lessons from my ‘ugly’ house

lessons

The day was sunny and bright.  Just the thing after a long, snow-filled winter and a disastrous move from one home to another.  I stretched myself out in the hammock my husband had taken the time to so carefully string between two trees for me.  Closing my eyes I found my mind filled with the past few months.

And even more than the warm sunshine on my face, I felt shame.

I had met with trials in the previous weeks and, lying there under that blue sky, I realized just how miserably I had failed.  Shame and remorse coursed through me.

I shifted in the hammock so I could see the place from which the happy voices of my children floated in the air as they played in the field.  The field adjacent to the house I didn’t want to be living in.  The house with wood floors that needed to be refinished, the dining room that had once been a carport and the great room that just never managed to feel great to me.  And don’t even get me started on the iron-laced water.  Truly, you don’t want to get me started on that.  The rental house we had moved into in an effort to save money was draining us in more ways than could be counted in dollars and cents.

Oh, how I’ve hated this house.  And oh, how that hatred has seeped into every corner of my life without my realizing it.

I felt hot tears sting my eyes and roll down my cheeks as the full impact of my attitude hit me.

A house is just walls. Bricks and mortar erected to offer shelter from the seasons.  Houses don’t define us and we do ourselves an injustice to allow them to dictate our joy.  Ask me how I know.

I looked around me again and saw some of the kids playing ball while a few others jumped on the trampoline.  I had watched just the day before as my littlest boys chattered excitedly to each other as they explored the edge of the woods lining the 15 acre property.  I saw happiness in those sweet faces.  I saw an eagerness to accept this new adventure with wide open arms rather than a critic’s eye.

I saw Jesus walking through that field waiting for me to realize He’s right here.  Not in that house or those woods, but in this moment.  Every moment.  Even the ones we wish away.

I didn’t leave my swinging oasis that day in love with my house.  But I did leave in love with my life.  Again.

I don’t know what season of life you are in.  I don’t know what you’re struggling with or how difficult it is to capture the contentment He is calling you to.  What I do know is this:  Jesus is there.  Right there with you.  And that, my friends, is the only thing that really matters!

 

Note:  I am fully aware that my battle with contentment in regards to my new home sounds ridiculous compared to the struggles many face daily.  I am not trying to compare my situation to one that is truly serious.  But no matter what, or where we find ourselves, the answer is the same.  Jesus.

 

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Raising Daughters Who Are Worthy of a Good Man

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I’m raising five boys.  Three of them are already journeying through the teen years, but that part doesn’t scare me.  You know what does, though?

The fact that we’re inching ever nearer to the day they will be ready to consider marriage.

I’m not afraid of them marrying, exactly, but it’s a bit concerning when I look around and see a world full of young women who are terrifyingly bold and assertive.  Even more so, however, is the fact that girls are no longer being taught to respect themselves as the treasures they were created to be but are being encouraged to seek full and complete liberation from Biblical roles.

And this is not simply a “worldly” epidemic.  It is totally infiltrating the church from every corner.

I’m not impressed by the flesh-baring, egocentric, selfie-obsessed society I find myself raising children in.  Not impressed, yet it is my reality and it does me no good to sit and complain about what is or pining for what isn’t.  My time is much better spent helping my children navigate their way carefully toward what will be.

My hope and my prayer is that each of their will be’s include Jesus every step of the way.  Even the step that leads toward marriage, if one is in His respective plan for them.  But what kind of girl will be suited to walk beside my guys as they continue on in their faith experience?  As the mother of boys who is also raising girls, this is something I have thought about often.  Here are some critical components to their “princess” training we are striving for…

 

Join me over at Raising Homemakers for the rest of the article.

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week FOUR: r.y.b. fitness challenge

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The completion of this week marks the halfway point of our challenge.  I don’t know about you, but I find it exciting that we’re still plugging away!

In a strange, almost unrelated twist, my mind goes to Peter when I think of the challenges and failures many of us are facing as we work at hanging in there.  He set his heart fully on Jesus with the best of intentions but then things got hard.  He panicked and gave up.  It was no longer easy so he took the path of least resistance and denied his Christ.

But guess what?  When he heard that crow indicating his betrayal, his heart burned with guilt, shame and grief.  He could have laid down, a failure.  But he was made of better stuff than that, and so are you.

He picked himself up, repented, and recommitted himself.  And he was once again good enough, by the grace of God.

The same goes for us, friends.  We’re human.  We succumb to temptation and we stumble.  But that doesn’t mean we need to lay sprawled out on the ground.  A living relationship with Christ is one in which you repeatedly find strength after failure.  Adversity doesn’t define you; how you choose to walk through it does.  But more importantly, with whom you walk determines how far you make it.

The first part of the spiritual challenge this week is to write out James 1:2-4 every day.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.   But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Because it’s a battleground we’re wandering through and the enemies greatest weapon is temptation.  Cling to and claim this promise!

The second part of the spiritual challenge is to intentionally do something outward that validates your faith in Christ.  Sometimes we quietly live out our lives and those around us never even know of our relationship with Jesus.  This week ask Him to show you a way you can reach out, beyond your comfort zone maybe, with a helping hand, kind word or spiritual encouragement to someone outside your home.  The more we are willing to publicly proclaim Him, the easier it gets to do so without all the awkwardness and fear.

And if you allow Him to hone this “skill” you won’t be nearly as likely to deny Him when things get tough.

And by the way, the door is still open if you’re looking for a little extra support.  We have a closed Facebook group where we can meet during the week for accountability and encouragement.  ”Closed” means your comments there stay within the group and don’t show anywhere else on FB.  Just click here and ask to join and we’ll get you added.  Note:  The official weekly check-in is still on the blog.

The weekly prize incentive winner was never announced last week.  I’ve been every kind of busy trying to prepare for our move this coming weekend and somehow it just slipped my mind.  But the winner is Victoria C. and she will be receiving a 1 month trial membership to Fit2B once I hear back from her.  The prize winner this week will win a BicBand which is an excellent hair accessory for a tough workout!

Alright, it’s your turn to check-in!  I can’t wait to hear how it’s going for you!

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week THREE: r.y.b. fitness challenge

How many of you have been tempted to quit?  Or maybe you have half quit only to feel that little niggling of guilt because you know He wants you to exert your will toward improving your physical and spiritual health?

It’s okay.  You’re not the only one.  But a month or a year from now you’ll wish you had stuck with it.  Doing is a whole lot better than wishing.  If you have legs to move you, you need to move.  If you have a heart beating within you, you need Jesus.

The end.

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Because, in life, it isn’t really about getting in 20 minutes of exercise or only being able to squeak out 15.  It isn’t about missing a day (or 4) because you were stretched so thin, it’s about jumping back in as soon as you can.  No score card, no demerits.  Only giving Him your absolute best every single day.  Even on those days when your best seems pretty crummy.

We chatted last week about some people who were feeling discouraged.  They were bowing out and giving up because they weren’t meeting the requirements.  So here’s what we did:  we offered grace.  Because this isn’t a competition with anybody else.  It’s about being a better you today than you were yesterday.  If you’re still here and giving it your best, even if you’re falling short sometimes, you’re still in.

Keep checking in.  Keep reaching.

The first part of the spiritual challenge this week is to write out James 1:12 every day.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Because your temptation right now is likely to give up.  To retreat and make excuses.  But blessed is the man that enduredth temptation…he shall receive the crown of life.  Do you want that crown?  Then you have to want it more than you want that extra 30 minutes of sleep.  And you have to choose spending time with Him over your favorite tv show.

The second part of the spiritual challenge is to take that note you made last week about an area of your life you feel God calling you to work on.  Take it out of hiding and place it somewhere you will see it often.  It doesn’t have to be made public but put it in a spot where your eyes will take it in throughout the day.  Every time you see it, or think of it, pray.  Ask Him to help you be aware of ways you can change or improve.  Ask Him to clearly show you opportunities to grow.

Pray, pray and pray again.

Don’t dig in your heels…pray.  Don’t exhaust yourself with the repetition of failure that comes from waking up and declaring you will be more patient (if that’s the area you want to improve on) today.  Pray and ask Him to show you the times when you aren’t and how you can handle them differently.  He isn’t impressed with our superhuman strength.  He is, however, impressed by our weakness when it causes us to cling to His strength.

And by the way, the door is still open if you are looking for a little extra support.  We have a closed Facebook group where we can meet during the week for accountability and encouragement.  ”Closed” means your comments there stay within the group and don’t show anywhere else on FB.  Just click here and ask to join and we’ll get you added.  Note:  The official weekly check-in is still on the blog.

PS.  The weekly prize incentive winner last week, randomly generated from those checked-in, was Heather W.  She has claimed her winnings and will be receiving her skinny wrap this week.  Next up in the prize line-up is a one-month trial membership to Fit2b studio.

 

Sponsor Shout-out

Have you ever moseyed over to The Pleated Poppy and had a look around.  It’ll just make you happy.  There is such a variety of items and prints and colors all prettied up in their handmade glory.  Lindsey has a gift and it’s evident in her handiwork.

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3 ways to avoid raising youth who toss Christianity

The statistics are staggering.  The reality, heartbreaking.

Well-loved youth, brought up in the faith, are fleeing Christianity without so much as a backward glance.  And the parents who raised them with such expectancy are left to pick up the scattered pieces of hope and vision they once held tight to for their children.

Why?  Why does this happen?  These kids were brought up in youth group.  They were raised on communion bread .  They were baptized, fraternized and sermonized.  So why?

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I won’t pretend to have all the answers or that I don’t harbor a deep-seated fear that my own children will pack up their memories and walk off, shaking the dust from their boots as they go.  Because yes, I feel that, too.  But, there are tangible things we can do while raising our kids that drastically reduce the chances of them seeing our faith as an ill-fitting garment of hypocrisy.

Focus on raising God-fearing children, rather than good kids

Seems like the two might go hand-in-hand, right?  Wrong.  We, as parents, need to be shaken from our complacency.  We aren’t assigned the role of raising good kids.  Good kids grow up to be good adults who hold a steady job with a solid income to provide for their wife and the next generation of good kids.  

Godly kids grow up to change the world, one moment at a time.  

The difference is in how they were raised.  Parents raising good kids make excuses, allowances.  They offer indulgences such as, “Oh Johnny really shouldn’t have done that, but he’s young and impulsive.  He’ll grow out of it.”  However, parents of Godly kids seek after the heart, desiring to channel Johnny’s impulsive spirit into a finely tuned asset which ultimately advances the spread of the gospel.

Parents need to stop meeting over coffee to talk about their good kids.  We need to stop viewing our children’s willingness to attend church, youth group, mission trips, and the soup kitchen as sign enough that it is well with their souls.  We need to get serious about wearing out our knees for them, pleading with God for a life-changing transformation to catch hold of their hearts.  

They need conversion, plain and simple.  All that “good kid” jabber is meaningless if Christ isn’t planted firmly in the center of their being.  When conversion takes place, we won’t be left to sit and wonder.  We’ll see it and feel it and know it.  And it’ll change us, too.

 

That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.  Ephesians 4:22-24

 

God isn’t interested in lip service.  He wants whole-heart service.  He wants to see the old man thrown off.  Completely off.  This isn’t going to happen while soft-hearted parents are enabling their youth to cling to the fringes of that old man.  

 

Empower them to live for Christ

This means serious changes for most of us.  It means rejecting the notion that kids need to be coddled and pampered and stroked.  It means loving with the kind of love that isn’t about feel-good moments but rather chasing down the demons in their lives and evicting them.  Sometimes this kind of love hurts.  And it may well be the hardest thing you’ll ever be asked to do.

Because parenting isn’t about petting the sins of our children, treating them as though they’re an unwanted guest we hope will leave without ever taking offense.  Honestly, it’s okay to offend sin.  It’s not okay to offend God.  

Don’t mistake me here.  I’m not talking about becoming some Bible bruiser who steamrolls your kid into submission.  I’m talking about bathing them in the Word and pursuing their hearts with an unquenchable voracity.  It means discipling and disciplining with a firmness that’s generously laced with kindness.

There is no room for parental bullying here.  But there’s also no room for parental cowardice.

 

Equip them to make good decisions in a not-so-good world

Our kids will not be prepared for the onslaught of temptation if they have been flying on the coattails of our faith.  They need their own.  There will be no piggy-backing into eternity, and this includes children trying to gain entrance on the merits of their parents.

We paralyze our youth when we live their Christian experience for them.  When we allow them to go through the motions and consider it success that they do not rebel.  Rebellion can be silent, and that’s the deadliest kind.

As young people grow, they need to be equipped with decision-making skills.  They need to learn to snuff out the truth from the Bible, for themselves, and apply what they find there to their own lives.  This can get uncomfortable, though, and many parents see it as weakness to give a child some measure of control over their life.

But when we intentionally and prayerfully release them little by little, rather than letting them fly abruptly from the nest with unpracticed wings, we help them strengthen their own faith.  They find their own convictions while still safely within our fold.  

They learn to own their spiritual walk as dependency gradually shifts from the parents to the Creator.

This is as it should be.

There is no place for extremes if we’re seeking to raise God-fearing children into God-serving adults.  There is only balance, weighed perfectly by He who can set the scales even when we can’t.

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week two: r.y.b fitness challenge

It’s WEEK TWO!!  I’m almost nervous to see how many people check-in this week.  Seven days is just long enough for the newness to have worn off.  Chase it, grab it, own it.

Do I have to beg you?  Because I will.

The habits we form today shape our tomorrows.  And our children’s tomorrows.  It isn’t easy forming new ones, but it is totally worth it!

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Is there an area you’re struggling?  Do you need to start smaller?  If you need to let something go for a minute don’t let it be your devotions.  You need that time and He needs you to guard and protect it.

I know the guidelines I set forth at the beginning.  Exercise 20 minutes per day a minimum of 4 days a week with devotions every day.  I still stand behind that I think it’s a reasonable starting place.  But…

If you are in that place where trying to learn to squeeze both into your day when you aren’t accustomed to setting aside time for either, start by just meeting with God.  Give Him you.  And while you’re there, meeting quietly together, ask Him to help you find, time, motivation and energy for the physical stuff, too.

He’ll do it, I can promise.  If you’re really asking with a sincere heart and then really listening with a willing spirit, He will enable you to nurture your physical self, as well.  Why waste time trying to do it in your own strength when you could be doing it in His instead?

The first part of the Spiritual Challenge this week is to write out Philippians 4:6-7 every day.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

{I recommend using the S.O.A.P. method, outlined in this post, but that is totally up to you.}

I chose this verse because right about a week or two into intentionally setting our hearts on making solid improvements, we tend to grow discouraged.  The old ways seem easier and like maybe they weren’t so bad, after all.  It’s difficult to keep pressing on when your body is tired and your soul feels dry.

But if you do press on, no matter how tempting it is to turn back, you’ll find the Living Water flows freely just ahead and it will renew your strength and quench your soul thirst.  And this verse reminds us to keep soldiering on until we find ourselves bathed in that peace which passes all understanding.

The second part of the Spiritual Challenge is to write down an area in your life you really feel God calling you to re-examine. It could be anything.  Write it down and then pray over it this week.  Don’t make some crazy in-your-own-strength efforts to fix it.  Just pray over it for now.

A healthy body, mind, heart and soul.  That’s what we’re after here.  And it’s worth chasing.

Our first weekly prize winner was Melissa S.  She has claimed her choice of exercise DVD and should be receiving it shortly.  This week the prize is a skinny wrap.  You can read my first experience here.  The wrap is a $30 value and all you have to do in order to be eligible is to check-in in the comments of this blog post anytime before next Monday.

Important:  Being unable to exercise due to illness does NOT disqualify you from the running for the grand prize.  I love the honesty and integrity I am seeing in the comments!  It’s winter and the sickies are fast floating about.  Just keep checking in, even if you’ve succumbed to one of these nasty bugs and been unable to do much physically.

Oh, and for those of you interested who hadn’t yet heard, we have a closed Facebook group where we can meet during the week for accountability and encouragement.  ”Closed” means your comments there stay within the group and don’t show anywhere else on FB.  Just click here and ask to join and we’ll get you added.  Note:  The official weekly check-in is still on the blog.

PS.  Technical difficulties prevented me from posting the video for this week as well as the printable for the spiritual challenge.  If anybody wants to tutor me until I’m less technologically challenged, I pay in hugs.  Or chocolate.

Sponsor Shout-Out

T-tapp is a healing approach to physical wellness.  Teresa Tapp’s routines are very precise, therapeutic and effective.  They are low/no impact and designed for any level of fitness.  If you are looking for a program to do at home that doesn’t require a large space or equipment, I can’t recommend this line of products enough.  The lovely Mary, of The Encouraging Home, has sponsored a copy of the Basic Workout PLUS for the grand prize winner.  You can read her story and experience with it HERE.

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