What tips or tricks do you use to reduce holiday stress? Planning? Preparing? Performing? Relationships?
I always thought that abstract art was an excuse for untalented, wanna-be artists, but I have been converted. As I twisted my head and closed one eye, a black funnel emptying into a mess of fiery reds became a beautiful mountain that touched the colorful sunset sky.
What normally looks like underwear left on the floor, dishes by the couch, and toilet paper that never makes it into its proper holder is really beauty in action. Even my husband’s lack of appreciation for inspired cuisine void of red meat and carbohydrates as well as his inability to distinguish a face cloth from a dish rag is wonderment.
I’ll admit these things alone leave me wanting. Yet, I have learned that their beauty can only be seen when they come together on the canvas of love, respect and acceptance.
I have grown to love abstract art so much that I now have a masterpiece in my home.
- The man whose underwear and dishes I’ve been picking up for twenty-four years is the same man who has worked three jobs at times so that I could stay home with our kids.
- The man who hates shopping is the same man who endures a chick flick and patiently waits on a bench in the mall if I insist he be my shopping buddy.
- He’s the same man who has what it took to raise my boys into men even when I had to bite my mama-bear tongue in the face of his toughness.
- The man who rarely cleans a toilet bowl is the same man who prays and seeks heaven’s direction in leading this family.
- He is the man who bought me small pajamas (from a sporting goods store) because he hadn’t noticed that I don’t wear the same size as I did the day we wed.
- He’s the one who will skip the raspberry vinaigrette but will drive back to the drive through to get my favorite special sauce that didn’t make it in the sack.
- He’s the one who still can’t read my mind, but has mastered the art of an agreeable nod when tensions rise.
He is my masterpiece of abstract art.
Second Look Beauty
Some couples wish they had picked differently in their marriage. They’ve become dissatisfied. The bumps and scratches along the years left them disillusioned. The sweet smell of new love has long gone. Left instead is the lingering smell of sour milk.
These moments are the perfect time to head to the art gallery of marriage to tilt our head a little. Tilt it more. Squint. Heck, we can toss our glasses if it helps us find the beauty in our marriage.
There’s beauty in our abstract marriages: a beautiful sunset hidden inside that mess of color.
I will admit however, that some days I squint at the man who is standing on his head, glasses removed, looking back at me.
Question: How is your marriage like a disorderly mess of color? And how can you focus on the masterpiece in your mate?
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Anxiety and depression do not have to be our only option. We have another choice. But the truth is
Stress and suffering are inevitable.
We hate to hear it, and the truth hurts sometimes. But that doesn’t change the fact that we can’t be removed from stress and suffering forever. No matter how much we try to avoid it, it will catch us now and then.
The game changer, the tipping point, or the deal breaker is found in how we react to it. What we do with it when it comes our way? Lately, I’ve had some eye-opening examples of stress from my chicken coop.
Egg Full of Life
When a chicken lays an egg, that hen squawks and squawks, carrying on like there’s a skunk in the coop. The sound is quite alarming. To the novice listener, an eminent danger must be threatening the chickens. “It’s just a hen laying an egg,” I’ll explain. But it is stressful for the hen. On a few occasions, a hen will leave some blood spots on the eggshell as she delivers.
Any woman who’s delivered a baby can relate to the stress and suffering of a hen as she lays an egg.
I did it . . .
three times . . .
In the middle of each one, I said, “I’m never going to do this again.”
The only reason I can figure out why I did it 3 times is . . . God.
God gave me forgetfulness.
That has to be it. No one in their right mind would volunteer for that kind of stress and suffering over and over. God had to make me forget it . . . because I’m really not the masochistic kind.
Nevertheless, late one morning I went out to feed the chickens and gather the eggs. That’s when I found something strange. I was puzzled about how it happened. How it got in the coop? What was it exactly? I found this strange diminutive egg in with the others. Take a look for yourself. It is pictured here with regular eggs.
I brought it in the house with the others, washed it in the sink, and placed it in a bowl on top of the others (I didn’t want to lose it under the big ones). For days I walked by the bowl wondering about that egg, even asking God about it. “What’s up with that egg?”
Then one day after asking God one more time, a revelational thought occurred. Why not Google it?
So into the Google space I typed, “Why does a hen lay a little egg?” And the answer popped up (Side note: a cool video of a “miracle chicken” that lays ginormous eggs also came up).
This tiny egg is called a wind egg. It’s sort of a real egg, in that a regular laying hen laid it and not some strange mysterious bird. It has a real shell and a real white. But there is a big flaw. There is no yolk. It is void of that which produces real life. I read that a hen lays wind eggs because they are stressed. Here are three of the most common wind egg situations:
- A young hen under the stress of change may lay her first egg as a wind egg.
- An older hen may lay a wind egg due to the stress of being older.
- And a stressed laying hen may occasionally lay a wind egg.
As in the case with eggs, stress and suffering is inevitable.
Two different outcomes come from stress and suffering.
- They can bring forth life and purpose or
- They can produce a shriveled, shrunk existence that is far short of really living.
Yet, the outcome is our choice.
- Do we deal poorly with suffering, becoming bitter, complaining, empty shells of who we were meant to be?
- Or do we handle suffering with faith–trusting God for the adventure that is our life–and really live?
The choice is ours. Will we be a wind egg? Or will we be an egg full of life?
How do you deal with stress and suffering? How do you avoid becoming bitter? And How do you find purpose in suffering and gain a richer life?
“I don’t like Nana’s church because they’re mean to Jesus!” My 4-year-old bee lined for the door of my mother-in-law’s church. The Easter drama had just finished as big hot, angry tears hung in his eyes. And . . .
Well, It’s spring again. Easter is coming quickly and I thought I’d share with you some ways to help the children in your life. Many people. kids especially, need to deal with and understand Easter better (tweet).
I wrote a feature on this topic for Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family magazine. Here are some of the learning activities:
Dinner with Jesus
Set a blanket on the floor to eat your evening meal together as a family. Talk about what happened during the last meal that Jesus shared with His friends (Matthew 26:17). Consider preparing an authentic Passover meal. You can find instructions at ThrivingFamily.com. Search for “Passover Lamb.”
Place a light landscaping timber in your yard that’s about your child’s height. Ask your child to drag it from one side of the yard to another, then help him try to hammer a nail into it. Discuss what it may have felt like for Jesus to have His hand under the nail. Explain that being nailed to the Cross would have been painful, but it was more painful for Jesus to carry the sin of the whole world.
You can read more ideas for Easter and children activities to help a child at A Journey to Easter online, the full feature with many more playful activities demonstrating Easter in tangible fun.
And to update you, my son didn’t turn his back on church in the end. With many conversations and training, he was better prepared and able to understand the implications of the Easter story.
Do you have children in your life, neighborhood, or church that need a better understanding of Easter? What stories, ideas and traditions do you use? Share in the comments.
I stood at the door watching a nervously busy woman get slides ready and scanned the empty rows of chairs.
Do I really want to attend a seminar titled “How to Create a Mission Statement”?
Not only did the topic seem boring, but the instructor . . . well, she didn’t seem to have her stuff together and, by the looks of it, her presentation would be uninspiring as well.
But since I didn’t have much else to do, I went in and took a seat. The room filled and by the time the session began, she was so nervous she hardly had a voice.
I nailed this one with my first instinct, or so I thought.
Boy was I wrong, not about her nervousness or the dry topic, but about the inspiring part.
Her shoulders straightened and her voice strengthened somewhat as she said, “I’m going to show you how a mission statement can help you follow God and make you more effective and focused in your work. You’ll be able to achieve your goals—and God’s plans—much quicker (Tweet that).”
I was blown away. That’s exactly what I wanted to know. How to be more effective and achieve more. So, I leaned in . . .
With what I discovered in that class, I created both a vision statement and a mission statement.
What is a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement
- A mission statement is a couple of sentences that summarize what we do. If you will, it is our current calling that keeps us focused on our mission.
- A vision statement is a list of our dreams we want to accomplish. It is our future-self looking back and saying, “I had a dream to (fill in the blank) and with God’s help, I did it.”
As I went through the exercises to create these statements, I felt like I discovered myself. My passion for the work I wanted to do was written down and it held some wonderful power over me. I was empowered to do the hard work of creating it.
Creating the 2 Statements
Because I’m a dreamer of awesome possibilities, I found it easy to create the vision statement. I dreamed of what I wanted to accomplish and wrote it down. Not the random stuff of a bucket list, but the grand stuff of what I’d do or create if I had no limitations. These what-if dreams become more concrete when written down.
But the mission statement was more difficult. I had to think about the actions I would do in working within my vision then answer these questions:
- What three verbs encapsulate what I did?
- Who did I do it for?
- And what was my purpose in doing it?
After finding the answers, I strung them together, made a sentence or two, and called it my mission statement.
These two statements gave me both freedom and direction. They guide my daily work and keep me accountable to finishing God’s plan for my life.
If you want to read up some more about mission statements, check out Laurie Beth Jones’ The Path: Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and Life (affiliate link).
What about you? Do you have personal statements like these? If so, how do they help you be a finisher?
Our culture has not only accepted lies, but when it comes to chicken it has engaged Newton’s 3rd Law.
Newton’s 3rd law of motion: To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.
The Chick-Fil-A affair involves a lot of religious, political and business pushing and shoving. What started out as everyone’s right to an opinion became the flame igniting a Newton’s law response. It kept snowballing into a storm of negative reactions, one right after another.
It is plain that our culture has a problem.
Rick Warren is quoted on Facebook saying,
“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” ~Rick Warren
That quote resonates strongly with me. While I understand our culture has a problem, I still have to come to grips with the part I am to play. As I mentioned in How Safe are Your Loved Ones from Tattling, Stalking and Shooting, I don’t want to take part it the hoopla.
This week I read Jen Hatmaker’s take on it. She wrote with passion, wisdom and knowledge on the issue. She concludes with an invitation to leave the messy storm and go underground with the gospel.
I had already made the decision to keep sharing, mentoring and loving people while allowing God to change hearts.
I’m not responsible to convince anyone to believe. My part in God’s plan is to tell what God’s done for me and to lovingly share what I’ve learned from God’s word.
God is responsible for the results.
I was already underground with Jen and down here the Chick-Fil-A nugget tray is delicious.
Here’s a small part of her post:
Sure, the storm will rage on up there. But you can find refuge just down the stairs. We have a whole thing going on underground. Gay friends and family, you are welcome down here. Marginalized women, come on down. Isolated and confused by organized religion, afraid your questions aren’t welcomed? Join us. Activists and bleeding hearts, you are our heartbeat. Plain, old, ordinary sinners saved by grace, you belong here. Misfits, ragamuffins, and rebels, bring the party. Reformed legalists, you are my people. Pastors contending for God’s glory and people, help lead us. Dissenters, dreamers, visionaries, we need you.
Come on down to the basement. I ordered a Chick-Fil-A nugget platter.
Click through to read Jen’s In the Basement and join us underground.
What should you do when there’s so much pushing and shoving? Please don’t use the comments to rant, push or shove. I won’t argue issues. Only Jesus can change hearts. Why would you want to go underground?
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After a week of working with a friend on a writing project, I learned something grand.
As a speaker, writer and entrepreneurial minister, I often feel like the Lone Ranger without Tonto.
I mean, it’s a lonely pursuit in new endeavors . . .
where I’m often misunderstood.
Not to mention that I find it very difficult to be productive . . . especially since I’d rather be around people.
*Picture by Lone Ranger Fan Club
Do you ever feel alone in creating, doing good, or ministering? Well . . .
Collaboration changes that Lone Ranger Mentality.
As Vonda Skelton and I worked on the same project in the same place, our brainstorming and discussions were amped with super creativity.
Vonda would have an idea, and then
I’d get one,
followed by her getting another.
It was a circle of exploding ideas. The atmosphere filled with what-if electricity. Creativity bred more creativity. We were so getting it done. And together, we knocked out some awesome concepts.
Our collaboration also made us hyper-productive. We not only had great ideas, but we were able to carry them out and map out the whole project. Much to our amazement, we finished more than we anticipated. The results more than doubled as we worked together.
Ever experience this? Share a tweetable!
Although we didn’t complete our project in the short time we had together, our collaboration continues. Other approaching responsibilities meant we’d have to work separately. So . . .
We created a plan, divided the rest of the labor, and individually are working to create the final product. In this process we are accountable to each other to deliver our part of the work.
There’s nothing like somebody counting on you to make you more productive.
During this time, I learned that . . .
great ideas are good,
work is fulfilling, and yet . . .
People are our greatest asset.
Collaboration breeds creativity, productivity and accountability.
The only problem Vonda and I have in working together—
since now we are like the Lone Ranger with Tonto—
is arguing who gets to be the sidekick.
The lonely spot is harder work. Having a partner who is focused on the same mission is invaluable. Working alone isn’t as fun, or creative, or productive than working together.
What do you do when you feel alone in your work?
If you’ve collaborated before, what other benefits did you experience? What warnings? Tell us in the comments below.
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These three steps will give you a new husband within the week.
Okay, so that might not be a promise I can keep. But chances are very high that you will have a better relationship with your husband if you daily practice these things. Everyone wants to know the short way to better relationship. Follow these keys to a man’s heart and your husband will take notice.
Last week I shared some unofficial statistics about prayer that spurred this post. Prayer for Marriage topped the list of felt needs. It’s no big surprise that marriage, the most unifying human relationship with the greatest opportunity of rift, causes us to seek God’s help.
Prayer makes a difference in our relationships.
After exercising the suggestions from Marriage Tops Secret Prayer List, try these steps to a new husband.
3 Steps to a New Husband
- Change your prayer. Stop praying about your husband and how you need/want him to be different. Rather, learn to pray for him according to what the Bible says. See Stop Praying About Your Husband: How to Pray For Him!
- Pray to see specific things that would make your husband feel valued and respected. We have different triggers. Scratching his back may make one man feel valued, but do nothing of another.
2. Create a Respect List.
Make a list of things you can do to show respect for your husband. You may have to set aside time to create one, but keep it somewhere you can continue to add to it on the fly.
3. Respect with words and actions.
Begin telling him daily at least one thing from your list that you respect him for. Show him respect with your body language. No angry faces, snarly smirks, or inappropriate eyebrow raises. Never say or act in such a way as to belittle him. Belittling scratches off all previous respect on his score card.
Resources for Marriage relationships (affiliate links because I value their insight):
How do you see respect affecting your marriage? What resources have you found helpful in growing a strong marriage?
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*Picture by Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In praying for husbands,
wives should lay all expectations at Jesus’ feet.
That’s a hard one, but it’s the difference in praying about our husbands and praying for them.
Not that my younger self would’ve listened, but I wish that someone had told me when I got married that my husband wasn’t supposed to fulfill my every need or that I couldn’t change him.
Evidence shows that a high percentage of secret prayer involves marriage. See Marriage Tops Secret Prayer List: Discover You’re Not Alone.
Confess Our Need
Each prayer for our husbands should include our confession that
we look to God to meet our needs and accept our husbands as they are,
allowing God to make any changes that he deems worthy. Neither of us are perfect, but God is and he can perfect us.
Let’s begin our attitude of prayer with the truth that
we should be our husband’s best cheerleaders.
And in that role, we can pray to God:
- Make me his good helper, companion, champion, friend and support.
- Help me create a peaceful, restful, safe place for him to come home to.
- Teach me to take care of myself and stay attractive to him.
- Grow me into a creative and confident woman who is rich in mind, soul and spirit.
- Make me the kind of woman he can be proud to say is his wife.
Praying Earnestly for My Husband’s Best
- Give him strength to lead, time to know his family, and passion to manage his home. (Joshua1:7, Jn10:14, 1Tim3:4)
- Bless his work and show him daily how to honor You in his attitude and spirit; confirm the work of his hands unto Your purpose. (Ps90:16+, Dan6)
- Make him a wise steward of our finances and all we possess, remembering that all things are Yours and entrusted to us for Your purposes. (Mt6:19+, Luke16:10+)
- Help him love You with all his heart, soul, mind and strength, and hate evil. (Mk12:30, Ps97:10)
- Make him quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. (Jam1:19)
- Protect him physically, mentally and spiritually. (Ps28:7+, Ps41, Jn17:15, 2Thes3:3)
- Give him the desire to teach and model a godly lifestyle for his children. (Dt6, Ps78:5+)
- Instruct him and teach him the way he should go; give him peace in the circumstances and integrity in decisions he must face today. (Ps32:8, 1Cor14:33, Pr11:3)
- Bring him to meditate day and night on Your Word, pray without ceasing and stay faithful to Christ to the end. (Ps1:1+, Ps119:18,73, 1Thes5:17, Hb12:1+)
- Develop for him strong relationships with other godly men. (Ep4:24+, Hb10:24)
Prayer excerpted from “Lifting My Husband Through Prayer” by FamilyLife ©2006 (No longer offered on their website.)
How can you change your prayer habits to make your marriage stronger? What additional requests can we pray for ourselves or for **our husbands?
Interested in **guest posting, check out the guidelines. This post is part of the blog series ****A Spiritual Journey’s Gentle Nudges.**** Check out the others. ********
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