Tuesday, December 31, 2013

365 Days to Fruitful (my One Word 2013 recap)

Last January I was introduced to a blogging project called "One Word 365." And I decided to try it.  My word for 2013 was "fruitful." (I explain my process for choosing this word here.) I thought it was fitting, on the eve of a new year, to reflect on this word and what I've learned over the last 365 days.

The word "fruitful" means to produce. And what is produced is meant to be good, useful, and abundant.

With any production comes a lot of pressure, responsibility, and an awful lot of doing. Or so I always thought.

But if that's all "fruitful" is then the ability to produce becomes all about me and what I do or don't do. Sounds like a trap, especially for someone like me, who has believed for a long time that my value comes from what I do.

I have thankfully come to see that fruitful is so much more.

When I think of something that is fruitful, I think of an apple tree. But an apple tree doesn't have to do anything special to be fruitful. It just has to be a tree. A healthy tree. It grows where it's planted. It weathers the seasons. And when it's time, it bears the fruit it was created to grow.

And then I read this, by Max Lucado:

"Your job is not to bear fruit. Your job is to cling to Jesus. He is the vine, you are the branch. Hold on to Him and fruit will happen."

Such a freeing statement. We may desire to live fruitful lives, but it is not our job to produce the fruit.

The fruit I was created to bear is already inside of me. I need only be me. The healthiest, best me I can be. And He will produce the fruit.

No pressure. Nothing I can do.

This is what I have learned this year. To stop trying so hard to achieve, to be found useful. And when I rest in Him, I care for myself better. I stop beating myself up for not being enough.

May we stop all our own doing so we are free to bear the fruit God created us to bear.

May we find contentment in our fruit, whether it's a shiny, golden apple or a juicy, red tomato, or a plum or a pear or an orange.

Linking today with…

Friday, December 6, 2013

Reflection (a five minute friday)

My Five Minute Friday on: Reflect

I spoke yesterday at a local MOPS group. I told them all about how to take better pictures. I grasped the sides of the podium, microphone poised and ready for my words and all I could think of was "how did I wind up here?"

I'm not a speaker, after all.

I told you once how I feel like a fraud. How I hesitate to claim, well, much of anything in my life for fear that someone might then expect something from me. And what if I can't deliver?

It's taken me the past year to see the flaw in that.

After throwing away the ruler and giving myself permission to be human, I have words being spoken into my heart of love and acceptance.

Why do I struggle to believe them?

It's confusing to a child when innocence is stolen, but it makes no more sense to me now. The betrayal defined me. It told me I didn't matter. That who I am was not valuable enough to not abuse.

So it's no wonder I don't deep down believe the weight of words telling me I am lovely and treasured. Because actions have always spoken louder.

But Light is breaking through all of that.

I stare in the mirror at my reflection and I catch a glimpse of someone familiar, but unknown.

And by grace I am starting to see the contradiction —

of who I thought I was and who I suppose I really am.

**This story doesn't end here. Visit me on Monday to read how I have used fiction to define myself and relationships and why I stopped writing it.

Linking today with Lisa-Jo…
Five Minute Friday

Friday, November 22, 2013

In Order to Fly (a five minute friday)

My Five Minute Friday on: Fly

It's a leaf riding on the wind.
Joining in a flittering dance on its journey to the soft ground.

It's a child and a board jumping on to the wave.
Riding free with surf splashed face as he's returned to the shore.

It's the oneness felt in a tender moment.
Free, briefly, from the distractions and demands of life.

They are words spoken, like a gift, from someone who understands you.

It's courage

born out of


You must share your heart to receive the gift of understanding.

Be present to enjoy oneness.

Trust the wave in all its wild crashing —

And believe it knows the way home.

And the leaf,

it must let go of the tree,

to join in a dance with the wind.

In order to fly.

Linking today with Lisa-Jo…
Five Minute Friday

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On Lollipops and Expectations: Wisdom From An Eleven Year-old

I have always been fond of dum-dum lollipops — a little treat in a giant, inexpensive bag.

We all have our favorite flavors. From root beer to green apple, there isn't really one I don't like. Well, except for the pina colada.

Each lollipop is wrapped with paper that's clearly marked so you know what flavor you're getting. Unless, of course, you pick the mystery flavor.

The other day while we were driving home my kids were each enjoying a dum-dum and apparently contemplating life.

My eleven year-old explained how when he knows what flavors are there he looks for his favorites and if it's not there, he is disappointed. But if he receives a "mystery" flavor, then he accepts it, no matter what flavor it is because he didn't have an expectation.

And I think about how this is as true in life as it is with lollipops.

We all struggle with expectations. We envision how something is supposed to go or how we want it to happen and when we don't get what we expected we are left disappointed.

Ridding ourselves of the expectation allows us to be more open to whatever happens. In the wise words of my husband, "you get what you get and you don't get upset."

I can identify with the lollipop analogy because it shows the close link between expectations and perspective.

When the wrapper has a big question mark on it then we don't have control over what flavor it is. We have more of an open mind and may even be a little excited to find out what it is.

But when we have a choice, we are selective, maybe even a bit particular. Before we even taste the candy we have an idea of what it's supposed to taste like. And if it doesn't taste the way we think it should then we are disappointed.

Can we approach life seeing each opportunity, each possibility as a "mystery flavor"?

Or are we too afraid?

Fear — it lurks around every corner of my life. We expect because we want to be in control. We want to be in control because we are afraid of what we might get or maybe even what we won't get.

The "mystery flavor" is a risk. It leaves us vulnerable and unprotected and completely out of control.

We can peek under the wrapper, guess its flavor by its color, even sniff it, but we won't really know what flavor it is until we taste it.

The reality of life is it's all a mystery. We never know what we are going to get. So let go and start tasting.

You didn't get what you wanted? It wasn't what you expected?

Spit it out and try another one.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Elephant Tree (a five minute friday)

My Five Minute Friday on: Tree

It was one of my most favorite places at the arboretum — a five minute walk from my house, passed the swan pond and up the hill from the rose garden.

From the outside it appeared as a dome of leaves, wide and tall. It's outer appearance would not have drawn you in. Just one of a thousand other trees in the arboretum's collection.

I wonder how many visitors actually knew how magnificent it truly was.

You had to enter this tree. Pulling back the branches like a curtain I stepped into what my childlike imagination affectionately called, the elephant tree.

Inside, a canopy of dangling leaves and branches. Its large, wrinkly gray trunk invited climbing and exploration. Up from its center exploded hundreds of offshoots that arched and fell back to the ground, like ribbons of water from an outdoor fountain. Love initials scrawled into its furrowed branches.

I felt safe there.

This European Weeping Beech was my childhood playground. A frequent attraction on my playdate tours. I remember taking Becky there and getting stuck in the crook of the tree, too afraid to climb back down, thinking I would have to stay there forever. Until a hero came by, gave me a little scolding for being up there, and eventually helped me down.

The tree is only a fraction of what it once was, but it will live on through it's offshoots, like Charlotte did through her baby spiders in Charlotte's Web.

And maybe one day it will again be as magnificent as it once was. And another child will find the hidden treasure inside this amazing tree.

Linking today with Lisa-Jo…
Five Minute Friday

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ode to the Toddler Mom Graduates

I'm no longer a toddler Mom. I have graduated from diaper changing, drool catching, block tower building, praying-you-take-a-nap mothering.

I received my diploma and packed away the gown and the mortarboard with the tassel slung to the left awaiting the end of the next milestone — adolescents.

There are a lot of awesome Moms still wading through the baby years, juggling littles under the age of five. I see them pushing their way through Target, staving off tantrums, searching for some fresh air and a good deal. I forget sometimes I used to be one of them. Sigh…

I ran through the finish line tape on my way to public school double doors and then my mom identity went into hiding.

What I once used to define myself as a stay-at-home mom left every day for a classroom. The posts I read about young mothering aren't relevant to me anymore. Sure I can relate remember those days with fondness and angst, but they are long gone now.

So for the toddler mom graduates and the ones embarking on the journey through adolescents I see you. I am you.

The morning rush, the packing lunches, the arguments over clothes and how to fix their hair, and the friend drama and the sleep-over parties, the 30+ minutes of homework a night, evening activities and weekend sports, the car pool and the parent pick-up lines — wow, I'm right there with you.

And it's still hard, even without a cheerio stuck to your cheek and a toddler yanking at your leg. We are jugglers, keeping the house running. And by that I mean, everyone has clean clothes and the schedule is straight and the dinner is ready and they're wearing sneakers for gym day and their books for library and they remembered their map project and it's yellow shirt Friday and…

Each stage we forge through and understand a little better the path our own mommas trod. And we extend each other grace because we are all wearing different shoes or hats or whatever apparel suits you.

Moms of adolescents, I acknowledge you. You're still a great Mom, I believe needed more than ever!

And though your daytime may be void of kiddies I know you're working hard, behind the scenes, making sure your family has a safe place to come home to.

Cue the ticker tape! You're a rock star!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Grace (a five minute friday)

My Five Minute Friday on: Grace


It's just a word, until you need it.

I have wrestled with it. Tried to wrap my human brain around it like it's something that could be understood with common sense.

But it's anything but common. And it doesn't often make sense.

Grace is like magic — it cannot be explained. Not with words, anyway.

Because who can explain something underserved?

This life I live peppered with you-owe-me's and fairness and eye-for-an-eye's — where does grace fit in there?

It finds me when I'm at my absolute worst. When my words are atrocious and my patience has unraveled. When I can't stand people. When I can't stand myself.

It finds me when I call a friend to complain about something they did and I wind up crying like a blubbering fool because really my feelings were hurt and I didn't know what to do with myself. And they didn't defend and they didn't walk away. They just listened.

Grace is a gift given without strings. It's wrapped in forgiveness packaging and tied with a bow of compassion.

An unearned reprieve that cannot be justified.


Linking today with Lisa-Jo…
Five Minute Friday

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Turning Intention Into Action: 31 Days of Intentional Living

"What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing."

Pablo Picasso

I've been climbing a mountain, friends. And it's taken thirty-one days to reach the top.

But now, I'm sitting on the craggy, stone ledge, my feet dangling, and my lungs are taking in the crisp fall air with every breath.

And I didn't walk it alone. You're resting here next to me. Did you enjoy the climb?

31 days of Intentional Living — a journey to awareness.

Over the last month we have faced fears, slowed down, noticed, acknowledged, enjoyed, and wrestled.

We have sought beauty, captured memories, and looked at laundry in a whole new way!

Although I came into this with a rough plan, I can honestly say that God did most of the nudging. There were many days when I woke up without any idea what to write about so you heard a lot about the struggles of my heart.

This past spring I started seeing a counselor (again). Wounds had reopened and I knew I needed help to walk through healing them. Therapy is most effective if you're willing to have an open mind. I have been learning that I need to see some things differently in my life — rewrite the story, replace lies with truth.

To do this I must be intentional, but it can't stop there.

Intentionality must be the impetus for action. Although it's great to be aware, it doesn't mean a whole lot if it doesn't spur me to respond.

Intention is like the light bulb moment and action is the follow through.

"Take action! An inch of movement will bring you closer to your goals than a mile of intention."
Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

So we've climbed the mountain. We're enjoying the view. But the adventure isn't over. The goal is dangling out over the horizon. It will take hard work, but I know we can do it. 

Because we're not doing it alone — we're cheering each other on as we turn intention into action in our lives.

Thanks for being a friend on this journey! You are welcome here anytime!

This is the final post in a series called, 31 days of Intentional Living. You can find all the posts in this series here. Thank you for joining me on this fun, writing adventure! Category: Inspirational & Faith
October 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Grieve Your Losses: 31 Days of Intentional Living

Grief is one of those emotions I'd like to avoid. It's just too painful. It swallows you up until it feels like there is nothing left. It's a dull ache or a stabbing pain that reminds me that there's nothing I can do to change what happened.

A necessary part of my work healing from childhood sexual abuse has been learning to grieve the losses. Intentionally seeing what was taken from me and allowing myself to experience grief over it.

I don't know a lot about grief. I just know how it feels inside of me. I have heard that we all grieve differently and I suppose that means there is no right way or wrong way to do it.

We can be sad about circumstances, but I think cathartic grief comes when we identify what the loss means for us. Whether it's loss of innocence, loss of trust, loss of relationship, or physical loss, as in death, I believe part of healing is understanding the weight of its impact.

"Losses do that. One life-loss can infect the whole of a life. Like a rash that wears through our days, our sight becomes peppered with black voids. Now everywhere we look, we only see all that isn't: holes, lack, deficiency."

Last year my family experienced a tremendous amount of loss, most notably, my mother-in-law's death from cancer. She loved Jesus, so we celebrate her home-going and know she is where she belongs. But for the family, learning how to live life without her has had a tremendous impact on all of us.

Grief is raw and nasty at first. While the rest of the world lives like it's just another day, you must reconcile that life has changed. And making that adjustment takes time and patience.

We pine for what we have lost. We wish, for own sakes, it could be different. We beg for that mythical time machine to transport us back for just one more day, one more hour, or even to change it.

There are supposedly five stages of grief (denial & isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). I googled them once and truth be told I'm not sure I know what they all look like.

I know denial well. It was my friend for a good part of my young life. I think we can get stuck there, in the not dealing, because it feels the safest. But you can only hide from the truth for so long before reality finds you. And what happens then?

"You will lose someone you can't live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up. And you come through. It's like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly — that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp."

Anne Lamott

We have all experienced loss. For some of us it is a new wound. For others, life has marched onward and raw has been replaced by a dull ache, a longing that never quite goes away.

I believe grieving losses is a necessary part of intentional living. It takes purpose to grasp the depth and magnitude of each loss and grieve over its impact.

And there is healing on the other side that helps you, as Anne Lamott says, "learn to dance with the limp."

This is a post in a series called, 31 days of Intentional Living. You can find all the posts in this series here, updated each day in October. Category: Inspirational & Faith

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Stop Practicing Your Mistakes: 31 Days of Intentional Living

Music echoed through the hallway and into the kitchen where I was sitting, working on homework with my daughter. An audience to my son's piano lesson and the input of his teacher.

He played "Minuet" by Jean Baptiste Lully — its minor scales lilted and danced through the small apartment. Every so often a pause, a correction, for a note misplayed or a finger misplaced and then onward the themes marched.

The last "D" concluded the piece and it was his teacher's turn to share. Mixed in with the encouragement and the "good jobs" was a reoccurring thought —

"You need to stop practicing your mistakes."

I listened as his musical words of wisdom were given to my son. "When you play a wrong note you remember it for the rest of your life."

He went on to emphasize the importance of knowing exactly what you need to play before jumping into it and how crucial it is to learn it right the first time, even if it takes longer.

Stop practicing your mistakes — there was something about this phrase that stuck with me long after we left his lesson.

The point was not perfection. We are all going to make mistakes. However, the more we make the same ones the more it becomes a habit. Like the same wrong note my son played at a particular measure in the song. He practiced it wrong and it stuck.

Sometimes we make mistakes because of an error in judgement. Sometimes we don't have enough knowledge or information. Or perhaps, we are just being careless.

If we do not approach life with awareness, we are at risk of playing the same wrong note over and over again.

We can be intentional about learning from our mistakes, so we can make different, more informed choices the next time. And we can avoid carelessness, by being more mindful and careful in whatever we pursue.

"The Minuet" wasn't played perfectly (and it probably never will), but the way my son approaches this song as he practices this week could make a huge impact next week.

What "mistakes" do you keep playing over and over again?

What intentional steps could you take to stop practicing your mistakes?

This is a post in a series called, 31 days of Intentional Living. You can find all the posts in this series here, updated each day in October. Category: Inspirational & Faith

Linking up with the Soli Deo Gloria party today. Check it out!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Wrestle With Doubt: 31 Days of Intentional Living

I remember well those Christmas mornings, anxiously staring at the clock in my bedroom willing time to speed up. Excitedly charging into my parents' bedroom and flopping on the end of their bed until they sent one of us down for it — a reply letter from Santa.

My Dad Santa wrote the best letters from the North Pole, full of creative answers to our litany of questions. Not one question stumped him. He was very real to me.

It was a time when I simply accepted what my parents said was true. I believed for a long time.

Eventually, doubt seeped in, casting a shadow over a childhood fantasy. And that doubt soon led to my unbelief — in Santa Claus.

During this same time period my understanding of God was slowly forming. Church was something my family attended every Sunday. It was part of our routine. An inherited faith that I claimed because of my roots.

I remember one day, looking outside the window of my pink wallpapered bedroom. Something exciting was happening at school that day and I prayed hard that it wouldn't rain. But the gray clouds had already begun closing in and the rain still came even though I had pleaded.

And doubt seeped in and I wondered why He hadn't done what I asked. Was God just a childhood fantasy? I felt guilty for wondering.

I kept my uncertainty to myself. I was a rule follower, after all, and people don't doubt God — or so I thought.

It was a long, arduous process where I sat on the sidelines of faith. Watching, but not really participating. Praying, but never sure whether He heard.

"Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts…It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them."

Timothy Keller

I was an adult when God grabbed a hold of my heart — when He found me at the end of myself, feeling very alone and unsure about everything.

He took my doubts and my uncertainty and stepped into it. God had allowed the storm to hit, not because He wasn't there, but to show me that He was. He loved on me through people. He knew what I needed and He was faithful to provide it.

And yet, standing on the mountain, looking down at the valley, I still find myself wondering — will He come through the next time?

Photography by Christy Mae

There were times when that thought would send me to condemnation, angry that I could doubt Him after all He has done.

But more recently, I have been working to accept the doubts because they are real and heart honest.

"Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith."

Paul Tillich

Because on the other side of doubt, is a promise — a covenant God made with His people.

And I was reminded of it yesterday by my pastor, Tony Taylor. Although, Abraham struggled with doubt and wondered whether God would fulfill His promise of a son, God accepted his pleas for proof. God's response was a contract to which God had everything to lose. A contract that would later be fulfilled through Jesus' death on a cross. (Genesis 15:1-17)

Doubts often remind me to step back to see the big picture, to remember how God has come through in the past. I find peace when I ask the hard questions on my heart because God is patient with me in the process.

I believe allowing yourself to wrestle with doubts is an important part of intentional living and a way God may use to lead us into deeper faith and belief. 

Have you ever given yourself the freedom to wrestle with doubts?

What keeps you from acknowledging them?

This is a post in a series called, 31 days of Intentional Living. You can find all the posts in this series here, updated each day in October. Category: Inspirational & Faith

Also linking today with Jennifer at:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Enjoy Creativity: 31 Days of Intentional Living

I live in a suburb outside a major city, five minutes from the intersection of several major highways that will take you wherever you want to go.

East. West. South. North. You can literally go anywhere from here.

I like where we live, in the middle of everything, not far from anything. But there is a pace to life here that never lets up.

It rushes like water over rocks in a stream — a hurried flow. And some days, the blur makes me forget there is more to life then this.

But then I notice the autumn sun streaking through golden leaves. Or a song plays and it's lyrics capture my thoughts and for a moment I am lost in it. Or the book I've neglected is sitting on the coffee table in front of the couch and I reach for it and words cut deep and lead me to a new understanding.

Photography by Christy Mae

"A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Creativity is squelched by the daily grind. May we choose today to listen to some music, get lost in a good book, draw or paint or, at the very least, take notice of the beauty right outside our front door.

How often do you make time to enjoy or participate in something creative?

This is a post in a series called, 31 days of Intentional Living. You can find all the posts in this series here, updated each day in October. Category: Inspirational & Faith

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Capturing Moments on the Go: 31 Days of Intentional Living

Back in the day, if you wanted to capture a special occasion you had to remember to bring your clunker of a camera with you and several rolls of film.

But since the dawn of digital photos, picture taking is easier then ever. If you own a smart phone, chances are you have a pretty decent camera built in just waiting to be used.

Someone asked me recently for advice on taking good pictures with a phone. To be honest, I don't think it's that much different then using a real camera. If anything, it's just more convenient.

Here are some quick tips for taking and sharing phone pics (all of the picture examples were taken on an iPhone or an iPad):

  • Flash and Lighting. Unless your phone has a built-in flash, always make sure there is plenty of light on and around your subject. Use the screen display to make sure the photo isn't over or underexposed (too much light or not enough). In most cases, simply tapping the screen on the person or object you are photographing will adjust exposure for you.
  • Focus. Most camera phones have a focus feature which you should always use. As with adjusting exposure, simply tap the screen on the person or object you want to be in focus and the phone will focus for you.
  • Visual Interest. Whether taking pictures on a phone or with an SLR camera, being aware of your background is very important. Experiment with different angles — tilt it up or down, shoot down low or from up high. The best phone pics are ones that capture and highlight every day moments in a unique or special way.
  • Photo Apps. Applications, such as Instagram and Facebook, have editing features that you can use to enhance your photos. Experiment with different filters, blurring techniques, frames, and cropping options. Another fun photo app is Pic Stitch, which allows you to create a collage of your favorite phone pictures and post them to various social media apps.
  • Share them. The fun part about taking great pictures is sharing them with others. Social media makes it very easy to upload pics from your phone. You can also upload them to an online photo store, such as Shutterfly, and create a photo book or gift with them.

So get out there and start using your phone, iPod, iPad, or other digital device to capture special moments. I hope these tips will help you to be more intentional when you do.

Other photography related posts you might enjoy from this series:
Preserving Photo Memories (what to do with all your pictures)

This is a post in a series called, 31 days of Intentional Living. You can find all the posts in this series here, updated each day in October. Category: Inspirational & Faith

Friday, October 25, 2013

Together: 31 Days of Intentional Living (a five minute friday)

A Five Minute Friday on the word: Together

There's always a temptation for me to just not go.

Relief almost washes over me as I contemplate the excuses that could keep me away. Those introverted thoughts of how awkward I will feel or the pressure I'll put on myself to initiate connections.


But I tend to be a rule follower and I follow through on my commitments. I muster the courage to just go.

And the premonitions of uncomfortable initiations and discussions of weather happen just as I had imagined they would.

Sometimes I hear my sweatpants and slippers calling me away from the round table-clothed table filled with women I don't really know…yet.

But I rarely regret sticking it out because being there holds so much possibility. If I'm patient, a connection is made, a conversation moves beyond the mundane to something meaningful.

I leave with a sense of belonging, if only for the moment.

And I know, there's value in being together.

So whether you volunteer in ministry or join a movement, whether you go to that bible study or participate in a conference, you are part of something bigger than yourself.

For some of us, it takes some intention to join or volunteer or participate in, but I believe it's well worth putting yourself out there.

Because so much more can be accomplished when we do it together.

This is a post in a series called, 31 days of Intentional Living. You can find all the posts in this series here, updated each day in October. Category: Inspirational & Faith

Linking today with Lisa-Jo…
Five Minute Friday

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Stop Waiting: 31 Days of Intentional Living

I am a planner. The calendar is my friend. Lists on excel spreadsheets organizing groceries, what to pack, what to do, these bring me joy.

Planners don't have the best reputation for flexibility. Yet rarely do plans work out exactly how anyone imagines they will.

We all have ideas about how life will go. What school we will attend, what job we will have, who we will marry, where we will live, how many kids we will raise. Plans about the white picket fence and the happily ever after.

In the words of John Lennon, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

We are a society of waiters (and I don't mean the restaurant kind). We wait for the right job or we wait until we have the right amount of money. Or we wait until we are  _________ enough (you fill in the blank).

But waiting can be an excuse. Maybe we are just afraid to jump? Maybe we're convinced there's something better just around the next corner and we think we might miss it.

We don't decide. We over-analyze. And we refuse to take chances.

But it's time to let it go.

It's time to stop waiting and start doing. Cease the day!

Remember, patience and waiting are not the same thing. Patience is a virtue. Waiting is not.

I believe a part of intentional living is doing away with excuses that keep us from living.

Our eyes can be so focused on the horizon waiting for ______________ to happen that we may miss amazing opportunities and relationships. We might even ignore God nudges or overlook the plan He has for us.

Do your plans get in the way of your present?

What are you waiting for?

This is a post in a series called, 31 days of Intentional Living. You can find all the posts in this series here, updated each day in October. Category: Inspirational & Faith

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ditch the Rules: 31 Days of Intentional Living

My entire life has been about rules — listen, obey, be respectful, use manners, say please and thank you, don't drink, don't smoke, no sex before marriage, be kind, put other people first, put God before people, don't curse, don't drive too fast, don't gossip, do more, fit in, excel, and for heaven's sake, change your underwear every day.

Rules abound and the list is infinite. Without them, we would live in chaos. So, of course, I am generally pro rules.

But today, I want you to ditch them.

Get rid of the ones you use to define yourself. Be free from the ones that "prove" you aren't enough. Remove the suffocating squeeze of being what everyone else thinks you should be, of everyone else dictating how you should act.

As a rule follower, I can get so consumed by the rules that I miss out — on life, on taking risks, of thinking outside the box.

And I splay the rules out as a measure of my acceptability. I'm marked good or bad, obedient or disobedient, wrong or right.

I have struggled deeply with the notion that I am only loved when I'm doing what I'm supposed to. That I am worthy and valuable only after I have overcome, persevered, or conquered "that thing" that is a struggle for me (if that's even possible).

But one day, a friend of mine whispered truth in my ear. She told me that I am loved even now, irregardless of my brokenness or my sin, what I've done or haven't done. And that was powerful and difficult for me to grasp at the same time.

If I am loved and accepted whether I follow the rules or not, then why conform at all?

God wants us to make life choices — what we eat, what we say, what we wear, how we behave — that reflect our hearts. Not entirely because we have to, but because we want to.

I'm not saying only do things you want to do and ditch the rest. I don't love chores, but I do them. Why? Because I love my family and I want to serve them.

And I accept and follow God's commands because I believe they are right and I trust the Rule Maker. My obedience, however, is not to earn favor with God. I already have it and more!

Are you bound by rules?

This is a post in a series called, 31 days of Intentional Living. You can find all the posts in this series here, updated each day in October. Category: Inspirational & Faith

Also linking today with Jennifer at:

Monday, October 21, 2013

Make Connecting a Priority: 31 Days of Intentional Living

Every marriage has good and bad days. My husband and I have had some months that were better then others!

When my husband and I were first married we really struggled to connect. We had spent so much time together prior to marriage that we thought we had each other figured out. We were young and immature and there were some fairly weighty issues we needed to work out.

It was probably the driest, brownest our grass has ever been in our marriage. But we were so passive (and clueless) back then, I don't even think we knew our marriage needed to be watered. Fourteen years later and we have grown a good deal wiser (I hope).

Having children definitely complicates matters. A Mom friend asked me recently how my husband and I prioritize our time to talk, connect, and to have intimacy. I want to assure her and you that it's not an easy task. My husband and I continue to struggle, but we know when we start feeling distant, we need to take action.

I teased in part one of this post that reconnecting when you're feeling distant isn't as hard as you might think. But it takes intention and…


Intentionality starts with establishing priorities.

My husband and I agree that our marriage is our first priority. Not our kids. Not our jobs. Not success or status. Once you have your priorities straight, it's easier to make connecting a priority, too.

When I feel that withdrawn, distant feeling I know my heart is telling me something is off. It's usually a sign that we have been putting other's needs before our marriage. Quality family time is terrific and necessary, but you need you + him time, too.

Reconnection can happen just by communicating with each other.

Many times just talking to each other is enough to bring us together. When we haven't been in the same room for more then 5 minutes, it's time to occupy the same space for a while and have a conversation (as long as it doesn't involve the kids or the schedules or homework).

There are other intentional ways you can reconnect with your spouse. Here are a few examples that have worked for us:

  • Keep your kids on a steady bedtime. When our kids get into bed for the night, "date" night begins for us. Watch a movie, spend time together, or have that conversation you couldn't finish because the kids kept interrupting.
  • Schedule a "leave the house" date. Call the babysitter because you need to get out! We don't do this as often as we should. Ideally once a month would be great, but at least every couple of months (or more frequent if you can do it), you should go out without the kids. Or go away together for the weekend (try a Weekend to Remember conference).
  • Buy a question book! Seriously. There was a time in our marriage when we felt so disconnected we didn't even know where to begin a conversation. 201 Great Questions for Married Couples is a fun one. I remember being surprised by some of his answers. Try it! It might be fun!
  • Intimacy — it's more then physical. Wink, wink! Talking honestly and sharing your feelings can be connecting, too. We all struggle with fears, insecurities, and sin issues. Intimacy happens when there is trust, vulnerability, and safety. I have experienced, in my own marriage, how intimately knowing each other's hearts (the good and the bad) can create a lasting connection and deepen your relationship with each other.

Whether your grass is green or turning brown, connecting with your spouse is a priority worth setting.

"The grass isn't greener on your friend's property; it's greener where you water it."
Mary DeMuth, "Everything"

This is an archived post repurposed for a series called, 31 days of Intentional Living. You can find all the posts in this series here, updated each day in October. Category: Inspirational & Faith

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Be Encouraged: 31 Days of Intentional Living

"Think of the self that God has given as an acorn.
It is a marvelous little thing, a perfect shape, perfectly designed for its purpose, perfectly functional.

Think of the grand glory of an oak tree. God's intention when He made the acorn was the oak tree.
His intention for us is '…the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.'
Many deaths must go into our reaching that measure, many letting-goes.
When you look at the oak tree, you don't feel that the loss of the acorn is a very great loss.
The more you perceive God's purpose in your life, the less terrible the losses seem."

Elisabeth Elliot

May God's intention for you, although very much a mystery, be an encouragement to persevere, walk in faith, and live with hope.

This is a post in a series called, 31 days of Intentional Living. You can find all the posts in this series here, updated each day in October. Category: Inspirational & Faith

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Preserving Photo Memories: 31 Days of Intentional Living

Last Saturday, I wrote about how you can take better pictures of your kids. But what happens next?

Like most people, you don't take the pictures off your camera until you've run out of memory. What do you do with them once they're transferred to your computer?

I have always been partial to prints, but it takes commitment to put them into an album instead of a cardboard box in your closet.

Scrapbooking was a craze when my children were babies, but who has time to cut and tape and sticker and organize? Let's face it, I haven't even finished my daughter's baby scrapbook and she's almost nine.

There are some quick and easy, but quite lovely, alternatives for the Mom on the go. All of my suggestions can be made using any online shop, such as Shutterfly (I've been very happy with their quality) or Snapfish.

  • Photobooks. By far the easiest way to capture memories, you can make them as simple or complicated as you like in a variety of styles and sizes. Create a "year in the life" book or focus on a vacation or special event.
  • Make a calendar. Every Christmas we do a family calendar with photos from the year or from a special vacation and give them as gifts. I had a friend who made an anniversary calendar for her spouse with photos from the past and present.
  • Photo gifts. There are a plethora of photo gift options online from coffee mugs to mouse pads to refrigerator magnets. These make great gifts or keepsakes for the home.
  • Create a wall collage. Purchase and frame a varying size prints (such as 8x10, 11x14, or 16x20) of your favorite photos of your kids or family. There are many different ways to arrange them on the wall. Pinterest is a great source of design inspiration.

Part of intentional living is capturing and preserving memories, because photographs and videos document life and help tell our stories. Hopefully some of these ideas will inspire you to create something special with the photographs you've taken.

What is your favorite way to display photographs in your home?

This is a post in a series called, 31 days of Intentional Living. You can find all the posts in this series here, updated each day in October. Category: Inspirational & Faith

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