Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday Take-Aways: 7 favorite things (Linked-In at

"The missing piece of the marriage pie."
What I've been searching for...
I've written on marriage.
Spoken to groups of women on marriage.
Submitted articles and been invited to write bible study chapters on marital love.
I've led small group discussions on marriage.
I've read and reread the best books ever
published on the marriage covenant.
I've done these things, not because I am an expert on the wedded commitment between a man and a woman, just ask my hubby... 
I am FAR from it!
No, the more I learn the more I see how much I don't know!
I've immersed myself so much in studying marriage because its beauty and struggle intrigue me.
Marriage seems like a great mystery.
couples in love photography
I love my husband so deeply.
We have been together now for more years than we have been apart, falling in love at the tender age of 16. But hitting our ten-year married mark earlier this spring has brought a season of unexpected change. It's brought delightful mountaintops and frustrating valleys. And this relationship, and my lack of ability to make it work based on my own love tank, has again  brought me to my knees in search of how to make things work.
I've tried different things;
communicating more clearly, speaking "nicer", making more dinner and packed lunches, planning consistent date nights. All good things and all priorities worth doing to show my man how much I care about keeping the flame burning.
But sisters, it hasn't been enough.
Again I am reminded that there is no way to make marriage work without relying on the "work" of my Savior. All of this "trying" has left me lonely and entitled, narrowing my focus on my hubby's faults and "inconvienant" behaviors. Nagging, avoiding, and shutting out have become my default all the time knowing that Christ was calling me, calling us, for something much more.
All of this "learning" has had it's benefits...
at least for a time.
 I know DJ's love language.
I understand the crazy cycle between Love and Respect.
I've quizzed and understand his natural temperament.
I know what makes him tick and what makes him smile.
But studying all of that has still not been enough.
I'm learning the missing piece is GRACE.
First, accepting and marinating in God's grace offered so sacrificially and lovingly to me.
Then, extending GRACE to the one person in my life who needs it most; my husband.
Grace is mercy. Grace is kindness.
"Ironically, the relationship in our life that most needs to be saturated in grace is the one in which grace is least expressed. We long to feel grace in our spouse's tone of voice, facial expressions, physical touch, and simple acts of courtesy and kindness. Yet we often show more grace to our co-workers, friends, and pets than we do to the person with whom we agreed, before witnesses, to share an underwear drawer and bathroom mirror, and a credit card.
Marriages without grace have a way of feeling tired and old much faster than we would have ever thought going in. You can numb your disappointment with denial for a while. You can intoxicate your disillusionment with money, busyness, noble causes, and spiritual white noise. You can even agree to define mediocrity as your new normal. Without grace, our wedding day can become the overture to our song of regret." (Page 7 "Grace Filled Marriage, Dr. Tim Kimmel)
And so, as this New Year begins, I pray for more grace, realizing how short I have fallen and how desperately I need the help of my Jesus to love, the way He loves me.
"Grace is much more than trying harder. It's about Jesus. He's the God of grace. He's the wellspring of grace. He's the beginning, the delivery system, and the follow-through program of grace. There is no "grace-filled" without the Author of grace.
Without him, all you end up with is "nice". Nice is nice, but it won't carry you through the deep waters of marriage. Only a heart connection with the Savior can give us the inclination and the power to reject our broken systems that work against healthy relationships. A heart connection with our spouse is a ramped-up version of the faith connection we make with God through salvation. When he is playing, on an ongoing basis, the central role he died on the cross to play, then a grace-filled marriage actually makes sense and works. Until then, our relationship is just a well-intended but misguided, and ultimately impotent, "nice". (page 11)
This resonates with my heart so much.
 I've tried being more "kind", more "nice", more "loving".
And ultimately, I fail.
I long to be so in tune and in love with my Savior that I overflow with HIS love, not my own,
in abundance toward my husband.
Nice wears off. Grace lasts for eternity.
Dr. Tim Kimmel, founder of FAMILY MATTERS says it best, 
 "For the record, grace and nice aren't synonyms. In fact, nice is so safe that it can actually undermine a relationship. Grace is kind enough to be forthright, accurate in assessment, and ready to take the difficult actions needed to keep love unsullied and strong-you know, the way Jesus did with the people around him every day of his public ministry. Therefore, grace can be quite gritty...But is it no less grace because it sometimes hurts when applied. And the goal of grace is always the other person....and their best interests."
This has been the piece I have been searching for.
It has been "marriage-changing" for my husband and I in recent weeks. The word GRACE has been resonating in my mind when I wake up each morning and see his bathroom towel laying on the floor and has been whispered into my ear when I'm clutching, white-knuckled to the driver side door as he weaves out and in of traffic!  I'm choosing grace when it comes to choosing our baby's middle name and grace in biting my tongue in the moment when he disciples a child differently than I would.
Thank you Jesus for your never ending Grace and Mercy with my imperfections!
The key in choosing grace has nothing to do with me.
That's the difference I'm seeing in my heart.
It's not about what I can get out of it.
There is no motive other than the decision to choose love, because God chose to love me.
And it's the sobering reminder, that in the scheme of eternity with our Lord, all of these little things mean nothing anyway.
Grace changes my perspective.
Grace helps me see what's essential and what's not.
I'm finding, that when GRACE abounds, love is present.
And I'm submitting to prayer, continually confessing and asking for forgiveness from God for the GRACE I have withheld
from my best friend.
"The contradiction for the Christian is to be a willing recipient of the grace God offers us but reluctant to extend the same gift to our spouse. How ironic that the missing ingredient in our marriage when we act that way is the primary ingredient in God's heart when he deals with us." pg 11
Grace will be my daughter's name 
Just one week until we meet our fourth child!
I saw this and thought it was a beautiful reminder to make prayer a consistent and daily priority with my children.
norman rockwell painting
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
TRES. Suffering in pregnancy
"Approaching Labor and Delivery: What My Five-Year-Old Goddaughter Is Teaching Me About Redemptive Suffering" by Rhonda Ortiz
The gift of watching my "little" brother and my new sister birth their first child so beautifully together...

What if you really lived like your life is your art?
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by Emily Freeman
An excerpt from "A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Meant to Live."

The traffic in the sunroom is bumper to bumper.
He lines up cars along the wall, across the carpet, weaving them under the chairs. A few years ago it was trains instead and I made him clean them up before bed.
cars on the floor
But now it’s cars and I let him leave them there overnight because the days of heavy traffic in the sunroom are numbered, I know.
I take notes on the things that give them life, watch the way they play – how he loves to build and line cars up in traffic, the way one cradles her dolls, the way another reads until her eyes are too heavy to open.
I believe what is most true about the shape of our souls begins to show up on the floor of the sunroom, lining up cars bumper to bumper.
What is most true starts in the rooms of the dollhouse and the pages of the storybooks and the cold linoleum of Grandma’s kitchen.
What is most true began to grow underneath the tire swing in the backyard of that little white house with the gravel drive, when we played with kittens and dreamed of flying.
But growing up smoked the innocence out of us – a lot of pain, a little trouble, some heartbreak woven into our souls – and we have lived through burdens of our weary world, carry the scars of rejection and brokenness.
I think of my grandfather who finally stopped drinking, but his sobriety came too late for his kidneys. He was mostly a grump before he died, but he encouraged me in my writing as a young girl. I think he may have seen something in me he recognized in himself but couldn’t quite touch. There were shadows of his design, whispers of his giftedness that I’m sure spoke to him in some way, but his demons drowned them out.
His son, my dad, is an alcoholic too. When Mom would take me and my sister to church with her, Dad would stay home, drink a few beers, turn the music up loud, and stand in the living room of our little Indiana home.
And with the music drowning out his voice, he would talk in a loud whisper like a teacher, intellectualizing on things in the news, or politics or sports. He didn’t know why and he couldn’t explain it. But it was in him to speak out.
It didn’t make sense at the time.
But looking back from where he now stands as a twenty-five-year-sober believer in Jesus? With a long career announcing on the radio? With years of experience as a teacher and mentor and small group leader in churches?
Now the actions of that confused alcoholic seem a little less confused and a lot more ordained.
His art was not something he came up with later in life once he got his act together. Hints of his art were coming out of him before he even understood it.
Yours does that too.
It starts when we’re young and builds as we grow – and the it is the art, and the art is the reminder that we are made in the image of creator God. He bore his image into us and we bear his image into the world whether we mean to or not.
But what if we joined Him and did it on purpose?
What if, instead of seeing those childhood dreams and desires as meaningless, what if we began to uncover the ways we come alive and consider how these might be ways Jesus wants to come alive in us?
What if the art we make – whether the work of our hands, the words of our mouth, the simple movement towards others in our ordinary days – what if these are the ways Jesus wants to show Himself to a weary world?
What if the art you make and live is a daily grace God has in mind for someone else?
And your way of living art is one of the million little ways God wants to show himself in the world?
The person of Jesus lives in people like you. He has made his home within us. How might he want to come out?
Don’t despise the small way, the ordinary day, the little way of Jesus.
Dare to respect his work, his making of you, and consider how he might want to show himself through the unique filter of your personality.
I think of my son, playing cars on the sunroom floor.
What would happen if I began to pray for a vision for his future – for the courage to write his own stories, for the faith to survive his own shattered dreams, for the eyes to see Jesus no matter the cost or circumstance?
What if someone had done this for us?
May our loves never leave us, at least not for long.
May our passions not be buried so deep by our pain and brokenness that they become impossible to recover.
May we know God and in turn, know ourselves.

Words to inspire and encourage a tired mother. 

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My kiddos and hubby giving me a "hip-hip-horray" after trying one of my new dinner recipes.
(Yes, it actually turned out good the first time
 and they actually ALL liked it!)

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