Tuesday, December 1, 2015

4 Ways to Help Them Know OF Him




1. I LOVE the Jesse Tree Idea. 
I took Anne Voskamps Advent Calendar Printables and some more easily colored Jesse tree Coloring Pages. I had Jack color a few pages and we cut them out and put some ribbon through holes in the top. TWhile walking our dog, Jack and I picked up a few good sticks and then I tied them together with some rope. I put it in a galvanized pail I had, and surrounded the sticks with some leftover Rafia I also had. I found some christmas lights for $2.00 and I helped Jack string his tree with lights.

Then I matched the stories from the Jesse Tree to the Stories in his Storybook Bible. I labeled each story with the corresponding Advent day.

Since we don't have Jack ALL the time, I cut down on some of the stories, and filled the calendar days that we don't have him with bits of chocolate, and craft projects for ornaments he could make. Like a toilet paper crown with scrapbook Sticker Gems for Esthers Crown, and some Rafia and ribbon to make a Bundle of Wheat for Ruth to Hang on the Tree, Some Calendar dates I also put a note in so that he knows what we will be doing the following day, like cutting down a Christmas Tree or Decorating Cookies for the Cookie Social.

I also hid the christ-child that goes in the manger in day 24 of his advent calendar. (He thinks it's a piece of candy and that we lost the Christ Child because he couldn't find it with the other pieces)

He puts an ornament on the tree and then we read the story together. He also enjoys listening to devotionals from Jesus Calling and LOVES to find the scriptures in the Bible and read them out loud. I help him out with the hard words, but for the most part, she picked some 6 year old friendly bible verses.

(Pictures will come when the weather isn't so Dreary and I can get a non-fuzzy pic with my not so awesome camera phone)

I also really like "Truth in The Tinsel." Though it is really hard to do when we only really get good time with The Kid every other week, so it is hard to fit everything in. We did it last year, but are not doing it this year.

2. Wrap 25 Christmas Books Up  
and have your child pick a book every evening to read before they go to bed.

 I tried to mix it up a little bit because The Kid gets a little uneasy when he hears "Too Much" about Jesus. His catch phrase is "Why are we talking about his again?"  Many of the books I dug out of the books my parents read me when I was a kid, the rest of them are books that I borrowed or found at this great Christian Thrift Store $1 for softcover, $2 for Hardcover, BOGO free!!! I scour their Christmas collection every year.

Our Favorite Books Are:
The Littlest Angel 
and
Santa and the Christ Child
Both books take some secular ideas and point us back to Christ. They are great children's classics. I believe The Littlest Angel is also a cartoon on Netflix.

3. Create an Advent Chain
to decorate the house to help us remember who Jesus is. I love this one from Spell Out Loud.

4. Purchase or create an Advent Wreath.
Here is a great tutorial on the Advent Wreath. Reading the scriptures can be a little tedious before you eat dinner, since everyone is hungry and waiting for Sunday dinner. It might be better to do it as a weekly family devotional time.  I think it is SO important to HEAR scripture being read. It makes it come alive, it makes it understandable to big and little ears alike.



I didn't really know about Advent wreaths until I went to college at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame Indiana. They did Chistmas right there! When I came home for Christmas I WANTED an Advent Wreath. My Dad found a beautiful Advent wreath with children of the world holding up ribbons with the themes of advent. I just found one at the thrift store for $8 recently. We usually stick a bigger, more sparkly candle in the center of the wreath and surround it with greenery. That's our Christmas Candle.

Here is something similar to the Advent wreath idea.



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Monday, November 30, 2015

CHRISTmas Traditions to help out the elf on the shelf...or the Grinch.

On Sunday our Pastor tried to make a joke as he was talking about the Adoration of Christ during the Advent Season. He said the month of the December our culture just expects people to talk about Jesus and that, as Christians we should saturate our traditions in the Gospel so that everything we do points to Christ, and then he said, "make the elf on the shelf point to Jesus." No one laughed. Honestly, I think it was more poingent than it was funny. He said, "Our culture has dropped Christ from Christmas because WE have dropped Christ from Christmas"


I LOVE Christmas and I LOVE the movie elf. I LOVE the movie elf ALMOST as much as I love Christmas.


My husband thinks I'm absolutely nuts because I draw in my bible. Granted, I have a Journaling Bible which allows me to work specifically in the margins but...sometimes I draw right over top of the scriptures. I use colored pencils so I can read the text underneath....but he thinks it's insane. He also thinks it's a little anal for me to try to find godly meaning in our Christmas traditions. I am generally given a tight budget to spend on Christmas Ornaments, so my dream of owning Ann Voskamp's "Greatest Gift" Paper Ornaments are pretty much out of financial reason and so is my fantasy of owning hand blown ornaments representing the symbols of the Jesse Tree attached with their perspective bible verses. The hubs thinks hand blown ornaments are "tacky." I tell him he's a Grinch.
 The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

Seriously, our Christmas personalities are like this:

ME

THE HUBS
While the hubs likes to put on a facade that he doesn't quite care, he spends hours cutting out my little Ann Voskamp printables with an exacto knife to finish off our Family Jesse (Christmas)Tree. He sits around the dinning table with me as we ice the sugar cookies and requests Gingerbread Houses to be made just like his mom did.

I really feel like he's secretly like this:

          
             So Cute!
My Hero!

How do we soften our hearts among the presents and the wrapping paper and the cookies and the parties? How do we spend the month pointed towards a helpless baby: The King of Kings. How do we teach our children that what our culture does should have no bearing on what we do in our homes, and how we share the story of the gospel with those God brings us in contact with.

Wouldn't it be great if on Christmas Day our kids were like: 

JESUS!!!!!!!!!! I KNOW HIM!!!!! I KNOW HIM!!!!!!!!

I want the kid to KNOW HIM! KNOW Him know Him. Like "I see you!" in the movie Avatar. 

God WANTS us to Know him like that. He WANTS us to have the same relationship as Adam and Eve had with Him in the garden before the fall.

If I KNEW Him, shouldn't I be SO excited for Christmas? Shouldn't I spend my weeks before Christmas anticipating the arrival of the Christ Child? Shouldn't I celebrate to remember? 

'Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. Exodus 12:14

They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. Psalm145:7 NIV

'Then on the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work, and you shall observe a feast to the LORD for seven days. Number 29:12

Go Tell it On the Mountain
Ummmm....exactly Buddy.

So Christmas comes, and it's okay to be excited about it! It's okay to be excited that the a Child is born to us THIS day, even though it's not THE day. It's our day of remembrance, our memorial, our feasting to the Lord, our eating and our drinking, and our giving. Give abundantly and Cheerfully.
and instead of being anti-materialistic anti-secular anti-X-mas help people feel like:

How do we help our Kids KNOW Him during this Christmas Season?

In the midst of baking cookies, and wrapping presents, and decorating, I want my heart to worship the one who all of this is for, I want to KNOW Him. I want to ENGAGE WITH Him. I want to GLORIFY Him, and I want to GROW to be more Like Him.

Check back in tomorrow for "4 Ways to Help them Know Of Him" and then "4 Ways to Help them Engage with Him" and then "4 Ways to Glorify Him" and finally "4 Ways to be Like Him"



I know this is weird.....but this song could definitely serve as a prayer.


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Friday, June 19, 2015

Scripture on your Wedding Cake.

When you are thinking about your reception, your food, your cake and your decorations, the Grand Display at your wedding is going to be your wedding cake.

Help your baker design a wedding cake for you that both fits into your overall feel for your wedding, and celebrates the promise you just made before God.

Our cake was supposed to be a 3 layer red velvet cake with vanilla frosting. The bottom tier was supposed to look like a warm knit sweater, the second layer was supposed to have polka dots with a swirl of burgundy fondant wrapped around the cake ending in a heart in the middle of the cake, and the top layer was supposed to read

"Knit together in Love" Col 2:2 with an M in the middle of it. The Kid said that the M should not be in cursive so that he could read it. :)

Well, since the cake fiasco, I didn't think I was going to have my lovely cake, but some extra lovin' from my Dad and Aunt and God's hand through some ladies I have never met made this possible:


It's only missing the yarn heart.  Notice the transforming flying out of the cake? That was for The Kid. He was kind of upset they had to break his legs off to get him in. :P

Here are some examples of beautiful wedding cakes that incorporate God's word.
Click on the pictures to find the original posts.

I love the subtlety of  this one!

This one is similar, but with scripture a little more pronounced.




This one doesn't have scripture on it, but it was an inspiration for the wedding cake I designed for my wedding. I love the quiet simplicity of it!

Think about your theme, and your base scripture you are using for your wedding. Gather inspiration and share it with your cake baker.
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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When God Showed Up to My Wedding: Part IV My Cake Fell Over

So here's the story:

I wanted my wedding Cake from the Cakery Bakery. They have THE BEST cake in the entire world! The frosting, I'm sure, is the kind of frosting the angels put on cakes in heaven. DELICIOUS!

I ordered a Red Velvet Wedding Cake with Creamy White Vanilla Icing. A fondant burgundy yarn was going to wrap around the cake and end in a little heart. The top layer of the cake was going to have the Bible verse we had picked out piped onto it with a big M in the middle.

The bottom of the cake was going to look like a creamy knit sweater.



I saw my cake for 5 minutes. I was IN LOVE with it and couldn't wait for the next day when I would walk into the reception room and cut a little piece off and feed it to my new husband as the cake was whisked away to be sliced for the rest of the guests at our reception.

This, however was not to be.

My cake fell over.

After I had been snapped at throughout the day by my mom. After my aunt was late to our house and hadn't called me and I was running late to check out the flowers, after packing a van full of unnecessary snacks and things I wasn't expecting, after a looong car ride with my grandma, after finding out that my wedding planner AND her assistant were not available, and my promised time of being able to load in and decorate the night before had fallen through...after finding a closet to be alone and freak out in...for a bit....after being almost an hour late to my rehearsal dinner....

My Dad and my aunt flagged the car down. My aunt got out of the car and started talking.

"You're not going to like this...."

*Sigh*

My cake had fallen over. My aunt was driving. My dad was holding the cake carefully....carefully through the resort. As they hit the last unexpected speed bump a little too fast....the cake came crashing into my Dad....he tried to catch it but he just succeeded in squashing it a little more.

My girlfriends ran inside to see if they could do some damage control. Could they fix it?....

I'm guessing it was pretty bad 'cause I wasn't allowed to see it.

I completely lost it! I had had an amazing morning....and everything had pretty much gone downhill since lunch....except my flowers. My flowers were A-MAZING and I LOVED my flowers. I bawled my eyes out....we were now 2 hours late for dinner and I could NOT get ahold of The Hubs.

It's one of those things you know? It's a wedding! Wedding CAKE is mandatory! You dream about it your WHOLE life since you are little. You have cakes at other weddings judging if it's melt in your mouth good enough for your own wedding.

This ENTIRE process I had been praying AND PRAYING that God would show up to my wedding. I did not know what that would look like, but it CERTAINLY did not look like this....

Or did it?

I don't think I will ever be able to comprehend or appreciate how much certain people love me, how much GOD loves me through certain people. I am thoroughly convinced that the night before my wedding was HORRIBLE so that God could take over my entire wedding day into Himself, to have His own quiet time with me, while he loved me and The Hubs through others attentive hands.
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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dancing

I teach at an Arts Academy. My sixth graders had been working on a play that included a little dancing....more accurately...a little "Tango."



I am not much of a dancer. Besides the fact that I tend to be highly uncoordinated, and have had some unfortunate run-ins with dance instructors and choreographers, I was brought up in a strict legalistic church where dancing was considered a sin. It kind of stunts your growth in the skillz department when your church teaches you are going to hell for it. I always felt I was born to be a tap-dancer.....but anyway...

I asked one of the choreographers where I work to come in for a couple days to work with my kids to teach them how to Tango. The kids loved it! But as I observed the choreographer teaching the kids how to dance together, I found myself wishing that my 6th graders would take what they are learning from their mini tango lesson, and apply it to their future marriage relationships.

My favorite date John has ever taken me on was to go swing dancing. He knew I loved swing dancing, and it was 100% out of his comfort zone.....but he did the research, and took me. It was so much fun! And even then, as I was helping to teach my future husband how to swing dance, I was being taught the lessons of our collaborative relationship.

We've been married for 8 mos. now, we are moving into a new apartment and we irritate each other to no end. Sometimes I wonder how I can respect someone who doesn't treat me with love, and I'm sure that John sometimes wonders how he can love someone who doesn't treat him with respect.

I wonder what it looks like to respect someone, to help someone be a good leader in a relationship, without becoming the lead myself.

And then I look back to the swing dancing lessons, and the tango lesson taught to my sixth graders by my colleague.

A good dance partner makes dancing easy.

The man leads. He does not pull or, jerk, or yank. He gently guides with a pressing of the hand on the small of the back, a gentle motion from the palm of the hand. Both dance in step. The woman, submits to the motions of the man, because if she goes the wrong way, and tries to do her own thing, they end up stepping on each others toes, or getting tangled up in arms and limbs.

But we have to spend hours upon hours of training to get this right in dancing, and I'm sure near a lifetime to get this right in marriage.

It is so difficult to submit when someone is pulling and yanking. It hurts. And it is hard to lead when the other is doing their own thing and going their own way. But when both are working together in tandem, leading and submitting, collaborating, it is a beautiful, fun, breathtaking experience.

The Hubs and I are not very good at this yet. Like our dance lessons, we are clumsy, trying to learn new steps, where hands and feet go, when the next turn is. Sometimes I have to remind him how to lead. At our lessons I was much more patient than I am at home. I would tease, or gently guide his hand back to the small of my back, and readjust our hand positions. At home I get impatient, it is easier to decide to do things myself because I have gotten by on my own for so long.

But if I do things myself, we both get hurt. When he tries to abruptly yank me in the direction he wants to go, I get hurt. It isn't fun anymore.

I look forward to a time when our relationship resembles a more mature one.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; 
Psalm 30:11

I look forward to a day, when our marriage is a full expression of joy, and a reflection of God's love. 


This is The Hubs Aunt and Uncle. They participated in a Tedx and their talk and illustration are way more eloquent, and experienced than anything I could say on the matter:




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Monday, March 2, 2015

When God Showed Up to My Wedding Part III: 4 Ways to Keep God in the Center of Your Engagement

So the Hubbs and I met on Christian Mingle.

I don't necessarily recommend dating websites. 
      A) In my experience, most people are on dating websites for a reason.
      B) It's a little weird when you run into friends of friends, and co-workers, and church family members that you've been "matched" with....
      C) It kind of bothers me that people can't be "normal" in "real life" and just ask someone out on a            date without a "long term" commitment in fear of ruining a relationship
      D) Refer to A

I'm not going to belabor the process that I had worked on while online dating, but basically this is what happened. 

I moved back to St. Louis and was a host mother to 6 girls in a home that I lived. I basically saw 6 teenaged girls, and the other woman I lived with 24/7. I didn't really have any friends left in St. Louis, and I REALLY needed to get out of my house. So I got on Christian Mingle to go out on non-committal dates.....
                             ......and then I met the Hubs.

He was actually the first "long term"  longer than a 5 month relationship I had ever had. AND I wasn't begging God to help me get out of the relationship by the first month.

When we met online, we talked about God's grace and forgiveness.

I prayed constantly about our dating relationship. I prayed about my fears. The things that bothered me, the things that I fell in love with. Every "red flag" that popped up, I prayed about, and without me even asking, the hubs (then boyfriend) brought it up on his own, and the answer was ALWAYS better than I could accept. I prayed that God would not let me fall in love with someone who was not intended for me. I prayed that the Hubbs would not take the place of God in my life. 

When he started talking about getting married, I asked him to go to a Christian pre-marital counselor with me. He humored me.

It just so happened that our church offered pre-engagement counseling. I didn't trust my own feelings. I wanted someone to hear our story, and witness our relationship, and be honest enough to say, "This does not look godly." To pray over us. 

The Hubs attended church with me and got to know my friends and family. 

We rarely prayed together except for over meals and at church. (I think praying is a deeply personal matter, and should be kept within the confines of family and girlfriend-ships until you are engaged.)

I hesitate to make the comment of "unless led by the Holy Spirit" because we can so often kid ourselves into believing that we are "Led" when really, we are led by ourselves because we want something that God hasn't intended for us. 

There were maybe two or three occasions before the Hubbs and I were engaged where I felt led to pray for him with my hands wrapped around him. They were times when I sensed repressed pain, and it was actually LESS vulnerable for me to pray OVER him than to try to talk with him about secrets that were not, at the time, meant for me to hear. 

Once we got engaged, we continued pre-marital counseling and started pre-marital class with our church. We attended mini-devotionals with the pastor who was going to officiate our wedding.

I think it's important to have someone ask you questions that do not come up in "normal conversation."

People should be discussing things like Finances, Conflict, Sex, Personality Differences, and Communication styles with you.

You should be discussing your hopes and dreams for the future.

You should be discussing your relationship with the Lord. Look for devotionals or Bible studies your can do together.

A book The Hubs and I found extreamly helpful was "101 Questions to Ask Before you Get Engaged" We started going through the book as a kind of devotional about a month into our dating relationship. I have recommended it to everyone I know who is in a semi-serious relationship. Basically, by the 20th question, you will know if you should part ways or not.

Engagement is the time to begin praying with your significant other, and to be very careful about the parts of your heart that you expose to other non-family males in your life.

Once I was committed to The Hubs, certain conversations did not seem appropriate to have with other males anymore. Not that they were inappropriate in and of themselves, but my relationships with males in my life started to change. I became acutely aware of how close certain conversations brought me to other people. This is a time to grow closer to the man you are going to spend the rest of your life with.

The Engagement and Wedding planning period is the beginning of the time that you start to become one, emotionally and spiritually and on your wedding night, physically.


In a nutshell:



1. Keep Praying, Pray for each other and together, Pray for your future marriage.

2. Have others (who are not afraid of alienating you) observe and subjectively examine your relationship.

3. Attend Christian Pre-marital classes and/or counseling

4. Begin to save your personal conversations for your future husband.


The night The Hubs proposed. 

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Dedicated to Ferguson


Our church's version of Nothing But the Blood. 


God, heal our city. 
Let us know peace, through grace and forgiveness.
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Nobody's Perfect


I was sleeping on the sofa Sunday morning...trying to squeeze in an extra five minutes to my 2 and a half hours night of sleep.

I heard a little voice who had just gotten into trouble.

"Nobody's perfect Dad. Not even God." 

I opened my eyes, curious how this conversation would go. I DESPERATELY wanted to declare the truth to the five year old, but I was barley coherent, besides, I wanted to see what the Hubs would say.

"Why do you think God isn't perfect?" The Hubs asks, ignoring the fact that The Kid is trying to get out of trouble.

"'Cause nobody is. So God can't be."

"Hmmmm." The Hubs replied, not wanting to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

I closed my eyes trying to hang on to the last moments before I had to roll off the couch and take a shower, to get ready for church.

The declaration bothered me. I couldn't let it go as easy as the Hubs could.

Later that afternoon The Kid and I were running a few errands together and I reminded him what he said that morning.

"Do you remember what you told your dad this morning, about God not being perfect?"

"Uh-huh."

"Well, you should know that God IS perfect. It's very important that He's perfect."

"Why?"

Oh to explain to you the things that God reveals to us in our journey to Him. My heart cried out to his.

"Because it's important to know that God does not make mistakes. It's important to know that He loves us perfectly, and that we can always trust Him. We know He is perfect, because the Bible tells us that He is perfect."

I wanted to take him home and open the bible and find all the bible verses that declare God's perfection, holiness and righteousness.

I wanted to show him the verses that tell us how good God is, and how we are to be holy as we are holy....but we can't, because all fall short of the glory of God....

                                                                                              and so we need Jesus.

 "Nobody is perfect, Dad"........
                                              but Christ.

Christ, the perfect sacrificial lamb. The perfect one, without spot or blemish, if God is not perfect, his sacrifice would not and could not be eternal. His love would not and could not be everlasting. I would not and could not be saved.

Of course, as with all little boys, when he got in the house he wanted to wrestle with his dad and play cars.

I can't wait for the day when he wrestles with his Heavenly Father and seeks truth in His perfect word.



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When God Showed up to my Wedding Part II: Saving Yourself for Marriage

*Mom, and Cheryl, if you are reading my blog, please don't read this post :)*

The first time I had sex was on my wedding night.



Inevitably, if someone knows you long enough, or is nosy enough, if you are unmarried, the subject of sex is going to come up. 

....and inevitably, someone is going to ask you if you are a virgin.

and if you are you will get some variation of one of two comments.  
"Whoa! I don't even understand how that is even POSSIBLE!"
OR
"Wow! That's cool, I don't think I could do it, but that's really admirable" 

My husband and I have had several conversations about our struggles with sex through our lives, and ultimately, it always comes down to misunderstandings about sex and God's design for marriage.

Some of this post is going to be written by the hubs. His writing will be in blue.

To be honest, I didn't really have a conception of what "struggling with sex" meant until I was in college. In high school I wasn't really allowed to date, and I just wasn't in the mind frame.

In college, I was inundated with exposure. It was depressing when my girlfriends were out with their boyfriends Friday nights, while I was drafting, or reading or making s'mores over the burner on the oven in the basement.

I think that's when I really started to feel entitled; when I felt like God was giving everyone else something that I wanted, but He was denying it of me.

It was hard to watch romantic movies and listen to popular music without feeding the fire so to speak. Sometimes I would cry myself to sleep at night, angrily praying to God, or begging Him to give me the things I most desired.

When you believe you're entitled, you open the door to sin.(AGREED!)

When I started dating, it was a constant struggle to "keep myself" physically pure. I would tell you that, only by the mercy of God, did I make it to meeting my future husband without physically having sex.

I didn't save myself, God preserved me.

For me, I had to keep telling myself that my virginity cannot be taken away from me, * and it's the only thing I can prepare to honor my husband on our wedding night...

but when I was feeling entitled, I would think...."I'm not even going to HAVE a wedding night....so why does it matter?"

      "Sex!" The first words I would say on stage to a bunch of teenagers listening to a presentation. It is an attention grabbing, powerful, controversial, take sides and stand by it kind of subject. Sex is fun. Sex is science. Sex is a gift. Sex is great. My experiences with sex, in general, started with band in sixth grade. Ripped out pages of Playboy being passed around. Eighth grade, eaves dropped conversations between classmates. High school, and the great '.com' era, internet exposure. In a sense, I was an addict before I even left high school. 
      Sex also ruined my first marriage. It was my selfish actions, self serving, self centered-ness that didn't serve my (ex) wife. My concern was not for her, and that makes me sad, to reflect and see how selfish I was. 
       Sex is something we do and there is a formula, a recipe, an instruction booklet on sex. (It's called the bible.)Within marriage, with your spouse that you are married to, and not prior. Period. Sex is not (but is unfortunately) about one's own personal agenda. It is about loving your spouse in the manner that they feel loved.



Many of us"Echo Boomers" came from parents and churches who either did not talk about sex at all, or treated sex as a chore or duty, and otherwise, something that was "dirty" and "sinful." That way of thinking is contrary to God's word.

First Corinthians 7:5 tells us to only withhold sex from each other in times of fasting and prayer.

So many times we hear of spouses (especially women) withholding sex from their husbands as a punishment, or using sex as currency, "If you rub my back, and make me dinner I'll have sex with you."

Sex is a physical manifestation, an outpouring, of your love for your spouse. A realization that coming together as one may overflow into a "mini-me," a living, walking testament of your love for one another.

One of our pre-marital counselors illustrated it this way; Sex isn't in the act, it's in the way of being with your spouse. It's in the way you make each other breakfast in the morning, it's in the way you greet each other when you come home from work.

 I had come to grips with the fact that sex wasn't dirty, and it wasn't bad, but it was ONLY intended within the sanctity and holiness of marriage. There's this amazing illustration of the holy trinity within the framework of intimacy in marriage. As the father, son and holy spirit are one, so are God and a believing husband and wife.

At the same time that sex is this outpouring of love, it's also a covering of protection. Sex is an animal instinct, a basic primal need. If you are not selflessly fulfilling that need for your spouse, you are making it VERY difficult for them not to look for a fulfillment of that need elsewhere.

You are to ONLY become one with your spouse. Having sex outside of marriage is not only committing adultery against your future spouse, it is also committing adultery against God. You are choosing something other than God to fill up His space in your heart, and so cannot be content living in His ways.

I read a horror story posted on Facebook of  a woman who waited until marriage to have sex and she was traumatized the night of her wedding. As I was reading it, it reminded me of a few of the "chat rooms" I had browsed while digesting the fact that I was about to become a step-mom. This woman was NOT communicating with her future husband, and did NOT communicate with him through her adjustment of thinking, which was problem number 1. Problem number 2 was that the perspective she had on sex, that had been affirmed through her mothers teaching, and through the teaching of the church, was not God's teaching! And number 3, she was being incredibly selfish. The marriage shortly ended in divorce.

 I was talking with the hubs about having sex months before we got married. I told him what I was worried about, what I was looking forward to, what I wanted our wedding night to look like, what I didn't want our wedding night to look like. I also communicated with him that I wasn't even sure I WANTED to have sex on our wedding night because it kinda freaked me out a little that it felt like everyone was expecting us to. WEIRD! (People aren't supposed to KNOW that you had sex last night RIGHT?!)

You are entering into a great unknown, and yes it can be a little scary beforehand, but really, I've been learning that things are less scary than you imagine them to be, and the fear factor is cut down by about 60% when you open your mouth and talk about it with your significant other.

God's way can be difficult, but I'm here to tell you that God's way is not wrong, God's way is beautiful, and good, enjoyable and FUN! God's way isn't about you, and how you feel, it's about serving the other person. If you are both mutually serving each other, sex is going to be amazing!

The entire book of Songs is riddled with sexual innuendo's and metaphors, some more explicit than a romance novel.

The hubs and I joke that a one night stand could never look like they look on T.V. Sex gets better with communication, and learning about each other. The flopping in bed looking up at the ceiling, not being able to breath (I'm thinking of Big Bang Theory with Penny and Leonard here) is not going to happen when you are dating someone (or married to someone) that you feel a continuous need to impress in order to keep them.

Good sex is going to come when you feel comfortable, and are not self-conscious; naked and vulnerable (both literally and physically) in front of your spouse. The master bedroom should feel like the cool of the evening in the Garden of Eden, "naked and not ashamed." (Genesis 2:25)

That was God's intention for man and wife.

If you ARE having sex outside of marriage. God want's you to stop. Turn from your sin, ask for forgiveness and wait for God's good and perfect timing.




* I want to make sure that it is clear that I do not believe that sexual assault would cause anyone's virginity to be "ruined." It is not something you gave up, it is something that is stolen FROM you. If you have experienced sexual assault, I pray that you have  the courage to tell someone and are getting help, and that you are currently experiencing love and support all around you.



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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

When God Showed up to My Wedding Part I: Singleness and Idolatry

I'm 31 years old. I was married 3 months ago. 
My first kiss (and first boyfriend) was at the age of 21. 



 I want to encourage single woman who are considered "older" in the Christian culture. When they are reading blogs and books about singleness written by women who agonized over being single through their high school and college years, and were married before they hit their mid 20's ,and who are kindly offering their advice through that time, I don't want to belittle or make light of their attempts of encouragement, but when you get to be in your late 20's, into your 30's it actually begins to have the opposite affect than what your intention is....

It starts to become DIScouraging. 

It's not that I want them to stop writing, I just want them to stop writing about the length of time they've been waiting, and I want to read a book about female singleness that doesn't feel like it was written geared towards high school and college aged young women.

I was 21 when I received my first kiss. 21 before I had my first boyfriend. The late age of my dating experience was not out of choice, but out of my desperate heart and idolatrous longing for  marriage, it started a cycle of dating that lead to my deepest sins, broken before God. 

Strange how your "badness" leads you to God and his goodness.....

I did dating the wrong way. I would date men that showed interest in me, and tried to do everything within my power, short of giving up my virginity to keep them, and inevitably they would leave. 

It was the strangest type of leaving.

Not an, "This isn't working out..." kind of leave. The majority of them just disappeared. 

Selfishness on their part...maybe? 

Idolatry on mine? Yes. 

Mercy from God. Most definitely. 



One of my friends made the connection one day between her miscarriage/infertility and unwanted singleness.

Can I just dispel a rumor for a second? If you are unwillingly single, there is nothing wrong with you.

Not a thing.

You did not choose to be single. Just like women who want to conceive, and can't, you did not make a choice.

Your longing is real, and it is not foolish. The longing was put there by God.

However, be careful that marriage does not become an idol.

"There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus."
Blaise Pascal
You can read my Faith Story *here.* I want to tell you why I was curled up on my floor that long night when I cried out to God. 

I was lying on my floor because once again, after less than five months, a boyfriend had disappeared. It was the strangest thing that always seemed to happen. We were getting along great, I tended to break the "I'm a Virgin" news relatively early to give them a way out....
and then five months or less later....most of them left without a word. No phone calls, no notes, nothing. I don't think I ever thought I would MARRY these guys, at least that conversation only came up once...I wasn't even sure I actually WANTED to get married.

 I felt SO entitled to what wanted, because God wasn't giving it to me fast enough, I decided to play god of my own life.

I gave to dogs what is holy, I cast my pearls before swine. I did not bring my husband good ALL the days of my life.

 I'm not saying that my past boyfriends were bad guys, they just were not ready for what God was making holy.

Then one day I thought I had found "The One," He was a sweet guy who never made an advance that would put me in the way of temptation. We would go on mini day trips to historic places around the area and discover new spots. We would cook together...he was the only guy I had ever dated that I had prayed that God would make him break up with me....but he left anyway.

And God made me holy through every one of those relationships. If I had not been through every disastrous, beautiful mess, I would have not been curled up on the floor in the fetal position that night.

I was left broken. That night I promised God that I would spend a year, in singleness, so that I could spend the time with Him that I had been spending haphazardly dating.

I don't believe that God's ideal for us is to be constantly heart broken. Our fragile heart should only be held by three men; God, your daddy, and your husband. I don't believe that we need "experience" in dating to be a good mate for others. I actually think that the "practice" in dating makes becoming a committed, long term mate harder, because with so many hardened wounds, we become more guarded, less prepared to be vulnerable. 

The nights I would have gone out on a date, I reserved for time with God. I would make a nice meal, turn on worship music, light a candle...and get to know Him better.

Once the year was up, I asked God to lead me in dating. 1 year became 2 years and 2 years became 3 years, I had moved to two different states, and while I had gone on a few "dates" I had not kissed, or engaged in a  committed relationship with anyone. 

It was a very different feeling than the first half of my dating life. I wasn't looking to be fulfilled by anyone else's love for me. My roots began to run deep in the Lord. I would not go out on a date with a non-Christian, and I was growing into a comfortableness with my singleness. 

While the longing in my heart to have a family was still there, the "God Hole" in my heart was being filled with God, instead of with men, and I was content. 

In the meantime I read. I read everything I could get my hands on, not about singleness anymore, but about being a Proverbs 31 woman, and about building a sacred, godly marriage.

My view of marriage began to change. I became convinced that even if I wasn't married to a man, in my commitment that I made to Christ in my baptism, I was a part of the bride of Christ, and as such I needed to figure out what marriage, according to God, was supposed to look like. 

Not having a significant other, allowed God to open up opportunities for me to know Him better, that I would have not have learned as well, or in the way I needed to, had I been yolked with another.

If  "all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28) And what is good for you, is the glory of God, then wherever you are; whether in singleness or "coupleness" or "mamaness," you have been placed there for a reason. You have an area to grow in to become more like Jesus, your situation will ultimately bring glory to the Lord, you will grow closer to the heart of God, and know Him better. 


I know how hard it is to wait on the Lord. "Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!" He has a plan for you "plans for welfare[a]and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

If you are single, or infertile, or just feel like you are in a period of waiting and longing. If you are crying in the night for God to hear you....let me reassure you He is listening, and He is hearing. 

Use this time to draw near to him. Cry your heart out. Be vulnerable and open to Him. Tell Him how much it hurts, and how you are angry. Confess your entitlement, and lay your heart, bare before Him.

Tell Him what plagues your heart. He will not give you a stone when you ask for bread, or a snake if you ask for fish. He will give you good things if you ask Him! (Mathew 7:9-11) 

Trust in him at all times, pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge! (Psalm 62:8) Run to your heavenly father with your broken heart. Bury yourself in his arms. Take refuge and heal! 

(Stay tuned for Part II of Inviting God to Your Wedding)


There are a couple GREAT books about singlness out there:

Check out a few of other posts about singleness on my old blog "The (re)Education of the Feminine Soul"
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Monday, February 16, 2015

32 Ways to Celebrate Lent in 2015

God usually leads me to some sort of intentional worship of Him throughout the season of Lent. While what you choose to do is between you and God, and maybe your husband or a close mentor, it's always nice to have some ideas at the ready to consider and pray over. 

Check out my previous post for a little more information about Lent. 

Fasting 40 Days (Fasting and Prayer)

Forty Days for 1,000 Days
Daniel Fast (This actually takes a lot of preparation) 
40 Days on the Makers Diet

Prayer

40 Days of Prayer for Survivors of Sex Trafficking
Book of Common Prayer
Prayer Walking
Transform your Mornings
Read a Book
9. Devotional
10. iLent.org
11. Sacred Holidays

Praise

12. 40 Days of Worship Music 
13. Write in a Gratitude Journal
14.40 Days of Beauty Treatments to Honor Gods Temple: Your Body

Giving

15.40 Days of Community
16. Love 146
17.Habitat for Humanity
18. Give of Your Gifts
19. Give of Your Cooking
20. Give of Your Time

For the Kidinkles

21. Create a Forgiveness and Fresh Start Place
22. Easter Passion Tree
23. Lenten Prayer Garden
24.A Repentance Box
25. Resurrection Tree
26. Hands on Experience of the Resurrection 
27. DIY Resurrection Eggs
28. Kindness Jar
29. An Easter Garden
30. Countdown to Easter
31. Un-Easter Baskets
32. Memory Verses for Kids
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Sunday, February 15, 2015

40 Days: The Passover of the Lamb

God loves celebrations! He loves weddings! He loves holidays! He loves rest!

Jesus celebrated every Festival that God appointed in Leviticus 23.

 I love Lent and Advent, more than the Holidays that they lead up to. I love the stretch of time between "forgetting" and "remembering."

When I was young I was aware that Lent existed, but was not aware that I was inadvertently partaking.

I just knew it was that time when we had mac and cheese and fish sticks....A Lot. But I liked Mac and Cheese and fish sticks....A LOT, so it didn't really dawn on my 10 year old mind that it was Friday and it usually happened right before Easter. 

You see, it was a secret. It was a secret kept for two reasons. 1) I was not allowed to partake in such "Catholic" celebrations as my father, and 2) my dad would repeat "your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."(Mathew 6:18)

I have no idea what my father did all those years during Lent, was never aware what he was choosing to "give up," he did it quietly, in secret, not inconveniencing anyone but himself...

In college, you could smell the fish all over campus during lent. It kind of made me not want to eat fish EVER again...but besides the potent smell of fish, and the posts in the elevator about Mass.....again...there was this quiet stillness about Lent. 

Lent is not a period in time that is dictated in the bible as a celebration, it is a time that falls within the Liturgical calendar that is 40 days before Easter. 

Lent is an acknowledgement of the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the dessert in preparation of his ministry. 

40 days.

40 days and nights that Noah and his family floated in a zoo, the sins of the world washed away in a flood.

The 400 years of slavery the Jews suffered in Egypt, until the night of Passover when the Lord passed over the homes with the doorposts marked with the blood of the lamb. 


The Feast of the Passover; "the day of Unleavened Bread,on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed" (Luke 22:7) the night that Jesus' sweat fell like drops of blood, the night The Lamb was betrayed, given up to death by his disciple, and denied  3 times by his best friend. 


The night before the Messiah was crucified.


The sins of the world washed away in His blood. 


The Passover that the Jews celebrated, that Jesus celebrated...the perfect lamb that was slaughtered, the doors painted red...the blood that flows over us...the Lords judgement that passes over us.

The 40 years that the Israelites wandered the dessert waiting for God to open The Promised Land to them.


And on the 3rd day...

on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Ex. 19:11

*(on the third day) God raised him * and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. Act 10:40-41

As opposed to Advent- the time of longing, the waiting for the King to be born unto us. 

  • Lent is a time of heaviness.
  • A time of preparation for the Passover of the Lord. 
  • A time of denial, but this time of self.  

The beginning of Lent is a celebration of Ash Wednesday, which this year lands on February 18th.

Prepare for the Passover of the Lamb

This Lent,
Deny yourself, and take up your cross, walk with Him to Calvary. 


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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Things I learned about Dating...while dating God. #2

2. Honor your Father and Mother

I don't know that I'm a huge fan of the "courting" concept. Especially when you are out of high school, moving on to college, or a full grown adult, "courting" is not practical, but honoring your father and your mother is.



When I was in grad school, I had a roommate who was from India. As I was embarking on my journey into dating, we would drink tea and discuss our relationship situations. She would tell me about her families concept of arranged marriages, and I would tell her of my crazy current boyfriend...my heart longing somewhat for the safety and love that surrounded her future.

Choosing a spouse is (or at least should be) the second greatest decision you make in your whole life. (The first should be your acceptance of Christ as your savior) and at 21 I was not mature enough to handle this one on my own.....but I was too embarrassed of the situation to really allow my parents in on the process.

By the time I was thirty, I decided that was EXACTLY what I needed, and not only did I want my parents in on the process, I wanted my closest friends and mentor in on the process as well. I did not trust myself to not create an idol out of a man, and I knew that people who probably loved me, more than I loved myself, are going to be looking out for me.

I told my future husband that I would not consider him a "boyfriend" and would not be committed to him, until my parents met him. I wasn't too concerned about my parents giving him permission to date me, I just wanted them to be active in my dating life.

The hubs agreed, and went one step further. He said he wanted to confess to my parents his sins, and he wanted to make sure my Dad was okay that we were dating....AND he wanted me to meet his parents.

I was a grown woman, not living at home, but every other Sunday afternoon the hubs would have dinner with me at my parents house.

A couple months later, our parents met each other.

My parents got to know the hubs, and I knew when my father walked me down the aisle that he was completely confident, that the man standing at the altar was going to care for my heart.

Honor your parents in your dating relationship. You belong to three men in your life, God, your daddy, and your husband. If you are not including God and your Dad (and/or your mom) in your relationship with your dating partner, you need to stop what your doing.

Some parents do not feel comfortable "getting involved" with your life, especially your dating life. They might actually need the verbal permission and invitation from you.


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Friday, February 13, 2015

Things I learned about Dating...while dating God. #1

While I was on "sabbatical" from dating, I intentionally took the time out I would have been spending on dates, to spend time with the Lord.

A while back ago a read a book by Rabbi Shmuley called "Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments"  I think everyone should read it. It's not just about dating, it's about relationships. Relationships with significant others, relationships with spouses, friends, and with God.

Over the next few days I am going to touch on a few pieces of dating advice I learned while spending time alone with God.



#1 Follow the First Commandment.

The Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  Mark 12:30
and the first four Commandments clarify this: 
1.You shall have no other God's before me
2. You shall not make idols
3. You shall not take the Lords name in Vein.
4. Remember the Sabath day and keep it holy

Above all, keep God the center of everything you do. Pray when you meet someone. Pray before you go on a first date, pray before you go on every date after that, and pray when your date is over. Continuously check in with God. Allow Him to have a say in your dating life. If the person you are dating is not in similar place as you are with God, you need to be very cautious about moving deeper into a relationship. If God is not the center of their life, they will not appreciate the fact that God is the center of yours. 

Our culture insists that our dating partners are to take over our world. Our thoughts, and our plans. If you are the middle of this situation, if your time with God is being pushed to the side because of another person, if you are seeking out someone else's comfort and leaving out God, you have created an idol of another person.

This will ALWAYS lead to heart ache. An imperfect person can not fill the spot in your heart that God was meant to fill. 

God WANTS to be your match maker. The most romantic stories in the bible were orchestrated by God; Adam and Eve, Isaac and Rebecca, Ruth and Boaz...




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