When You’re Sick of Always Running Out of Time

How do you decide how to spend your time each day? Maybe you have a boss breathing down your neck for forty or more hours each week and can barely fit all your other responsibilities in the scraps of time left over. Maybe caring for your kids is forcing you from one bone-weary day to the next.

As a mom who works at home, it has felt daunting to be aware of so many good things I could spend my time on, in addition to planning around the unpredictability of caring for a preschooler and a toddler.

When I was in school, I gave most of my time to my teachers and the homework they assigned. When I was teaching, I gave hours and hours each week to managing my classes and preparing lessons.

I once heard a speaker compare the time we have each day to a pie. At the beginning of each 24 hour day, it’s a fresh-from-the-oven pie, and by the end, it’s an empty pie plate, instantly refilling for the next day.

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My tendency has been to want to figure out how to slice the pie and slice it the same every day. But then I start living like my pie is my own, rather than a grace God has entrusted to me. I begin to resent the times when my kids or husband want a bigger slice, or when the pie is empty before I had the chance to do everything I wanted to do. When I call the pie mine, I’m also tempted to set my pie up next to others’ pies to see how they’ve sliced theirs and feel my pie is wrong because it looks different.

So how do I receive the pie of a day, or the pies for a week, or the pies for a year with an open hand? How do I let God do the slicing?

I ask Him to show me His values.

The pie of my time can be an offering back to God when I let Him shape my values. I spend time on what I value, but I can only value what God values when I make space for Him. Though the slice of time to pray and read the Bible might not be the same each day, (and may be slivers or crumbs collected throughout the day), as we read His word, He uses it to direct all the other slices and even the attitude we have as our slices are eaten up.

He gives us a vision for what He is doing in the world–bringing all things together in Christ–and reminds us of the privilege of resting in the gospel and running with the good news to all who will listen, (even if they are trying to do handstands or smash a tower of blocks at the same time).

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I don’t make every decision about how thin or thick a slice is cut.

When I plan my day so rigidly that everything extra is an inconvenience, I am easily frustrated and might miss what the Holy Spirit is wanting me to join Him in.

When my husband is home and our pies are overlapping, it’s not loving or respectful to cut his pieces for him. Instead, it’s another chance for me to serve him and receive the blessings he gives to our family as we work together.

When I’m not always thinking about the next task, I can also have space to enjoy the things I am spending my time on, rather than flipping to the end of the picture book to see how much longer it will take to read.

I ask God to help me value each role He has given me to steward.

Meal planning often makes me tired. Picking up toys feels pointless when they get dumped out again two seconds later. But when God helps me see the bigger picture of why He’s given me the roles He has, I can flip through one more grocery ad and throw the Duplo blocks back in his room again.

When I clean my house, it’s easier to welcome other people into it, even if it can only be described as “relatively clean and picked up.” God brought an ordered universe from the chaos of the waters of darkness, and I can reflect His desire for restoration as I snap the lid on the toy box again. (And for some reason, the toys become fun again once they’ve been put back into baskets.)

Planning and preparing meals is a way to meet the needs of my family and any others who come during mealtimes. Any time invested in finance, health, car, and home details is a way to love my family and take care of some chaos my husband won’t have to deal with.

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I anticipate what God might let me join Him in.

Even when I feel God has given me an idea for using the gifts He’s entrusted to me, it’s tempting to want to control it, to try to make it happen in my way and my timing. But when I allow God to choose slices for certain things, He can use my entire pie along with millions of other pies to fulfill His perfect plan.

It might mean letting go of some of my own expectations in my child and home-care roles. Or laying down my preferences for how to load the dishwasher or get the oil changed in the van so that I don’t have to do it myself. And it might mean using my slices to relieve tasks I might prefer my husband to do so that he can serve in something God is inviting him to.

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An Undercooked Mess

Maybe it seems like others have abundant energy or health to devote to each slice. Maybe a grief or underlying tension or stress is making you struggle through caring for the basic needs that fill each pie. Maybe you feel like by the time all the slices are devoured, there aren’t even any crumbs for you, and you wouldn’t have energy to even enjoy them if you did. It’s okay to be frustrated with a hard season or string of seasons as you remember the truth:  

Jesus has lived a perfect life of obedience to the Father’s will for us, so that we can enjoy Him for an eternity of pain-free pies. Whether we feel like our pie is an undercooked, blueberry mess, or whether the cross-hatched top came out perfectly, God sees us the same. He sees Jesus’ perfection. And He loves us, sticky hands and all.

Why Your Husband’s Love Needs to be Received

Christopher and I usually play violin together for a few weddings each year. Some couples lift up Christ as the One joining them together and giving the strength to keep their vows, and some use Bob Marley lyrics in the ceremony in place of Scripture or say that they will keep their vows, “for as long as love shall last.”

We recently played at a wedding where the bride and groom had written their own Christ-centered wedding vows. As I watched the sincerity on the groom’s face, the Lord gave me a deeper understanding of the way He wanted to love me through my own man sitting right next to me.

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But what exactly is love?

What does it mean that God is love? Isn’t love a feeling? Isn’t it an action?

Recognizing the Gift

The apostle John says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16 ESV)

Love is a gift from God, meant to be received and shared with those He has placed in our lives.  But we can’t understand how to receive the little acts of love until we recognize the greatest gift of love—God sending His Son to die, paying the punishment for our sins.

Every time we see God’s love in Scripture, how he cared for the Israelites in the wilderness, gave them a promised land, and called them to return to him as they flocked to nations and their idols, it invites us to look ahead to the cross.

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When we feel the sunshine’s warmth through orange and yellow leaves, get a little extra time from our baby’s extended nap, or take another breath into a body that functions relatively well, it points back to the cross, and ahead to a future home with Jesus, free from the evil and brokenness that shreds our emotions and darkens our ability to recognize love.

When we get an impulsive hug from a child, feel a baby’s grabby caress on our face, or hear our husband ask what he can do to help after he’s gotten up at 4am for work, it is a tiny reflection of the cross.

All of our loving acts or words are little sacrifices, springing from the greatest sacrifice God planned from the beginning of time.

When we keep going back to the pure love of the gospel, placing our faith in His Son, we invite the Spirit who has chosen to live in us to purify and perfect the love we can give to others—the lost moments of sleep to listen to a husband’s dreams for the future, scooping  baby-turds out of the bathtub, and investing the time to fully answer a preschooler’s “why” question.

Preparing Your Heart to Receive

Reaching for Christopher’s hand during that wedding, I was overcome with the treasure of experiencing faithfulness, kindness, protection, and a peaceful spirit through the way Christopher treats me. All the good that I experience from him is a reflection of the way God loves me.

I was also pricked with memories of times Christopher has wanted to delight in me through a lingering hug, sharing a funny story, or inviting me to watch something the kids were doing together, but I was too busy to engage fully. I’ve often had my own idea of how I should be loved (basically, what I think should get done), rather than paying attention to the love already offered to me.

Many times I struggle under the weight of my own expectations of the meals, dishes, laundry, and emails I feel I should get done in a day, not to mention how I should be making all the right decisions in training my kids and making sure they get enough iron in their diet.

When I’ve convinced myself that it’s all up to me, I need someone to shake me enough to see that  I’m trusting in myself, what Christine Hoover in her book, From Good to Grace refers to as the “goodness gospel,” trying to be good and do good apart from God.

Sometimes, I think I’m doing so well, being patient and understanding, until I reach the end of my limited patience and don’t want to adjust my expectations anymore of what should get done before everyone arrives for our son’s birthday supper at our house.

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Sometimes I feel that unless my expectations are fulfilled or I force myself to act a certain way, I don’t even deserve to receive love. I forget that I could never earn God’s love, and that I don’t have to.

The God who is love, is living inside of us, covering us in His righteousness so that we don’t have to fear the day of judgment. When I let fear of people invade my relationships, and think that what I write, how I respond to my children, and how much I reach out to others determines my value, it’s an indication that I’m not resting in God’s approval and love.  I fear the “punishment” of people’s disapproval or reactions instead of repenting and being in awe of the God who punishes evil completely. (see 1 John 4:7-19)

When my days are focused on entering into giving and receiving sacrificial love through Christ’s power, I can invite Him to enter in to whatever fussiness, diaper blowouts, or nose-wiping my circumstances bring.

A Woman of Faith

One encouragement God brought recently was through a biography about Sarah Edwards, the wife of the 18th century church father Jonathan Edwards. Most men of that time valued “getting their hands dirty” in their work, but Sarah cared for her home of 11 children while her husband spent many hours studying Scripture.

She often had to set extra places at meals, since pastoral interns, missionaries, and others would come to learn from her husband. Many times, Jonathan would eat his supper quickly and retreat to study some more, leaving Sarah to interact with the guests.

Some of her letters and journal entries revealed that she was often concerned about what other people in their church and community thought about her husband, especially since he was not like many pastors of that time who made “social calls” in addition to visiting members when they were in need.

When their daughter Esther’s husband died, leaving her with two little children, Jonathan traveled to assist at the College of New Jersey, replacing Esther’s husband as president. He contracted small pox after an inoculation, and his last words were about Sarah:

“Give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her that the uncommon union which has so long subsisted between us has been of such a nature as I trust is spiritual and therefore will continue forever.”

How might God be inviting you to open yourself up to love and be delighted in?

When Your Husband Isn’t Meant to Provide

“Honey, I have to stay late today.”

It didn’t seem like a problem, since my newborn was looking up with innocent smiles from her bouncy seat, and my toddler was paging through a book.  I stirred the onions and stepped over to unload the dishwasher.

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As I stacked the plates, I decided I’d try to have dinner on the table when he got home. All three of us would be waiting at the door, ready to give hugs and kisses. We’d listen to each other’s days as our toddler quietly ate his vegetables, and we’d probably even have time to catch up on our budget after supper.

My dream quickly dissolved as the baby’s moans of frustration soon crescendoed into healthy-lung wails, and my toddler latched onto my leg with demands for shows and chocolate milk.

The burning smell of the onions filled the kitchen, and by the time Daddy came in the door, finishing dinner had been moved to the bottom of the list.

The relief of having another set of capable hands in the house overshadowed my plans for a peaceful welcome, turning into a series of “Honey, could you’s. . . “

It also kept me from noticing his weary face.

Running in the Wrong Direction

When the immediate needs seem to fill each nook and cranny of the day and evening, I get the panicky feeling that nothing is being accomplished, (especially when nothing is crossed off the sticky note).

When our nighttime conversations, normally only punctuated by brushing, flossing, and mouthwash, get taken away by a fussy baby being handed back and forth, it makes me wonder why God would allow so many obstacles to feeling connected in marriage.

Doesn’t God know how much more loving I could be if life was easier? If I didn’t have to always feel so. . . dependent?

My mentor Natalie recently asked me who I run to when things go wrong—Christopher?

Or my Heavenly Father?

Do I trust God to provide, or is it only Christopher’s job?

It’s easy to feel unloved when I expect a person to do what only God can do—to listen perfectly, sympathize with my struggles, and be ready with grace and approval because of Jesus’ redemption no matter how many mistakes I make.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked his friends to watch and pray with him. I’m sure they tried, but by the time He got back, they were asleep.

As human beings, we are limited. Jesus understands that, since He became a human and took on the boundaries of flesh while still remaining God. He gets it.

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Here are a few ways I’ve been encouraged to run to Jesus when all I feel like doing is complain to my husband and expect him to make everything better.

  1. Talk to your soul.

A friend recently reminded me that feelings should be acknowledged, but not trusted.

When I feel like I’ve accomplished little more than keeping two kids alive by the end of the day (and not even necessarily in a good mood), it’s natural for me to start judging myself. I think that my value in God’s kingdom is based on my performance or ability to be strong under pressure.

If I jot a list of tasks I want to get done, I expect myself to finish it.

I often let that attitude carry over into how I see my husband, and refuse to extend grace when a detail is forgotten.

The other day, after quite a few hours of unfulfilled goals, I realized how little joy I felt. It seemed the Holy Spirit was saying, “Well, you have five minutes now. Why don’t you use it to talk to your soul?”

And so I began.

The Father loves me.

Jesus paid for everything wrong I’ve ever done or ever will do.

I have been clothed in Christ’s righteousness, which is what the Father sees when He looks at me (instead of what I did or didn’t accomplish).

The two children He’s entrusted me with are part of His good will for my life.

He is using the newborn fussiness and minute-by-minute training of a toddler to sanctify me and show me my need for Him.

The Father is satisfied with me because He is satisfied with Jesus, who lives in me.

I have an inheritance in heaven, which the Spirit is preparing me for—and I’ll get to enjoy perfect fellowship with the Father.

Unexpected messes, tantrums, and car repairs are all part of the life He is allowing and walking with me in.

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The lies of comparing myself to others and expecting a certain set of circumstances can only be fought with remembering the truth found in God’s Word.

It’s worth every ounce of mental energy.

  1. Remember that we’re in this together.

When Christopher and I are both stressed, our capacity to listen can go down. We become focused on ourselves. I’m so thankful for the times Christopher has reminded me that we are going to face the bills, tears, and rice stuck to the carpet together.

  1. Value what he thinks is important.

I might have household tasks I’d like Christopher to do on a Saturday, but it is prideful to think that he should always place the same level of importance on gutters being cleaned. I’ve had to remind myself that it’s okay if it doesn’t get done today.

And if I really, really have something that needs doing, a calm and kind request makes all the difference.

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  1. Allow him to be who he is and me to be who I am.

I’ve found that the more I try to control my circumstances or the people in my life, the more out of control they become.

Just as my newborn is not a machine that can be conformed to a rigid schedule of sleeping and eating, my husband has a distinct personality causing him to see the world a certain way. He often helps me to step back and see the big picture of our lives, when a broken vacuum cleaner feels like the end of the world.

When I can appreciate his role as husband and allow other friends to be a listening ear once in a while, it can also help me enjoy the times we do share our feelings and connect.

What burden do you need to surrender to the Father today?

What can you thank your husband for?

When Your Husband’s Desires Don’t Match Your Own

I recently pulled out the workbook Christopher and I used during our pre-marital counseling six years ago.

The section that caught my eye dealt with the ideas each of us had for our new life together.

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How would the housework be divided?

Who would pay the bills?

How many children did we want to have?

How would we discipline them?

How much time would we spend in the bedroom together?

While we laughed again about Christopher’s “the more the merrier” answer to how many children we would have (which wasn’t so funny when I thought he was serious), it made me realize how our desires are constantly changing and how dangerous it can be not to address them.

Sometimes I’ve felt frustrated with myself for having expectations at all, pushing them down along with my feelings.

Wouldn’t it be more loving to ignore a Saturday afternoon task that didn’t get done?

At other times, it’s sounded too exhausting to take the time to talk through them.

What if I couldn’t express my desires in a clear way?

What if he thought my ideas were ridiculous?

Sometimes I’ve wanted to force my husband to understand things from my perspective before making any effort to consider his own.

If only I felt like I was being heard, then I could be more loving and respectful when it was his turn.

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Jesus Love

But Jesus didn’t put qualifications on others. The Scripture doesn’t say, “Consider others better than yourselves if you feel like you’ve been listened to and appreciated.”

Jesus died for us when we were still stained by sin, ignoring the abundant life He longed to give.

Grace is only grace when it has nothing to do with our behavior and everything to do with accepting and extending His gift of mercy (Ephesians 2:8-9).

That’s the kind of communication He invites us into—gracious, loving, forgiving—all empowered by the Spirit.

Here are a few things that have helped me when conflict seems to build like a pressure cooker.

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  1. Tell Jesus how I’m feeling.

We have access to a friend who knows our inmost being, sympathizes with our weakness, showers us with grace, and has the power to help us change. Would we rather trade that for Facebook sympathy?

2. Listen.

Emotions can feel like cotton balls stuffed in our ears, preventing us from hearing what our husbands are really trying to express. But God’s Spirit has the power to hold us as we press our lips tight or ask questions that will prompt him into sharing. It might surprise us what things he values over getting dinner on the table on time.

3. Be honest about my struggle.

I’m amazed by the gracious response Christopher gives me when I admit to what I’m struggling with and confess the anger and resentment that I’ve allowed to grow.

And when I’m able to state my failed hopes in a non-hormone-charged way, it gives him a chance to process what I’m saying.

A few years ago, a counselor encouraged us to consider the trust we’d built up from resolving past disagreements as we allow ourselves to vulnerably share our feelings with each other.

4. Pray together.

Sometimes I ask Christopher to pray for me right in the moment if I begin to feel condemnation and lies running through my thoughts. Sometimes he suggests we pray together if the disagreement doesn’t seem like it can be easily resolved.

Because asking for wisdom is a request God delights to answer. (James 1:5)

So often I try to find a solution to our problems by relying on my own understanding, (even if I’ve just prayed for God’s wisdom), which is a kind of spiritual schizophrenia as Jen Wilkin said in her Biblestudy on James.

Something Christopher has said many times to encourage me is, “I’m on your side.” We are in this together as we fight against sin and selfish desires.

5. Evaluate the expectations I have for myself.

When I feel frustrated by how little I accomplished during the day, it’s easy to want to try to make up for it in the evening. I find myself going into squirrel-mode, grabbing as many acorns as I can and trying to make others around me do the same.

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“Here—take this acorn and put it in the dishwasher.”

“Put all your acorns back in your toybox this instant.”

“Did you call the guy about reimbursing our acorns yet?”

But sometimes, a few of my acorns need to be left strewn across the floor in favor of helping with my husband and son’s acorns.

Often, they are better at showing me how to love them than if I try to love them how I think they should be loved. (They’re also really good at loving and enjoying me without any thought to how many acorns they have to step around).

When we make the effort to work through conflict, we have the chance to catch glimpses of the perfect relationships we will have in Heaven in the Jesus-filled way they were meant to be.

Will you ask for the Spirit’s power, living in the hope of the gospel as you work through the messes of today?

He is ready to help.

22 Christ-Centered Resources for Life and Family

Resources for Life and FamilyHave you ever felt overwhelmed by all the Christian resources available?

What’s the difference between books, songs, videos, and other media that are simply uplifting and ones that are Christ-centered?

It all comes back to the gospel.

I want my son to know about Noah and the ark because it points to Jesus.

That even though the flood destroyed everyone except Noah’s family, God knew bad things would happen again.

But there was still hope because when Jesus came, He provided the way for everyone to be saved by His death and resurrection.

I want Isaiah to celebrate what God did through the men and women in the Bible, rather than thinking he needs to imitate the “Bible heroes.”

I want him to see how each story in Scripture is a part of the bigger story of God’s plan of redemption from Genesis to Revelation.

And I want the other resources that I read about marriage, parenting, and spiritual growth to have God’s rescue plan and the freedom He offers be the foundation for any other advice given.

So. . .

I’ve added a new resource page to my blog.

You can check it out here.

Do you know of any other Jesus-filled resources?

I’d love for you to comment or message me.

20 Things My Toddler Taught Me

20 Things My Toddler Taught Me1. People are more important than possessions.

He was digging through the cupboard of pots and pans and I hadn’t heard any alarming crashes. But when I went to put the pans away, I saw my crimson-glazed 9 by 9 baking dish in three pieces on the floor. After a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself, I realized I’d rather have my son than an intact dish.

2. Laughter is not something to ration out. (Or other expressions of joy, for that matter)

If Isaiah is pleased, he is usually laughing. If his older cousins are laughing, he joins right in. A sliced open watermelon elicits a “Wow!” Being chased or pursued brings squeals of delight, especially if it involves his daddy pretending to eat him in the end.

Maybe if I laughed that much, I’d feel better about my day, too.

3. Life is richer when lived in the present.

I’m amazed at what Isaiah notices when we are out and about. He watches a semi barrel down the road, points to birds flying in the air, hears crop dusters fly by, and notices each child in the grocery store. So often my thoughts are wrapped up my to-do list or if I said the right thing during a conversation the night before.

Maybe if I observed the world a little closer, I’d appreciate it more.

20 Things My Toddler Taught Me4. Social media can lure me in like a fly to a spiderweb (and mess up my priorities).

Sometimes when Isaiah starts to fuss, my thought is, “How many more emails or messages can I go through before he gets really loud?” The bursts of interruption when I’m in cyberworld help me to remember that making supper is important and so is reading books, teaching Isaiah the difference between a yak and a giraffe.

5. Surrendering to the unexpected can be healthy.

Whether a diaper soaks through or he just wants me to read him “Do Cows Meow?” again, Isaiah has taught me to let go of my plans and enjoy moments of beauty, like a butterfly looping in the air instead of trying to save it for later and crushing it in the process. He loves it when I invite people over or my sister-in-law stops by. It may be just what I needed.

6. I can’t do this parenting thing on my own, (or this life thing, really).

Through crying, tantrums, and confusion (on both our parts), every day I am reminded that I need Jesus. Without His help, I can’t help but react in frustration and anger. I can’t show my son the patience he needs.

20 Things My Toddler Taught Me7. Asking intentional questions can be scary and wonderful (because life is short).

Having a conversation with another mother of a toddler is like being a trapeze performer talking to a lion tamer during a three ring circus. Your mind is always partially occupied with something else. Since it’s hard enough for us to get in close proximity enough to hear each other, each moment is precious. I don’t want to miss a chance to find out how she is doing. Does it matter whether my child is potty-trained or not yet?

8. Plans can be changed.

I used to think if I figured out a schedule to live by and kept to it like a military private, I would feel satisfied and productive. Instead, it felt a bit like a noose in the year before Isaiah was born. If I didn’t take that morning walk, I’d be failing in doing what’s best.

Some days Isaiah prefers more attention, sometimes he needs to just get outside, and when that nose starts to run, he needs a little more TLC and quarantine.

If I surrender my days to an unchanging God, who always knows what is best, I can trust Him to lead me in the rhythms of life.

9. It doesn’t always feel more blessed to give than to receive.

I don’t like sharing my last bite of cupcake with Isaiah. I certainly didn’t feel like getting up to feed him during the night when he was a baby.

But each time I struggle with my own selfishness, it gives me the chance to run to Jesus. He is always there to sympathize with our weaknesses and forgive us when we ask (Hebrews 4).

20 Things My Toddler Taught Me10. My son is not a reflection of me.

When he sends cars flying off the coffee table, when he makes burping sounds and laughs, when he dives onto the couch cushions, I know he’s not me.

But when people are watching, when he rips a truck out of the hands of another toddler, when he cries because he can’t push the buttons on the grocery store card reader, it’s easy to think I’m at fault.

If I let myself worry so much about how I’m perceived, I might forget the shepherding and training I’m supposed to be focusing on.

11. It’s important for me to stay healthy.

When I take time to practice creativity through writing or take some time in the evening to get lost in a novel, I often feel more energy to embrace the cooking, laundry, and moments of teaching and discipline.

If I’m determinedly checking off a too-long list of tasks, requests for help or a listening ear can be met with anger or self-pity. Even toddlers can catch these vibes.

12. I’m not in control. (Was I really able to live under that illusion before?)

When Isaiah’s skin felt like it had been baked in an oven, we couldn’t heal him from his fever.

When he gets older and is pelted by hurtful words, I won’t be able to stop it.

But I can keep giving my son up to our loving Father who’s got the whole redemption story worked out and wins in the end.

13. It’s okay to not always feel understood.

Isaiah is learning to talk, and about half the time I have no idea if he’s trying to recite the preamble or tell me about his time at Grandma’s. Even when he’s repeating a word over and over, in increasingly panicky tones, sometimes I just don’t get it.

There are times when I feel I’m doing the same thing, trying to put into words how I feel or what I wish would happen. Sometimes, people won’t understand no matter how hard I try. That’s okay, because the Spirit totally understands and intercedes for us when we can’t even find the words to pray (Romans 8).

Sometimes it’s better to just split a banana smoothie with Isaiah and sip it in silence, anyway.

14. Sometimes efficiency is unloving.

I have often thought my husband would be happy if I got the house cleaned up before he got home, but usually I’d run out of time and try to listen to him and follow a recipe at the same time. When I’d try to get the dishes cleaned up quickly, I’d feel tense and ungrateful for Husband unloading the dish drainer.

Sometimes I don’t want to take the time to kiss boo-boos or talk to Isaiah’s stuffed bear.

Sometimes I absolutely have to get something done—but usually it can wait a few minutes.

15. Daddies like it when we take an interest in what they’re doing.

Whether it’s watching fighter jets on youtube or punching out the pieces to a new board game, Isaiah is almost always right by his Daddy’s side. When I join in on hearing Christopher’s passions, we can enjoy our time together as a family.

20 Things My Toddler Taught Me16. Trying new things and looking silly is worth it.

All day long, Isaiah tries to imitate what we are doing—yoga stretches, cooking, putting on deodorant. He usually misses a few numbers when counting to ten or singing his do re mi’s. But he tries. He’s not afraid of messing up.

What if I allowed myself the same freedom?

17. God loves me just as I am.

Isaiah doesn’t contribute too tangibly to society yet (unless you count dirty diapers and food art). He doesn’t help too many old ladies cross the street or wash the dishes.

And we love him like crazy.

If we don’t expect Isaiah to earn our pleasure by his performance, why do I let myself feel that way about God?

18. It’s okay to cry when something hurts.

Isaiah probably cries three or four times a day from trips, stubs, and pinched fingers. Sometimes letting it all out can get us back to zooming our tractors around again.

20 Things My Toddler Taught Me19. Being messy can be liberating.

Isaiah doesn’t mind when his hands and neck are sticky with watermelon juice. He doesn’t care if the toys are picked up. He still drops his spoon.

Sometimes grimy hugs are more important than keeping my clothes clean.

Sometimes risking messy relationships is better than not having them at all.

20. There isn’t always a right way of doing something.

Why eat your strawberry slices with a fork, when you can stick your fingers through them? Why tear your lettuce into a salad when you can dip the stalk itself into ranch dressing?

When I spend too much energy making sure my family does things the right way, it stays in the air like a stinky diaper, distracting from more meaningful conversation.

Thanks, Isaiah, for putting up with this mama of yours.

Thank you, Father, for loving me as I am, but also loving me too much to let me stay that way.

What’s one thing your kids have taught you? I’d love to hear.

How to Add More Relational Passion to Your Marriage

How to Add More Relational Passion to Your Marriage “How was your time last night?”

Christopher’s face lit up like a thousand fireflies as he recounted the people he’d met, the board games he’d played, and the strategy he was able to execute perfectly.

His passion for people and board games flowed out of him as he talked, permeating the room like brownies baking in the oven.

My words slipped into the space he left behind as I explained the mind-bending plot twist in the novel I’d just finished, while we watched Isaiah zoom his cars along the floor.

Sometimes I tell him about the premise of the sweet romance I watched with friends. Or I get to talking about my own novel I’m writing, as I’ve discovered new depths to my characters’ interests and motivations.

It feels a little like when we were dating—when we couldn’t wait to see each other again and catch up on the details of our lives as if we were going to be tested on them.

Much-Needed Marriage Advice
One of the best pieces of marriage advice I received before my wedding came from my sister-in-law, Queena. She encouraged me to support my husband in something he enjoys doing without me.

What? But won’t our relationship grow better if we’re together? He is at work all day, after all.

As a new bride, it was easy for me to want my husband with me all the time. We had a number of shared interests and enjoyed being together.

I felt safe with him, and I didn’t have to make the effort to call anyone else or risk the rejection I felt if they declined.

The problem was, Christopher couldn’t meet all of my needs, because it’s impossible for one person to do.

I’m so thankful for the times when our family does do things together, but living with two members of the opposite gender, I realized I needed some time with the gender that thinks a little more like me.

Someone who understands when hormones cloud my logical thinking–and knows how to make sympathetic sounds and nod at the right time.

How to Add More Relational Passion to Your Marriage And as I share life with friends, I can learn about their passions. Sometimes, I’ll ask a question like, “What are you enjoying about life?” to get the conversation going.

The Universe-Shaper God created us in His image, like the different colors and pieces in a stained-glass window. How could we not want to explore and appreciate each tiny pane?

My time apart from Christopher has also caused me to look at myself and discover which creative pursuits energize me. (You can read more here.)

Working Out Expectations
There have been times when life’s been moving so fast, we’ve needed to guard our time with each other. Sometimes our expectations haven’t matched up, and we’ve needed to be honest with each other about feeling smothered or distant.

I know my husband will always feel energized by being with people on Friday nights (or singing with his barbershop quartet). Sometimes I get together with a friend while he’s away, but other times I’d rather just lose myself in a novel.

Then, when we come back together, we have more to give. We don’t have to be as concerned about getting all our relational needs filled from each other.

When we have people over as a couple, we can delight in practicing hospitality together, adding our individual interests and passions to the conversation.

Plus, Isaiah gets to see his mommy and daddy enjoying life (and learn that it doesn’t all revolve around him).

How to Add More Relational Passion to Your Marriage When Christopher and I are excited about life, our passions curl us even closer together, like a blanket. And when I just don’t get the draw of a space-themed strategy game he played with one of his friends, I can still delight in his joy (and the way his eyes squint when he’s happy).

What is your husband passionate about? I’d love to hear!

How to Thrive as a Transplanted Wife

How to Thrive as a Transplanted Wife Christopher and I were on our own during our first two years, figuring out how to be newlyweds. I was finishing my last year of college, and then we both got teaching jobs for a year.

We tried to keep up with our families up in Delaware and North Dakota (and siblings scattered from Michigan to Africa), but our social network was made up of college friends and members of the Chinese church we attended.

When the school year ended, we decided to spend some time near Christopher’s family and community as we prepared to move overseas. A year later, we felt the Lord’s redirection from overseas ministry and had to decide where we would live.

I had enjoyed the past year of putting down some roots and getting to know Christopher’s family and community more. I’d never lived in one place more than seven years, so we decided to stay put.

It’s been almost three years now since moving here–good, hard, fun, exciting, vision-searching years. God has continued to lovingly draw me out of my comfort zone as I’ve begun to find my place here.

Here are a few things I’ve learned since being transplanted into my husband’s community:

How to Thrive as a Transplanted Wife 1. Relationships take time.
When I was living in a college dorm, everyone had to actively make friends or have none. Friendships were measured by the semester, and I had to figure out who I was going to keep up with once graduation happened and everyone scattered across the world like confetti.

The ground felt much more solid when we moved to the same town where Christopher’s great-great grandparents had lived. I noticed that there wasn’t as much of a rush to deepen relationships as on the college campus. Interactions felt more like a slow cooker than a microwave.

I had to learn to relax in these new relationships and enjoy the seasoning process.

2. His family isn’t mine (and that’s okay).
I’m so grateful for my in-laws and the life perspective I get when I’m with them. It helps me understand my husband better and be more accepting of traditions and ways of doing things as we build up our own little family. (Things like adding seasoned salt to popcorn, singing before meals, and appreciating a well-told story.)

At Christmas, we spent some time with my family and Christopher said, “You’re like a totally different person with your family.” My counselor reminded me that I had a whole lot more shared experiences with my own family, and as I get to know my in-laws better, I’ll grow into my place there, too.

3. There’s nothing wrong with observing (or not knowing).
Sometimes when I was in a group setting, I worried about not contributing to the conversation. I feared they thought I was rude. I had to learn that it was okay to enjoy breathing the same air and just listen.

And when stories were told from “before my time,” I could appreciate the history of the place I’m living.

4. I have the unique opportunity to enjoy and bless other transplanted wives.
I’ve found that there can be a certain camaraderie between other transplanted wives if we are only brave enough to share our experiences with each other. And what a relief to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t know how everyone is related.

It’s also a good excuse to be the one to welcome someone who is even newer to the community than me. We can even relate to missionaries who are coming back to the States and finding their place in the culture and community again.

How to Thrive as a Transplanted Wife 5. My friends aren’t all my husband’s friends.
Shortly after we moved here, I started a women’s prayer group at my house. I made additional friendships through church and other mutual friends.

When I had a baby, I got to know women who had already been wiping up sticky floors for a few years. Christopher got connected with friends who play music and enjoy board games.

It’s been a blessing to feel the freedom to pursue friendships individually and as a couple.

6. I can enjoy new ministry pursuits.
When I lived in North Dakota in high school, I regularly played on a worship team at church. In South Carolina, I taught 3-5th grade Sunday School for three years. When I moved here, I was able to start fresh and ask God where I would best fit at this stage in my life.

7. Being bold brings blessing. (Do you like that alliteration?)
I’ve need this pep talk regularly. When I’ve quit worrying about how I’m being perceived and shared my own life and struggles with others, it’s opened up the way for others to do the same. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t sit next to each other in kindergarten or that we didn’t graduate from the same high school. Maybe we can’t laugh over shared memories yet, but we can enjoy life right now and listen to each others’ histories.

So if you’re a transplanted wife, know that there are others in the same canoe. We might just be too shy to say anything yet.

On the other hand, if you’ve been planted in the area your whole life, we can’t wait to get to know you, too, (and hear some embarrassing stories about our husbands.)

What have you learned as a transplanted wife?

Why It’s Not Your Job to Prevent Pain

Why It's Not Your Job to Prevent PainA couple weekends ago, my husband planned a trip to Ohio to visit one of his friends and wanted to take our son along (8 hours away, if you calculate it without a toddler in the back seat).

It was going to be the first time in 19 months that I’d be baby-free for more than a few hours.

It terrified me to think of not being there to anticipate my son’s needs, put him down for a nap, comfort him, or make sure he ate some vegetables.

What if he cried in his carseat for hours?

What if he wouldn’t go to sleep in a new place?

What if he stole toys from their little girl?

What if he experienced (gasp) pain?

It caused me to question some of the beliefs I didn’t know I had:
1. It is my job as a wife and mother to try to keep my husband and child from feeling pain.
2. I need to do everything I can to prevent anything bad from happening.

What if I failed?

Occupation: Pain Prevention Squad
Sometimes, when we see those we love going through difficulties, it feels like we’re the ones with the hangnail being ripped off.

We wish would could take it away or even take it on ourselves.

But God has never shied away from pain, because there is something He values even more than our comfort.

  • Joseph was falsely accused and thrown into prison. (Genesis 39)
  • The prophet Isaiah was told no one would listen to his message. (Isaiah 6)
  • Daniel kept praying to God despite a king’s edict and was thrown into a lion’s den. (Daniel 6)
  • John the Baptist lost his head because of his preaching. (Mark 6)

Why It's Not Your Job to Prevent PainGod wants our hearts–and the hearts of everyone around us. He was willing to send His own Son to die an excruciating death so that we could be His sons and daughters. And, like a loving parent, He wants us to experience His spiritual blessings.

According to Ephesians 1, God . . .

. . . chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight

. . . adopted us as his children

. . . lavished us with grace with all wisdom and understanding

. . . redeemed us through his blood

. . . forgave our sins

. . . worked everything out according to his will so that we could bring him glory

. . . marked us with a seal, the Holy Spirit, guaranteeing our inheritance in heaven

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Our pain has a purpose. My child’s pain has a purpose. I may not see it on this side of eternity, but if my son’s pain causes him to see his need for Jesus, I’d much rather he experience spiritual blessings with pain than live a comfortable life.

Why It's Not Your Job to Prevent Pain

C.S. Lewis, in his book, The Problem of Pain, says that “pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” 
If I believe I serve a loving Father, who delights in His relationship with me, I can crawl into His arms, knowing that he may be using our family’s pain in any number of ways. . .

. . . to refine us.

. . . to protect us from further pain.

. . . to grow us.

. . . to guide us.

Sometimes our fear of pain can eclipse the rays of blessing Jesus wants us to feel.

When I was able to lay my fears in Jesus’ capable arms, I was free to enjoy the gift of solitude while my family was away. Isaiah got some really special “Daddy time,” learning how to communicate with him without Mommy intervention. Everyone came back in one piece. And I got the chance to see how efficient I can be when I’m alone in the house–and that I don’t care to.

I’d much rather trip over toys on the floor than be able to see what color the carpet is. I’d rather cook meals that get devoured in ten minutes than have no one to cook for. I’d rather risk pain than abandon my relationships to avoid it.

And seriously, who doesn’t like to listen to little-boy animal and truck sounds all day long?

Spirit, please lead us out of our fear of pain and into a place of trust. Please take our painful experiences and make something beautiful out of each one. You are worthy.

7 Things to Do When Your Husband is a Dreamer

When Your Husband is a DreamerI’m married to an external processor.

Whenever my husband proposes that we change something, I feel like tiny ants have burrowed under my skin and are trying to wriggle their way out.

Because staying the same feels so much safer.

If I come up with an idea, I usually think about it for a while before telling anyone, making sure my ideas and dreams make logical sense in my own mind. When I do spill my thought beans, I’ve already weighed a number of pros and cons. Basically, I’m secretly hoping for a stamp of approval when I present my idea, tied with a pretty red bow.

Now if I were a hermit, this plan would work perfectly, but relationships tend to throw a socket wrench in my thought-out plans.

I’m so thankful for the wrench called Christopher. He’s strong in a lot of areas I’m not. His passion for life and easy-going spirit are two qualities that first attracted me to him.

The trouble comes when he excitedly shares an idea with me and I think he’s thought through it the same way I would have. I go into panic mode, and as my face registers horrified shock, I see him begin to deflate.

Here are seven things I’ve tried to do when I feel the fear pushing out its ugly head.

When Your Husband is a Dreamer1. Listen
I don’t usually think of myself as someone who interrupts, but when I get scared and our future is involved, my tongue starts flapping with objections before my husband can even finish his sentence. As women, we long for security, so it’s a legitimate feeling, but one of the ways we can show respect to our husbands is to really listen (rather than spending most of the time figuring out what we’re going to say next). Like Jasmine, we can step onto our Aladdin’s magic carpet and try to enjoy the scenery of his dreams.

2. Remember
Do I really believe my husband is going to take the money out of our account tomorrow to buy a powered para-glider? It’s important to remember the trust that we’ve built up together over the past years of marriage. Warning flags may be popping up everywhere in your mind.

“This could never work.”

“What would we do about ____?”

“This is crazy!”

Remind yourself that you are in this together and that if he is a believer, you both serve a God who is able to direct each season of life.

3. Suggest an Alternate Time
Since our most focused time as a couple is before we go to sleep, Christopher would often share ideas and dreams for the future at night. I’d be so tired from the day that I couldn’t cope emotionally with listening to the ideas. My mentor Natalie suggested that if I felt I couldn’t handle a conversation, I could suggest another time to talk, (and prepare myself for it). It communicates that we value what our husbands are saying, but can listen and support them better by getting a little sleep first.

4. Be thankful
Our husbands’ passions often flow into their dreams. If I’m shooting down every idea he shares with me, he’ll find someone else to share them with, and I’ll miss out. I believe God gives us gifts to bring Him glory, which can also give us a sense of fulfillment as we pursue Him. When I feel overwhelmed, I should take a moment to reflect on the man behind the idea.

5. Pray with him
I’m often amazed by what my husband says when I ask him what I can pray for. It opens a peephole into his soul, and helps in the process of joining together in what God is doing in and through us. And it might even reveal what parts of his dreams he’s really serious about and which involve striking gold in order to happen. Who knows? It might open up the way for him to invite you to share your dreams.

6. Pray for him
God is ready for you to pour all your emotions and fears. (Just page through a few of the psalms if you don’t believe me). He’s the only One who can bring true peace no matter the circumstance. And if you’ve arranged another time to talk about your husband’s dreams, by spending time before God first, you can be more emotionally prepared to hear him out. It may also be appropriate to share your feelings with a trusted friend or mentor, (while still speaking respectfully of your husband).

When Your Husband is a Dreamer7. Compromise
It’s a beautiful thing when we feel free to share our dreams with our partner and get to share in his. God has given my husband the authority to lead and protect our family, and if we’re both in it together, we can move forward confidently in the roles God has placed us in. It takes lots of grace and help from the Holy Spirit, and may look a lot like compromise. If you want to read my post on being selfless through compromise, click here.

Relationships take time, effort and a whole lot of love. It’s why the Father let His own Son be sacrificed–so that our relationship with Him could be possible. And whether we feel like we’re succeeding or failing, we can always call out for help. Because the Spirit is right there, cheering us on.