Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sanctifying Marriage

Book Club chapter 8Charlotte is already, at 5 years old, anticipating being married. She adores weddings, she always wants to pray for her husband, and at one point in the past year, she told me that she's glad that she is so tall because when she gets really tall, she can get married. Ha! Some people look at her and look at me and say that this means that she is going to be a handful when she gets older. But I am glad for her elevated view of marriage; I am glad that she looks forward to marriage as part of a normal life, and I am pleased that what she sees in Adam's and my marriage is something that she wants to mimic today and fulfill in the future. At least she is longing for the right type of affection.

That being said, remember back to before you were married. Think back to the time when you were excited about getting married. For different people, that is at different points during your life/courtship experience. Maybe it started when you first started getting to know your future spouse. It could have started when you first got engaged. Maybe the wedding planning process was too stressful and consuming to be exciting. But dig deep to remember what it was like to be excited about getting married.

And now look at your life now. Are you still excited to be married?
The world we live in is not really about marriage; this is not a shocking statement, I know. Sure, we are excited when celebs get married, but we as a public are equally excited when they are unfaithful, split up unexpectedly or engage in some big scandal. We can be happy for their marriage as long as they're popping out kids, but aside from that, the tabloid business has very little to make money on until these couples break up.  Unlike Charlotte, our world has a very base acknowledgement of marriage; it's something people do, and if they feel like undoing it, that's fine. It's a hassle, hurts your credit score and means you have to buy new furniture, but there are no long-lasting repercussions. 

I feel ill-equipped to write about marriage because Adam and I just celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary. Nine years. In the scope of this lifetime, I feel like I have very little wisdom to offer in this realm. I am still learning, crafting the art of being a better wife. I still fall short, sometimes extremely short, in caring for my husband first and making him my first priority. Often, this is a fight, and sometimes I don't win it. I'll be honest, I am not the perfect wife. There are days that I put all my effort into my job, picking up the kids, fixing dinner so that we can eat together, bathing kids and throwing them into bed so that I can make a quiz or powerpoint for the next day before falling asleep. Sound familiar (except for maybe the quiz or powerpoint part)?

Sometimes, I don't just ignore my husband; sometimes, I wind up being critical of him, criticizing him, even in my head for not doing something to make my life easier. I'll overlook the sweet things that he actually does for me only to grumble and complain about what he has left undone. This should be extremely difficult to do with our husbands, our grooms, our princes, happily-ever-afters. But the truth is that it is extremely easy because we are sinners and so are they. The other truth is that they are to be our first earthly priority. 

Often, whether I am ignoring my husband in a blur or silently complaining about what he hasn't done, the reason that my marriage is not smooth, lovely and intimate is because of me.  How? Here are some examples:

  • I have organized my time and schedule poorly so that not everything will get done.
  • I have put my job or children or personal comfort above HIS job or personal comfort. Not that his job is more important than mine; we both have important jobs. But sometimes, I get so wrapped up in what is going on at my job, I forget that he has just the same demands as I do.
  • I have failed to use my time wisely during the day so that when I get to see him, I need to make up for what I haven't done all day.
  • I have tried to reinvent the wheel instead of using my resources (i.e. just googling to find a powerpoint of poetic devices). This is usually due to pride because I know mine will be so much better.
  • I have forgotten to think of my husband during the day, to miss him, to pray for him, to wonder what he's doing, to look forward to his call, to drop everything to talk to him instead of simply exchanging logistics.
Dear friends, these are some of the ways I fall short in the marriage department. I hope that this list (and post) helps you to evaluate the wife that you are to your husband today. I know that we want to make excuses about our shortcomings as a wife (i.e. If he would just ___, I would be a perfect wife.) but honestly, our tone and contentment with our life (and our God!!) can change much about our marriage and our home.

Soli Deo Gloria, y'all.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"Quiet Time"

I have a confession: I've never really established a pattern or routine for quiet time. It's like everyone along my spiritual journey throughout middle and high school, college and young adulthood just assumed that I knew what to do with this ambiguous term "quiet time."

Don't misunderstand me; I read the Bible. In fact, even in the midst of a super-busy first half of the school year, I managed to read the Bible most days. All I managed to do were short devotions, and there's not anything wrong with that. Most days, I would read from Spurgeon's Morning and Evening which, don't get me wrong, is quite a bit to chew on for devotions, but I was feeling like I needed more from the Word than just that.

This is stupid: I had begun to think that I didn't need Bible studies. For some reason, I thought that I could just read the Bible on my own and the Holy Spirit would instruct me. Which is true! BUT I had completely forgotten about other basic Bible studying disciplines: journaling, observing, applying the Word, meditating on it and praying it. Duh.

Here's the other thing...I needed to get up earlier in order to fit this discipline into my life. UGH. I have ALWAYS struggled with getting up early. I'm the kind of girl who stays in bed until the last possible second, then get up and get ready really fast. This makes everyone cranky and rushed every single morning, but for some reason, until about a week ago, I was completely oblivious to this. (You know what has really convicted me? This quote by John Piper.)  I've tried to get up early in the past, but it never stuck, life happened, and I wound up where I was a week ago: overwhelmed, overburdened and wondering when everything would ever get done, ever. But I have been working on getting up early to study the Word, write down some stuff about it and pray about it and the people I love. And you know what? God has blessed it and given me the grace to continue. It's not easy, but it's getting easier.

So what do I do? Here's what I do; it's not magical, but it's working for me. It takes about a half hour.
  • I wake up! (See what I did there?) I literally get out of bed and I sometimes make coffee.
  • I go downstairs to our guest bedroom and turn on the lights. There I can be alone and isolated. I sit on the guest bed and even have an extra blanket to wrap around myself in case it's cold.
  • Right now, I am reading a chapter of Proverbs a day. I jot down observations and applications from the chapter. I also have my eye out for scriptures that 1) I need or 2) my kids need.
  • Then I meditate on what to pray for, write down prayers and praises, and pray.
  • By then, Jonah is usually babbling in his room and it's time to get everybody ready for school!!
So what's the point? Right now, if you have never had a quiet time routine, I want to encourage you to make one up. Try something out. Be alone for a little bit to study and pray. Try the S.O.A.P method underneath the video here. Here's some inspiration for journaling, and here's some encouragement to rise early. What are y'all doing in your quiet times? Do you need to re-establish a routine? Feel free to share in the comments; let's encourage each other in this! Soli Deo Gloria, y'all.

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

It's a Cheap Menu Week

And here's what that looks like! 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Giving Into My Career, Part 2

The last post I wrote, here, is about how, when I made this decision, it was a huge step for me. For the first time since I had kids, I wasn't fighting with my calling to my career. I was (as the title suggests) giving into my career, and it was freeing. Finally, I wasn't constantly fighting with my own bitterness and jealousy about wanting to stay at home. Instead, this school year, I have embraced my place at my school. I have served the members in my department, been kind to my students and told them that I love them as they leave for the day. I may be the only person in some of my students' lives that says that to them, and God has placed me in my school for a reason. Now that I have stopped fighting this calling, God is doing amazing things through my teaching.

At the beginning of this school year, I decided that I was going to take a Master's level English class. For me, this would take care of a recertification requirement, and at the time, would put me one step closer to getting my Master's. The idea was opening up doors for the future, giving myself more options and a way out of public high school whenever I got tired of it.

I was wrong. I was so wrong.

Well, here it is; deciding to get my Master's degree was a big, fat mistake. Why? I'm not saying that women shouldn't get advanced degrees. Good gracious, if I were famous like Candace Cameron Bure, I would be all over the news tomorrow for saying that. But I was wrong, and here is a list of reasons why:
  1.  I was motivated by unbelief. Seriously. I was looking for a way out of where I currently am, harboring discontentment and grumbling about the work God had appointed me to do. I didn't believe that this was what I was supposed to be doing. Surely, God needed my help to get me to where I should be. This is the biblical definition of foolish (Pr. 3:5-7)
  2. I didn't pray about it. Ever. It made sense to me, and I decided to do it. All of it looked good on paper, and it was very logical and noble and worthy of being done. So I sidestepped praying about it. That was a massive mistake.
  3. I didn't count the cost of it. The class was three hours a week on Tuesday night. That added up to much more than three hours a week. I had to leave school on time to pick up my kids, only to leave my house as Adam walked in so that I could be on time. I left Adam alone on Tuesday nights to feed, bathe and put my kids to bed without me. I sacrificed time on the weekends when I could be catching up on home or schoolwork on assignments for the class. This was so much more detrimental than I could have imagined, and left me burned out by October. I forgot my place in my little world, and I forgot that so much depends on me every day. I lost my priorities, and everyone in my home bore the brunt of this three hours a week.
It sounds very gloomy and dismal, but it's not; this realization is very freeing. It is also pretty darn sanctifying - knowing that I made this awful, but ultimately not really permanent or long-term decision. Seeing why I made it, and (hopefully) learning from it as I move on from here.

The other sweetness in this situation is that the contentment that I had in July when I wrote the last post still stands; I am content in my job. In my mind, there is no reason not to be: I am doing something meaningful that uses my gifts and talents. That is something so many people never get to do. And for the past five years, I haven't been able to say that. Or "Love you guys" to my kids as they leave my classroom. And for that, I will praise the Lord's holy name. Soli Deo Gloria, y'all.

P.S. I am currently reading (i.e. devouring) the book Women Living Well by's blogger Courtney Joseph. For the next couple of weeks, hopefully, I am going to be posting about the book and linking up on her blog. Feel free to join me!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Traditions

This blog post is sliding into home; I think this is very literally the last day that I can post about Christmas traditions until next year, even though I have been thinking about this post for the last couple of weeks. (There will be a post coming up about the BUSYNESS of this first half of the school year, but it will be in January as seems fitting.)

I wanted to post about our traditions at Christmastime for a couple of reasons.

  1. I get super nosy about the people whose blogs I look at. I want to know everything about them, how their personal lives run, and how things that they do can make my life better/easier/more God-glorifying. Because of this, I wanted to share these things with you, just in case you are like me.
  2. We are still, with children aged 5 and 2, in the pretty young stages of being a family. I feel like each year, the traditions change a little depending on where we are or what we are doing. Making a list seems to be a pretty good means of me, personally, reflecting on the traditions that we do have.
  3. I'm interested in your Christmas traditions and think that it may be nice to start a dialogue about them (but probably for next year, haha).
Tradition #1 - the Advent Calendar

This tradition is the most longstanding tradition we have in our house. One birthday of mine back before Charlotte was born, Adam bought me this Advent calendar. Every year, we fill it with slips of paper that have scripture on them and Dove chocolate. The idea is that each day, after dinner, we munch on our chocolate and Adam reads the appointed scripture.

I say that's the idea because we never do all of the days. Tradition #2 gets in the way, usually in between December 8-13, and some nights the kids just need to be poured into bed. Because of that, I keep a little candy dish for all of our "leftovers" to go into next to the calendar.

This year, we added a new component of this tradition. Adam talks with Charlotte a little about the scripture that he reads, applying it to Jesus and asking her questions about it. Then, he made a list of the people that Charlotte knows and each night, after the Bible reading, we prayed for one of the people on Charlotte's list. 

All in all, this takes about 10 minutes after dinner. Some days, that was definitely too much for tired/grumpy/not-feeling-100% kids. But every year we bring out the Advent calendar, there is much excitement, and every night we say that it is time to do it, even Jonah says, "Yay!"

(It occurred to me I should probably link to some Advent Calendar lists of scripture: here is the GirlTalk one and here is a more expansive one. This is the one we used this year that has a Bible study to go with it.)

Tradition #2 - the Christmas Worship Night
As I was planning this post and thinking about all the things that we do each year in December, this worship night kind of jumped out at me without me really considering it a "tradition." Both Adam and I are in our church choir, and each December our church puts together a worship night where the choir prepares praise and worship songs. It's not really a "Christmas show," even though I traditionally pitch it to people that way, so it really is more of a worship night. It wears our family out, and at the end of it, we feel like we have nothing left in the tank, but it is wonderful and a truly beautiful, if not inadvertent, tradition of ours.

Tradition #3 - Decorating with Christ in Mind
This isn't exactly a tradition, so to speak, but I wanted to discuss it anyway. I am not a natural decorator. I have commitment issues. Seasonal decorating, then, is that much more intimidating to me. But a couple of years ago as I was pursuing the ideas of biblical womanhood, I was convicted about keeping my home and making it a place that was warm and welcoming and lovely (decorated, haha). The more I thought about decorating for Christmas, the more I considered that in decorating, I can help my family keep the focus on Christ.

We live in a split-level house. During busy school weeks, we hardly go downstairs at all - the kitchen, main bathroom, dining room and bedrooms are all upstairs. The Christmas tree, however, is downstairs in the family room where 1) there is more room and 2) Jonah won't wreck it before Christmas. Because of these two things, I try to make the upstairs festive as well, without the tree. I put our nativity on the ledge coming up the stairs and lights around the ledge to brighten up dark days and light the manger scene.

More so this year than any other so far, I have noticed that this being in such a prominent spot in this season really has impacted my kids. Charlotte sees it and notices it more because it is in such a prime location in the house. Jonah can't wreck it, but he can see it, and that makes him want to play with his Little People nativity.

So there you go: three of our Christmas traditions. Whether we stay home for the holiday like we did this year or we travel like we did last year, these three things are consistent, and I pray that they are the things that my family remembers and looks forward to each Christmas. Merry Christmas, y'all, and Soli Deo Gloria.

P.S. The Charlie Brown Christmas Special
Adam would want me to add this, since God has preserved this in our culture to this point. Linus shares the true meaning of Christmas to Charlie Brown from Luke 2, so every year, we end up watching this special at least half a dozen times. We also play the music all season. :)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Coming Soon...

...are new posts from me. Two weeks from today, be looking for a new post. :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer Swan Song

So, today is the day. The last day of summer. Precious summer, the season that teachers and children spend the rest of the year waiting for, and it is coming to a close for this year. Just so that I don't (ever!) come across as one of those perfect moms who has all of her stuff together all of the time, I wanted to give you a little reflection of my summer.

It was a short summer for our family this year, not for me, but for Adam. The past two weeks since he has been back have been tough, not because he's working and I'm not, but because they've been so imbalanced. My work is looming in the foreground while his is already going full-throttle. That has been tough. On top of that, my father-in-law graciously came in and helped us put in a new bathtub and shower: not an easy job at all. The shower is almost usable (yay!), and I am completely ready for this small portion of our summer to be over.

We didn't do nearly as much as we set out to do this summer. I think, from reading other people's Facebook posts, that I am not alone in feeling this sentiment. I think that summer in this regard is like Christmas, where it is so easy to have unrealistically high expectations and plans and then be disappointed when those things don't all happen. We want everything to be the perfect mix of busy and relaxing, and the balance between those two is hard to find.

There were many things we did do, though, and this is what I keep reminding myself. The kids did take swimming lessons, and they wore us all out (the lessons, not the kids!). We worked VBS. Charlotte got to go to Sports Camp. We visited our parents in Ohio. We went to the library. We didn't relax very much, but the different kind of busyness is a very nice change in the summer.

Another one of my teacher friends says that she enjoys getting back to the routine and schedule of the school year. That is something that I think most of us can appreciate. If it were summer forever, then we wouldn't appreciate it nearly as much. We need routine and so do our kids. So I think that, this year, I am content to bid adieu to summer and welcome the school year.

Check back next week to see our family's Back-To-School celebration on my first day of school. Soli Deo Gloria, y'all.