Sunday, December 27, 2009

Love Dare: Day 39 and 40!

Well, my goal was to finish before our anniversary (tomorrow) so I could tell Ryan I Love Dared him for the past 40 days (I still don't think he realizes!). I did it. It was really nice to have a refresher course on a godly marriage and, most importantly, a sacrifical marriage where I am submitting to and serving Ryan out of love. I would highly recommend this to anyone thinking about it. I haven't been able to blog about much else, but it is good record of what I learned and practiced over these (more than) 40 days-give or take.

Chapter 39 was entitled "Love Endures". It is about how sticking to your marriage no matter what. NO MATTER WHAT. We have discussed how divorce is so quickly an option for so many people. God doesn't think so. We have agape love--unconditional love. We shouldn't be inconsistent, wavering or limited in our love. Our love is a choice and commitment.

The dare is great. I am to write a letter to Ryan telling him that I commit to loving him no matter what. I will never choose to leave him or find something better. My love is not conditional. Even when he is unlovable by world's standards, I will love him because God asks me to do so and I will obey. I plan to write this and give it to him on our anniversary outing tomorrow. So perfect!

Finally, chapter 40 is about "Love is a Covenant." This chapter talks about marriage as a covenant, not a contract. A contract is self serving, limited if conditions aren't met on the other end, written, breakable and cold. A covenant is sacrificial, trusting, verbal, unconditional, strong, sacred and unending. God made covenants in the Bible, such as with David and Abraham. God helps us keep our covenant of marriage. We can't do it in our own power. Our marriages are to be a picture of God's covenant with His church. That is a strong and powerful bond.

The dare is to renew your vows, rewrite your vows, or revisit your vows. I plan to watch our wedding video with Ryan and read our vows again to each other. We have them mounted on our wall in our bedroom (thanks to my sister-in-law, Sarah, framing them for us when we got married), but we walk by them so much, they get lost in the wall art. They are special. It will be nice to revisit them, reread them and remember that we are in a sacred covenant with one another--thanks to the gracious, ever abundant help and blessings from God!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Love Dare: Day 38

Today's chapter is AWESOME! It is called "Love Fulfills Dreams." It is all about loving your spouse by fulfilling an obtainable dream or being extravagant in your love (not just practical). I was thinking about this since yesterday was Christmas. When we didn't have kids, I used to plan fun getaways with Ryan as his gift. He would love that. Seriously. He just LOVES to have vacation and travel.

That really isn't feasible right now because of having two very young kids at home AND finances. However, I could easily surprise him with a one night away somewhere. I know he'd really appreciate it. Maybe in June or July when busy season is over, we have had enough time back from Maui to need another break, I will surprise him (unless he's reading this, in which case I will have to pick a different, undisclosed time).

It is so fun to do something unexpected and really fun for your spouse, but we get into our budgets, practical needs, time crunched lives and really forget to do nice surprises once in awhile.

We also have to remember it doesn't have to be financially draining. Some women would LOVE to just have a day to be kid free, go to the spa and lunch with friends and just not have responsibilities. Men would love to have you take the time and energy to be affectionate or to hear you respect and encourage them in front of others. Think creatively and think about what speaks to your spouse.

This chapter was a good reminder. : ) Take some time out to really think of what your spouse loves, dreams about, or would consider extra special. Create a goal to get this/do this for them. It is fun for them and you!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Love Dare: Day 36 and 37

The two chapters under today's post really agree and belong together. They are called "Love is God's Word" and "Love Agrees in Prayer." Time in the Word of God and prayer should be a priority for you and your spouse. Both chapters urge you to be in the Word and to pray DAILY, and, if possible, to not just do this yourself, but to get your spouse to do this too.

Ryan and I were blessed when we met. We both had established daily quiet times of our own, and it was understood that we would come together to study the Bible and pray together as well. Over the years of dating and marriage, we have honed our habits. We meet every night for a quick devotional and prayer time (about 10 minutes). Each week, we meet for an extended period of prayer and Bible study (an hour or two) together. This year we also started sharing what we learned in our personal quiet time each day. We talk about this at the dinner table to show the boys the priority we place on God and our study of His Word and will for us.

This is such valuable time, and these chapters are right on. An encouraging part I read was that if your spouse is not willing to do Bible study or prayer with you regularly, still do it by yourself. God will give you direction, strength and enurance to live out your marital role with obedience and success. In addition, you have no idea how much your actions will also motivate and inspire your spouse to follow your example!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 34 and 35: Love Dare

I got behind on my posting. We celebrated Christmas early yesterday (with my side of the family), and we also served a dinner for some needy families at church. I absolutely LOVE everything about Christmas and traditions with it, but I always find behind on the regular routine (cleaning, laundry, etc.). So, to make up for it, I'm posting two days together.

Day 34 is a really good one. It is entitled "Love celebrates godliness." We know we are supposed to celebrate our spouse's success, right? We host a dinner for that new job, we give pats on the back for a great meal cooked or a house repair done correctly . . . What about spiritual success? Are we encouraging and congratulating our spouse when they demonstrate growth and success in righteousness? We should be worried about this all the more than worldly successes.

I have to say I probably am lazy in this area. I need to do more "Thank you honey for praying for our boys each night." "Ryan, I am so proud of you for always putting Bible study and prayer with me as a first priority." "I love how you memorized so much of the Bible this year. It is an inspiration to me." "I am impressed with how easily you forgave this person and didn't let pride interfere with your ability to let go." "I have seen so much growth in ___ area, and I wanted you to know." I think these things, but I don't always say them as much as I should. So, this chapter was a great reminder!

The dare today is to think of a spiritual success your spouse has demonstrated lately and to verbally commend them today. I can't wait!

Day 35 is about mentorship. The title is "Love is accountable". This chapter talks about the importance of having a married couple you admire for their godly marriage to whom you can chat when you have a dilemma, question, concern, etc. Sometimes you might go chat as a couple, and sometimes you might seek the advice of your gender role mentor.

I have to say that Ryan and I don't really have this in place. We are blessed with an amazing church that teaches us the godly way to live out our marriage roles, and we have pastoral counseling for us if we ever hit a snag in the road or couldn't surmount a sin issue in our marriage. It would be nice to have a close couple to whom we could meet once in a while and always approach if we had any marriage questions/parenting issues, etc.

The dare for today is to find a marriage mentor--a Christian who will be honest with you and always point to what the Bible says. I need to bring this up with Ryan and see if we can brainstorm a couple we admire and trust to be our confidante in our marriage journey.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Love Dare: Day 33

Today's chapter was "Love Completes Each Other". It was interesting because it talked about how God brings people together who have differences which complete and aid the other person.

So often, married couples dwell on differences negatively. He is such a night owl! She is so sensitive! He always wants to have people over! She would spend all her time helping others if she could!

I was thinking of these the way we say them--with a sigh, complaint and whine. We don't take the time to see the unique personalities of our spouse as complimentary to us.

I know I've recognized this in Ryan and I. For instance, Ryan is very optimistic and takes things at face value. I am a professional pessimist who reads into things and likes to assume motives and outcomes. When you leave us isolated, we are either unrealistic dreamers or judgmental discounters. However, when you put us together in a situation, we balance one another. I keep Ryan's head out of the clouds, and he reminds me not to be so negative and down about things. I give him some intuition, and he gives me the reminder to be hopeful and joyful in life. We are a good balance.

Today's dare is to tell you spouse you value their differences and that you wish to take what they have to say about issues into perspective. If you have been wrong in picking on a uniqueness in your spouse, ask for forgiveness and make every effort to see the positive aspect of differences and how you complete one another.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Love Dare: Day 32

It's here! Today's chapter is about sex. I was wondering when I'd have to write about that. Well, there isn't anything mind-boggling to write. The chapter talked about how sex is a legitimate need in a married person's life and God made the spouse the person to meet that need. If we withhold sex for any reason, we are dishonoring our spouse and in sin.

Leading a marriage ministry, and really just living life, I have seen multiple marriages destroyed by unfaithfulness and affairs. If you withhold sex from your spouse, you are making the temptation of an affair all the more likely and tempting to your spouse. Why would you want to send your husband off to work or your wife off to the gym knowing that you have purposely avoiding sex with them. They will be tempted to look to meet their emotional and physical needs somewhere else. That might be through another person.

Truly, we snicker at the topic of sex, but it is such a vital lifeline in a marriage and such a common area of concern in dysfunctional unions.

Make sure you are intimate with your spouse regularly and that you even initiate it sometimes. This was the dare for today! That's all I'm going to say about that . . .

Monday, December 14, 2009

Love Dare: Day 31

So, if Ryan doesn't know about me doing the Love Dare on him, I am shocked. If he does know, he is doing a great job of hiding the fact he knows. I was thinking about how I would tell him, and I thought our anniversary night away--on December 28th--would be a great time to talk about it. I should be finished, and we can talk through the points I found hard or on which I need to work more. : ) As you know from last year's blog post right after our anniversary, we go away each year to celebrate and set our marriage goals. This year we are running a goal setting conference on January 9th. We will be teaching other couples how to run a goal setting time each year and what should be communicated. You can be praying that goes well!

So, today's chapter was called Love and Marriage. It is about the oneness of marriage, with a focus on the need to let go of the parent/child relationship when you get married. Really, it is talking about any relationship in which the husband or wife is second fiddle.

In our marriage, it is a balancing act. We both have great parents who live very close. They are supportive and loving, but it is tempting to have such a close relationship and not sometimes value their input over your spouse's. I don't think it is a huge problem, but we do need to always be aware that we have that oneness and continually check that we have left and cleaved to our spouse. I am so blessed to have such a great marriage AND godly parents on both sides. We have an amazing support system.

The Dare for today is to identify any "leaving" issues you may have and to confess it to your spouse. Then, together, commit to making it right and make your marriage a top priority over every other human relationship.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Love Dare: Day 30

Hi, friends. What a week! I apologize for not posting sooner, but, like I said, what a week! We had a roof leak, a play to perform and memorize for church, two sick kids, one night of no sleep and up with a feverish kiddo, and no end of Christmas prep and life's normal business.

I'm back, though.

Today's chapter is called Love Brings Unity. It was a wonderful look at how God is the perfect picture of unity. He asks the church body to be in unity, He gives us the perfect example of the trinity, and he points to Christ's mission here on earth to do the will of the Father.

Marriage is a small picture of God's call to unity. Husbands and wives are to be faithful for life, they are to serve one another in peace, and they are to think about the plans, desires and needs of the other. Imagine if we all could live out our marriages with such ideals in place--what blessings it would bring in our homes!

The dare for today is "Isolate one area of division in your marriage, and look on today as a fresh opportunity to pray about it. Ask the Lord to reveal anything in your own heart that is threatening oneness with your spouse. Pray that He would do the same for them. And if appropriate, discuss this matter openly, seeking God for unity."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Love Dare: Day 29

Today's chapter is called "Love's Motivation." This chapter is about how our love for our spouse is not motivated by what they earn or deserve. As Christians, our love for our spouse is motivated by God's love for us. We are to love "as unto the Lord."

The dare today is to pray for your spouse before they get home. Pray for them by name and pray for their needs. Then, when you see them, you are to say, "I love you," and love them in a practical, tangible way. After you do this, pray for them again and thank God that you are given the chance to show unconditional love to your spouse.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Love Dare: Day 28

Love Makes Sacrifices. This was a tough chapter to read, and I would guess it would be for anyone. We are programed to respond to our own needs when we need help or intervention. Like a finger touching a burning surface, we move into action and let everyone around us know we are out of sorts. "I'm so tired!" "The kids have been SO sick/bad/crazy . . ." "I am feeling down" "I am overwhelmed!"

When our spouses speak to us with some complaining or confession of needing help, we dismiss it easily and don't respond as we expect people to respond when WE need help.

Today's chapter even reached into the realms of physical intimacy. Our spouses often have to let us know they need this through vocalization. This is sad. We need to be paying enough attention to protect our spouse BEFORE this happens and we certainly should respond when they voice a concern.

Today's dare is to sacrifice time, energy, and resources to do the one thing your spouse needs you to do most today. I told you this was a tough read . . . but a good one!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Love Dare: Day 27

Love encourages. This is the chapter title for today, and it was a great reminder. Both Ryan and myself are a bit type-A, and we can impatiently project high expectations on each other rather than encouraging and accepting one another.

I know I've gotten a lot better in this area. I used to have the romantic notions that men could read women's minds and that life is much rosier in a relationship. Well, life is blessed by marriage, but it is still hard. Furthermore, I know that I have to communicate if I am feeling disappointed by my spouse. Ryan can't read my mind, and I have to assume it isn't a purposeful ommitance. Rather, he just is being human. I certainly don't consider others all the time or perfectly in every situation.

So, today's dare is to eliminate any unrealistic expectations and to promise your spouse you will be more accepting in any area you identify (and seek forgiveness if you have been discouraging them).

I think many couples struggle with unrealistic expectations, which is why divorce rates are so high. We all married fallen human beings, so we can't expect more than that. We need to forgive, encourage and admonish when biblically necessary. How marriages would change if we lived in a way where we die to self and consider our spouse more! Imagine!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Love Dare: Day 26

Today's chapter is called "Love is Responsible." It is a biggie. It is all about having a good attitude about criticism that comes your way and always asking for forgiveness for any wrongdoing that is your own (regardless of what your spouse has done).

This is a big challenge for me. I don't easily say "I'm sorry." It hasn't been something I've done well in any manner with anyone, and, though I'm working on it and recognize it, it is a hard chapter for me.

Ryan and I both have trouble saying I'm sorry first. We are both fairly defensive and more concerned about what the other person has done. This chapter reminds us that we need to FIRST be concerned with repenting of our own wrongdoing. Get the plank out of our own eye.

The dare today is to prayerfully consider any wrong I have done in my marriage (for which I haven't yet taken responsibility) and to seek Ryan's forgiveness for it. Pray that I will do this and really search my heart. I know I have a lot of room for growth in this area!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Love Dare: Day 25

Today's dare chapter is entitled "Love Forgives." This is near and dear to my heart. Leading a marriage ministry with my husband, we see many marriages which can't be repaired because one participant or both is unwilling to practice forgiveness. Anger, bitterness and hurt imprison us when we choose to hold onto them. The initial feelings of hurt we felt dissipate and we are trapped with sinful feelings of bitterness and anger. We must choose to let this go and choose to move forward in forgiving and loving our spouse, even when they don't deserve this kindness. We only hurt ourselves when we act contrary to what God desires.

First and foremost we need to remember what God did for us. While we were enemies and while we were sinners, God DIED for us and suffered for OUR sins. Nothing our spouses do to us can match what God faced because of us. We are recipients of this grace, and yet we hold onto much lesser wrongs our spouse commits. We expect them to overlook grievances we do and then we punish them for as long as it takes until we feel they have paid for their wrong--but do we ever actually feel it was paid for? The answer is no. At some point we have to choose to forgive and give the justice to God. Otherwise, our lack of satisfaction at true justice eats us alive and piles bitterness upon bitterness.

The dare today is to think of ANYTHING you haven't forgiven in your spouse and to let it go. This might be something BIG--an affair, lies, emotional abuse. This might be something smaller--lack of attention, forgetting an important event, not living their role in the marriage. This might be something trivial--they accidentally hurt your feelings, they didn't say the right thing, or they left a task undone and you had to do it.

Whatever you haven't forgiven, pray God would release it from your heart, feel the relief of letting God deal with any wrongs, and choose to live your marital role in a godly manner.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Love Dare: Day 24

Today's lesson was on Love vs. Lust. It was about how our eyes see something, our hearts desire it, and then we act on it in sin. This can apply to sexual material, but, as it clearly states in this chapter, this can be anything--a new material thing, a position of authority, a job, a relationship, money and affluence, etc.

The chapter goes on to explain the love and lust are polar opposites. Love is being content and choosing to honor the other person above yourself. Lust is selfish and all consuming. It is the definition of not having contentment.

The dare today is to identify any object of lust in your life and remove it. I know in the Fireproof movie, this is where the main character smashes his computer because he was addicted to pornography. For me, this is a good reminder to check my heart for contentment and make sure no yearning for "more" of anything is in my life--being more thin, more recognition, ANYTHING. I need to check for balance and contentment, for even as I make goals that are not sinful, they must not consume me.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Love Dare: Day 23

Ryan and I took the boys and spent almost a week in the Las Vegas area. Despite Ryan getting the 24 hour stomach flu, we had a good time, but I'm WAY behind on my love dare days. So, let's get crackin'!

Today's dare is Love Protects. It talks about taking any harmful influences out of your marriage that undermine it. This could be harmful friends, things that build unrealistic expectations like movies or novels, lustful viewing or temptations, etc. I also liked that it mentioned keeping any vulnerabilites you know in your spouse private. You are to protect them in public and never speak down about your spouse to others--especially using weaknesses that you are privy to witness at home.

The dare is to get rid of any harmful influences that are in our marriages and lives. Ryan and I have set up boundaries in this area, and we hope to always work to protect our marriage against sinful influences. I for sure could work on always building up my spouse! I know I can jest about him in ways that might hurt his feelings, so my goal today is to be more careful about how I speak about Ryan around others. I want him to be encouraged and built up by my words!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Love Dare: Day 22

Today is Ryan's birthday! Happy birthday, love! What a blessing he is in my life.

Today's chapter is called Love is faithful. It speaks of God's unconditional, redeeming love, as illustrated so well in the life of Hosea and Gomer in the Bible. Though we fall short and did nothing to deserve God's love, He forgives and chooses to love us faithfully.

This is the crux of marriage. We should be faithful to our spouse--choosing to love them each and every day, not because they earn our love, but because we choose to commit to them and love them. This is the problem with so many marriages ending in divorce--there is no concept of faithfulness in love. People love only if it is earned. This is inevitably a failing way to run a marriage.

The dare for today is to tell your spouse you love them, you will always love them, and you choose to love them even if they don't want to love you back.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Love Dare: Day 21

Yesterday, we had a fantastic family day at Knott's Berry Farm. It was great to be out together, but I didn't have a chance to post for the Love Dare. So, we will continue today. The chapter today is called "Love is satisfied in God." It reminds us that our spouses will disappoint, but God never does. The dare goes on to ask that the reader start a steady quiet time each day.

I grew up in a church that really didn't focus on quiet time, and I believe my spiritual maturity suffered because of it. Once I realized the need for daily Bible reading and prayer, I noticed a pattern of growth in my walk. How can I know the Bible, apply it to my life, and use the Word of God to live godly in Christ Jesus if I am not studying it, learning it and meditating upon it?

So, this is a great chapter dare! If you haven't done your quiet time today, stop reading blogs and go read the Word of God!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Love Dare: Day 20

Okay, so I'm half way there! This really isn't as hard as I thought. It helps that I have good friends doing this too and I'm being held accountable.

Today's chapter is the second half of the gospel chapters, and it is called "Love is Jesus Christ." I already voiced my concerns with how we must carefully present the gospel yesterday. The only additional concern I had today was that the idea of "rededication" was suggested. If you fall away from your faith and any attempt to live with God as Lord for an extended period of time, then you probably can know you were never in true saving faith. You were dating Christ, but you never fully made the commitment to Him. I was like that. Rededication isn't in the Bible. It is a cultural term we have created so that people can think they became Christians as young kiddos. What happens usually is we grow up in the church and obey our parents. We go away to college and "rebel" to certain degrees. Our theology changes and we start to even recognize we are living for ourselves and pleasure rather than God. Anyway, time goes on, life gets hard, and we realize we do need Christ in our lives after all. When we truly submit to him, lay down our pursuit of pleasure and ourselves, then we have come to a full acceptance of what the cross means to our sinful selves. This is the true point of conversion.

Anyway, that is my only beef today. : ) You have to be so careful with the gospel!

I agree with the title and the main point! Love is Christ Jesus. He is the source of love. Without Him in our lives, we cannot agape love others! Thank you, Christ, for giving me the example of how to love Ryan!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Love Dare: Day 19

Love is impossible. That was the title of today's chapter. It sounds kind of negative, doesn't it? Well, the point of the chapter was to bring the reader to the realization that love, agape style, IS impossible without God. He is the giver of this kind of love, and if you do not have a relationship with Him, you cannot be demonstrating this love to your spouse on a regular basis.

I had a slight issue with this chapter, because it is beginning to unfold the gospel message to the reader. However, it is starting in a way I personally find unproductive--focusing on God's love without exposing the sin that needs His love to forgive. The chapter promises that you will be able to have agape love for your spouse if you have God "in your heart." Though this is not false, it is a feel good message before the really bad news has been delivered.

I grew up in a few churches, but the one we attended during my formative years of junior high and high school was a church that had a feel good gospel. God is love, accept God into your heart, God loves everyone, etc. There was no mention of repentance, isolation and being an enemy of God because of my sin, the reason for the cross is not just love but PAYMENT to a just God for the sins of mankind, and a life of obedience and sanctification after the repentance and faith. There was no fruit check to really see if we were in Christ. I believe I wasn't. I thought I was. I couldn't explain my pattern of behavior, though.

It wasn't until I truly saw my capability for rebellion against God, choosing sin over righteousness and seeing a pattern of bad choices that I realized how corrupt my flesh was. I wasn't breaking the law or doing anything the world sees as horrible, but I wasn't living according to God's Word. I was an enemy of God. I had to SUBMIT to Him, repent and admit my sinful status, and OBEY Him. This didn't happen until I was just graduating from college.

God isn't as concerned about life being easy and wonderful for us as He is about our eternal state. He is concerned about our holiness and obedience to Him. We must lose our lives to gain them.

Anyway, the love is important, but it has to be put in context when giving people the gospel message.

So, the dare today is to think of the times I've found a dare of agape love hard to do on my own. I would say my flesh struggles with the idea of not being irritated by stress and then taking that out on my family and Ryan. That day was a day I needed to draw my strength from God the most. When I tried to do it on my own, I failed. When I submitted to Him and denied my own desires, it was WAY easier. Denying oneself isn't popular or easy, but God commands it.

Today we are going out for Ryan's birthday dinner--just us. It will be a nice break for us and a good chance to talk and celebrate the blessing He is to me. I am so thankful for my husband!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Love Dare: Day 18

Today was hard. We both woke up grouchy. The boys were up an hour earlier than normal, and even though I prayed before I got them, I was tired (still getting energy back from the flu) and I woke up to a lot of e-mails from our marriage ministry. Ryan was tired from Thrive the night before and cut it close on getting up with time to get to work. Since he was running late, he had little time or patience for the whining boys and my slow self this morning. Having been cooped up with the boys for three days while we get rid of germs hasn't helped. We are all stir crazy and crabby.

Sound familiar? I'm sure we've all been there. So, today was hard. I wasn't feeling warm fuzzies toward Ryan when he called during the day to remind me to do calls or e-mails. I wasn't exactly thrilled at all the posts I read on Facebook about how so and so's husband brought them coffee and took the kids downstairs so she could sleep in . . . Doesn't it seem like Satan sends a bunch of those status updates on the mornings we are disgruntled? Ugh.

However, I really struggled and fought to stay positive today. I decided to choose to be happy with the things that were great, and when I was able to focus, I did much better. God was faithful when I was obedient to quit pouting. I'm not saying I didn't sin and have some moments of self-pity. I have to always remember I'm not entitled to anything, and God's grace is sufficient. Entitlement--there is another post.

So, today's love dare is on understanding your spouse. It talked about how we study one another when we are dating, but we don't really have in depth conversations or try to better know our spouse once our marriage is settled.

Ryan and I spend a lot of time together, and I would say we know a lot about each other's lives and activities. I know what his fears, hopes and dreams are. However, where we rush and hate to spend time is in the immediate needs. In the rush of life and our tiredness, I think we don't want to see the exhaustion in our spouse, because that would mean stopping and talking or helping. We overlook the frustration in the short response we get because we just don't want to deal with something we might have said that bothered them. We are selfish in our own trials, and marriages can sometimes get derailed through lack of stopping and really being open to listening to your spouse--to really listening, encouraging and thinking about their immediate needs.

That is why today's dare is awesome. It says to cook a romantic dinner at home and have the kids out of the house. Well, Ryan is out tonight with a Thrive activity. (I'm still in quarantine with the boys and stayed home). However, I am going to put a date on the calendar and do this. We don't need to have a restaurant. I'll get nice steaks, make his favorite potatoes and dessert. I think I'll even dream up a little game of questions to get the communication flowing about the here and now needs of Ryan. It will be a good night of getting to understand my spouse better.

Oh, and for the hard day--it is almost over. Thank goodness God's mercy is new EVERY morning!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Love Dare: Day 17

So, I'm one day behind now. I came down with the stomach flu yesterday, and today we are recovering at home and Lysoling everything in the house. Thank you, Lord, for the conveniences of a washing machine, disinfectants and HOT, HOT water for cleaning.

Today's dare is about how love is intimate. It wasn't talking about the physical relationship between you and your spouse, but it was talking about emotional intimacy. A lot of the focus was on being able to safely share things with your spouse and not feel judged or like the thing you are sharing might be unfairly used against you.

I know Ryan does a great job of letting me share anything with him. All my yucky struggles I immediately share with him--he encourages me and prays for me. He always follows up and asks me how I am doing in an area I've shared with him. He's learned he doesn't have to always fix it--though he gives GREAT advice. Sometimes I just want him to listen. He's always my advocate. I pray I do the same for him. I really do think we do a good job in this area, but it is good to be aware that this needs to be protected and kept strong.

The dare was to pray for secrets your spouse has shared with you. Also, if you are struggling to love your spouse because of any issues or secrets, to resolve to love them despite this. Also, listen to your spouse when they share personal thoughts and struggles with you, so they feel safe. Good advice for sure!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Love Dare: Day 16

So today's chapter is how love intercedes. In other words, it speaks about the importance of praying for your spouse! I've read the book The Power of a Praying Wife, and I pray for Ryan every day through my prayer journal. However, I like the idea that this chapter presented: pick 3 specific areas on which to pray for your spouse. When I looked at this challenge, I started brainstorming what areas I wanted to include, and I realized I am not praying enough for Ryan. I am his closest advocate, and he needs prayer from me! I need to pray he is protected from temptation at work, pray he continues to lead our family biblically, pray for boldness to witness, pray for a soft heart when it comes to giving up time, pray for endurance and strength when he works hard, pray for encouragement at work and ministry, pray for wisdom when trials surface, etc., etc. That isn't even the tip of the iceburg! Needless to say, I am excited to be more purposeful in my praying for Ryan. I am to intercede for him in prayer because I choose to love him!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Love Dare: Day 15

Today's chapter was about honoring your spouse and setting them apart as special. When I think about the specifics that go into showing honor to your spouse, I know I fall short. I respect Ryan and even show love, but I don't often think about how I can HONOR him.

To honor Ryan, I considered his time more important than my own. I honored him by putting Carter and Micah to bed (I usually only put Micah to bed) so he could get a bunch of stuff done on the computer. He was very appreciative and got a lot finished!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Love Dare: Day 14

Today's chapter talks about the choice we make to take DELIGHT in our spouse! We might be tired of their needs or desire alone time, but we need to choose to delight in who they are and who God gave us.

I know that sometimes Ryan gets home from work and I am SPENT! The boys have nagged all day, Micah is needing to be held continually, and nothing I wanted to accomplish is finished. I am not prone to smile and delight in him when he says, "Let's talk about Thrive game ideas" or "Do you want to play a board game?" I want to go VEG in front of the computer or TV and have personal space time for a bit. He, however, has the opposite need. He's been at work missing his family all day, and his reward for all his work is to come home and spend time with all of us.

SO, today's dare is to drop a project I wanted to get done today and spend time doing what Ryan wants--something with him. This actually already happened today. We got the boys down for naps, and I had about 5 things I wanted to do on the computer. WELL, he wanted to create some game ideas for the Thrive Christmas party and talk about a future vacation. So, I put ordering Christmas cards on hold for the day and helped him think of game ideas for Thrive. It was time well spent, and I'll totally be able to order Christmas cards another day. : )

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Love Dare: Day 13

Well, Ryan and I fight as all couples do, but thanks to Christ in our lives, it happens few and far between. Today's love dare is about having healthy rules of engagement when you are fighting with one another. Ryan and I have talked about this before. At different times, different suggestions have been given. Here are some good rules of engagement that we like:

--Don't fight in public.

--Tell the person you need a break because you are not able to practice self control if you are feeling out of control, BUT don't walk away until you've asked permission to take a break.

--stick to the issue at hand (no bunny trails)

--Admit your own part/insecurities in the problem

--Try not to fight in front of the kiddos

--Don't disagree on discipline for the kids in front of them

--Don't use raised voices

--Give the benefit of the doubt to the other person

--Don't do the silent treatment--communicate.

--Have restitution as soon as possible and pray at the end of a discussion.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Love Dare: Day 12

Well, I forgot to make the waffles for Ryan yesterday, so today I got up and made waffles for him. He really enjoyed the family time and the extra special breakfast, so it was worth it!

Today's love dare is about disagreements in your marriage. The chapter talks about how many disagreements are fueled by our selfish stubborness. We refuse to compromise or give in to our spouse. There are issues we won't necessarily agree upon, but there definitely are little disagreements throughout the day that blow up into bigger issues due to our unbending attitude. Does this strike a cord? It does with me. Which direction we should have gone to get there faster, what outfit would have been better to wear or put on the boys, where we should eat, what we should do with our family time, what vacation to take, how we read a person's disposition and why one person was offended and the other wasn't (guess which applies to which one of us--HA!), etc, etc, etc.

Today's dare is to choose a disagreement between you and your spouse and willingly give in and concede to your spouse's opinion. This requires humility, which isn't always easy! Weekends are a great time to practice this, as we are around each other all the time and disagreements undoubtedly arise. So, I'll fill you in once this dare has been completed!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Love Dare: Day 11

Today's focus is that love cherishes. The chapter started out with a great illustration. First there is the scenario of a man whose car has fallen into disrepair and needs extremely expensive fixes and is unreliable. If he gets rid of the car and gets a new one, we'd totally understand. Secondly, there is a man who crushes his hand in a work accident. It needs costly surgery and therapy to nurse it back to health. He willingly does all this and does not chop off his hand because it is not at full potential. Many people view marriage like the FIRST scenario. If it isn't working for you, get rid of it and get a newer model. This is so sad.

So, my dare to cherish my husband is to do a chore or task for him that needs to get done. I'm going online today to order pictures from Costco for him. He hates doing this and looked VERY relieved when I said I'd take over the task of uploading photos and ordering them. Hopefully I don't mess it up!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Love Dare: Day 10

Wow! I can't believe we are 1/4 of the way through the Love Dare book. This has been fun! Some moments have been hard or painful to realize, but I love being able to think about blessing Ryan each day.

Today's lesson is on unconditional love: agape. Remember that list you made about your spouse. Imagine if every good quality they exhibit slowly disappeared. They no longer were good dads. They lost their job and didn't provide. They stopped doing the bills and being the planner for the family. Etc., etc.,etc. What if there was nothing to love at all?

In the world's eyes, that is the end of the relationship. In God's eyes, nothing has changed, because agape isn't based on anything but choosing to love. There are no conditions or qualities one must have to be loved. Though, as a Christian, I've heard this numerous times, this was convicting in how sometimes I justify treating Ryan badly because he has hurt me or has done something unloving. Yuck.

So today's dare is to do something above and beyond for your spouse that shows them you are choosing to love them today. Girls: wash the car, do the yardwork he does normally, buy him his favorite dessert pack his lunch. Boys: fold the laundry, get up early with the kids and let her sleep, or do some cleaning she normally does. I haven't decided what I'll do. I don't normally pack Ryan's lunch, but perhaps I'll get up early with him and make him homemade waffles tomorrow. He just washed his car, but that would have been a GREAT one! I'll file that idea away for later. : )

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Love Dare: Day 9

So before my major issues on Saturday and being irritable, Ryan was digging my new attitude and actions. I even got surprise flowers from Ryan on Saturday morning! It is so true that your attitude affects others!

I love today's dare, because I need to work on it desperately. We've talked about it a million times, but the way I greet my husband when he walks in the door sets the tone for the evening. I can welcome him with a smile and hug and full attention, or I can be grumpy, yelling at the kids and complaining (which is often the case, sadly). So, the dare today is to have a loving, wonderful greeting waiting for Ryan when he walks in the door. I need to make him feel valued by me and missed while he was gone. These things are true, so I can reflect this in my greeting. One way I can have a loving greeting is by planning dinner so I'm not stressed when he walks in the door. So, I'm off to cook with plenty of time to spare!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Love Dare: Day 8

Writing the negatives and positives list yesterday was really interesting. I didn't enjoy thinking about all the negatives about my spouse, but it was a great exercise to be writing about all of Ryan's strengths. It made me appreciate him more! Before bed, I thanked him for being such a hard worker and provider for our family.

Today, I was supposed to burn the negatives list, but I didn't want to start a fire, so I ripped it up and threw it away. A wife is supposed to be a husband's biggest fan, and negativity cannot take root in a marriage. Today's lesson was about not being jealous of your spouse, but it is important to encourage them and celebrate any success they encounter. To be honest, this didn't really strike a cord with me. I can't imagine being jealous of Ryan getting a raise, having people tell him he did a good job on a sermon, or of him finishing a running race for which he has been training. Whenever Ryan is successful, I am so proud of him! I know I should never say I'm above a sin, though. That is when Satan uses our pride to cause us to fall. So, I am happy to be Ryan's fan and celebrate his achievements.

I am supposed to also tell Ryan about how glad I am of a success he has had recently. I do need to work on this! Though I might not be jealous, I need to be a constant encourager--even in the little things!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fall Fest 09

Every year, our church hosts a community outreach called Fall Fest on Halloween. It is a large scale carnival with free rides, food, games, entertainment, etc. Each year it gets bigger and better, and each year the crowds hear about it and more and more people come. We love the growth, as that means more people hear about Compass Bible Church and might come to church if they don't have a home church! Last year about 5,000 people came, and this year there were about 7,800 people.
Carter was so excited this year! He looked quite dapper in his Buzz Lightyear costume with blinking wing lights. He squealed in delight as we were let into the event, and we went to the swings, big slide and cars first thing. This year they had a toddler lot that was awesome! It was less crowded, but they still had free food, pony rides, a train, bounce houses, bumper cars and lots more. Our ministry, Thrive, had a band that played at the event, and they were awesome.
Micah was in awe of all the noise, lights, crowds and excitement. He wasn't a fan of his hot octopus outfit or his late dinner, but he'll enjoy it more next year.

Enjoy some pics!

Love Dare: Day 7

Okay, I didn't do so well at not being irritated. I am glad I have many days to work on this. I had failed about an hour after I read the chapter, and then the crowds at Fall Fest, a hyper 3 year old and a crabby 7 month old, and eating dinner at 8pm did me in. I'm not excusing it, but I'm setting the scene to show you how irritated I probably was. Ugh. I'll keep plugging away at that and asking for forgiveness when I fall short.

Today's dare is to write two lists about your spouse. Each will be used later, separately in the love dare days. I am to write a list of all the negative things about Ryan and then a list of all the positive things about Ryan. After I am done, I need to pick one positive thing about Ryan and tell him today that I appreciate that characteristic of his!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Love Dare: Day 6

Well, I asked Ryan what 3 things I do that irritate him the most, and he laughed and thought I was joking! : ) Once he realized I wasn't, he was a little nervous to answer me, but I finally got 2 good suggestions out of him. I'm filing them away in my head and making a point to work on them.

Today's Love Dare is about being irritable--ouch. I think these are getting harder and harder. I'd have to say this is a big area of sin for me. When I'm having a bad day, I don't think I throw up my hands and quit doing what I need to do, I just do everything that day with a huge dose of irritability and impatience. It isn't pretty folks.

So, today I have been dared to react to tough circumstances in loving ways instead of with irritation. I also need to add margin to my schedule so I don't get irritable from stress. Finally, the dare asks me to see if I have any greed, lust, bitterness or other selfish sin that is leading to so much irritability. Zoinks.

Pray for me. Weekends are often the hardest for my irritability sin, since the normal routine is off and Ryan might handle the kids differently than I do all week. Also, I'm getting less sleep and having less alone time. I'll have to think about my schedule and how I can add margin to it. I think leaving for any appointment five minutes earlier than planned is going to help A LOT. I get so irritable when we are late for anything. I know I'm selfish with my time and energy, so I need to work on being more sacrificial in those areas.

I'll let you know if I was less irritable when I post tomorrow!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Love Dare: Day 5

Reflecting on yesterday's dare, I'm trying to put more time and thought into Ryan's birthday than panicking and going to the mall the weekend before his birthday. So, Micah, Carter and I went and got him a few things today. I'm still haven't found any "wow" items to get him. He asked mainly for clothes. If you have any ideas, let me know! I'm thinking!

Today's dare is called "Love is not Rude." It talks about bad habits of rudeness we demonstrate to our spouse at home. The chapter says that women usually demonstrate rudeness in our quarrelsome attitude and words. Me, quarrelsome? ahem. Maybe sometimes. So, this dare is a zinger. You have to ask your spouse what are three things you do that cause them to be uncomfortable or irritated with you. You cannot argue or defend yourself. You just have to listen. It also says that if you are thinking, "I wish my spouse would ask me this so I could tell him/her about how he/she . . .", then you are in dire need of hearing about your own flaws. : )

This isn't easy to do, but I really do need to work on things that irritate Ryan. So, I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Love Dare: Day 4

Today's focus was on thoughtfulness. In reading the chapter, I was convicted of how I have changed in thinking about blessing my spouse since we were dating. I was always planning dates, dinners to cook, items to purchase for him, cards to write, etc. when we were dating. Now, I am even scrambling to think about what he should get for his BIRTHDAY! Yikes! Life gets busier with kids, but it doesn't mean we should move our purposeful thoughts of blessing our husband to the end of our list. Today's dare is to contact my husband and ask him how he is doing and what I could do to help/bless him--without any other agenda or conversation about kids, plans, etc. This is something we do regularly, but the chapter reminded me that I need to be more purposeful in how I am thoughtful toward Ryan.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Love Dare: Day 2 and 3

Well, yesterday's dare was to continue using kind words and to also do something unexpectedly kind in action for your spouse. The chapter talked about kindness not just being patience (defensive) but also offensive action demonstrating kindness. My unexpected action was going to be to give Ryan a backrub without getting one in return. We do backrubs almost nightly, but we always both get one--except on birthdays when the person of honor gets one without giving one. Anyway, I ate something bad and spent the night in the fetal position on the couch. So, tonight, I am giving Ryan the backrub. : )

Today, day 3, the dare is to buy your spouse something to show them you are thinking of them. The root of this dare is to fight my propensity toward selfishness and be thinking of my spouse over myself. Today we went to Sea World and I didn't get to buy anything, but tomorrow I am going to go buy Ryan a chocolate chip muffin at the store. He loves to have a special treat for breakfast. It helps him have something fun when he has to get up for work, and he loves chocolate chip muffins.

Okay, I'm off to give my special someone a back rub! Goodnight!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Love Dare: Day 1

So, yesterday was the beginning of The Love Dare. I'm surprising Ryan with 40 days in the Love Dare and seeing how long it takes him to figure out I'm doing this. Two of my girlfriends are also doing this to their husbands, and we are holding each other accountable to finishing. Yesterday, I had to watch my words and not say anything negative to Ryan--not a complaint, not a gripe, not a "I told you so", not even correction if I knew I was right and he was wrong. It was a great dare, as I had been very frustrated with little things/mistakes Ryan was doing/making and was making sure to point out to him all of his mistakes. He, of course, didn't appreciate my highlighting his errors. So, this was a timely exercise. I think I did fairly well. Last night he took the boys to the pumpkin patch while I met with the ladies in Thrive leadership. I was wincing as he marched Carter out in a T-shirt and Micah had on a thin sleeper. Without overtly complaining, though, I was able to stuff some jackets and a stroller blanket in the car, and the situation was remedied without me dumping negativity on Ryan.

If you haven't seen the movie, Fireproof, and you are married, I highly recommend it! It will better explain the idea of the love dare. You don't need to be in marital disrepair to do the love dare. Think of it as a PX90 for marriage--only of shorter duration and of greater worth!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Just Right

Jeremiah 1:5
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

The above Bible verse is what God tells Jeremiah when He tells him to prophesy to Jerusalem. Jeremiah isn't excited about the vocation God has chosen for him, but God doesn't listen to his excuses and sends him anyway.
Why is the Biblical story of an Old Testament prophet on my mind?
Well, I just had Carter's first school conference. Having taught kids for 9 years, I was greatly curious as to how Carter would do in a school setting. It was odd to sit on the other side of the table for the first time, watching the teacher start out with every good attribute of the child and carefully tread into the areas of consternation and concern.
As every mom knows, we definitely don't get the child we assume will be ours. I imagined a son who liked to read, would sit quietly at books and board games like I did, and a quiet little thing who had to shyly be coaxed to talk to strangers. Carter is just about as opposite a person to that as possible. He came into this world with a fuss, and he hasn't let up since.
Being an educator, I never thought I would get the child who had issues focusing in class. I don't mean behavioral issues, though that pops up from time to time for sure. I mean that he has developmentally not succeeded in listening or focusing, though his little body tries as hard as he can.
At home, we have tried consequences and rewards to get him to listen to and repeat to us what we discuss in his children's Bible story for the night. Repetition helps, but he squirms and tears up with his inability to truly hear and repeat what we say. After Sunday School, Carter needs much prompting to recall what he was taught 5 minutes ago in class. The promise of or denial of a donut after class does little to affect the outcome of our questions. The teacher at his preschool has recognized he is behind his peers in being able to focus and listen in class. It is frustrating to no end, but I was reminded of this verse above after the school conference for Carter.
God made Carter. He made him to bring glory to Himself and to carry out His will and plan in Carter's life and our lives. Carter is who he is--from his attention deficit to his high level of activity, from his deep and hearty laughs to his heartfelt sobs of pain; from his love for sports to his dislike of haircuts--because God PLANNED his personality.
Who knows, someday Carter's lack of active listening skills might bring him to decide on a profession that better glorifies God than one he might have chosen otherwise. He might have to enter a unique schooling situation that brings him to repentance and faith! We don't know why God makes each of us the way we are made, but we know it is in no way an accident. There is a larger plan unfolding than tidy school conferences and perfect report cards.
Carter's sinful choices? Well, that is in no way God's plan, but we are slowly heart training Carter to die to himself so that God may oneday live in Him, if that is in God's will. And though people choose sinfully, God even uses those choices to further His will. As Joseph tells his brothers in one of my favorite verses, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20 God's will and plan is not derailed by our sin.
So, Carter isn't a perfect student, but he is fearfully and wonderfully made. I sure am thankful for my sweet, joyful, and enthusiastic three year old. We are watching his focus issues more closely for possible needed interventions or diagnosis, and we are thanking God that Carter is exactly who God created him to be. Because each little quirk I might find odd or frustrating is being smiled upon by his Heavenly Father. He made Carter just right in order to bring glory to Himself. At the end of the day, I know that is all that matters.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Creative Outlets

If you are reading this post, you are partaking in one of my creative outlets--writing. It is no secret in my family that I like to be creative. When I was little, I loved to sing, play the piano and draw. As I got older, I liked dance, which I used in cheerleading and drill team. I've dabbled in decorating, sewing, knitting, sketching, music, dance, cooking, gardening, painting, and just about every creative outlet. Often, however, my attention span isn't long for anything. Once I figure out how to do something, I move to my next challenge. My favorites are probably writing, sketching, and cooking. However, I've decided to try another new area. Due to my active kiddos and my affinity for trying new things, I've decided to save up for a DSLR camera. I love to take pictures with my point and shoot, especially portrait pictures. However, the P&S camera has obvious limitations, especially with two active boys who hold poses for .2 seconds. I'm very excited about my future purchase, and I'll see how well I do with it. If you have any camera suggestions or suggestions about photography, leave me a comment!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Last week was my 35th birthday, and my dear, sweet husband and family threw me a surprise party. My husband was rightfully concerned that I would find out about the party, as I'm the girl who always knows how the movie twist will end less than half way through the movie. He did a great job not raising my suspicions, however, and I was very surprised!
On Saturday, we were going to go on a date night to celebrate my birthday with a steak dinner and a movie. We drove over to my in-laws to drop off the kids, and I was met with 40 or so of my closest friends and family.
Ryan decided to do a romantic, fancy party--with twinkle lights all over the yard, Italian food from Marios, candles on the tables, and Italian grapes decorating the cake, napkins and plates. It was wonderful! I loved every detail. He even had a caricature artist who drew pictures of the guests. We played a "How well do you know Chiara" game, which my sister in law won! There were pictures of me from birth to present hanging all over the house and flashing on the television. There I was in all my prom, cheerleading, adolescent glory! We got a few laughs from those pictures and memories.
My mom ordered a lemon cake from It's All About the Cake. It had the most beautiful, green grape vines, gold dusted leaves and purple grapes woven all across the fondant. I will be sure to post pictures when I get them. Unfortunately, we didn't get pictures on our camera, so I'm waiting to get some from family who were kind enough to document the event for me.
Really, what I liked the most was the fact that I had friends and family all together with me for the evening. Each season in my life has been important for its own reasons. However, I have to say that the current one has been one of my favorites. God has been very good to me, and that evening was a potent reminder of that fact!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Purely a Little Nostalgia

I'm blessed to live within half an hour of any place I lived as a child. In fact, just the other day, I was feeling nostalgic and took Carter to play in my forest park in Lake Forest. It is a huge patch of Eucalyptus trees planted in the 1900's to deal with a shortage of lumber in California. They were never cut, and our houses were built around the natural edge of the forest. I call it "my" forest park because I spent many Saturdays catching tadpoles in the creek, swinging on the tree swing and picking blackberries from random bushes and eating them--sorry mom and dad, but I guess they were not poisonous. It was my private little kingdom, an escape from the heat of the day and a quiet place where the neighborhood kids, my sister and I could run, shout, splash and giggle to our hearts' content. We'd run around for hours under the canopy of Eucalyptus trees, adventuring and exploring.
One of my favorite spots in the forest was the horse stable. It was a small, friendly little stable area that always smelled like baking hay and that glorious, sweet smell that is perfectly equine. Like every other little girl, I'd pet the horses and dream of what my own horse would be and how graceful and amazing I would feel as I rode it. Along the course of the stable was a fairly wide and vivacious creek, which would occupy many of our hours with bridge building, skipping rocks, racing sticks and catching tadpoles. The creek ran along the length of the forest, and deep in the dark recesses of the mighty Eucalyptus was the best park a kid could ever find. It was made out of lincoln log type wood poles. Along with swings and a slide, it had a zip line, a tire swing and high platforms to climb. It was a hybrid between a park and a living extension of the forest around it. Needless to say, changes in what defines Orange County and state safety laws keep them from building parks like that anymore.
I took Carter and Micah to see this special spot. I knew it had changed, but it was a little sad to see the reality of those twenty five years since I'd run around there. The forest had been thinned tremendously, and it had been cleared completely where the park had been. They completely tore down my lincoln log looking playset and replaced it with proper-looking, refined play structures--resin platforms, clean swings and bright slides that looked as if they had nothing to do with the forest around them. Dirt paths in the forest had been manicured and paved, with fit joggers running by periodically. A cement path led to the stables, which had been fenced around, no longer allowing strangers to randomly enter and enjoy the horses. I had only a quick peek at the creek, because Carter was afraid to leave the cement and enter the untamed, dirt path that wound through some bushes to get there. It was still wide and apparent, but it was stagnant and dark--mossy and a bit foreboding. I wonder if it runs over the rocks, singing water songs in the winter, when the water is high?
The forest park probably appeared as different as I do if someone were to compare the thirty-four year old me to the little eight-year old who skipped through the leaves in the forest. There is a hidden resemblance that you can unexplicably see, but more has changed than remained the same. So, it isn't "my" forest anymore. I am sure it is a great park, but it is safe, tamed and a little less grand. The best part of the visit was the smell of the Eucalyptus trees. That hasn't changed. I took a deep breath of the forest air--peppery, with a little hint of sweet perfume. I smiled, and I was eight again.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Life not a Season: Growing in the Knowledge of God

I was chuckling to myself the other day as I realized how my life stage is clearly explained by the channel I most frequent on the television. When I was a single adult, I would watch AMC (American Movie Classics) for hours on end, deliciously dreaming of which romantic Gary Cooper God would send into my life. Once I was married, I was obsessed with the Food Network, saving savory recipes to try out on my hubby as I domesticated myself. That was the first year I ever had to diet. A year after we married, we bought a house, and the television was often focused on the HGTV (Home and Garden Television) network. I watched "Trading Spaces" and other shows that taught me how to decorate on a dime, and I memorized the knocking and doorbell sounds on the show "House Hunters". When Ryan and I found out we were expecting our first baby, my attention turned to TLC (The Life Channel) and such shows as "A Baby Story" and "Bringing Home Baby." It might sound like I'm a fickle television viewer, but each stage was accurately framed by some informative and entertaining shows.

This made me think about how much effort I put into my Christian walk during different stages of life. Am I as equally focused on God during seasons of blessings as I am during trials? Do I hunger and thirst for God's Word when life is difficult and when circumstances are fairly smooth? I pray this answer is YES!

Truth be told, there is no season in which God should receive more attention than others. He should always be my priority. I am always to be growing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:10 tells us that we should, "live a LIFE worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in the knowledge of God." (emphasis mine) As this verse demonstrates, there isn't a season to grow and a season to flatline. As Christians, we are clearly told our LIFE is to be pleasing to Him. It is a LIFE to be characterized by the fruit of good works and growth in our knowledge of Him.

Sure it is tempting to say, "I just had a baby. I can let my quiet time fall to the wayside for a bit. It is just a season." Perhaps I stop serving in my church because "Life is so busy right now! God understands, and I'll serve when my time is more free." Another common argument is "I don't have to tithe if we are hurting financially. This is a season to save and cut back." Some even reason away attendance at church. "Work is so busy right now. We need family time on the weekends." All these arguments seem fairly rational in the world's eyes. However, they are not Biblical. For example, God commands us to serve with the gifts He has given. I Peter 4:10 "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." It is of utmost importance to be in God's Word and to pray. We are told to gather together with other Christians, especially as we get closer and closer to Christ's return (Hebrews 10:25). God tells us to give sacrificially from a heart that is overflowing with thanks. There is not any prolonged life season to stop these practices.

Next week I might enter a new life season and find myself watching a new television network. However, no matter what stage of life I navigate, may I find myself seeking God's will for me and growing in my knowledge of Him. Living for God is for a lifetime, not a season.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Micah is Five Months Old

Micah is at a fun age. He is full of giggles, opinions and his little personality is starting to emerge. He loves his jumper, prefers to roll and scoot around on the floor rather than sit in any kind of chair or seat, and kicks his feet constantly. He eats his toes as a hobby, spits up a lot of food due to reflux and is very curious about his crazy big brother.
He stares INTENTLY when we eat, and I think he might be ready for rice cereal sooner than later. He isn't as great of a sleeper as Carter, and he is fairly fussy in the late afternoon and evening. However, he is content if people are in the room with him, and he is loving teething toys. The problem is he drops them constantly and cries until you pick it up for him.
He loves when I sing to him, and it melts my heart to see him smile joyfully at mommy when she walks into the room. It is great having a fan club, even if it is a toothless little boy with a drooling problem! : )

One Good Reason

This is from the Proverbs 31 blog. I liked this read and thought I'd post it for you all to read:

One Good Reason
10 Aug 2009
Lisa Whittle, She Seeks Coordinator

"Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It's the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts." James 3:13 (MSG)

It all started with a girl named Debbie.

Debbie was about 18 when she attended my family's local Baptist church. I was 8 and entering an awkward stage. She was brunette and beautiful. All the boys wanted to date her, and all the girls wanted to be her. I just wanted her hair.

Debbie successfully got her hair to form glorious, sweeping cowlicks in the front, with perfection matched only by 70's singers on album covers. I admired it from afar, coveting its style. I bugged my mom so bad about wanting it, she finally decided to pick up the phone and ask Debbie how she did it. Seems a little Aqua Net and the blast of a hairdryer did the trick. At least for Debbie.

You may be interested to know that I never did achieve the style of my hair-icon Debbie. Apparently Debbie did not have fine hair such as mine. But boy did she give me a good reason to spray, tease and blow-dry my little heart out trying. She wore her hair so beautifully that I believed I would look just as beautiful if I had her style.

This silly childhood example reminds me of the very real influence we have on each other. Even as adults we see another woman's fashion style and we try to copy it. We watch another woman's success, and we try to match it. We want what others have…try to be what others are…and believe that we will be more and live better if we can only become like someone else.

The truth is, even though I want to be a trendsetter, an individualist, a unique woman with a mind of my own, I have to admit I am just as impressionable as the next person. Let's face it, no matter our age, we influence and are influenced by each other.

As ironic as this may sound, the thought of how impressionable we are gives me great hope as to how we can help other women find Jesus. I Corinthians 11:1 talks about the type of influence we can have on one another – a way of living that comes from within and attracts those around us to want what we have. "Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ," speaks directly to this type of Godly influence.

It's about wearing Christ with the authentic beauty of a heart that's been changed, giving other women a reason to want what we have. To look like we look. To live like we live. To be what we are. Make no mistake, our hurting girlfriends are looking for one good reason to change their lives. The reality is that our lives may be the only reason they find to seek out something different than what they have known. It's a beautiful, important responsibility.

May we always remember that our mission in life is not one of perfect hair or worldly achievement, but of living and breathing the message of Jesus Christ by our words, our actions, and most importantly, our life. May we embrace the privilege of imitating Christ, so that our girlfriends and others we have influence over will see something in us that they want desperately to have. May we wear Him well so His beauty is fully and completely represented.

For the influence we have through Him will last much longer than a fashion fad…a social trend…or even, a coveted hairstyle like Debbie's.

Let's have what they want, and show them how to get it.

Jesus, You are the reason to love, to live and to breathe. You alone make the journey possible. May we remember that we represent You always, and help us understand how to do that in such a way that it will lead others to a saving relationship with You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

San Diego

This last week, we took a 4 day trip to San Diego. Like always, we stayed at the Embassy Suites by Sea Port Village (credit card points can be used there, and it is a very kid-friendly hotel). We were blessed with a corner room, so the living area where the boys slept was in the shape of an "L". It was perfect to separate them a little bit at night. Both boys were troopers and slept through the night during the whole trip!

We enjoyed two days at Sea World and then two days at Legoland. I had never been to Legoland, and it was fun to go somewhere new. Carter isn't quite tall enough to go on the rides he likes--the roller coasters. He could go on one smaller coaster called the Coastasaurus. We rode that ride about 7 or 8 times. At least at Disneyland, he has the Matterhorn and the Toon Town roller coaster.

We had quite a heatwave during our stay, but a plentitude of water areas in which to romp, several ice cream purchases and shady spots helped us to beat the heat. I don't think we've ever used that much sunscreen on one trip. Even I, who rarely burn (thanks to my Mexican genes), was reapplying suntan lotion numerous times throughout the day.

We had a great time, though now that the pregnany is over and Micah will be over one year next summer, we are ready for some REAL trips. Ryan has stars in his eyes just thinking of flying all over with the boys and me. Even I, Mrs. Homebody, am feeling ready for some bigger vacations next year. I think Ryan has gotten me hooked on traveling.

Enjoy looking at some trip pictures. We took some great ones of Shamu and Carter. The trainer walked by the tank as we were there and made the poor whale pose for us. Carter, who takes 10 minutes to both look at the camera and smile at the same time, was a real test for that obedient whale. I was impressed. Give that whale some fish!