There is always something to be thankful for….

It’s a day that starts grumbly and I want to pull the covers back over my head and go to sleep because good sleep has been elusive lately.  And all my goals and ambitions and hopes and plans, they seem tall and towering and unattainable today, and I want to laugh at myself for thinking I could ever achieve such things.

But I choose to speak truth to myself, even though my voice feels small next to the condemnation in my head.  And I push on, just doing the next thing.  Coffee.  Quiet time.  Breakfast for the kids.  Start the school day.  Give direction.  Pound out the miles on the treadmill.  Answer questions.  Shower.  Help with school.  Read with the littles.  Answer more questions.  Lunch.  Give more direction.  Plan the week.  Plan the grocery list.  Comfort a child.  Answer still more questions. And on and on and on goes the day.  And I look for adventure and I look for joy and I find them in the sun shining through the windows and dancing off mirrors and in marking things off the daily list, even if it’s just one goal accomplished today.  And I find them in a candle lit in the window and music playing softly on the piano.  And I find glimmers of adventure and joy and hope all around, if I will just open my eyes and my heart to see.  And I remember there is always something to be thankful for. So I list the gifts to start the week and shift my mind and change my heart and my home…..

 

 

2845.  Legos, magazines, and blankets – signs of togetherness taking place

2846.  words that encourage us to pray hard prayers

2847.  long week coming to an end

2848.  watching a heart be changed slowly by God

2849.  Come to Me on repeat

2850.  sunlight pouring in windows and dancing off mirrors

2851.  a heart and mind reset

May your week be an amazing adventure, friends.  And may your heart give thanks at every turn.

For His Glory ~

Signature

2014: Week in Review {Weeks 1 & 2}

Eleven days into the new year.  We’ve made it through the first full week of real life.  As I shared (and others echoed) on the Facebook page last night, this week was a tail-kicker.  The holiday break was much-needed and so refreshing, and everyone was enjoying it so much, I think it was hard to get our heads around school and structure and getting out of our pajamas again.  And the fact that we hit the ground running from day one, rather than the normal ease-in, I think affected things too.  And while I did enjoy my beloved tortilla chips yesterday, I resisted the urge to hide in my closet while eating them.

In spite of the busy and the tiring, it’s been a wonderful start to the year.  Goals and plans are laid out.  Personal and family challenges are set forth.  We are striving to memorize more Scripture, be more intentional / affectionate / encouraging, spend more time as a family and less mindless time on screens.  The goal is not perfection but progress, that by the end of the year we will have reset some default behaviors and change what we are characterized by.  It’s going to be a good year.  But not because of our plans or hopes or goals, but because God is in it with us, going before us.  And He may derail our plans and take us on a new, wild, unexpected journey this year.  And it may be hard and exhausting and nothing like what we are praying for, but we can trust Him in all of it.  And as much as I love to look at my list of goals and the plans I have made, I have to continue to hold it all loosely because things can change quickly and obedient trust is the only way to follow Jesus in this unpredictable world we live in.

And the joy hunt continues into the new year, as I still count those 25 “days” of joy…..

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Joy Find #17 – Snow Ice Cream

In the midst of the Polar Vortex last weekend, some of the girls enjoyed all of the snow and the cold that came with it.  The rest of us did not.  But, we did all enjoy a little snow ice cream….

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Joy Find #18 – Wonder

I finished my first book of the year.  Category – Kid’s Pick.  My kids often tell me I need to read this book or that, but because my reading time is so limited and our reading tastes are so different, I rarely get around to it (although I’m trying to do better!).  My 5th and 6th grader read Wonder last semester for a literature class and both insisted I had  to read it.  I’m so glad I did! I struggled to get into it at first, but quickly found I couldn’t put it down.  It’s a beautiful story and every one should read it.  A particularly powerful tale for that middle school age about the power of kindness.

I especially love this quote near the end….

If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than necessary – the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.

Joy Find #19 – Daddy Dog Pile…

Need I say more?

Joy Find #20 – Pretty little flowers at the end of an ugly day…..

 

From my beloved who knew I needed a pick-me-up.

That’s it for me this week.  May your weekend be blessed, my friends!

For His Glory ~

Signature

Of Modesty and Grace {A Six Part Series} Part 2 – Is Modesty More Than What We Wear?

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

As I prepared to share on this topic, I read numerous blog posts and articles.  I also read the book Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel by Tim Challies and RW Glenn.  I’m going to reference this book frequently today and highly recommend you order a copy or download it to your e-reader.  In fact, I recommend it so highly, I’m going to give away a copy at the end of this series, so be sure to stay tuned!  It’s very short (I read it in a matter of a couple hours one night), but very good.  Challies and Glenn begin by stating, “Modesty has been made into a kind of captivity….We wrote this book not because we have a bone to pick with women or because bathing suits make us nervous but because we want to help men and women both discover the joy and freedom of gospel modesty in all of life.”  They also state, “Yes, modesty includes a women’s clothing choices, but it is about far more than that.  We want to look at modesty in its full biblical scope, which means: we must address the immodest man as much as we do the immodest woman, and we must address the person who speaks or behaves immodestly as much as the person who dresses immodestly.”

Challies and Glenn again say, “When we build theology without clear reference to the gospel, we begin to take refuge in rules….The Christians in Colossae wanted to please God, and they wanted their faith to affect everything they did, but they ended up reducing their thinking about food and festivals to a list of rules: ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch.’  We aren’t a whole lot better off today.  When it comes to modesty we define the term too narrowly…and then surround ourselves with rules like ‘only this low,’ ‘at least this long,’….In fairly short order, the gospel is replaced with regulations.  Indeed, in this particular area, the regulations become our gospel – a gospel of bondage rather than freedom.”

What we end up missing is that “the gospel of grace informs and gives shape to what it means to be modest.  Modesty without the gospel is prudishness.  Modesty divorced from the gospel becomes the supposed benchmark of Christian maturity – perhaps especially for women – and a perch of self-righteous superiority from which to look down on others who ‘just don’t get it.’…Modesty, apart from the gospel, becomes a self-made religion.”

And so we first discover that modesty is more than what we wear, or don’t wear.  Modesty is part of how we show Jesus to the world, not only through our clothing, but also our speech, our hospitality, our generosity, and our kindness.  Modesty is for all of us, but it’s not all about appearances, which takes us back to when I said that we as Christians like to make our own lists of rules to measure ourselves and one another against, and as Challies and Glenn also said, “It is difficult to address an issue when the problem is always someone elses;” (because how often has anyone said “I really struggle with being immodest”?  No, it’s almost always the other person who is struggling.)

And we can see that part of the rub of the Bikini and Yoga Pant Wars is the way we have boxed ourselves in.  And I think part of the problem is that some of us are trying to fit everyone into our box, when the gospel gives freedom and grace and we hold everyone up to the standard we have set rather than the standard of love.

Stay tuned for more as we continue to unpack these thoughts on modesty and grace.

For His Glory ~

Signature

More in this series:

Modesty and Grace Intro

Modesty and Grace Part 1 – Backstory and Bible Verses

Modesty and Grace Part 3 – Culture, Context, and Time

Modesty and Grace Part 4 – What Does Our Immodesty Say About Us?

Modesty and Grace Part 5 – Who’s Responsibility Is It?

Modesty and Grace Part 6 – Where Do We Go From Here?

Of Modesty and Grace {A Six Part Series} Part 1: Backstory and Bible Verses

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

I grew up in a first-generation Christian home.  Modesty was not a topic discussed much, because I always dressed like I was about forty (not that there’s anything wrong with being forty; I’m getting there quickly myself) and so I don’t think my parents were particularly concerned about it with me.  I am confident that my mother has far more concerns about my clothing choices today than she ever did when I was a teen. [grin]

My husband, Matt, grew up in a more legalistic environment.  Not so much that his parents pushed legalism, but rather the ministry group they were affiliated with was riddled with it.  Because of his involvement with this ministry and this social media age and the fact that he has friends all across the country (and world) from this same ministry, the long term effects of this legalistic mindset have led to many a conversation in our home on legalism and grace and how we live our lives.  And in the world of legalism, modesty is always a hot topic, so it’s one we’ve hashed out a lot over the years.  And as the parents of five beautiful girls, we continue to hash it out, as we want to lead them well in this area.

Modesty is defined (per my Google search) as “the quality or state of being unassuming or moderate in the estimation of one’s abilities and behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency.”

That doesn’t say much really.  At least nothing specific.  It’s pretty vague.

Every summer, it seems, modesty becomes a trending topic on Facebook.  And maybe Twitter too.  The Bikini Wars, as I have dubbed them, start up and a dozen blog links get posted and both sides end up very frustrated.  I know I do anyway….I can only assume the other side does as well.  It will occasionally come up other times in the year (as in the newly discovered Yoga Pant Wars – I had no idea these were so controversial!), but summer seems to be the most popular time to publicly discuss acceptable dress codes, particularly in the area of swim wear.  And here is why I think modesty is such a “hot” topic:  Because so many of our other sins and struggles and choices can be kept hidden.  I can struggle with a porn problem or excessive drinking or a shopping addiction or laziness, and keep that a secret.  I can over eat or waste too much time on social media or watching television or reading questionable literature, and no one ever has to know.  But if I wear a bikini to the pool – or if I don’t, if I wear a v-neck shirt or leggings as pants – or if I don’t – those are all things that are seen and cannot be hidden.

We humans, and I think especially we Christians, we crave a list of rules, a list of do’s and don’ts, so we can measure our own righteousness and, if we’re honest, the righteousness of others.  Because God didn’t give us many lists (other than the 10 Commandments, which the Pharisees, we all know, turned into a bloated, weighty yoke that no one could bear), we like to make up our  own and stack ourselves and others up against them to see how we all compare because Satan wants us to believe we have to work for everything when God says it’s all a free gift.  And so, we cherry pick Bible verses and call “foul” on two-piece swim suits, strapless dresses, and short shorts, when the Bible really says very little about those things.

So, let’s look at some of what the Bible does say about modesty:

1 Timothy 2:9-10 – 9 – women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

1 Peter 3:3-4 – Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

Proverbs 11:22 – Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.

Matthew 5:28 – But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

1 Samuel 16:7 – But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (emphasis mine)

1 John 2:16 – For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

This is just a sampling of verses, but I see very little in them that talks about necklines or hem lengths or the amount of lycra that is acceptable to wear to the pool.  I see verses that focus on the heart and where our focus truly should be – on loving and serving Jesus.

Stay tuned for more in this series.

For His Glory ~

Signature

More in this series:

Modesty and Grace: Intro

Modesty and Grace, Part 2 – Is Modesty More Than What We Wear?

Modesty and Grace, Part 3 – Culture, Context, and Time

Modesty and Grace, Part 4 – What Does Our Immodesty Say About Us?

Modesty and Grace, Part 5 – Who’s Responsibility Is it?

Modesty and Grace, Part 6 – Where Do We Go From Here?

Of Modesty and Grace {A Six Part Series}

Late last summer I was asked to share with a local mom’s group on the topic of modesty.  I immediately laughed out loud.

And then I started to panic.

Because of all the topics to share on, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to fit in the church “box” on this one (not our church, per se, but the church in general).

But I prayed and I talked to Matt, and the green light was given.  So I prayed more and read and researched and prepared what the Lord gave me.  And last week I was able to share with those ladies and the feedback I’ve received has been good, and because this is a topic that is important and always cycling around a bit on the internet and in desperate need of grace, I will share here over the next few days.

Will you join me as we look at what God’s word says about this topic this week?

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

But first, a habit that’s fallen by the wayside here, that seems important to get back to – counting the gifts.  And as a fresh start and because it’s been a while, I will just start at January 1 and (hopefully) pick the weekly habit up again.

2838.  new year, new calendar, new start – same Jesus

2839.  goals, hopes, dreams for the new year

2840.  savoring the last few days of two weeks off

2841.  heart full of joy, hope, and healing brought by my Jesus

2842.  coldest night of the year; warm home to sleep in

2843.  impromptu dates

2844.  husband who loves me in spite of all my imperfectness

(And, no, I haven’t forgotten my 25 Days of Joy…we’ll get back to those soon too!)

For His Glory ~

Signature

More in this series:

Modesty and Grace, Part 1 – Backstory and Bible Verses

Modesty and Grace, Part 2 – Is Modesty More Than What We Wear?

Modesty and Grace, Part 3 – Culture, Context, and Time

Modesty and Grace, Part 4 – What Does Our Immodesty Say About Us?

Modesty and Grace, Part 5 – Who’s Responsibility Is It?

Modesty and Grace, Part 6 – Where Do We Go From Here?

A New Year, A Fresh Start

January 1 – that day that we all hang so much hope on.  And it begs us to start fresh – a whole year ahead with seemingly unlimited potential.  And some years I have concrete resolutions and some years are more ambiguous ideals.  This year calls for some concrete goals.  After a year of feeling like life was all over the place and yet so many things in life gaining momentum as 2013 came to a close, I am excited about the potential that 2014 holds.  So, goals have been set – ten different facets of life, five typed pages of goals and plans (held loosely, of course, because God has His own plan and mine make Him laugh, I’m sure).

I won’t share my whole five page plan, but I will hit the highlights of each area.  If I remember, we’ll recap in 11 months and 28 days or so.

First, my word of the year – gentleness.  In the fall, the Lord laid this word on my heart as something to focus on in the coming year.  I am not always gentle, particularly with my words, and I am learning that the truly strong and the truly Christ-like are models of gentleness.  I am praying the Lord will help me grow in this area this year.

1. Spiritual growth

  • Read through the Amplified Bible this year.  I’ve read through the Bible in the past, but I’ve never done this translation.  I love the nuances of the Amplified, so I’m excited to see what new light this sheds on God’s word.
  • Get back to rewarding the girls for Scripture memory.  I don’t like bribing my children, but if I’ll pay them to clean the yard, it’s probably worth incentivizing them to hide God’s word in their heart.  Time is slipping away and they need that truth deep within.
  • Limit mindless screen time.  I wasn’t sure where to put this one, but the spiritual growth category seemed like a good place because this has the potential to impact every area of life.  And this may be one of my hardest goals for the year.  Matt and I both have a **horrible** habit of zoning out on our phones and I’m watching it bleed over into our kids and it just.needs.to.stop.  So, I’m starting with me.  I’m not proposing never being on my phone or never zoning out with it, but I am committed to being more intentional about when I am on a screen.  Some of my other goals will require more screen time, but it will be purposeful.  Staring at Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest multiple times a day for no reason other than to zone out – that needs to stop.

2.  Marriage

  • I won’t be specific here, but as I’ve said before, our marriage took a beating last year.  My goal this year is to make it a priority to nurture our relationship and restore it to what it was and make it even better than it has been.

3.  Parenting

  • Practice gentleness (see above).
  • Slow down to hear the girls’ hearts.
  • More consistent times of reading aloud.  All of my girls still love to be read to.  This is important and I need to make it more of a priority.
  • Continue to seek out times to spend with each girl alone.

4.  Fitness

  • Continue to improve our eating habits and work on helping the girls understand why real food is important.
  • Build back up to consistent running and workouts; 2013 was brutal in this department.
  • Train for and run a half marathon.  Due to injuries and illness and the fact that the Kansas weather decided it was January in November, my January one is not happening unless I walk most of it.  I really want to do one again for real.

5.  Intellectual

  • Read 1 book/month from a different genre.  I have a list of different topics to read on; I’ll share as I reach this goal.

6.  Writing

  • This place is a haven for me.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to come here and share and for the encouragement so many of you offer by sharing your lives with me.  I am hopeful that I will be able to post somewhat more consistently this year and possibly grow this space, if the Lord wills.

7.  Essential Oils

  • A year ago I would have never guessed what a huge part of my life essential oils would become or what a blessing they would be to my family.  I am hopeful that 2014 will bring a greater understanding of oils and how they work with the body systems as well as more opportunities to share oils with those around me.  God is opening many doors in this area of my life.  As long as He opens them, I want to keep walking through them.

8.  Computer Projects

  • I always have a rather healthy list of things that need to be done on the computer.  I’m hoping that if I chip away at that list systematically this year, I will start 2015 with a clean(er) slate.  My biggest challenge is always the digital photo clutter.  Since I make all of our photobooks on the computer and haven’t made any in about two years, I have some catching up to do.  **sigh**

9.  Home Projects

  • A new house means lots of projects on the brain.  I know we will get some things knocked out this year, but I want to be somewhat systematic about it so we don’t end 2014 with a dozen partly-finished projects rather than a few completely finished projects.  And then there’s Pinterest, my constant tempter with its new ideas of things to spray paint and hot glue.  I’m looking forward to summer and the chance to do some of that again.

10.  Friendship and Hospitality

  • One of those areas we struggle in but want to do better.  Life is so busy and we often feel like just keeping the seven of us that live here connected is a full time job, but one of our reasons for buying this house was the opportunity it would afford us to allow the girls to have more friends over and encourage us to have more friends over as well.  So here’s to a year of hopefully seeing more of some of you!

So, that’s my (abbreviated) list.  It’s ambitious, but I’m hopeful that if I’m diligent at least some of it will get accomplished.  What are your goals for 2014?  Don’t feel like your list has to be this aggressive.  I absolutely love Ann’s list yesterday.  I plan to use her printable as a guide for my days this year.

More than anything, I want to go where God leads this year.  That’s what this whole thing is about anyway.  I’ve been praying over this list for a few weeks and this is what the Lord gave me.  He may also take it all away tomorrow.  But I know that a loosely held plan is better than no plan at all, and so the plan is laid out and offered back up to Him.

For His Glory ~

Signature