concept of banishing all negativity from your vocabulary.  It was so hard for me to do at times!  God led me to read through the book of James, where he talks about blessing God, and yet cursing people, who are made in his image.  What a contradiction!  Negativity and criticism are poison to a marriage.  They deflate my husband's spirit faster than a needle deflates a balloon.  This challenge brought about significant changes in our relationship.

When I began, I really expected to see the majority of change coming from my husband.  I was looking for changes in his behavior, or waiting for him to "notice" how nice I was being.  Sounds ridiculous, but true.

To my surprise, and shame, I began to see that the changes were happening in my own life.  When I stopped focusing on his faults and shortcomings, and instead shifted my focus to God's unchanging promises and purposes for him,  I began to see him through his Father's eyes instead of who I wanted him to be.

I have always known since our marriage began that it is not up to me to "change" my husband.  It is not my job to "train" him, or make him into super-father-husband, who can fulfill my every need and desire, all while leaping tall buildings in a single bound!  In other words, this was not a new concept for me.  However, I justify my behavior too often by using the "I'm not trying to tell him what to do, but that doesn't mean I can't be angry with him!" line.

By the grace of God, I am now able to get past the issues that bothered me so much, and instead appreciate the incredible gift of my husband.  God made me and my husband specifically to be with each other, no matter how our personalities might sometimes clash.  When I think about that sovereign plan, I am in awe that I serve a God who knew before the earth's beginnings that we would be here now, serving him together.

Encouragement is true love in action.  Ladies, this stuff works!  If you're interested in finding out more about the challenge, you can sign up here.  I'd love to know what things you've implemented into your relationships to help you love your man better!  Leave a comment to share your tips.

Photos by Hilda Burke, of Angel Eyes Photography