Friday, May 16, 2014

Humility & Housework

Today I want to write about something that each of us hold near and dear to our hearts - housework.  No kidding, I want to talk about housework.

Lately I have been struggling with the thought of other people seeing my messy house and the judgment that I receive as a result of it.  For those of you who don't know my in-laws, specifically on my mother-in-law's side, they might as well be professional cleaners.  Each of them has a house cleaner than the next.  They spend their free time, amongst all of the other activities they participate in, cleaning and scrubbing their homes and maintaining immaculate living spaces.  They have the work ethic of a draft horse and the endurance of one also.  I admire how well they keep up their homes but don't aspire to reach that level.  While my husband did receive the work ethic and endurance of his family members, he didn't necessarily receive their love or need for a spotless home. Thankfully.

I come from a family that cleaned the house best when we knew mom was coming home from a business trip, right before a party or when we were all grounded.   Most of the time we were forced to clean our rooms because our mother decided to literally remove every single thing off of our shelves and out of our drawers and put it all into one large pile on our floor, after which we were not allowed to leave our room until she could see the floor again and everything was neatly put away and sorted.  Needless to say, I wasn't born with an inherent gene to clean either. 

I also come from a family that cherished nap-time, rest and relaxation.  Our form of relaxing was not doing one single thing.  We would order a pizza or chinese food and watch a movie.   My in-laws form of relaxing is prepping the horses and camping gear and heading out for a weekend filled with home-cooking, horseback riding and good times.

The further I get into my marriage, the more I notice these differences.  The closer I get to having our child, the more I think about them. 

I've been reading a lot about the Proverbs 31 woman and I'm noticing that I have a few shortcomings in the Proverbs 31 woman category.  First of all, I don't like to wake up when it is dark outside.  Second, my husband does all of the outside work and I hate yard work plus I have terrible allergies.  I could probably manage to lift a few weights to tone up my arms and.... I received a sewing machine for Christmas in 2012 and have yet to take it out of the box. You see where I'm going with this...I'm falling short in a couple of areas and lacking motivation to change in some others.

Right now, we are in the process of an addition and a lot of comments we receive go to the tune of "yeah, you guys need more space to clean...", "how are you going to keep up on your housework?", and "I have a hard time keeping up with my own house, I don't know how you are going to handle more space..."  Are you sensing a running theme?  It seems that a lot of people seem to have a concern about how well I am going to manage my home and chores.

Why do we do this?  Why do we feel that it is acceptable to cast judgment on how other people run their home and do their housework?  Why does it bother others so much that Jake and I live in our home and quite frankly, the mess doesn't bother us like it bothers them all the time.  While I am coming upon the nesting phase of my pregnancy and realize that certain things do need to be done to prepare for the baby, such as cleaning closets, I also need to remember that we all live in our homes and once the baby gets here that won't be any different.  In fact, I'll probably want to spend less time cleaning and more time snuggling and cuddling and it won't be the end of the world.

I know in my heart that God has called our family to hospitality and I also realize that that means my house may go in waves of organization and disarray and I am working with Him on accepting that fact.  My sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew, and older brother just left last weekend after a three week stay and I have been spending the week getting my house back in order.  Yes, it takes work and it takes time but I would not trade those three weeks of dishes and toys everywhere for anything.  That three week time period is not something I will likely ever have again with them.  So yes, we were hospitable but at the same time, we all just lived in our house like one big family.  We cleaned in moderation and had quality family time.  I believe that part of being hospitable is releasing the reigns of how one can live in your house.  If they feel like it is their home or their space also, you are doing something right during the time that they are there.   

God is showing me that there are times when I need to be more like Mary and less like Martha and vice versa but He is also calling me to drop my guard and let you all know that I struggle in this because I must not be the only one.  I humbly admit to all of you that my house is not kept clean all the time and there are times when I just don't feel like keeping up with it.  I also admit that I am guilty of allowing other peoples' opinions of my housekeeping effect my self-esteem.  I admit that the thought of any of my in-laws coming over prompts stress and a swift cleaning because of fear of judgment and I also admit that I clean better under pressure. 

Today I commit to acknowledging that this is a growing area for me and I promise to remember that "we all live in our homes."  That line was said to me by a girl whom I had never met before but was coming to my house to pick something up and when I apologized that my house would be a mess when she got there she said, "Oh please, we all live in our homes.  Don't even worry about it."  I will forever be grateful to her for that because it is a constant reminder of life and mess in moderation for me.

So going forward, while I may not be a Proverbs 31 woman in every area of my life, I'm going to try to focus on the laughing at the days to come and setting upon my work vigorously to the best of my ability.  Some days that work may be for my job, others it will be play-time, and others it will be house work, but always it will be for the honor and glory of my God and my family. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Heart of a Man

Male nesting in our household has taken the form of lots of planning for lots of work.  Jake has decided to take on a second part-time job in order to better plan for the future and potentially secure a stable income down the road.  On top of this, God has not only provided the opportunity to bid on a few jobs but those bids have been accepted and Upper Level’s schedule is filling quickly.

Three years ago when we made the decision to begin Upper Level Construction it was with the full faith and understanding that God will provide for us each step of the way and He so faithfully has.  We saw the path that God put before us and regardless of how nerve-wracking it was as newlyweds to commit to starting our own business we took a leap of faith and committed our business, just like our marriage, to serving God’s purposes.

Female nesting on the other hand has taken form or worry (pregnancy worry is the worst) but to stay relevant to this post my current worry is that with all of this work, the second job, our own home projects, and social events this summer, mama and papa over here won’t get to spend very much time with one another.  

My husband is the hardest worker I have ever met in my entire life.  He wakes up early every day and not only makes the coffee and takes care of the dog, he always manages to have five minutes to watch some of the news.  Then he goes on to a full day working construction and is actively on the job for 8 to 10 hours.  On most days after work he is helping a family member with a project or helping a friend. 

Knowing his work ethic, determination and new-found desire to “nest” and prepare financially for our child, I’m concerned that he will wear himself out but then I remembered the heart of the man I married during a conversation tonight.

He went to help out our 75 year old neighbor insulate some of her windows and refused to accept payment for a favor that took him 10 minutes so he came home with homemade cinnamon rolls as his payment.  On the ride home from small group today, admittedly getting tense about all of the upcoming obligations he has and worrying about being forgotten, he mentions that he spent 45 minutes talking with our neighbor.  The two of them talked about their faith, raising children, me, my hobbies and even my blog.  He spent 45 minutes sharing our life and discussing our faith with our neighbor and as he was telling his story, I remember what I love most about him.

While all of this work and these obligations make me worry that our relationship or our family will go by the wayside, God gently reminded me of the heart that my husband has.  He has a heart for others but most importantly, he has a heart for the Lord and a heart for me. 

Tonight I have to say that I am so grateful that three years after we are married God gives me the privilege to witness the man of God my husband is and continues to become. 

You see there are some people that don’t feel that faith plays a big part in marriage but I wholeheartedly disagree.  My husband is not just a good man or a hard worker; he is a man of God and has a servant’s heart.  In the moments or in the times that I feel insecure in my marriage because of this reason or that, I am able to release those insecurities to the Lord and trust in the man that He has created.  Knowing that God is the leader of my husband’s heart and the head of our household, I can move forward in confidence and faith without concern. 

God has given Jake these opportunities and not only will Jake do his best to fulfill his commitments, he will take 45 minutes out of his day to talk to a widow who needs a friendly visit and also spend an hour having dinner visiting with my mom and I after she gets back from a trip.  I’m so blessed by him. 

Wives, I challenge you to push away those cobwebs of worry and remember the heart of the man you married.  If remembering the heart of the man you married doesn’t give you comfort, trust God with the heart of the man you married.  His loves never fails and with His strength our husbands can do all things in Christ, which includes being loving husbands, present fathers, and good stewards. 

Tonight I’m grateful for the heart of my man and will continue to pray that God uses Jake’s heart in ways that honor Him. 

Philippians 2:3-5
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. 

Psalm 1:1-4
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Grace Out of Control

In the past four months I have been experiencing a feeling of powerlessness.  I am only going to speak to the events in my own personal life that are giving me this feeling but I want to quickly touch on the fact that this sense of powerlessness is also stemming from an inability to actively participate and help in shaping the future of others.  I have a few select friends who are waiting on answers in their life and have asked me to pray for them and that is the only thing I can do to impact the outcome of their circumstances.  There is nothing in my human capability to do and I have been forced to trust that my prayers are as strong as any physical support I can give them.  The outcome of their requests is out of my control but I can join with them in prayer and support when they need it most.

As for my own experiences, the idea of just praying is fine and dandy for everyone else when I know I absolutely have no control but in my own life I feel like I should be able to control the outcome, even when it is clearly out of my hands.  As you can imagine, God has had a few serious sit-downs with me on this.

I am realizing now more than ever that I will encounter so many situations that I can't control and require complete and utter dependence on God.  Presently, labor is the item staring me in the face that I feel I should have control over and I don't.  As with so many other aspects of my life in the past two years, there are physical variables that come into play when discussing this subject.  Since God chose to create me with a unicornuate uterus, my doctor knows that I have a chance of preterm labor, a chance of preterm delivery, a chance of a c-section, and a chance of becoming a high risk pregnancy.  I don't know about you but that sounds like a lot of chances and I am not a gambler by nature.

Not only are all of these things potential "issues" with my delivery, there is an exciting family event happening shortly after our due date and everyone has an opinion on when it would be convenient for me to deliver and doesn't hesitate to share this information with me.  I totally admit that I am a planner by nature so the fact that I can't reassure them and let them know exactly how it will work out drives me bonkers!  Sometimes organization is a strength and other times it can feel like a character flaw.

While struggling through these items two weeks ago the words grace out of control popped into my head and I have not been able to shake them.  When I struggle with a sense of powerlessness in my own life, God continues to remind me that His grace is still present when I feel out of control.  While I feel that this delivery is out of my hands, I know that it is not out of His control.  Its actually ENTIRELY in His control.  When I worry about the type of person my child will be and the type of parents Jake and I will be, I remember that God's grace is going to be present even when we feel powerless.

The truth is that in all of our lives we have moments where we feel powerless and it feels like an injustice.  Shouldn't we be entitled to control in our own lives? With our children?  In our relationships?  With our schedules?  With our finances?  With our plans? The answer is no, we shouldn't.

As a Christian I have committed to living my life for Christ and fulfilling His will and His purpose in the lives around me.  I gave up the reigns of control when I was four years old and now, at 28, I am still remembering that.  My God gives grace when things are out of control and He is present in both the chaos and the stillness.  Today, I commit to feeling that grace and peace even in my restlessness.  I commit to trusting Him with my pregnancy, with my marriage, with our child and with our family, immediate and extended, and with our livelihood.  

Remember that having God in your heart is receiving grace out of your control.  I pray that you can receive that grace today, whatever your present chaos may be.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Call To Marriage

After a recent conversation with friends about wedding ceremonies it was brought to my attention just how little weight "Christian" or religious ceremonies have.  I have friends that come from mixed religious backgrounds and mixed levels of faith or different faiths than I have.  To sit and hear the arguments for and against getting married in a church or by a pastor was eye-opening.

For Jake and I, getting married by a pastor, in a church, before God and family, was the most important aspect of our wedding.  We believe that God is the driving force of our success and guide of our marriage and future yet, I couldn't sit there and tell my friends that believing in or involving God in your wedding day will make a difference on your future simply because statistics are not on my side.

So here it is, I want to challenge to my Christian married friends into a new way of thinking.  The divorce rate in the church is the same as the divorce rate outside of the church.  We as Christians are called to serve someone bigger than ourselves and fulfill a purpose greater than our own.  Shouldn't we bring that attitude of service and commitment first and foremost into our marriages?  

I know we hear talks on this stuff all of the time but my eyes were opened last night to a different perspective.  A raw perspective and a statistically valid perspective.  

Jake and I will be married three years this April.  We are not experts on marriage.  We are far from it.  But this conversation we had with friends made me realize just how important glorifying God in our success and failures will be going forward.  The only way to show others that God does have an impact and plays a vital role in our marriage is to show them.  To live out our commitment every day, in good and bad, so that the world can be witness to the power that God has.

I could have taken this conversation a few different ways but I am going to choose to take it as a challenge.  This conversation was a gift to Jake and me.  God has chosen to open our eyes to a very real epidemic occurring within the marriage community and in doing so has also called us to live out our lives in a way that speaks louder than any words could.

It is my prayer that Jake and I will commit to honoring God at all times, as husband and wife, as parents, as family members, as friends and members of our community.

Will you and your significant other commit to live this way also?  Will you step up and prove through actions, rather than words that God makes a difference in your marriage?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

A Posture of Faith

There will be moments in your life when you have no control of the outcome of a situation.  Moments in which you see the train coming but can't move off the tracks or control the speed of the train.

Right now I am in one of those moments.  There are signs that something bad could be coming but there is no guarantee that the situation will go in that direction.  I am left in a position in which I can either stress, fret or worry or I can submit to the understanding that I serve a God bigger than me.

I believe in my soul that these are the moments where your relationship with God matters the most.  I feel the spiritual warfare happening right around me and I know that there are forces trying to convince me that God does not have good plans for me nor does He want to give me blessings.

Here's the thing: no matter what happens in this situation, my God will not forsake me.  IF His plans are not the same as MY plans, I will know in my heart at some point that His plans are always better than ours.  Also, if this turns into a situation where I am upset and feel angry at God, the good news is that God is tough enough to handle me at my worst and still use it to mold me into my best.

So on a day like today when I am struggling to sort out my feelings, I will remain in a posture of faith.  I will be on my knees praying that God's will is done in my life and praying that His will is done in the lives of my family members.  I will pray and trust in the fact that God has walked these steps before me and ordained each of my days on this earth. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Receiving A Gift: We're Pregnant

Receiving A Gift: We're Pregnant!

I’m pregnant.  Two words that not long ago felt farther away than my wildest dreams. Two words that so many women say and not always with the same emotion.  Sometimes those words are associated with fear, sadness and anxiety, other times they are associated with surprise, anticipation and disbelief and others they are filled with plan and expectation. 

For me, those two words are said with disbelief, gratitude, joy and reserve. 

You see, this is it.  This is the moment, wait; these are the moments we have been waiting for and dreaming about for years.  I am daily living the miraculous wonder of pregnancy and I couldn’t be more humbled and excited. 

After years of trying and every infertility treatment known to man, WE ARE PREGNANT!! 

As I write this, my heart is so joyful but is heavy and cautious to share this news in a public way because for a long time, infertility was my cross to carry.  In fact, it took me a while to fully accept the fact that I was pregnant.  It wasn’t because my body started changing or because I was having pregnancy symptoms, it was because God graciously opened my eyes through a devotional and pleaded with me to share in His joy in this gift. 

For anyone that has struggled with infertility, you understand what I am saying.  Further, for anyone who has gone through infertility treatments you realize that it is not just a medical diagnosis; it becomes a way of life and consumes not only your thoughts but also demands your actions, your body, your schedule and your full attention.  Because of this you are mentally trained and programmed to think in a certain way, react in a certain way, and guard yourself and your heart. 

Three weeks after we found out I was pregnant I read a devotional about healing. To paraphrase it it noted how certain people in the Bible just received healing and moved on with their life while other people in the Bible had to be asked by God if they WANTED to be healed.  I am in the second half of the group.  My mindset was that just because I am pregnant that does not mean this is going to go well.  Just because I’m a few weeks pregnant does not mean that I will carry to term.  Just because God brought this child in our life temporarily does not mean they will be here permanently.  I anticipated worst-case scenarios day and night.  Finally, God whispered to me, “My child, do you want to accept my healing or remain in your past?  I have given you a gift, please enjoy it and trust me.” 

I have been so caught up in the mindset that infertility creates that I was blind to the healing that God wanted to begin in my heart, my body and my soul.   I had to accept the grace that God had given me. Just like so many people have to accept God’s grace and forgiveness in their own lives.  
The healing and restoration I had been waiting for was already happening; I just had to accept it, live it, and trust in God’s timing. 

So today I tell you that not only have Jake and I been blessed beyond belief by God, we have been blessed to share this journey with so many wonderful doctors, nurses, friends and family.  We are in our first pregnancy journey and no matter what direction God takes our family in, we trust Him and joyfully accept this path that He has laid before us. 

Thank you everyone for your continued prayers.  We only hope we can convey the amount of love, faith, and support we have experienced to our child.  I hope someday they will know just how very loved they already are.  

I’m happy to announce that our someday baby will be arriving in September 2014.