Friday, February 28, 2014

February Evaluation

  • Spend at least 10 minutes praying daily- Yes, this has been done most days
  • Spend at least 10 minutes reading and reflecting on the Bible daily- This too has been done most days, though I know not every one
  • Memorize verses with the kids - Yes! 
  • Memorize Proverbs 31:10-31 and Romans 1 (I hope to add more to it, but this is where I want to start)- I read over Proverbs 31:10-31 and have 10-13 down, still working on getting this in my daily routine
  • Go out for a date once a month- Yes
  • Go on a night away once this year- No, need to figure out when this might be possible
  • Read 3 books together this year- We have not started any yet
  • Discuss plan weekly on Sunday afternoon- Yes
  • Spend 30 minutes of one on one time with each child every week- I'm still trying to figure out the best way to do this. I know it happened here and there, but still need to plan this better
  • Go to playgroup each Tuesday- We have had some crazy weather so we missed at least 1
  • Take kids to Science Center or Zoo at least once a month- We made it to the Science Center
  • Write in individual journals at least 3 times this year- Wrote in Jamey's for his 5th Birthday
  • Finish Jamey's 1st year Scrapbook- Worked on getting my scrap stuff organized so I can do this
  • Keep up with cleaning schedule- I'm changing my definition of what this means, so I did this about half the month
  • Keep up with my calendar- Did fairly well with this overall, still room for improvement
  • Being fully present when with my family- I did not do this as well as I would have liked, but by God's grace I've seen some improvement
  • Continue to host Women's Prayer once a month- Yes!
  • Have at least 4 Childbirth Conversation classes this year- Had my first of the year last Saturday, snow and all. It was a great time of fellowship and encouragement
  • Start Childbirth Conversation blog- Yes! It is finally launched. You can check it out here
  • Read a book a month aside from Class material- Yes! I read "Shopping for Time" and "Deadly Disclosures". I also finished "Creative Counterpart" for SWI
  • Journal 5 days a week- I think I did this about 2 weeks. This month has been a little rough 
  • Write (books) 3 days a week- Nope
  • Edit novel to prepare for publishing and research publishing options- I barely touched editing this month. Hoping to get back on it next month
  • Complete Childbirth Conversation book- I barely touched this either. Working more on getting the blog going.
  • Plan for next novel and write in November- I have done some initial planning!
  • Finish Rosetta Stone Russian level 1 and begin Level 2- Rosetta Stone has been giving me some issues so I did not work on this much this month
  • Continue to meet once a month with writing group- Yes! 
  • Blog 3 days a week- I have definitely averaged that this month and then some!
  • Go to water aerobics once a week- Yes!
  • Maintain weight until birth- Struggling with this, though not gaining as fast as I usually do
  • Lose weight after giving birth
As wonderful and productive as January was, February was difficult. I'm not really sure what happened or where, but this month was tiring and seemed to be more filled with other activities, not allowing me the time I had in January to work on some of my projects. It was not bad at all, most definitely good things, but I need to re-evaluate and see how I can get back on track for March, by God's grace.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Creative Counterpart by Linda Dillow

This book was required for my current SWI class, Marriage and Family. I was pleasantly surprised by this book as it was very straightforward and practical. I cannot say it is the best marriage book I have read, but I have enjoyed hearing from her on how to be a Godly woman, wife and mother. Scripture was the focus, but it included practical application of the Scripture. I wish I could remember better what all I read, but I know that generally speaking I agreed with most of it.

I would give it 4.5 stars out of 5.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Growing Together Spiritually

As Christians in a Christian marriage it is important to grow spiritually, not only as individuals but together. Our faith in Christ is what holds us together and we need to seek Him together. How can we do this?

  • Pray together- Prayer connects us to God and to each other. Last week I talked about praying for your husband, and it is just as important to pray with your husband. Praying the Scriptures together, praying for each other and for others together grow us together. Keep track of specific requests that God answers and praise Him together. 
  • Encourage each other with the Word- This can take different forms such as reading the Bible together, telling each other Scripture, speaking the Gospel to each other, etc. The Bible is God's Word, which we know is true. Seek to know the Word together. 
  • Go to church together- Be united in where you are going to church and seek where God wants to use you. Be committed to going to church every week to worship and serve together. 
  • Be in fellowship with other believers- Aside from gathering with the Body to worship, we need to be around other believers regularly. This takes different forms, but seek to be in fellowship times other than Sunday morning and Wednesday night (or whatever night your church has activities). And remember to have fun with them. Sometimes I forget this one! We are living life together so enjoy being with other believers.
  • Seek to share the Gospel together- This will look different in different seasons. As parents we should always be sharing the Gospel with our kids. We should also be seeking to share the Gospel with those around us whether it is friends or co-workers. Have people in your home and be intentional about sharing and showing the love of Christ.
  • Serve together- This will also look different, but find out where your gifts are best suited and serve in ministry together with your local church. This is being the Body.
These are just a few ways you can seek to grow spiritually together. God desires for spouses to be one completely, including spiritually. Have good conversations and seek how to grow regularly in this area.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The World Will Hate Us

"If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not  belong to the world but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both Me and My Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'

When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about Me. And you also must testify, for you have been with Me from the beginning."
John 15:18-27

This is such an important passage for believers to know and understand. When God calls us to His Kingdom, we are no longer of the world; we are of God. Because we are of God's Kingdom, the world hates us because it hates God. If we are living the way that God calls us to live in Christ, then we will be hated by the world. 

This means that we will suffer in this world because of the hatred. Because we belong to Jesus, who suffered far more than we can even begin to understand, we can embrace suffering and use it to point people to Jesus. 

Cling to the cross and the eternal Kingdom to come. 

Also, make sure that the world hates you because of Jesus and not because of you. Seek first God's Kingdom.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Jamey Is 5!

It's hard to believe that 5 years ago today I gave birth to my first born, my handsome boy James Marshall Jr. Our family has been so blessed by his life. It is amazing to watch him grow and learn and discover who he is as well as who he is becoming.

Jamey loves to learn. Bible, history, reading, writing, math, spelling, geography you name it he wants to know it. His favorite time of the day is school. When we have a short day he makes sure he tells us what we missed. He loves to sing his Bible verse songs and dance to them.

Jamey loves to laugh and finds any opportunity to be silly. He loves his Daddy. He often thinks he is in charge and will "parent" his siblings. He loves to play "the dance game" and is beginning to get really good at it. He loves to wrestle with Jim and Reuben and is beginning to teach Gabriel how to wrestle. (The word gentle is still a little foreign.) This past week Jamey has learned how to whistle and is enjoying practicing and improving this skill. He is beginning to develop his sense of style and figuring out who he is. With that he is quite opinionated.

Jamey is just fun! Seriously. Some days he drives us crazy since he has strong genes, is the first born and is too smart for his own good, but generally speaking he is so much fun to be around. It is such a pleasure being able to teach him, raise him, and do our best to show him Godliness. We are constantly reminded that he is only in our home, under our care for a short time and will all too quickly be out in the world. We realize how much we still need to teach him and praying that God will show Jamey His goodness and grace through us every day.

Father, God, Thank You so much for Jamey's life. Thank You for giving us 5 years with him. We pray you will continue to work in his life, teaching him Your truth, convicting him of sin and saving him by Your grace. Help us to be the parents we need to be, to teach him everything we know about You and a love and trust for you. Draw Jamey to Your side and show him Your unfailing love.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Deadly Disclosures by Julie Cave

I was pleasantly surprised by this piece of Christian fiction. Sometimes you do not know what you will get. It is very well written and clean but still has the thrill of the chase and personal struggle. I would not call it excellent, but it is a good and interesting read. It shows the corruptness of the world in a tasteful yet realistic way. I also enjoyed seeing two extreme sides battle as the facts of the case came to light. I was even able to learn a few things. I appreciate the clear Gospel message that is present throughout. As a writer there were a few things I personally would have tweaked, but those things are personal preference.

I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Pray For Your Husband

I am reminded over and over again how important this is, and today I want to share a little about this with you. 

Praying for your husband is the most important thing you can do for him. Why? Because men are designed by God to be the head of their home and Satan desires to attack him. Satan desires to destroy men and keep them from doing their job. Our husbands are always in a battle and we help them to fight by praying for them.

What should you pray for your husband?

  • His walk with the Lord, growing closer to Him everyday
  • Strength to stand firm in his faith and conviction
  • For the Holy Spirit to fill him every moment
  • To be the man that God desires for him to be
  • Become more Christlike
  • To fight sin
I could go on, but you get the idea. With this ask your husband how you can pray for him. What is he struggling with? Where does he need extra support? You have to talk to your husband to know what he needs. Look for Scripture and pray over your husband. 

Make sure you are praying for him and not just about him! I was reminded of this recently and I think this is important as well. We can absolutely talk to God about what is going on with our husband and relationship, but we need to also pray for him. There is a difference. 

Be fervent in prayer for your husband. When we pray we are helping him in the battle. When we pray things happen!

How can you begin praying for your husband today?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Vine and The Branches

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

Our passage on Sunday was John 15:1-17 and was a great reminder of what a life with Christ is like. Jesus is the vine and God is the gardener that attends to the vine. We are the branches that are attached to the vine when we are in Christ. 

As the Gardener, God desires for the branches of the vine to bear much fruit. For us to bear fruit, God must cut off the dead branches and prune those who are attached to the vine. God uses discipline us and allows adversity to come into our lives so that we can bear fruit, His fruit. It can be a painful process, but with God no pain is wasted. 

The fruit we are to produce is love. We are to love as Christ loves us in John 15:12-13; we are to lay down our lives for each other, sacrifice for each other. How are we growing in love?

To love and grow in love we must stay connected to the vine, Jesus. We must dwell with Jesus, spend time with Him and put our faith and Trust in Him. As we experience God's love for us we will grow in our love for each other and it will effect how we will love. As we love we will experience more and more of God's love.

Let us love like Jesus!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Shopping For Time

This book has been on my "to read" list for several years now. I borrowed it from the SWI library and read it quickly, sharing some with Lillian (the highlight of reading it).

This book is short, sweet and to the point. It is very easy to read and written in a personal style. It is also practical but leaves room for you to apply in a way that is best for you and your season. There is not a lot of in depth detail in this book, which I appreciated. If you are wanting a 5-step plan, you might want to look into another book and use this as an intro or supplement.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to anyone.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by William Cutrer MD and Sandra Glahn

This book was part of a marriage class that Jim and I took last semester at the seminary. Being Valentine's day I thought it an appropriate day to review it.

This book is very practical and easy to read. It is factual as it is written in part by a former OB/GYN as well as Biblical in nature, making it a great combination for anyone to read. I like that it encourages couples to talk to each other about what they are feeling and how they are struggling. I also appreciate it's emphasis on the joy of a vibrant sexual relationship within the marriage relationship and the struggles that can keep this from happening. In the back of the book is a guide to help couples talk through their preferences, which is an added resource. I also like that they focused on good communication throughout the book, as this is key in all relationships.  It is a great book for all married people, particularly those that are newly weds or struggling with intimacy.

The things I did not like about the book: 1) I am not sure I completely agree with some of their advice and conclusions. 2) Some of the books set up was a bit awkward.

Overall I would recommend this book to almost anyone.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Turning 30!

Today I am 30 years old! I have now been on this planet for 3 decades. That is a bit crazy to me and has certainly caused some reflection. As I think about these 3 decades it is interesting to see that I never stopped growing and changing.

The first decade, 0-10, of anyone's life is full of rapid growth and change as you go from a newborn infant to a pre-teen. During my first decade I remember very little, except my sisters being born when I was 9 and spending time with Jessie and Blair.

The second decade, 11-20, is also full of change. You begin to become a woman physically, but are still young emotionally. Middle school, high school and the beginning of college all fall in this decade. So much happens during those years. You begin to seek to be more mature while thinking you know everything and simply want to experience life. I was married when I was 20 and thus began the next decade different from many women today

The third decade, 21-30, for people varies greatly. As I said I was married at age 20 and so this decade has been a time of tremendous growth and as I think back over the past 3 decades, I might even say it is the decade with the most growth. I say this because my spiritual life has taken off, especially in the last 3 years. As I grow spiritually I also grow mentally, emotionally and physically because my reliance becomes more on God and not myself. There have been times when I've felt like I took 2 steps forward and then 3 or 4 steps back, but generally speaking I feel like I have been moving forward with the Lord.

When I was 21 I went with Jim to Moldova on a mission trip that changed both of us and sent us on the trajectory we are on today. At that time I could not have imagined what God would do with us.

Today we are so close to finishing our seminary journey and seeking out what God has next for us. We have also been blessed with a beautiful family with our 5th child joining our family in several weeks. Having kids has also brought much growth.

God is faithful to grow His people and I am so thankful to be a child of God. Because of that I have peace as I begin my 30s but desire to make the most of the time God is giving me to grow and teach others. I have wasted a lot of time throughout my first 30 years, but by God's grace I will learn to not waste time in the next 30 and make the most of every moment.

So here's to the 30s! Bring them on!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Who Are You Loyal To?

In the past couple of years this is something that has been on my mind off and on. We talk about loyalty in many ways, whether to our country, a school, family and even certain product brands. At times it gets exhausting trying to remember who you're supposed to be loyal to. Yesterday it was on my mind again and I just prayed for clarity from the Lord. This is what He impressed upon me, yet again.

We are to be loyal to God first and foremost. We are to seek His kingdom and His righteousness above all else. The other things we are loyal to come after our loyalty to God. I am loyal to my husband because I am loyal to God and that is what He has called me to do. I'm loyal to my children because I am loyal to God and He has given these children to me to teach, train and discipline. I'm loyal to the church because I am loyal to God and the church is His body and the way He has given us to encourage one another and help each other grow. 

I could go on but I think you get the idea. When our loyalty is to God first, then it is easy to see what else we are to be loyal to. This loyalty sometime includes doing and saying things that are tough, because God is first, but that is what God calls us to. 

So I ask you, in your daily life, are you seeking to be loyal to God first?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Stay Connected and Invest

With Valentine's day approaching, there is a lot about love out there and making the day special. I know some people are really into the holiday so I would love to share a little about connecting and investing in your marriage continually, not just one day a year.

Marriage is a commitment, and we are to be committed to both God and each other. Marriage is a priority 365 days a year, not just one!

We must pay attention to each other: listen to your spouse's needs, dreams, desires. Study them and seek to give them attention whenever possible.

Give your spouse your approval. I don't mean you have to approve of everything they do. They are sinners as are you and both of you will do things that need to be worked on. What I do mean is to compliment them, tell them when they have done something well, speak fondly of them both in and out of the presence and go out of your way to find something good to speak about.

Show gratitude for what they do. Be specific when you say thank you

Encourage them! I have heard several times recently that to give someone encouragement is to give them courage. Give them your confidence, letting them know you believe in them to do the right thing. Give them the assurance of your prayers. Let them know you are on their team.

Give affection. This is not sexual, simply a way to connect with touches, glances, pet names, etc. Be sure to show affection in front of their kids.

Physical Intimacy is also very important. It is something that only you can give your spouse. Give freely!

Invest in your marriage daily. Know your spouse and what they need. Pray for your spouse and be willing to give of yourself.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

True Peace: The Trinity Lives in Us

Our sermon from last Sunday came from John 14:18-27. We talked about a lot, particularly focusing out our obedience being linked to our love for God. If we love Jesus then we will obey His commands.

But apart from Christ we cannot obey His commands. When we receive Christ as our Savior we receive the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, to help and guide us with the presence of God and by teaching us Truth. What I find the most amazing is that when we come to faith, we don't just invite Jesus into our hearts or only receive the Holy Spirit. We get the God head, Father, Son and Holy Spirit living inside of us.

"Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him... But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.'" John 14:23, 26

Jesus said it would be all of them living in us. God makes His home in His people! How amazing is that! And because of that we can live in peace, unafraid and unashamed and love each other the way God through Christ has loved us.

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

Friday, February 7, 2014

An Inheritance of Nations

"Our call to war, to love the captive soul,
But to rage against the captor;
And with the sword that makes the wounded whole
We will fight with faith and valor.
When faced with trials on ev'ry side,
We know the outcome is secure,
And Christ will have the prize for which He died—
An inheritance of nations." 
from O Church Arise by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

Jesus died for people from every tribe, tongue and nation. He has people from every corner of the Earth. But many of them have not yet heard the Good News that Christ has died for their sins so that they can be reconciled to God and bring Him glory forever.

This is why we meet to pray. This is why people must go. This is why we give our resources. Missions is part of the whole church, not just for some. Our parts may look different, but God has called all of His people to be part of His call to the lost in all nations. 

Pray for God's Word to go forward. Pray for hearts to be soft and receptive. Pray for the Holy Spirit to prepare His people to accept the grace He alone gives. Pray for Christ's inheritance of nations.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family

This book by Mary Ostyn was recommended to me by my great friend, Ashley Wells. This mother of 10 has very practical and straight forward advice for helping you raise a large family. It is a quick and easy read, which is great when you do have a lot of kids. Ostyn shares from her personal experience and occasionally throughout she has stories from others with larger families. It's very down to earth.

My favorite section is on treating your children as individuals and not a unit. Each child is unique and has their own personality and interests. This is something I have been learning a lot about this past year and was thankful to read about how to figure out your children as they grow.

The thing I wish there had been more info on was practical recipes to save money on groceries. This is something I have been trying to figure out so it would have been nice, but not something everyone may need. Maybe a good alternative would be a resource list that is accessible online.

Overall I would recommend this book, and give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Communication is Key

I'm currently taking a marriage and family class through the SWI program at the seminary, so I thought during the month of February I'd share some of what I'm learning on Mondays.

This past week we talked about communication. This is something that may seem like it is overemphasized at times, but it is so important to have good communication in marriage. I am still learning so much in this!

Men and women are different and they communicate in different ways. No matter what your communications style is, it is likely to differ from your spouse. One big thing that I have learned recently is more about the differences in how men and women's brains are designed. Men are generally single minded and do only one thing at a time. When they switch gears they have to turn off what they were doing and turn on to the new thing. Women's brains have 4x as many brain cells connecting the left and right hemispheres, which allow us to do more than one thing at a time and take it all in. This effects everything including how I communicate.

Some ways to handle these differences are:

  • Not calling things good or bad that are simply different ways of doing things
  • Remembering you have a clear marital mission
  • Use differences to your advantage
  • Reap the benefits of compromise
  • Get a balanced perspective (let the little things go)
  • Give each other a hand (grant permission for your spouse to help you when you need to make changes)
It is more important to communicate well than to win an argument. So when your having a disagreement how can you handle it well? 
  • Freely forgive
  • Discuss the conflict as soon as possible
  • State exactly what is bothering you
  • Stick to the subject at hand
  • If your mate says you do, then it just may be true 
  • Avoid generalizing
  • Avoid personal insults and character assassination
  • Confront the truth, affirm with love
  • Listen to learn
  • Confront to heal, not to win
To communicate well we need to listen and be attentive. Practice active listening by giving your spouse your undivided attention, restating key elements, let them finish their own sentences, and express your feelings. 

Remember you are a unit, the two become one flesh. When we work together we seek the interest of the whole, not just for the individual. May God give you wisdom and the desire to communicate well. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Keep Calm and Trust God

" 'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, Trust also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.'

Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we don't know where You are going, so how can we know the way?'

Jesus answered, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'"

John 14:1-6

Because of Jesus we have no reason to fear. God has better for us than to live a life of fear. Jesus promises us that He will prepare a place for His people. How does He prepare it? Jesus prepared a place in heaven for His people by living a perfect life and dying the death we deserved on the cross to cover our sin and rising from the dead to conquer death for us. For those in Christ, eternal life is now.

What is the path to heaven? Jesus! He is the only way to God and heaven. Jesus has reconciled us with our perfect holy God so that we can be united with Him in heaven. 

I found it interesting Pastor Daniel pointed out that Heaven is dangerous because it is filled with God's glory. As sinners we cannot be near God's glory. But because of Jesus death on the cross, He can give us safe passage into God's presence and we do not need to be afraid. 

I pray that I will continue to reflect on these Truths and Trust God more everyday!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Surprise Blessings

I just have to take a moment and thank God for using Jesse, a manager at Panera, who blessed me today. We have been attempting to reign in our eating out budget, I planned on only getting something to drink. When I gave him my card I had a coupon for $1 off a breakfast sandwich, but did not have the money to get both a drink and the sandwich. The coupon would expire before I would be back, so I debated over whether to get the drink or the sandwich, but knew I needed something to drink. I expressed the dilemma and he said, "no problem, I'll cover the difference." I seriously had to check with him 3 times to make sure I understood him correctly. He only charged me for a drink! I was shocked and so blessed. I love their breakfast sandwiches and was so thankful to have one at no extra cost. God is so good and uses little things to bless us.