To Listen is to Love

To Listen is to Love

God has given me a gift,

the gift of what can be,

in people and in places,

and every thing I meet.

I often see potential

of glory from within,

the transformation story

if we just listen.

 

Who have you listened to this week? Who has felt valued by you? There is a world that wants to be heard and only the few who are willing to listen long enough to make a difference. Will you listen?

5 Healthy Marriage Habits

5 Healthy Marriage Habits

My sweet Theardis and I are coming up on 2 years of marriage. We have enjoyed many ups and downs doing life together and learning what it truly means to be “Better Together.”

In the midst of life, it is often the regular disciplines and habits that help us stay the course to meet goals, accomplish successes, and get stuff done. What we are realizing more and more, is how habits can create health in a marriage. When two busy people consistently make time to communicate and connect, it can foster intimacy and build trust that are both insanely crucial to the relationship.

I have compiled a short list of marriage habits that we have found useful. This is no way a comprehensive list. However, these are things that have benefitted us, and countless other couples, some of whom I have had the privilege of helping. All of these things can be done (to some extent) with kids or without.

  1. Praying together. This may look different for all couples, and can also look different in different seasons of life. Maybe you pray together before work, or at the end of the day, before meals, or through text/email or phone calls. Sometimes, we will use one night a month to journal and pray together, in order to get us on the same page spiritually.
  2. Going to bed together. This may be a difficult one for those who are in seasons of working opposite schedules or with children, but can I say, it makes a world of difference to start and end your day on the same page, in the same bed, as your spouse. The act of being in bed together increases the possibility of communication and physical connection – both huge health indicators in marriage. (AKA more SEX).
  3. Eating dinner together. There is something that happens over a shared meal that brings people together. Food and love and family seem to go hand in hand in cultures around the world, but sometimes we get caught up in the day-to-day rush and lose the intimacy of a shared meal.
  4. Weekly date nights. This is one we have learned from several great examples through our church family and friends. When we intentionally take the time to date our spouse, it helps us continue getting to know them. This can mean trying new things, looking nice for each other, and investing in shared experiences. It basically communicates to each other that you still find the other attractive and worthy of your time. A weekly date night is a great place to use a tool we have come to love called the Navigator’s Council. It’s a handy book that helps us stay on the same page and check in regularly about the nature and status of our relationship through six simple questions.
  5. S-E-X. This goes hand in hand with going to bed at the same time. It’s a whole lot easier to have sex when you’re both in the same room…  From my personal experience as well as research in marriage therapy, many of the above habits of connecting and communicating can feed into a more satisfied sex life. If you have a hard time talking about sex, check out Gottman Card Decks, which will not only provide topics to discuss like sex and intimacy, but can also give you some mild, medium, or spicy ideas on new things to try together. You will also find various prompts on how to connect with each other and create more “rituals for connection. “

What are some habits YOU do to stay connected in your marriage?

Other Marriage Resources:

Marriage 365

#staymarriedblog

Marriage Today

Family Life

Embrace Small Deaths

Embrace Small Deaths

Death is not normally a topic that is commonplace in our society today.  It is something everyone reaches eventually, but the majority of people try to avoid as long as possible, whether in their own life, or even in conversation. Today I’m not writing about death in the traditional sense, but more about the many small deaths we experience of ourselves, our ideas about the future, and expectations of other people.

Wee may die a series of small deaths each day or see these deaths happen over a longer period of time. Either way, we encounter death more often than we think, and for some, it is not welcome. Sometimes, not embracing small deaths can mean that we are holding ourselves back from something better.

I shared earlier in a post that the process of grief is not solely for the death of a person in our lives, but it can be for the end  of experiences, friendships, and seasons. Similarly, dying to ourselves can take on that death-like process, which may be painful and cause grief but can produce beautiful results.

What exactly is ‘dying to yourself’?

When we die to ourselves, we are saying to God, “I surrender, you are in control. You will provide. You will make all things new. Because of you, I no longer have to live in bondage or chains.” Scripture uses baptism as a tangible picture of this death and new life. When we go into the water, it is a physical representation of dying and coming up reborn into a new life – a life proclaiming Christ. Dying to ourselves is both a one time decision (initially) and an ongoing learning process called sanctification.

God’s kingdom is not like this world. In the eyes of the world, his kingdom is upside down. We start to see that the way we get to some of his greatest plans for our life come through some of the most unconventional ways. For example, we see in scripture that when we lose our life (ie. death) for Christ, we find it (Matthew 10:39). The Bible is full of these kind of references where we lose or give up our life in exchange for something better and eternal. We die not only to ourselves (the flesh), but we die to sin, to an old way of life, and to our idea of control for our life.

When we choose to give up our ideas for our life and give it over to God, we slowly start to look different. We may gain a different vocabulary, a new life motto, and a new perspective. This process takes time and might not be the most comfortable.

Death is essential for growth.

Lately, I have had to die to my ideas of perfection and how it can somehow be achieved this side of heaven. The desire, I believe, was placed in my soul by Christ, but it can only be fulfilled through him, and only in its entirety once we get to heaven. This has looked different for me, as my eyes are opened to my own sinfulness, selfishness, and brokenness. I make mistakes, disappoint people, and God is still sovereign.

This small death of my idea of perfection is one of thousands. Some things I have learned the easy way through the experiences and wisdom of other people, and some I have learned the hard way through my own failure or inability. Each time, I am reminded that my dependence on myself is dying, and my dependence on God is growing.

Just as branches from a fruit tree are pruned off and die, the whole purpose is so the rest of the tree can bear fruit that is much more flavorful and delicious!

 

What small death is God calling you to die today?

Is it your ideas for your future? Your timeline for your future? Your expectations for your loved ones? Your desire for fame and wealth?

What are you going to die to today in order to find new life and grow?

 

John 12:24 ESV

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Romans 6:1-23 ESV

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Romans 12:1 ESV

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Ephesians 4:20-24 ESV

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

John 15:1-27 ESV

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. …

 

Embrace Space

Embrace Space

For most of my life, I have tried to fill every single space with something. Whether that be work, friends, service, or homework- I had a full schedule and full life- and I LIKED it. Actually, I would say I have THRIVED in it.

I’ve told a few people that I work best with a fuller schedule- as in- I need to be going nonstop to operate at a higher level. When I have too much space or free time, I feel that I start to get lazy. I don’t get as much done and feel less accomplished. Maybe I’m addicted to busy, maybe I’m a high achiever, probably a little of both.

I’ve been trying to fill my time with reading, catching up with old friends, yoga, gardening, painting, walking, and the list can go on. I think sometimes without lots to do, I feel that my life lacks meaning.

However, while I feel that my life lacks a “bigger” or “busier” meaning, I find myself discovering more meaning in the mundane everyday things of life. I am more sensitive to small miracles and kind words. I am more intentional about how I interact with others. I say YES to more things. I serve people better and more wholeheartedly. I pray more. I listen more.

You may have heard about the minimalist movement where people are not only decluttering, but intentionally living with less. They rid themselves of physical possessions that merely take up space in order to have a more peaceful, less stressful and more meaningful life.

Just like a home, our minds and lives sometimes need that extra space. We leave some walls blank, while others are beautifully filled with pictures and artwork. The thing is, not every single inch is filled with something. There is blank space that helps to emphasize what else is on the walls, or the other furniture in the room. Could it be that our lives need some blank space in order to emphasize what else we have happening? Would we grow a greater appreciation for our lives and the people in them if we had some space to think about them?

This may only be a season of space for me right now, but I am choosing to enjoy and embrace it. If or when things fill back up, I will keep that thought in the back of my mind to create some blank space every now and then to reflect, remember, and listen. I might just see the greater meaning I was looking for but forgot. Or have that encouraging conversation that I couldn’t seem to make time for before.

When do you feel at your best?

When was the last time you took some time to breathe and do nothing?

Do you need to create some space in your life, even if only for a time?

Embrace the Wait

Embrace the Wait

Waiting, the awkward in between, down time, transition time, interm

Transition. The only thing that never changes is change, right? What about when you know a change is coming and you’re stuck waiting for it to happen? What do you call that?

The Wait.

That’s where I am. Waiting. Yet, I also think that is where I have been most of my life. When I was a kid, I was waiting to be 12 to get my ears pierced. Then, I was waiting to be 16 to start driving on my own. Then, I was waiting to graduate and go to college. Then, I was waiting to graduate again and do what I really wanted to do, go to grad school. Now, I am waiting yet again, to fulfill this God-given dream and calling, something that will take years of day in and day out work and dedication, not just a sign on the wall to say I’m done.

I would say there are two types of waiting: Passive and Active.

When I was a late teenager and young adult, I would passively (often anxiously) wait on my date to come pick me up. This meant everything stopped and the only thing I did was wait. It was a very unproductive time. NOTE: There is a difference between being still and being passive. Passive waiting is impatient and hurried while not getting much at all, and being still is not necessarily about waiting, but about calming the mind, body, and soul enough to find peace and hear God. You can be still while you wait, but the passive wait will consume you.

The other kind of wait is active. This means that in the midst of the waiting, I am still doing, still being, still LIVING. For me, that means I am still taking every opportunity to listen, grow, and develop myself, even if it may not be completely applicable for my longer term goals that I am waiting to achieve.

An active wait means that my heart is engaged and seeking what God wants for me in the midst of the time. Especially in suffering, we want it to pass as quickly as possible, but James tells us to embrace trials because we know what they produce. That sounds like an active wait to me- wanting to get the most out of an experience, even suffering, because we know it produces character!

Waiting in the Bible

Probably one of the biggest examples of the passive wait is the Israelites in the Bible. They waited YEARS to get into the promised land and for many, the waiting consumed them and they impatiently turned to complaining and other gods as a result.

On the other hand, Jacob worked 7 years waiting to marry Rachel, and then another 7 after he had been duped. That’s 14 years of waiting, and yet Genesis 29 shows us that the wait seemed like only a few days. He knew his reward and not even the most grueling of waits could get his spirit down.

You may be saying, well I don’t know my reward. If I knew I would for sure get that sexy spouse or job, or [insert other goal here] in 7 years, of course it would make the wait pass by easily, at least I would know it would happen!

What about when we don’t know the outcome?

One of the biggest pictures of waiting is Jacob’s own son, Joseph. He was given a vision that one day he would be great and all his family would bow down to him. However, he did NOT have a timeline or a conceivable way for that to happen. When he was almost killed and then sold into slavery, it seemed like the opposite would happen, yet he ACTIVELY waited. He became the greatest he could in the worst of circumstances each time. He did not let the wait reduce him to complaining and wandering aimlessly, instead, he put in the work and used his gifts right where he was.

Regardless of the kind of wait, we know the process should be filled with HOPE because we have a reason to HOPE in God.

What are YOU waiting for?

HOW are you waiting?

Psalm 130:5-6 ESV

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning.

Psalm 27:14 ESV 

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

 

Embrace Grieving

Embrace Grieving

As you may have heard from my last post, I recently graduated! It is an exciting transition for me with much anticipation towards what is in store for this next season of life. However, what many of us forget as we all make great transitions in life, is that we still experience endings. In order to begin, often something else must end.

These endings can mean we experience some sort of loss and can bring unexpected grief and emotions for which we may not be prepared. Towards the end of my last semester, I started to experience just that. Had I not experienced it before, and had a wise counselor (yes, counselors go to counseling too) speak into my life about grief, I may not have been prepared for the conflicted emotions and thoughts that emerged.

Someone does not have to die for us to experience losses in our life. Loss also does not always mean something negative happened.

Just as we all lose our baby teeth, losses in life allow for new opportunities and growth.

Over the past weeks and months, I have been in a sort of grieving process of this season of life coming to an end. It was a long and cumbersome season where I worked long days and studied and went to school in the evenings. I had a big breakup during this season and also fell in love and got married in this season. God was so faithful throughout the process, even though it was not always enjoyable. Somehow, even though I looked forward to and longed for this day to come, there is a part of me that grieved. I made friends during this season, and I also did not spend as much time with friends as I would have liked.

Grief can be a motivator. When we grieve, we recognize our feelings and the good and the bad, but we don’t have to stay there.

There comes a point in time where we have to recognize and accept that things have changed, or are changing.

“We add to our suffering when life changes and we behave as if it hasn’t.” Mark Nepo

We can do something in the future, as a result of what grief has taught or is teaching us. My grieving has shown me that my word for the year – EMBRACE- was the perfect word. I will always be in some kind of season working towards some kind of goal. That does not need to stop me from embracing moments with the people I love and creating memories. I can pay attention- LISTEN- to what is happening around me and in me, and move forward in peace.

 

Are you in a transition season of life?

 

Is there something that you have not yet grieved?

 

Is there something changing in your life that you’re trying to act like it is not happening?

Embrace Calling

Embrace Calling

Since I was a teenager, probably around 7th grade, I have wanted to be a counselor. It switched a couple times over the years, but I always came back. Now, 12 years later at age 25, that dream, that calling that I felt on my life WAY BACK then, is becoming a reality. On May 5th, I graduated from Grace University with my Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I remember in high school, a visitor at church spoke the prophetic word of counselor over me, and I cherished that moment, thinking how could he know- it must be God.  

At a staff meeting a little while ago, two people got a similar word and said that it was a word for more than just one person.

They said that the things you have been persevering for, will finally come to fruition.

At first, I didn’t think it really applied to me, until I got that little nudge that said, “that’s YOU.” It is me. This long awaited goal, 12 years in the making, is about to be realized.

Now that I think about it, I have no idea what I would do now, if I set a 12 year goal. Somehow, because I took it in small chunks, it seemed like a breeze. Plus, life happens while we are setting and achieving goals.

Life happens in the midst of realizing our dreams.

God gave me this dream. In some ways I had absolutely no idea how much work or how long it would take to get to this point. It definitely did NOT look the way I had envisioned it looking. I didn’t know I would stay in Omaha this long, or even find a church family and job to help me through grad school. I had no idea that I would get married towards the end (I thought it would be way sooner… and then thought maybe way later).

Nonetheless, I persisted, and God carried me through. Through heartache, numerous jobs, friends, living arrangements, and travels. Through doubt, wanting to have some kind of quick fix, or to stop accumulating school bills. I’m naturally an achiever, but this was a long term achievement, one that will even now extends long past graduation. I wanted to achieve things NOW– in the workplace or finances or family – yet everyone else around me had already begun living their focus. Mine was still a little farther off.

I’ve heard it said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” (Theadore Roosevelt), and at times, I let those comparisons steal my joy. When I was up late doing homework, seeing other friends or acquaintances going out. I was working hard and paying school bills on top of regular life expenses, when others were working towards buying houses or new cars.

Your season may not be the same as another’s, and your calling is absolutely unique to you and who God has created you to be.

Do you have a long term dream or goal?

Has something been placed within you long ago that is slowly coming to fruition?

What are the baby steps you need to take to get there? How can you EMBRACE CALLING in your life today?