Monday, March 19, 2018

Respect for Your Working Man

Howell and I are leading another Love and Respect Life Group this semester. My favorite video lesson is where Emerson gives women a glimpse into the ways men feel respected:
When we appreciate his desire to work and achieve 
When we appreciate his desire to protect and provide
When we appreciate his desire to serve and lead
When we appreciate his desire to analyze and counsel
When we appreciate his desire for shoulder to shoulder friendship
When we appreciate his desire for sexual intimacy 
I am a time person, and one of our biggest conflict areas early on in our marriage concerned time, especially if Howell was later than he said he would be.

For whatever reason—and not a justified one—it used to irk me so much if he said he’d be home at X time and instead came home at Y time.

We’ve since learned how to communicate through those scenarios (namely, I stopped having unreasonable expectations, and he learned to stop giving me a specific time—ha!).

But what I was thinking about recently, while watching the video, is how many opportunities I missed to tell him how grateful I was he worked so hard, how sorry I was he had to work late, or how proud of his work ethic I was.

I’ve heard so many wives over the years grumble because of the hours their husband works—and if you’re a quality time person (like me :)), it can feel like your husband isn’t loving you because he may not be speaking your language.

But friends, THAT IS A LIE. When your husband works, in his mind, he is doing it FOR YOU, for your family. It’s an act of service to him—an act of love.

While I’m not condoning workaholics, I am suggesting that instead of complaining about your husband’s hours or workload, tell him how much you appreciate the time he puts in to provide for your family. Even if he’s not the breadwinner, he needs to know his work and his efforts are valued because it’s in his nature, this desire to work and achieve, to protect and provide.

Your husband's greatest need isn't your love; his greatest need is for you to respect him. I encourage you to think through the list above and ask the Lord to show you ways you can meet this need in him.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Some Writerly Updates

I’ve been quiet on the writing front lately, so I felt it was time for a few updates. At the moment, here’s a picture of my writerly life:

1. Waiting with bated breath to hear from a publisher. As you may know, I signed a contract with an agent last fall after the ACFW conference. He and my amazing critique partner helped me get one of my manuscripts polished and the proposal and sample chapters sent off to a potential publisher.

2. Editing an old manuscript. Over the last several months, any free time has been spent reading and re-reading authors I greatly admire, and I believe it’s improving my ability to revise my own writing. I now see sentence patterns and repetition in a way I never did before, and I’m re-working my first manuscript with a slight cringe at the weaknesses there. But I’m not discouraged! In fact, I’m all the more encouraged to see the caliber to which I want to raise my writing. Now to practice until it gets there… (p.s. Once this manuscript is revised (thanks again to my awesome critique partner ;)), my agent and I will work to get it ready to send to another potential publisher.)

3. Writing a new book. My progress is minimal at this point, but I am having fun crafting a new story. These new characters swim in my head throughout the day, as I get to know them, their quirks, their reactions, their motivations. My goal is to have a first draft completed by the end of June.

Whether I’m reading the old ms or working on the new project, I’m excited to see how my writing has progressed. I know I still have so much to learn (and so much to edit), but I’m a life-long student. Learning is my thing. :) 

If you think of me, please continue to pray for God's favor and grace throughout this journey. May it always and forever be about Him.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Keys to Financial Freedom: Part One

Laura and I have both blogged before about finances, but given that it is one of the most common causes of strife in marriages, I want to come back to this topic. Money, and the lack of it, is a tough topic in almost every relationship. It certainly has been one for us at different times in our marriage. I always say communication is key, and it really is. This is the first post in a six-part series on financial freedom for families: Planning, Income, Debt, Goals, and You. If you haven’t read this post about getting on the same page re: finances, it’s a good foundational piece to start with. In this series, I want to take an in-depth look at how to approach finances, as a couple. I want to convey basic principles to build an understanding of how to work together to accomplish financial goals, instead of letting money be what tears you apart.

Today, let’s talk about planning.

You can talk about money until you’re blue in the face, but without consensus on a plan with actual, measurable, and attainable steps, you are just talking in circles. So what does a realistic plan look like? Well, that varies depending on your situation. 

So why do you, as a couple need a financial plan? You may be saying, we’re okay. We aren’t rich, but we are making it. We put food on the table and have a roof over our heads. Maybe you have significant debt, maybe you don’t. Maybe you have more than you need, maybe you don’t. Maybe you fight about money, maybe you don’t. Your situation does dictate what the plan is, but it doesn’t dictate the need for a plan. Whether you need to get out of debt or retire, or you want to give more to missions, you need a financial plan.

Step one is sitting down and talking about your immediate need. I’ll give some suggestions later in this series for setting long-term goals, but I think you probably know what your immediate needs with your finances are. This is a difficult step because you may be on different pages about what your needs are. The most critical part of this step is agreement. You must agree to move on and that means that both of you will probably have to compromise somewhere. You don’t have to set massive, life-long goals at this point. Let’s just have a plan for the next six months right now. What do you want to do in the next six months, even if that is survive? If you can plan six months, you can plan a lifetime.

The next step is forming a plan. Figure out how much your immediate need will cost and go from there. I recommend looking at your expenses for the last three months to get a basic, monthly cost of living, subtracting that from your current income, and then looking at what is left. That is what you have for accomplishing your immediate need. If there isn’t anything left, you have two choices: more income or fewer expenses. If neither of those are options, don’t lose heart; we’ll talk about ways to find places to cut and gain in later weeks. 

Now that you know where you are, it’s time to agree on a plan to move forward. Find areas that both of you can cut expenses and decide an amount to save toward your plan. You’ll need a budget to follow. Maybe you are more disciplined than us, but without a real budget, we rarely achieve our goals. You can see a basic outline below. I think it can apply to anyone’s household finances.

So now you have a plan! It takes time, discipline, and lots of communication, but you can execute it. Over the next few times I blog here, I’ll be going over different aspects of household finances to help you modify and execute this plan. I’m praying that you’ll find this helpful. I’m no expert, but I believe that with good communication, you can achieve your goals.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

He's in the Waiting

“Take courage, my heart. Stay steadfast, my soul. He’s in the waiting.”

What a powerful chorus. This song—"Take Courage" by Kristene Di Marco—stays on repeat in my house, in my car.

We’re in a season of waiting. Still.

Seven years and counting. That's how long we’ve been eagerly seeking Him for children, for the greatest desire of our heart. In almost ten years of marriage, 70% of that time has passed with hope deferred. 80 months of delayed answers, of no, not this time, not yet.

The Lord’s word to me this year is Anticipation.

Wait. Hope. Expect. Anticipate.

I’m reminded of the verse He gave me a long time ago: “Those who wait/hope/trust/expect in the Lord will not be disappointed.”

If ever I feel disappointed, my trust has moved to something else, a false hope, a wrong expectation.

“But those who wait on the Lord…”

“He is actively working on behalf of those who wait on Him.”

I feel like I’m in a holding pattern, suspended but on the brink of a new season. I can feel it. I anticipate it.

Holding my breath, as I wait…

For doors to open,
For dreams to happen,
For promises to be answered.

In the last seven years, what I’ve found is captured so well in this song. When I want to forget, when I doubt, when it feels too long, too impossible: He’s in the waiting.

The song says, “Take Courage,” the very words Jesus spoke to His disciples in Matthew 14 when the storm came, and they feared for their lives.

A little while earlier, Jesus had sent them ahead of himself. And now, maybe they feel abandoned. John 6 says, “It was near dark, and Jesus had not yet come.”

Ever feel that way?

But then, there He is. Walking on the water.

Take courage, He says.

Because He knew. He always knows the outcome.

In this moment, the disciples have the opportunity to witness a miracle, a glimpse of His power.

In this moment, Peter has the chance to go deeper in His faith.

All the events culminate to the here, the now.

Yes, there’s a storm. Yes, Jesus had not yet come, and now they feel abandoned.

But it’s like He says, Take courage. Here I am. And I’m giving you something rare and powerful, an experience, an encounter you won’t forget.

Though we face unknowns, though our hearts are full of anticipation, I sense it even now:

He’s here. He knows. He’s got a spectacular story for us. 

For you.

I don't know what your heart longs for, my friend. I don't know how long you've been waiting. But I do know this, our God is a good Father, our Jesus is never delayed, and our Holy Spirit is present, full of power and comfort and grace. 

“Take courage, my heart. Stay steadfast, my soul. He’s in the waiting.”

Monday, February 19, 2018

Five Ways to Connect

Okay, married folks. Last week was Valentine’s Day. Did you enjoy it? Survive it? Fight about it?

I know most people think it’s a silly holiday created by creating card companies and the restaurant industry to make women feel insecure about their love relationships, but you know what?

I happen to love February 14—and not so I can set up big expectations of grand gestures. But why not take advantage of a designated day to show your love for someone? Why not take advantage of every day? 

Redeeming the time. That’s what Ephesians 5:15-16 says. How can we make the most of each day? More importantly, how can we make the most out of every relationship? Every day is a gift, and I get to walk through life with the greatest gift God gave me - my husband. 

Howell is the most incredible husband to me. Our marriage is a rare gift, and I know God has shown us favor, despite our imperfections. Few husbands load the dishwasher and remember to unload it a few hours later. Few husbands never grumble about taking out the trash, putting up the laundry, or going to the grocery store. And few husbands are both as strong and as tender as Howell is. 

He really is amazing, and our love really is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of loves.

Whether you had a good Valentine’s Day or not, I want to encourage you to redeem the time you have with your spouse. Not sure how?

Here are FIVE meaningful ways you can connect this week: 

1. Write a note or a letter. Whether you consider yourself a writer, whether you think you can be sentimental or romantic—it doesn’t matter. If you can’t think of anything to say, start with “I love you because…” or “I love when…” 

2. Make a special dinner. Dinner is especially special when you’re not the one who usually cooks. You don’t have to go out for a fancy meal to switch things up a little. Fire up the grill. Look up a recipe online. And if all else fails—get take out. 

3. Do something out of the ordinary. If you never make the bed, if you never do the dishes—go out of your way to be intentional in serving your loved one. It could be as simple as breakfast in bed—or coffee on the nightstand when he or she wakes up. 

4. Give a long kiss or hug. Don’t be too rushed to give a hello or goodbye kiss. Affection is free and priceless. 

5. Buy a meaningful gift. Not everyone’s love language is gifts, so spending the “big bucks” on a gift may not even minister to your loved one’s heart. But if you’re loved one is a gifts person, then buy him or her a gift that means something.

Maybe Valentine’s Day is a silly holiday, but you can take advantage of this season to love the one you're with. Value your time together. Connect to the other person’s love language. Be grateful for the moments you have.

What can you do this week to redeem the time you share with your loved ones?