5 Ways to Practice Hospitality When Your Hobby Isn’t Cooking

5 Ways to Practice Hospitality When Your Hobby Isn’t CookingWhen Christopher and I spent the summer in Iraq, a few of us were invited to the home of three students in our English program.

I had gotten to know their mom a little bit on a previous visit and expressed my amazement as dish after dish was brought out, covering almost every inch of  the tablecloth on the floor.

She grinned and said that she’d been up since 3am cooking the noon meal. When I peeked in the kitchen later, I saw her daughter and other female relatives who had come over bustling around in the kitchen, cleaning up all the food we had left behind.

Months later, when we invited a couple over to our home in Delaware, I knew my spread would look nothing like the abundance we’d been shown in Iraq. I wasn’t even planning to make a jello salad, which seemed to be a staple when my mom had people over after church.

Instead, when the day came, I was just trying to make sure the chicken was cooked through, and the rice was fluffy enough.

Well, that and a number of other household tasks I hadn’t left myself enough time for– cleaning the bathroom, sweeping, taking out the trashes, and washing the dishes—all in the last half hour before our company came.

I started ordering Christopher around, frustrated that I couldn’t clone myself. I wondered what our friends would think if they showed up fifteen minutes early, to me running around and thinking that if I was stressed enough, things would get done faster.

Sometimes I felt like it wasn’t worth it—the potential for marital conflict, trying to get the house clean all at once, and the possibility of something burning and feeling ashamed.

Why would God ask me to do something that felt so hard?

I needed to discern what the Bible said, rather than trying to imitate the culture I had observed.

5 Ways to Practice Hospitality When Your Hobby Isn’t CookingIn the book of Romans, Paul spends the first chapters of the letter talking about our sin and guilty verdict before God and the penalty Jesus paid to make us right before Him.

In Romans 8, we are reminded that not only are we not guilty, but we have also been adopted as sons and daughters of the Father.

Romans 12 begins with the words, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

God has given me all the mercy I need to have a guilt-free relationship with Him. So when He asks me to do something, my actions must come from that place of acceptance and peace.

Which is where the idea of hospitality comes in. In the second part of Romans 12, Paul talks about the qualities believers should desire.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

I can’t force myself to have any of these qualities, just like I can’t practice hospitality without His joy giving me the strength I need.

Though I still feel I have a lot to learn in this area, here are a few things I’ve discovered five years into the journey.

  1. Entertaining is not the same thing as hospitality.

5 Ways to Practice Hospitality When Your Hobby Isn’t CookingWhen I’ve thought of hospitality, I’ve often pictured a white table cloth on a candle-lit table, more side dishes than can be counted, and a main dish that resembles a piece of art more than something to digest. I’ve thought of pinterest ideas and decorating magazines.

Just conjuring up the images made me tired.

I couldn’t get excited about hospitality until I realized the difference between entertaining to impress and inviting people into our home because we wanted to enjoy their presence.

I was also inspired by some podcasts about hospitality given by Nancy Wilson and her daughters who currently have an abundance of little ones. You can check them out here.

  1. Hospitality doesn’t have to involve a home-cooked meal.

When Christopher and I were both working new teaching jobs, I had little social energy left for other relationships. When it was our turn to host our small group at our house, we served a small snack or a pitcher of lemonade. One Saturday, we had our Sunday School kids over to bake cookies.

Since becoming an at-home mom, I’ve been able to have ladies over for tea and prayer. We’ve had a few of Christopher’s co-workers over. If Christopher has some guy friends over to play games, I try to have a couple snacks squirreled away for that, too.

  1. It doesn’t just happen. It takes intentionality and planning.

5 Ways to Practice Hospitality When Your Hobby Isn’t CookingWhen my sister-in-law and I were out shopping one day, she told me that they factor in extra money in their grocery budget for hospitality.

It encouraged me that even if we could eat more frugally ourselves, part of showing love to others might be budgeting those extra dollars to feed a few more mouths. If I plan ahead, I can even get the items I need on my regular grocery shopping day.

Once I spread my cleaning jobs throughout the week instead of cramming them all in on the company day, I could focus on food and dishes before people came over. I figured that if they saw a stray hair on the bathroom sink, they probably wouldn’t decide to walk out the door.

  1. It opens the way for relationships to be deepened.

When my mind was on making sure water glasses stayed filled and toys didn’t get strewn too far, I couldn’t focus on the conversation or ask thoughtful questions.

When I was able to lower my expectations of hospitality, I could relax a little more and respond to requests, rather than trying to preempt them.

When I quit worrying about how my hospitality was being perceived, I was free to enjoy and be encouraged by the people God had brought into our home.

  1. It gives us the chance to welcome others in the same way Christ has welcomed us.

When we reach out to others and invite them into one of the most intimate parts of our lives, it is a way we can imitate the God who delights to welcome us into His family.

Who knows? Maybe God will use us as part of His invitation to draw others to the greatest banquet ever.

Who might the Spirit be leading you to welcome into your home?

Do you have any tips for practicing hospitality with little ones?

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.

Why You Don’t Have To Be an Extrovert To Be Brave

Why You Don't Have To Be an Extrovert To Be BraveI was in 8th grade, and our family had just moved to a new state. In the past, my gym experience had consisted of making sure the teachers knew I was trying, and not looking too relieved when I got hit with the dodgeball and could sit on the sidelines.

In most team sports, I could run around and still become translucent enough for the other kids to forget to pass me the ball.

But this new school implemented a torture program called skills tests. The teacher would grab her clipboard and check our names off if we bumped the volleyball in the air 100 times in a row. (Okay, maybe it was only 10 times).

I had enough coordination to play a Mozart Minuet on my violin, but could not, for the life of me, get that volleyball to return to my clutched hands when I bumped it into the air.

The other kids stood around watching me (or maybe they’d already started to head to the locker room to change), and there I was, chasing after my renegade volleyball with the gym teacher telling me to try again.

I concluded that I’d be able to save myself a lot of pain and embarrassment if I avoided these situations as much as possible. Since my parents wouldn’t let me homeschool gym class, I had to continue risking my GPA and dignity.

But there were plenty of other chances I could put my theory to work.

The youth group was getting together to play soccer? Offer to take pictures instead.

The summer camp was doing a relay involving shaving cream and wet thrift store clothes?
Find some other girls who wanted to be cheerleaders on the sidelines with me. (And who were also equally disgusted with the idea of jumping in a mud pit for fun)

It seemed to work fairly well, pretending everyone else was on some reality show that I couldn’t join even if I’d tried. (I’d even whisper jokes into my friend’s ear sometimes, because I knew she’d be brave enough to say them out loud and make people laugh.)

But soon these ideas bled into almost all of my relationships and thoughts.

Introduce myself to the new kid at church? What if I don’t know what to say?

Speak up in Sunday School class? I’ll probably stumble over my words, and people will be wishing the whole time that I’d be quiet so someone more capable could vibrate their vocal cords.

Play my violin on the youth worship team? Worship teams don’t have violins, and I might ruin the song with wrong notes.

Pray out loud with someone? What if I get so nervous I say something heretical or there is a long five-second silence?

Over the years, Jesus has used mentors, friends, and His Word to open my fist enough for some of the fears to slip away.

Here are three things I learned (and am learning) in the process:

Why You Don't Have To Be an Extrovert To Be Brave1. It takes practice.
Once I started introducing myself to a few people, it became less finger-numbing and sweaty. I found myself asking similar questions to find out about their lives.

I’d steal my husband’s question and ask what they did for fun. I’d volunteer some information about myself and my interests. Each time it got a little easier, (with a few awkward moments still sprinkled in there to keep me on my toes).

When I’d make a comment in a class, sometimes no one would grab onto it as I silently reeled in my empty fishing line of thoughts. I’d go home and replay the scenes in my head, wishing I’d said something different. Sometimes, I’d ask for Jesus’ help to not think about it anymore.

He caused me to realize that before I started contributing my thoughts, I would always wish I’d been brave enough to say something.

One summer in high school, I shared with my camp counselor about being afraid to speak up. She challenged me to think about what I would be selfishly keeping from the Body of Christ by not sharing the insight I’d learned.

When I was finally brave enough to join the worship team, I got to use the classical musical knowledge I had gained in a new way, adding harmonies to the guitar chords like sprinkles on a cup cake. And I even made some friends in the process.

Praying out loud became easier when I “practiced” praying in my private devotions, asking myself what I really wanted God to do in people’s lives, how I wanted them to feel His grace and love in their pain, and look to Him when they were struggling. (An exciting added dimension in this stage of life has been praying with someone while keeping an eye on my toddler who likes to soak himself at the drinking fountain.)

Why You Don't Have To Be an Extrovert To Be Brave2. It takes focusing more on the other person than on myself.
Sometimes, if someone asks me a question in front of a group, I feel like I have a personal court stenographer who’s going to write down everything I say and read it back so everyone can laugh at how un-eloquent I am.

But when those fears threaten to tie a gag around my mouth, I have to remember where my identity comes from. It’s not about what I say and do. It’s about finding my confidence in Christ’s finished work on the cross.

Only when I know my identity is secure can I invite others to delight in Him as well. I can risk some awkward silences and miscommunications.

If it’s more about showing others God’s glory than looking good ourselves, it doesn’t really matter whether we could have been more witty or intellectual-sounding.

In fact, maybe our fancy words would have just gotten in the way, like trying to convince someone how delicious a souffle is before letting them taste it for themselves.

3. It takes grace. Lots of it.
It’s not easy to admit to being wrong or have someone disagree with me. It’s scary to feel misunderstood. But I’m reminded that I’m not alone when I read the gospels and see how many people disagreed with and misunderstood Jesus, who was perfect. It might not be me they are rejecting.

And when I do say something I wish I hadn’t, I can always ask for forgiveness and accept the grace Jesus offers every second of every day.

Sometimes I still like to just listen and observe. I don’t want to try to become an extrovert. But I also don’t want to miss the chances that God wants to love someone through me.

Jesus, show us how to bravely love like you this week. We are yours.

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!

The Danger of Wanting to See Results

The Danger of Wanting to See ResultsOne summer in high school, I noticed a billboard on my way to work that said, “We took immediately and made it faster.”

We live in a culture of microwaved food, vitamin supplements, and exercise programs promising to burn our fat faster.

You want to grow your hair faster? There’s a shampoo for that.

Now that my son is a toddler, he loves to run as fast as he can (not usually paying attention to obstacles obstructing his path).

Why would we want to do anything slowly if we can get a similar result faster?

Growing up, I measured my nine-month schoolyears by twice a year report cards.

I went on short-term mission trips.

The Danger of Wanting to See ResultsGetting married was one of my first decisions where I couldn’t picture the end.

When I got pregnant with Isaiah, we waited the designated nine months to meet him, and then he was here.

For good.

There was no putting him back where he came from.

There would be no days off unless they were carefully arranged.

For the first months of his life, he would even receive all his sustenance from me.

No Test to Ace
I realized that in motherhood there were no periodic evaluations, final exams, or times specifically devoted to reflecting on my performance.

It was just . . . doing life.

No one was telling me if I did a bad job.

When we felt the Lord redirecting us from the goal of moving overseas (you can read more here), I spent time questioning my purpose.

What if I couldn’t see how God was choosing to use me?

What if He didn’t choose to use me at all?

My mentor Natalie reminded me that “Being used by God is a byproduct of my relationship with Him.”

The Danger of Wanting to See ResultsMy focus can’t be about achieving results, because . . .

God wants my heart.

If I use my performance or relationships with others to make me feel significant, I will always be disappointed in the end.

If my contentment in Jesus is based on how I can or cannot see Him using me, it will be easy to fall into the comparison trap (you can read more here).

Mothering Like Jesus
At the height of Jesus’ ministry, He often went to quiet places to be alone with His Father. He blessed children when He could have spent the time healing more people and seeing immediate results. (Mark 10:13-16)

Do I want my son to see a mom who is obsessed with evaluating performance?

What might he conclude about my love for him if that’s my highest concern?

Melissa Kruger, in her excellent biblestudy on Walking With God in the Season of Motherhood, wrote that our “hope is to have God impact our own lives in such a way that His imprint on our hearts makes a lasting impression on our children…. If we want peaceful, hopeful, kind, and compassionate children, it is essential that we grow in these graces ourselves. In the beauty of God’s design, He is in the process of parenting us as we parent our children.”

A Patient God
If we look at God’s plan of redemption, we are reminded again and again of His patience.

He is not in a hurry.

If He were, He wouldn’t have made Sarah barren for so many years.

He wouldn’t have put up with the Israelites flailing around in their sin and choosing to remember Him only when they were in trouble.

He wouldn’t have preserved a remnant when conquerors came, one after the other.

He wouldn’t have come to earth as a baby and then entrusted the message of the gospel to a small group of disciples.

If God were in a hurry, I’m pretty sure none of us would have had the chance to be born.

The Danger of Wanting to See ResultsGod wants us to abide in Him as grapes on His vine Jesus (John 15). He wants us to enjoy Him, ready to be squeezed into a precious bottle of wine when the time is right–so that if visible results do come, our first response won’t be to feel good about ourselves.

It will be to worship Him.

Here are seven snippets of truth my mentor Natalie shared with me for when I struggle to see results.

1. Submit your time table to God.

2. Remember that only Jesus brings true satisfaction.

3. Rejoice that His burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)

4. Realize that you don’t need to have all the answers at once. (He’s got it under control.)

5. Recognize that God’s kingdom almost always looks different from the world’s view of success.

6. Invite Him into every part of your life (even the boring diaper changes and laundry).

7. Ask God to help you rejoice in the beautiful works that are being done by others.

Will you ask Jesus to help you enjoy Him today?

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?

How to Jump Out of the Comparison Trap

How to Jump out of the Comparison TrapHer children are so much better behaved than mine.

She works full-time and still finds energy to bake cookies for the kindergarten class.

At least I don’t act like her.

Do you wish you could escape from the running commentary in your head?

I used to think that I should be much more concerned about my outward actions than what was bouncing around in my thoughts. After all, who was I hurting if I didn’t voice my judgments out loud?

Like a weak seam, every time I chose to compare myself with someone, a piece of my heart would tear a little more. As the hole widened, it allowed more and more destructive thoughts through. I figured that if I felt guilty enough, I could whip myself into shape.

But it only grew worse.

Timothy Keller, in his book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, says that “the way the normal human ego tries to fill its emptiness and deal with its discomfort is by comparing itself to other people. All the time.”

I couldn’t change my behavior until God led me to the root of the problem: my nature without God.

This nature has a best friend called Pride.

Keller says that “spiritual pride is the illusion that we are competent to run our own lives, achieve our own sense of self-worth and find a purpose big enough to give us meaning in life without God.”

How to Jump out of the Comparison TrapIsn’t that what Adam and Eve ultimately wanted when they said they wanted to be like God? (Genesis 3:4) If they were like God, would they need Him anymore? If we were better than everyone else, would we?

Keller quotes from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, saying that “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next person.”

Better is only better if we become the best. Think of someone really successful–what happens if they don’t maintain their current level of perfection? Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

For a while, I tried to just ignore my thoughts. That worked about as well as climbing Mt. Everest in a swimsuit.

I needed an identity change. Keller reminds us that “it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance.”

We can’t do it on our own. But because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, paying the price for our sins, we don’t have to. Romans 8:1 says “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” He has become our righteousness, so when the Father sees us, He sees Jesus’ perfection. Because we are identified with Jesus, the Father’s verdict “You are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased” applies to us as well (Matthew 3:17).

Keller explains that the apostle Paul, by calling himself the chief of sinners, acknowledges his sins but does not connect them to himself and his identity. Neither does he connect his accomplishments to this identity.

When our identity is not based on our performance, we can grow in gospel humility.

Keller puts it well when he says that “The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. . . I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself.”

It’s not about me or them. It is only from this place of security that we can join in the fight for our thoughts. Here are some things that have helped me when unhealthy thoughts come knocking.

1. Remember it is a constant battle.
There have been times when I felt I could never change. Knowing it is a constant battle has helped, especially when I remember the Spirit is on my side, interceding on my behalf (Romans 8:26).

2. Practice the discipline of stopping your thoughts.
This isn’t something we can grit our teeth and do. After we ask for and accept God’s forgiveness, we can say, “I don’t want to go there, God,” knowing He’s the One who can bring true transformation.

3. Ask for God’s vision and perspective.
Sometimes, we can’t see the light at the end of the laundry or our thought patterns. My mentor challenged me to pray, “Jesus, please minister to me” when I feel stuck. Flip through the book of Psalms, and you can find countless cries for help. God always hears.

4. Talk to yourself.
K. Donovan, in her book Growing Through Stress, cited Martyn Lloyd Jones as sharing about the importance of “talking to myself instead of listening to myself talking.” When I let my mind roam free, it is easier to let destructive thoughts in. If I am proactively thinking about God’s promises and truths, it will leave less room for the other thoughts.

How to Jump out of the Comparison TrapAnd in the mornings when I’m so tired I can’t remember if I’ve showered or not, sometimes I need to listen to others speak the truth to me through online sermons, audio Bibles, and womens’ conference talks. (Click on the bolded words for some links.)

5. Give thanks.
Is there some way I can thank God for the person I find myself thinking about? Maybe I can say a quick prayer for them. Appearances can be deceiving.

Sometimes it also helps to just start telling God everything I’m thankful for.

Timothy Keller’s short book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness brought so many of these concepts together for me in a clearer way than I’d ever heard before. It takes about an hour to read, and you can find it here.

And if you’d like to share some of these truths with the children in your life, you can check out Max Lucado’s “You are Special” here.

Carolyn Mahaney also wrote an excellent post on comparison entitled, “A Loving Rebuke.” 

Only God can change our comparison to blessing. Fight in His strength.

Mom Enough (Free Book!)

Mom EnoughWhy does being a mom have to be so hard?

Why do some moms make it look like baking brownies from a box?

Have you ever felt like you don’t have what it takes?

Sometimes I’m tempted to think of motherhood as one more item to check off my list by the end of the night (or through the night).

It’s easy to lose the sacredness of shaping a soul when the dishes are crusty and the floors are gritty.

When he shouts, “No!” for the hundredth time today and begs constantly for Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Our culture values condoms over pacifiers, freedom over responsibility, independence over self-sacrifice. The sweet looks my son gets at the grocery store make me almost forget the cultural values we are going up against when we seek to raise our children in the light of the gospel.

If only that were our only problem.

Ephesians 6:12 says, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 

Souls are at stake in this war.

I need constant reminders of my calling as a mom. Otherwise, the distracting voices shouting at me to be “supermom” start to sound logical. I lose focus.

Mom EnoughMom Enough: The Fearless Mother’s Heart and Hope is a collection of articles by women who are in the trenches, seeking to raise their families in the truth of the gospel. I’ve been reading one article each morning as part of my devotions, and God has used it to renew my mind (Romans 12:2) in this wearying season of motherhood. You can download it for free here.

Rachel Jankovic, mother of six, brought tears to my eyes as her article reminded me that “motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling.” She wrote the first article in the book, but you can also read it here.

Do you have what it takes to be a mom?

Mom EnoughI sure don’t.

Rachel Pieh Jones, shared that “God is, always has been, and always will be, God enough. The battle is over whether or not I will believe it, whether or not I will delight in God’s enough-ness.

“And somehow, in God’s mathematics of grace:

“Mom (never enough) + God (infinitely enough) = Mom enough.

“Mom enough to believe and to be called Chosen, Daughter, Righteous, Honored, Heir, Forgiven, Redeemed.”

Jesus is the only source of true satisfaction in motherhood and in every other part of life. Let’s be the little reminders in each others’ lives as we look to the One who is infinitely enough.

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.