10-19-2015

Spewing Evil – The treacherous game of criticism in marriage

There are numerous qualities that I think comprise a servant’s heart…

Trusts the good intentions of another…
Serves without seeking praise…
Doesn’t keep a list of whose done more…
Lets go of resentments…
Seeks other’s comfort first…
Does not criticize…

When you pledge your life to another, do you think it’s going to be a bed of roses?

Well, as Gran informed me on my wedding day…
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Wedding day bliss cannot be contained but as time rolls into years and years into decades, this person we’ve promised to serve and encourage begins to dim a bit in our eyes. Eventually, we find ourselves compiling lists of their flaws, of all the things we just KNOW they need to change.

At least that is what happened to me.

But what has taken me a decade long of learning to realize, is that no amount of criticism makes any situation better.

Criticism wears a person down.
Criticism weakens my marriage.
Criticism breaks the threads of friendship we share.

While we all have areas in our life we need to improve, is criticism the best way to go about it?

Is a loving, kind, constructive word not always more readily heard than a word meant to destroy and destruct?

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Perhaps I should be focused on improving myself rather than my husband.

Jesus knew what He was talking about when he spoke of how people judge the specks in other’s rather than focus on the log’s in their own lives.

It is infinitely easier to focus on a spouse’s ‘wrongs’ and ignore my own.
Because if I focus on my own shortcomings then I actually have to work on me, be disciplined, have self control.
{All areas I sorely lack in.}

I can criticize, rant, and harp all day long.

But hold my tongue in a bout of anger?
Stay silent when I’m bursting with evil words?
Put a smile on my face and instead give LOVE abundently?

Those actions take work and seem insurmountable.

Christ reminds me though that the work is not for me to accomplish alone.
God wants me to depend on Him for the changes I long for.
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As I lean on God to sculpt my heart with gratitude and grace, I strengthen my relationship with Him.
When I remember it is not my job as a spouse to change and fix my partner, then my marriage grows stronger.

Christ, would you show us today all the wonderful ways our spouse loves us.
Give us eyes that see all their fantastic attributes.
Help us appreciate all they do as a parent, friend, and spouse.

jessica

{Written as part of my 31 Days to a Servant’s Heart series. Click here to see all post within this series.}

10-13-2015

How to Become the Parent You Want to Be

After not so quietly emphasizing “please just go get dressed”, my son responds with an astute observation…

“Mom, your patience seems to be running low today.”

I smile back and quietly whisper…”Yes, I think you’ve got that right.”

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On the days when my patience seems lowest.
On the days when the words from my mouth are more likely to be sour rather than sweet.
On the days when I don’t think there is time to slow down & savor, time to breathe, or time to relax.

Those are my hardest parenting days. And I’ve come to realize that, more often than not,
my children’s behavior is not what leads to my frustrations and lack of patience.

More often than not, the problem is found in me.

It’s found in me not taking care of myself.
It’s found in me not bothering to set an alarm – hence we are running late for school and yet another tardy will send us to the principal’s office.
It’s found in me being frustrated at something in my own life that has nothing to do with the kids.

Whether it’s exhaustion after a night of poor rest,
feeling crappy because I haven’t taken time to exercise,
or a disagreement with my husband.

All of these things, and more, can easily result in me not being the parent I want to be.
So I really have to question where my frustrations are stemming from.

Am I upset with what my child is doing or am I simply not happy in my own circumstances?

I am certainly not saying that children shouldn’t be disciplined or that our children’s behavior never leads to frustration and less than best parenting.

But for me, I’ve found that the better I take care of myself, the better parent I can be.

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So if my goal is to yell less, have more patience, for the words from my mouth to overflow with grace…

Then I need to remind myself that they are only children. I’m the adult here. And I make a choice every day, every single moment, how to respond when their actions and choices are not what I would desire.

And the best way for me to make a parenting choice I am proud of is directly linked to how well I am taking care of myself.

Whether it’s waking up 30 minutes early {even if that means 5:30am} so I can have my quiet time with Christ in solitude, getting out with girlfriends one evening, or going to bed before I normally do so I can be well rested.

All these things help me parent with grace and kindness.

And if you think you just don’t have any extra time in your day to do something for yourself…
I promise that you do!
Even just setting aside a 15 minute walk can do wonders for anyone’s outlook.

It’s never too late to take care of ourselves so we can be the parents we seek to be.
jessica

{Insight into this concept was from The Orange Rhino blog. Years ago, I read this particular post of hers and #8 really hit home with me. I realized that way too often the problem with my parenting was found in me rather than what my children’s behavior was. I’ve come to realize that they will probably always walk a little slower than I think acceptable, be a bit more clingy than I’d prefer, etc. And when I choose to take care of myself first then I am able to make smarter, kinder, more grace filled parenting choices.}

Day 13 of the #write31days challenge!

10-12-2015

A True Servant is Focused on Giving rather than Getting

Unfortunately, I sometimes {more times than I’d like to admit} utter up phrases that sound something like this…
“If I do this whatever it is, then will you do this other thing for me?”

What better description of a non servant’s heart is there,
than a servant who only serves so that they in turn will be served?

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If my service to others is about what I’m going to get in return, then it is all for naught.

As Tim Keller writes, “When you say, “I’ll serve, as long as I’m getting benefits from it,” that’s not actually serving people; it’s serving yourself through them. That’s not circling them, orbiting around them; it’s using them, getting them to orbit around you.”

Part of putting other people before yourself means that we aren’t looking for what we will receive on the flip side. Instead, we care more about the needs of other’s than caring about what they can do for us.

One of the best examples I’ve ever read on this topic, especially with it related to marriage, was written in a viral blog post by Seth Adams Smith. He writes “You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy… a true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love—their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, “What’s in it for me?”, while Love asks, “What can I give?”

So when I’m stuck in my rut of keeping track of whose done more or what can I ask for in return,
I have to remind myself to pray.

Asking God to keep my heart focused on giving rather than focusing on what I am receiving.

jessica

 

{Day 12 of the #write31days challenge. Every day I get more & more excited as I inch ever more closely to October 31! Click here to see a listing of all the posts written in this series. Or click on the right sidebar link to receive these posts in your inbox.}

10-10-2015

Thoughts on being subservient in marriage…yes, I’m going there!

Today is Day 10 of my writing for 31 days in a row and in many ways it is thrilling to try a challenge. But I find that on the weekends I have little motivation to write. If the post is not going to be read by many {which might happen on the weekend} then I don’t feel like writing.

So I am having to remind myself of my motivation to participate in this challenge. It wasn’t to grow blog traffic or the quantity of people signed up for post in their inbox. Those are nice bonuses, but the real reason was to improve my writing and become more consistent in how often I blog.

So even though I feel like time is running out on me getting a blog completed today, I am reminding myself it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just Do It will be my mantra for this post.

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I often hear people say that the Bible is antiquated in its view of a woman being subservient to a man. And to some extent, I get it, because when I google Subservient, the definition is blaring and I would never want those synonyms to describe me.

sub·ser·vi·ent
adjective
 prepared to obey others unquestioningly.
  1. synonyms: submissive, downtrodden, obedient, biddable, passive, unassertive, docile, subdued

But what if preachers {and readers of the Word} focused on the Bible as a whole?

Looked at the Bible as THE SUM OF IT’S PARTS.

Not just pulling out this verse or that single word and basing whole platforms on them.

What if instead of only preaching on women being subservient, they also preached on the importance of men serving their wives as Christ served the church?

Which means being willing to lose their life for their spouse.
Giving up your life sounds all glorious but isn’t the majority of serving found in the mundane, in the everyday?

So perhaps men should lose themselves every day for their wives?

….Tell your wife to get out with her friends for the evening after your extremely long day at work. Even though that means you’ve got to handle all three kids by yourself, along with making dinner, giving baths, and wrangling kids to that thing called bedtime. Sure, it isn’t fun, it isn’t easy…but it’s putting your wife above yourself first.

…Or what if it’s truly listening and engaging with your wife when she talks about her not interesting day…we get that diapers and breastfeeding aren’t exciting. But when a husband takes the time and effort to listen, then us women, want to do the same for our husbands.

I think we need to look at husbands as being just as much of a servant to their wives, as their wives are to them.

I get that this is a controversial topic and there is so much more I could say on the topic.. For example, I consider myself extremely blessed to have a husband who highly respects me…so for me, it’s not hard to think about serving my spouse because he serves me so well.

But for way too many women, their husband’s are abusive, controlling, demanding…everything Christ commands a man NOT to be to his wife. So where does the subservient relationship fit into those roles? I’m not sure.

I just wanted to share my thoughts on the topic because I don’t think you can discuss how to serve your spouse without also considering the meaning of being subservient.

jessica

10-08-2015

Love Each Other As I Have Loved You

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{Image Source: fiercemarriage.com}

Day 8 of 31 Days to a Servant’s Heart

10-07-2015

How to Have A Servant’s Heart in Marriage

It’s laughable that today I’m writing about a servant’s heart in a marriage. I’m definitely not writing this because I succeed at this whole serving your spouse thing.

Most days I tank right there in the mud and get clogged up thinking everything is about me, my desires, my needs.

But if I am praying God will help me have a heart bent towards getting to serve, then what better relationship to focus on, than in the one I wake up to every morning?

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But it’s hard isn’t it?

It’s much easier to…serve the homeless… travel to Uganda to serve the barefoot children… have a servant’s heart of compassion for someone I don’t know.

But I do know my husband. I know his strengths, his weaknesses, his good, his bad.
{Unfortunately, he knows mine too.}

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And when faced with serving the person I commune with daily, he receives the least amount of grace from me. I can tell my heart isn’t in the right place when doing something kind for him feels more like a begrudging action or when I tally up my mental scorecard of who has done more around the house that day.

What I crave is that making his lunch, ironing his shirts, or saying ‘yes’ to watch that documentary on black holes will become a priceless way for me to give him love. To give him a piece of me. And in so doing, I have been the hands and feet of Jesus.

I want my heart to delight in doing things for my husband.
Just because.
Not for anything it gets me in return.

Serving my husband with a gracious heart is a choice I have to make countless times each day. And as Ruth Soukup writes “…the reality is that true change will come only through prayer… continual, wholehearted, and passionate prayer.”

So practically speaking, what can I do differently so that I may actually see change and not just talk about it?

What if today, before I rise from the bed, I ask God…

…Give me insight on something kind I could do unexpectedly for my husband, just because…
…Slow down my racing ways so I remember to truly kiss my husband goodbye before I leave the house…
…Help me see & focus on my husband’s positive attributes and tell him how thankful I am for him…
…Please take away the tally marks in my head of who has done most and focus me instead on the things he does for our family…
…Help me share with my husband how grateful I am he is in my life…
…When it comes time to make dinner, bathe the kids, read them bedtime stories…give me courteous words when I need to ask my husband for help…

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And when I get it wrong and gripe or when I fail and keep those tally marks, I am so thankful for a God that reminds me that each day is a new day.
“Great is the Lord’s faithfulness to us. His mercies begin afresh each morning.” Lamentations 3:22 & 23

jessica

 

 

{Today is day 7 of the series 31 Days to a Servant’s Heart that I am writing for #write31days challenge.}

10-04-2015

A Prayer for A New Heart

{Day 4 of #write31days series 31 Days to a Servant’s Heart. Click here to see a listing of all post in this series.}

10-03-2015

What is a Servant’s Heart?

{Day 3 of the 31 Days to a Servant’s Heart series. Click here to see all series posts.}

Whispered worriedly in my ear are the words of a precocious little one “Mama, I’m sorry I used up all your dental floss, but I just had to make the Orb’s golden silk spider web”.

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The cords of floss thread in and out of every crevice in his room, making a spider web for this animal loving boy of mine.

It doesn’t matter how simple the task of navigating the spider web seems, I can’t do it without getting tripped up in the floss. And I’m reminded of just how often I get tripped up in this whole serving others thing.

I set out to serve with a gracious heart but instead I get so caught up in keeping track of all ‘my good’ that any love I started out with is gone before I’ve done more than just think about serving someone else.

So what is a servant’s heart and why in the world does it even matter?

A servant’s heart is bent towards gratitude that they are able to serve instead of resentment that they have to serve.

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

So easy to grumble that my kids are legions beyond stir crazy as another 24 hours of flooding rain continues here. But when my perspective changes, I find myself thankful I have a roof over our head, no floodwaters are entering the safety of our home, and my kids are healthy & thriving based on the high decimal level echoing through the house.

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Perspective changes my heart from…

…I HAVE to make dinner yet again to I GET to provide a healthy nutritious meal for my family

…I HAVE to fold the never ending pile of laundry to I GET to provide a clean house for us to find rest in

…I HAVE to wash those dishes, bathe those kids, the list could go on & on….

But there is always time to take a step back and retrain my thought process to focus instead on the positive and the blessings I DO have in my life.

So that’s what I’m working towards this month.

Working to change the whispers in my heart from
I have to
towards
I get to.

jessica

 

{Written as part of the #write31days challenge. My entire series 31 Days to a Servant’s Heart can be found here.}

10-01-2015

31 Days to a Servant’s Heart

Today {October 1st} is the beginning of a personal journey and challenge for me.

You see, I’ve said yes to a dare to #writefor31days!

Years ago when I first heard of this blogging challenge I thought it was crazy. Writing should be about quality, not quantity, right?

But as time fades into years rolling by, I’ve come to realize that these thoughts in my head aren’t going to write themselves. And as with most things in life, if you rarely practice at something, you never get any better at it.

So here goes nothing!

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My topic for this challenge is all about having a servant’s heart.

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And not because I succeed at that. Oh no!

My serviceing heart is more closely aligned to feelings of resentment, keeping score, and making sure others know just how great of a sacrifice I made.

But in all my Bible readings, that description doesn’t really fit with how Christ lived his life. So if my purpose in this thing called ‘life’ is to live more like Christ, then serving other’s as He did seems a good place to start.

Since solely writing about a servants heart is quite a bit daunting, I’ll also have days where I share cooking tips or simply photojournal my families life.

Want to journey with me on this dream to have a more gracious #servantsheart? Click here for a listing of my post each day or here to see what others are writing about.

jessica

 

 

08-03-2015

Getting through the dog days of summer

I call a friend, knowing she’ll understand the desperation in my voice.
The words teetering between a whine and a beg.
“Remind me again, how many more days before school starts?”

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Loads of laundry piled up high, dishes accumulating far too quickly, and I’m not really sure the last time my bathroom was cleaned. And if I can be brutally honest…there is mold & scum clearly visible on the shower door.

It reminds me of a bachelor’s house but no, it’s just what summertime accomplishes in this house of mine. Summer will wreck havoc on the most organized of women. So consider what home looks like for me, one of the least organized women!

There is chaos and mayhem in piles of dirty dishes, produce that all needs canned at once, kids insisting they have to help make dinner which translates into even more messes. And don’t get me started on the Legos scattered endlessly over surfaces that are still sticky from yesterdays glued on art project.

On June 1st those messes looked SO cute.
By August 1st that same mess sends me into tirades, screams, and frustrated sighs.

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So how do we make it through this chaotic mess that intrudes so unapologetically into our lives?

Perhaps I need to change my perspective so I can find beauty in this mess.
Find joy in the most unexpected places.

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For along with the chaos and mayhem, there IS beauty that abounds if I stop myself from yelling and choose gratitude instead of frustration.

Beauty is everywhere, if I simply change my attitude.

Beauty can be found… in pajama laden breakfast of homemade Belgium waffles …as the exciting urge to can tomatoes kicks into high gear …in the joy found as my daughter insists to spend time with me, helping peel shrimp for dinner.

And those Legos, that art project that leaves sticky residue all over the kitchen table…doesn’t God want me to see the beauty in the creativity that my children create?

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Perhaps we need to lower our expectations of what we think life should look like and remind ourselves of what really matters.

Summertime {and life for that matter} isn’t supposed to be neat and pretty and organized.

Your house shouldn’t look perfect.
It should look like children live there.

And living means making messes with markers, stickers, and popsicles.

Don’t we have the most fun when there is dirt under our nails, berry juice running down our faces {and ending on our shirts}, and sand stuck to our heels?

So close out of pinterest, with its’ unattainable ethereal perfection, and bring on these last days of summer.

Let’s find beauty in spontaneous trips to the park, even though that means leaving the house a mess.

Let’s experience joy running through a field of clovers, not worrying about the grass stains on our knees as we search for that exclusive four leaf clover.

Let’s laugh our hearts out in a water balloon fight, allowing ourselves to live life as a child, free of care & concern.

Eventually, I will have a plethora of hours and will while away the time by creating a pristine house.
But that season is not now.
And all the grandma’s in my life tell me that when that day comes, I’ll wish I had these begrudged hours back.

So embrace the moment you are in.

Embrace the messy. Embrace the sticky. Embrace the chaos.

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Real living, real memory making is found in the messy, in the sticky, in the chaos.

jessica

{Hopefully coming later this week, The Dog Days of Summer 2: Experiencing joy in the midst of whining kids and emotional breakdowns}