Friday, July 29, 2016

What I Learned From My Divorce

If you read my post from yesterday, you should know by now that I have been married once before. I was actually married at 18 and in the midst of divorce proceedings by the time I was 19. Lovely, huh? It is one of my biggest regrets from my past. And, interestingly, it is the very thing that God has used to teach me my biggest lessons as I've moved forward from it. Romans 15:4 says "Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled." In other words, we learn from things that have happened in the past.

In order to take back the power that this particular sin had, I have done two things. First, my divorce is not a secret. My husband of fourteen years and counting has known all along. My children know. My friends and my church family know. Everyone knows. And now, if there was ever a person who didn't know, they know too. Haha- take that, Satan. Satan operates in the darkness and shadows. He whispers half truths and lies wrapped in fear. I would love to say that I came upon this one by choice but the fact is, my divorce was a public thing amongst my family and friends whether I wanted it to be or not. This one was forced upon me in some ways, and I am glad it was. Colossians 1:13 confirms this for me when it says, "God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating." In other words, Jesus marched down the dark alley I was sitting in, took me by the hand, and led me back out into the light.

I am not saying, "Jesus told me to get divorced." Please don't hear those words as you read. Divorce is divorce. I honestly never thought I would have it in my past but I do. And I am not going to be telling you the exact reasons it worked out that way. It's not vital to the story. Just know that Shaun and I sat down with a pastor and discussed the reasons; he agreed to perform our ceremony with full knowledge. The "dark alley" I'm referencing above is the one where I was sitting (in a proverbial way, not an actual alley of course) as my world fell apart and divorce became the inevitable path I was walking.

Moving on, the second thing I've done is the reason that we're all here- I've learned from my divorce. Because no matter what happened in that relationship, there are absolutely things that I can take blame for, places where my mistakes helped nothing. There are two sides in every single relationship. I cannot speak for my ex-husband's side and nor will I try. These are mine. I am claiming these up front.

1. Don't make decisions based on feelings. Feelings are nasty little liars. There are good ones and bad ones, but they all have the capacity to lie to you. And making the decision to enter into a marriage covenant- a promise that you are never ever supposed to break- based on my feelings of fear was a huge mistake. I didn't want to be alone. I was afraid to raise my son without his biological father around because, in my mind, he would never stick around unless I married him. I have no way of knowing if that was really true at this point as I acted on my fear. I acted on it despite the fact that I could almost hear Jesus whispering, "don't do it, take a step back and breath." I acted despite the fact that my mom offered sound counsel to wait until my son was born to make a decision like this because pregnancy hormones add an entire new level of crazy to your already wacky feelings when you are stressed out!

I find this verse is a helpful reminder about our lying little feelings, referred to as "the heart" in this one that I found in Jeremiah 17:9- "The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out."

2. I wanted to be right more than I wanted to be married. Have you heard that saying? They make memes about it, people quote it all the time. "Do you want to be right or do you want to be married?" I wanted to be both and, if I'm completely honest here, being right was way more important to me than being married. The Bible has this to say in Romans 12:6- "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." and also this in Proverbs 26:12- "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him."

Ouch, right? I don't know if I realized fully that I had to be right at the time but I definitely liked (and still do) being right. And that brings us to number three quite beautifully.

3. I was willing to die on every tiny little mole hill and slope that came along. You know how that saying goes. It's a reference to wars and battles. The big things are the ones that you are absolutely willing to fight for as long as it takes. You'll die on the hill if it comes to it. Too bad I was like this weird marriage martyr. I don't even know if that's the right way to put it, but I was willing to die on the tiniest of hills. You see, I wanted to be right. I wanted everything done my way. I was an adult, you know! And that meant getting my way always. So, to the hill! What's that famous line from Braveheart? Does that fit here? "They may take our lives, but they'll never take OUR FREEDOM!" My freedom equaled me always getting my way. Fyi, that's not marriage- at least, not a good one.

4. Compromise is for punks. Compromise, shompromise. That was my inner motto. It was my way or the highway. You want the privilege of all of this *please imagine me gesturing wildly and confidently at myself here* you must go along with all of my crazy ideas. I will give up nothing. I will do everything exactly the way that I want to do it. You will be happy with this because I am the queen of this house.

Now, I have to tell you that I am still the queen of this house. Just ask Shaun. I am his queen and he is my king, but there is a huge difference now. We compromise. We work together. I don't always have to be right. In fact, don't tell him I said this, but I am often wrong. Haha. Don't believe me? Please go back and re-read all of my 19 year old stupidity. I'll wait right here.

The other thing that is different now from before is our number five.

5. Jesus was most definitely NOT a consulted part of that marriage. In fact, I can't tell you that he was IN it at all. I already told you- my way or the highway. Where was the space for God's way? Though we both professed to be believers, we weren't exactly going to church much. Yeah, we had great excuses. (But my baby alarm clock didn't go off until 11:30 this morning! I know, I told you he was AWESOME yesterday!) But the truth is, we weren't prioritizing church anymore than we were prioritizing God in our marriage. We were two broken people making broken choices and not even trying to ask the perfection that was available to us (God) to help.

This verse from James 1:5 would have been helpful, though I doubt I would have listened: " If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it."

6. You cannot ever fix a mistake with another mistake. I had already messed up in the sex department, obviously since I have walking, talking evidence sitting in my living room playing a video game right now. ;) Again, he is NOT a mistake or an accident or unwanted or anything of the sort. He is a gift from Jesus that I could never hope to earn. I am blessed to call him my child. However, we all know that God designed sex for inside marriage. And there's a lot of really good reasons (and who knows, maybe we'll talk about them someday, but not today in this post). Trying to cover up and fix my choice to have sex before I was married by getting married is like putting pants on a chicken. You can do it- trust me, you can; I just got a video from a friend confirming this- but you're not going to change the fact that it's just a chicken walking around foolishly in pants.

This one hurts, but it was me for sure: " As it is, you are full of your grandiose selves. All such vaunting self-importance is evil. In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil." (James 4:16-17)

7. We were not in love. At all. And this isn't the worldly "we weren't in love" excuse. No. We had rejected God in our relationship. We weren't consulting him. We hadn't invited him to take hold of our relationship and help it grow. I can't speak for my ex, but I can speak for me. I was a luke warm Christian at my very best of times then. We didn't allow God into our marriage and the Bible very clearly states that God IS love here in 1 John 4:8- "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." If we didn't allow God, who is love, into our marriage, we were already fighting a losing battle that we'd started for ourselves by not inviting him in.

And it wasn't only that. Not only did we not invite God- who is love- into our marriage, but I didn't love that man. I told you back in lesson number one why I got married. I got married out of fear. A wise man once told me (at church) that the opposite of love is not hate. It's fear. How could I possibly love a man that I had married in fear? I have to share this verse from 1 John 4:18. It relates too well here: "There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love."

I want to end with a few thoughts. I am so incredibly thankful that God forgives. I am so thankful that he is patient and always there, right by my side, waiting for me to turn back and face him. These were hard lessons for me to learn at the time but I am so grateful that God took the time to show them to me. Looking back, I know that I have grown up quite a lot. I am not this person anymore. My 19 year old self is rather embarrassing, honestly. But this is what I feel God telling me to share today. If this nonsensical ex-19 year old can help one marriage, soothe one guilty conscience, poke light into one dark room with a lonely soul inside- it was worth it.

God, thank you for always being solidly YOU. Thank you for your unending patience and GRACE in my life. I couldn't do life without you. I know because I've tried and I've failed. I need you by my side always. Thank you for being my rock, my shield, my protector, and the lover of my soul. Thank you for loving me through my nonsense. Give me courage today. I'll need it. I love you, Lord. Amen.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Letting Go of the Past: Philippians 3:13b-14

"...but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us." (Philippians 3:13b-14)

"But I focus on this one thing." I've been focusing, all right. But in the wrong ways. I am focused on my past. I have done so many stupid things that have nothing to do whatsoever with Jesus. And while Jesus has forgiven me a million times over, I have yet to forgive myself.

And let me be clear here. Yes, I became a mom as a teenager. Becoming a mom at the age of nineteen to my amazing oldest son was the amazing GRACE and BLESSING I got when I absolutely didn't deserve it. He is not a mistake. He is not an accident. I do not regret him one bit. The things that I regret are the ones leading up to discovering he existed and then a few things there-after.

I regret many of the choices that I made as a teenager. I do not regret my child. I regret choosing to marry his biological father. I do not regret my son. I don't even know if he'll ever read these words and I don't care who else reads them on the off chance that he will because he needs to know. He is not a regret. He is not a mistake. He is not an accident. He. Is. A. Blessing. He was always meant to be exactly who he is.

Psalm 139:16 says it like this:

"You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed."

Oddly, or probably not so oddly, all the books I've read recently have touched on the idea of learning from your past rather than dwelling on it and living there. God knows that I love to read. It's quite possibly my favorite thing in the entire world. So what better way to speak to my heart on this than to place his words on those pages written by some of my favorite authors?

Today I want to focus on three things to do with that past, whether yours is good or bad or maybe somewhere in between the two.

1. Learn from your past. Romans 15:4 says this: "Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled."

We are not perfect. Not one of us, no matter how hard we try, can ever be perfect. You've seen a small glimpse of my teenage years. You already know that I'm not and I'm telling you that I know it too. These words are more for me than for anyone else. There's a reason that history books exist and that we continue to read over and over again through things that happened long ago. They are there to teach us, to help us learn how to do life well.

I know that I did some stupid things in my younger days and I have two choices. I can dwell on it, beating myself up for all the mistakes I made or I can learn from them. I have definitely learned from them! I know that God's design for marriage and for sex are good. They are right. I know it so deeply inside me that I am committed to raising my children knowing these things. If they choose to make these same mistakes after listening to their parents advice, at least I know that God also tells us this: "He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us." (2 Corinthians 1:4)

I'll be there for my babies whether they make the good choices or the bad ones. And that brings us to thought number two.

2. God will use the good, the bad, and the ugly for his glory. Romans 8:28 says it like this: "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."

Joseph said it well in Genesis 50:20 when speaking to his brothers about their evil plan: "Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people."

That teen pregnancy I experienced? I can't tell you the number of teen moms that I have encountered over the last sixteen years. And rather than looking at them through a lens of judgment, I am able to see them through that rare lens of a young and unexpected pregnancy. I can remember feeling what they are feeling. I recall clearly each time that I told someone my news and the response I got. Pregnancy is an exciting time ALWAYS. Not just when we plan it. I know from my own experience that all life should be celebrated, not just the life that we decided to "make happen."

I remember one young mom well as it was just a few years ago. She needed a ride to her doctor's appointments and I was there to give them. In that time, we got to talk about a lot of things- abortion, adoption, and Jesus were up there. To be clear, she never considered abortion (yay Jesus!) but it is so prevalent in our culture that it is something pushed at teen moms as a solution to their "problem." As if a baby, given by God himself, could ever be a problem. In fact, not only do I know lots of young moms who have gone this route, but this sweet young teen mom had a friend making that choice at the same time that she herself was sitting there choosing life.

Believe it or not, the decision to be there for other young moms as others were there for me was one of the best ways for me to begin the forgiving myself process. And I also got to see exactly how great a gift my baby truly was (and still is of course!). As an aside, he is this awesome and super tall 16 year old right now. Very talented in film making and going into his junior year of high school. I am a proud mama.

I have to add this, though I'm sure we all know it. None of what you did, are doing now, or will do are a surprise to him.

I love this verse from The Message, Psalm 139:3- "You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight."

Jesus sees it all. He knows what we are doing. He knows the choices we'll make. I like to think of it like how well we know our kids. Most of us know what our kids are going to do before they do it. We can see it on their faces. We can almost hear the wheels turning in their heads. There are often times that one of my own kids gets a "warning mom look" before they make the bad choice in public. Haha. God is like that too, but better. He knows us better than we know ourselves. It wasn't a surprise to him when you made the choices you made. He is going to work them together for good. With any luck, you'll get to see those ugly things from your past reworked into something beautiful some day.

And that brings us to the final point.

3. Let it go and forgive yourself, because God already has. Isaiah 43:18 says it this way: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past."

We don't live there. The past is exactly that- the past. We live here in the present and must choose, over and over again, to forgive ourselves and let it go like Elsa.

I know that in our culture, forgiveness is often treated like a feeling but it's not. You aren't going to "feel" like you've forgiven yourself for a long time- if ever. It's a choice that you make. You are choosing to tell Satan to take a hike. You are choosing to release your grip on your yucky past. Let God's light hit that choice. It helped shape you into who you have become today. Let God use it for his good purpose.

Psalm 25:4 has a great reminder for us: "Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth. Remember me in the light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O Lord."

And also Hebrews 8:12- "They’ll get to know me by being kindly forgiven, with the slate of their sins forever wiped clean."

God has already forgiven us. It's our turn now. We must forgive us now. So what do we do instead then?

Let's look back at Philippians 3:13b-14 again, one more time:

"...but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."

Once we have "forgotten our past," we are called to press on toward our goals for the future with Jesus to the place where God is calling us. Where is he calling you? Listen for his voice. He'll tell you. Read your Bible- he speaks through it to his people, even today.

My goals for my future can be summed up in my life verse:

" Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that." (Ephesians 5:1-2)

If you don't have a life verse yet, start reading the Bible and see if one stands out to you. The thing I love about these verses is that it talks about God's extravagant love and urges us to love like He loves. All of my goals for my life fit within that verse. I want to be the best wife I can be, a great mom, a great friend, a great daughter and sister...I want to share Jesus with anyone who will listen- or read, as the case may be. I want to love God so well that it oozes from me. Those are my goals. What are yours?

I know this is a long one today and I am ever so thankful to anyone who has gotten this far. This is my challenge to you today. Find the things that you can take from your past as learning opportunities and release the rest to him. Then find a life verse and figure out how it relates to the goals you have for your life.

Here are a few other verses that I adore that may speak to you or lead you to your own:

2 Corinthians 1:4- "He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us."

Proverbs 3:5-6- "Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track."

Philippians 2:14-16- "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, 'children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.' Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain."

Jeremiah 29:11- "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

Let's pray together today that God will help us to choose forgiveness for ourselves, that he will shine brightly and we will stand in that light with him. I also pray that God uses all of our choices for his good purpose.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A SOAK in Paul's Joy- Philippians 1:12-19

Forgive me if this is too random or too nerdy, but I just had to share. Philippians is a letter from Paul that is filled with utter joy and rejoicing. In fact, if you look in Strong's NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon ( here ), you'll see that between those two words- originally "chairo" and "chara" - Paul mentions joy a dozen times in just four short chapters.

Chairo is actually originally defined as "to rejoice, be glad, rejoice exceedingly, to be well, hail" and is often used as a greeting. Chara is originally defined as "joy, gladness, the joy received from you, the cause or occasion of joy." We copied a verse yesterday that contained chara within it- Philippians 1:4.

Today, go and read Philippians 1:12-19. Read it through at least twice and pray over those verses. Ask God to reveal himself in them and to show you what he wants YOU to know from them.



"And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear." (Philippians 1:12-14)



By the time Paul wrote this letter, he was no longer walking around freely. He was in prison. He was in the midst of some really junky parts of his life and what does he say in this letter? "It's all good! God knows what he's doing! I am right where he wants me now. He is using me here, so don't worry. I am rejoicing in all that Christ is doing here." That's the KEERV (Kristi Expanded and Extremely Revised Version) of Paul's words. ;)

Seriously? He's rejoicing? He has joy in prison? How is that possible? And before you start picturing "prison" like we see on tv- you know, a bed with a toilet in the room, painted walls and actual floors with some iron bars or a dead-bolted door- that wasn't prison back then. They were dark, damp, and dirty. Everyone was chained and stuck in uncomfortable positions. They were often beaten or flogged before being thrown into prison. Check out the story about Paul and Silas in prison in Acts 16:16-40. The two of them actually sang to God in the middle of all of that! JOY in prison.



As I prayed over these verses and read them again and again in my own quiet time this morning, all I could think about was the fact that Paul managed to find joy- the deep, unswerving joy of Jesus- in the midst of some of the worst times of his life. He didn't waste a single opportunity that came his way either. He shared Jesus and the Good News wherever he went with whoever was around! And he didn't do it because he HAD to. He did it with that amazing joy that he'd found in Jesus.

If Paul can figure out how to be joyful in prison, in a shipwreck, and in the moments leading up to his untimely death, can't I- a woman blessed beyond measure with a wonderful husband, four amazing children, and a beautiful roof over my head- figure it out here in the lap of luxury? Sometimes I wonder if all of our "stuff" makes the joy harder to see. It's buried so deep under the tv, the bursting pantry, the loads of laundry, the dirty dishes, and the shrieks of kids that I just can't see it. But it's there, I know it is!

Alternatively, I know some of us are in "prisons" of our own right now. While they probably aren't actual prisons, some of the members of our body are stuck in jobs they hate, marriages that are falling apart, watching kids make bad choices, drowning in financial stuff, struggling to make ends meet, injured, sick, depressed, and any number of other proverbial prisons. And it's tough. It's tough to find joy when you can't find a deep cleansing breath. It's tough to feel like smiling or search for good things when you feel like your whole life is on fire all around you and you just need to get those fires out to survive. I get it. I've been in the midst of some of this stuff. Leaning into Jesus is the only way through that long, dark tunnel.

Some questions for you to apply this to your own life:

1. Do you know the joy that Paul has in this letter?
2. Is it constant for you like it seemed to be for Paul or is it elusive for you sometimes like it is for me?
3. Are there some things in your life that you need to remove so that you can find that joy? Commitments that are just adding too much to your plate that you could release to someone else?
4. Are you in "prison" like Paul right now? Can you find anything to be joyful about while you're there?
5. Are you "free" like Paul used to be before he wrote this letter? Are you thanking God right where you are?
6. Is there someone in your life that is in prison (whether a proverbial one or a real one) that YOU could cover in prayer and offer encouragement to as the Philippians did for Paul?

A challenge:

I read "A Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp this week. There were definitely some places in the book where I was scratching my head, but all in all, it was a great book. She took on the challenge of writing out one thousand gifts that Jesus has given her. She discovered the joy that God offers us as a gift in giving thanks to God for all he has and will do in her life.

I've started my own list. It has normal things like my husband and kids, coffee, and clean sheets. But it also has some stranger things like the new crow of a young rooster and neighbor ducks that come visit each day. And while I don't feel a huge difference in myself, I do feel like I am finally seeing the good before the bad in my day. Because I'm looking for it.

And that's my challenge to you today. Start your own list. Write down all the blessings in your life, all the good things that you see, and the gifts God is giving you. Thankfulness leads to joy. Let's find our deep seated joy together.


Kneeling in prayer.

Lord, I am so incredibly thankful for this path you've placed me on and this life that I am blessed to lead. Thank you for the many gifts you send my way each and every day. Odds are, I will never know anywhere near the trouble that Paul knew in his lifetime. But he found joy no matter his circumstances. Help me to find that joy and to be thankful, to praise you whether life is going "my way" or not. Help me to step boldly forward for you and share you with others as Paul did every chance that he got.

I pray that anyone reading this post would find the same things- they'd find the inner joy that Paul describes in this letter to the Philippians. Give them boldness and strength as they go through their day today. Help them to stay close to you and to see the good before the bad. Give us discernment and eyes to see today, Lord.

We love you.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Let's SOAK Up Paul's Prayer! Philippians 1:1-10

We're coming at these verses differently today. Over the last couple of months, I have been going through a study on the book of Ecclesiastes with Courtney Joseph who is a part of the Good Morning Girls and Women Living Well ministries. On their website, they go over a variation on the SOAP method of studying the Bible. She likes to call it SOAK, as in soaking up God's word and absorbing it into you like a sponge. I like that analogy, that imagery. She also uses colored pencils for highlighting verses in her Bible, which helps you to really "see" those verses in a new way- something I've come to love doing as I am so overjoyed by and thankful for the creation of color in this world! When Jesus created it from nothing at the beginning of time, I know that he was thinking of me (and obviously many, many others who love color in their world).


The "S" stands for scripture. To start things off, you're going to go read through Philippians 1:1-10 in your favorite translation. Personally, I read through it in my physical NIV Bible and then looked at the NLT and The Message. You choose what you like best. It was at this point that I highlighted verses 1-10 as I read. Mine were almost exclusively orange and yellow with a couple of purple verses in there as well, but there is no wrong way to do it. I use this key for choosing the colors: ColorCode from Women Living Well

From there, choose the verses that stand out to you and copy them down somewhere. That could be as simple as copying and pasting to social media, to a document on your phone, or even physically writing those verses down in a journal or on a card. I chose to write mine out. I feel like I remember them better and absorb the words better this way.

These are the verses that I chose:

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:3-6)

My choice didn't immediately stand out to me. I had to read a few translations before I knew for sure what I wanted to copy down. It may be the same for you. Ask Jesus where he's leading you. He'll show you. For me, I knew that a good part of the reason I chose to study Philippians next on this blog was that it's the book about finding joy. It's something I'm working on doing in my own life and I feel like God wants me to share this journey here with anyone who is reading.


The "O" stands for observations. What do you see happening in the verses you chose? Do you see a promise from God or maybe a prayer? Are there just a few words that jump off the page at you? Identify it, write it down.

I wrote the following in my journal about these verses this morning:

"God promises that he started a good work in each one of us. He also promises to see that good work through to the end. And that is a great reason for deep joy and peace."

To add to that here, I love that Paul tells us that God started a good work in his people. He is speaking to the Philippians specifically here but it's directed at all of us now that his letter is such a big part of the Bible. By accepting Jesus into our lives, we also accepted a big call from God. Our dreams may be big or small, but they are all God-sized and he will see them through to completion. I don't know what it will look like but the joy we are seeking is found on the journey to completion with God by our side.


It's time to apply this observation to our own lives now with the "A." This is what I wrote as an observation for me:

"God's only just begun with me. He isn't done. Together, we can do great things for the kingdom so long as I stay close to him so I can hear his leading whispers and feel his guiding hands on my shoulders. And he isn't finished with my children either. They too give him great joy! He isn't finished. He will not quit! He will not abandon us to our sin. Deuteronomy 31:6 assures us that "He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you."

I love these words from The Message translation. He isn't going to leave. Sometimes, in the midst of sin either in our own lives or in the lives of those we love so much that it hurts, it's hard to remember that God loves us too much to watch us continue on in sin. He is pursuing us every moment of every day with a fierce love that just won't quit. And I am so thankful for that.

I don't have to worry about what my kids are choosing in their lives. God's got this. All I need to do is pray for them, offer them the advice that I find in his word, and let God do his job. Will they crash and burn sometimes? Yes. Will I be there when they brush themselves off and try again? You bet. But so will God. He was there before they fell, during the fall, and will always be there after and that is a reassuring thought for this Mama heart.


"K" is Kneeling in Prayer.

Father God, I love you so much. I am ever grateful for what you have done in my own life and what you continue to do as I screw up, mess up, fall, and fail over and over again. Thank you for never leaving me, never losing hope in my willingness to turn back to you, and never abandoning me to my own sin- though I greatly deserve that and more. Thank you for your unending grace and love and forgiveness.

I pray for each and every person who reads this, that somehow my imperfect words will reflect your perfection in an effective way. I pray that you will each one to you and to your endless joy. Help us to find the joy that only you can give, Jesus. We love you.


Monday, July 25, 2016

What's in a Name?

"Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior."
(Isaiah 43:1b-3a)

I don't know about anyone else, but these verses amaze me. God, the God of the universe, knows my name and calls me his own. He wants to be there for me through it all- through the rough waters, through the stress that threatens to drown, through the activities that overfill my calendar, through the messy relationships with imperfect people, and even through my own mistakes. He wants to walk through all of it. Not because he has to, not because there's someone guilting him into it. No, it's just because he wants to; he loves me that much.

I just finished reading Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts." In it, she is on a quest to live up to her name- Ann, which means "full of grace." And it got me thinking about names, about how we all seem to live up to our own names whether or not our parents purposely gave us those names with those meanings. It made me wonder- did God play a part in the naming of us? Did he guide our parents to certain names? I know that in the Bible, a name always describes something about the person who receives it.

For example, Isaac means "laughter." When Sarah heard that she would be pregnant in her old age within the year, she laughed at the angels' proclamations. Didn't they know that ship had sailed a long time ago? Didn't they know how old she was? How long she'd waited to become a mother?

"Abraham and Sarah were old by this time, very old. Sarah was far past the age for having babies. Sarah laughed within herself, 'An old woman like me? Get pregnant? With this old man of a husband?'" (Genesis 18:11-12)

And how about Elizabeth? She too was past the age of conceiving according to the world. She was considered barren and had given up on the idea of ever getting pregnant when God made it happen in his perfect timing. In that story, an angel actually tells her husband what they are to name the baby. And the name? John, which means "gift from God." And there's no arguing it. John definitely was a gift. There was nothing the two could have done on their own to make it happen. (Luke 1)

And then there's the story of Jacob whose name means "holder of the heel" or "supplanter" (and that one means basically that he's an overthrower). He was born into the world holding the heel of his brother. It's how the Bible says he got his name. He even overthrows his brother when he takes the birthright and the blessing that rightfully belong to Esau. Later on in his life story, he wrestles God who changes his name to Israel. And what does that name mean? "God wrestler" or "God fighter." (Genesis 32:28)

These verses about Jacob? They lead me to the conclusion that a name can be something that we still need to grow into as well. My oldest is a great follower. Give him a job and he'll do it without complaint. Put his younger brother in the leader position and the older can work with him to accomplish many things. His name means "manly king." A king is a leader. My son is not yet a leader, nor is he quite the man he will one day be. He has to grow into those. It's my prayer that by speaking those truths into existence, that God will honor it and teach him to be a great leader. Maybe one day he will lead his own family, his own friends, or even his own company. I pray that he will be a leader worth following- a God-loving leader.

My daughter nearly received my own middle name as hers since it's a family name handed down through several generations. It means "famous warrior." But something held me back from that decision. I wonder now if God was guiding us to the rightful, more fitting name for our girl. Her given name basically means "happy little flower." You see, she is already a warrior. She already has that fight in her. The thing she needs to develop within her? It's her name. It's that inner joy that only God can give. That is the thing that my daughter must grow into. My prayer for her is that she grows to love God so much that she can be happy no matter her circumstances, that she can find joy whether life is good or bad. (Philippians 4:11-13)

When it comes to my own name, I never actually liked it much growing up. In fact, at the age of 35 I'm still not a big fan of my name. But in studying it, in looking at the meaning and the challenge within my name, my heart is softening to it. You see, my own name means "follower of Christ" and "famous warrior" since I have both a first and a middle name. On their own, on the surface, I appear to be both of these things. I am most definitely a follower of Christ. I love Jesus and strive to do his best in my life. I am also willing to fight on the big hills in my life. It's when they are joined that we find that thing that I must grow into. Combined, I think that the two mean that I must grow into being a fighter for Christ. That is my own personal path that I'm walking.

Now that we've talked about names, I have some questions for you to consider:

1. What do each of your names mean?
2. How did you get them?
3. Do you feel like the meaning of your names matches up with who you are now?
4. Do you need to grow into your name?
5. What happens if you put the two meanings together? Does it change the way you are challenged as mine did above?

In closing, I want to pray for us.

Dear God,

I pray now for everyone who's reading this blog now or in the future. I pray that you bring redemption for names given in haste or for names that are disliked. I pray that, like I am beginning to now, those reading this who hate their own names would find beauty in the ashes of their names. I ask that you challenge each one of us through these names and reveal yourself in them. Show us where you want us to grow and how we can get to the place that you're leading. It says in your word that our names are written in your book of life when we come to know and love you and your son. It says that we are your sheep and you are our shepherd. Guide us now Lord. Call us by name. Show us your unending love in our lives today and give us eyes to see those blessings. I am so good at seeing the bad, Lord. Show me the good. Show me the blessings that are there everyday that I've missed.

Thank you for loving us, Lord. In your name, amen.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Bighearted and Courteous at Home- Titus 3:2b

"God’s people should be bighearted and courteous." (Titus 3:2b)

I was praying while I was reading Titus 3 and these words jumped off the page at me. They are really there as part of a description of what loving Christians should be like in a world that doesn't know Jesus. Paul desperately wants us to know how to survive in this world when we are not of this world. And we are failing.

At church several months ago, we watched this video of several of our members asking people on the streets to describe what they think of when they hear the word "Christian" in just one word. The word they used most often? Hypocrite. defines it this way- "a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs."

The world at large thinks that we are pretending. We are doing a terrible job, in general, of representing Jesus when we leave the four church walls. How can anyone believe that we actually "love our neighbors" as the Bible calls us to do in Mark 12:31 when we spend our days fighting with them or when we are anything but loving on social media with anyone who doesn't agree with us? Why should they believe that we are offering extravagant love to the world as described in Ephesians 5:1-2 when we aren't even giving basic love to our own spouses and children?

So bighearted and courteous? We can't manage loving as a people group. How are we going to do "bighearted?"

I'm sure that you saw this coming considering all we've talked about throughout this week, but it starts at home. It starts with your own family, your own spouse, your own children, the in-laws, the extended family. Begin by showing them that you love them more than you love yourself and that their needs are more important than your own.

I honestly hate to even write this story out, but it's screaming "example" to me right now. As I sat down to write this final post for the book of Titus, I kept being interrupted.

"Mommy! Look at Fuzzy!"
"Can we go outside?"
"Can I see if my friends can play?"
"I can't find my black bathing suit anywhere! Do you know where it is?"

I hit my wit's end. Though I just finished studying Ecclesiastes 9 today where Solomon gives great reasons why yelling and screaming "like a fool" (his words, not mine) are not a good plan, I went ahead and snapped at my children anyway. I mean seriously, can't they see that I am trying to share Jesus with the twenty people that my blog tells me actually click on my link? Or maybe it's just my mom clicking a bunch of times, who knows?

So it's ironic to me that now that I am actually getting a quiet moment (Picture me ridiculously telling my children to stay in their rooms to play or go outside but don't interrupt me unless you are injured), I am supposed to be writing about being "bighearted and courteous." I am neither of those things. Where's the verses on being dramatic and slightly self-centered? I can bang out a post on those. Need to hear my thoughts on why it's important for a husband to cook dinner over the weekend? Sign me up. I have great arguments. Want to hear why the letter "C" needs to either leave the English language or adopt the sound for "CH?" Because I have an amazing argument for that one too- I have a serious passion for it. Really.

Bighearted and courteous? No, just no. But this is where Jesus is leading me and so this is where I will go. We'll start with being courteous since I think I can figure that one out faster than "bighearted."

I'm a word girl so the place I like to start when I'm trying to figure something out is the dictionary. And defines courteous like this- "having or showing good manners; polite." Being courteous starts with the little things. Saying please and thank you, apologizing when you're wrong (yeah, yeah, I'll go tell them I'm sorry when I'm done with this post), holding the door for each other, and offering to pick something up at the store when you're there. Those are some of the good manners described in that definition.

But it's more than that too. It's about thinking of the other person (or people as the case may be) before you think about yourself each and every time. It's about taking a deep breath and thinking about what you're about to say rather than just spewing word vomit all over your family member. You wouldn't do it in public (or maybe some would, but you shouldn't), so don't do it at home. Embrace the word "polite" from the definition at home too.

So how can I show my kids or my husband that I love them today? Unfortunately, at my house, this one is easily answered but hard to execute. One of the easiest ways for me to be courteous to my kids right now and show them that they are important to me is to share my tater tots. I don't like sharing my tater tots. I like eating my tater tots. In fact, I am secretly eating tater tots right now while my kids hide from their drama queen mom in their rooms. And I am feeling a little guilty about let's look at "bighearted."

Sadly, when I think of "bighearted" my first thoughts ALSO go to sharing my tater tots with my kids because the dictionary says that "bighearted" is all about being "generous and kind." Sigh. I'll be right back...I really hope that sharing those earned me some good mom points, but I'm betting it won't be a part of their thank you speeches at graduation and it definitely won't be brought up on their wedding days.

Let's not just talk about the problem with no real solutions. I'm going to give you a list of ideas to use to be bighearted and courteous in your home and another to start demonstrating it in your community. It's my prayer that we can move forward from here and change that one describing word for Christians from "hypocrite" to "loving." Here's my list of ideas. It is not exhaustive. I would love to hear any that you have as well if you want to add your thoughts in the comments below.

1. For your spouse: Go on a date, make their favorite meal, help with a chore that is normally theirs, ask them outright if you can make their day better somehow, work on something that your spouse stuck on a list of things that he/she would like to get done but hasn't, if they're into gifts then buy them something, write them a nice letter, pray for them and with them.

2. For your children: Take each of them on their own date, buy them something fun, jump on the trampoline together, go swimming together, play tag or hide and seek outside, have a Nerf battle, play a board game together, play a video game together, listen when they talk to you, draw together, color together, teach them to bake or cook something, sit with them and answer questions kindly when helping with homework, read a book together, read the Bible together.

3. Community: Make a meal for a new mom, give some groceries to a family that just lost a job, bring cookies to the new neighbor, talk to your neighbors and get to know them, help them with outdoor chores (mowing the lawn, weeding flower beds, shoveling sidewalks, feeding chickens), donate food to a food bank, volunteer at church, volunteer at a nonprofit in your area, babysit.

I just want to close by saying that it is my sincere prayer that this post was valuable to you somehow today, that you heard Jesus speak to your heart somewhere amongst the thousand or so words that are here. Honestly, I struggled with this one as I was writing it a week early in preparation for not being around to write it exactly a week from now when it appears on my blog. I'm feeling crunched for time, but still long to share Jesus with whoever visits this blog. So if it feels a little disjointed, please know that I am sorry for that and am so thankful that Jesus can even use my scattered mess to speak love to others. Remember, don't just be blessed today. Be a blessing to someone else too. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

It's Tough Being a Man, Lift Yours Up: Titus 2:1-2, 6-8 MSG

"Your job is to speak out on the things that make for solid doctrine. Guide older men into lives of temperance, dignity, and wisdom, into healthy faith, love, and endurance." (Titus 2:1-2)

"Also, guide the young men to live disciplined lives. But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, incorruptible in your teaching, your words solid and sane. Then anyone who is dead set against us, when he finds nothing weird or misguided, might eventually come around." (Titus 2:6-8)

Let me start this by stating the obvious. I'm not a man, nor will I ever be. I have no desire to be a man and I'm so eternally thankful that God looked at me and said, "You know, I think she'll make a fantastic woman." And PS, I am pretty sure he also looked around after making Shaun and said, "This is the one. She's the one he needs. And man, will she ever need him." But that's a different post. Sorry, I saw that shiny opportunity and just had to jump on it. ;)

If being a woman is tough these days, I have to say that I think it's even harder to be a man. Turn on any kids' show or TV sitcom and you'll see what the world thinks of men. They're all hilarious, slightly stupid (in some cases very stupid), bumbling idiots. Dads make zero decisions and are only occasional "babysitters." They mess up constantly and they would crash and burn through life without their brilliant wives. As a society, we are screwing this one up royally. We are raising our little boys to be bigger versions of their little boy selves rather than teaching them what it truly means to be an actual man. And every single person is suffering for it.

If we want to raise our boys to be men, it starts with honoring and respecting their fathers. Like it or not, your children have a father given to them by Jesus himself. If he is not in your life currently (and even if he shouldn't be), that's okay. You can still respect him by not badmouthing him to his children. You can still pray for him and his spiritual walk every day. And just so you know, I'm not talking out my butt here. I have an ex-husband that I'm not overly fond of and with whom I have a history that I won't be sharing here. We shared a son. And while my husband of fourteen years adopted him long ago, I still refuse to badmouth his biological father to him (and trust me, I have plenty of useable material). I will not do it. He knows the basics of why our relationship ended and that's enough. I pray for him regularly, that when my son is one day ready to reach out to him, that bio dad is in a place spiritually and emotionally where it can be a good thing for them both. I pray for protection of my son's heart and wisdom for them both to know whether any sort of relationship is a good idea.

If the father of your children is still your husband today, you have a slightly easier job ahead of you. There are a ton of things that you can do every day that speak the language of respect to your husband while also setting a good example for your children. Show them that their dad is your priority. When he speaks to you, listen completely. Let him be in charge now and then. Don't take over the moment things look like they're getting tough. And, unless his decision could be harmful to someone (think accidental exposure to allergens or something), don't go against what he said with your kids. Talk to him about that decision later. Thank him for working hard for your family. Tell him you appreciate how hard he works every day. Don't just take him for granted on this. Cook dinner. Make that dish he loves and serve it to him. Send him a text, tag him in a meme on Facebook, add a picture together on Instagram. Pray for him and with him. Let the kids see it. Let them see you loving your husband by holding his hand, sitting together on the couch, going for walks hand in hand, playing games together with the kids, shopping together. The list goes on and on. Everything we do every single day says something. All of those little, seemingly insignificant moments add up fast.

And if your husband isn't into any of the above, figure out what works for him. Every guy is different. Every guy hears "respect" differently. You know your man, what will say, "I respect you" the most for him? Because respect is often a number one priority for men. Having it, feeling like his wife has his back, leaves him the space he needs to be the better man God is calling him to be. Growth happens on God's time, not ours.

I always feel like I have to explain myself with these posts. I'm not saying that you are responsible for your husband's attitude or his happiness. Those are his choices. But there are still things you can do yourself in your own relationship. Think about the things that you'd do for your best friend. Are there any ideas that you can apply to your relationship with your husband?

One final thought if you're still with me before I pray for us about this one. If we want to raise responsible, world changing, respectful kids into adults, we need to be giving them responsibilities. Moms, teach your boys how to do chores, how to guard a girl's heart, and how to hold a door for others as they enter a building. Dads, demonstrate guarding a girl's heart every day by doing that with your wife- their mom- and any daughters you may have. Choose your words wisely. Build her up. Tell her she's beautiful. Tell her you appreciate the million things she does without thanks every day. Ask for her advice on the things that are her strength but your weakness. They need to see it to do it.

Show them that real men do dishes and help with dinner. Show them how to really step up and lead by being a leader that serves his family without question or complaint. Demonstrate real love to them, the kind that loves them, and everyone else, without conditions. Yell less and listen more. Get off your phone and play with your kids because they don't stay little for long and soon, they won't want to hang out with you.

Let me end with a prayer for us:


Today, I pray that we can approach our marriage relationships with a fresh set of eyes. Help us to see our husbands as the partners and friends you've created them to be. Help us to demonstrate respect for our children so they can grow to be respectful men and women themselves. Give us great ideas and the motivation required to show respect to our husbands. And Lord, may our husbands receive our efforts well. Please let no woman walk away from this post feeling anything but encouraged and uplifted. Give her "ears to hear" what I'm desperately trying to share here in my own imperfect way. Help us to step up and be the parents you've designed us to be on the teams you've designed for us. Thank you for loving us.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Women Teaching Women: Titus 2:3-5, 11-13 NLT

"Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God." (Titus 2:3-5)

When I first read these verses, I was tempted to make some cuts and pretty them up for you. I mean, who really wants to picture drunk old ladies sitting around gossiping the day away? But despite all of that, I love the image that James has painted in these verses. In our society today, older women (and men for that matter, but that's a different post for a different day) are often cast aside and deemed "not worthy" or "no longer valuable." And we couldn't be more wrong if we tried to be! Older women are so full of knowledge and invaluable life experience that we are stupid to ignore all that they have to offer in the way of advice.

In my family, for example, I have (or had in some cases) women who have beautiful cursive handwriting, serious typing skills, the ability to crochet, some amazing family recipes to share, stellar marriages, successful children, impressive stick-to-it-iveness, the patience of ten saints (okay, I'm exaggerating), a lovely adoration for animals, hilarious senses of humor, the ability to think outside of the box, empathy coming out of every crevice, fierce loyalty, and much more. And that's just off the top of my head.

If one of the things that I'm trying to work on is patience and I know that my mom is extremely patient, for example, wouldn't it be ridiculous to not allow her to come alongside me and mentor me in this area? 2 Corinthians 1:4 talks about this very idea. Paul wrote there that we go through things with God sometimes and are then able to come alongside others to help them as they go through those things.

When I was a little girl just learning cursive, I needed a lot of practice. So do you know what my mom did? She followed this idea that James outlines exactly and connected me with my Great Grandma. For years, that sweet woman wrote me beautiful letters in her scrawling cursive handwriting so that I could practice reading it. She added prayers for my life and told me all about what she was doing hundreds of miles away from me. She looked forward to each and every one of my letters that I painstakingly wrote in broken cursive. Those letters helped me develop that simple skill (and honestly so much more) while giving my Great Grandma a connection with a family member, one that I still value so many years later though she went to heaven long ago.

God put the need for relationship into every single human heart. He created us to desire fellowship with one another because we often need it in order to grow to our fullest potential in Christ. How can we develop patience if we never practice that skill on others? How can we demonstrate fierce loyalty without someone to whom we are actively fiercely loyal? Can you become a better cook or baker if you never practice? Will your writing ever be pretty like my Great Grandma's if you don't take the time to make it so?

This amazing relationship between older and younger women that James is describing here serves both sides. On the younger side, new skills are developed. Old skills are lifted up and strengthened. A beautiful bond is formed between a younger woman and her older counterpart. On the older side, new friendships are forged. A previously lost worth is found again. A crazy, horrible time in her life suddenly makes some tiny degree of sense as she comes alongside a younger woman going through the same thing she experienced five years ago, ten years ago, twenty years ago.

And we should never be just one or the other. I'm only 35 years old right now, hardly old by any stretch of the imagination, but I play the younger woman to lots of older women in my life while also playing the older woman to many younger women in my life. We can and should be both through just about every part of our lives because there are lessons to be learned from both sides.

Today I went to end with these questions:

1. How do you feel about this idea of mentoring other women?
2. Who are you playing mentor to as an older woman? If there's no one yet, who could you be mentoring? Think about younger women at church, maybe join a Mom's Group as a Mentor, serve in a kids' class, etc.
3. Who are the mentors that you are valuing in your life right now?
4. Are there any older women in your life that you aren't valuing? What do you think God wants you to learn from them (because they are there for a reason!)?

And finally, my prayer for our day today is wrapped beautifully in these verses from the end of Titus 2:

"For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed." (Titus 2:11-13)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Effective Leadership in the Home- Titus 1:6-9 MSG

"Appoint leaders in every town according to my instructions. As you select them, ask, 'Is this man well-thought-of? Is he committed to his wife? Are his children believers? Do they respect him and stay out of trouble?' It’s important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God’s house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry. He must welcome people, be helpful, wise, fair, reverent, have a good grip on himself, and have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it." (Titus 1:6-9)

Today, I'd like to apply these qualities of a good leader in the church to good leadership in the home. How can we use this list to be better husbands and wives? To be a better team? To be better team leaders over our children? Well, let's look at Paul's questions in order to answer our own.

1. Is this man well-thought-of? Do you care about your reputation? Because Paul is saying here that you should. A good reputation is important. What others think of you is important. Whether we like it or not, our reputation precedes us as we go through life. What others think of us helps to determine in some way how they will receive what we have to say to them. If you have a reputation in the here and now for being a jerk, for example, how well will your message of loving others be received?

Think about Paul's reputation before he became the Paul that we all know and love. He was a pharisee intent on destroying new Christians. He wanted them dead and gone. He stood by and watched as their beloved Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7:54-60). How difficult was it, then, for him to spread Jesus' message with that reputation after he changed? It took him a good while to get past it and be embraced for the newly transformed man that he was. In fact, if you think about it, it took a good partner in the faith being on his side and lifting him up as a believer for the difference to happen (Barnabas).

As a spouse, what we say and think of our significant other matters too. If all you ever tell your best friend about your husband is the bad stuff, how can you expect her to like him when your families hang out together? And a related but definitely important question: Are you believing the best of your spouse? When he's late getting home, do you imagine that he's out drinking with his friends or being flirty with a girl in his office? Or do you know that he longs to be home just as much as you wish he were, that if it were his choice, he would choose to be home with you? When you hear something about him from others, do you automatically believe it or do you give him the benefit of the doubt?

2. Is he committed to his wife? It's hard to be an active and effective team when you aren't sure that all the players are totally committed to the game you're playing or on the team of which you are a part. Total commitment is vital to the success of a good marriage. Show your spouse your commitment every day. Send texts saying how much you love one another. Do chores around the house that make life easier for the other person. Hold hands in public. Wear your wedding rings always. Consult each other on big events before committing to them. Listen to one another when you're talking. Make time for just each other. Be best friends. Actively love each other daily. Pray together and for one another all the time.

And wives, honestly, put your husband above your kids. He is the God-ordained head of your house. Prioritize him above them. Be on his team, not theirs, if it comes down to it. Present a united front to the kids. Don't let them see any cracks anywhere, because they'll pick at those in order to get their own way. If you have young kids, you probably won't be seeing this stuff yet. Trust me, it's coming. Practice being a solid united front now so that when you have teenagers in the house, it's a lot easier to handle. Is it easy to do? Absolutely not, but it's worth the effort.

*Before anyone says it, I am not talking about unhealthy relationships here. Abuse in any form isn't acceptable period. If there are substance abuse issues present in the house, that requires a whole new set of rules that you need to get from a professional as well. My thoughts on this are my own and apply only to couples with Christ as the center of their relationship where both sides are actively loving Jesus and one another, who seek to make their good relationship great or their struggling relationship better.*

3. Are his children believers? As the team leaders in your family, it's the parents' responsibility to share Jesus with the family. While it is the husband that God is ultimately holding responsible for the teaching of His Word, it's the wife who is supposed to be backing him up and supporting him as he does it. Sometimes that means some "atta boys" and "well dones," while other times it might mean taking that baton for awhile as he is tired out from his leg of the race at the moment. Either way, work together. It may be on the parents to share Jesus and what he has done, but it's on each individual to accept it.

There are lots of things you can do to make sure that Jesus is a daily part of your life. Read your Bible on your own and as a family. Let them see you studying God's word and praying for guidance. Pray with your kids in good times and bad ones. Go to church. Don't make excuses or prioritize other things above it. Just go. Talk about what Jesus would do. Your husband can demonstrate God's love in your home by loving you the way Christ loves the church. Demonstrate true respect by respecting your husband the way that God calls us to. And make sure that your children are witnessing the mutual submission between you! Ephesians 5 makes it clear that isn't all about wives submitting to husbands, but about mutual submission to one another.

4. Do they [the children] respect him and stay out of trouble? This one is tough in my opinion. In a perfect world, we would tell our kids to do or not do something and they'd do it, right? Without arguments or complaints. But we don't live in a perfect world. So how do we apply that to leading in the home?

One thing that I think inspires respect from one's children is establishing rules and then following through on consequences for breaking those rules each and every time. Kids are pushers. They push the boundaries. They push the limits. They push you. They push each other. They push against every single barrier that they come across because they need to know where "yes" ends and "no" begins. It makes them feel safer. They know what to expect in a world where the parents say no sometimes.

You want your kids to respect you? Tell them no when you need to and be willing to die on the important hills. Don't die on every stupid hill that you come across though. That's just begging for trouble. Pick the big ones and then go for it. They need to know that you- together and united- are making and keeping the rules. Is a regular bedtime a big hill for you? Then be willing to die on it. Enforce it. Send them back a hundred times if necessary. Take no excuses. Maybe for you, limited screentime is the hill worth dying on. Then do it. Set timers. Take screens away. Maybe it's bigger than that. Maybe it's the friends they've picked or the curfew they miss too often or the locked bedroom door (behind which you wonder what is happening).

Do what you need to do (I am clearly not advocating abuse here), but do it every single time. You can't let it go half of the time and then be surprised when the kids don't listen. You have effectively taught them that you only mean what you say 50% of the time. So half of the time, they can just ignore you. What kid wouldn't take that bet? I know mine do. I'm working on this myself around here!

And I think I need to add something. Sometimes, no matter how many rules you put into place, no matter how consistent you are, no matter how many open door policies you try out, your kids don't listen. They rebel. They do things their own way. They make choices that go against everything you taught them. That doesn't mean you're a failure or that your kid is evil. It means that you're both human. Keep praying. Get some close family members and friends together to pray for your child. Do NOT give up. Keep showing them that you love them and that you care about them. They are worth it. Jesus did it for us on the cross and continues to chase after us every single day. We can at least attempt to love our kids like that.

From there, Paul goes on to list out positive and negative characteristics to watch out for. Here's the list again:

"It’s important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God’s house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry. He must welcome people, be helpful, wise, fair, reverent, have a good grip on himself, and have a good grip on the Message, knowing how to use the truth to either spur people on in knowledge or stop them in their tracks if they oppose it." (Titus 1:7-9)

Essentially Paul is saying that if you want to be a good and effective leader, you need to cut out all of the negatives and embrace all of those positives. There is no room for drunken bullies on a good family team. You can't be money-hungry and expect to lead your family well. It says in Matthew that a man can't serve two masters (in reference to money vs God). You have to pick one and if you want a great family, then God is the one you need to choose here.

Take a look at the list of positive traits that Paul gave in the verses above. Which ones are you already great at? Which ones is your spouse good at? Which ones do you need to work on? Which ones would your spouse say you need to work on? Once you have your list, take a minute and talk to God about what you can do to start changing some of the things you're doing in your family today. Every single person in the world can work on making themselves better for Jesus. I pray that we can all come together as family teams, starting today, and be better leaders.