Friday, October 24, 2014

Day 24 :: How a rainbow led to a conversation about hell

Florida weather can change at any moment.  This can make planning for outdoor activities challenging, but it also means we get to see some amazing aspects of God's creation.  And when I'm paying attention, these glimpses of God in nature can bring about opportunities to teach my children.


As we drove to school one morning, it was starting to drizzle, but up ahead I could see blue skies.  I was inwardly praying for no rain by the time Isabella had to walk into school, when I noticed a gorgeous rainbow in the sky.  The girls saw it too, I snapped a picture, and we continued on our way.

On the way back home, 45 minutes later, Mallory, squealing with delight, pointed out the rainbow to me once again.

So, I talked with her about what I had been thinking of earlier when I saw the rainbow  "You know, rainbows are a way of reminding us of God's promises.  The first rainbow was in the sky right after Noah and his family got out of the ark."

Mallory:  "Mommy, is Noah dead?  What about Zaccheus?  And Moses?  How did they die?"

Me:  "Well, the Bible doesn't tell us how Zaccheus died, but it does mention that Moses and Noah died when they were old."

Mallory:  "I don't want to die."

Me: "We don't have to be afraid of dying if we believe in Jesus."

(Silence)

Mallory: "Why aren't you saying anything?"

Me:  "What do you want me to say, honey?"

Mallory:  "I want you to talk to me about dying."


These are the moments that I pray for.  The questions that my children might ask, opening a door for the gospel.  Often times I feel inadequate to answer the questions, and I sometimes fear misspeaking or not explaining things well enough for them to understand.  When a door opens, though, I try to seize the opportunity and beg God for wisdom in that moment.

So, when Mallory said she wanted me to talk to her about dying, we talked about dying.  I told her about Jesus, how He had died.  And that He rose again, and then God took Him to heaven, where He lives forever with God.  That was a good enough answer for her at the time, but then she asked me another question.

"What is Satan's place called?"

In this particular conversation she was working through the difference between heaven and hell.  Nothing more.  God is in heaven; Satan is in hell.  When we die, we either go to be with God in heaven, or we go to Satan's place.

Later on that day as we were driving home from picking Isabella up from school, Mallory said to Isabella, "When you die, if you believe in God you go to heaven, and if you don't believe in God you go to--Mommy, what's Satan's place called?--hell."

Isabella's exasperated reply, "Mallory, you have to believe that God SAVES you."

Before an argument broke out, we talked about our sin that requires being saved, and yes, we do need to believe that God alone can save us from our sin.

This isn't the only conversation we've had with the girls lately.  They have both been asking very good questions and wanting to understand salvation.

It's amazing to me how much they grasp.  And, yet, at the same time, there is so much about the Bible they don't understand.  "Faith like a child" has become something Bradley and I talk about more and more frequently.  What is a necessary measure of knowledge for salvation?  Specifically for our children?

Salvation came for me at the age of almost 5.  I distinctly remember sitting on the middle cushion of our brown faded couch, reading family devotions one night, and understanding that I was a sinner, I needed Jesus to save me, and I trusted in Him that night for my salvation.  It was pretty simple.

And from that point forward, the roots of Truth took hold in my heart and continued to grow, by the grace of God, in fertile soil.  People from my church invested in my life through discipleship, teaching me how to read my Bible, share my faith, and live in the light of God's truth every day.  My parents talked about the Bible with me, we discussed theological issues around the kitchen table late into the night.  They asked me about my faith.  They prayed for me.  They pushed me to seek God in everything, from relationships to teachers that I disliked, to college, career choices, and marriage.  Their counsel came from their own deeply rooted faith and by simply living it out and sharing it with me, I saw firsthand what it meant to follow Jesus.

This is what we want for our children.  We want to constantly be talking with them about the things of the Lord, not in an awkward or forced way, but in a 'this is my life of faith in Jesus, come live it with me' kind of way.


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And so, when I see a rainbow in the sky, I share with my children that it reminds me of God's promises.  I didn't plan for that remark to bring about a conversation about hell, but it did.  Mentioning God in the midst of our days, as we go about our tasks, these are the moments that will open up doors for the gospel with our children.  

We can't make them believe, only the Holy Spirit can do that work, but we can be faithful to pray for open doors for the gospel, share the truth and live it out before our children.

This is the best way to bless our kids. 


This is Day 24 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing



Verse print can be found at Gracelaced.  Ruth is an excellent artist who creates beautiful prints and custom pieces.  She incorporates Scripture into her art and has a gorgeous collection of Christmas prints.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day 23 :: 10 Ways to Bless Your Husband

The first person in my sphere of relationships is my husband.  He comes before my children, my parents, my siblings and my friends.  And often he gets the leftovers.  I don't want this to be the case.  So, I asked him the other day:  "What do I do that blesses you?"  The post you see here is a result of that conversation, just in my own words.  



Trust him.  I am constantly having to relinquish what I think is best in order to trust my husband.  We do things differently.  But when I push my way on him I only build a wall between us that causes frustration on both sides.

For the most part, I don't find it hard to trust my husband to provide for our family and be a hard worker.  The areas in which I struggle to trust him are the day-to-day things.  Like when when he tells the girls it's okay to cross the street together.  Sometimes he feeds our kids chocolate cake for breakfast, and I have to stop myself from taking it away.  If he wants to buy me a new laptop, I need to trust that he is aware of our finances and making a wise decision.  Nagging him about every little decision that he makes that might be different from my way of doing things will only cause him to stop taking initiative.

I have to trust that my husband is seeking to do what he thinks is best and desiring to honor God in each area, just as I am.  Trusting our husbands is one of the greatest ways to show respect and be the help-mate we were created to be.

 Dream with him.  I learned early on in my relationship with Bradley that he is a dreamer.  It was fun when we were dating and I could get caught up in the romance of his ideas.  As time went on, though, the dreaming continued and I just didn't get it.  He would mention an idea that to me was ridiculous, and immediately I would tell him why it wouldn't work.  Not too long into our marriage this became a source of tension.  When we finally talked about it, he shared with me that even if I didn't think his ideas would work, he just wanted me to let him dream and join in the dreaming with him. 


So now, when he mentions having a lobster farm, buying a yacht and sailing around the world, or purchasing land in Montana, I try to settle in for a long conversation.  I ask him questions.  I give ideas of how it might work.  We research online together.   What I once considered a waste of time or 'chasing fantasies', I have come to realize is a great way for us to connect and have fun together.  And, as I dream with him, I find that his dreams sometimes become my dreams too.

Support his endeavors.  Sometimes Bradley's dreams move to reality and it's my job to trust his decision to move forward and get behind what he's doing.  This can be anything from career choices to hobbies to ministries that he wants to be involved with.  I support him by cheerfully responding to extra responsibilities placed on him at work, asking him questions about the things that interest him, joyfully helping him to pursue career choices that might be hard on our family, speaking positively about him to others (including my family), and work hard to not nag him about the areas that I dislike. 

I'll be honest that sometimes this is really hard for me.  I've had to learn a balance of being a cheerleader versus being a coach.  Supporting his endeavors will often be me on the sidelines cheering him on, and other times it's me helping him to figure out which endeavor to pursue.  God has helped us to learn this over the years; it always requires communication, humility, and wisdom.


Allow him to serve you.  My husband offers to do things for me all the time, but I spoil his desire to serve me by demanding my own way and things to be done on my terms.  When he does the dishes, I want the dishwasher loaded just so, and the counters wiped off completely.  If he watches the kids for a few hours I want him to play with them, not let them watch a movie, and if the kitchen isn't cleaned up when I come home, it spoils my time away.  


I'm learning that putting terms on his service to me is not being a good receiver, and is in fact quite selfish.  I should willingly accept his desire to help me, whatever that might be.  When my husband serves me, he is doing it out of love and I should consider his intentions to be good toward me.  Even if it's not what I would consider to be perfectly helpful, I need to allow him to serve me in the way that he can serve.  


Take care of yourself.  Showering, getting dressed, exercising and  making  an effort to be attractive for my husband goes a long way.  No, appearance isn't everything, but I have learned that my husband likes it when I try to look good.


For the past few weeks I've been more disciplined with my health and exercise than I ever have been.  And you know what?  I feel good about myself.  Taking care of my body helps to boost my self-esteem, confidence, and general well-being.  My husband notices this change and it helps him because I start believing his compliments, I'm more inclined to physical intimacy, and my spirits are lifted.  


Serve him.   In our home, I'm the one who cooks, cleans, and manages the household.  I don't work outside of the home, so taking on these responsibilities has suited us well.  I find joy in cooking meals for him and making sure there is always food in the house.  If the laundry piles up, he is forgiving, but I usually try to have his clothes clean, uniforms ready, and everything put away.  Making sure the bills are paid, spending isn't extravagant, and the kids are cared for frees him to focus on his work.  


Another way I have served my husband is by maintaining our social calendar.  I know his desire to have people in our home and I try to make this happen.  But, I also try to be flexible to allow for last minute guests that he decides to invite.  (I'll talk more about hospitality as a form of blessing in another post). 


Create a haven in your home.  With a little bit of effort I can make home a pleasant place for my husband.  I make our bed and try to keep our bedroom free of clutter.  If toys are scattered all over the floor when he comes home at the end of the day (which does happen from time to time), he can't relax as easily.  By taking a few minutes of my afternoon to straighten things up, sometimes light a candle, or have dinner cooking on the stove, I create an environment that my husband wants to be in.  


Havens don't need to be magazine or Pinterest worthy.  A haven is simply a peaceful, comfortable, and restful place.  





Initiate Sex.  When I asked Bradley how I bless him, his first answer was to chuckle and say, 'Well, nothing you can write about...' , which tells me that is exactly what I should write about.  I'll never understand the male need for sex, but I can't ignore that it exists.  Just like I want my husband to initiate conversation or time together, he wants me to make an effort to pursue him sexually.  And not just halfheartedly.  I often get it wrong in this regard, but he remembers (and often reminds me) of the times when I've made a creative and extra effort to initiate sex.  


Ask him what he wants.   In each of these areas I simply need to be willing to ask my husband for his input.  How can I trust him better?  What ways can I serve him?  How can I make a haven for him in our home?  Does he prefer a clean home, a dolled-up wife, or a good meal?  Our husbands are all different. so what works for my marriage might not work for yours.  By simply communicating with my husband about these areas I bless him by showing that I truly desire his good.


This is Day 23 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 22 :: Baked Goods are always a blessing (Best Brownie Recipe)


One of the easiest ways to bless someone might be to simply bake some treats and take them to a friend, a neighbor, your co-workers.  And not just during times of sickness or if there's been a birth in the family, although meals at those times are needed.  What about the people who are always the ones to bring the meals to others?  Maybe they could use a little sweet surprise in their day.  Giving someone something 'just because' might be the thing they need to feel encouraged and loved.   Again, it's going out of my way to think of others before myself and serve them in love.

Brownies and cookies are a wonderful treat to give, but breakfast baked goods are also a great treat to bring.


Pumpkin Bread at this time of year, especially, is a big hit.  And this recipe is one I shared in my 31 Day series last year.  



Whole Wheat Banana Bars are great for breakfast, but can also be a good snack.

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This Cranberry Chocolate Coconut Granola (my sister's recipe) looks delicious and would be so pretty wrapped up in a bag with some twine or in a jar with a cute label.


This brownie recipe is so easy, and most of you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry.  The point is not to wow someone with your baking skills, it's to simply bring a small gift of food to someone to let them know you were thinking of them.




The Best Brownies

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate (or 18 tablespoons cocoa powder and 6 tablespoons oil, melted)
1/4 cup butter
4 eggs
2 Tablespoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375F.  Butter and lightly flour a 9x13-inch pan.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, watching and stirring often.  When melted, remove from the heat and cool.

In a mixing bowl, put the eggs, vanilla, salt, and sugar, and beat well using an electric mixer for 8-10 minutes.  Stir in the chocolate mixture gently, then add the flour, stirring only until blended.  Spread evenly in the pan and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove and let cool.  Let settles for a few hours, then slice.


source:  Fanny Farmer Cookbook

This is Day 22 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 21 :: When you don't know who to bless

Thinking about 'being a blessing' can be pretty overwhelming.  Does anyone remember that little song, "Make me a blessing"?  It's really a prayer, asking God to help us be a blessing to someone who needs something.  I googled this song to try and find the words, and I was surprised to find that there are many songs with this same title.  The one I've pasted here was written by Fanny Crosby.  


I like the fact that the desire here is to bless others out of the Spirit's leading.  This is what I talked about last week in a blesser being someone who walks in the Spirit and displays the fruit of the Spirit's work in interactions with others.  

What I fear is overwhelming to some of us, though, is the wondering.  Who am I going to rub shoulders with today that I can bless?  The prayer, 'Help me, Lord, not to miss out on someone who might need encouragement'.  While looking for someone to bless is part of it I think we might be missing something.

The reality is that we have people in our lives everyday who need us to bless them.  Searching for someone to bless is not the point of being a blesser.  Being a blesser is about recognizing the people that are in our lives and living out the love of Christ to them on a daily basis.

We each live within a sphere of relationships:  family, roommates, neighbors, co-workers, friends.  It's within this sphere of daily relationships that I often find myself neglecting to bless.

Like my neighbors. When was the last time I went out of my way to serve them or to include them in my life?  Friends from church or other social settings.  Can I invite someone over to have a conversation, instead of just liking and commenting on their photos on Facebook?  Or my family who live far away.  In what ways can I continue to build those relationships and encourage, support, and love them when our lives only cross paths a few times a year? My husband and kids.  This is where it really gets me.  Yes, I take care of them--cook meals, make sure everyone has clean clothes--but am I actively finding specific ways to be a blesser to the people who are most precious to me?

Okay, so now that list was a little overwhelming at first glance.  How in the world do I bless all of these people when I have so many other things to do?

It's a dying to self.  This is why blessing others is so hard for me.  I like myself.  I like my time, my things, my comfort, my relaxation, my ideas, my whatever, you fill in the blank.  Doing what is important to me is easy and if I'm not careful I can get so caught up with myself without even realizing it.  

Everyday I have to put myself aside and allow God to fill me and honor others before myself.  

It's what I tell my girls all the time when they aren't getting along, "Think of others before yourself", "Do unto others as you would have them do to you,"  "Serve each other in love."

This has to happen in my marriage, with my kids, my neighbors, my friends, the people at the store, the homeless man on the side of the road, the people who irritate me, my enemies if I have them. 

Is it hard?  Yes.  Will I fail?  All the time.  

But I have the greatest example of one who blessed in this way.  

Jesus, the servant of all, who in every way thought of others as more important than Himself. And by His humble service He blessed.




This is Day 21 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Monday, October 20, 2014

Day 20 :: The blog post that YOU are going to write

On Saturday I introduced you to some people who have been blessers in my life.  By no means did that list contain all of the people that have blessed me throughout my life!  In fact, as I continued to think about it, many more individuals came to mind.  It's fun to look back and remember how God has used various people throughout my life to impact me in one way or another.

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If you haven't taken a minute to think through the blessers in your life, I'd encourage you to!  It's a great exercise and you'll come away from it with a thankful heart.

Before I press on in this series with who we are supposed to bless and how we do that, I thought today you should write my blog post!  I need your help with my definition of a blesser.  It certainly doesn't cover everything, and I'd love to have your input on how you feel blessed, or what you do to be a blessing.

Once again, here's the definition I made up:



We're focusing now on the second aspect of this definition--blessing other people.

In one word, or one sentence, I'd love to have you answer one of both of these questions today:

1.How would you define a blesser? 

2.What does a blesser do? 



Feel free to comment here (don't worry if it doesn't appear right away. I approve all comments so you'll have to check back later), or simply comment in the comment sections on Facebook.

Thanks for your help!


This is Day 20 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of blessing


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day 18 :: Meet some amazing blessers

In coming up with practical ways to bless others, I started thinking through the people who have blessed me.  And when I thought about the practical things they did that blessed me, I had to ask myself:  Why was that a blessing?

If I want my life to be a blessing to others I probably need to start blessing in the ways that I have been blessed.



These friends of ours...I can't even begin to tell you all the ways they have blessed us over the years.  From monetary gifts, to a camera, to bags of goodies on my front door after having babies, taking our photos, talking through major life issues, watching my kids, driving out of their way to visit us, teaching me to be more relational...I could go on and on.  Friends who give of themselves over and over again are a blessing.


Friends who empathize in life's most challenging circumstances.  These kinds of relationships are rare, but so valuable.  It's easy to find people who will listen, but people who let you hurt instead of trying to fix your problems--this is what my friend did for me, and she blessed me.


These relationships span over years of time.  I married into these friendships (some aren't pictured here) and can I just tell you that they have loved me as if I was with them from the beginning?  They call on our birthdays, they visit no matter where we live. When my brother died, they gave, called, texted, and drove hours just to attend the viewing so they could hug me.  We laugh, cry, talk, and share a lot of life with these people and they bless me over and over again.


These friends represent those who have blessed me by the lives they live overseas.  I spent six weeks with this couple and their family one summer, and they allowed me to participate in their cross-cultural lives.  They challenged me, pushed me, and asked me hard questions.  Just being an observer to how they lived was a blessing.  Countless others through the years have been blessers by the ways they have poured into the people around them.  Although I don't see you all often, some of you only every few years, please, know that by living in obedience to the Lord you bless me.


Oh, these ladies.  The one on the left helped me to deliver Mason, and then just a little over a year later she held my hand, cried with me, and took extra special care of Jennavieve while she was in the NICU for two weeks.  And, the nurse holding Jennavieve is the one who sat with me during my labor with Jenna. She was amazing.  Not only did she offer quality medical care, she also took my camera later on that day and snapped hundreds of pictures for us.  Nurses have become dearer and dearer to me as I've given birth to my babies and I'm so grateful for the way that they love on me and my kids.


Family blesses time and time again.  I married into this one and I am so thankful.  They love me, my husband (of course!) and my kids.  We share joys, trials, and silly moments.  I know that they pray for our family and that in itself is a blessing.  My in-laws give and give, not just to us, but to countless others around the world.  Their lives have impacted many and their faithfulness to the Lord impacts me often.  Do you know what else blesses me about family?  The fact that other people give to them.  When I hear how someone invited my mother-in-law over when she's alone makes me thankful.  Friends who give of their time and resources to support my sister-in-law and her family as they prepare to move overseas--those people bless me by their sacrifice for my family. 


I couldn't find a very recent picture of my own family (we've added three children among us since this one), but the ways in which my parents and siblings bless me are boundless.  Watching my parents handle challenging circumstances encourages me in my own walk.  My sisters' interest in my life makes me feel loved and cherished; they remember the details.  The love that they all pour on my kids is something I never could have imagined.  And, again, it blesses me when I hear how people are serving them.  Like the time a friend watched my sister's children so she could have a much needed morning to herself.  Or the boss who showered my sister with a generous Christmas gift.  The young families who bring meals to my parents "just because".  Blessings extend beyond the immediate recipient. 



My husband (I'm going to talk about him later on) but I can't let him go unnoticed here.  I was completely in love with him when we got married, but that has only grown deeper over the years.  He gives sacrificially every day.  He pushes me to be a better person.  He loves our children.  And even in the face of great discouragement, he doesn't give up.

These pictures are just a few of the many who have blessed my life.

This list doesn't include the strangers that bless me with their smiles, their compliments on my children, their willingness to hold the door for me when my hands are full.

And the lady that I saw yesterday who was visiting her son.  By the little bits I heard from their conversation as I ran past, it sounded like they hadn't seen each other in a while and they were just catching up on what was happening in each of their lives.  It just made me smile to see a mother-son relationship in action.

I think there's a common thread here:  serving.

The people who have blessed me throughout my life are people who have served me or someone I love out of the love and generosity of their heart.  This takes humility, selflessness, sometimes sacrifice, and always love.

So, I ask you today: who has blessed you?


This is Day 18 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of blessing