Friday, December 27, 2013

A Decade of Grace and Life

Today is my first child's tenth birthday.  Birthdays are a big deal at my house.  We love a good reason for celebration--especially the celebration of life.  This birthday is extra special though. Each year that I celebrate his birthday, I cannot help but think about the journey we've shared.  The past ten years have been filled with challenges and life-defining moments.  While it's a longer story, I hoped to share part of our story, so you can understand how special this guy is to me.

The year 2003 began with much hope.  I was a senior in high school & had been accepted into my top choice in colleges.  Graduating as salutatorian, I would receive scholarships to attend & would be the first in my family to attend a 4-year college (and the first to graduate).  I planned to pursue a pre-med degree, until my grandfather's health deteriorated quickly.  This changed the course of my career choice, because I realized I could not stomach terminal diseases or their effects. Within weeks, I also was heartbroken to lose the only man who had been consistent in my life.  He died at the end of February.

In addition to my grandfather's death, my mom finalized the end of an unhealthy marriage, and my relationship with my high school sweetheart was sure to end as we both had very different visions for our lives.  Despite some major life changes, I managed to stay focused on my big plans for my future.  All of my hard work would pay off & I would have the opportunity to follow my dreams & escape.

I was almost to the finish line, when two days before giving my graduation speech, I found out that I was pregnant. I was in disbelief because of how careful I was about "controlling" this situation, so how could it even happen?   Whether it was the round of antibiotics (that I was given no warning about) or the imperfect time of dosage each day, arming me with birth control hadn't provided the safety or assurance that my teenage brain thought it would provide.  I was sad and scared and mad.

Despite my prior beliefs about abortion, I had bigger plans.  I had worked so hard, carrying a high GPA, participating in athletics year-round, serving in leadership positions in multiple clubs, working since I was 14--my entire scholastic career was flashing before my eyes.  "Ruined" is what they said.  "But you can take two doses of medicine and everything will go away."  "Don't worry, it's just tissue--the size of a grain of rice actually."  "Jesus forgives, He wants you to be happy."  "You don't want to miss out on all the things you've worked so hard for." In the counselor's office at the abortion clinic three hours away, I started to think that choosing life meant choosing death of my dreams.  As I moved from room to room, it was a blur, but when I joined the room of other women--some visibly showing, reality hit.  And the prayers for the unborn were answered with a peace in the heart of a young, scared girl who realized this child was fearfully and wonderfully made.

Suddenly, I stood and searched for the Exit signs.  As I left, the lady at the front desk reminded me that I could not get a refund of the $400 I paid to ensure I wasn't a failure or another teen mom statistic.  I assured her that Life was enough.

That evening, I told my mother and we cried together.  We also prayed.  Over the next several months, I worked double shifts and battled morning sickness, but felt an overwhelming peace and energy that calmed my heart.  I had no intentions of not going to college, but I also had no idea about how it was going to happen.  While my mom helped to change my living arrangements, I prayed that everything else would fall into place--not typical for my type-A personality.

A month before I was set to leave for college, I was on my way to work on a beautiful sunny day.  I was going too fast around a slight curve when it suddenly began to rain hard.  Before I knew it, I couldn't see a thing and my car was spinning.  When I opened my eyes, a transfer truck was headed toward me head-on. I closed my eyes to pray and when I opened them, my car was on the other side of the road but I was alive.  The witnesses at the scene who stopped indicated that part of my car went under his truck, but spun out.  I was completely unharmed, as was my unborn son.
Little did I know that the accident meant that I would be able to pay off my car with the insurance value and buy another car with cash, allowing me to not worry about a car loan payment.  This was the beginning of God's provision.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[a] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Matthew 6:25-33

Whether it was generous tips at work or the kindness of my church community & school mates that provided almost everything I'd need for this special boy, I had almost everything I needed before leaving home.

However, on the way to Athens, my mom received a call from the campus property manager letting me know that she had double booked my assigned apartment.  But, by the time we arrived, they worked out another assignment at the only place they had left.  It was going to cost more money, but I didn't worry because of God's provision in the past.  As I walked up the stairs and began to unload my stuff, a young girl came outside.  She began to tell my mom that she had prayed for another young single mom to live close to her (most of the other neighbors were married graduate students).   This amazing woman would become my best friend and disciple me and love me through some of the most difficult and amazing times.

As the months went by, my belly grew and my classes became more difficult.  Taking 17 hours was intense without being pregnant.  Add in the sleepless nights, being away from home and a stolen car and it was pretty crazy.  As I entered my third trimester, I celebrated my 19th birthday and received a random call from my father.  As a child of an absent, alcoholic father, I was the typical perfectionistic maybe-I-can-earn-his-love-by-making-something-of-myself kid. It meant a lot to me that he called around my birthday, as he had admitted before that he didn't know the actual date that his first child was born.

We had a short, but good chat.  After all of the years of tough-love toward him, my time in the word & understanding of Christ's great grace allowed me to offer forgiveness to him.  He indicated that he was anxious to start fresh and was excited at the prospect of being a grandfather (while furious at the other half of the equation).  I truly felt loved by him for the first time.  That was the last time I would talk to him.  Three weeks later, my neighbor came to the door with a phone call telling me that my father had been murdered.

Physical pain, despair, loss of hope poured over me. The redemption and the relationship that I had lived for and prayed for with my father was gone.  But the true redemption and the relationship that brought life appeared in this desperate, barren time.  Christ spoke to me through his Word.  My prayers were constant and my life depended on them.  My need was great and He provided peace and comfort.  His people surrounded me and cared for me.  They prayed for me and served me.  My father had gone, but my Father was here.

Just a little over one month later, I came home for Christmas and enjoyed time with my family. My Mom's unhealthy marriage had taken it's toll on my family and the closeness that many families experience hadn't existed for a while before the death of my father, but this year Christmas was different.  I enjoyed a time of forgiveness and healing with my family, recognizing that tomorrow is not promised.  As we exchanged gifts and prepared for the expected arrival in mid-January, I started feeling strange aches and a crazy burst of energy.

Just two days after Christmas, I started cleaning up my Mom's entire house and organizing everything (NOT typical for me).  It was a beautiful day and I had the urge to walk up her crazy hill and down to the church.  I did this several times.  I didn't recognize that this was labor (I didn't read any pregnancy boards back then).  I thought that your due date literally meant the day you give birth, I wasn't prepared two weeks early.  Despite my doubts, I knew I felt strange and achey so my mom insisted we go to the hospital.  My baby boy was born 4 hours later as I experienced one of the most amazing, life changing moments of becoming a mommy.

As I held my little boy, I knew what unconditional love was.  Everything else I was feeling is indescribable, but I never felt like choosing life was a mistake.  Quite the opposite.  I was grateful for the prayer warrior and angels and everything else that protected this amazing blessing.  I knew there were natural consequences of my sin, as the challenges with his father were already evident. But peace consumed me.  Love consumed me.  I felt forgiven & I forgave.

Over the past ten years, I have struggled with some of the other natural consequences of choosing life & raising a child as a single mother.  It has been very difficult at times.  When God didn't restore and bless the relationship with my son's father, I became very bitter and rebelled and denied my faith.  I experienced more consequences based on the poor choices during that time.  I tried feminism, atheism and sought to discover my purpose outside of Christ, but came up empty. Thankfully, this sweet boy served as a reminder of God's grace and unconditional love.  He continued to be a motivator for me to do well and finish school.  He also influenced my decision to come back home after graduating.

Despite the hurt and wrongs in the relationship with his father, I remembered the pain I felt of growing up without knowing my dad.  When I moved back home, I reluctantly agreed to attend church with a dear friend seeking God in her own desolate time.   On Father's Day in 2007, I realized that I still had a Father in Christ--that a Father's love doesn't leave just because we stray.  That an imperfect earthly father doesn't accurately portray our Heavenly Father.  I quit running from the Truth that had literally saved my life and the life of my son and came home.

So as I shared my story about my son's life, I hope that someone will see how Jesus the Son holds our life.  That my faith isn't just a lifestyle to adapt because I want to be a good, southern girl living in the Bible belt; It is my response to the need for a Savior, Prince of Peace, Heavenly Father, Grace-giving Lover.  I love because He first loved me.  I chose life and He saved mine.

And as I celebrate my son's life, I hope that we can think about how we view life and what it means to choose life.  Consider what it means to fund & support organizations that promote women's rights as the ability to abort a baby versus the real feminine empowerment of choice based on a women's innate ability to love & care for a child while still working toward her dreams in life.  True women's rights advocates should agree that we do not have to make a choice to have one or the other.

While I do not condone teen pregnancy, I hope that more women who find themselves in my situation can receive the grace and provision from His people and the message that choosing life doesn't mean choosing the death of their dreams.  Choosing life offers a different dream that can be fulfilling, motivating and amazing no matter what challenges you face.

If you feel compelled to play a part in providing grace & life to another mom like me, please consider supporting Choices Pregnancy Resource Center by donating here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A New Birth

This Christmas has brought more joy to me this year than ever before.  I believe that my time reading the Bible has helped my heart realize the power in God's sovereignty and the fact that my life is truly in His hands--even the day-to-day, what am I gonna wear, how is that gonna happen stuff that I tend to worry about.  In years past, as hard as I tried, I still couldn't shake the guilt of not buying enough and the remorse of spending money on toys that captured my kid's attention for a couple of hours then ended up in the floor (curse you strategically displaced Legos that I step on in the dark).  I also struggled with the time that I spent shopping online, coupled with the time I didn't spend on decorating the house enough.  So much guilt (and it's stirring up inside of me now).

But God has unbound my heart and opened my eyes to the gift of enough.  He is Enough.  I realize how crazy and Christian-y this sounds, but I have experienced real, life-altering joy that I didn't understand in past seasons.

Before, I was stuck in a Martha world.  A long list of to-dos, emails to respond to in real-time, sales to close/ conference calls/ meetings to attend on maternity leave, 2-3 events per night after working all day & before coming home to my family, etc.  None of these things alone are bad.  They are all highly valued by the American culture that we live in.  But keeping up with the busyness of life, left no margin for networking with the Creator of the World.

So I trusted that He was Enough and followed His calling by faith.  It's been close to 7 months now.  When I left, I gave myself 3 months to sit at the feet of Jesus and get to know Him and my family better.  This was very difficult for me.  I felt comfortable with busy.  I loved closing deals, connecting people, coming up with big ideas and making them happen.  Now I was closing the toilet bowl (continuously), chasing little people, coming up with big plans and watching them crash and burn.  And the paycheck. Earning a living was empowering and validating, it fit my pretty packaged plan.  But God called me to trust, to put aside all of these things that I packaged that defined me.  He said I. AM. Enough.  And I decided to spend a lifetime of sitting at His feet in service, seeking Him--not my own ambitions.

The gift of freedom from fitting in my self-made feminist mold brings such peace and joy.  There's no wall to break down or tower to build---just the invitation to have faith in the Power that fearfully & wonderfully made us and equipped us to do good works.  I have found much success and personal growth in simply getting to know my children better and helping them discover that they are created to join Christ in a marvelous adventure as well.

And while my house is decorated a little more than it was last year, the presents are intentionally sparse, leaving room for new traditions, less clutter and more time spent getting to know the One we're celebrating.   No guilt, more gifts (spiritual) and a New Birth that offers so much more than any present money can buy.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Midnight melody

Little gal is wide awake right now singing songs. Song that never end.  I am usually firm, go to bed or else mom. Tonight I am "enjoy the crazy" mom.  First of many all-night laughs, chats and lullabies with my girl. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What Dave Ramsey gets right about poverty

Recently, some of my kindest friends have posted an article that immediately caught my attention due to the name in the headline and the author.  The article, written by Rachel Held Evans, is entitled "What Dave Ramsey gets wrong about poverty."  Being that it was Christmastime and Dave has been top of mind for me and my family (I'll get to that in a minute), I clicked on over with an open mind 1) because although I follow Dave Ramsey's teaching, he's not Jesus, so he could have gotten it wrong and I wanted to be informed, 2) to see what he could have said that disparaged the poor--after all, as a former poor girl, I get all fired up about someone talking bad about the least of these.

courtesy of CNN's article mentioned, courtesy of Dave Ramsey
As I read, I was discouraged and encouraged at the same time.  I was discouraged because among other things, the title of the article didn't really match the article itself.  Rachel Held Evans wasn't really even addressing something Dave Ramsey said;  she was criticizing one of the many articles reposted on his website by Tim Corley. RHE's article would be more aptly titled "What Tim Corley gets wrong about poverty." But wait, who's Tim Corley?  I sure didn't know, and I beg to guess that many others don't either, that's why it was more likely to be read if Dave's name was interjected in the article since his postings during the Christmas season are getting heavy traffic from followers like myself who need a little inspiration to get wealthier this Christmas season.

Oh wait, scratch that, as a stay at home mom, I'm unlikely to get "wealthy" (which is what RHE insists DR followers are after) during the Christmas season since most of our money is leaving the house in the form of giving to causes (the public school system that needs more money during this time of year with fundraisers, events, deadlines, etc), paying higher bills (winter=more expensive), clothes for the kids since they apparently grew, etc.  Ugh, I digress...Obviously I'm not getting wealthy.  The REAL reason I perk up when I hear the "other" bearded man during this Christmas season is because no matter where I turn, I am barraged with deals, sales, MUST-HAVE "savings," that are effective in making me feel like I MUST buy stuff for my children, family, friends, self.  Gifts that "won't disappoint," sales that you "can't afford to miss," offer promising of acceptance and joy.  But Dave says "Don't believe that crap! [paraphrased]."

He offers advice budgeting to make sure that you don't overspend, tutorials on making gifts when that's all you can afford, guides to help you decorate with what you have---resources to help you use your own resources without tacking on debt and despair this holiday season.  But oh wait...did you see that?!?! Yep, there it is.
via Dave Ramsey's Facebook page

He "judged" the people using government assistance.  That's it. I'm done!

Oh, wait, I actually read the whole thing and it didn't judge anything.  It says that I can take initiative and prepare myself.  Who does he think he is?  We're barely scraping by here.  I've gotta hang on to what I have.  Oh, but I seem to recall someone else encouraging me to use my resources wisely no matter how meager they seem.  So Dave Ramsey & Jesus are on the same page when it comes to this. 

In addition to Dave Ramsey's encouragement to those in tough financial situations, the actual article that Tim Corley posted has some really good advice in it.  Maybe the title sucks, I'll let you decide, but telling people to eat less junk food, exercise, and listen to audio books (the three things RHE criticizes) is NOT WRONG people.  

Sure, poor people have less money to spend on healthy food and junk food is cheapers--BUT beans and rice, lentils and couscous, frozen veggies and Aldi produce are affordable.  How do I know?  Because I bought them with my food stamps---AND I lived in a "food dessert."   Does it get old?  Yep.  Do I feel like crap and get sick all the time when I eat the above food--nope.  I feel much better.  But what REALLY gets me about this article and others like it is that it makes the assumption that "poor" people aren't smart enough to get this.  The reality is, when people say, "Oh I'm sorry you're having to eat Cheetos for dinner, I understand" instead of saying "hey, let me teach you how to eat healthy on a budget" they too, are contributing to the problem. 

Thankfully, I had a mother that taught me to count price per ounce and to buy on sale and resources that taught me to cook with what I had so a quick, cheap meal didn't have to mean McDonalds or a bag of Skittles.  

Next point, exercise.  Whether its running to the bus stop or taking the stairs at work, every little bit counts.  Saying "poor people don't have time to exercise" is again, insulting.  We all have 24-hours in a day.  I've worked 2 jobs while going to school as a single mom.  I found time to exercise.  For me, it was jogging on the sidewalk with my baby in the stroller or dancing for 25 minutes in my living room while he watched and laughed at me hysterically.  Don't say "poor people can't."   Give encouragement instead, y'all!

Oh but, you know poor people can't listen to audiobooks.  Really?!?! Maybe they don't have an awesome library or used bookstore that sells stuff for super cheap or free like we do in my city.  Maybe there's no time for checking stuff out (there is).  Whatever.  When I hear this, I hear "poor people don't want to read audiobooks."  The reality is, they may not be a part of the "culture of poverty," but an article like Tim Corley's is saying exactly that.   I read his article and thought "here's some stuff that those with more resources value, but might not talk about---maybe some poor people could benefit from."   I didn't get "do these things and you'll be rich" and I doubt the other poor people thought that either--until someone told them that's what they should think.  

I will end my rant with my overall belief that God created us all equal.  We are born with gifts, talents, abilities, etc into an imperfect world where we must make choices that can either help or hurt us.  Dave Ramsey and others empower us to look at scripture to see how to make choices that align with the Bible so that we can make a positive impact in our lives---enabling us to give to others.  That's what he gets right. 

In parting, before you assume that I am "rich" like Dave Ramsey (who started his ministry after going bankrupt), I am not.  Some of us are born to single parents and have daddies that left us because they mentally chose to continue living in a cycle of poverty.  But that doesn't destine us to be in poverty the rest of our lives.  Thanks to biblical wisdom that encourages us to use whatever we have---however little that might be--we can be blessed by God's generous provision. God says that if we are wise with what we have, He will entrust us with more.  

Does that mean we'll be rich?  No, our lot is not always measured in wealth.  But we can be diligent and intentional with what we have and break out of the bondage of debt---as Dave Ramsey, so passionately teaches.  He provides resources that can help those who are in debt and influenced by consumerism and convenience, no matter how "rich" or "poor" they may be. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Christmas cheer

Day 30

I fell behind again, but for good reason. Trying to blog I real time leaves little room for exhaustion after hosting two Thanskgivings, sick babies, delayed construction projects, etc. 

But all the "issues" above are really just some of the consequences of blessings. We take the good with the bad, because even when life happens and we fall behind, Jesus is there-waiting for us to call upon Him to carry our burdens and give us joy. 

As Novemeber came to a close and December rushed in, I happily welcomed the customs and trappings that come along with the month-long celebration of Christmas-including lights, community and songs of celebration. 

While many shy away from "Jesus" this season, it's impossible for me to forget the gifts He has given me. This month will be a celebration of gifts and a continual desire to cultivate gratitude as a way of life. 

Merry Christmas! I hope you can find joy and experience Christ's gifts only He can offer. 

(Extra)ordinary Life

Who knew that a date night thwarted by home repairs & sick kiddos could turn out to be so awesome as we found ourselves laughing uncontrollably, planning our drive thru prank (that won't happen, but sure was fun to plot.) It made us realize that we both have such an odd sense of humor that only we get sometimes & that there is always something to laugh about. 

Finding romance in the form of junk mail on a cruddy day is the stuff dreams are made of.  And loving a man that gives up fancy dinners and spends off days grouting tile and making me breakfast in bed freakin' rocks!

I love this (extra)ordinary life! 

Friday, November 29, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude:Less Buyer's Remorse, More Meaning

Day 29

I waited until the end of the night because frankly I felt like a cloud hung over me all. day. long.   I know, I know.  It's the opposite of grateful to stay in a funk all day long when there are so many things to be joyful about.  BUT, consumerism seems to bring out the worst in me.

I don't mind shopping.  I just don't like shopping retail.  So one could imagine that Black Friday would be my dream day.  Guess again, Black Friday is a retail drug disguised as a frugal fiesta.  Ordinarily happy, decent people morph into contestants from the Hunger Games as they gear up to ensure that they get the BEST deal possible--even if they don't need the stuff.  (then again, what do we REALLY need in America?)

Fortunately, I made it through the day without buying ANYTHING.  No groceries, no bills, nothing.   No buyer's remorse feels great!  No additional debt or clutter feels terrific.

Granted, I do have gifts to purchase (we draw names for the kids in both families and get gifts for our moms) and I look forward to crafting some special gifts as well.  Also, I look forward to narrowing down the three special gifts we will get for the kids.

Less is more.

I am praying that my kids will recognize that giving time & talents can be just as meaningful as exchanging commodities.  These lessons will be our primary gifts to them.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Thanksgiving Day

Day 28

Today I am thankful for the tradition of Thanksgiving and how it breaks families and friends together despite our hectic, too busy lifestyles and our differences that somehow seem to not matter as much when you're sharing a good meal.

While I admit that preparing to host or travel can be stressful, coming together is very much worth the extra efforts.  The opportunity to make a sacrifice of person time in exchange for the ability to serve/host/visit is a gift in itself.

Some of the things I love about Thanksgiving include the extra effort put in to creating a delicious meal, the smells coming from the kitchen and from the plates that arrive, the camaraderie & banter during preparation, the mixture of chairs at the table, an occasion that beckons the china to be put to use, an occasion that causes the heart to take inventory of all the blessings we have, the commotion that comes from having almost a dozen kids in the house at once--along with the cacophony of voices sharing stories from the previous years.

A noisy house sings of life, of energy, of emotion.

And then there's the peace--right before the blessing is uttered.  Right before we dive in to the feast that most of the world won't experience.

We are blessed beyond what we deserve.

Thanksgiving Day in America is a day of abundance.

And as we take part in a grand harvest, I think about the stewardship we are granted.  As we receive, we must also give.  We give praise, but we can also offer love, time and resources to God's people that He puts in our lives--even the ones we pass on the streets in scruffy, alcohol-saturated dressings.

Everyday we should honor Christ with thanksgiving.  I pray that I can remember this with more than thought, but with actions that include thanks & giving.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: My Time at Home

Day 27

It took nearly six months for me to be "okay" at being a homemaker.  For my friends who know me well, I do not do well if I am doing okay.  I strive for excellence--and I'm not naturally an excellent homemaker.  It's been humbling and wonderful at the same time.

Yes, I tossed my "mommy metrics" off the fridge after the first month.  Nobody came into my weekly "meeting" and said, gift card for the person who can tolerate the stinkiest diaper or a bonus for whoever sells the most coupon books --aka buys the most coupon books because 1/2 of my "pledges" disappeared after the books were in hand--BUT I now have ten 20% off coupons for Learning Express.  BOOM.  Who says you don't get a prize…Anyhow.  I don't want to continue to whine about lack of recognition, mommy voice-itis, inability to walk in heels, funky kid-smell in lieu of my nice perfume (that I can no longer afford)… blah blah blah.  Those were just SOME of the sin-toms I was wallowing in.

Then, I put my big girl panties on and got out of the stinkin' house (literally, yoga pants>jeans.  Bought some poo-pouri and never looked back).   I met up with other mamas, went to the store and got stuff we needed without having a melt-down or leaving a kid behind (irrational fears--I never felt this when I was working outside of the home).  I asked for help from mamas that knew what they were doing (even though most of them said they didn't know what they were doing and told me to hang in there--love me some honest, encouraging ladies!)

I even uttered the words "homemaker" and stay at home mom when asked "what I do" without feeling all sorts of weird emotions.  Okay, so I still feel a myriad of emotions.  Even as it is coming to an end…

Not because I feel like being a stay at home mom or homemaker isn't a worthy calling/career/job/role/season, etc.  I think that it is among the most significant ways one can serve God and illustrate true love and sacrifice for their children.  I have always thought that, but I KNOW that now.  While it is often a thankless job, it is by FAR the most rewarding experience of my life.  I am sad to think that these days are coming to an end.

But I cannot be sad for long, I am eternally grateful for the morning cuddles, before-school chatter,  yummy breakfasts, lingering fuzzy little head on my shoulder-still limp and quiet as he takes his time waking up.  I will cherish the persistence of a little girl begging for another glass of milk.  I will recognize what little, growing voices are saying when no one else around knows the shun really means fun!  and honey-jelly is a PB&J or a PB & Honey sandwich, depending on where we're at.

I will remember that sometimes excellence can found where inner strength lets go and concern for others stretches you to do supernatural, yet humiliating things in order to make someone else's heart dance.

I will remember that a clean house is often the product of a mommy who stays up late, but doesn't touch the kitchen 'til their little fuzzy heads hit the pillow again.   Because a routine means unsupervised "helpers" will make big "discoveries" and insist that they be "on display" in various places so that you can't miss their tireless efforts.

I will slow down in the mornings, and speed up as I leave my job, so that I can make the most of every moment I have with the little blessings that God has allowed me to train up, teach and serve.  I am so very grateful for my time at home & will strive to make the most out of the next few weeks as well.

Monday, November 25, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Forgiveness

Day 26

When we finally let go and die to our own expectations, hopes and disappointment, and anger, we get an opportunity to forgive someone and offer them a second chance.  I am thankful for the second (and third, fourth, fifth, millionth) chances I have been given.  It is also a sacred gift to offer forgiveness to another.  Deserved or not, letting go of the heavy burden of holding a grudge or even simply allowing God to bring justice--whether you're a witness to it or not, is freeing beyond words.  

We like to be forgiven.  Offering forgiveness is also a gift. 

30 Days of Gratitude: imagination

Day 25

Today I am grateful for the innocence and wonder alive in the heart of my children. From dreaming of princesses who slau dragons or healing the sick one day as a doctor, my daughter is still blissfully unaware of life's speed bumps and limitations. 

Whether it's exploring the woods or writing a new story, my oldest son, has just begun to independently create his path. 

My baby boy is also an explorer. He can climb up and down the staircase, into cabinets, onto tables, etc. He sees no challenge to great. 

While I must protect them the best way I know how, I can also rest in the peace of Gods protection and allow them to dream big dreams and go for them. 

Today I am thankful for the hopeful imagination evident in my children (and sometimes still found inside my own heart-despite what reality tries to tell me)

30 Days of Gratitude: Lessons in giving

Day 24
United Way of Chattanooga hosted a Family Volunteer day last Saturday. While my oldest boy genuinely understood the meaning of giving & created a sincere card for a soldier, I wasn't sure that my daughter would really know what it meant to give yet--until we went through the line where you could make a bag of goodies for homeless people.

When she saw the smorgasbord of treats, her eyes lit up. "Oh yummy, I want that and that and that..."  Cue lesson in selflessness and giving. 

After a brief tantrum, we talked about people who didn't have food. She responded with promising grunts and dried up her face. I consider it a breakthrough, albeit a small one. 

For this mama, dragging all three kids to the mall on a cold Saturday was so worth it after we left. We had some great conversation and long naps (for the kids) followed. Isn't almost unfair how learning to give ultimately blesses the giver's spirit so deeply? 

Today I am thankful for the United Way and other organizations willing to facilitate giving and investing in the character development of our children as well. 

30 Days of Gratitude: Father-son bonding

Day 23

Friday, November 22, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: worship

Day 21

An amazing night in an auditorium filled with believers. It was almost a glimpse of heaven with what I imagine angels to sound like. Hillsong United gave a stellar performance!

30 Days of Gratitude: yearning

Day 22

Today I am grateful for the times in my life where there was a desire that just wouldn't go away. Those desires surface just when I'm ready to give up or go a different direction. Praising God for desires that grow, evolve & persist so that I can do the same.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: My Teammate.

I can't decide what's hotter: a man in uniform or a man who can work with his hands.  Good thing I don't have to pick.  Today my husband worked from 9am yesterday to 2pm today with 1.5 hour nap around 9pm last night.  AND it was some serious work-pressure washing by day/cleaning up the streets by night/scraping the ceiling and sides of a 2 story building for hours to prep for painting.  I have one heck of a man!

BUT, I have to write this down so that I can remember how freakin' awesome he is--almost super human.  Because despite how starry-eyed I am right now, I can get SO mad at him for taking a nap on a regular day or for disappearing on a jog with the dogs while I'm cleaning up after the kids.  It's the little stuff that gets us in a rut and the unity and amazing energy we felt while caulking joints in a hundred year old house is so easily forgotten.

I truly am thankful for the teammate that I have in my husband.  I don't want to pretend to portray a perfect marriage to a perfect man, because it's far from that.  But, I do have an extraordinary lover that won't let me go to bed angry, co-parents our kids equally and effectively, humbly seeks God's wisdom, values my opinion, has a heart for others…I could go on and on… and I will.  Over time, I want to continue to document the positive in our relationship.  Because it is worth celebrating and fighting for when we feel like it isn't.

AND, he was worth doing singleness differently for.  Waiting for the guy that reminded me of Christ instead of Colin Farrell was worth it.

Today I am grateful for my teammate in life & marriage--I love my husband!

30 Days of Gratitude: So Many Things (Catch up edition)

Day 14

On the 14th, I got to visit a place that I am interested in opening in Chattanooga & had conversation with a few people who were supportive of my business idea.  Ultimately, my goal is to build a company that is good for the community, provides meaningful work for others, and most importantly allows me to provide for my family financially without giving up the ability to be physically present when they need me most.

I am grateful for possibility, practical opportunities that meet needs and for God's talents and vision that he has given me to execute His calling.  Over the coming days, I have several meetings to determine next steps & to pray about this particular direction.  Hopefully, this time next year, it will be abundantly clear that I followed Christ's calling through my work.

Day 15

Hospitality.  I can't say enough about the blessing it is to be hosted by a friend while away from home.  Hotels are nice, but enjoying the company of friends that you don't often see & experiencing life as they do, is a blessing.

I appreciate the ladies who have hosted me over the last two trips.  I hope to be able to extend the same hospitality to others in the near future--in fact, we have purchased a sleeper sofa and changed rooms around so that we can offer our home as a place to stay for friends who come to visit Chattanooga.   I can't wait to have visitors soon!

Day 16

Birthdays.  I love birthdays and believe that they should always be celebrated.  On the 16th, we celebrated a friend's son & finally had the opportunity to catch up with his parents.   In the busyness of life, birthdays are a good reason to come together and remember the people that are important in our lives.  They are also a great time to reflect on the past year(s).  I am grateful for special days and each day of life that Christ offers is a gift!

Day 17

We are grateful for our church and church family.  While it's an imperfect place, I appreciate the truth that is shared straight from God's Word and the family of believers who we get to do life with.  Church was once a place where I felt I had to clean up to step foot in.  Now, I see it as a place where I can come and lay down the concerns and burdens of this life in order to give thanks and worship our King for the creation of this world and for the ultimate sacrifice He made to save my soul.

This week's sermon was about David & what happened when he quit living on his own devices and sought God's face.  When I turned away from my old life & to Christ, He blew my mind with blessing, joy and hope.  I am grateful for Pastor Frank's teaching that reminded me of this moment & the closeness felt by remembering his great grace.  I am fervently praying for friends and family who are deceived by life's treasures and empty promises.  I hope that they can come to fully know Christ's love, acceptance and plan for their lives as well.

Day 18
Things passed down.  Today I painted a table that used to be my grandmother's table.  It was the table that my family used for Thanksgiving and Christmas all throughout my childhood.  While I do not particularly love the design, I like that I can use something that once belonged to someone special to me.  I am thankful for the significance and love that I received from my grandparents--in addition to the skills they taught me.

Day 19
Amazing sunsets

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Beauty from Ashes

Day 11

Ten years ago today, I was 18 years old, eight months pregnant, living in an apartment on campus-3 hours away from my family.  Being so pregnant, I had a hard time sleeping in general, but the night before it was different.  I journaled to try to get to sleep because I felt extremely anxious.  Early in the morning, I had a knock at my door.  I opened the door to my neighbor who had a phone in her hand.  I could see the sadness in her eyes as she passed the phone to me letting me know that my mom was on the other end.

Confused, I answered, knowing something wasn't right.  "Honey, your dad has been killed."

I was shocked, but simply said "I'm on my way."  Being the first child of three, my first thought was to jump into fix-it mode and take care of my brother and sister.  But this wasn't something I could fix.

Someone had taken away my prize.  The brutally butchered the man who inspired me to be a better woman.  She killed my chances of making my dreams come true.  This child resting inside me would never know him.

Years of prayers and perfectionist tendencies aimed at winning the approval of an aimless man finally came to an end.  Tough love and triumph wasn't enough.

It was strange to sit in a room and discuss hobbies, outfits and hairstyles--details that were suddenly important to know.  Thankfully, there were other family members to fill in the gaps.  I listened in order to get to know him more.  The few memories I had of him flashed before me.  My dreams about how life would be after alcohol--once plentiful, seemed irrelevant now.  Once we worked within the state's budget for murder victims to arrange the funeral, we shifted through the next couple of days until the actual funeral ceremony was held.

An exuberant preacher who claimed to try to help my father, made an awkward speech that incensed my brother.  It was a stark contrast to my grandfather's celebration of life that we just held 8 months prior. Then it was put to rest. It was a somber time, but I don't remember feeling much.

Upon my return to my apartment at college, ironically, I received such special treatment from people that I didn't really know. I had a fridge full of meals, baskets full of cards (making up for the years of birthdays without a simple call or card) and beautiful flowers filled my rooms.  This was in addition to my two friends who dropped everything to come with me the day I received that call. That drop everything, sacrificial, agape kind of love I wanted from my father was felt over the coming weeks.

Over the coming months, I would no longer think about Jesus Christ the same way.  After the numbness wore off and the tears began to flow, I would understand an overwhelming peace and love.  One that I didn't know before.  I would be completely dependent on a Savior who could fill my empty heart with an indescribable joy.

Over the coming years, I would go through court proceedings that would teach me more about my career choice than any class could.  After the fresh wounds, I believed becoming an attorney no longer meant being able to uphold justice.  Justice had more to do with pleas and the number of prison beds.  But I wasn't bitter.  I also learned to forgive the woman who shared my birthday, because I had been forgiven and offered a new life & freedom.

Each year on 11/11, I usually write something to reflect on how I feel.  This year, I am thankful that time does heal.  I am also moving on from the idea that I am somehow a victim.  Life is full of loss.  But loss leads to new beginnings.  As I continue to process the loss of the father I imagined and the father that I didn't know, I cherish the terrific father my husband is to my children.

I also can't help but think of the beauty from ashes that my Heavenly Father created during such a desolate, confusing time.  They way he drew near and provided supernatural peace and strength.  It was when my faith came to life in the most tangible way.  I so appreciate His love and faithfulness!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Back to reality, Back to gratitude

Ahhhh… Home sweet home.

After a terrific trip to Washington, D.C. I am grateful that I get to come home to my three children and the wonderful man that kept them alive and happy over the past week (while our house was turned upside down by a construction project=brownie points.)

During my trip, I tried to keep up my gratitude postings because I was hyper-aware of so many reasons to be grateful, but all that I managed to do was post half-coherent writings after my futile attempts to adapt to a 5am alarm clock with over 6 miles of walking each day.


I will be playing catch up this week.  Starting right now…

Today I am very grateful for rest.  Typically I refuse Sunday naps, but with one super cute, but cranky teething toddler and one theatrical princess full of song and dance, I needed a power nap today.

And tonight I will go to sleep right after I finish this paragraph.  Rest is good for the brain.  So I will allow my brain to have a treat so that I can find a way to untangle all of the goodness that happened this week in addition to following through with some next steps that I am now ready to pursue.  Until tomorrow...

Weekly Meal Plan: November 18

B: Eggs & Toast
L: Sandwiches & Leftover Chili
D: Chicken, Roasted Red Potatoes, Collard Greens & Garlic Couscous

B: Pumpkin Oatmeal
L: Spaghetti
D: Salsarita's (Kids Eat Free)

B: Eggs & Toast
L: Pizza & Salad
D: Salmon, Green Beans, Sweet Potatoes

B: Cereal/Oatmeal
L: Leftovers
D: McAlister's (Kids Eat Free)

B: Muffins
L: Beans & Rice
D: Stir Fry

B: Pancakes
L: Sandwiches/Soup
D: Burritos

B: Pancakes
L: Quesadillas
D: Fresh2Order (Kids Eat Free)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Shared experiences

Day 12

Today I arrived early to load my flight and had an anxious feeling. Typically, I don't get nervous about traveling, but when the flight was delayed due to maintenance, it didn't make me feel any better. Then ouR flight was canceled, then back on. Through all of these unexpected changes, people who were initially quiet and kept to themselves, started conversing. The shared experience in uncertainty was refreshing for some reason.

I believe that the more we interact and work through life together, the better off we'll be.

Today I am grateful for shared experiences (especially the shared sunset viewed from my window-pic doesn't so it justice).

Monday, November 11, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Dinner

Day 10

Over the past few months, I have intentionally invested my best hours in making a better home for my family.  Having better family dinners is one of the small victories we have achieved.  My son calls it the British influence, attributing his new duty of cleaning the table and the use of actual china to my discovery of Downton Abbey.  He protests the "fancy" dinners, but I'm betting that his teachers will be glad to receive homework sans spaghetti sauce, and I believe that deep inside, he loves the floral plates (or at least having a flame on the table).

You see, I am ashamed to admit it, but after coming home from a long day of work including breakfast committee meetings, client lunch meetings and evening board meetings, dinner was about getting food in mouths with enough time to brush teeth before 9. This wasn't the norm.  Every night wasn't so full of "my" stuff.  Some nights we had football practice, school meetings, grocery shopping, etc.  No matter what, dinner became feeding time and with all the rushing and throwing together meals, it was often something that none of us looked forward to.  

After spending some time with my in-laws, I picked up on some practical ways to make dinner flow more smoothly.  Plans were made in advance on what to eat, and dinner was served instead of thrown together.  Babies were fed first and might graze on something during dinner, but advance feeding meant that Mama could eat when the rest of the family ate & engage in conversation too.  I came back home and decided that we could make dinner better, even enjoyable again.  

Conveniently, I had to clear out my china cabinet to accommodate the construction project going on in my house so why not use the stuff that's been collecting dust (yes, I even washed the dusty plates BEFORE putting them on the table--fancy, I know).  I required all homework to be removed from the table as well as the laptop, and my phone can only be used to play some restauranty tunes. 

After just a few days, dinner is now something I anticipate with joy.  Great conversations have been had.  Food has been enjoyed--not scarfed down.  Even my stubborn three year old is eating her veggies since dessert is often a planned part of the meal.  It may not always be this way, but for now, I am so very grateful for our family dinners--a new sacred tradition in our humble estate. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Fire

Day 9

Today I burned all of the leaves that we're covering my patio area. Our yard is cover in large beautiful trees, and I much prefer to see the leaves on their limbs , but unfortunately, the leaves must fall.

With a flame to the kindling, the fire took away all that covered my yard. 

I am grateful that, like the fire that uncovered my hidden yard, Christ is a consuming fire that burns away all that hides his truth & love. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: An Advocate

Day 8

Tonight in reading the short book of Philemon, I appreciate the great grace, acceptance and advocacy that I have received in different seasons of my life. Advocates that helped me received a challenging & enriching education, advocates who helped me navigate the college process, advocates who helped me find resources as a single mom.

I appreciate these earthly advocates who spent their time and resources to promote my well being. 

Christ is my most powerful advocate. Offering freedom and love to cover up my insufficiency. 

Today I am grateful for the advocates in my life & the advocacy I see on behalf of others.

Friday, November 8, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Inheritance

Day 7 

I finally plowed through the first episode of Downton Abbey and became a true fan of the show that all of my friends have been talking about. I love the grandeur of the house, the traditions of the family and the respect and integrity that the staff have.

While it's fun to think about such a life, I don't envy the constraints and issues that appear along with the wealth and power in the show. There is always a trade off when possessing worldy treasures and position. This is evident in my reading in Titus tonight. 

Much of the plot of the show revolves around heirship and inheritance. When an unlikely heir is a game-changer and a love story promising salvation crumbles and is redeemed, I could only think of my own unlikely heirship as a daughter of our king & continuing through Titus, I read truth about my own inheritance. 
Today I am so very thankful for the love story between a King and His rebellious daughter who thought she knew best-- but only found joy when He offered His great grace. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Play

Day 6

As a mom, you may find yourself spending much more time being "serious" than having fun.  There have been seasons where I have found it difficult to play with my kids because I was too tired or carried work home with me or felt disconnected. This is not one of those seasons thankfully. 

Today I am grateful for hide & seek, races up the stairs, leaf piles and climbing trees with my kids--with pure joy and freedom.

30 Days of Gratitude: Inspired Scripture

Day 5
In the quest for wisdom, inspiration & knowledge, I have all that I need. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: A Time to Dance

Day 4

Tonight we danced in the kitchen after dinner.  After cutting a rug with the whole family to some Zumba-inspired songs, my husband pulled me in close for a slow dance to a sweet mellow song.  My heart skipped a beat.  

As bedtime came, my son was full of questions after our evening prayer.  His great grandmother has alzheimer's disease & is nearing the end of her life.  All in one night, we experienced 

A time to weep,
    And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance;

Ecclesiastes 3:4

Day 4, I am thankful for family dances after dinner and loved ones who we can spend our days with--no matter how limited. 

30 Days of Gratitude: Two are Better than One

Day 3

Today I thank God for the community of believers that I get to do life with.  A life with true friends who are willing to pray for you and lovingly "call you to the carpet" when you need to recognize areas of sin while loving you despite your numerous flaws is a blessing to not take for granted.  Even more, a life with people who are willing to allow you to be a part of their lives by allowing you to see their dirty kitchen & allow you to help when they fall are rare in this culture of independent, photoshopped lives.  

Over the past year, I worried about how my friendships would grow after we moved to a different area of town, but God showed up in big ways to bring people into our lives that I am eternally grateful for and while some of my friendships have changed since we don't see each other as often, I'm thankful for the time that we once shared.  It's amazing how God puts people in your life that leave a lasting influence. 

My amazing friend Emily, who lovingly brought me donuts &
washed my dishes while I was sleep deprived with a newborn. 
Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

 Thank you friends for getting real & keeping my heart warm! 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Faithfulness

Day 2

Posted a day late, but it is totally indicative of the kind of day that I had yesterday.  I woke up in a funk with a headache which set the motion for the day.  Despite my efforts to revive the day, it continued to veer far away from the spirit of gratitude that I was trying to cultivate.  

But isn't that how it usually works?  We depend on our own strength & attempt to "power through." 

I conjured up enough strength to get through the day, but was terribly ungrateful and weary by the time that we arrived at church where we were set to serve in the children's ministry.  Thankfully, God showed Himself faithful & spoke to me there through the children that I was supposed to "teach" & the lesson we were reviewing.  

Despite my failures and lack of faith and dependence, God is still there. Waiting on my to let Him carry my load.  Waiting on Him to fill me with His joy.  He's faithful to complete the good work He has begun. 

I am grateful for his never-ending faithfulness & spirit within me that fills me with all that I need. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Beauty & Toil

Day 1

As I reluctantly prepared to for a day's work of toiling away, I was filled with wonder as soon as I stepped outside.  The wind was blowing, but the temperature was perfect and the skies were an azure blue that contrasted the golden and fiery red leaves in a breathtaking fashion.  

As I continued on my drive, the location changed, but the scenery did not disappoint.  I found myself smiling at the way that the true Autumn season had arrived. 

Just a few miles away from my destination, I saw a sign with Ecclesiastes 3:11 on it.  I just began reading Ecclesiastes this morning & smiled at God's reminder that He created the seasons and loves to bestow His significant beauty upon us. 

The context of this verse is also very timely.  
What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better than for men to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in his toil--this is the gift of God. 
Ecclesiastes 3:9-13 
So as I arrived at my destination, I remembered that doing work as unto God is good & satisfying.


Today I am grateful for God's beauty experienced now & to come, and the opportunity to toil and produce fruit from my labor.  May whatever work you find yourself doing be fruitful & fulfilling, knowing that God created us to find joy in our work.  May you also know that His handiwork, evident during this glorious season can be enjoyed as a marvelous masterpiece. 

30 Days of Gratitude

Through out the month of November, I will share my harvest cultivated from intentional contentment, based upon God's truth in His word evident in my life.   I will link to each post here. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Power of A Story

Yesterday was a day that I looked forward to for almost 20 years.  If I had a bucket list, meeting Dr. Ben Carson would have been on it.  I was introduced to him by my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Wilson.  She read Gifted Hands, a story about a troubled inner-city boy discovering his ability to make big dreams happen despite his circumstances and own challenges, to our class.  This was more than inspiration to me.

As a child of a single mother with three children, I knew that my life was different than my best friend's.  While her mother created beautiful dresses and often volunteered at school, my mom worked long hours in a factory to provide for us and I often wondered where my father was.  I didn't have someone home to go over my homework with me, but like Ben, I enjoyed learning and found school to be an environment where I was challenged to think beyond what was missing at home.  Learning of his mother's encouragement despite her inability to even read the assignments she required reminded me of my mother's encouragement and high expectations, despite her inability to be home when I was doing my school work. She too, valued a strong work ethic and believed that I could do more than I could imagine with enough hard work.

Ben's story is more than just a biography.  It is a calling to be incredible so that you can do extraordinary things to bless others.  As the first surgeon in the world to successfully separate Craniopagus Twins, he used his unique, God-given ability and acquired skills to give a family a chance at life and opened the door for other surgeons to change lives.  This allowed me to see that a diligent, wise and sacrificial spirit didn't just impact me, God could allow to the impact to reverberate far beyond my own abilities.

I remembered his story when, like Ben, my family moved away from my friends.  I remembered his story, when like Ben, I was bullied.  I remembered his story when my step-father was abusive.  I remembered his story when despite graduating at the top of my class, my own choice caused me to become a single mother at 19 and brought on its own set of challenges--ones that could break me or make me stronger.  I remembered God's grace in Ben's life & continued to seek God to be equipped for the purpose that He had for my life.  I remembered that like Ben, despite my brokenness, I am called to finish the race and make an impact.  I remembered his story when I became a mother and knew that despite my own inabilities, God could use me to inspire the life of a child to step up to God's higher calling.

So when I found out that Ben Carson would be in Chattanooga, we had to go to meet him!  Stay tuned for more on Ben Carson's visit to my hometown.

If you don't know Dr. Ben Carson, I would encourage you to read more about Dr. Ben Carson HERE or pick up one of his many books:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Life By Design: Thinking and Marriage

Last year, my life verse was Philippians 4:6

God's word proved to be powerful and comforting at the same time during this season of life.  As I digest the word, I find so much goodness and just a couple of lines down, you can find this other life-giving gem:  

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

This verse has so much goodness in it and I'm sure to unpack it and learn more, as God's Word is living and active.  But this weekend, I utilized it as a tool in our marriage.  

We all get married for different reasons, but most of us choose a partner because we are attracted to something about them.  In our day-to-day lives, we get bogged down by responsibilities and our differences and faults can rise quickly to the surface causing discord and unhappiness. We can look at our spouses as failures and after time, it may seem more attractive to just start over.  Also, we can sometimes see ourselves as failures when we don't feel loved or respected by our spouses.  I admit that I rarely stop and thinking about "whatever is admirable..." or what is "excellent or praiseworthy" in my spouse.  

When I first memorized this verse, I honed in on the "whatever is true" part.  This weekend, after a disagreement with my husband, this verse kept coming up and the part that commands us to think on whatever is admirable, excellent and praiseworthy stood out.  While I knew I was tired, I just became very frustrated with yet another missed expectation.  I had been dwelling on what didn't happen this weekend during an adventurous overnight date that I planned and I became frustrated. Memories of fun and intellectually stimulating conversations in college left me feeling unengaged and unhappy with my current life filled with monotonous routines, conversations centered around feedings, diapers, bedtimes and homework, and the lack of enthusiasm from my husband concerning spontaneous adventures (he was tired too).   I started stewing.  Again, the verse popped in my head.  But then, I was so blinded by my own frustration, I couldn't bring myself to think about anything excellent--only stuff that bothered me.

When my husband returned from the store, I was ready to continue some of the negative communication so that he could see that he needed to be better at _____________ (fill in the blank, I had a list).  But again, I thought about the verse and I asked him what he thought he excelled at.  He stopped in his tracks.  "What do you mean?" he asked.  

"What are you really good at?"

After a few seconds of thought, he named off a few things--then included some things where he could improve.  I interrupted and asked him to only name the excellent things.  He continued, and then I joined in and added just as many.  Within minutes, there was a long wonderful list of how he was awesome.  It's kinda hard to stay mad at somebody awesome.  

Why is it so hard for us to think of our Rockstar spouses when they disappoint us (usually over something trivial)?  For me, it is because I don't make it a habit of thinking about what is excellent.   Also, we sometimes are hard on ourselves due to our own failures and we dwell on these.  These can put us in a funk.  When we both thought about & discussed what was excellent about my husband, it helped him to think about the unique gifts and talents that God has entrusted him with.  He also followed by making me go through the same exercise.  It was lovely.  

Instead of continuing in negative patterns, we effectively trained our brains to think differently.  I am so glad that God uses His Word to remind us about ways we can help ourselves and help others, just by simply thinking.