iOS Frustrations

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Well, the iPhone saga continues on at this house. If you recall, it was only about a month ago that I had shattered my iPhone and blogged about the lessons I learned from that experience (you can find that post here). When I wrote that, my phone had not been fixed. I’d like to take just a moment to tell you the rest of that story, so you can fully appreciate the rest of this post.

After trying to replace the broken screen, I finally just decided to call the insurance I apparently had on the phone (but do not remember signing up for). When I called, the kind lady assured me that she would be able to help me and went on to explain that since they were no longer making the iPhone 5, I would be sent a 5s. A day later, my phone showed up. I moved the Sim card, restored my latest backup, and was up and running in literally no time at all. It was so easy.

Fast forward a few weeks, when my husband dropped his phone. But instead of the screen shattering, something happened with his sound. He could no longer hear any calls through his ear piece and had to take all his calls via the speaker phone. Once again, I was on the phone with the insurance company.

But this time it would not be so easy.

When I called, I was informed by the not-so-nice lady who seemed to have no idea what she was doing that I would need to fax an affidavit and proof of my I.D. to them before they could process this claim. They could not approve the claim before I did this. When I asked for her supervisor and explained that I had just made a claim on another phone without doing this, she told me this was standard and there were no exceptions. Hmmm. Okay. Slightly annoyed, I did as I was told. When the approval finally came through it was for an iPhone 5. No problem there. I found it curious, given what the agent had told me the month before, but not a problem.

A couple of days later, the phone arrived. When I went to get started exchanging the phones last night, the tiny screen of the new iPhone informed me that no backups could be restored until the operating system was updated. Upon investigating further, I realized that the phone they had sent me only had iOS 6. At that point, I knew we were not looking at some easy fix. This was going to take some time. I was starting to feel some pressure. It was already pretty late at night and Eric could not be without a phone the next day. Ok, he could but it would be extremely inconvenient. I found myself wondering why mine was the easy and upgraded one. He needs his phone so much more than I need mine. Anyway.

I updated the iOS as requested only to find out that now it couldn’t restore the backup because the new phone was now iOS 8 and his backup was in iOS 7. So. Much. Frustration. So now I had to update his iPhone. If you have an iPhone, you are aware that these updates take some time. We were now at around 11:15. I left his to update and went to bed. This morning at 6:15, it looked like it had not updated overnight. And the panic hit once again. Thankfully, it had updated (must have just been a glitch on the screen). To update the new phone, I had had to set it up as a new phone. And so now I had to go back and erase and reset the new phone so I could restore the backup.

I was finally able to get the new phone in Eric’s hands at about 7:30.

What a process. All because I did not start with the right iOS system.

What I am going to say now most people do not want to hear but the bottom line is this: If we start with right operating system, life is generally simpler. 

And, in life, the right operating system is found in the Bible. If we follow the standards set up for us there, we have a better life. I have even seen non-Christians live by the standards set up there and have a really good life because they are living a good, moral life by staying faithful to their spouse, being honest, loving their children and teaching them to obey and respect authority, being a good steward of their resources, and being a good worker. These things alone will keep us from experiencing an awful lot of consequences.

But when we start with the wrong operating system (known by the name ME), we run in to some serious problems. When we are dominated by our own selfish desires, pride, and lusts, we will probably not have such an easy life but instead will be forced to deal with some costly consequences.

Sure, there are exceptions to this. Sometimes bad things do happen to good people. But we have to stop pretending that we can–

–Eat all we want and not get fat.

–Let our kids disobey and be disrespectful and yet believe they will somehow follow the Lord when they get older.

–Be selfish and unloving and still have a good marriage.

–Buy what we want and not go into debt.

Life has consequences. And much of the heartache in this world is due to this rule of reaping what you sow (Galatians 6:7). The really sad thing is that most times we are not the only ones who reap what we sow. The tragedies dealt by bad decisions are visited upon our children, our spouses, and our parents. Our choices can ruin lives.

My phone was so easy because I had started with the correct iOS. On the other hand, Eric’s phone was difficult and so frustrating because it did not have the correct iOS.

Let me encourage you to start with the right operating system today. This doesn’t mean we will live perfect lives (which you will understand immediately if you know me at all!), but it does mean that we will make a very purposeful decision to stop being guided by our own desires and wants and, instead, turn to God’s Word for directions on how to live. You will not only be pleasing Him by this choice, but avoid a lot of unnecessary heartache and sadness in your life.

 

If you appreciated this post, would you please take a moment to share it? Thank you.

 

 

A Lesson in Love From an Unlikely Source

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I love both my dogs. Truly, I do. But I have to admit that one is so much easier to love than the other one. (First, a disclaimer– if you don’t like dogs, you may not “get” this post. I hope you will keep reading, anyway.)

We have one dog named Belle. She is small and white and a bit cat-like. She will come if she feels like it. She will obey if she feels like it. She will stare at you with these eyes that seem to say, “see if you can make me.”  Now, overall, she is a great dog. She really is. And most times she does listen. And when she feels like it, she is the most cuddly dog you can imagine. But so much of the love is on her terms.

On the other hand, our Chocolate Lab, Macy, is almost always willing and ready to obey, to come when called, and to snuggle. She is happy and easy-going and just an easy dog to have around. She follows me everywhere and is almost depressed when I am not home for a few days. She loves me so much that I can’t help but love her back. The dog hair that seems to congregate in the corners of my house and other occasional annoyances that come with having a dog inside the house are more bearable because she is just so lovable.

The bottom line is that Macy is just easier to love than Belle.

As I was thinking about this the other day, I started wondering: Am I lovable? Do I love the people in my life so much that they can’t help but love me back?

I think sometimes we expect people (especially our spouses) to love us unconditionally, without wavering. And so they should. But perhaps we could make it so much easier for them to do so?

Should we really expect passionate and undying love from someone if we treat them like they are our servant? Or grow angry and irritated at the slightest offense? Can we really expect unconditional love if we are unkind, arrogant, and defensive? If we never, ever apologize or forgive?

Oh, it is possible to love difficult people by the grace of God and His love working through us, but we do it out of a sense of duty. It certainly isn’t because it is fulfilling or rewarding in any way. It certainly isn’t the way God designed love between two people to be.

Instead we so often fall into the habit of tolerating one another.

I have read several books on marriage that suggest that if you start serving your mate and treating them the way you would want to be treated it would go a long way in making your marriage work. I knew that this must be true but when I started thinking about my two very different dogs, understanding came in a whole different way.

It is just hard not to love someone (or a dog) who treats you like you are the greatest thing in existence. It is a rare person who doesn’t respond to kindness and loving actions shown towards them. And it is so much easier to put up with the annoyances and small irritations if we feel deeply loved by someone. Tolerance falls away and deep, abiding love takes its place.

If you are struggling in a relationship with someone today, may I suggest that you start loving that person unconditionally and without reserve?  Read I Corinthians 13 right now and put it into practice. Start treating them like they are special and see if they don’t just return that love. And, even if they don’t respond in the way you want right away (this process can take days or even years), you will be filled with the knowledge and peace that you are doing the right thing according to God’s Word (Mark 12:31).

 

Long-Term Benefits

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We were on the highway, headed back to our campground after a fun day of sight-seeing, when we came upon this extremely slow car in the passing lane. I find slow cars in the passing lane rather frustrating. I don’t care if someone prefers to drive slow, I just appreciate if they stay in the appropriate lane for their speed.

As we scooted to the right lane to pass them, I glanced in the car, expecting to see an elderly person.

Instead, what I saw confounded me. It was a young woman intently texting on her phone. In the passing lane. On a busy highway.

How dumb do you have to be if you are texting in the passing lane?? (My apologies to you if you have done this. I am not trying to be unkind, but common sense tells us that we shouldn’t text and drive at all, much less in the passing lane of a major highway!)

She is so typical of this day and age, where we just do not think through the possible consequences of our actions.

We are so focused on the present and what we want to do, that we care little for our own lives or the lives of those around us. And this is true in many other aspects of our lives, as well.

My husband and I were having a conversation with friends the other night and the subject of friendship with our kids came up. We are now at the stage where we are beginning wonderful friendships with our kids. But if we had tried to be their friend ten years ago, we would have sacrificed the friendship we have now. We had to delay our present desires (our kids to like us) for their future benefit (and our future benefit, as well).

Delaying gratification is not a popular concept these days. Think of all the dumb stuff we do on a daily basis because of the immediate gratification we receive–

~Eat when we aren’t hungry to fulfill the “appetite” of our eyes.

~Choose processed foods and mixes to save ourselves time.

~Give in to our child so we aren’t embarrassed or so they will like us.

~Buy something we don’t need or go into debt to “keep up with the Joneses”.

~Watch something crude and profane to get a few laughs.

Honestly, when it comes right down to it, many of us choose immediate gratification over long-term benefit all the time.

So what do we get if we decide to choose future benefits instead of immediate gratification? I can think of a few, very worthy things that you will probably receive (although there are always exceptions, of course)–

~We will not be haunted for life by the image of killing another human being because we were texting and driving on a major highway (this one is guaranteed, by the way–if you don’t text and drive, you won’t kill someone while doing it!)

~We will have a healthy body.

~We will stay out of debt.

~We will have obedient and respectful children (instead of the little tyrants I see running around everywhere these days! I shudder to think about what this world will be like as these undisciplined, self-centered kids grow up).

~We will become more like Christ.

As we grow more mature in Christ and exercise self-discipline in these areas, the decisions become easier because they become habits. The first few times we say no to that dessert or to buying something that we can’t afford, it hurts terribly. The first time we hold our ground with our kids and provide consequences for their fits, we will feel just awful inside. The first time we turn off that TV show or radio station, we will feel disappointed. But, if you can stick with it long enough, it gets easier because it becomes a habit. And before you know it, you have taken some leaps and bounds towards a better life.

I don’t know if the girl who was texting will ever have to pay the ultimate price for her stupidity. It seems that oftentimes many people get away with the Russian Roulette game they play every day. But we need to do the right thing, even if we never experience negative consequences.

And one final thing–of course, sometimes we fall back into our old habits as we strive to make good choices. That is where perseverance comes in. If you are reading this and are at a bad place and ready to give up, then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue on! We can’t give up! Perfection and perfect rest will come soon enough, but for now we are here to labor on in our quest to become more like Christ, to share the gospel, and to glorify God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Powerful Words

 

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The girl stood taller than the rest of the children. She was older than they were and she felt awkward and even ugly next to all that adorableness. This was a tough time for her, as that stage between childhood and adulthood often is for many of us.

As the children played, the adults talked. And she felt like she didn’t fit anywhere. She would be glad when the evening was over. It wasn’t that she didn’t like the family that was visiting her home. She just felt like she didn’t belong.

As they gathered together to eat, the mother of the visiting family unobtrusively whispered in the girl’s ear, telling her that she would be so happy if her young daughter would grow up to be just like her.

To a struggling twelve year old, these words were some of the most encouraging she could have offered. The young girl, now in her 20s, has never forgotten that moment of encouragement during a challenging time of her life.

My daughter told me this story only yesterday. I am not sure I had ever heard it before. But as she expressed her gratefulness for the woman and her wise words, I again realized the power of words.

We forget that words have the power to break someone down or build someone up. And so many of us are in the habit of  sharing the negative and never sharing the positive. We feel very comfortable saying what we don’t like, what we think someone should be, what improvements are necessary, and how someone isn’t meeting our expectations.

But when things are going well or there is something we really appreciate, so many of us tend to keep our mouths shut.

Many years ago, during a time when I was playing piano solos in my church, I realized the encouragement that could be given with just a few words.  I would work hard at a song and would feel rather deflated if no one told me they appreciated my hard work. And yet, if even just one person took a brief moment to thank me, I would feel like the work was worthwhile.

Now, God used this to teach me a myriad of lessons, the most important being that I should not long for the praise of men (I am still learning that lesson, by the way). But another lesson I learned during that time is that if I appreciate something about someone, I need to let them know.

Whether you talk to them in passing, take them for coffee, or write a short note to express appreciation, taking the time to share your positive thoughts is always a good idea.

God has dedicated a good portion of James 3 to this topic of the tongue. James tells us that–

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (verses 6-8)

This passage shows us that our words have great power, doesn’t it? As much as we have power to use it for evil, we also have the power to use it for good.

I heard a testimony the other day of a man who had come to know the Lord as an adult. As he talked about his faith in Christ, he mentioned that before he was even beginning to think about Christianity, someone had planted seeds of life in his heart. It would be several years before those seeds came to fruition, but that wise person had planted them, just the same.

Encouraging others and planting seeds of the gospel– now that is what I want my words to do. Don’t you?

Why do we find it so much easier to use our tongues to express irritation, to gossip, to argue, and to belittle? Why do we find it so much easier to close our mouths shut tight and not say anything?

Scripture is so clear on this, speaking to this very topic directly in a multitude of verses–

Proverbs 12:18, Proverbs 18:21, Matthew 12:36, Proverbs 16:24, Proverbs 16:23-24, Proverbs 15:23, I Thessalonians 5:11

And there are many more.

Let’s use our words today to build up and encourage. Let’s use our tongues to plant seeds for the gospel. And let’s wisely consider each word before it is spoken.

 

 

Mama on a Mission

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The noise in the tree next to me was getting annoying now. The bird chirped constantly as I sat there reading. It just didn’t stop. It sounded like it was really angry about something. When I went out to the porch swing the next morning, it did the same thing again–just sat in the tree and chirped madly. Actually “chirp” may be too musical of a word. This bird was yelling its little heart out about something.

When it continued to happen the following mornings, it finally dawned on me that there may be a nest in the hanging basket right beside the swing where I sat comfortably. I pulled a foot stool close by and stepped up to peek. Sure enough, there they were–an over-full nest stuffed with three or four adolescent birds, almost ready to fly.

The twittering bird beside me was not just any bird. She was a mama on a mission.

She was doing everything in her power to protect the babies for which she was responsible. She didn’t know that I wasn’t a real threat and so she chirped away.

In another–rather tragic– example of this, we heard this past weekend of an aggressive little dog that was killed by a bear near the cabin where we were staying. The dog-owners are heart-broken and think that the bear must have been protecting a cub, as they had heard some rustling beyond the bear and the bears are not normally that aggressive. It appears that this bear, too, was a mama on a mission.

We actually call women who fiercely protect their children “Mama Bears”, don’t we? And, unless you are a mama, you probably can’t really understand the urge to protect your young.

And we are called to protect our children. But what should this protection look like?

Many years ago, my daughter was in a class with a young girl whose mama would step in to protect her at any real or perceived hurt. She was there to inflict scathing words or just due on anyone who dared to hurt her baby. I would submit to you that this is not healthy protection. And we have all met these overprotective mamas. We find them in school rooms, Sunday School classes, soccer teams, and playgrounds. They are an intimidating force, these mama bears.

But is this really what we are called to do as Moms? Are we supposed to keep our children from receiving any hurt or disappointment? Are we to view them as perfect and step up to defend for any reason?

NO. Of course not.

This is not in the best interest of our children in any way.

We laugh about it now, but we were one of those families that almost handled things the opposite way. When our kids came home with a story about how a schoolmate or teacher had offended them, our first words would be, “what did you do?”  We always knew there had to be another side to the story.

Of course, there were occasions when I was tempted to step in the middle of dissension between friends or even at school and then I would remember my mom’s wise words to me — Let them work it out.

You see, part of growing up is learning how to handle disappointment. It’s learning how to work with difficult people. And how to deal with our emotions of anger and sadness. If we parents always swoop in to keep our children from learning these lessons, we will greatly hamper them (and their future families) for the future.

Now, while so many parents are busy trying to protect their children from real or perceived disappointments and hurt, I see few parents protecting their children from the real enemy--the enemy of their souls.

Satan is alive and active and roaring about like a lion (I Peter 5:8). He is also masquerades as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) and uses subtle ways to deceive us (2 Corinthians 11:3). He seeks to kill and destroy (John 10:10). And most of us allow him into the lives of our children in a myriad of ways–

We allow our children to choose the music we play in our cars. This is often pop music that is filled with explicit lyrics about sex, drug use, and bad language. We may even bop along with them to the catchy beat as the sinful music plays.

We put on the latest tv show or movie and laugh at the off-color jokes and shake our heads at the blatant wickedness — but never take a stand and just turn it off, explaining to them why.

We allow them to go to movies and dances and malls, all under the guise of “all the other kids are doing it”, never really knowing exactly what is taking place with these friends.

Our kids spend hours and hours with headphones in their ears, staring at an ipad screen, or playing video games that would make your skin crawl, and we say nothing. “Kids will be kids” is our motto.

When we do spend some time with our kids, we talk about the weather, the school assignment, or the vacation that’s coming up. We never talk about creation, or homosexuality, or what being a Christian really looks like.

All the while, the devil is making inroads into the hearts of your kids.

Oh, this is where we parents need to stand up and fight! There is an ALL-OUT Spiritual War going on and many of us are sitting casually by, thinking it doesn’t affect us. But, if you are not careful, the casualties will be your children.

This is where we need to step up and protect our young ones. We have a responsibility and we need to take it very seriously.

Let’s turn away from our own screens, clubs, and hobbies long enough to get to really know our children. To really understand what makes them tick and see their weaknesses. Let’s challenge them using the Word of God.

Let’s be like the mama bird, chirping loudly for all to hear, letting Satan know that you are, by the grace and strength of God, protecting the soul of the precious child in your care and this is one battle he won’t win!

 

 

 

The Fifty Dollar Bill

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Taking our anger out on those we love most seems to be a pretty typical pattern for many of us.

If something bad happens at work, on the team, or at church, most of us tend to keep our cool. It isn’t until we are in our own homes that we react emotionally to the painful incident or bad day and end up hurting those closest to us by lashing out in anger.

The other day, I found an old checkbook that I no longer use. I ripped up the few remaining checks and threw the whole thing in the trash. For some reason, I glanced down at the wastebasket. Was I surprised when my eyes fell on “part” of a $50 bill!

At first, my thought was no way! and I quickly reached down and pulled out the piece, not quite believing that it was actually real. Then I panicked a bit — did I actually just rip up a $50 bill?

I started searching a bit frantically for the pieces. In just a moment, I had found all three. I carefully put the pieces in order and then started taping them back together.

Will the bank accept this bill? I think so –although I’m not quite sure — never having done this particular foolish thing before.

But will it ever be the same again?

No, it will not. I can never make that bill magically into one whole piece again. It will always be taped for the remainder of its days in circulation.

What makes this even sadder is that I never intended to rip up that $50 bill. It just kind of got in my way, unknowingly hidden within the pages of an old checkbook (I still have no idea why it was there or any recollection of putting it there).

What a great picture of what so often happens with our closest relationships–

We are frustrated or upset about an issue that has nothing to do with anyone at home. Yet, as we are letting go of the angry or hurt emotions, we often end up ripping our loved ones into pieces. It isn’t our intention, it just happens.

The thing is, just like that $50 bill can never be put back together whole, so we can never truly repair the damage we do to our relationships. Oh, we can patch things up and forgive each other and move on but the damage has been done. While we can forgive, we rarely forget. How helpful it would be if we just didn’t let these things happen in the first place.

Life is so short. And most of us have been so blessed with deep, abiding relationships with our families and even some friends. Let’s make sure that no person is ever in the path of any ungodly anger or emotion we end up displaying (which is certainly sinful under any circumstances, but seems to be doubly bad when we end up hurting others in the process).

Let’s protect our relationships. They are fragile. And oh so precious. No bad day is worth causing those we love hurt and pain. Let’s not let something that won’t matter a bit in eternity erode our relationships with our spouse and children. It’s so not worth it.

Spreading the Rose Petals

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As most of you already know, Saturday was Wedding Day around here. Our oldest daughter was married on Saturday and is now happily honeymooning with her groom in the Caribbean.

Saturday dawned bright and clear. It all felt a little surreal, quite honestly. After a flurry of activity and many camera clicks, we were finally ready for the five o’clock ceremony.

I walked down the aisle with the best man, aware that all eyes were on me for that brief moment. I breathed a sigh of relief as I sat in my appointed seat and eyes were moved elsewhere.

I then watched my daughters walk down as maids of honor, followed by the bridesmaids and groomsmen.

And then came the children.

If you know my daughter, you know that she loves children. First came two beautiful nieces, their hands tightly holding the strings that were attached to the big, round balloons floating above their heads. And then came a handsome and very serious nephew, pulling a wagon which was supposed to hold two baby nieces. However, we heard a howl in the back and so only one adorable and wide-eyed baby girl was in that wagon.

And then came the official flower girl and ring-bearer. The ring-bearer was another nephew and the bride has been the flower girl’s nanny since she was born. This charming couple was tightly holding hands. Meanwhile, the basket holding the white rose petals stayed filled to the brim. They carefully walked down the aisle. I thought she forgot about the rose petals, but when they got to the front, they dropped hands to go different directions and that is when she put her small hand into that basket and pulled out a handful of petals. And then another. And another. She just kept pulling out those petals and spreading them over the ground where the bride and groom would soon be standing.

I finally told her that it was probably enough and she dutifully moved to her position beside the maid of honor.

I then had the privilege of standing and turning, as all eyes turned towards the stunning bride. It was an overwhelming moment and the next hour flew by, as we listened to two of our favorite pastors in all the world present very helpful challenges not only to the couple, but to us, the witnesses.

It was a beautiful ceremony and reception and I am proud of all the thought and effort that my daughter put into making the evening a wonderful experience for all who attended. It was her hope– and ours– that it would be God-honoring, first and foremost, and also enjoyable. I hope that we accomplished that.

I heard later that the flower girl told her mother, very logically, that it wasn’t possible to drop the petals before she let go of the ring-bearer’s hand. Ah, the wisdom of children.

As I was thinking about her words this morning, I had to smile. You know, she may be on to something there.

How often do we try to hold on to our own dreams and desires and please God, too? It’s like we want the best of both worlds. And, yet, it is absolutely impossible. We cannot totally experience the all-surpassing peace and joy that God promises us until we let go of our own desires. Of course, the most awesome thing of all is that when we do this, God changes us and fills our hearts with desires that please Him.

During the ceremony, one of the pastors talked about how God’s purpose for marriage can only be accomplished if we die to ourselves. He then added that living for Christ can really only be done well if we die to ourselves.

Yes, that is exactly what I saw in the flower girl’s actions. You can’t really do what you have to do until your hands are free.

You have to love the simple lessons we can learn from children.

Now, I’d better get going. I have a ton of wedding clean-up to do :)

 

My Best Advice for the Bride and Groom

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How in the world do we prepare you for marriage? It’s like trying to prepare for an earthquake or tornado– really quite impossible. You really can’t fathom what it’s like until you are smackdab in the middle of it. That’s really why is it so incredibly scary. Well, that, along with the fact that, as Christians, we know it is for good. So it’s not like we can change our minds next year if we don’t get along.

As I was thinking a bit about this, I thought I would just share a few things that have helped your dad and I along the way. Stuff we learned early on and stuff we learned later but wished we would have learned early on (these are in no particular order)–

1. Worry most about the opinions of God and your spouse. You will get so much advice in life. People telling you how to live, what to buy, how to raise your kids. When it comes right down to it, only what God and your spouse think matters. Don’t let your decisions be dictated by your parents (yes, that means me,too!), your siblings, your friends, or your church. Instead study God’s Word together and come to a mutual decision.

2. Remember that God has designed the man to be the spiritual head of the home (Ephesians 5:22-25). Oh, how we women get so uptight about these verses, but if the husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church, then it is a joy to submit to him. Of course, this is in a perfect world, right? Which is where we don’t live. But we need to keep working at it. This is so important because, when you come to an impasse (which you inevitably will) someone needs to make the final decision. God has designed it to be the man.

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Before you get too far into an argument, ask yourself if this really matters. So many times your dad and I would fight over the dumbest stuff. Does it really matter where we go to eat or what color we paint the room? Sure, some of these little things add up (like being consistently late, etc) and need to be worked out, but let the little stuff go. (I can almost hear you, Jess, telling me that I have not been a very good example in this area, and you would be so right–I am still working very hard on this one).

4. Apologize sincerely. If you mess up, admit it.

5. Accept apologies whole-heartedly. Don’t stiffen your back and refuse to forgive. Nothing good comes from that.

6. Talk openly about everything. No conversation should be off-limits– from what happened at work today to how you feel about sex to how your feel about your parents to theology. Talk about everything. Communication is so very important in moving a marriage from a simple partnership to a deep and abiding friendship.

7. Keep family relationships as a priority. We have learned that friends come and go, but family is forever.

8. Keep God at the center of your relationship. Pray and study the Word together. Have discussions about spiritual things. Find a good solid church and be committed so that you are regularly fed good spiritual food.

9. Be genuinely interested when you listen to each other. We all love to talk about our hobbies and interests. You will deepen your relationship considerably if you are an active listener.

10. Please don’t let us (your parents) ever come between the two of you. It is so much more important to Dad and I that you honor God and each other, than that you do what we want you to do. If we get intrusive without realizing it, please tell us. We are here to support you and offer advice, but only if and when you want it.

11. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are struggling, don’t be embarrassed or too proud to ask for help from us or your pastor or someone else you trust. Sometimes you need some help and that’s okay!

12. And, finally, and really probably most importantly, remember that all marriages go through stages. You will have days –maybe sometimes even longer–where you don’t even really like each other. You will wonder how you can possibly live with this person for the rest of your life. But hang in there, because the good times will come again! Don’t give up. Obey God’s Word by choosing to love even when you don’t feel like it and then wait, because the feelings will return.

I am so very excited for you both! It is made so much more exciting by the fact that I can see God’s hand so clearly at work in how He brought you together and how perfect you are for each other. We are looking forward to having another son and watching the two of you live your lives together for God’s honor and glory.

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Fly, Birdie, Fly!

baby duckling

I reached for a pair of socks. Once again, I had to root around for awhile before finally finding a matching pair.

I knew that someone had been in my sock drawer and I had a pretty good idea who. This nest is just getting a little too small for the six of us who live in it.

“That girl!” I thought, “it is time for her to leave and move into her own house…”

And then it hit me.

She is leaving. Very soon. For good.

This happened a few weeks ago. But how quickly time flies and now here we are: The week of the wedding.

You know, from the time our children are little we raise them to become responsible adults. We want them to live their own lives, hoping that it will include love and marriage and children, if that is their desire. We prepare them to leave us. We want them to fly!

But I guess no one ever told me that when our children start experiencing new beginnings, so do we!

You see, for awhile, I felt more like the exciting and new beginnings of my children were indicative that all my life’s dreams and hopes were ending. And in many ways they are. To get married and raise kids is all I ever wanted in life. Life as I knew it is drawing to a close. I still fight the feelings of nostalgia and sadness sometimes. I think only a mom who has faced the empty nest can truly understand this.

But recently I have realized that, in so many ways, I am starting a new beginning, too. Gradually– or was it suddenly?–I started going to the grocery store by myself. And then we went on little weekend trips and didn’t have to worry about a babysitter. And as they got older, my freedom increased and continues to increase.

So what am I going to do with it? Play? Work? Give my husband some of that attention that I poured on the kids? (that is his favorite option!) Start a new hobby or new career? Waste time watching TV?

Yes, this is one child and I still have three at home. But, I can feel the winds changing very quickly. And this Saturday will not only an indicate a fresh start in the lives of these precious young people, but in our lives, too–one that will include additional children (it is our goal to make the word “in-law” a positive thing!) and, hopefully, quite a few grandchildren.

Life is changing. Elisabeth Elliot says this about change: With acceptance comes peace. Yes, I think that may be true.

And so, while I still feel like life has gone a little too fast for my liking, I am so excited and thrilled for my daughter to be experiencing the wonderful adventure of marriage with the young man I’ve prayed for for all of her life. How faithful God is and how blessed we are.

The first birdie is leaving. Let the empty nest process begin.

 

 

 

The Messy Middle

FR

Before I even begin this post I may as well just make a confession.

I do not excel at cleaning my house.

You know how you go into some homes and everything is so spotless that you don’t even have to look into the closets to just know that they are probably organized by color and size? The fact that you could eat from the floor gives pretty solid proof that their pantries probably do not hold any old boxes of crackers, a bag of chips with just a few crumbs remaining, or empty tasty-cake boxes?

Anyway, that’s not my house.

I am just not one of those women who is checking my pantry every day for empty boxes. I am not one of those women who is cleaning out my cabinets every week…er…month…or even year?? I confess, I just believe there are so many other important things to do!

If you are one of those women who keeps a really neat house, then your family is blessed! Many have been the–shall we call them discussions?– regarding my method of housecleaning. Now, I do want you to understand that I do not keep a hovel. My house is basically clutter-free and clean–at least the areas that you can see when you visit!

BUT if you look into any given cabinet or closet…well, just don’t do it, okay? It may be dangerous. I try to stay after them. I really do. But–like I said– there are so many other things to do and, with six “not-so-tidy” people living here, well, they quickly become disorganized again, anyway.

But yesterday, I decided to tackle my family room. I don’t think I had actually thoroughly cleaned the cabinets in that room for several years. They were therefore unusable. I had a basic idea what was in there, but knew I would probably find a few surprises, too. I also decided to change the furniture around to make for more seating and to clean out a few other baskets.

The messy middle came about 30 minutes into the project. This was exactly why I didn’t want to start in the first place! And why I had put it off for so long.

So. Much. Stuff.

What is this? What if I give this away and then I need it again later? What in the world does this cord belong to? Where is the case for this dvd? Why do we even have this dvd?  If I haven’t read this magazine from last year, I wonder if I ever will?

While I was in the midst of all that clutter and stuff, which was spread all over my kitchen table and family room floor, one of the kids came in.

“Wow, this is a mess.”

Yes, I know. Thanks for telling me.

Another one came in.

“Whoa! What are you doing?”

?? Really? I thought it was obvious.

I started to get discouraged and overwhelmed. I would escape to my computer every 15 minutes or so to check e-mail and Facebook. Anything to escape the dreariness of what lay ahead. I did not want to finish this job. But it had to be done. For goodness’ sake, we couldn’t even eat a family meal until this job was finished.

And so, I finally made myself sit and work without any escape. I forced myself to finish the big job I had undertaken, even though I didn’t really feel like it.

After it was all done, I looked over my rearranged and clean family room with the satisfaction of a job well-done. It was so miserable in the middle, but the end result made it so worth it!

Oh, how true this is in so many areas of life! Raising kids can get very messy in the middle, can it not? Marriages can get pretty messy, too. As can extended family relationships, church situations, and job situations.

Oftentimes, we warily stand back, so fearful to address an issue. Sometimes we are just lazy. And sometimes we are just too busy. We just figure it will have to go away sometime. And, very occasionally, that does happen.

But, just like my messy cabinets weren’t going to disappear, most problems aren’t going anywhere, either. And just like the cabinets grew worse– more layers of dust, more stuff, more disorganization, so do our problems grow bigger and deeper. And so we need to face them head on and deal with them. And, YES, dealing with it will be messy and unpleasant and hard work. But we can’t give up in the middle. We have to keep going so that we can get to the other side.

And when we do, we will feel a peace and satisfaction that is comparable to little else this world has to offer.

The messy middle is no fun. That’s the truth, plain and simple. But the results are so worth it.

And now you know far more about me  and my house-cleaning practices than I wish you did but don’t let it be said that I’m not willing to sacrifice my reputation for the Lord ;)