Where the Rubber Meets the Road

And a Merry Christmas Message

Christmas Dinner

So many of us consider ourselves pretty good Christians. We don’t drink in excess, we don’t steal from our bosses or cheat on our taxes. We have been faithful to our spouses and we go to church almost every Sunday. All good things.

But there is nothing like a week full of family get-togethers to remind us of our sinful natures. This is where the “rubber meets the road” in our profession of Christianity.

As families go, I am pretty blessed. But in every family we have the potential of run-ins and relationship problems because we all are different– we have different priorities and we have differing views on religion and politics. We don’t raise our kids the same way. And we don’t feel passionate about the same things. Some of us tend to be very loud and boisterous and others of us are quiet and reserved. All this means that we don’t always see eye-to-eye. How that plays out is not the same in every family.

Some families have loud debates or even arguments. Other families are full of sarcastic remarks that infuse every family gathering. In some families, it is just a cold, unbreakable tension that lies underneath all that goes on during their times together.

Hurtful remarks. Sarcastic comments. Cold shoulders.

They can all add up to a real lack of peace among family members.

And I am here to encourage you not to be part of any of it.

As Christians dedicated to growing in holiness each and every day, let’s be the ones that bring peace and unity to the family.

What does this look like in practical terms?

These thoughts came to my mind this morning before I started my Bible reading this morning. A few minutes later I read this in I Peter 3—

8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;[a] 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

These verses give us such clear instructions on how to relate to others—practical and helpful as we face a week of family get-togethers and parties with friends.

We are to be of one mind. This is what Matthew Henry writes in his commentary about this sameness of mind that we are to have with other believers—

Christians should endeavour to be all of one mind in the great points of faith, in real affection, and in Christian practice; they should be like-minded one to another, according to Christ Jesus (Rom. 15:5 ), not according to man’s pleasure, but God’s word.

This unity can only be experienced with our Christian brothers and sisters. We will not be able to be unified with unbelievers, as we are categorically in opposition as we journey towards two opposite goals.

However, even if we can’t be unified with unbelieving family members, we can certainly practice being compassionate, tender-hearted, and courteous, can’t we? We can practice returning good for evil. We can choose to bless, rather than to choose revenge.

Revenge is such an ugly word, but in everyday life it can be very tempting to exact. It’s not always something dreadful but can instead be how we choose respond to a person–making sarcastic remarks  or ignoring them, as we seethe in our souls.

Every day offers us opportunities to live out I Peter 3:8-10. But there are few times each year that offer us so many opportunities to practice this than during the Christmas season–a time that taxes even the closest of families.

May we be the ones that bring a breath of fresh air to our family gatherings. Let’s be the ones that offer abundant grace and blessing, no matter how hurtful the remark or how unkind the deed. It may not be easy, but we have the Holy Spirit guiding and directing us. Let’s walk in the Spirit and choose to show loving-kindness with a joyful heart this holiday season!

**On a different note**
I’d like to thank you, dear reader, for joining me on my journey to grow in Christ this past year. I count it as a privilege and a blessing that you would use some of your precious time to read my posts. I wish you a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year.

What We Don’t Regret

baby

Yesterday we celebrated our oldest daughter’s 25th birthday. That means that my husband and I have been parents for a quarter of a century now– which is almost half of our lives. Now that our kids are grown (or almost grown), we can look back on our parenting with much clearer vision. Hindsight is always 20/20, after all.

And we find that there are a few choices and decisions we made that we would make all over again. Here is a list of eleven things we don’t regret doing with our kids–

      1.    We don’t regret the hours that we chose to spend playing games or reading stories, turning our backs on those incessant daily tasks sometimes.
      2.    We don’t regret standing firm about what the kids were allowed to watch, wear, listen to, read, and play. This was especially hard and was done amidst many cries of “but my friends are allowed to…”
      3.    We don’t regret the many conversations around the dinner table talking about God, His Word, and what being a Christian really means.
      4.    We don’t regret the time our kids spent with their grandparents. They have provided incredible support to our family and the relationships that were built with our kids are priceless.
      5.    We don’t regret being flexible with bedtimes and mealtimes. This not only taught our kids to be flexible, but provided evening hours to snuggle and play games with Daddy during those long years when he was building a business.
      6.    We don’t regret having Daddy lead bedtime devotions. This gave me a much needed break after a long day and Daddy precious time with his children.
      7.    We don’t regret pulling our kids from travel soccer and other sports when they threatened to take over our priority of going to church on Sundays.
      8.    We don’t regret homeschooling. In fact, that is probably the one thing I miss the most– homeschooling my elementary children. Even now, I can get a little misty-eyed about it. What an incredible joy and privilege that was.
      9.    We don’t regret taking our kids to the Bible for any and all issues they faced. This taught them to live by God’s Word and not by what we said. It taught them that they are accountable to God for their choices.
      10.    We don’t regret hugging our kids–even our teenagers– when they were really angry with us. While we are the kind of family that hugs a lot, we found out that teenagers can be awkward to hug. But we kept right on hugging through all of the turmoil and hard times. Some days it was quite difficult but we are sure glad we did it anyway.
      11.    We don’t regret the evenings and weekends away that were spent building our marriage. Sometimes it was just thirty minutes of conversation snatched after the kids were in bed as we tried to stay in touch in some of those very busy years. Our children needed unified parents and we needed to keep our marriage relationship strong during the hectic years of growing a family.

While we don’t regret these eleven things, there are so very many things we do regret. We failed in so many ways and often we can see the fruits of those failures in the struggles of our kids. We will often notice one or two of the kids following my bad example in one way and others following my husband’s bad example. We were (and still are) so far from perfect and find ourselves acutely aware of it.

And yet, most days I stand back in absolute amazement at the faithfulness of God to our family. How incredibly gracious and kind of Him to fill in the gaps of our weaknesses and watch over the hearts of our kids so that each one has chosen to follow Him. We feel incredibly blessed.

And then to be doubly-blessed, He brought new sons and a daughter into our family through marriage that also love Him.

And, now, life brings a triple blessing. For we are going to be grandparents! Our oldest daughter and her husband are expecting in the spring. Eric and I are so very excited about having little ones around again. We have both loved parenting — all of it. We have loved the baby and toddler years, the elementary years, and the teen-aged years. Okay– we didn’t love the middle school years, but it wasn’t as awful as I thought it would be. And we are loving this time, as well, as we learn to know our kids as adults and are finally able to develop friendships with them. And now to welcome a grandchild into our family and to start that phase of life where our kids experience the wonder of being parents– oh, what joy it will be!

I know I have said it before, but I just have to say it again– if you are a young parent, please treasure every moment that you can. Focus on the eternal and on the stuff that matters. Life is just so short and before you know it, you will be exactly where I am — expecting a first grandchild!

 

Middle-Aged Marriage: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Adrienne-ShaneWedding-493

If anyone would have told me how hard this time of my life would be I don’t think I would have believed them. I was not prepared for the changes and the emotions that would encompass this time. Kids leave our homes to start their own adventures, our bodies do crazy things to us, and life is filled with doubts, regrets, and disappointment as we reflect on past choices or wonder about the “what-ifs” and “if-onlys”. Life-changing events during middle-age– college, ill or elderly parents, weddings, grandchildren, kids moving away–often come at us quickly and unrelentingly, bringing ever-constant change. All of this can be very hard on a marriage. And it can be pretty ugly.

My husband and I used to wonder how couples could stay together for 25 or 30 years and then divorce when the kids left the house. But now that we are here, it makes a lot more sense. There are a lot of emotions surrounding this time of life for both husband and wife. If you go into it without a solid base of devotion to God and friendship with each other, it will prove extra challenging and sometimes impossible. Some marriages survive it and some don’t.

Today my husband, Eric, and I celebrate 27 years of marriage. In some ways it feels like just yesterday that we said our vows and drove off in an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (anyone remember those?) but, in other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago. I’d like to tell you that with age, marriage has grown easy and that we are coasting in to the finish line. But that would be a lie.We both married sinners and so we continue to strive to work together. Some times are easier and some times are harder. These past couple of years would probably fit under “harder” for us.

This is why I am so thankful that I married a guy who has continued to be my best friend through all of the ups and downs. Let me assure you–our story is no fairytale. There have been serious struggles. But through it all, God has shown Himself so faithful.

Since it is our anniversary, I can’t help but reflect on why my husband and I are still such good friends even in the midst of this all. I think one of the main reasons is that he isn’t too proud to say he is sorry. I also love that he is willing to work at our marriage and will plan romantic things or read books just for me, even though his heart isn’t in them. I am glad he hates discord and won’t let more than an hour go by without talking if we are in a disagreement. And I am thankful for a husband who desires to please God with his life and who desires to obey His Word.

I am not sure why God led me to this man, but I am certainly glad He did. And I’m glad that God has walked with us every step of the way–through the dark times and through the good times.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea here. There are many times that we are so frustrated with each other we could scream. My husband isn’t even close to perfect, so don’t go comparing your husband to mine. No, instead, think right now of the good things your husband brings to your marriage. Unless you are married to a complete loser, you know there are some. The same thing goes for you men– remember the good things about your wives. Oh, how important it is at any stage of marriage to always remember why we fell in love!

And just a brief side note here: If you are a mom still in the middle of laundry and soccer games and homework and diapers, I want to encourage you to keep working at your marriage. Don’t let the kids steal your heart. Always remember that you have a man who still needs you. Because some day, all too soon, you will find yourself with only him. Make sure he is not a stranger.

Some of you have been reading this blog for a while now and you have been walking with me through this new stage of life. Many of you have been there and have offered encouragement. Or you are there and can relate to what I write. Thank you for that.

The good news is that I think I am starting to see some of the benefits to this upcoming stage of  marriage. We are able to go out for dinner without finding a babysitter. We can sit and talk uninterrupted. There is a whole lot less chaos and stress in our home. And, of course, we have a little more extra money with only one teenager in our house instead of four! And, so, I think once things settle down here, we will become used to our new normal and we will find ourselves even more deeply in love.

Until then, I would just like to say Happy 27th Anniversary to my wonderful husband. He reads this blog faithfully to support me (another thing I appreciate!) so I know he will see this. I love you, Eric, and if I could choose, I’d marry you all over again.

 

Weekend Reflections

Weddings

Today’s post is not typical and there really isn’t going to be any spiritual lesson. Instead, I am going to try to encapsulate my emotions from this past weekend just a bit. We had my son’s wedding on Saturday (which you already know) and then we had my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary party on Sunday. S0, before we go any further, I will answer the question I know you are thinking– yes, I am a bit crazy to do that. That has already been established.

However, just so you know, my brother is from out-of-town and this just made the most sense. Plus we were able to use the wedding venue and the wedding centerpieces, so it came together pretty easily–especially when you have a sister-in-law and a daughter who should really go into party-planning as a business…

Now that we have my sanity (or lack thereof) established, we can move on to some of my impressions from the weekend.  As mentioned above already, this is certainly not my normal kind of post but I thought I would share this here because so many of us share the same emotions when it comes to our children and our parents. I’ll get back to my normal style on Thursday.

So, first, my impressions of Saturday–

I guess if you read my blog, you are already familiar with the fact that I have been on an emotional roller coaster regarding this wedding. Let me say first and very clearly, this roller coaster had nothing to do with my son’s choice of a bride. She is the perfect choice for him and we couldn’t be more thankful. The fact that her parents are some of our closest friends is a very special bonus. It’s the stuff in life you could never plan! I think, rather, that it was partly because it was my only son’s wedding and I knew he now would officially have another woman as his priority in life. Some of you will get what I’m saying and some of  you won’t. I also think it was because the reality of the empty nest is starting to set in now.

But, last Monday, I started to feel so much better. Over the course of the next few days, I had three or four dear, dear friends text or tell me in person that they were praying for me. I could feel their prayers holding me up and I had a great week last week. Prayer is an amazing thing.

And, this morning, I am okay. I am really exhausted but I’m okay. Although, I cannot lie–there is a big empty sadness that fills me when I think about my son’s room never being occupied by him again. It’s just so…strange.  No one ever tells you when your babies are little what it feels like to watch your birdies try their wings and fly off away into their own lives. I find myself wishing I didn’t feel so deeply. It makes it so much harder.

But we are so excited for our son–and for our two daughters– and their future lives. They have all grown up to be responsible adults who want to follow Jesus and have found spouses who want to do the same. What more could you ask as parents? While there may be some mourning over what was, I stand amazed (and also filled with a bit of relief if I think back to the question marks of the teen years!) when I look at my adult kids. They are not perfect kids and we are far-from-perfect parents. We take no credit. God is so good. And He is so faithful.

Which leads me to my impressions of Sunday–

As people started to file in to my parents’ party I saw many dear friends that I hadn’t seen for so many years. Memories of yesteryear filled my mind. And I had to think of how God uses certain people in our lives at certain times and then they leave the stage of our lives and we move on. It’s the nature of life. We move, we change jobs, we change churches, and we become disconnected. And it makes me thankful for two things–first, that we are graced with the presence of so many dear friends throughout our lives. People who have supported us and encouraged us just when we needed it. What an incredible blessing from God! And, second, for the really special friends that God gives us that hang around our entire lives. At the party were a few friends that my parents have remained close to through all of the changes in their lives. They have a special connection (I call it a “kindred spirit”) with my parents and have been with them through thick and thin. If we are fortunate enough to have just a few “kindred spirit” friends, we are beyond blessed. True friends are hard to come by. They are a treasure and should never be taken for granted.

And as we celebrated, the absence of several relatives was felt. But, for me it was the absence of my mother’s brother, Larry, that was felt most deeply. He has gone on to be with the Lord and life on earth–at least for this family–will never be the same. He is still so sorely missed. I know that all people are missed, but Larry was special. He was one of those uncles that you knew cared about you. That you could go to if you ever needed anything. And he made us laugh–oh, how he made us laugh. I know that life will never be the same without him.

I was also filled with such thankfulness as I thought about God’s sovereignty in putting me in this particular family as a tiny baby. Why me? Why was I so blessed to be put there? I have no answer for that. But I do have a very grateful heart.

And so this weekend was filled with emotion for me– the hope of the future and looking back to the past. It was a lot to take in. To say the least.

But I guess if there is any lesson to be had here, I would leave you with something my dad said when he shared a few words yesterday.  He said that before any children joined the family, he and mom had talked about the fact that nothing would ever be more important to them than that their children would come to know the Lord. That would always be the priority. My parents were not perfect, but that was always the priority. They held to their word.

They now have a son who is a preacher (and an amazing one at that!) and a daughter who writes about biblical principles. But their decision has also affected the lives of their grandchildren. For we, their children, have also made that the priority with our own children. And it is our prayer that our children will do the same.

If you have young children– or even if your kids are older– I encourage you to make the same priority in raising your kids. Nothing is more important. No sports trophies or academic accolades compare. No stage or glory or awards matter more than this one thing–that our kids love and serve Jesus.

Weaknesses and unkind words and unloving actions have abounded in my families. They were part of my life growing up and they are part of my life now. But if we keep the Lord our priority, he is so faithful. He is so faithful. He fills in the gaps of our weaknesses and honors our commitment to Him. It is truly hard to explain the joy and peace that fills a heart that lives for Him. Life isn’t perfect and there are hard times. But, through it all, it is well with my soul.

I know so many of you have experienced the same faithfulness. You have experienced God’s great love and grace for you. We don’t base our Christian walk on that experience (as is so common today) but, the experiences confirm what we know to be true from scripture. They confirm the promises we read in God’s Word. I leave you with just one of those promises–

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (Psalm 34:8)

 

Sex is Not a Four-Letter Word

Song of Solomon

Disclaimer: This post is really for my fellow Christian women. Men will probably not get this post, although it may help them to understand their wives a bit if they take the time to read it.

Sex Trafficking/Slavery.

Transgender/Trans-sexual.

Sexual Abuse and Molestation.

Pornography.

Affairs.

Prostitution.

The Gay Agenda.

If we have been saved by the blood of Christ, we view the above words as sinful or evil. Some of the words are viewed as evil even by the world. This is because God’s Word (and our consciences) inform us that all of the above are sexual behaviors that lie outside of God’s perfect will for sexuality. All are warped and broken ways that man has tainted sexuality. It would appear that Satan has given some of his greatest effort to destroying sex as God designed it.

So it’s Thursday, the day that I generally write about what we are currently reading in our Bible Challenge. I almost chickened out and was seriously considering ignoring the Song of Solomon completely. It was very tempting. I don’t even really “get” that book (comparing love to  clusters of henna blossoms and teeth to recently shorn sheep isn’t my style!) But there it was–this book that talks about verdant beds and breasts like towers. In the Bible. Our guide book for life has a whole book about the pure and holy beauty of physical intimacy between a husband and a wife.

Many of us are very uncomfortable even mentioning the word “sex”.  Satan has corrupted and perverted it almost beyond recognition. Because of this, it has destroyed countless lives and families. If we grew up in a Christian home, this word may have been ignored completely. Many families just pretend that it doesn’t exist at all. And, even worse yet, I have heard of some women who were told by their mothers or other older women that sex is just a duty and nothing more, something to be endured.

Sex is a little tricky for Christians, isn’t it? It’s one of the only things I know of that is a sin in one set of circumstances (sex between two unmarried people ) and beautiful and glorious in a different set of circumstances (sex between two married people).

While I don’t really understand every verse of Song of Solomon, I do take away from reading this book that God considers sex between two married people to be something pure and holy and wonderful.

As women, in particular, I think we have to be careful not to mix the feelings we have about our pasts (sexual sin or abuse) with our married sex life now. This can be difficult and there is no easy way to heal from something like this. But women can heal from this. I have heard the testimonies of several women who have struggled through the guilt of their pasts. There is hope!

I also believe that we have to be so careful not to let the debauchery of prime-time TV or the perverted remarks and jokes we hear in a steady stream all around us to taint our view of sex the way God created it to be. We have become a weirdly over-sexed nation– as if that is the only thing that matters in a relationship. And most of us are either laughing and going along with the world’s perversions of sex or we are putting our heads into the sand and pretending it’s not happening.

Some of you may be reading this and thinking: What is she talking about? My view of sex is perfectly healthy.

If that’s the case, I am so happy for you.

But I believe that it’s very likely that there are many, many Christian women who have been broken or taught lies about this word and they view sex as something to be endured or even avoided.

I am certainly no sex therapist but I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty: We will never be able to fully enjoy sex with our spouse until our view of sex is a biblical one.

Sex is not a dirty word. Instead, it is something that has been destroyed and broken almost irreparably by Satan and the world. It’s time for Christians to declare the truth about sex. We need to stop being so embarrassed about something that God created as a special gift for husbands and wives. The shame only comes when we step outside God’s design. There is no shame to be found in sex between a man and his wife. Yes, it should be a private thing, but it’s not shameful.

So that’s what I learned this week! I have a feeling next week’s post may seem a little boring compared to this one– if there even is a Thursday post next week since our son’s wedding is next Saturday! Wow, that came fast!

Have a great day. Hope I didn’t make you blush. :)

The Many Faces of Pride

PRIDE

I’ve had a really rough week. You don’t need details, but suffice it to say that I came face to face with my loathsome, prideful self yet once again.

Does that ever happen to you? Or am I the only one? You think you are doing pretty well in this Christianity thing and then something happens that you didn’t see coming or someone doesn’t meet your expectations and you react. And that’s when you realize that you still have so far to go. While it can be really painful, I am so thankful for these times, for they remind me of why I need a Savior so incredibly much and they help me to grow more like Christ.

Pride is an insidious, deadly sin. It gobbles up our peace and joy so quickly. It destroys most everything in its wake. Or, at the very least, keeps any relationship from being the best it could be.

Humility is the opposite of pride. Christ was humble, even to death on a cross, and humility is what He requires of us. First and foremost, humility is necessary for us to understand our need for a Savior. But, after our initial conversion, it is also so key in staying in a right relationship with God. It is absolutely critical for healthy family relationships. Humility helps us to be a better co-worker, a better child, a better spouse, a better parent. We are happier when we are humble. We bless others when we are humble. We experience much greater peace when we are humble.

When we think of pride, we often think of the kind that David exhibited in I Chronicles 21 (and 2 Samuel 24). David took a census. This was apparently an act of pride that cost him (and the whole nation of Israel) dearly. We can’t know for sure, but according to my Bible study notes, David’s act of taking this census could have angered God for a number of reasons. Perhaps because David was trying to gratify his pride in the great strength of his army and military power. Or he was putting more trust in his forces than in his God. Maybe this was showing that he was taking credit for the many victories of Israel. Whatever his reason, we know that God was angry, as we read in the passage.

And our pride often looks like David’s in our own day-to-day living. We take credit for something; we want the glory; we draw attention to our accomplishments and awards and accolades.

But let’s just say that we don’t really struggle with this type of thing. Maybe we hate attention and would never boast about ourselves. We would never count our successes and victories and put them out there for all the world to see. Is there still the possibility that pride could still be an issue for us, if boasting and taking censuses isn’t our style?

Of course, the answer to this is a resounding YES.

So what are some ways that pride hides out in the dark corners of our minds and hearts? I have been really thinking about this topic of humility this week. Knowing that in order for my relationships to work right, I need to be humble. In searching some of my favorite authors on this topic, I came across a $2.99 Kindle book called Sermons on Humility by Charles Spurgeon. I have not finished it, but in the first few pages he shares several different ways pride exhibits itself in even the most “humble” of us. I will follow each one with a few practical, modern-day examples —

There is the pride of the heretic, who will utter false doctrines, because he thinks his own judgment to be better than the word of God, never content to sit like a child to believe what he is told, he is a disputant but not a disciple. He will insist upon it that his own reason is to be the well-spring of his own beliefs, and he will receive nothing beyond his own reach.

This is immediately what I think of when I think of the Christians who claim that homosexuality isn’t a sin, that unity is more important than truth, or that the world evolved. They have the pride of the heretic–relying on their own intellect or on the intellect of other men instead of on the Word of God. The other person that comes to mind is the one who says there are many ways to heaven or that there is no hell. They, too, are holding their own thinking in higher merit than the Word of God.

There is next the pride of the Papist, who attaches merit to his own works, and hopes to will heaven as the reward of his own doings.

While they may not brag or boast about this, many think they are good people, quietly assuming that their good deeds outweigh their bad ones and this will be what gets them into heaven. Even many, many Christians (or shall I say people who identify with the religion of Christianity) believe they are going to heaven based on their own merit. This is pride. This is the kind that keeps our eyes blinded to our need for a Savior.

Next there is the pride of the curious. The man who is not content with simplicities, but must pry into mysteries. He would if he could climb to the Eternal Throne, and read between those folded leaves and break the seven seals of the mysterious book of destiny. You know well our apostle has many things in his writings which are hard to be understood, yet he uttered them because of the Spirit, and you never meet with any attempt in the apostle’s writing as you do in the preaching of some ministers, as you do in the conversation of some professors, to reconcile predestination with free will. He was quite content to preach to men as free agents, and exhort them to repent, quite willing to speak of God as working in us to will and do of his good pleasure, while we also work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Paul was never curious to find out where the lines of truth met, he was perfectly content to take his doctrine from his Master’s spirit, and leave the old wives fables and endless genealogies and disputings, and questionings, to those who had no better guests to entertain.

I included this whole section here because it goes so very well with my post from Monday. I agree with Spurgeon whole-heartedly– it is prideful to think we have to understand the things we can’t understand. Yes, the ungodly will call you stupid and unintellectual when you take this approach (mostly because of their own personal pride). They don’t know God the way we do if we are saved. They don’t understand that submitting to His sovereignty is an incredible blessing. That some questions can go unanswered because the ones that really matter have already been answered. They can’t get it. Their eyes can’t see.

Again, there is the pride of the persecutor; the man who is not content with his own notions, but would hunt to death another, the pride which suggests that I am infallible, and that if any man should differ from me, the stake and the rack would be the due deserts of so great a sin, against so great a person as myself.

We may not want to see someone physically harmed when they don’t agree with us, but how many broken families and split churches fall under this type of pride? Millions? Trillions? This is perhaps the most tempting one for “godly Christians”. We think we are right. We believe that our opinion is best. We believe we are infallible. But if it’s not within the pages of scripture, is it actually something worth a broken relationship?

Is any special piece of furniture or bank account worth the fracturing of a family upon a parents’ death?

Is any decision of our adult children worth the tense and strained relationship that comes when we keep insisting they are doing wrong thing or making the wrong choice?

Is any opinion of mine worth holding on to if it’s causing stress and constant argument in my marriage?

Is my hurt pride over what I heard that someone said about me worth a broken friendship?

NO, a thousand times NO. The answer to all of these questions is NO.

And so, so many of us fall prey to this deadly sin, leaving a trail of broken hearts and strained relationships. I don’t want to do this. I want my marriage more than I want to be right. I want a right relationship with my kids more than I want to be right. I want to be a good testimony more than I want to be right.

Keep in mind I am not talking about biblical truth here. Of course, we have to stand strong and fight for the truth held within the pages of scripture. I might add here that even these biblical debates can and should only be done with great gentleness and kindness. But most of us are not arguing over biblical doctrine (a few more of us should be! We seem to not find that important, while inane, silly things get us so riled up!), instead, we are debating and arguing over issues which have no biblical mandate. No right or wrong. I am talking about the silly, stupid stuff we won’t bend on. The stuff that isn’t worth it.

Life is hard. Relationships take work. And no relationship works well without at least one party practicing humility. Joy and peace elude us without humility. Unanswerable questions haunt us without it.

And so we start with us. Today. The only place we can start. And we take our desire to be right, our yearning for glory, and our prideful thoughts about how good we are and hand them all to the Lord, asking Him to humble us and to become more like Him.

Often crying and screaming inside our heads as we endure the emotional pain of the process.

 

 

Spurgeon, Charles (2014-09-28). Twelve Sermons on Humility; Titus Books. Kindle Edition.

 

About Love

I Corinthians 1313

When I was a kid, life was a lot different. I can remember when Dad brought home our first microwave, our first VCR, and our first Video Game Console. I remember the Christmas as a young married woman when I received my first CD player. I was so excited! I didn’t know it at the time, but just like life had changed so drastically with the development of machines in the late 1800s, so would life change again in the late 1900s with the development of the computer.

One of those changes — a seemingly very minor one — is that instead of buying the whole album of our favorite artist to get the song we love, we can now just buy that one song. This option means we don’t have to buy the songs we don’t like. But I wonder if it doesn’t also mean that we miss a few we would really like?

Sometimes I think we approach love a little like that. We want to just experience the easy, good parts of love. Let me explain–

If we are a parent, the easy, fun parts are the hugs & kisses, the snuggling up at night and the “I love yous” and the proud moments when you get to say “I’m that kid’s parent!”

If we are a spouse, some of the good parts are when we are in complete harmony in purpose, holding hands and talking, looking across a room and knowing exactly what the other person is thinking.

If we are a son or a daughter, the good parts are the cool ways your parents take care of you even as an adult, or the friendship that has grown deeper with your older parents.

If we are a friend, the easy part is the connection we feel, the support we know we have, no matter what befalls us.

These are some of the best things about love. The joy that comes from interpersonal relationships.

But I wonder if, with the advent of all of this technology, we have become a little unrealistic in our expectations of love, thinking we can just pick the good times. Trying to hang on to “perfect”– just getting the pleasant experiences and bypassing the unpleasant ones.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that sometimes there are far more unpleasant ones than pleasant ones. We are all sinful human beings and life is hard–

As parents, we need to discipline and provide consequences for sinful behavior. We need to have hard conversations. We need to endure a few “I hate you!”s and quite a few seemingly hopeless moments that just aren’t any fun at all and certainly not easy. But that is love.

As spouses, we don’t always jive, we disagree, and we have periods of crazy, busy times where we hardly see each other. We argue, we fight, we lay in bed not talking. But this is just the hard part of love.

As adult children, we see our parents growing weaker, they need us to do things for them that they used to be able to do for themselves, we take them to dr appts, or do their finances, or change their diaper. But we remember how hard it must have been to raise us, and we do it because we genuinely love them with all our heart.

As friends, we disagree– sometimes on major things, our kids may fight or not get along, or we may move far away from each other, but if true love abounds, the friendship remains, because that is what true love does.

I just wonder if we have become so used to pulling only the good things and avoiding the bad things, that we have not experienced love in its fullest, most satisfying way. For when we walk away (physically or emotionally) from a tough situation, we are in essence saying that we don’t want the hard stuff.

Now, please don’t take this to the extreme. There are a few very legitimate reasons to walk away from certain relationships, at least for a time. But this is not the norm. Most relationships are broken because they just weren’t easy or fun anymore.

Many of those who walk away go on to start a new relationship that sours faster than the first one.

But true love accepts the bad stuff along with the good stuff. Rejection isn’t even an option. Divorce or abandonment aren’t even a passing thought in our brain. True love means commitment and work but, oh, the rewards are tremendous.

I have no idea if you are struggling in a relationship today. Many of us are. Don’t give in to the thoughts that tell you to quit and move on. Keep loving. Keep doing what’s right. Do what you can do and then pray. Hard. We can’t change the other person, but we can surely do all that we possibly can to salvage the troubling relationships in our lives.

 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13)

 

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.

 

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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).

 

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 :)