We Win In the End

happy babyThe Happy Baby was freeeeeaking out the other day because he lost his favorite DVD and as his cries escalated into hysteria I found myself frantically searching the house and praying, “Oh, Lord please help me to find my boy’s lost DVD!”

And then I was immediately plagued by this thought -

“How can you pray about something so silly? There are women in parts of the world whose children are being beheaded.”

I get grumpy because I have to wake up early and make lunches for school…

“But what about these women and children in Iraq??!”

I fuss about the tornado-like state our house is constantly in…

“But what about these women and children in Iraq??!”

I find myself longing for that cute lamp I saw at Target.

“But what about these women and children in Iraq??!”

Lately it seems like there is pain and evil and tragedy and darkness growing in leaps and bounds across the world.

These horrific events that pour out from every channel and website make me feel so unsettled and I find myself wondering why is God letting this stuff happen and what is my place in the midst of it?

Then the Holy Spirit whispers across my soul…

Read my Word.

And instead of spending so much time glued to the news channel filling my head with more things to fear, He invites me to spend time filling my head with Truth.

Light to obliterate darkness.

As I read, I am reminded that this wickedness we are hearing about in the news, it really isn’t anything new.

happy baby 2At the time of Moses’ birth, hundreds of Israelite babies were thrown into the river at the hand of an unrelenting and proud Pharaoh.

Then again when Jesus was born we read about the hundreds of baby boys under the age of 2 who died at the hand of jealous King Herod.

No, this evil – it’s not new.

And while I do not know the pain of losing a child to a heartless, wicked act, I vividly recall the feeling of watching my child suffer.

The night that we walked in and saw our child looking like this, I remember the gasp – the sob that racked my body and made me physically lean into my husband.

We watched in horror as a machine pumped hard and steady blasts of air into our tiny baby’s lungs.

I remember feeling so troubled by the way the machine pressed his nose upward – almost like a pig’s – and how the nurse casually said it might get stuck that way.

It was torture – to me.  And to him, no doubt.

But that same evening the elders and deacons and pastors of our church were coming to pray for us.

So I stumbled from the room, anxious to go but yet longing to never leave my baby’s side, and the hubs and I headed toward the hospital’s conference room.

And as we walked down a long, cold corridor feeling utterly defeated and without hope, there was a sudden shift in the air.

I raised my head and saw about 20 men – tall and strong – walking in our direction.

It was like an army of God’s angels were making their way toward our desperate, thirsty souls – their presence alone tangibly redirecting the downward spiral of my weak and weary flesh.

While we did not receive an immediate miracle that night, nor were specific prayers answered in an instant, our spirits were reminded that we were not alone in the battle.

And that the battle we were fighting alongside our little baby was a battle already won.

Because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

That same power that conquered the grave was the same power with us in that NICU room.  A power that filled us with confident hope that God was, indeed, doing something in the midst of the CPAPs and chemotherapy treatments and feeding tubes and misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis.

Just as He was doing something in the midst of all the lost lives of innocent Hebrew babies -

God was raising up a deliverer named Moses.

Just as He was doing something in the midst of the deaths of all those innocent boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity -

God was raising up a once-and-for-all Deliverer named JESUS.

first day photo 2The enemy is doing what he does best – deceiving, confusing, hurting, destroying and making it seem like all hope is lost.

But his acts of cruelty WILL NOT destroy or interfere with the greater picture – the Greater Power that is at work.

Because He is a Father, after all.

The feeling of compassion and desire to help my boy find his lost DVD – the hurt and agony I felt with him in the NICU – on a small scale, is reflective of the way our Lord is stirred when ANY ONE of His children suffers.

first day photoSo, dear readers, let’s put one foot in front of the other, faithfully carrying out the duties He has called us to at this time – in this season (like searching for lost DVDs and making lunches and raising little warriors of Light and Truth and possibly staying away from Target for a little bit). :-)

And while we are doing these things, let’s pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters – pray for our broken, messy world.

Then let’s rise as Moses’ mother, who during a time of great uncertainty bravely trusted in God’s power.

Let’s rise as Mary and Joseph who chose to listen carefully for direction from the voice of the Lord rather than panic about the disturbing events around them.

And let’s remember that the battle is already won.

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1 (NIV)

My Free Babysitters Are Leaving

SONY DSCOh, I kid.

(Well, kind of.)

:-)

But it’s true.

My parents are moving to Georgia.

Right now I am doing a great job of stuffing my feelings on the matter wayyyyy down deep.

I’m sure that sometime soon there will be a volcanic eruption of emotional chaos that might involve ugly crying, fist pounding, binge-eating… lots of fodder for a therapy session.

But for now I am trying to stay strong and civil for the sake of those around me (and because I can’t afford a therapist).

Ha!

In light of their departure, I thought I would share a few things about these important and precious people in my life.

Last summer the hubs was away taking classes at a seminary in St. Louis for 2 weeks.

While he was gone, I managed to find myself in a state of utter panic because my head was abnormally itchy.

Of course I convinced myself over a period of several hours and frantic Google searching that I had lice and even found the ‘nits’ to prove it.

This is what happens when my level-headed, un-fearing husband is not around to help me tame my inner beast of anxiety.

I called my mom at 10 o’clock at night completely undone by the fact that I probably had a scalp full of bugs and was threatening to torch every surface in my house that had potentially come into contact with my infected head.

I may have even said things including (but not limited to),

“THIS WORLD IS TOO DANGEROUS FOR MEEE!”

“IF THE BOYS GET LICE I’LL JUST DIEEEEEE!!!!”

“I CAN’T GO ONNNNN!!!!!”

My mom somehow talked me off the ledge and offered to drive out with my dad to take a look through my hair.

At this point it was almost 10:30.

But they came anyway.

My mom wasn’t afraid to touch the bugs and my dad offered to run out and get me some dandruff reducing shampoo at the local 24-hour pharmacy.

Because that’s all it ended up being.

Just some dry, itchy scalp.

And for some reason this whole story has become one of my favorite memories of my parents.

Maybe it’s because it accurately sums up the whole Parenting gig:

Even when your child is 30 years old – you are still obligated to check their head for lice.

:-)

In all honesty, though, being a parent is a never-ending job that often calls on you at random times of the day or night to be there for your kids – especially when they’re adults.

Like maybe the Holy Spirit wakes you up for a middle of the night prayer session on behalf of your child.

Or maybe you know your daughter could use a therapy trip to Target to buy new underwear or shoes.

Or maybe when you stop by to see the grandkids you bring a roll of paper towels or toilet paper just because.

Or maybe you wash the dishes while your daughter and her hubby are on a date.

Or maybe you help them paint the nursery (and the master bedroom, and the porch, and the dining room…).

Or maybe you show up at your daughter’s speaking events even when you have a full time job.

Or maybe you take your daughter to see that new chick flick her hubby refuses to be subjected to.

Or maybe you pick up a Costco rotisserie for her whenever you’re there shopping.

Or maybe you take the kids for the day because you know your daughter needs to get some extra sleep (or simply stare at a wall for 3 hours without interruptions).

Or maybe you put an encouraging note on your daughter’s pillow one day when you are over.

Or maybe you mow the lawn for her when her husband is out of town.

Or maybe you drive down to the church at 10 pm to help your daughter finish decorating for an event.

Or maybe you accompany your daughter at the school’s talent show.

Or maybe you build closet shelves for her.

Or maybe you help tighten the teeny tiny screws on your daughter’s glasses whenever she comes over.

Or maybe you host sleepovers for them when her hubby is on the church men’s retreat.

Or maybe you replace the burned out light in the garage.

Or maybe you come over to clean the house and dust the ceiling fan blades when your daughter is 400 pounds and 42 weeks pregnant and can’t move.

Or maybe you go with her on a trip to Ikea just because it is safer for everyone involved that a 2nd adult be present.

Or maybe you give really great bear hugs when things are hard and there just aren’t any words.

Or maybe you arrange a trip to Disney for your daughter and her husband using your timeshare points and you watch their kids.

Or maybe you have an awesome paper shredder and offer to shred all of your daughter’s old documents that are taking up 13 bins in the garage.

Or maybe you’re there for birthdays, holidays, and Grandparent’s Day at the grandkids’ preschool.

Or maybe you drop off a new shirt from Macy’s on your daughter’s doorstep.

Or maybe there’s the Easter Dress Tradition.

Or maybe you take her to get a surprise manicure a few weeks after her NICU baby finally got to come home.

Or maybe you hear that the Toys R Us by her house is going out of business so you rush in time for the liquidation and buy 50 new things for the grandkids.

Or maybe you get tears in your eyes and tell your daughter how proud of her you are after she sang the solo at church.

Or maybe you brought a check by to help pay for your grandson’s swim lessons this month.

Or maybe you offer to babysit again.

And again.

And again.

And all the love and all the time and all the presents and presence you give your child gives her the strength and vision she needs to keep pressing forward in her own calling of parenthood.

That is what my parents do for me.

They show me how it’s done.

The feeling I get when they save the day – when they come to my house at 11 to check my hair for imaginary lice – that is the feeling I want to pass on to my own kids.

Mom, Dad…

Even though you won’t be 15 minutes away anymore, I know that a 10-hour drive won’t stop the love and inspiration you pour out on me and my family on a forever basis.

And there’s always FaceTime for the scalp checks.

:-)

Georgia – our loss is your enormous gain. <3

Love you so much and miss you already.

- Julie

“Let the Lord watch over us while we are separated from each other…” Genesis 31:49

Provisions

When we got back from this trip we were greeted by the squishing of our toes in the corner of our dining room carpet.

Somehow water had leaked into the house while we were away and soaked through the dining room carpet as well as part of our tiled pantry.

Personally, I preferred the squishing of my toes in the sand of the Bahama beaches, but whatever. :-)

The hubs pulled the carpet back and set up a fan and we thought we had it all figured out.

Until a few weeks later when I went in the pantry to pull out my craft bin and low and behold discovered a garden of mold growing.

This led to the discovery that the outside of our house had a bunch of cracks which led to the unveiling of more mold that stretched all along the left side of the kitchen which led to the ripping out of cabinets which led to the relocation of waffle makers and mixing bowls and utensil drawers which led to the entire pantry needing to be stored on the dining room table which led to my children thinking that our home was now a Grand Corral buffet open all day long which led to the realization that we had absolutely no money to fix anything which led to us contacting our insurance for help.

As much as the water damage and mold was a big pain, the prospect of getting some financial assistance to fix things up was kind of exciting.

So I did what anyone would do.

I started a board on Pinterest for a kitchen remodel.

I’ve always been pretty happy with our kitchen.  It’s old and it has some funny quirks, but they never bothered me.

That is, until I began pinning.

Then I became hopelessly troubled that I didn’t have granite countertops and 42″ cabinets.

Armed with the knowledge that our insurance adjustor was ‘busy working behind the scenes’ with the claims department, we visited Home Depot and started dreaming up our perfect kitchen.  I began praying that insurance would give us a specific amount so that I could get my granite countertops AND possibly throw in some updated appliances AND maybe have a bit left over to replace the carpets.

**You know, totally and completely not selfish prayers.**

7 weeks later and we received a call that our insurance would not be helping us.

Not one little bit.

And I found myself feeling kind of grumpy.

What about my beautiful new kitchen?  What about my stainless steel things?  What about my granite?

And the Lord whispered to my spirit,

“Insurance is not your provider.  I AM your provider.”

Talk about a swift kick to the knees.

I repented of my selfish prayers.  The ones that didn’t take into account all the people in the universe who live in homes with dirt floors and no kitchens AT ALL.

I thanked God for giving us all that we could ever ask for or need in Jesus Christ.

Then something amazing happened.

Over the next few days, a man at church approached my hubby and said that he felt the Lord telling him to help us fix the leaks on the outside of our house as well as help repaint the exterior.  Then another man approached the hubby and said he could help rebuild the damaged cabinets.  Then another man took care of all the mold.  Then a few friends showed up with casseroles.

Then a friend of my neighbor’s found out about my Summer Bucket List and told me she worked at Benjamin Moore and could give us paint for my beloved yellow front door.

And we found ourselves completely and utterly in awe of the Lord’s provision.

In reflection, I am so humbled by how quick I was to exalt money to a position that was equated with my happiness.  As if receiving a large sum of money would fulfill the deepest desires of my soul.

As if a double oven could even do that.

When I look around our home, I see my Father’s handprints. I see the dining table that my parents bought for us.  I see the bookshelves a dear friend in college gave to us as newlyweds.  I see the crib and changing table from a former student’s mom.  I see a playhouse from my mother-in-law.  I see a couch we bought for a steal because the manager felt moved to accept our offer.  I see a bed given to us from another friend.  I see a dresser that we found in the garbage.  I see the mirror that a friend bought for me as a happy gift when our baby was in the hospital.  I see the dresser that used to be my brother’s.  I see the piano given to us by a girl we knew at Florida State.  I see our bedroom furniture that belonged to my parents when they first got married.

Provisions.  Needs met.  Every single one with a story behind it.  A reminder of GOD’s faithful provision through precious, obedient people.

Like the Church as described in Acts 2.

That is the stuff that works itself into our souls.

So as we face these ‘trials’ – these fallen world problems – I’m trying to train myself to see things with eyes fixed on a different home.

A home that is way more perfect than any of the ones in Southern Living.

A home that won’t ever have settling cracks or mold or damaged cabinetry.

A home that is full of glorious riches far greater than a check from insurance.

A home that is eternally provided for us through the perfect work of Christ.

This perspective gives freedom to be patient while it looks like your kitchen vomited its contents all over the living room (going on week 8).  It gives peace in knowing that He sees what we need.  It gives overwhelming gratitude when needs are creatively met.

And it gives joy to be fully trusting in the One who knows best.

Which reminds me…  I picked out a color for our front door -

pure joyBenjamin Moore – Pure Joy #327.

:-)

- Julie

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

Your Greatest Success (Is Not In a Selfie)

your greatest success

The other day I posted a photo of myself on Instagram and then found myself checking my phone every few minutes to see who liked it.

After about an hour, I decided that it didn’t get as many likes as I had hoped, so I took it down – a little ashamed and a little embarrassed.

Then I went on to obsess about what my next social media share would be and how to redeem that deleted fail.

Am I 13 years old???? :-)

No, but I am one who tends to struggle with being a people pleaser.

This part of my personality can be a great blessing because it helps me think about how I can love and serve people better.

But it can also become a curse if all I focus on is how to make people happy.

That’s why social media stuff can be dangerous for pleasers.  Sometimes we care too much.

Sometimes we get a little too focused on promoting ourselves because we like being ‘liked.’

Then our identity gets all tied up in what the people say.

We are often left with the thought – if the likes were not enough then I must not be enough.

And we feel like we have failed.

Ah, friends.

What if real success is something completely different than what our social media-driven world has to offer?

What if our greatest successes were the things that NO ONE on the planet could see in an Instagram or Facebook feed?

Consider Abraham…  Do you think Abraham would have stopped to post a selfie before almost sacrificing his son, Isaac, on top of Mount Moriah?

No…  His act was one of quiet obedience.  He didn’t share it with anyone but His Father.

And God credited that humble act as one of Abraham’s greatest successes.

What about Mary?  Do you suppose she would have snapped a shot of the opening of the cave before entering it to birth the Savior and hashtagged the photo #heregoesnothing?

No…  She quietly submitted to the Lord’s leading and entered that cave alone.  Only God, her husband, and some animals saw that precious choice.

Now think of your own successes – the quiet ones.  The ones that never pop up on a mobile device.

Like when you chose not to yell at your kids today.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you got up early to read your Bible and pray.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you sat with your child and built some Legos instead of checked email.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you chose not to wear the sexy shoes to church.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you decided to praise Him instead of be anxious.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you didn’t click that link to an inappropriate website or read that questionable book.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you chose contentment while standing in a room with laundry piles, stained carpets, and unidentifiable odor.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you made the effort to go to church even though it would interrupt the baby’s schedule.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you didn’t nag your husband but complimented him instead.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you decided that you would not compare yourself to that other woman.

God saw that as a great success.

Like how you took extra moments at bed time to read a Bible story and pray with your child.

God saw that as a great success.

Like when you chose love instead of bitterness or anger or gossip.

God saw that as a great success.

God saw it.

Not your here today, gone tomorrow ‘friends.’

As we grow in the Lord our focus should become less about how to make ourselves ‘liked’ more.

Less about needing the approval of the planet to feel successful and good about ourselves.

As we grow in the Lord our focus becomes more about the quiet little things that only God sees because He is the one we want to make happy.

Lately I have been rehearsing this verse from Psalm 86:12 over and over in my heart,

“I will glorify YOUR name forever.”

Not my name.

Jesus’ name.

Jesus, who never posted about all his miracles.  Jesus, who didn’t take a selfie with the woman at the well.  Jesus, who didn’t throw his arm around the resurrected Lazarus for a quick pic.

Jesus, who was often trying to GET AWAY from the crowds.

Jesus, who after feeding thousands of people with just 5 loaves of bread and a few fish, quietly slipped off to pray instead of sticking around to hear how many people ‘liked’ his meal.

Because Jesus was more interested in hearing his Father’s voice of loving assurance, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased,” than being affirmed by the voices of the people (the same people who would inevitably be hungry again in a few hours).

Are selfies bad?  Is Facebook wrong?

No, we just have to be aware of our motives before making a post.

Then we remember to find our worth and value in Jesus, who didn’t just ‘like’ us, but LOVED us enough to die in our place so that we would never have to feel like failures again.

And that, sweet readers, is really and truly the only success that matters.

- Julie :-)

“Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.”

Lyrics from Be Thou My Vision

Baking With Grandmommy

baking with grandmommy 1.jpgbaking with grandmommy1.jpgbaking with grandmommy 6.jpgbaking with grandmommy.jpgbaking with grandmommy 3.jpgbaking with grandmommy 5.jpgbaking with grandmommy 4.jpgbaking with grandmommy 7.jpgbaking with grandmommy 8.jpgWe spent a morning with Grandmommy (the hubby’s grandma) last week.

She didn’t freak out when the Happy Buddy flung sugar across the counter and all over the floor.

She didn’t mind that the snickerdoodles were shaped like baby carrots instead of melon balls.

She knew the importance for a little helper to push buttons like set the timer and turn off the oven.

She stayed patient even when it took about 5 minutes (and a few distracted trips to play with Legos) to fill up the measuring cups with Crisco or flour.

She let him have the first bite (and several dozen more).

She sent us home with 2 giant bags of goodies.  And a couple of pizzas.

She praised and encouraged and inspired my budding little chef.

She gave us memories to treasure forever.

She was a reminder to me that her and Grandaddy’s faith was what God used to inspire my father-in-law’s faith which was what helped inspire my husband’s faith which inspires my own and my boys’ faith every day.

I hope that one day I will get to bake with my sons’ children’s children (phew).

I won’t be as lovely or spirited as Grandmommy when I’m 86.

I will probably be bald, in a wheelchair, have no teeth, and look like a human raisin -

But we will make some pretty scrumptious snickerdoodles and we will talk about how great our God is.

:-)

Thank you, sweet Grandmommy, for your precious faithfulness.

This family knows Jesus because of it.

- Julie

“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” Psalm 112:1-2 (ESV)

On Being Your Hubby’s Friend

How to be a good friend to your husband. SO adorable!

In the beginning, the hubby and I were not too fond of each other.

He was a dark, brooding musician-type who liked to run orderly high school worship team rehearsals and be on time to everything.

I, on the other hand, was a bouncy, cheerleader-type who liked to burst into rehearsals late and maybe take over on the drums for a solo that echoed the great Muppet called Animal.

I drove him crazy.

He made me roll my eyes at all the taking-life-so-seriously.

We were 14 and 15 years old.

But one day I was riding in a van full of hair-sprayed JV cheerleaders and I heard a girl in the back seat announce that she was going to marry my now hubby when she turned 18 and I remember very distinctly smirking to myself and thinking,

“In your dreams, sister.  That boy is mine.”

Because somewhere along the way the hubby and I realized that our differences filled up the gaps we each had.

My bubbly personality offered him a fresh and positive perspective.

His wise and thoughtful manner opened my eyes to a much deeper and productive (and punctual) way of life.

Thus began the start of sending each other beeps in the middle of the night (remember beepers??? We had special codes and everything.  I feel old just talking about it) , lonnnnng conversations at the local coffee shop, and putting notes in each other’s lockers.

We became friends.

And that, sweet readers, is the foundation for a really great marriage.

But how do you stay friends with your spouse when you’re not in high school with lots of free time, endless amounts of energy, and stars in your eyes?

How do you stay friends when life gets busy, kids come along, finances are crunched, and you’re just so, so tired?

The hubby and I have pursued to stay each other’s BFF for the last 13 years – and while it hasn’t been perfect or easy – we’ve found these 7 thoughts to be super helpful along the way.

#1 – Have FUN together

“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15 (NLT)

We cannot let life’s stressors and schedules and the raising of children suck the fun out of our relationships.  We may have to put in some effort to go out and have fun now (like get a babysitter and then pay her $10,000), but it is always worth it.

And of course there’s always fun to be had at home after the kids are in bed.  Like drawing portraits of one another or playing with tin foil or having a jellybean tasting contest.

Or playing Strip Battle Ship. ;-)

#2 – Ears and empathy

“My dear brothers and sisters, always be more willing to listen than to speak. Keep control of your anger.” James 1:19 (ERV) 

You get together with your gal pals and you gab and gab about everything under the sun and usually there isn’t a moment where you’re like, “Um what did you say? I wasn’t paying attention.”

If your hubby is talking to you, LISTEN TO HIM.

Sometimes we complain that our hubbies won’t talk deep with us but maybe he’s just learned that we don’t think what he says is important.  For example, when he talks to you about the smaller things in life – like how his day was or what’s happening at work, do you have your computer open to Pinterest or are your fingers busy texting your mom or are you more interested in the interruptions of your children then what he has to say?  (I have regrettably done all of these things.)

Lock your kids on the patio for a few minutes each day and hide your phone on top of the fridge if you have no self-control like me and have an actual conversation that doesn’t involve who’s driving what kid to such-and-such activity.

And if he does happen to open up and share about something he is struggling with – like a tough boss, perhaps – don’t try to fix it.  Do what you do with your girlfriends and say things like,

“That is awful.  I’m so sorry.  He doesn’t realize the gift he’s got in you!  You want me to go rip his hair out?”

#3 – Take an interest

One of my girlfriends is an artist.  When I am at her house, I get excited about what new pieces she is working on or I fuss over something she just finished.  I ask if she needs help preparing for an upcoming art show.

I am married to a gamer.  My man loves his XBox.  So occasionally I’ll sit on the couch with him and watch the pandemonium that is happening on the screen and comment on how amazing he is to even understand where he is on the board – let alone know where everyone else is so that he can blow them to smithereens.

It’s really quite remarkable.

And I may not have actually scuba dived with him, but I watch all of his dive videos with great enthusiasm.

The point is, just like I make an effort to be interested in my girlfriends’ hobbies, I try to take an interest in the things my husband enjoys and vice versa.

I mean, the guy watches Gilmore Girls with me when I know he’d probably rather poke his eye with a fork.

#4 – Set some boundaries

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Song of Solomon 6:3 (ESV)

Make sure that the friendship you have with your hubby is your top priority.

We have to be careful that we don’t build a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex who isn’t our spouse.

I really like the boundaries that THIS GAL and her hubby created to safeguard their marriage from inappropriate relationships and highly encourage every couple to discuss and implement them.

#5 – The little things

“Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10 (ESV)

I like to do lots of little things for my girlfriends to let them know I love them (like all of THESE IDEAS).

Since our hubbies are our friends, too, then we can also love them in this way.

Stick love notes in his pocket before work, send him flirty text messages, make him his favorite dessert, get his car washed and vacuumed, bring him a glass of water when he’s out in the yard working, greet him at the door happily when he comes home, put toothpaste on his toothbrush, laugh at his jokes, snuggle, say thank you like ALL THE TIME, change the wallpaper on his phone to a cute photo of the two of you, and everything on THIS LIST.

#7 – Cheer him on

“When you talk, don’t say anything bad. But say the good things that people need—whatever will help them grow stronger.” Ephesians 4:29 (ERV)

Let’s say your bestie was getting ready to potty train her kid or go to Veggie Boot Camp with her picky eater.

As her friend, you would not be judging her methods.  Rather you’d be overflowing with verbage like,

“YOU GOT THIS!  I KNOW YOU CAN DO THIS!  HOW CAN I PRAY FOR YOU?  YOU ARE A WARRIOR MOMMY!!!!!

So when your hubby is trying to install dry wall for the first time, or dress your kids for church, or lead worship every Sunday, don’t judge his methods.

You’re on the same team.

Encourage him.

Be his cheerleader.

(And maybe wear one of those cute skirts for him while you’re at it.)

#7 – Accept each other – flaws and all

Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at ALL times.”

Here’s the thing.  Marriage is made up of 2 imperfect people.  People who have baggage and annoying habits and sin struggles and, unfortunately, maybe even addictions.

A true friend can look past all that rubbish and remember who the other really is.

**Who God created them to be.**

Adam and Eve pranced around the garden together – perfect and free.  Companions in the purest form.  But when sin entered their sanctuary, they had to put on those awkward outfits made out of leaves.  Whenever they looked at each other those leaves must have been a painful reminder of their fall -

The Fall.

As they faced the brokenness of their new world, I would imagine those two had to regularly cup each other’s faces and whisper,

“Baby, I see past those fig leaves.  This is not who you are.  You are good, you are beautiful, and you were made just for me.”

If your marriage is struggling right now, dear readers, ask the Lord how you can start implementing these thoughts into your relationship.

Because the world (and quite possibly that Pinterest we were looking at while not listening to our hubbies) will tell you that your marriage needs more romance or more sex.  And while these things are super great and super important to relationships, it is more friendship that will help set the foundation for you and your husband growing close again.

And when you think about it, this man you married is really the only friend you have that you get to have a sleepover with every. single. night. of the week for forever and ever.

How to be a good friend to your husband. SO adorable!So make the most of it.

- Julie :-)

“You’ve captured my heart, dear friend.  You looked at me and I fell in love.” Song of Solomon 4:9 (The Message)

*Photo Credit – {{the amazing}} 1313 Photography*

Life In The Cow Car

Have you ever reached that point with your kids where all you can think about is going to Chick-Fil-A because at least someone there thinks it is a pleasure to serve YOU?

:-)

After putting the couch cushions back on the sofa for the 100th time, we booked it to that magical land of cheeky cows and selfless employees and an hour of peaceful mealtime and playing.

The second we hit the indoor play area, the Happy Baby began pointing to the top of the play structure where the white Chick-Fil-A cow car hung.  He pointed and grunted and waved his arms in desire to go up there.  I encouraged him to climb the steps, but knew it would be super difficult for him to do.

There was another mommy sitting next to me who also had 2 children running around.  She asked me how old the Happy Baby was.  I told her that the Happy Baby was 2 and watched her look over my boy for several seconds.

She said that her child was 2 as well and I followed her gaze to a bouncy blond-haired girl who could have probably squished my 2-year-old with one of her big toes.

I immediately felt insecure.

Compared to her strong and energetic daughter who was running around, climbing up the play structure and coming down the slide 4 times in the same amount of time it took mine to climb one step, my boy’s physical weaknesses were kind of obvious.

I found myself blurting out how the Happy Baby has a muscle weakness and that is why he was having such a hard time doing what came so naturally to her same-aged daughter.

While I sat fretting and comparing over in the corner, the Happy Buddy was racing up to his little brother, pulling on his arm, trying to get him to climb the structure and get to the white car he had expressed such interest in initially.

I told my firstborn, “I love that you are trying to help your brother do what he wants to do, but I don’t think he can climb up there, pal.  It is a lot of work for him.  Go play.  Your brother will hang here at the bottom.”

Because my kid is so obedient, he went straight back to pulling the Happy Baby’s arm, commanding his brother to climb up the structure with him.

It was starting to become a bit of an ordeal, so again I said, “Son, let your brother go.  He can’t get up there.”

As I turned back to the other mom, I overheard the Happy Buddy in the background saying.

“You can do this, brother!  You’re doing it!  Look at you!  You’re so strong!”

I glanced over toward the structure and saw the Happy Baby slowly climbing each stair with a big smile on his face as his brother coached him from behind.

Next thing I knew I was whipping out my camera and taking a photo of the two of them up in the cow car.

Later that day as I was putting the couch cushions back on the couch again and thinking about the mom at Chick-Fil-A and the Happy Baby’s victory, the Lord revealed something to me.

While I had been busy focusing on my son’s weaknesses, the Happy Buddy had been busy coaching his brother beyond them.

And you know what?  My sweet little boy doesn’t say much, but he hears EVERYTHING.

He probably heard me telling that mom about his ‘hypotonia’ and thought the same thing.

He probably thought he would never make it up that jungle gym.

His thoughts were limited by what I told him he could do.

Until someone came and told him otherwise.

When I tell my child, “You are weak,” he will more than likely think he is weak.

When we tell our child, “You’re a bad boy!” he will more than likely think he is, indeed, bad.

When we mention to the other moms at the pool, “My child is small for her age,” she might start feeling like something is wrong with her.

Or how often do we say, “He’s my wild child,” to everyone and anyone who interacts with us.

Even the toddler clothing industry doesn’t help us with the onesies and T-Shirts offering helpful phrases across the chest like, “Mommy’s Little Monster” or “Here Comes Trouble.”

Those kinds of words only set them up for a life of living at the bottom of the playground.

Or staying the monster his onesie says he is.

I’m thinking Gideon’s mom must have put him in a onesie that said, “Not good enough.”

Because Gideon thought he was the ‘weakest and the least in his father’s house’ when an angel of the Lord paid him a visit (Judges 6:15).

But God called him a ‘mighty man of valor’.

And with that encouragement, Gideon ended up playing a critical role in the deliverance of Israel from idols and enemies.

We must begin to view our children not as under the law of sin and death (you are a bad boy, you are weak, you are a monster) or what our world has cast as a standard for them (your child’s size, development, diagnosis, looks)  but view them as under the umbrella of God’s grace and love (you are a good boy who made a bad choice, you are a mighty warrior, you can do this – God is with you, you are a daughter/son of the King, you are beautiful, you are fearfully and wonderfully made).

Our call as mommies is to remind our children (over and over and over again) who they really are.

Who God tells them they are.

So when the Happy Buddy speaks unkindly to his brother, I try to remind him that that is not who he is.  I’ll say, “You are not a mean boy.  You are loving and you care deeply for your brother.”

When I ask the Happy Buddy to help me bring in the groceries, if he obeys (woohoo!), I will say, “Wow, you are a helper.  Thank you.”

When one of my kids takes initiative to brush his own teeth, put clothes in the hamper, clean up toys without me reminding them – and, let’s be honest, this happens about as often as presidential elections – I say with a boatload of enthusiasm, “You are responsible!

When we go to bed at night I pray prayers of thanks that my boys are learning to be obedient young men (even if we had a day of consequences and time-outs and mommy hiding out in the bathroom).

I always tell my boys before bed (something I learned from one of the video messages in Beth Moore’s Breaking Free study),

“I believe you have what it takes to be a great man and I am so proud to be your mama.”

And the Happy Buddy recently taught me how important it is to remind his little brother that he is STRONG in the Lord.

These kinds of words bring life and truth to my children’s hearts so that when they are faced with the jungle gyms of life, they won’t be stuck at the bottom believing that they don’t have what it takes.

So make it your mission to cheer your kids up the obstacles of this playground of a world.

the cow car.jpgBecause life in the cow car is pretty good.

- Julie :-)

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” Proverbs 10:11 (ESV)