Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"What Did You Expect"

My husband and I had the enormous blessing of being able to attend a marriage conference this past weekend hosted by Sovereign GraceChurch, Cherry Hill.  The speaker was Paul Tripp, and if you have not heard him speak or read anything he has written, you need to stop reading this post now and go to Amazon to order ANYTHING that he’s authored. I promise you no matter where you are in life, it will meet you in some way. Paul Tripp is a profound biblical author and speaker and has been used by God throughout the varying seasons and circumstances of my life to point me again to God’s truth, the wisdom of His ways and the goodness of His heart.

Anyone who knows me just a little bit probably knows that I don’t consider my marriage to be an easy one. It’s okay; my husband knows I feel this way. He feels that way, too. J  We’re both in it for the long haul. We love Jesus; we love each other. I would say that we’re incredibly different and that those differences are the cause of our frequent and heated conflicts, but I don’t think that’s entirely true.  We’re actually incredibly alike in the ways sin ensnares us, I think. We often say the most arrogant man on earth was attracted to and married the most arrogant woman on earth and boy, do the sparks fly!  The latter explanation likely gets a lot closer to pinpointing why Lawrence and I endure so much conflict in our marriage to one another.

Over the next week or two (or however long it takes me to actually write these posts), I thought I would share some of the key points I noted from the marriage conference in hopes that I would come a little closer to actually applying and God willing, gaining some traction toward a more God glorifying relationship with my husband.

I decided to do this publicly on my blog for two reasons: 1. Writing these posts will be a form of accountability for me to review my notes from the marriage conference which is one step closer in applying them. 2. I am hoping anyone who reads this will pray for me and our marriage (yes, this is a shameless plea for prayer…I’m pretty comfortable with asking for prayer!)

One inadvertent effect, I hope, from writing these posts will be that some of you who read may be encouraged and challenged in your marriages or other relationships because truth be told, so much of what I will share from the conference is applicable in a variety of relationships, not just marriage.

So, first post’s big idea is this:
“The character of marriage is set by the little moments.  The little moments matter because that’s where we live and that’s where God is.”

For me that means I pay attention to what many would call my “bickering” with Lawrence over just about anything and everything. We seem to find ourselves arguing at times about what most others would probably overlook or not even notice in the first place, like how to fold a blanket. True story.

It means putting down my dinner preparations to greet him warmly when he gets home from work with a hug and/or kiss.

It means not rolling my eyes when he flirts with me.

Many times, it means just thinking before I speak rather than reacting with words and a tone I often regret.

What might it mean for you to pay attention to the little moments?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Outdoor Refuge

The weather here in our part of the world could not have been more beautiful this weekend. Considering it a near sin to stay indoors with weather so inviting, I shoo-ed my kids outside on Saturday and set out to join them.

But, I live in a town home community, and while this type of living arrangement definitely has its advantages, e.g. endless opportunities for relationship and service to one's neighbor, close proximity to stores and other conveniences, small plots of land for which to care, it wasn't those conveniences I needed or desired this weekend. 

I wanted an outdoor refuge. 

I like one of the definitions of refuge at "yourdictionary.com"--"a place of safety; shelter; safe retreat". 

When I pass the threshold of my front door and close it behind me, I know that I'm in a place of refuge, a place of safety and retreat from the hardships, strains, and temptations that are outside my home, even though there is certainly some of that within my home, too. 

But, I also discovered this weekend that I desire outdoor refuges as well. God has given us fresh air to breath, changing seasons to experience in all their unique qualities, sunshine to take in as natural medication from the stresses of life. 

The "community" of town home living is a bit smothering for me at times, and I can be tempted to grumble for the lack of personal space. I was faced with such temptation this Saturday, but God's Spirit kindly and swiftly prompted me to give thanks instead for the outlets He HAS provided to me as outdoor refuges. 

We have an abundance of local playgrounds in Harford County, our tax dollars put to good use! And, my family certainly does make use of them. In addition, however, God has provided a few other family-favorite, outdoor refuges. One is a local garden, Ladew Gardens and one not as local but larger scale garden, Longwood Gardens, both of which we're privileged to be members.  

If, like me, you long for an outdoor refuge and aren't able to enjoy one in your own back yard, consider investing in a membership to some outdoor space such as a garden, historical site or farm.  The benefits of a membership versus just a visit is the access at low peak times (i.e. less people...when I get outside I don't want to share.  :)  The idea is SPACE to roam, quiet to think and take in all the wonders of God's creation.

Enjoy a few slideshow pictures (click on the top picture to see the entire slideshow) from some of our excursions to Ladew, Longwood and a local historic site, Jerusalem Mill.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


For about three years now (the same amount of time I've been a homeschooling momma), Thursdays have not been the best day of the week for me. No, it's not the TV primetime lineup that's lacking. I actually have no idea what's on TV on Thursday nights.

I'm not altogether sure why Thursdays are typically difficult for me. It could be that I've homeschooled for 3 days and we're all growing weary but not quite to the weekend yet. It could be that I'm out of the house on most Wednesday nights much later than usual. Or, it could be that I don't get to the gym on Thursdays to release those good-mood producing endorphins.  I really don't know.

All I know is nearly every week, I get to Thursday and CRASH--physically for sure, which tends to lead to me crashing emotionally and mentally as well.

So, today when I woke up and knew I had to make a visit to the MVA (MD Vehicle Assoc) for a license renewal in addition to my normal duties of school, laundry and food prep., I must admit there existed a strong temptation to feel defeated before I even rolled out of bed.  Add to that the fact that I would have to take my three children with me to the MVA, go to a doctor's appointment in the late afternoon, and have my home and heart prepared to host my pastor and his wife at 8 o'clock that evening.

Anticipating the day's agenda, I was convinced it was going to be a "just survive" kind of day.

With that in mind, I sarcastically posted on my facebook a link to the MVA webpage with the status, "Look what I get to do today with three kids in tow! I will survive".  Not a veiled plea for help, but a declaration of my fortitude and faith in God who goes before me, I clicked "post" and jumped into my day.

Sometime between Bella's writing lesson and the boys' math lesson, I headed downstairs to change over laundry and sneak a peak on facebook (come on, homeschool moms, you know you do it!). :)
Lo and behold, a friend made a generous and kind offer to watch my kids while I renewed my license.  In the midst of replying to her offer with an enthusiastic, "YES!", I received a text from another friend (who, by the way, hadn't seen my fb status) asking if Bella could have a playdate with her little girl.

Truly, I couldn't have arranged it better myself.
And, I didn't arrange it; God had!

On Thursday, this Thursday, the hardest day of my week, God used the thoughtful offers of two friends to heighten my awareness of HIS awareness of me.

These kind offers were not just gestures of friendship, though they were that at the least. They became for me a much greater thing: a divine moment in my day.  Being relieved of the pressure and stress of taking three kids to the MVA did serve me, no doubt, to endure the wait that inevitably comes with a trip to the MVA.  But, the effect of my friends' service went far beyond that.

It made me mindful that God sees me; He knows my frame. He knows that Thursdays are hard days for me. He knew that this Thursday was going to be even more challenging than usual.  And, He provided in ways I didn't anticipate or even ask.

This--this grace--this undeserved blessing--this awareness that God knows me and is with me buoyed me so, filled my heart with faith for the remaining responsibilities of my day and also with joy, the "cherry on top".  Sadly, I can't say I face most of my Thursdays with joy. God is growing me in faith for them, yes, but joy is the caboose that hasn't quite yet come along for the ride. Today, it did!

Don't underestimate the profound impact an act of kindness can have on a person--not just in providing practical help in times of need but buoying a soul and being used to enlighten one to the active presence of God in her life.  It's a powerful thing indeed.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The God of Again

Are you in need ...AGAIN

Do you need to forgive-AGAIN
be forgiven--AGAIN

Do you need spiritually refreshed--AGAIN

Do you need to reach out and build friendship--AGAIN.
You are weary of initiating, laying yourself bare, carrying others' burdens, caring. 
You need a fresh filling of God's heart and strength and resolve to seek His Kingdom first--AGAIN

Do you need healing--AGAIN

Do you need encouraged---AGAIN

Do you need to serve--AGAIN
or to be served--AGAIN

Are you being asked to wait--AGAIN

To all of you who for one reason or another have that word "again" in your dialogues with God, I believe He would say--I am the God of again.

I will heal again
       strengthen again
       encourage again
       give grace
for I am the God who does not grow tired or weary; my understanding none can fathom.  My resources never run dry. I have and am all that you need and more than you need, and I am the God who wants to meet you AGAIN."