Monday, October 29, 2018

Marriage Is Like a...

I have a porcelain tea bag holder shaped as a teapot with a flower inside it that sits next to my kitchen sink to hold my rings when I’m cooking. A friend bought it for me in England because she knew how fondly I remember my semester abroad in London. Although the little teapot shattered once, I glued each piece back together with great care, and I like the imperfection of it so much that it still sits in its same place.

Last week, I was doing dishes and thinking about what to write for this blog post, and I felt like the Lord told me that my porcelain teapot could be a metaphor for marriages.

Everyone’s marriage faces a chip or two over the years. Some end up with entire cracks and separation. Some get glued back together with care, restored completely.

I fully believe every marriage faces a moment, at least one, when both people are confronted with the decision—stay and fight for their marriage or give up. It may be a dramatic standoff, or it may be after years of passivity where the relationship has lost priority, and both people are just biding their time.

For Howell and me, our first year of marriage wasn’t the toughest. It was years two and three. I remember after one particular fight, I felt deceived and defeated. We seemed to be in the same pattern, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I was truly on the brink of giving up. We were young. We didn’t have any kids. Why stay?

The next morning, I saw a man whose red and puffy eyes matched my own, and I’ve never questioned our marriage since then—no matter what we have faced.

God was gracious to us in that season. We learned a lot about ourselves and each other and most of all about who God is and what He can do in our hearts.

He became the super glue that mended those broken places until they were stronger than ever before.

What about you, friends? Can you remember a time in your marriage that felt like a line in the sand? What compelled you to stay and fight?

Maybe you’re feeling cracked and broken even now, and super glue doesn’t feel possible. I can promise you, it’s worth the process to let God mend your marriage. It’s a supernatural feat only He can accomplish in us—if we’re willing.

Ask for help. Seek wise counsel. See a counselor. Whatever you need to do—but don’t stop fighting or your marriage.

Monday, October 22, 2018

A Heart of Sacrifice

Last weekend I spoke at a breakout session at our church’s women’s event, and I wanted to share just a small part of my talk for this week’s post because God put this message on my heart—and I hope it’ll challenge you like it’s challenged me.

My message was about giving, and what I wanted to get at was the idea that giving is more about our heart than it is about money. Money is just the means, the tool that gets talked about the most. But a heart of giving is really tied to a heart of sacrifice.

Remember Abraham’s story—when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac?

The story is in Genesis 22 (read the whole chapter here). The summary version is God says, hey, Abraham, take your son, your only son whom you love, and offer him to me as a burnt offering. And Abraham rose early the next morning to do it. He didn’t wait. He didn’t delay. He just got up and went. And he doesn’t just go—he makes preparation for the offering.

I’m sure most of you have heard this story’s ending, right? God sees Abraham’s obedience, his willingness to sacrifice his son—his only son—and so God provides a ram instead.

Abraham calls this place Jehovah Jirah—which we translate as the Lord who provides. The literal meaning here is the Lord who sees to it. I love that. God sees to it that Abraham is provided for—but only AFTER he was willing to sacrifice what he valued. 

What do you value most in this life? Now imagine that God asked you to give it up, to give away the most precious thing in your life. And not just give it up, but literally sacrifice it on the altar.

Was your most valuable thing a person? Your children or your spouse?

I can’t even comprehend how hard it would be to sacrifice my husband. I literally can’t imagine my life without him. And we don’t have children, but like Abraham, we have promises from God. Abraham waited 25 years for his promised son. We’ve only waited 7, and it feels like a lifetime sometimes. What if God asked me to sacrifice my baby that I’ve waited seven, eight, ten years for?

Abraham didn’t question God. None of it makes sense. This is his promised son we’re talking about. But he didn’t argue. He keeps going—and trusting. 

We read this story already knowing the outcome, but HE DID NOT KNOW THE OUTCOME, y’all. He thought he was about to kill his son. And he was willing to do it because it was what God had asked him to do.

This story is all about Abraham’s willingness to give up something he loved and valued as an act of worship and obedience.

A heart of giving is more about surrender than anything else. And it’s not really surrender or sacrifice unless it hurts a little, unless it tugs at you—you know what I mean? Like ouch, that’s hard to give up.

But here’s the blessing when we do—remember God’s words to Abraham? He promised to bless him, to multiply his offspring, to give them the land of their enemies, to bless the nations through his children. That’s a pretty massive promise.

God has been dealing with me on this message—are there places in my life, areas of value that I hold back, dreams I haven’t given Him?

If he asked me to sacrifice my greatest desire, would I do be willing?

What about you, friends? Is there anything you are holding back? Anything closed fisted?

I pray we would open our heart, be generous, and be willing to say yes.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Important Moments

I’ve talked before about being present in your marriage, but it's on my mind right now. In the days of smartphones and Facebook, it can’t be emphasized enough. Our society is heading in a direction where quality time is just not a priority. I want to be specific in encouraging you to be present today. Be present in the moments that matter. Be present when it’s most important.

This week, I was spending some time with Laura when we had a long drive, but it seemed like everything was going wrong at work without me there. To be honest, I worked more than I had to. To be even more honest, I didn’t help solve the situation at work very much either. I just wasted an afternoon. This wasn’t one of those important-times-that-I’ll-remember-for-the-rest-of-my-life moments, but it got me to thinking about them.

As I’m writing this, we are at a family retreat for Laura’s family. It’s one of those times when we’ll make memories that actually do last a lifetime. We have nephews and grandparents and everything in between. I got to thinking about times in my life when I haven't been present for those moments. A phone call comes in or a work emergency presents itself. Has that happened to you?

Every day, there are moments with our spouse or family to cherish. These are times we’ll never get back, and we may never get to have again. Only God knows what tomorrow holds. Don’t be the absent dad, mom, husband, or wife that only got to see the video. There is no replacement for the best of memories. Be there for all the “remember that one time” that you can.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A Letter to the Not-Yet Mom

To the Not-Yet Mom from a Not-Yet Mom:

I’ve been on this not-yet journey for seven years, and I was thinking recently about how much pressure I have felt—and sometimes still feel—about all the things I could “do” to make this desire in my heart a reality. (As if I am sovereign, and He is not.)

Do you ever feel that way?

Well-intentioned people will have plenty of suggestions about what you could or should do, like stay away from plastic, gluten, dairy, sugar, diet drinks, and so on. Or they'll suggest a variety of products, vitamins, regimens, etc. because of someone they know who did X or Y, and SHE got pregnant.

That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the fertility conversation—what doctor to go to, what hormones to take, what procedures to do.

Here’s the truth: People mean well—they really do. And for the most part, they don’t know what to say or how to help, so they fall back on what they know or have heard, especially if they haven’t actually walked through infertility.

But friends, can I be real with you?

It’s way too easy to get sucked into the “if I do this, then” trap.

Bottom line?

Women get pregnant every day—because God opens their womb and causes them to carry a baby.

The Bible is very clear that God creates and sustains life. No one else. Nothing else. Period.

Read your Sarah stories and Rachel stories and Hannah stories and Elizabeth stories. Want to know why they conceived? Because God opened their womb at the exact moment, at the exact time He said He would.

I’m not saying you can’t take the pills and eat the diet—or even that those things don’t help. (Trust me, I've done them—and am doing them.)

But what I want for you, and for me, is FREEDOM from the pressure that we have to do or be or say just the right things to MAKE this happen in our bodies.

Be prayerful about what you do or don’t do—but the only voice of wisdom you have to hear from is God’s. And fortunately for us, He’s promised to give us wisdom anytime we ask for it (James 1:5).

Rest, my friend, in God’s goodness and in His perfect plan. I know the LAST thing you want to hear right now is to wait on His timing. Believe me, I went through a season where I loathed the phrase. But it’s the truth—He knows what He’s doing.

I’m here if you need me. And I’m always praying—for you and for me.



Monday, October 1, 2018

Brag much?

Do you want to make your spouse feel loved?

Of course you do! I think most married couples desire to demonstrate their love to each other, but sometimes the problem is knowing how to make your spouse feel loved. That's why books like The Five Love Languages stay on the bestsellers lists (and if you've never read it, I'd highly recommend you do).

But I was thinking this morning about one way to make your spouse feel loved that is perhaps a universal love language:

Brag on your husband or wife--in public!

This is something I think Howell does really well. Last week, I shared with you about my experiences at ACFW. I've had some people ask me if I knew I was going to win the award beforehand because Howell was already filming before they announced it.

Nope, I definitely didn't know. And neither did he, except in his gut.

Not only did he capture the moment on video, but he started sharing it with all our friends and family--and eventually on Facebook.

On Monday, he came home and was talking about how he'd showed the video to his coworkers.

Y'all, my heart floated right out of my chest.

He was bragging about me? And my Christian fiction romance book? To a bunch of men? At work?


I know this demonstration of love goes both ways. When I brag about Howell to my friends or in front of him, it makes him feel loved and respected.

It's a small thing, but it means so much. This week, be mindful of moments when you're in a group with your spouse--and then take a second to brag.  You'll fill your spouse's love cup.