Introducing the Simple Start Journal, get yours today!

I am pleased to share with you The Simple Start Journal.  A great way to start your day with the most important things.

Simple Start Journal & Bible

The Simple Start Journal, designed by Kayse Pratt of Intentional Moms. I randomly, perhaps not so randomly, found a pin of hers a few years ago while looking for ways to be better at mom-life.  Her titles and her fonts drew me in quickly.

Kayse is a talented writer, pretty great at designing practical and beautiful printable products.  I’m eager to try out her new products because I know she is gospel-centered.    While she could dominate the world of blogging, she recognizes it isn’t her number #1 priority in this phase of life.  That is a message I need to hear daily.

What Matters Most

A phrase Kayse frequently uses is “what matters most” which I resonate with because in college I worked for Franklin Covey.  It is the place that honed my love of planners and tweaked my planning skills.  Franklin Covey’s #1 Seminar used to be called “What Matters Most.”  Using the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin, Hyrum Smith and Stephen R. Covey they crafted incredible presentations to help people focus on what matters most.

So, What Matters Most to Me?

In a sentence, following Christ, serving my family and being healthy matter most to me.  However, it’s always been a struggle for me to keep these priorities at the top, as so many urgent tasks vie for my attention.  The Simple Start Journal is an affordable ($8 printable) solution that really addresses all 3 of these areas.

2 page per day spread, here it is printed on half-sheets and bound.

The Bible Study

Kayse will be coming out with more studies in the future, this one is on Galatians and Ephesians.  You simply write the date (and no shame if you miss a day—just keep going) and read the day’s passage.  Today it’s Galatians 3:1-9, then you make notes on what stands out to you and the Holy Spirit illuminates in your heart.

Next, write out the verses for the day, this is a new practice I began at the beginning of the year with some of Kayse’s Bible Studies and well as MacKenzie Monroe of Bold Turquoise.  It’s such a simple way to get God’s word in your heart and mind as you write it in a journal.

Pray about it, the following space is for you to write out your prayers, prayer lists whatever you need.  Some days, the verses convict and teach me and I ask God to help me get his word in my heart and bring out deeper obedience.  Other days, I write out the list of people I am praying for and often it’s asking God to help me show his truth to my family and those I interact with throughout the day.

Simplify It

Friends, I still use a Franklin Planner, in fact I took a year off trying lots of DIYs, printable and other planners.  I learned the FC system back in 2000. You can teach and “old dog” new tricks, I honestly haven’t found a trick that works better than my Her POV design Compact Planner.  My pages this year started on July 1 and my productivity has increased dramatically from being back to a system that I don’t have to think about.  It’s not for everyone, but I love it. If you have not found a planner you love and use, you can also check out Kayse’s: The Organized Life Planner.

One of the things we taught at Franklin is that you must prioritize your tasks, and we used a system as simple as A, B, C.

A = important, urgent, time-sensitive tasks   A priorities MUST get done today.

B= important, not as urgent, somewhat time-sensitive tasks B priorities SHOULD get done today.

C= less important, not urgent, somewhat ideal tasks.  C priorities COULD get done today, but won’t suffer if they are moved to another day.

I think of my A priorities and start thinking through them and write down my top 3 in the “Simplify It” section.  Often, as boring as it sounds, laundry is on this list.  Sometimes it’s grocery shopping or meal planning, other times it’s a household project and lately “prepare for homeschool year” is on the list.

Work It

The dreaded, but OH-SO-IMPORTANT section, work it is for a quick work-out.  To be honest, I don’t do this every day (yet).  Today I did my Simple Start Journal at the coffee shop, so I’m not doing that here.  But 3-4 days of the week is significantly better than none.

I am 23 weeks pregnant, and out of shape so not every exercise is a good idea for me.  So when a 30 or 60 second plank is on my list, I do a bunch of wall push-ups instead.  If everyone in my house is sleeping, I skip jumping jacks, walk in place and move my arms as if I was doing weights (it gets your heart rate up).

Simple Start

The Simple Start Journal is aptly named.  It’s a simple start to your day, it’s simple to print and it’s a good starting place if you lack discipline in any of these areas of life.  Please check out this resource, as I give it a perfect score for price, ease-of-use and the fact that it is purposeful.  Money well spent.

Simple Start not so Simple

Kayse provides instructions for printing in your download, just follow what she says (and do a test page in case you have a temperamental printer like I do) and bind it up as you like.

Since April, I have been using a Happy Planner for my Bible Study and Sermon notes.

I printed at 84% and used a happy planner punch.  You’ll see double-sided printing eluded me that day when you watch my video.   To be honest, my sanity seemed more important that perfectly printed double sided pages. My kids were also taking a bath while I did this so I really did need to keep it simple so I could keep them safe too.

Do what works best for you.  I then cut the paper down & used my Happy Planner Punch (it was cheaper with 40% off Michaels coupon than the Staples ARC punch).  Here is the video of me putting it together.

 

Get Started

Click over to Intentional Moms Shop as fast as your internet allows and download this fabulous resource.  I’d love to know what you think, it’s really a great way to spend $8 to simplify what matters most and how amazing is it to simply study God’s word, instead of someone else’s interpretation of it.  Diving back in to Galatians has encouraged my walk with God, and I am confident it will be fantastic for you too.

 

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Holy Hustle, Boss Babes and Glorifying God

I learned the Holy Hustle Early

My first “real” job in college taught me the Holy Hustle early, it was at FrankinCovey, a planner store.  There I learned how to articulate my values, roles and goals. Creating a realistic and value based monthly, weekly and daily task lists became second nature.  I had laser focus and new how to live an intentional life.  Before the # symbol was called a hashtag, I knew how to #holyhustle.  That same year, I read Colossians 2:23  and this time  it revealed my true motive in most of my do-gooding and godly living. I was looking for acceptance in people: particularly those in the body of Christ.

Though I was far from perfect in college, I battled disordered eating, low-self esteem, overcoming poor grades my first year and depression.  Yet, in the world of academics I excelled at writing good papers, doing my daily reading, I mastered the art of the syllabus.  Amidst the challenges of residential living and leadership, I blossomed.

Bumps Along the Way

After graduating and leaving residence life, I looked pretty good on the outside.  Inside I felt lost for years working and serving.  Once I was back in school for massage I was back to mastering the art of being a student.  It was HARD, but I loved it, I as so good at it that I informally tutored classmates (because I didn’t want them to slow me down in class).  Colossians 3:23 was far from my heart and mind as I pursued accomplishments, yet again.  This hustle looked holy on the outside, but it was not.

Failing at Every Turn

It did not take long for marriage and motherhood to undo my carefully constructed identity.  I assumed my planning skills would serve me well as a homemaker, wife and mother.

Wrong.

I’ve spent most of the the last 6 years feeling like a failure.  The daily confrontation with my sinfulness in marriage and parenting is FAR MORE CHALLENGING than the nitty-gritty of dormitory life.  I’ve never once been able to appear to have it together since my first child was born.

During this time I’ve met personal goals: we’re debt free!   Professional goals achieved: $25,000 in sales working part-time hours!  I have done things that I feel good about, but I’ve never felt like I had it together.

This filled me with shame.

What did it say about me that I couldn’t be successful at anything?  Who was I without my ability to master a task list? I was failing at the most important roles in my life.

As much as my life was about Christ, I was not really living for Christ.  I was doing good things for the wrong reason.

The challenges of living in deep community with my husband and children meant that sometimes I didn’t get it all done. This revealed my self-serving motivations: acceptance, achievement, pride.  It wasn’t about Christ at all.

Called Away from the Hustle, Called to be Holy

For at least 2 years, I have felt a gentle, clear, daily call from my father to a less-hurried life,  centered on the gospel.   Most of my life has been structured on this desire for acceptance, accolades and success.  As benign as that sounds, working for men pulls me from working for Christ.

every. single. time.

Fear of Letting Go

I’m partially afraid to take my foot off the gas pedal of my businesses (yes, plural) because I’m concerned about money and being financially responsible.

Pride is really more of the problem though.  Who am I if I can’t measure my success in ministry hours logged, encouraging notes sent out, business goals met, well-planned meals and a tidy home?

I’m afraid I’ll be no one. A failure.

The Frustration of Unfinished Work

God is calling me to turn my heart toward him, and in that turning my heart to those in my home.  Yet, I don’t feel a release from contributing financially to my family.  This week, I read a post that resonated with me deeply.  Kayse Pratt’s post cut to the heart of my struggles and gave me gospel encouragement.

In my home there will always be days when the dishes are not done, or the laundry still needs to be put away.  I don’t get to put a check mark on my list that says “showed my kids how to live the gospel.”

Like the chores, these things never get “done” even when they are constantly being “done.”  There is no end to reflecting the beauty of Christ.

So while God calls my heart homeward, he also calls it toward his kingdom.  He calls me to bring honor to his name for his glory, not mine.  

Faithful Work without the Hustle

Some women have the option to work or stay home, that isn’t my story.  I work because I must, this is a call.  So, I’m balancing how to work faithfully and diligently without putting all the burden on me.

Yet, I still love my work. Essential Oils have changed my life, and I love sharing these experiences with others.  Doula work: supporting women in labor is invigorating. I love giving people relaxation and relief though massage therapy.  While the finances go towards my family’s needs, none of this work is ABOUT me, it’s about serving others.  Ultimately, it’s about Christ how and why I work.

The advice that fills my feeds creates an inner battle:

  • Build Your Brand.
  • Do the Holy Hustle.
  • Grow your Tribe.
  • “Pray like it depends on God, work like it depends on you.”
  • The Proverbs 31 woman was a #bossbabe.
  • God wants his children to be financially successful. (Let’s not dive into that last one today).
  • I’m a failure and the only option is to try harder, be better.

I’ve been longing to be that stay-at-home mom, the homeschooling mom, the crunchy mom for a long time.  How can I be those things when I have to  do the holy hustle to build my business?  The allure and security of being a Mompreneur, BossBabe holds me back from what God is REALLY asking me to do: lay down my pride and serve him by serving my family.

So, I will continue to work.  By the leading of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God, I’ll work not for my own gain, but for his glory.

We do not work to make a name for ourselves, to pad our bank accounts, or to build a brand. We work as for the Lord. We serve Him. – Kayse Pratt

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Happily Married: The Power of Obeying Christ

Now: Happily Married

Mike and Jacque have an amazing love story.  It is full of adventure, foolishness, sin and the hard work of forgiveness.  Theirs is a story that should be heard, not because their character is so ideal that we should all aspire to it.  Rather, their story needs to be heard because they chose obedience to Christ, and following his radical ways led them from a broken marriage to being happily married.

Blossoming Romance

They met in high school in Milwaukee, and similar to many stories I have heard before: she was not interested in him.  In the later years of high school Mike was playing football and Jacque was a cheerleader.  They had some good times, but Jacque made it clear she was not interested in marriage.  As their relationship grew, she changed her mind.  They decided once Mike completed basic training for the army, they would get married.

While Mike was in basic training, Jacque attend a Billy Graham rally and began her relationship with Christ.  Looking back, she realizes that she did not get grounded in the word, and if she had been grounded in her faith she should have broken it off with Mike.  When he returned they got married, and after about a year their first child arrived..

Three Hard Years

Carrying some painful baggage from his childhood – he was abandoned by his parents- his issues began to surface in their marriage.  Mike says they both had unmet expectations, and something as little as breakfast fueled their issues.  “I was smoking, drinking and acting a fool.”  Jacque says they had about 3 very hard years, Mike was verbally abusive and angry.  At some point during these rough years, Mike went outside the marriage and had an affair.

In those days, Mike said it was easy to draw Jacque into an argument.  He knew what buttons to push, and he did.  Something changed in Jacque though, she made the life-changing commitment to Christ.  This time, she was following no matter what.  She was determined to stay in the word and follow Christ.  If Mike took the car keys on a Sunday morning, she’d hop on a bus with the kids and go anyway.

Obedience Changes Everything

Now, instead of being drawn in to arguments, Jacque would say, “Mike, I love you and I’m not going to fight with you.”  While everyone around thought Jacque was crazy, she chose to stay in the marriage.  Even though people told her she had her out – his affair- she decided to forgive.

Jacque says the Lord showed her what forgiveness was: it was to love him as if he’d never sinned against her.  She says that she prayed a lot, prayer became her life support.  Prayer allowed her to walk out in faith, to keep her mouth shut at the right times, instead of walking in the flesh.

Jacque’s behavior began to change Mike’s heart not too much time passed before he came to Christ as well.  Now, their lives didn’t suddenly become perfect.  Raising children, working and living life is messy business.  Here they are though, 37 years of marriage under their belt, and you’d never guess they’d seen such dark days. “I can’t fathom the person I would be if I had left.”, Jacque says.  She brings up a point that I’d never considered, even if she had chosen to leave the marriage, the Lord still would have required her to forgive Mike.

Jacque’s Advice

I asked her how she would advise a believing spouse in a tough marriage with an unbelieving spouse.  She says, “you have to go into the word.”  Wise advice from someone who was advised by Christians to leave her husband.  Her story is a testament to the fact that you really can draw them to the Lord by your life.  Another beautiful point she makes, “ask yourself how you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed.”

Mike makes a powerful point

Mike points out that divorce rarely solves problems.  The problems that led to the brokenness still exist, and now they have to be worked out in court, in custody battles and through the lives of children that you still have to raise together for years to come.

I asked them to share resources they have found helpful, atop their list are

Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

His Needs, Her Needs: Building and Affair-Proof Marriage by Willard F. Harley, Jr.

7 Desires of Every Heart: Looking Past What Separates us to Learn What Connects Us by Mark and Debbie Laaser

4 Tips for staying Happily Married

Mike says these steps have been a great resource, ones they used heavily during the early days of their walk into restoration.

  1. Be Vulnerable: admit that you’ve been hurt.

  2. Be Honest: discover how the hurt occurred.

  3. Empty: get rid of the offense, forgive each other.

  4. Unify: come together as a team.

As I look at this list, I can see how easy it would be to just do 1 or 2 of these items and think you’ve done your due diligence, but to walk through all four of these steps honestly and humbly is where you’ll really see results.  I admit it’s easy-ish for me to be vulnerable about being hurt, but to honestly asses why something hurt me: that is not so easy.  Emptying is hard too, but without that step of forgiveness unifying is really a false attempt.  We can’t hang on to offenses and have a unified relationship.

Marriage is messy business, marriage holds up a mirror to each of us and reveals our imperfections.  Mike and Jacque’s story is such a beautiful tale of God’s redeeming love.  I’m so thankful that Jacque chose radical obedience to Christ, it transformed Mike, it restored their marriage and changed their family tree.  I’m thankful they allowed me to share their story, I pray it inspires you to seek Christ as you walk through life, and honor him in all your ways.

 

Mike & Jacque at their daughter’s wedding.

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I rebel: Prayer is an act of Rebellion

We have been taking the Perspectives course, the main text is one I read in my freshman year of college, just over 17 years ago!  I was a missions major, and so much of what I learned in my degree is permanently in my soul.

You know how life is though don’t you?  It’s prone towards the tendencies of our culture.  While daily in my heart I hear the cries of suffering,  darkness and lostness; I’m still prone towards an over-full schedule and late nights making Ikea wish lists.

A Stirring in My Soul

Do you know this struggle too?  Deep in your soul KNOWING God has called you to make his name known among the nations, and struggling with the day to day responsibilities of your life?  In my life it is working, educating my children, keeping my kids in clean clothes, bedding and fed.

I feel certain God has given me this incredible calling in motherhood, and my husband and I are certain the Lord has led us to be present with our children and to educate them ourselves.  We know that God has given us skills, talents and experiences he can use to provide for our needs.  To be honest though, most of the time those few things feel like too much.

It is too hard

I’ve been prone to anxiety over the past 5 years.  Some of that anxiety, I now realize, is rooted in my disobedience.  You see, as one saved by grace, I am called to make disciples.  Please do not think I am saying that raising children isn’t discipleship, because it should be.  The call to disciple my children and the call to disciple the nations are not mutually exclusive, it isn’t an “either/or” choice.

It is all too much because, once again, it’s me trying to make things happen in my own power, logic and strength.  The Holy Spirit at work in me, in my husband will work out details that I can’t figure out.  “Will we be missionaries?  How will we take care of our family?  How do we figure out all these details?”  As we remain humble, faithful, and obedient to Christ whatever details the Lord has for us will become clear.

Rebellion against the Status Quo

While doing our homework one week I found myself burdened, crying and confused about what we are supposed to do about the fact that 6,000 -7,000 people groups have ZERO witness of Jesus Christ, meanwhile I don’t even know where our next meal will come from.  So perfectly orchestrated, I found the answer in my textbook.  An article written by David Wells Prayer: Rebelling Against the Status Quo go read it.  It is a game changer, when we look at the life of Christ, his example in prayer, the world around us and the character of our God we find the answer is prayer.

Wells says that the reason we struggle in our prayer lives not because we are weak-willed, but because we have a poor understanding of prayer.

“What then is the nature of petitionary prayer?  In essence, it is rebellion – rebellion against the status quo, the state of the world in it’s sin and fallenness.  It is the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is completely abnormal.  It is the rejection of every agenda, every scheme, every opinion that class with the normal that God original established.  Our petitionary prayers are an expression of the unbridgeable chasm that separates Good from Evil, a declaration that Evil is not a variation on Good but it’s very opposite.” 

 

I do not have to spend my time trying to figure out which political agenda to align with, or which social justice cause to take up arms with.  Yet,  I will still rebel against the status quo.

I Rebel

I rebel, by Hernando Melo

They cut this line from the trailer out of the film, but it resonates in my soul.  I don’t accept that the Lord intended for me to eat genetically modified food, drink fluoridated water.  Black Lives Matter, Paternalism is not the pattern established in the Garden of Eden, No one should be trafficked, the list of WRONGNESS is endless.  I rebel against that, and I don’t have to worry about what the right response is, or try to craft a perfect “in the middle” response.  I don’t have to alienate people on social media with my ideas on what the right response is to each social injustice, or every sin.

Wells says “that petitionary prayer flourishes when we believe two things:

  1. God’s name is hallowed too irregularly, his kingdom has come to little and his will is done too infrequently.
  2. God himself can change the situation.”

I believe those things.  Prayer is Rebellion against the ways of this world, the political systems, the generational sins, the injustice, oppression, violence and hatred.  I rebel.  I pray.

Pray

Unwanted babies?  Marginalized people groups?  Corrupt government?  I used to cry “Come quickly Lord Jesus!” thinking it was the correct spiritual response.  Surrounded by brokenness, pain and sin, I do long to be with the Lord and be done with this world.

He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”  

So this is what I’m teaching my children: pray the God will send more workers into his fields.

The Lord isn’t coming until his words and plan are fulfilled, ” And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.”  Matthew 24:14

If you look to Revelation 7, you will see that people from every nation and tribe and people and nation, are represented around the throne.  Jesus is waiting for us to obey his command and make disciples of all ethne.  We may be tempted to pause, define, debate all this entails.  Or we can pray.

Join the Rebellion: Pray

Join the Rebellion

We don’t need to take up arms to make a difference.  The Lord may not even lead us to the 10/40 Window.  That does not mean he calls us to be silent.  No, he calls us to petitionary prayer.  While I may want to March against Monsanto, I’ll make more of a difference in prayer. Let us now grow weary as we pray, let us be encouraged in our petitions by the words of Christ.

 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Luke 18:1-8

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Amazing Sex, A Broken Promise of True Love Waits

“Sex is AMAZING!!”  I don’t know what is more uncomfortable, sitting in wood and metal row chairs in my high school chapel or  hearing a very young youth pastor shout “sex is amazing!”

He quickly followed up, explaining that this was second-hand knowledge because he was still a virgin. Regardless, he assured us that if we obeyed God’s word by remaining sexually pure until marriage, we would have fulfilling and amazing sex.

A valiant effort, because we should be talking about sex.

I appreciate his willingness to urge us to follow Christ in the most personal of ways, but I feel betrayed by his message, and others like it.  True Love Waits is a noble effort indeed, but not everything they told us was true and it lacked the depth and power of the gospel.

They told me there are a number of benefits to abstain, ones that I even agree with to this day: less emotional baggage in your marriage,  reduced risk of sexually transmitted diseases (infections?), a lower chance of an unwanted pregnancy.  Amazing sex was one message I heard repeatedly.

Broken Promises

I pinned a lot of hope to this guarantee of amazing sex, because I understood there were many things out of my control.

Even in marriage a pregnancy could be unexpected, but I knew for me that a baby would never be unwanted.

The man I married may not be a virgin, what a bitter pill that was to swallow!  This fact could bringing unwanted emotional baggage as well as risk of STDs/STIs. This seemed unfair, for all my “purity,” so amazing sex was my reward.

It was pretty frustrating, and terribly disappointing when sex was uncomfortable for a long time into our marriage.

I feel betrayed by this message, and wish things had been discussed more openly and realistically.

Theologically inaccurate messages about sex

It drips with theological errors.  It’s very reminiscent of the prosperity gospel which boils down to the notion, “If I do the right things, then God will reward me.”

If I keep myself sexually pure, I will have a great sex life.

Friend, that is not how it works.

You can use your money faithfully according to God’s word and still face financial hardship.  Following the Lord in your lifestyle and extending that to your foods and exercise does not guarantee you a disease-free existence.  You may go into your marriage sexually pure and have issues in your sex life.

I blamed myself when sex was not amazing.

I was frustrated and like many women out there, I blamed myself unnecessarily.

Why wasn’t this working?

Where was the great sex I was promised?

What did I do wrong?

Why were friends who did not wait, not struggling like I was?

For the life of me I could not figure out what my sin along the way had been.  These questions aimed at God were full of anger and were moving towards bitterness.  I just knew I had done it all right,  why was still suffering?  In a very technical sense, I didn’t do anything wrong, but I had several errors in my thinking.

1. I believed a false equation:

Sexual purity before marriage = Amazing sex when married.

My anger came in because I also assumed the converse,

Frustrating and painful Sex = I sinned somewhere along the line.

Here is the truth that I now accept: There are no recipes for life that add up all the time for everyone. I know this to be true because God’s word shows it to us.

Job obeyed and lost everything, he remained faithful even in his loss.  It was God’s prerogative to allow suffering and loss into Job’s life.  Paul had a thorn in his flesh, he pleaded for it to be taken.  God responded that his grace was sufficient for Paul; we have no reason to believe that thorn was taken away when Paul had enough faith.  Finally, in the life of Jesus we see that obedience does not guarantee ease.  Jesus lived a sinless life and he was still mocked, flogged and killed.  He suffered, more than any of us will ever understand. Yet God did not give him a perfect life for his obedience.  Hebrews 11 reminds us of so many souls who were faithful but didn’t see the promise.

Obedience does not guarantee a perfect life.  Obedience did not guarantee me amazing sex.

2. I believed that my husband would compare me to previous partners.

This message was powerful, I can still see the faces of the woman and the man who first told me this.  They told me “If you have sexual relationships, you will always carry them with you. Even when you are in a marriage relationship you will recall your previous partners and probably compare them to your spouse.”

After six years of marriage, I finally believe my husband when he tells me that he doesn’t do this.  This message was so deep in my soul, this awful fear of comparison, that I thought my husband must be lying to spare my feelings.

Here is the truth that I now accept: My husband repented of his sins and literally walked away from his past life.  God redeemed him by Christ’s sacrifice and made him a new creation.  Now, all of that is so hard for our human minds to comprehend, but my husband may walk in the same body but he is a totally different man than he was before.  He does not compare me to women from his past, in fact the thought of those experiences sicken him and hurt him emotionally.

Something to consider: perhaps those faces, those friends, those dear leaders DO still carry the burden of their past sexual experiences.  Having walked away quite scathed by the prosperity gospel, I wonder if they made the same mistakes I have made, and am still prone to make: a reliance on self to overcome sin, rather than Christ.

3. I lacked understanding of my anatomy in two very important ways.

First, while I was a virgin on my wedding day, I had been sexually aroused long before that night.  Sadly, I was exposed to pornography a very long time ago, and I spent years bound to it.

One of the ways I lacked understanding of my anatomy is related to this experience.  I trained my body to shut off that arousal response, while looking at pornography, while masturbating and eventually while kissing my husband while we were dating and engaged.  While I felt the conviction that looking at pornography was wrong, I somehow thought that orgasming was “wronger” and tried to maintain control of my sin by never allowing myself to experience that.

You may not know much about muscle memory, so I will summarize it.  Our bodies retain our experiences, and just like you can train for a sport, you can train your body to respond the way you want it to respond.  I taught my body that arousal cannot lead to orgasm.

The blessing of marriage didn’t re-train what I’d told my body for years.  It took a long time to recognize that, I was in my second pregnancy when I realized this was part of the problem.  I went through body work and lots of prayer and conversation to start this healing process.

Secondly, I totally underestimated the hymen.  I actually can’t shed much light on this for you either, but that pesky, strong hymen caused me a lot of discomfort.  I wish I understood this better at the time, because I would have given myself a lot more grace to “work” through this issue.

“Well, you weren’t really pure before marriage, you were just a virgin.”

You may be tempted to disregard my entire post because you have noticed that I did act in sinful ways in regards to  my sexuality before I was married.   “Aha!” you may say, “This is why your sex life got off to a rocky start, the whole pornography/masturbation thing.  Your sin caused your pain.”

Have you read Soul Virgins?  I did the summer before we started dating, and it led me to repentance and so much healing.  I agree, I was not pure because our sexuality is so deep and wide and it is not confined to what we do with our genitals.  Please read this book if you have not.  The message of abstinence before marriage is not enough, God wants us to be soul virgins.

At least I had some realistic expectations.

Now these things, didn’t really hurt me because I sort-of understood that sex is just like everything else in life: full of ups and downs.  If we are teaching kids to guard their sexuality and then promising them vigorous sex lives we should probably let them know there will be bumps along the way.

For example: Birthing vaginally requires recovery, and it may not be six weeks on the dot.

Birthing surgically affects women too, just because the baby came from an incision into the womb doesn’t mean she is free of the need to recover (news flash: she’ll still bleed for awhile) she may even have discomfort from her scar healing (this could affect blood flow to the pelvis).

Breastfeeding is a hormonal response which may decrease libido and may also lead to very scant cervical fluid even when aroused (buy this if you face that Sensation Massage Oil).

The exhaustion of parenting may mean you need to sleep more than you need to connect sexually.  And a dozen other things, like loss, death, financial concerns, busy lifestyle.

While special, really fun and emotionally satisfying, sex just isn’t that different from relationships.  Placing too much expectation on it and your partner will lead to frustration.

We must do better, but how?

My one suggestion is this: we need the gospel in every aspect of our lives.  The ones that we don’t discuss because it feels intimate and private, as well as the ones that we don’t discuss because it makes others uncomfortable.

We must be aware of pride creeping into our walk with Christ.  That is what the prosperity gospel really is.  It is rooted in looking out for ourselves, to secure a good life here on earth and looking into ourselves for a process to obtain that good life.

We may profess that Jesus’ sacrifice is the means of our salvation. We often default to pride, believing that our actions maintain salvation and earn us favor.  Our behavior does not secure God’s favor, my correct actions and even my correct motives do not promise perfection.

We are not animals obeying to get a treat from our master.

Pride is stealth and dangerous.  If God works in our hearts to bring the gospel into all of our lives, we can have some hope that future generations, friends, and our children can have realistic expectations of intimacy and sex.

No Major Regrets

I do think because of God’s grace towards us, we brought very little baggage into our marriage.  I am thankful that I have been able to work through all of this in the security of our marriage.

I must interject: it is not the marriage certificate or the staunch determination never to divorce that brings the security.  It is that I am married to and intimate with a man who understands he is nothing without Christ. A man who turns to Christ when there is something he doesn’t know how to handle, a man who always acts patiently and graciously with me.  I’m married to a man who didn’t ever give up on me when my heart was hard and angry about our sex life and who may have literally pushed through some things to bring us to a healthier and happier sexual relationship.

It’s not even about my husband’s admirable character, it is Christ alive in us.  I don’t regret my choices, but I believe as the body of Christ, we have a long way to go to share a gospel message about sexuality.

 

Why I’m Rejecting Christian Inspiration

I'm Rejecting Christian InspirationChristian Inspiration, those pretty pinnable images give me the warm fuzzies. I am sure there are some doctrinally sound ones out there, but I’m rejecting them.  Here is why:

Often times, these verses are taken out of context or are loose interpretations what the Scriptures actually say.

If you pop over to Pinterest and search for some of these keywords, you’ll see what I mean. Isn’t this beautiful?

When I see that I have this deep sense inside me that “Wow, God says that about me!  I won’t fail in my endeavors.”

Or this peaceful image from a simple google search:

A breath of fresh air, am I right?  God wants me to be still, be at peace.

Christian Inspiration images often take the Word out of Context.

When you look at the context, do you find this encouraging ?  I do, but it goes so much deeper than the images above.  Reading God’s word in proper context reveals that Psalm 46:5  is not about you or I as individuals becoming immovable forces, it is about God. The feminine pronouns are not even referring to a female human being. This passage is not a inspirational phrase to stick on our walls and feel like “I’m God’s girl, I got this.”  This is about how God is our refuge, our peace while the nations rage.

Everyone’s favorite is Psalm 46:10 right?  Peace. Stillness. Our chaotic world NEEDS this right? Yet this verse is almost NEVER quoted in full.  This is not about us feeling safe, happy, peaceful, restoring our introverted souls in the  midst of modern life.  It is about God being glorified among the nations.  Psalm 46 is about God as our refuge, God’s power and God’s glory revealed to all people.

Psalm 46

1 God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
    God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
    how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
    he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Christian Inspiration images sometimes aren’t even quoting Scripture.

I once scrolled through a pin my friend liked:

How encouraging.  What a lovely image. Yes, I just need to have faith! If I have FAITH God can turn this mess into something amazing.

The assumption is all too often that it’s about me, God can turn my mess of finances into abundance, or my poor health to wellness. It is all too easy to see something like this and let it creep into our souls.  Sure we are on guard about pornography, cultural views on sexuality and relationships.  Are we on guard about these little phrases that sound like truth but are really the creeping in our our me-centered religiousness? Since the fall, our default is sin and without God’s word in our heart and the leading of the Holy Spirt, we will move away from the truth.

When you look at the meme it is easy to assume it’s what the Bible says.  Let’s take the next step and read the actual verse:

I will restore to you the years
    that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
    my great army, which I sent among you.

Joel 2:25

Well, the quote in the image still kind of fits with the actual verse. The temptation is to ignore the context, and focus on how the verse serves us.  Do we even recognize that this temptation exists? The context of Joel chapter two is that God brought judgement to his people for their sins.  He brought judgement and they found they needed him and turned from their sins and God restored them.

So, I’m going to reject this meme and replacing it with this:  All I need to do is obey the Lord.

Too Often Christian Inspiration Focuses on Me.

I recall being in a young adult Bible study in my friend’s home.  We went over a text and we were asked to reflect on it.  A friend started his response, “what this means to me is….” and everyone kinda nodded along.  My soul felt on fire because if I remember one thing from How to Read the Bible for all it’s Worth, it is this: “the Bible can never mean what it never meant.”  My friend was taking his experience and putting it into the Scriptures.

That may seem like semantics to you, but when we fail to understand what the authors meant in the original context, we are unable to understand it fully.  We open ourselves up to wrong interpretation, which can only lead to wrong life application.

When we need encouragement it needs to come from God’s word.  We must put our situation in the   context of God’s word. This is not about me.  It’s not about you.  This about what God is doing on this earth. He calls us to him repentance. He calls us to worship him.  He calls us to live for him so that others may see his Glory and worship him as well.

So, dear friends, know God’s word.  Ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment, to convict you of sin, and to lead you into all truth.

Grace and Essential Oils: Keep Going When It’s Just Too Hard

grace-essential-oilsGrace and Essential Oils are the reason I’m sitting here, propped up on my mom’s couch. Life is just too hard lately, but I have to keep going.

It’s just a few minutes past 10, my son and youngest daughter are sleeping on the futon, and my oldest is keeping my mom awake in another room.

I’m supposed to give my mom a massage, a 30 minute one.  She gave me one, then I wanted to put the kids to bed, around 7:30.  The littlest fell asleep around 9.  My son fell asleep a few minutes ago. My firstborn is still awake.

I can hardly turn my neck, I think I overdid it on Saturday. I saw one of my amazing chiropractors this afternoon, she confirmed that my neck is a mess.  It is so uncomfortable, I feel like I could vomit.

My day was actually pretty good, aside from needing a new neck.  My husband works overnights at Amazon Fulfillment, so he crawled in bed at 5:30 this morning.  I woke up and nursed the baby, and then went to pick my mom up to drive her to work.  Her truck wasn’t starting, so we are thankful to have this car to make life easier when it’s bumpy. GRACE, that car is grace.

Deep Relief

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Have you tried Deep Relief?  It’s amazing and it usually works essential oil magic on my aches.  Apparently something else is needed though, because ouch…I’m still achy, and also I should have washed my hands before touching my eye.  Carrier oil for the win, Thank God it was in my bathroom.  That is grace again, saving my day.

Clarity & Coffee

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After taking my mom to work, I brewed a cup of coffee, served my kids bread and butter, which I also enjoyed.  I took care of a business call and got the kids ready for their playdate.  I love calling it a playdate, it’s really a childcare trade.  She takes mine for 2-3 hours on Monday, I take hers for 2-3 hours on Wednesday, so we can do our WAHM thing. GRACE, those two hours working without interruption were lovely.  I used a drop of clarity on the back of my neck and paused to inhale it to keep me going while I worked. I was really pleased with the amount of work I got done, but there is always more.  I tend to put my self-worth in the things I do.  I tend towards a very protestant version of salvation by works.  I think the inability to finish most tasks as a mother and a working mother is God’s special design, to remind me: GRACE.

“And he gives grace generously.  As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposed the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:6

I’ve been proud for far too long, and that sin slips into my heart far too easily.  I think that is part of why God gave me children.  They are an enormous blessing, and I am so thankful for each of those miracles.  Being a mom is a joy, but it is the most effective way to show me my inadequacies.

Motherhood has revealed so many sinful tendencies in my heart.  For a long time, I tried to “do better, try harder.” The salvation by works I mentioned earlier.  In that crazy cycle, I am set up for pride or self-hatred.  Both are self-focused.

For it is by Gracegrace

God is so gracious towards me, and gently reminds me over and over again of my need for him.  He has called me to motherhood, he has called me to be his child, he has called me to rely on him.  Yes, I still have strength and I ought to use them for his glory.  Yes, I have weaknesses, and like Paul I begged God to take them away.  His word to Paul, Paul’s word to the Corinthians is everything this essential-oil loving, natural leaning, grace-filled mama needs:

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 NLT

The essential oils are wonderful, they really do help my mind and body in so many ways.  All I really need is God’s grace.  Calling me to repentance, calling me to walk with him, calling me to rest when I am hurting, calling me to be Christ before my children.  His grace holding me while I miss my husband who works long, awful hours and sleeps while we are awake.

It is all I need. On a day where I fell asleep writing a blog post.  On the happiest moment I could imagine, I can’t do anything without God’s amazing grace.

amazing-gracehow-sweet-the-soundthat-saved-a-wretch-like-me

Jesus Plus

Jesus + anything negates his work entirely. When my actions demonstrate I value my works as equal to, or less than,    I undermine his sacrifice.  Losing my religion, finding my savior is almost literal.

I’d begin to believe my works of righteousness were a part of my salvation. Prior to hearing these words on the first day we attended our new church, I was just as guilty as a mutilator of the flesh.

Paul addresses something that many of us get wrong.  Something that we must understand it if we are to walk with him.  There is NOTHING we can do to earn or be worth of salvation.  IT is all Christ

Do Everything Without Complaining

w31-d9-instagramLet us Do everything without complaining is a tall order given by Paul to the church, to me. Let us dive right into to day 9 of Losing My Religion, Finding My Savior.  Again, I was challenged by the series Regarding Joy.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2: 14-16

Do everything without complaining

When I was on a missions trip to Jamaica, in 1998 there was a very effective rule to combat complaining.  “Every time you complain, you have to pay $1.” I have tried to use that to keep myself from complaining throughout the years.  Yet, even yesterday I complained to the postman “people complain about everything.”

It is annoying to listen others complain.  More importantly, it is destructive to complain.  I could probably pull up some holistic health research to show how it actually damages your body, but I won’t.  Paul instructs the believers to do all things without complaint, because complaining is destructive to Christ’s body.  If doing all things without complaint or argument makes us blameless, innocent and without blemish, that clearly indicates that the opposite is also true.  Complaining and arguing snuffs out the light in us.

Not a Secret

Have you watched the film, “The Secret” ?   I easily understand the science behind it.  I learned some of these principles in school for massage therapy, and witness the effects of negativity on my client’s bodies.  As I study the use of essential oils, I can easily grasp the science behind “The Secret.”    I think we all understand the emotional aspects of it though, don’t we?  Honestly, who wants to hang out on Friday night with Debbie Downer?

However, what Paul gets at here is not motivated by our dreams for life, our desires for relationships, financial gain and health.  Have you ever been told that you were sick (or broke or lonely) because you needed to have a positive attitude?  It’s a bit like salt on a wound, isn’t it? Remember, Paul is writing from prison, he understands that this Christ-like attitude is not about our own gain.

Living without complaining or grumbling is a joyful response to the work of God in us.

Yet we still tend to complain

I remember thinking that the Israelites begging to return to Egypt at the Red Sea was CRAZINESS.  They just witnessed the plagues including the passover, yet here they were, seemingly moments later not trusting God to deliver them.

Still, I do the exact same thing. I know God spared my life, worked miracles on my behalf.  God has been faithful and true to his word.  Even as he provided finances from unexpected avenues, I complained.  “How will we every have money for a house?”  “Our emergency fund is so tiny!!”  “I can’t breastfeed!” Even though I have a healthy, strong baby.

When I complain I demonstrate that I am unconvinced of God’s great love for me, and his precious purpose  for me.  It shows I do not understand where God brought me from, or where he leads me.  Complaining lets the world know that I do not trust God.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  .  .  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:18, 28-30

Living without complaining reflects that we trust him

Not about me

It glorifies God when we live without complaint.

It is natural, albeit impolite, for me to to roll my eyes at someone being annoying.  Wishing someone would just get their act together, and reminding him or her of that is a natural response.  Feeling frustrated that someone is asking for money, not abnormal.  Complaining about my husband’s shortcomings, or my kids behavior is so very average.

Grace. Kindness. Mercy. Compassion. Love. Generosity. I demonstrate these things when I do not complain about my situation, or other people.

“that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,”

Should my words justify my emotions, or should they reflect the nature of Christ?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

I am his witness, as a part of his church – his bride.

Living without complaining  glorifies God.

only hope for the world

 

Interested in listening to the sermon? Click the image belowRegarding Joy

Obedience

Paul lives in obedience, that obedience leads him to prison.  He follows the lead of Jesus who also exemplified obedience, even to death.

I struggled with where we were financially, professionally and socially for a very long time.  At times, I still struggle.  God is shaping my heart, and part of that is the realization that God may lead us places that we do not want to go.

Ginny Owens sings “If you want me to” and it has always spoken to my heart.

The pathway is broken
And The signs are unclear
And I don’t know the reason why You brought me here
But just because You love me the way that You do
I’m gonna walk through the valley
If You want me to

‘Cause I’m not who I was
When I took my first step
And I’m clinging to the promise You’re not through with me yet
so if all of these trials bring me closer to you
Then I will go through the fire
If You want me to

It may not be the way I would have chosen
When you lead me through a world that’s not my home
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I’d never go alone

So When the whole world turns against me
And I’m all by myself
And I can’t hear You answer my cries for help
I’ll remember the suffering Your love put You through
And I will go through the valley
If You want me to

Work out your own salvation

It doesn’t mean that we have secure our own salvation.  We are sustained by the grace of God, not our own works. We put our salvation in practice, this is how we work it out.

I walk in obedience, I repent many, many times a day.  I fail, but God empowers me.  So I stay here, resting in the knowledge that God is good, faithful and true.  I trust the plan of God, even when I can’t see it and even when I don’t understand it.

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