What Does Your Marriage Mean To You? (and Why It Matters)

“Marriage has value but you have to see it.”
~Jackie Bledsoe, The 7 Rings of Marriage

We daily make choices in all areas of our lives. And how highly we value something affects the choices we make about it. 

What we value as important, gets our attention. We think about it, plan for ways to help it, and schedule time for it.

Often those are our job, our kids’ activities, our friendships, and our downtime. We don’t want to mess them up (or mess up our happiness) by missing them, because they greatly matter to us.

Yet far too often our marriage gets left out of the scheduling. There are many reasons for that. It’s partly, though, because we undervalue it. At least we undervalue the importance of nurturing it.

Assuming it’s there for the long haul, our relationship gets pushed aside: hidden behind those other things that clamor for our immediate attention. But if we want a dynamic, “to-death-do-us-part” union, we need to reset the priority of our marriage. We need to value marriage. 

value marriage

Value Marriage

God placed a high value on marriage. He instituted it for our benefit. It is sacred in His eyes.

We are to “leave and cleave” for life, two becoming one! A profound mystery with transformational value. 

Yet because we don’t assign a high priority to the nurturing of our marriage, we don’t devote designated time for marriage enrichment until something happens to get our attention. We don’t build a foundation that will weather well its various stages.

If marriage were thought of as sacred in our eyes, we’d make the foundational choices to, not just keep it intact, but elevate it to rich and fulfilling.

5 Actions for Elevating Your Marriage

That said, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that it can be hard to know how to do that. I think differently than my husband.

He makes decisions differently, parents differently, shows affection differently, processes loss and hardship differently. In many ways, we are opposite. 

So given our differences, how do we make the choices that elevate marriage as the sacred institution God intended—in our eyes and in practice?

According to Jackie Bledsoe, author of The 7 Rings of Marriage: Your Model for a Lasting and Fulfilling Marriage, there are 5 important actions to take to move your marriage up in your eyes. Resulting in more intentional behaviors and a relationship that matters.

  1. Friendship: Develop your friendship; it’s crucial! 
  2. Commitment: Commit to your marriage and each other.
  3. Delayed Gratification: Realize the future benefits to your marriage your current investment will bring.
  4. Intimacy: Be truly intimate in your marriage; reserving some things for only your spouse.
  5. Foundation: Decide on (and build on) the mutual foundation your marriage will stand on. 

Move Beyond Marital Drift

I’ve found it easy to drift in our marriage. To go through our days without really thinking about its importance (except on anniversaries and Valentine’s Day). This was largely because I took it for granted that it’d always be there.

However, after more than 2 decades (yes I’m a slow learner), I’ve realized the dynamic, growing, passionate marriage I want will never happen by drifting. I need to value marriage enough to be intentional in the relationship.

Thanks to Jackie’s new book and other marriage resources, my husband and I have incorporated intentionality into our lifelong commitment. A move that is shoring up our core foundation and injecting new excitement into our relationship.

A move that has elevated our marriage to sacred in our eyes.

In The 7 Rings,  Jackie offers foundational concepts for highly valuing our marriages. He also provides practical tips and strategies to build on that foundation through each of seven stages of marriage. Assessments, checklists, step-by-step guidelines, and motivational encouragement make this a great book for marriages in all stages and even in between stages. It will likely not be the only resource you need to move your relationship from sustainable to dynamic, but it is a perfect one to begin with. (Click on any of The 7 Rings of Marriage links [or book image] to purchase your own copy.)

“Then the Lord God made the rib He had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 And the man said: ‘This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called “woman,” for she was taken from man.’ 24 This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:22-24

Reflections: How does thinking of your marriage as a sacred institution established by God redefine its priority in your lives?

More than 4 years of counting and I’ve surpassed 4,500 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #4,726–4,746. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Medicine for my girl; Grab bars on the bathtub that now allow Rach to enter/exit the tub independently!; Freedom to caucus for national candidates
  • Wintry day filled with family time, including games of Twister and Candyland; Homemade chicken noodle soup; Peace and beauty of the woods during a snow storm
  • Gorgeous snowy morning; Living in such a beautiful location; Best homemade pizza yet
  • A day to get caught up; An encouraging, loving husband; Snuggled in for an afternoon of writing in front of the woodstove
  • Afternoon with my guy; Rachel and I sharing a love of worship music; Long Skype call with Zach
  • Great showing by Joey and all the high school kids at state speech contest: fun to see their hard work pay off as they strove to do their best; Couple hours alone to think and process; Rachel “attacking” me with LEGO swords and snakes: so fun to be a recipient of her creativity!
  • My kids being at the ages where they like naps!; Watching the Super Bowl with friends; Fun and delicious food of a potluck

*This post contains affiliate links. 

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Marriage

The Most Important Lesson I Learned in the Hard Times

In the most difficult times in my life, I learned the most important lesson of my life: I am too weak to do life without God.

We are too weak; we need God's strength.

The Problem

We have a problem in the United States. Actually this problem is likely found throughout the developed countries. It’s called self-sufficiency and pride. 

We pride ourselves on handling things on our own. Being strong enough to carry the weight of the tasks we’re given.

Work hard enough. Practice something enough. Gain enough knowledge.  “Buck up” enough. And we can overcome any obstacle; we can deal with anything that comes our way; we can win any battle.

Trying our best is good. But some battles aren’t ours to win. Some problems aren’t ours to solve. Some mountains aren’t ours to climb. Some answers aren’t ours to know.

Because none of the ugliness and difficulties we battle originate in the tangible. The ultimate war rages spiritually and is not one we can win in our own strength. 

In a Spiritual War

I’m not sure exactly when spiritual warfare began (whenever it was that Lucifer decided to play God, I guess), but we first see it manifested in humans in the Garden of Eden, when Eve gave into temptation to be like God.

We see it in the anger and jealously of Cain, which led to the first recorded murder.

We see it in the hatred of King Saul and the adultery of King David.

We see it in the suffering of Job and the lust of Samson and the idolatry of King Solomon.

We see it in the obstinacy of the Israelites.

We see it in Judah’s betrayal, Peter’s denial, and the people’s ultimate rejection and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

We continue to see it today in the culture’s rejection of God’s truth, in jealousy in the workplace, in the high divorce rate, in the unrest and fighting around the world, in hate rhetoric and character assassinations, in the plethora of ads for “must-haves,” in the debt many Americans face, in the increased negative behaviors of children in school, in new illnesses showing up and the old ones we still battle. 

These things we face are not our enemies; but the result of the enemy’s work.

We’re not battling what we think we are. The real enemy is not something we can see, touch, hear, smell, or feel (well maybe on occasion). The real enemy is the evil one, Satan himself, and all the tactics he throws at us.

And not one of us, no matter how much we practice or prepare can defeat him on our own. We will never be strong enough to stand against his assaults, no matter how they manifest themselves.

I know, I’ve tried. You can read about a couple instances here and here. And it doesn’t work!

We Are Too Weak

The real war originates much deeper than our surface battles depict. It began before God breathed humans into existence and will continue until Christ’s return.

Our flesh stands no chance against this type of spiritual warfare. We are too weak.

Yet there is good news. We have the Victor standing with us and battling for us. Yet we have to let Him!

I’ve learned many lessons from my attempt to stand on my own through various trials. But the most important is that I need help and only God’s help will do.

Let me state this clearly: We can’t stand against the devil in our own strength. We can’t win the war on our own, because it’s not ours to fight alone.

We can’t do life without God and live in abundance and freedom.

The first and most important realization has to be that we need God’s help. 

The Victor

So trust me when I say you are too weak for this war. Listen when I beg you to lay down your armor and pick up God’s.

Self-sufficiency is a lie. Pride goes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18). Take off your masked pretense of strength and put on the real thing. Let God be your strength. Let Him fight your battles and win the war.

It’s the only way to find wholeness in a broken world. It’s the only way to defeat a foe you cannot see. It’s the only way to receive all God has for us in this life and the next.

Follow Him where He leads. You will get dusty dirty feet on the road, but in Him you will always find safe shelter.

In Him, you are already the victor.

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. (Ephesians 6:10-12 HCSB)

Reflections: In what situation(s) do you struggle with exchanging your strength for God’s? 

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “dirty dusty feet.” Click on the image to check out the wonderful encouragment.

LIVEFREETHURSDAY

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in surrender, trust

Why You Need a Re-Attitude Plan of Action

Some weeks you wish you could do over or skip altogether. I’m not sure which category last week fell into, but it wasn’t easy.

For most of January my daughter has not been feeling her best. Her school behavior has reflected that. The most frustrating part is I can’t quite pinpoint what is causing her difficulties. A viral infection, sinus issues, the beginning of something worse? 

If you have experience with a person who has limited expressive ability, you know how difficult a diagnosis (or even knowing if you need to pursue a diagnosis!) can be.

At the beginning of last week I thought Rach was doing better, only I ended up keeping her and her brother home from school (him 1 day, her 2). After mega-napping both days, she was surely better. Only the next day’s school report wasn’t so great.

Then Sunday dawned promising, until Rachel awoke dirty, fatigued, and with a headache. Church attendance flew out the window for Rach and me. I so badly wanted the worship, the community, the adult conversation.

Instead I ended up bathing her, doing laundry, and disinfecting. With tears forming, I wanted to scream.

Somedays are just that way. A good scream can be therapeutic.

sacrifice-of-thanksgiving2

Power of a Re-Attitude

But what I did instead proved far better. After getting everything cleaned up and Rachel back to bed, I put on worship music and made a nice dinner.

I didn’t really want to, but I didn’t want to be in the dumps all Sunday either. So I listened, sang, and prepared food. And things changed; I changed! 

With each song, with each step in dinner preparation, a new blessing came to mind. And as I counted the gifts in my life, my spirits began to lift.

Giving myself time to gain perspective, I could see the sweetness of the extra time I’d have to cuddle with Rachel. I could see how serving her was growing me. I gained satisfaction of having time to prepare a nice meal for my family.

I was having a re-attitude! 

A Re-Attitude Plan of Action

It didn’t matter what circumstances I faced. It mattered with what attitude I faced it. And shifting my focus from the ugly of the moment to the beautiful in my life changed it for the better. 

I wish I could say worship and thanksgiving were my natural defaults, in good times and hard, but I don’t think that’s true for many of us. Certainly not me.

It’s hard to see something worth giving thanks for in the mess. Yet in the mess is where we can most benefit from having a re-attitude plan of action.

My action plan has to include worship music and activity of some sort. That’s when I can see past the immediate struggle. That’s when I can let go of my perceptions and trust God’s redemption.

Your re-attitude plan might involve being still or debriefing with someone. Study yourself and experiment until you find what works.

Circumstances Don’t Matter So Much

We can adjust our attitude because we always have hope of something better. We are never alone in any situation, and there is always something good in our lives.

Forcing ourselves to refocus on that good can make a world of difference in our outlook, even when our circumstances stay exactly the same (or take a turn for the worse!).

Your last week may have looked far worse than mine; maybe it played out far better. The circumstances don’t really matter. The important thing is with what attitude we faced the events of the week, of each moment, good and bad.

Legitimately we can mourn and, yes, even scream. But the difference maker in attitude is worship and thanksgiving.

Although praise and thanksgiving won’t change your circumstance, they will change your attitude. And a re-attitude is a good thing for each of us. 

Honestly, I needed this plan of action today. I’ll likely need it tomorrow.

Thanksgiving is an act of obedience, a sacrifice of worship. And it makes all the difference in how we face our days.

It did for me Sunday; it will for me this week. And it will for you too. 

“I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and will worship the Lord.” Psalm 116:17

Reflections: What is your ideal re-attitude plan? What is one thing you do to help turn a difficult time into one of thanksgiving?

More than 4 years of counting and I’ve surpassed 4,500 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #4,705–4,725. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Being part of an online community whose members love Jesus; God’s impeccable timing in message delivery; Skype call with Zachary
  • Beauty of freshly fallen snow; Reached a small but significant milestone; Helped a dear friend celebrate her 89th birthday
  • A day of rest for three of us to kick this bug; Special “Dad’s gone” quick-fix, kid-loved supper; Ending the day watching National Treasure
  • Rachel feeling better after mega napping for 5 hours!; My girl’s hilarious attempts at getting a rise out of me; Wardrobe simplified and organized
  • Beginnings of a healthy household (I hope); Fresh fruit in the middle of winter; Couldn’t get anyone to watch Rach, but went ahead with date night anyway (location just changed to home)
  • Big breakfast morning; Making a snowdog with Rachel; Popcorn balls and movie night
  • Okay, so we’re not healthy yet, but it provided me more cuddles with Rach; Walk with Hubby; Sunday of reading

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Redemption, Struggles, Thankfulness, Worship

When the Scene Unfolding in Your Life Story Isn’t the One You Would Script

We all enjoy a good story. One in which there’s a main character we can identify with, a plot that captures our attention, and an ending that leaves us smiling. (Okay, well that is how I want my stories to end anyway!)

Yet any narrative that matters is one that involves conflict or struggle. Without tension, a script not only reads bland, but lacks character growth and meaning as well. 

Still, given a chance, most of us would attempt to bypass the hardship in our own life story. Ask any of us to write the scripts for own lives and what would we edit out? Yep, the struggle, the hardship, the tension. 

suffering in your life story brings about hope

Editing Out Conflict

Moses tried it. When he met the Lord in the burning bush scene, he begged and pleaded with God to send someone else to lead the Israelites to freedom (Exodus 3).

God would have none of it. Although He did allow Moses to take along his brother, Aaron, to help. 

Elijah tried it. Exhausted and pursued by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, Elijah cried out to God to let him die instead of asking him to do this hard thing (1 Kings 19).

Again, the Lord would have none of it. Although he did allow Elijah to rest and provided him with food to strengthen him before the next chapter of his life. 

Conflict Is Necessary

One would think Joseph (of the coat of many colors fame) would have tried to edit out the hardships in his life. The thrown in a well scene, the slavery scene, the accused of messing with Pharaoh’s wife scene, the thrown in a dungeon scene. 

Instead, Joseph amazingly realized that the struggles in his life story were necessary to bring about a good ending, to offer hope (Genesis 45:7; Genesis 50:19-20). 

Joseph didn’t get stuck staring at the mess he stood in but focused instead on the potential good that might come out of the mess. In other words, he trusted in an ultimately good outcome or ending, one that delivered hope, not only for himself but for others.

Joseph knew that conflict is a necessary part of growth, and he trusted God had a purpose for his struggles that was beyond his current understanding. 

Such wisdom can only come because he walked closely with his Lord.

Trust in the Author of Your Life Story

There are some authors I wouldn’t trust with writing the ending to my life story, myself included. Some would edit out all the conflict (hand waving here), others would craft a sad (read hopeless here) ending. Neither would provide growth, purpose, and transformation. 

But the actual Author of my story, the Creator and Editor of my life, He definitely has a happy ending in mind for me. Actually He has crafted the same ultimate ending for each of us if we want it.

And more, He knows that to prepare me (and others) to reach that conclusion, tension must be a part of the narrative. I cannot grow to the proper depth and breadth needed for my character development without conflict. Neither can you. 

Knowing this, given the opportunity, I’d still edit out the worst losses, the deepest valleys, the most painful moments. In fact, I try on a regular basis. 

Thank God, He holds the final narrative of my life.

Thank God, He has the ending engraved in the wooden cross.

Thank God, He continues to edit my story to include the conflicts necessary to hold on for that hope-filled ending.

With God as my author and editor, I’m secure in knowing that whatever scene is currently unfolding in my life, it’s only contributing to the happy ending He has planned for me. 

And it’s worth far more than I could ask for! 

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,” Romans 5:3-4, ESV

Reflections: What scene is unfolding in your life story right now? Is it a difficult one? Trust that the Author of your life story has written your script with a happy ending and that all scenes contribute to that conclusion—as He grows and builds your character and that of those around you.

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “more than we can ask.” Also check out Suzie’s 30 Days to Life Shaking Study. It’s not too late to join! Click on the title or image to find out more or sign up.

LIVEFREETHURSDAY  

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Daily Living, Struggles, Transformation, trust

This is So Hard, but Necessary to Live Free!

This, my friends, is so hard! In fact in our culture, choosing to store up heavenly treasures instead of earthly is often met with ridicule. But, oh, is it freeing! 

I’m talking about detaching ourselves from “stuff.” I’m talking about leaving the comparison game for the living-free one. I’m talking about living an uplifting, impactful, in-the-moment, free kind of life.

live-free

To live free from clutter and strangle holds: It’s a life I want, but my flesh fights at every turn. Our affluent culture adds to the difficulty, fueling our natural bent toward selfish desires.

Every kind of media advertises stuff. On every street corner. Throughout our favorite TV shows (okay, let’s be honest, many of our shows promote having the latest and greatest too). In newspapers and magazines.

In America, especially, it is impossible to get away from. Thus lay a big problem: the wooing of our heart.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus pronounced: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21 and Luke 12:34).
 
Our treasure reflects our heart’s desire. And when we are enticed with the bright and shiny, the newest, the latest and greatest, the comfortable, and the fun, it is difficult to keep from desiring that treasure.
 
In fact, due to the excess we have in America, I wonder if coveting is a commandment more easily broken in this country than in poorer nations.

The Difficulty

Lately, I’ve been bombarded with ads for Apple products. The new Apple watch, the iPhone 6 plus, the Mac computers. In my weaker moments, I find myself thinking how nice it would be to have one (or all) of those.

Even though my current phone works great. Even though my computer does exactly what I need it to do. Even though, I haven’t a need for the Apple watch.

Lately, Dave and I have been discussing getting a different vehicle. Although we have something with 4 wheel drive as a backup, it is easy to begin longing for a newer SUV. After all, everyone else has newer vehicles.

Lately, our son has been asking for a smartphone. After all, everyone else has a phone, and they have really nice smartphones.

And I sympathize with him, and with you and with my husband and me.  

When we look around, it does seem that everyone else has a newer vehicle. It does seem that every 14 year old has a nice smartphone. It is tempting to think we “need” those latest and greatest gadgets.

Questions to Ask

greatest-treasure

There is nothing wrong with having a nice vehicle or a decent smartphone. But before we give into the desire to buy more or better stuff, there are a couple questions we’d do well to ask.

Does this have a hold on my heart? and Do I need to have it for my peace of mind, for my happiness?

In other words, Has this become my heart’s desire?

Live Free

As God’s people, 

we should be longing to be with Him, not other people.

we should be longing for Heaven, not an exotic vacation.

we should be longing for treasures that will last for eternity, not treasures that will wear out in a few years.

Christ Jesus has already fulfilled all our heart’s desires. We just need to fill our hearts with Him to experience that peace and satisfaction. 

Daily we need to fill up with the heavenly treasures God offers: His love, His grace, His mercy.

That leaves little room for earthly treasures to get a foothold. 

So regularly do a heart check. Ask yourself those two questions.

Is there something, other than the Lord, that has a hold on my heart?

Is there something I’m longing for or pursuing that is robbing me of my peace and happiness? 

If the answer is yes, spend extra time with Him decluttering your heart, so you can live free in Christ!

“Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19-20

Reflections: What has a grip on your heart? How will you live: reaching for what everyone else has or using the blessings you’ve been given to make a difference now and live free?

More than 4 years of counting and I’ve surpassed 4,500 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #4,684–4,704. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Day spent with Hubby: relationship time!; Good news from Sis; Evening enjoying speech events at conference
  • Morning sun to offset the cold; Best beef roast ever!; Rach’s success at getting her dad and brother to listen to me read “Olga Da Polga”
  • Sharing my morning walk w/ my deer friends (4-legged kind); Rach’s good-natured teasing; Wrapping up the day early
  • Chaperoning a jazz band clinic, such a great group of young people!; Brief get-together with a friend I haven’t seen in a long time; Ending the day with those I love the most
  • A slew of appointments set and entered into the calendar; Having a hymn grab you with hope and not let go!; My daughter’s head resting on my shoulder
  • Strong performances by our high school kids at district speech contest; Hanging with a friend at contest; Laughing till near tears at Rachel’s antics while playing games tonight: everybody should play games with this girl!
  • Gorgeous morning “frosting” on the trees; Watching football playoff games w/ family; Picking up knitting again, a loved hobby of mine that was set aside a while ago

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Christian walk, Daily Living, Freedom

Why We Can Have Hope in the Midst of Our Worst Circumstances

Sometimes life looks much different than we expect. Sometimes situations seem hopeless. Yet looks can be deceiving!

We can have hold onto hope, even in our worst circumstances.

hope in your worst circumstances

The Worst Circumstances

Job discovered this. (If you haven’t yet, you must read the book of Job!). He faced death of loved ones, destruction of his property: the worst calamities you can imagine.

In fact, at one point, Job wished he were dead: it was that bad!

Yet with God, what looks like the end of anything good is often the beginning of something beautiful. God fully restored Job with far more than he had previously possessed.

Of course Job still grieved the loss of his children, but the lesson he learned about the faithfulness of God was invaluable. 

In the end, Job’s most difficult struggle yielded the most valuable lesson. I’m finding the same to be true.

Death’s Lie

I remember always wanting to be a mother. So when I became pregnant for the first time, I couldn’t wait to hold our little bundle.

Yet, instead of the life I expected, I walked away from the clinic with no heartbeat and no baby to welcome into this world.

The darkness that greeted me in the miscarriage of our first child, sucked me into a vacuum of grief. Everywhere I looked I saw death.

I fell into the lie that death was permanent. I didn’t yet grasp the truth that it had already been defeated. The victory already won! 

As God demonstrated His faithfulness to me through the years that followed though (and more difficult circumstances), I began to learn a priceless truth:

In Christ’s defeat of death on the cross, He secured abiding hope!

Life in God’s Hands

Oh, I grieved the child I didn’t get to hold, and rightly so, but the Lord revealed to me that I didn’t need to grieve as one with no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Thanks to the work of the Savior, death holds no power in the lives of His followers. Death is never an end for Christians, but merely the beginning of something far more beautiful! 

The earthly life of my sweet child never came to be, but make no mistake, she lives! What I had grieved as death is life in the hands of God. 

Losing someone or something we love will always be hard. But when looked at through the eyes of faith, one can see a new possibility.

Because for those who love Him, God redeems all situations, bringing beautiful life out of what we deem dead and offers everlasting hope…

…hope in the midst of even the worst circumstances!

“For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17 NLT

“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28 

Reflections: Where have you seen life sprout from what appeared to be dead? In what situations have you learned the greatest lessons? Where are you looking for hope?

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “life and death.” Also check out Suzie’s 30 Days to Life Shaking Study. It’s not too late to join! Click on the title or image to find out more or sign up.

LIVEFREETHURSDAY  

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Hope, Jesus Christ, Life

When Receiving God’s Best Looks Too Hard

I want to receive all God has for me; I just want it to be what I want and easy to get.

As I wrote earlier, my One word this year is Receive. I’ve come far enough on this journey of life to know I want what God wants for me.

Rejecting God’s Best

The problem is I don’t always want what He is offering in the moment.

You know …

like the hard times in marriage that when finally worked through create a stronger bond.

like illness that knocks you down only to later help you realize how precious health is.

like financial chaos that eventually forces you to develop good, strong financial principles.

In the end, these are good things … things I want. But the negative-immediate masks the positive-eventual. So I often find myself rejecting His gifts.

Since you’ve found my blog, you likely struggle with the same issue.

receiving God's best

Not the Cross!

So what do we do? We want God’s best in our lives. We want to grow and become more like Christ. But every human/logical part of us screams, “not the cross!”

If only we could see the end result, we’d move willingly (if not still a bit hesitantly) up that hill of Calvary.

We do something very similar all the time in our day-to-day choices:

We agree to the pain of having teeth pulled to straighten the ones that remain.

We make our children endure the fear and hurt of getting vaccines because we know their benefit.

We give up fun activities to save money for some special event or object.

We let a surgeon cut into us to make something right in our bodies.

We’ll willingly endure a great deal of pain and inconvenience if that positive end is likely.

So I guess that means we need someone who can see the end at the same time as the beginning, the eventual as well as the immediate. Someone who can guide us with certainty.

And there’s only one Someone who can do that: the omniscient, omnipresent Lord Almighty.

Our eyes need to be fixed on Him. Our trust needs to rest in Him.

Look to Calvary

Whenever you face a difficult next step, look to Calvary. Whenever you’re tempted to reject what He’s laid in your lap, look to Calvary. Whenever everything in you screams “I can’t do this,” look to Calvary.

It is on that hill, we see the end. “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

The beautiful end won for us. The process was gruesome and horrendous. But the end, oh the glorious end!

Receiving God’s Best

Some things we’re asked to do or walk through, well, they make no human sense. But faith, it’s not about having things make sense. It’s about surrendered obedience. It’s about willingly following Christ all the way to Calvary when asked.

It’s in this complete surrender we find ourselves receiving God’s best. A best promised and delivered. Partially here; fully in eternity. 

Receive - One Word 2016

I want it! I know you do too! But to get to it, it will mean we have to walk through those things we don’t think we want first. It means we have to journey up the hill to Calvary.

And for that walk, lay it all down. All your preconceptions. All your plans. All your expectations. All your pride. Lay down your load. Then pick up only what the Lord directs.

With this lighter load and His strength and guidance, you’ll make it. Once there, open your hand and your heart to be filled with that best! Oh the glory!

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,
Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
Otherwise they will not come near to you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.” Psalm 32:8-11, NASB

Reflections: What “best” are you trusting God for right now? What preconceptions, plans, expectations, pride do you need to lay down before your ready to begin your climb up that hill to Calvary?

More than 4 years of counting and I’ve surpassed 4,500 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #4,663–4,683. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • 4-wheel drive vehicle for these wintry conditions; Willingness of friends to brainstorm project details with me and go overtime; Internet held for my online call despite some ominous signs
  • Refreshing morning walk in subzero temps; Day to catch up; Enjoyed some fun high school speech events at parent’s night
  • Wonderful free online content created to serve others; Strong IEP team for Rachel’s education and transitioning out of high school; Crockpot supper
  • Receiving insightful marriage tips and encouragement through an online marriage summit; Sweetness of my daughter’s trust in me; Time to walk, pray, and dream
  • Editing done for the day; Nowhere I have to go; Snuggling in with popcorn while I finish sending Christmas cards (yes, that’s me!)
  • Making popcorn balls with Rachel; Standing on a ridge in the woods and taking in the beauty and peace around me; Watching eagles soaring in the wind
  • Furnace/indoor heat on a morning that began at -10 degrees F; Last of our Christmas decorations put away; Guiding children to think about consequences and make better choices

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Abundance, One Thousand (or more) Gifts, Receive, Struggles

Time Spent Waiting Is Never Time Wasted

Sometimes God calls us to wait.

Wait for healing. Wait for leading. Wait for fulfillment of a promise.

trust-god-in-the-wait

I waited more than four years for my daughter to take her first step, even longer for her to say her first word. 

I waited many more years than that to get a glimpse of the plan God has for her. 

I will be waiting until I get to Heaven to meet my five unborn children. 

When it comes to waiting, we’re all asked to partake. Sometimes though that in-between time can seem like a waste.

However, I believe God allows a period of limbo for several reasons:

  • to bring us to the end of ourselves
  • to prepare others
  • to allow us time to develop skills and character traits 
  • to show Himself faithful in the simple and mundane
  • to orchestrate the proper conditions.

Think about it. 

Purpose of Waiting

Young David would have never been able to handle all God asked of him as king if he hadn’t grown in wisdom and character and strength in the years leading up to his coronation (1 and 2 Samuel). And the Israelites had to be ready for a new king.

The woman with bleeding problems would likely not have had enough faith to believe a simple touch of Jesus’ hem would heal her if she had not been bleeding for 12 long years (Mark 5:25-34). And the Savior’s miracles needed to be performed at the right time to be preserved for all generations.

Moses needed the years of maturity to endure all he would go through in leading the Israelites to the Promised Land (Exodus). And the Israelites had to endure great hardship to be willing to leave their homes in the first place. 

Sarah and Abraham needed to develop a history of God’s faithfulness to trust Him in the outlandish promises He made them. And Sarah needed to be well beyond childbearing years before giving birth to Abraham’s heir so all the glory would go to the Lord (Genesis 17-21). 

Scripture is filled with stories of long waits. But those waits had purpose. Ours do too.

Trust God with an expectancy that He will act, that He is acting, even when it seems you are in limbo. He is faithful to fulfill every promise He has ever made, no matter how long it ends up taking. 

And that in-between time? It’s never wasted. That’s the time God uses to prepare us for the fulfillment of His promises. 

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LordPsalm 27:14

Reflections: Has there ever been a time in your life when it seemed God would never act? If that time of limbo has been fulfilled, what did you learn or how did you grow from it? If not, how can you open yourself up to receive all He has for you in the in-between? I’d love to hear how He is moving in your life! Leave a comment. 

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “Limbo.” Also check out Suzie’s 30 Days to Life Shaking Study. It’s not too late to join! Click on the title or image to find out more or sign up.

LIVEFREETHURSDAY  

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Faith, Growth, trust

5-Step Plan for Taking Back Your Rotten Day

turn-around-rotten-day-arrowIt’s alarming how fast my attitude can turn south. With the right mix of conditions, it does a U-turn in about 1.2 seconds — often with little-to-no warning.

I became keenly aware of this phenomenon yesterday with the second of our boys returning to college after Christmas break.

Runaway Emotions

I mostly felt okay: a bit sad but not overly so. Then the evening blew steadily out of my control (as if I normally have control), and my frustrations peaked with another “not-what-I-want-to-deal-with” situation.

The day became a bit inconvenient, and with it my mood. Just that fast!

Circumstances do that. They have a way of tying up our emotions. And if we’re not careful, they’ll tie us up real tight and hold us hostage.

But we don’t have to be a puppet in the hands of happenings. In fact, as Christians, we shouldn’t be.

God did not intend for us to live at the whim of our emotions. He charged us with rising above our mood.  That’s where the Holy Spirit can help. 

“walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 ESV

Instead of riding the waves of the day’s winds, we can tap into His power. After all, all good things begin and end with Him.

But it does require some intentionality on our part. Thus, the plan for a rotten day.

5 Step Plan for Taking Back Your Rotten Day

(Click to download)

A Plan for Your Rotten Day

  1. Far before your mood takes a southward turn, fill your heart and mind with the life-giving and life-sustaining words of Scripture … daily!
  2. Enlist God’s help. Ask Him. God offers the grace of salvation, but He loves us so much He provides even more: He offers grace to live this life well.
  3. Study your triggers. What sets you off? Be prepared to counter these. 
  4. Create a plan for reining in those out-of-control emotions. 
  5. End with thanksgiving for the blessings of the day.

The other night, the one where my son’s leaving sent my emotions reeling unexpectedly, I implemented my plan, just before my ‘tude was ready to erupt (okay maybe a little had already spewed out).

Here’s what it looked like. I 

  • asked God to intervene in helping me corral my emotions. Inviting Him near brings me the security of knowing who I am and Whose I am.
  • turned off my computer. The stress of the online world (yes, even in surfing there is stress) can sabotage the best plan.
  • lit candles (lots of them). The light from the candles reminds me of the hope I always have in the Lord.
  • put on quiet music to settle my heart and mind.
  • spent a few minutes in Scripture, grounding myself with the truth and love of God.
  • took time to finish reading a lovely Christmas devotional by Liz Curtis Higgs, The Women of Christmas. (Click the link to get your own copy.)
  • thanked God for my family and the blessings surrounding them. What a perfect way to end a day and reframe negative thoughts! 

All this took a bit more than a half hour. By the time I finished, I had a recalibrated mood and a day that ended well.

Glorify the Lord

My friends, emotions will try to rule our days. If we let them, Satan wins.

But with the help of the Holy Spirit and a bit of planning on our part, we can end each day well, glorifying the Lord in all we face.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV

Reflections: Sometimes I need a few reminders to rein in my emotions. How about you? What do you employ to help flip your ‘tude upside-right? How about when you have little time and must recalibrate on the fly?

More than 4 years of counting and I’ve surpassed 4,500 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #4,642–4,662. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Incredible beauty of fog settling on the trees; Day spent with Danny; Overnight with sister-in-law and brother-in-law
  • Good health report for Danny; HuHots for lunch; Stopping to tour a majestic early 1900s church on our way home
  • Crackling of a fire getting started; Sibling love of my kids; Big and little moments with my oldest the day before leaves for an out-of-state wedding and then back to college for his last semester: where did the years go!?
  • Some hard gifts for this mama as I begin saying good-bye again: Daniel’s safe arrival for his roomie’s wedding; Still enough of us around to play 4-person games; Delightful personality of my girl: her mischievous laugh is a riot
  • Early-morning Bible reading wrapped up in my shawl and a soft blanket; Situations that are knocking me to my knees; Walk through the fog with Zachary
  • Long overdue closet cleaning in Rachel’s room!; Christmas decorations packed away; A daily dedicated family mealtime–love connecting with those closest to me
  • My guys’ willingness to serve in our church; A furnace that works and a woodstove backup: frigid weather has hit!; Divine patience as I dealt with a difficult Rachel

*(Affliliate link included in this post.)

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Daily Living, One Thousand (or more) Gifts

Marked for Life: Exactly What You and I Want but Don’t Know It

Gods-faith-love-in-storms2

Marked for Life

Pristine blue waters and silky fine sand beckon me near;

Clouds hanging lazy implore me linger.

Yet seemingly against my will I journey on;

through waves that grow fierce as I walk.

Bending into the wind, I search for relief, begging for an end to the biting cold,

only to stumble onto a rocky shore, scraping shins and stubbing toes.

This isn’t what I signed up for, I scream into the storm.

The return echo whispers, It’s because, my daughter, you signed up for the wrong thing.

I ask for the desires of my heart of stone,

but receive a far greater treasure: a new heart of flesh.

If only I knew its value, then I would quit struggling.

But on I go.

Pebbles and stone action razes smooth the sharp edges of pride.

Torrential rains carve out the spreading rot of self-righteousness.

Buffeting winds rip the strong roots of self-sufficiency from their anchor deep within my heart. 

It’s a life stretched and shaped by elements I’ve longed to avoid.

Yet elements that transform me into one with more patience and joy, kindness and goodness; one who is gentler, increasingly faithful, filled with love and peace, and possessing self-control.

Still at times I find myself clawing and scrambling for comfort and ease. Instead, I’m met with scars and bruises: lingering marks of His deep work of grace.

And finally I begin to see.

I begin to see the glorious redemption of being Marked.

Marked by the One who loves me and wants me for His own.

Marked in a way that will never leave me the same.

Marked with a new heart of flesh.

You see, it looks like I did make a mistake; one most of us make.

It seems I signed up for leisure and fun,

when what I truly wanted all along was Life.

And there was One who knew and made it right.

So now I am becoming increasingly grateful for the storms of life and the gifts they leave behind …

for in them I see His love and faithfulness.

Even more, I am ever grateful that the Lord has considered me worthy of a circumcised heart …

for by that I Live! 

“Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.” Deuteronomy 30:6

Reflections: How has God marked your life? How has He marked you for Him? 

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “I’m Marked.”  Click on the image below or link above to check them out.

This is also a post in Suzie’s 30 Days to Life Shaking Study. It’s not too late to join, Click on the title or image to find out more or sign up. 

LIVEFREETHURSDAY 

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Grace, Life, Uncategorized

Thanks for stopping!

Hello, I'm Julie, an imperfect wife and mother of four. Life in this broken world is not always easy. Yet, joy can be found in each day through the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I find it's easy for our day's BLESSINGS to get lost in its HAPPENINGS. But God's "mercies never end" (Lamentations 3:22) and His "grace is sufficient" (2 Corinthians 10:9).

May the posts and pages on this site offer you a measure of peace and encouragement.

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