Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Waiting and Watching

The past few days, something has been weighing heavily on my heart.  I can't pin-point it yet.  But I do know that it's related to God about to move in my life.

I started a study last week over at Good Morning Girls and we are reading Anything by Jennie Allen during this bible/book study.  Her book is based on a prayer that her and her husband prayed a few years ago.  God we will do anything.  Anything."

Jennie says "I believe that like every generation before us, we have an opportunity to see God move in our midst… to surrender in such a way that we would turn the head and heart of God. He waits for surrendered lives, and he finds them, he floods them. I want to be a part of that."

My husband and I have been on quite the journey the past few years.  Things have happened - a lot of not so good things. (There have been plenty of good things in between too.)  During every trial, I have found myself leaning more heavily on God.  And I'm learning every day to surrender to Him more and more.

I come from a long line of strong women.  Head strong and determined women.  Naturally, I am a person who finds a way to get things done all on my own.  And for years, all of my problems have been "do-able" in my own might.  Sure, I would talk to God if something was weighing me down.  I would ask for direction and guidance.  And I thought at the time I was doing okay.  But recent years have turned my ways of thinking completely around and upside down.  I have faced things (and some are still looming) that I cannot fix or control.  And for the life of me, I cannot on my own accord come up with an answer or a solution.

I feel like God has been using these trials to discipline me and open my eyes to my own failures and shortcomings.  I can't do it alone.  I need Him.  And I can now see that without Him, I would have never been able to endure some of these trials.  Some of the trials had a very real possibility of ripping apart every bit of my life and my family.  During one point, I remember literally yelling at God "Why me?  What have I done to deserve this?  I can't do this!  I can't handle this pain!"  And oh boy, did He quickly let me know that I would endure it and I would survive.  And then He started working in my heart pointing out what I needed to work on in my own life.  Ouch!

And now I feel something.  Something looming.  God is about to move.  I wait with anticipation on His timing wondering what it will be.  And I pray that my heart will be open and receptive so I don't miss it.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Titus 2:11-14 NIV
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Self control.  No to worldly passions.  More than ever, I'm seeing excess is sin.

Monday, April 29, 2013

On to the Organizing!

We have spent the last two weeks working on tossing things out and lightening the load.  The older I get, the more I realize that less is best.

Although I have plenty more to go through in our home, I think it's time to move on to Schedule 2 on organizing our homes.  I will personally continue tossing things out as I start organizing and gaining some much needed order in our home.  Organization is not my strong suit but it sure does make things easier when I am organized.

Titus 2:4-5 NIV
Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Different versions use different words, but this verse is very clear that we as women are in charge of keeping our homes.  Now this doesn't mean other family members don't have to do anything around the house!  We should get everyone involved.  And organizing our homes so everything has a place will make it so much easier for everyone to put things back in their place.

So what do you already do now to keep areas organized?  If you have the gift of organization,  please share with those of us (me!!) that are organizationally challenged.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

So how did it go?

How did Day One of tossing out 25 things go for everyone?  Any tips to share or stories to encourage?

Darlene gives 4 guidelines in this chapter to consider when you are deciding on things to toss.  I encourage you to read over these and keep these things in mind this week as you go through your belongings.

Yesterday, I started in my kitchen.  I know I pulled out more than 25 things to get rid of, and I still need to go through a few more things.  But I can see a major improvement already.  For now, Darlene says to focus on the 25 things.  You can always go back to that room later.  The goal is to lighten your load right now.  So today I will tackle our master bedroom.  It needs some major decluttering!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Let's Lighten the Load

Today we start Schedule One - Toss Out 25 Things.

Last week I said we will go through each room of the house this week and toss out 25 things from each room.  I know some rooms may not have 25 things to toss out, but really be thorough in lightening your load.  If you have kids, get them involved.  I know both of my kids have plenty to go through in several rooms of our house!

Let's remember these verses this week as we are going through our wordly possessions:

Matthew 6:19-21 NIV
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.    But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.    For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Luke 16:13 NIV
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chapter 16 Conclusion - "Submission Isn't Permission"

Ephesians 5:22-24 NIV
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

This last section covers what submission isn't.  It's not a license to be controlling to the point of manipulation or coercion.  With her own personal experience, I think Darlene did a great job discussing this and I will use mostly her words in this post.

"According to my understanding of scripture, the chain of command looks like this:

1. God
2. The Law
3. The Husband
4. The Wife
5. Their Children

Within that chain of command we are given a set of boundaries that must line up with scripture and the ultimate will of God. When we step out of that plan, we step out of the chain of command. Because I am in authority over my children, I do not have the right to abuse them or break the law. I am under submission to God, the law and to my husband, and therefore my sphere of authority is dictated by such."

1 Peter 2:13-14 NIV
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

"Those rules dictate his boundaries. If he steps out of those boundaries, he steps out of my chain of command. I must submit to God first, all else comes second."

Husbands and wives alike must first answer to God.  What each of us do should be God-honoring if we are true children of God.  And if our husbands are loving us as Christ loved the church and is leading in a God-honoring way, we have every reason to submit.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Chapter 16 Cont'd - Ways to Practice Acceptance

Today we will be covering three ways to practice true acceptance.

1.  Receive him with thanksgiving. 
Focusing on the good qualities of our husbands can make us grateful for all they do offer to our marriages.  Focusing more on the good stuff overshadows the faults.  Keeping a positive attitude in life has a huge impact in all areas of our lives.

2.  Recognize his humanity.
I loved this quote in the book and think it sums up this point.  "Wives, our husbands are human beings not soap opera stars, rock stars or runway models.  They are pain and pressure, love and laughter, strength and weakness dwelling within three layers of skin."  We can't put unrealistic expectations on our men anymore than we can put them on ourselves!

3.  Embrace his individuality. 
Oh boy, my husband has quite his own personality and traits.  I have never met anyone like him.  He's funny yet sarcastic, thoughtful and sweet to the point of being too nice.  He's always coming up with new ideas.  There is never a dull moment.   Sometimes that sarcastic side and his ADD personality jumping around from project to project can wear on me.  But I have to remember the way he can make me laugh and his enthusiasm are some of the reasons I fell in love with him. 

With all of this said, we need to remember that our acceptance "doesn't necessarily stand for approval."  But we need to remember his actions are his own responsibility.   As we keep talking about, we must continually strive to be good examples.

1 Peter 3:1-2 NIV
Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

We should live our lives to be examples not only to our husbands, but to our family, friends, co-workers and a lost world.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Chapter 16 Cont'd - True Acceptance

Women just love to fix things.  We feel the need to improve and fix - to make things prettier, don't we?  So naturally we get this crazy notion in our heads that we can change our husbands.  Umm...news flash!  That is totally impossible!

"Changing ourselves is such a difficult task, changing another is an impossible one.  We 'accept' one as he is because self-improvement is his personal responsibility - not yours.  By changing our focus we see where he excels and to put in bluntly - where we fail."

God can change a person - all we can do is work on ourselves and pray.  We first need to focus on what we need to change about ourselves to be more Christ-like so we can be a better example.  And we can also pray for God to work in that other person's heart.

Paul said this to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:11-16 when he wrote to him on how to carry out his ministry:
Command and teach these things. Let no one look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift you have, given to you and confirmed by prophetic words when the elders laid hands on you. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that everyone will see your progress.  Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach. Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.

This applies to us today as well.  "Set an example for the believers in your speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity."  We have to live our lives in a God-honoring way to be able to have the power to influence others.  We can't have a mindset of "Do as I say, not as I do."

And we have to be truly accepting of our husband and be respectful.  If acceptance is defined as "to accommodate or reconcile oneself to" then Darlene says "By accommodating we make room for his failures, and through reconciliation we reunite ourselves to him."

Just like me, my husband is going to make mistakes.  He's going to have bad days.  His flesh is going to wrestle with his spirit - just like me.  I have to remember to be patient and encourage him - not fly off the handle and tear him down.  Showing my husband true acceptance does not mean that I can't share truth with him a a loving manner.  For us, when we have discussions about Godly living, it really helps us both to admit our weaknesses so we can help each other in those areas.  

Tomorrow we will cover three ways we can practice and apply true acceptance in our marriages.  Please share with the group today if you have anything to add to this.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chapter 16 - "Love and Let Go"

This next chapter discusses what we should do if our husbands are not meeting our expectations or are weak in their faith.  First we will cover the freedom to choose.

God gave us all the freedom to choose.  We have the same choice every day to "sin or serve."  When God gave Adam the freedom to choose, he knew what the outcome would be.  He knew the implications and yet He gave it to him anyway.

"If God grants us freedom to that extent, shouldn't we offer the same freedom to others?  Choice is something we all get to make; whether it's the way one treats our bodies, what we use to feed our minds, the beliefs that fuel our faith, or the habits that mark our paths."

We can get our husbands to do the right things by pressure, nagging or whining.  But does it really produce the kind of outcome that we really wanted?  Darlene says the denial of the right to choose "produces a hostile response."  I know pressuring my husband into doing something may get him to do it, but it usually happens with a bad attitude and ends up being done with less than 100% effort.

And that's when it comes back to looking more at ourselves and working on our own issues.  When we focus on our walk with God and let go of the need to control and let God lead us - that's when good things start to happen.  Oh, it's going to hurt and it's going to be tough to let God change your heart.  He's going to point out your shortcomings.  He's going to open your eyes and you will see how your faults affect not only you but others around you.  But the great part is that He will change your heart and give you the strength and the means to do better in those areas.

And He will use you to lead by example.  If we continually strive to do better and be better examples to our family and husbands, it's going to eventually bring about a desire in their hearts to want to do better.  Darlene says this - "Put your words aside for a season, live your life the way you want others to live, walk in paths of righteousness and let your actions be his guide."

Just as our husbands have a choice, so do we.  We can allow him to make his own choices about his actions or we can choose to control his actions with pressure.  "The choice is yours - push and shove, or love and let go."

Proverbs 21:2-4 NIV
A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.  To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.  Haughty eyes and a proud heart - the unplowed field of the wicked - produce sin.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Conclusion of Chapter 15 - Does He Deserve Your Respect?Re

We have talked about the importance of showing our husbands respect.  We have seen that this is part of God's plan for marriage.  But does your husband deserve respect?

"Showing reverence isn't always the easiest thing.  We're talking about human beings here, who at times may disappoint and infuriate us.  This is where we look past our duty toward man to see the perfection of Christ who gave up His life on the cross--unfailing love abounding in grace."

Love and grace.  So freely given to us by Christ.  How often do we freely give it?  How often do we extend grace to our husbands?

So your husband has faults?  Does he have issues?  Has he made poor decisions?  Has he messed up your finances?  Has he had a physical or an emotional affair?  He may have done one or more of these things.  He's human and he is going to let you down at times.  Don't you think we make mistakes too?  If we want him to show us love and grace (even when we may not deserve it), then we should do the same for him.

Remember the verse in Ephesians we just touched on?  "However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." (Ephesians 5:33)  God already gave us a perfect plan for marriage and knew what each spouse would need.  Women, we need to feel loved.  And our men need to feel respected.  And when we respect our husbands, it truly does build them up.  They want to do more to earn our respect and they want to show us love more often.

Tonight I totally messed up and totally deflated my husband's bubble.  He asked my opinion on something he had written.  And I blew it.  I was way too judgemental.  I could have gone about it in a much better way.  Seeing that deflated look on his face made me realize the impact I have on his attitude, demeanor and outlook.  We have such a powerful impact, I think we could make or break our husbands.

So let's be sure to build our men up.  It will be a win-win situation to be sure.  They will get the affirmation and respect they need, we will reap the benefits because they will want to do more to earn that respect.  I know I do much better with this when I worry about my own shortcomings and walk with God.  Looking inward sure does put things in perspective.  When I focus more on changing me, I have less time to be critical of him.

I found this quote online and I think it speaks volumes on showing respect even when we don't feel like he deserves it.  "If all you can see is rust and dents on your man’s armor, then you become the one to make that armor shiny again!  Polish your man up by your encouraging words and actions.  When you do this, your heart towards him will start to grow softer and the respect you once had for him will start to develop again." ~ Jolene Engle - http://joleneengle.com/when-youve-lost-respect-for-your-husband-a-marital-oneness-monday-link-up/

So this weekend I encourage you to be intentional in showing respect.  Make a list of things your husband does that means a lot to you.  And tell him!  And be sure to give him your love, mercy and grace.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Chapter 15 Cont'd - RESPECT

Continuing on Chapter 15 on respect, let's look at the last three ways we can show our husbands respect.

4.  Show consideration.
"Your actions toward your husband are a living gauge to growing souls. They watch how we comply, and live accordingly."  We need to be very careful how we treat our husbands in front of our children.  They are watching every move we make and what we do will influence their outlook on how a marriage should be.  Something I have had to work on during my marriage is to never over-rule my husband's decisions on how to discipline the kids.  Early on I did with our son, and it caused a major rift between us.  Even if we don't agree with a punishment, we should never make it known in front of our kids.  A private discussion in a non-condescending and loving way yields much better results.

5.  Think highly of him.
I love this quote from Darlene.  "Flowers, dates, kissing in the back-seat of a car, and wearing designer jeans, does not a Prince Charming make. But being there through the birth of your child, working hard to take home a paycheck, bringing his family to church, and taking care of you when you’re hurling over the throne, are noble features to be desired in a man. If he has done any or all of those things, he’s worth a second thought.  Start to view your husband with high regard, and you’ll find much to be thankful for."  This quote really spoke to me on my first read through this book.  When I really thought about it, these are the things that are truly noble characters in a husband.  The typical dating stuff is nice, but to find a man that is there through the tough stuff - that's even better.

Another thing to think about is how you speak of your husband out in public and in front of your kids.  We need to keep a tight rein on our tongues and not criticize our husbands to others, especially our kids.  And oh, am I so guilty of this.  Sometimes, I just start venting and the words are out there before I even think.  Instead of criticism, we must learn to replace the negativity with positive words and build up our husbands to our kids, friends, family and co-workers.

Thessalonians 5:11 NIV
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

4.  Reverence is our contribution.
Our husbands must know that we hold them in high esteem.  They need to know we admire them.  "While husbands are required to love their wives as their own selves, reverence is our contribution to laying the foundation of a Godly marriage.  When a man looks at his wife, he’s looking for a reflection of himself in her eyes. A reflection that says, 'I’m worth holding onto,' and 'I mean something to her in this world.'"  How we respect our husbands will be a direct reflection of how we feel about him.  The more respect we give, the more he will want to be worthy of that respect.  

Ephesians 5:32-33 KJV
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

I found this quote online from an unknown source - “If you want a truly fine husband, respect him at the level at which you want him to reach. A man will usually not rise above the level at which his wife respects him.”  Wow.  It's amazing to think we have that much power over our husbands.  When a man looks into the eyes of an adoring wife, he can see his God-given potential.  I want my husband to see that in my eyes.

Chapter 15 - Respect

Respect is acknowledgement.  "People want to be acknowledged for who they are, their accomplishments, and the ideas they hold--men, even more-so than women."  I see this with my husband.  He thrives when I make a conscious effort to acknowledge his accomplishments and praise him for a job well done.  And yes, I have to make a conscious effort because one of his primary love languages is words of affirmation and mine is not.

I found the statistic from loveandrespect.com Darlene shared very interesting.  When asked how they felt when there was conflict in their marriage "83% of the men said 'disrespected.'  72% of the women said, 'unloved.'"  While we need to feel loved, our men want and need our respect.

Darlene shares six different ways to show our husbands respect.  I want to touch on the first three today.

1.  Let him take the lead.
This does not mean that we don't have a voice.  We can share our opinions and desires, but in the end, we need to let our husbands have the final say.  As long as his decisions are God-honoring.  And we need to do this without complaining, grumbling, or questioning his judgement.  I know I have to bite my tongue sometimes and also ask God to help me see the positive and the good over the shortcomings.  I need to worry more about my heart.  Which leads to the next point.

2.  Have a good opinion of him.
"They know when we truly value them, and when we’re putting it on. If we’re accustomed to judging every move they make, it’s time to bridle our tongue, and grab hold of the reins on our thoughts. Focus on the good, let go of the petty judgment."  How true.  My husband can sense when I question things without me actually speaking the words.  I need to squelch those thoughts quickly and divert my attention to what I love about him.

3.  Notice him.
"As women, there are times when we like to be noticed for the way that we look, while men usually prefer to be noticed for the things that they do."  Men are wired from birth to be providers.  They have a strong desire to provide and take care of their family.  And they need some kind words and a pat on the back to let them know we appreciate what they are doing.  We need to take notice of the things they do and acknowledge and thank them.

Ephesians 5:33 ESV

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

If you did not read it already, here is a link that Darlene shared with us last night on a great blog post about respect.  It's definitely worth a few minutes of your time.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Chapter 14 - Final Thoughts

Before we move on to Chapter 15, I want to touch on the seven virtues a bit more.  Something has been weighing on my mind and it became more of a burden today.

We are talking about how we can be better wives (and moms).  We are learning how we can serve our husbands and family with an attitude of joy.  But I know we also want to be a living example to our families of God's love.  But are we doing the same for the rest of those around us on a daily basis?

I don't know if it's the result of social media or just being more aware of the night and day differences between a Christian and a non-believer, but my heart has really been burdened lately for the lost.  Most of those I know just don't want to hear what you have to say about God and salvation.  Today I see more and more closed-minded friends and family than ever before.

But what if....what if we really did stand out from the world?  What if our lives reflected these seven virtues on a daily basis?  What if we always stood firm in our beliefs whether it goes along with the popular opinion or not?  

1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

The world needs to see that we are different before they can believe in Jesus.  If we are so caught up in this world and have our fists full of the world, we just don't look any different.  We are not a light for Jesus.

Colossians 3:12-17 NIV
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Our children learn best by example.  They are watching our every move.  If we want them to grow up with a deep-rooted faith and trust in God, we have to model that for them.  The same goes for the world.  If we just say the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, but our actions, words and deeds don't reflect that, we are just a noisy gong.

I read on a Facebook post today some rather disheartening and misled thoughts from people so far removed from God - it broke my heart.  It just reinforces my desire to grow more in my relationship with God.  Think about the one person that you know that just exemplifies Christ and His love.  I bet you will say that person is full of joy no matter what.  For me, it's Mrs. Gale.  Just one look at her and you know she loves Jesus with all of her heart.  She has a magnetic joy that you just want to be a part of.  No matter her circumstances, she always has a glow - that beautiful light of Jesus shining through her.  I want to get to that.  Imagine if there were many, many more of us with that kind of glow.  The world would see it and they would want to know how we got it and how they could get it too.  Lord, let us lead by example - knowing your word, living your word,  being self-disciplined, bearing with one another and more.  Bind them all together with love and let us be a beacon of hope to a lost world.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Chapter 14 Cont'd - "Mature in Your Experience with Jesus"

Inner beauty isn't easy.  Just like marriage it takes work.  Constant, every single day work.  To keep our inner beauty beautiful to God and those around us, we need to be comparing it to God's desires for us daily. Darlene describes it this way - "It's a process of building virtue upon virtue that requires patience and discipline on our part."

Dictionary.com describes virtue as:
moral excellence; goodness; righteousness.
conformity of one's life and conduct to moral and ethical principles; uprightness; rectitude.
a particular moral excellence. 
a good or admirable quality or property.

2 Peter 1:5-9 MSG
So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.

In this passage Peter mentions seven virtues that we should be building upon in our lives:
  1. Good Character
  2. Spiritual Understanding
  3. Alert Discipline
  4. Passionate Patience
  5. Reverent Wonder
  6. Warm Friendliness
  7. Generous Love

 Letting God work in our hearts to sharpen these virtues will enhance our inner beauty.  During a recent conversation with my uncle, he talked about it being harder and harder to get a lost soul to really listen to the Gospel truth.  People today are so wrapped up in things of this world.  What he did notice is it is much easier to work within our own hearts so others will see Jesus through us.  When we build virtue upon virtue, we begin to be a shining light, don't we?  If we are truly allowing God to work in our hearts and use us for His glory, people can't help but notice that there is something different about us.  They will want to know what makes us different.  They start asking questions.  And that my friends is a door opening for us and a chance to share Jesus with them.

Darlene goes into a little greater detail on these seven virtues.  I encourage you to read over these if you haven't already.  Or look back over them and refresh your mind.

Some of these virtues will come easier than others.  Some of them may be one of your spiritual gifts.  Share with us today what you feel your strengths are and which of these virtues is difficult for you.  Then let's all agree to pray for one another today for God to work in our hearts to build us up in these virtues.  For me, I feel warm friendliness is one of easiest.  However, it can be a bit difficult for this shy girl with people I don't know very well.  I have a lot of compassion and a heart for people, but can be a little shy in showing it to strangers sometimes.  The hardest for me is passionate patience.  Oh how I wish I was patient!  It's something I've been working on - and it sure is something God has been working in my heart on for quite some time!  Your turn!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Chapter Fourteen - "Enhance Your Inner Beauty"

"In this chapter, I want to take this idea of studying ourselves in the mirror, turn it inside out so that we're looking at things from the best perspective, and make this ritual an important part of our everyday lives.  What do I mean when I say 'turn it inside out?' I'm talking about evaluating ourselves from the inside to see how we present ourselves as a wife and mother."

2 Corinthians 13:5 NIV
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test? 

Our inner beauty reflects our heart.  We can give the world a picture of perfection on the outside, but when we let the walls down, our loved ones see the real us.  Do they see an inner beauty that is far more precious than a beautiful exterior?

Today we are going to look at our first example of Rachel.  Jacob was in love with Rachel - so much that he was willing to work hard for her father for seven years before he would be granted her hand in marriage.  After seven years, her father Laban agreed to give Jacob his daughter for his wife.  Jacob learned the next day that it was in fact Leah, not Rachel, that he had wed.  His love for Rachel was so strong he was willing to work another seven years for her hand.

Are we as costly to our husbands as Rachel was to Jacob?  "I’m talking about the virtue you reflect, the qualities you own, and the value you hold in his sight. Are you worth seven years?..."After two, three, seven or ten years, are you still the radiant bride that he vowed to honor and cherish that day? Or once the veil was lifted, were you somebody else?"

Are we still the girls our husbands fell head over heels over when we first met?  Is our inner beauty still attractive?  Or have we let the stresses and distractions of our day to day busy lives change our outlook?  What are we bringing to the table?  The question on Darlene's heart is this - "Am I being the help meet he deserves, and am I putting in the effort it takes to make a good marriage work?"

We need to check our inner beauty on a daily basis against God's word.  Examine our hearts.  Are we virtuous?  Will our husbands and family see an inner beauty in us that is far more valuable than rubies or gold?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Intentions Start Within

"The development of patience, sincerity and kindness requires us to be conscious of the actions we choose.  Whether in word or in conduct we have the potential to affect others around us and leave an imprint on their life."

This world is a mess.  And it's people on both sides of the fence.  We as Christians have a big responsibility to reflect the heart of Jesus and be a light to this crazy world.  But are we doing that?  It all starts in our own hearts.  We first have to look within and let God change our hearts.  We have the ability to leave an imprint on others, but are we leaving a good imprint or a sour taste in their mouth?

Darlene writes, "The bottom line is that we'll never have the power to affect another person until our words become flesh. Until we're living in complete submission to the Lord so that the treasure of our heart becomes a compelling force that not only reflects what we believe, but also stirs people to embrace the God that we serve!" 

This week I have seen people, believers and unbelievers, bring out the uglies.  If we are not being loving towards people, how are we going to be a light?  If we are too busy judging their sins, how are we going to reflect the heart of Jesus?  Sin is sin is sin.  God does not see any sin greater than another.

Matthew 7:1-5 NIV
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Today let's look inside ourselves.  Let God work in our hearts and change us first.  We have good intentions, but let's make sure our intentions are being reflected to the world in a loving and sincere way.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Planting Seeds Quietly

"For all of recorded history, gardens have been viewed as places of wonder, capable of restoring health and peace to those who entered. Physicians in pharaoh-ruled Egypt prescribed walks through gardens to improve mental well-being. Monks of yore used their gardens to soothe world-weary travelers. And one of the seven wonders of the ancient world -- the Hanging Gardens of Babylon -- was built by King Nebuchadnezzar to heal his wife, Amyitis, of homesickness and depression." ~ Betsy Dru Tecco, Better Homes and Gardens

Gardening is good for the soul. It has a way of providing a peaceful outlook on life. Planting seeds not only makes plants grow in our gardens, but it helps us to grow more relaxed and improve our mental state. Gardening alone can be some really nice quiet time.  Much like planting seeds in our garden, doing the right thing and living righteously even when in private will plant seeds "that will grow in our heart."

Philippians 4:8 NIV
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.

Did you notice that it does not say do these things only in public? We are to think about these things all the time! And if we are thinking about being true, noble, righteous, pure, lovely and admirable and putting these attributes into action, what do you think will happen? Will we be doing these things all the time, out in public and in private? The more we do these admirable acts, will our hearts be changed? You better believe it.

Jesus encouraged us to do these things not for recognition or a pat on the back. He said in Matthew 6:1-4 "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

If we do things for the wrong reasons, those little seeds will not be planted in our hearts and we will not grow in our walk with God. So it's time for a challenge today. We will start small. What can you do today for your husband to help him and lessen his load today? Do it quietly not looking for recognition. Or what can you do for a friend or co-worker? Plant some seeds today.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Treasures of the Heart

Would you say you are a genuine person?  What you see is what you get?  Or does the outside world see a different you than what your family sees behind closed doors?

Chances are if you are trying to hide the real you, the people around you are seeing more of the real you thank you may think.  Our words, mannerisms, facial expressions and our eyes give people a direct link to our hearts.  

Luke 6:45 NIV
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Proverbs 4:23 NIV
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

God is very concerned about the condition of our hearts.  Even if we are able to control our words and actions, if there is sinful thoughts in our hearts, this is just as troubling to God than the outright sin.  Thankfully for us, God is in the business of giving new hearts if we just ask.  If we are treasuring God and thankful for all He has done through His son, Jesus Christ, He will work in our hearts to change our thoughts and our attitudes.  

Matthew 6:20-21 NIV
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Every day, our flesh will wrestle with the Holy Spirit living inside of us.  And every day, we have to make a conscious decision to let the Holy Spirit win out.  These changes won't happen overnight - it can be a slow process at times.  But once we make that decision to allow God to take the reins of our lives and give him complete access to our hearts, it is absolutely amazing what He can do.

In Ezekiel 36 God is giving Ezekiel a message for the people of Israel about their assured restoration.  These verses also assure us that God will give us a new, clean heart when we make Jesus Lord and Savior of our lives.

Ezekiel 36:26:27 NIV
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Building On Love - Chapter Twelve

Unrealistic expectations.  They are one of the leading causes of marital problems.  Aren't they really a problem in all areas of life?  Marriages, jobs, friendships, and more.

Why do we have unrealistic expectations in marriage?  The simple answer is we are a selfish people.  We were born into sin and born selfish - our flesh is in constant battle with our spirit.  When the honeymoon is over "we realize the day to day responsibilities and sacrifices required of us aren't what we expected."  With our mentality of "What's in it for me" it's no wonder, is it?  When we look at marriage selfishly, it becomes all about us and what is being done to meet our needs with little regard for our spouse's needs.

But instead of looking at reality and unexpected responsibilities with dread, what if we actually considered these things in life joy?  This statement from Darlene was a great way of changing our outlook.  "If you haven't already, you can start by giving up on the question, 'What's in it for me?' and replace the question with, 'What can I offer?'  Every time that you work through any of these obstacles with patience, humility and kindness you are building and strengthening your bond of love."

Darlene used an analogy of strength training muscles to build on love.  "Think of these stressors as weights that are shaping your 'marriage muscles.'  Just like any healthy muscle, your marriage needs strength training."  When we change out attitude and start considering it pure joy to offer help and solutions to our every day challenges, we will be building and strengthening our love for our husbands.  Our marriages will be strong and lacking nothing.

James 1:2-4 NIV
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A post from Darlene Schacht

Today's post is from the author of The Good Wife's Guide, Darlene Schacht!!  I'm so excited she was willing and able to to do this for our group!  She is currently working on another book, so her days are pretty hectic right now.  So please be sure to thank her for sharing with us today.  Darlene is talking more on communication today.  Enjoy!

I've come to learn something about communication. Maybe it’s because I live with one of the best communicators I know. What I’ve learned is that God calls us to a life of righteousness, which is quick to listen and slow to speak. Life is no longer about me and what I want; it's about living for the good of my family and ultimately pleasing the Lord.

Do I communicate my love by listening as much as I speak? Or am I too concerned about the things that I want out of this relationship to consider his needs?

Like our bodies, a marital infection needs to be treated. Sometimes a cut excretes fluid which is our body's way of cleaning out the wound and fighting bacteria. An abscess however builds up under the skin until it is surgically removed.

Couples disagree, they argue, and feelings get hurt like infections that rise to the surface. When we communicate our differences and work toward reconciliation we are treating the wound as it rises, but resentments that are left untreated will fester and grow to the point where we have serious problems to solve.

Communication, without the weapons of warfare, is important to understanding each other and healing our pain. If you find it difficult to talk to your spouse, write him letters that stem from a place of kindness, humility, patience and love. Whether you're talking or writing or simply being there for him, keep the lines of communication wide open and keep writing your love story with every breath that you take!

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ~ Ephesians 4:1-3

     ~ Darlene Schacht ~

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Handling Conflict in Marriage - Continued

Continuing on in Chapter 12 on handling conflict in marriage, let's look at faults and communication.
3.  Look past his faults and focus on love.
Oh, this one can be hard to do.  This has to be very intentional.  But guess what?  If God still sees us as His beautiful, beloved creation even with our faults and mistakes, we should definitely try to do the same for our husbands.  For everyone for that matter.  And hopefully if I don't dwell on his faults, he won't dwell on mine either.  If we are truly loving our husbands how God wants us to love, how will that look?

1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

Darlene writes "If love was supposed to be easy, it wouldn't need to be described as 'patient.'"  Isn't that the truth?  Love is more than that first infatuation you feel at the beginning.  Over time, if we exercise these characteristics of love, our love for our husband will grow and deepen.  And those faults will seem trivial.  I've heard military wives often say things like they would rather see the shaving cream and stubble in the sink than to be living without their husbands.  So remember this the next time an annoying habit or fault starts wearing on your nerves.
4.  Be understanding of his faults.
 We want our husbands to love everything about us, don't we?  We want him to be understanding when we get irritable that one week out of the month.  We want him to love us the way we are - emotional at times, grumpy at times, tired at times, exasperated by the kids, at our wit's end.  As women, our emotions can be all over the board in less than five minutes!  Well, shouldn't we be doing the same for him?  

Darlene tells us to consider this - "Jesus didn't die for us because we were charming did He?"  We are all so unworthy on our own of God's love, mercy and grace.  Jesus changed all of that for us.  All of us are far from being perfect, yet Jesus understands our day to day ups and downs.  If He is understanding of our faults, then we in turn should be understanding.  Let's focus on working on our faults before we go worrying about someone else's.  Jesus said “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
5.  Keep the lines of communication open.
This is a biggie.  How many times could a fight been avoided if we had just openly communicated before we got to that point?  We have to be open and honest in our relationships, but we have to do this in a loving manner.  If it's a touchy situation, I find that if I pray for the right words and for patience, this really does help me to stay calm and lovingly discuss an issue with my husband.  Do I always do that?  No!  But I need to be.  And being a nagging wife to force our husbands to do what we want usually backfires in our face.  It may not happen right away, but down the road, we will most definitely pay for it.  Our husbands may "build up walls of protection around them" if we become a nagging wife.  "If you want your husband to trust you with his heart as he once did, it's important to practice self-control, hold your tongue, and replace criticism with kindness.  Listen when he talks and make an effort to show him respect."  Amen!

Proverbs 21:19
Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.

Proverbs 27:15-16
A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Galatians 5:14-15
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 

Today we will start on Darlene's 5 ways to handle conflict in your marriage.  These 5 things will go hand in hand.  "Each one of them call us to love as God would have us to love."  If we try and see our husbands as God sees them and love them as He would, these 5 steps will become so much easier for us.  If we don't work at creating unity between us, we will destroy each other.
1.  Pray, asking God to take your burden.
We have all heard we can't change a person.  But we can work on changing ourselves.  And we sure can pray to God to work in the hearts of others - we have to trust Him to do the heart work to bring about a necessary change.  In the meantime, pray for God to point out things that need to change in your heart as well.  When my husband and I are were going through a rough time last year, my initial human response was to find fault and place blame with him.  He felt like he couldn't do anything right, and I thought he couldn't either.  Thank goodness God got a hold of me and set me straight.  He started convicting me of my own shortcomings and weaknesses.  He started working in my heart - and I realized I had a lot to work on myself.  You know what?  I started seeing my husband in a whole new light.  I once again began to appreciate him and all he did.  Even if someone has some really big things to change, God can change even the hardest of hearts.
2.  Stop looking over the fence.
The grass is always greener on the other side.  Oh, it may look that way from the other side, but once you get over there, you will see the weeds, pests and problems.  So it's just best that we don't hop over that fence, isn't it?  We can't compare what goes on in our lives behind closed doors to what we see on the outside of other's lives.  Each couple has their own set of blessings - and problems.  Since we are far from perfect, we all bring our faults and habits to the table.  Life happens.  But guess what?  This life is temporary - and Darlene writes so are our husbands.  We are not promised tomorrow.  So she says we should "invest our hearts in the eternal joy that comes to those who seek God."  When we set our sights on God and live for Him, there will always be joy.  And "our husbands are an extension of our relationship with God, not the root."  God brought you and your husband together for a reason.  So let's focus on the good and stay committed - and stick to our own side of the fence with no regrets.  Water and care for your grass and it grows green and strong.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Living in Unity - Chapter 12

"Perfect love is perfect self-forgetfulness.  Hence when there is love in a home, unselfishness is the law.  Each forgets self and lives for others.". J.R. Miller

Do you remember those first days of wedded bliss?  You both were so happy and in love.  Your love would stand the test of time and you wouldn't turn out like other couples.  And then reality set in...responsibilities, commitments, those annoying little habits.  The little disagreements turned into petty arguments.  And if you're not careful, those arguments get bigger and the blame game starts.

Darlene describes arguments as "our need to shine, our need to be right, our need to be heard."  That's a really good description, isn't it?  How many times do we keep on because we want to have the last word?

"But when sin entered the world, so did selfish ambition and pride.  There was no longer a passion to serve one another, but a knee jerk reaction to protecting one's self.  We hear the first account of this with Adam and Eve after they eat from the forbidden tree.  Both of them try to put the blame on anyone but themselves.

God's plan for marriage looks much different - "humility, tenderness, grace."  When we truly humble ourselves and value others higher than our self, we will focus on them and put our interests aside.  God wants us to do this in our marriages.

Philippians 2:2-4 NIV
Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Marriage has been so damaged and skewed by the world.  The world view is "I will stick with this marriage thing as long as MY needs are being met."  The world needs to see marriages functioning in God's design.  It needs to see the beauty of His way.  And it's up to His children - us - to provide good examples of unity in marriage.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chapter Eleven - "No Need of Spoil"

Everything we have comes from God.  Whether we decide to look at it that way is up to us.  No matter if you are a one or two income family, everything you bring in through a paycheck is a gift from God.  And God expects us to be wise stewards of our gifts - money, time, talents and things.

So how can we avoid wasting His gifts?  Darlene writes "The way to avoid waste is by making an effort to take care of our things, and by avoiding the temptation to be lazy."  "The more dis-organized I am, the more things get damaged, lost, moldy, rusted and forgotten."  How true is this for you?

Proverbs 18:9 KJV
He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.

I know when I am disorganized, I am more likely to lose or misplace something and buy a replacement, only to find the original weeks or months later.  This is not being a wise steward of my money - or my time!  How much time did I waste looking for that item and then using up time to go get a replacement?

We can be great wasters of time and not even realize it until we get so far behind in our work.  And this just really makes for a stressful environment, doesn't it?  We end up spinning our wheels playing catch up while also trying to get the day's work done too.  I'm getting tired and frazzled just thinking about it.

Not only do we show God respect when we value and care for our gifts, we can also show respect to our husbands.  We can show him that we appreciate all he does for the family.  If we are good stewards of the money he brings home, he will see that his work is not in vain.  He will see that he can trust us to use it wisely and minimize waste in our homes.

Proverbs 31:11 HCSB
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will not lack anything good.

I liked Darlene's final thoughts on the issue of waste - "By cherishing the gifts that we have - even in small acts of stewardship, we reflect a heart of appreciation, respect and reverence."  Do I truly cherish my gifts?  And am I showing my appreciation by being a good steward and not wasting them through laziness?

Biblical Submission Continued

Submission - it's a tough thing for us to swallow, isn't it?  Our selfish, human side balks at the concept.  And the world would be happy to see the concept disappear.

How many times do we let our self take hold and question our husband's abilities and leadership?  "I" can do this better than him.  Why doesn't he listen to "my" way?  Life would be so much easier if he would just accept the fact that "I" am always right.  Oh how hard it is sometimes to silence that evil inner voice.

But God.  (Don't you think all good sentences start with those two words?)  But God has bigger and better plans for us.  And He planned it this way for a reason.  Even when those reasons don't make sense to us, His design will ultimately bring peace and unity to a household.

I found this definition of biblical submission on some class notes from a biblical word studies class on submission.  C. Michael Holloway in 1998 wrote after studying this word and its Greek origins "Biblical submission is the voluntary giving up of certain rights to another person (or group) so as to maintain necessary order."  Pretty insightful.

The Bible mentions submission many times in more ways than just being submissive to our husbands.  If we see it over and over again, I think God really wants us to grasp this act of submission.  Here are a few examples:

Submit to God - James 4:7
Wives submit to husband:  Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Peter 3:1-2, Colossians 3:18
Submit to one another -  Ephesians 5:21
Submit to the leaders of the church - Hebrews 13:17
Submit to authority or government leaders - 1 Peter 2:13-15, Romans 13:1
Servants submit to masters  - Titus 2:9-10, 1 Peter 2:18

We can't deny it.  God emphasizes it over and over again.  So the world doesn't like it - why should we be quiet about it?  Darlene says it all when she wrote "I won't sugar coat or water down the commandments of God to tickle the ears of the weak.  Majority doesn't rule, and popularity doesn't hold the deciding vote."

So, how can we be a beacon of light to the world on this?  How can we model God's perfect plan to give the world a true, living and thriving example of biblical submission?  I want to hear what you have to say :)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chapter Ten - "Biblical Submission Defined"

Our flesh will wrestle with scripture.  If we have such a hard time with certain things in the Bible, imagine how the world sees it.  Love your enemies, submit, deny self, serve others.  The world looks at these things and thinks it is impossible and unreal.  But we know the difference.  Everything in the Bible is God's divine word and the truth.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 AMP
Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof  and  conviction of sin, for correction of error  and  discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action),  So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.

God calls us to do these things to please Him and to be a light in this dark world.  By doing these things, we become more Christ-like so the world will get a glimpse of God through our actions, attitude and demeanor.

I liked Darlene's take on this:  "Scripture isn't a candy bowl by which we pick and choose our favorite words hoping to satiate our palette. It’s a well-balanced diet of truth which is difficult to swallow at times, but nevertheless it brings nourishment to our soul."  

The Word of God is all truth.  We cannot pick the scriptures we like or twist His words to our advantage.  So when God tells us to submit over and over (remember that whole repetition thing we talked about a few days ago?), then we need to submit.

Philippians 2:3-4 NIV
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Darlene included a quote from John Piper in this chapter that speaks volumes.  “Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like, servant leadership, protection and provision in the home.  Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband's leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.”

Ultimately, when a husband becomes the head and the wife submits, the two complement each other and become a well-oiled machine of sorts.  They use their individual talents to help the other and both end up succeeding.  When we sincerely affirm and encourage our husbands, don't they have a bigger desire to lead and provide?  And when we have the provisions we need and our husbands our loving and protecting us, don't we feel more secure?  We have a desire to help our husbands and serve our family when we feel secure and appreciated.

Submitting to our husbands does not make us weak, a pushover or without a voice.  Instead "we're empowered by choice."  "Her ability to submit to good choice is the very thing that makes her strong."