Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Close Enough to Forget: Complacency Has Met It's Match -- My Wife

About this series:  We all need encouragement, to be reminded we matter. Sometimes the nearest and dearest to us get the least of that needed encouragement. We've all spread ourselves too thin at times leaving little reserved for the ones we've committed to give to most, our spouse. So we're going to do something about it. We're going to focus on the ones living right under our own roof, sleeping in our own bed. But no worries if you're spouse-free. You can apply the encouragement to someone in your life who needs it: children, co-workers, friends, family members. Any soul will do because we all long to know we are seen and heard. Wherever you see "spouse," substitute someone else's name.  So grab a cup of coffee or whatever it is you're drinking today, and get ready to give a little. You'll be glad you did.
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Today, we have Craig Ferguson.  My husband.  Can I just say there were tears?
Don't poke the bear (i.e. Jen)!
There is a saying that familiarity breeds contempt.  It's the idea that once you get to know someone, you'll fully see their faults, their shortcomings, and their annoyances.  Further, it is the knowledge of these that will keep you from loving, or respecting the other person.  When I look at my marriage, nothing could be further from the truth.  For those of you who don't know, Jen and I have been together over 14 years; twelve of those have been in marriage.  I can safely say that we have become familiar with one another and I respect and love Jen more today than I ever have.  Not to brag, but Jen is an amazing woman.  She will often say or do something that gives me yet another reason to thank God for putting her into my life.  But, for me, this familiarity presents a challenge.  A challenge not to become complacent.  Not to become lazy.  Not to become satisfied and settled with the status quo.  For me at least, familiarity breeds both comfort and complacency.

So, how does this comfort and complacency manifest itself?  A prime example was last weekend.  Jen had spent a couple of days cleaning the house.  Now when Jen cleans the house, she cleans the house.  Like art museum clean.  In addition, she did all of the laundry (a task that I normally assume).  I had some friends over for a game night and she cleaned up after us, twice.  The proper thing for me to do would have been to thank her as soon as I noticed each of these acts of service.  But, comfortable and complacent Craig missed that opportunity.  Naturally, Jen was hurt by my lack of response and her hurt was communicated by her attitude and demeanor towards me.  Does any of this sound familiar, guys?  Well, after about a day of this, I finally asked her what was going on.  Jen responded truthfully, that I had hurt her feelings by not vocalizing that I had noticed her efforts and thanked her.  Now, I had an opportunity at that point to respond properly.  However, this was my response, "Did you do all of those things in hopes of receiving praise?"  It should be noted here that this was the absolute wrong thing to say.  A serious discussion ensued which ended with me putting myself in time out.

After thinking on the error of my ways and how I was to rectify the situation, I reengaged my conversation with Jen in a much more humble fashion.  First of all, I apologized for my reaction to her honesty, and secondly, I thanked her for all that she had done.  During the course of the conversation, it had occurred to me that what Jen wanted was so simple and so easy to give.  Yet, it required that I pay attention and look for opportunities to surprise and delight her.  And therein lies the lesson, guys.  Our wives want to be appreciated.  They wanted to feel loved.  Translation: they wanted to be wooed!

Do you remember the days of agonizing over how you were going to surprise your girlfriend?  How you were going to show her how "romantic" you were?  Well, if you were like me, that girlfriend is now your wife and those days have been too far gone.  Jen deserves to be cherished.  She is beautiful and should be honored as such.  And unfortunately, I have failed, again and again.  But like the love of God, she showers me with grace.  Each day is a new day.  It's up to me to be glad and rejoice in it and in her.

So, as I challenge myself, I'm challenging you.  How are you going to show your wife TODAY that she is a beautiful and precious gift?  A gift that God picked out just for you.  What will you do to say that she is more rewarding than that promotion you've been chasing.  That she is more deserving of your time than that project you've been trying to finish.  It doesn't have to be complicated.  It's doesn't have to be expensive.  It can be a simple as turning off your attention on your life and turning on your attention to her.  Whatever you decide to do, make it intentional.  Make it meaningful to her and to you.  And, flowers never hurt either.

Craig Ferguson is...

a procrastinating writer, musician, carpenter, and artist.  So, I basically only do those things when I have to and/or under duress.  I'm married to an amazing woman who smiles at my dreams and challenges me constantly to be the man that God has called me to be.  I'm a father of two wonderful girls who are the perfect combination of my wife's good looks and my mischievous charm.  And, I'm blessed to have Hank, our German Shorthaired Pointer, who is my morning walking companion and ball wrangling champion extraordinaire.


Linking today with Tracy, Jennifer, Emily, and Duane.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Peace is not external and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.
To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.
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Seeing the beach picture reminds me to pray for those in Sandy's path.  Will you join me in prayer?
I used to think:

if I could just be at the beach or

if my house was quiet and it was cold outside and I could light that pumpkin spice candle or

if I just didn't have this financial insecurity hanging over my head or

if my marriage didn't have THAT problem...

I could have peace.

But as I study about this armor of God that is necessary for our spiritual health and survival, I realize that peace is not something that comes from the external surroundings of ME.  And if I think back, how many times have I gotten to the beach, stood in front of the rolling ocean, flung my arms wide, and felt...nothing.  And then those other times, when I am sitting with my Bible open, chaos flying around me, the world turned upside down, but somehow in the quietness of my spirit, peace was there.

"Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand, therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace."  Ephesians 6: 13-14, ESV

We are to stand ready, armed by the gospel of peace.  What is the gospel of peace?  "Gospel" means "good news."  We are to be ready to fight because we have the good news of peace.  I think about the times that I am bereft of peace and in most of those circumstances, I am consumed with worry.  I cannot be peaceful and worried.  I cannot be peaceful and anxious.  I cannot be ready to war against the enemy when I am consumed with the "what-ifs" and fear of the potential "is-to-comes."

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."  John 14: 27, ESV

I love that Jesus says that He gives us His peace.  To know that Jesus fully trusted His Father, that He never lived into fear, doubt, or uncertainty, and that He was able to stand fully in His Father's love alone...this is the peace that He so graciously gives to us.

How can I surrender my worries and my fears if I don't fully trust that God is in absolute and full control?

How can I be ready to go wherever He sends me if I don't believe that His plans are good and hopeful and rooted in love?

How can I teach others to accept His direction if I am not willing to heed that same Voice?

If I am forever dependent on all my circumstances being perfect in order to be peaceful, I will wait a long time.  And even if everything aligns and I feel peaceful, if this is only based on my environment, my peace can be taken away in an instant.

But this is not so with the peace that Jesus gives.  Jesus longs for us to be at peace -- fully trusting, giving our troubles and fears to Him -- no matter what happens in this physical world.  His peace is so powerful and transforming that we don't have to be shaken to the core when our world is rocked.  When we put on the surefootedness of this gospel of peace, we will not be moved off of our foundation.

What about you?  Do you feel a difference between worldly, everything-is-going-smoothly-peace and the peace from Jesus that can supersede any thing this world brings forth?

Soli Deo Gloria is on Twitter!  Have a favorite post?  Share it on Twitter with the #SDG!

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I am so happy to see your face here at Soli Deo Gloria.  Did you know we have small groups?  As SDG has grown, it started to lose a bit of the small community feel.  As such, we have groups that visit each other and leave comments for each other on SDG days so that you don't feel lost in this big blog world.  Would you like to be a part?  If so, please email me at jenfergie2000@me.com.  Also, if you are new here, please put "I am new" as your caption so that we might give you a proper welcome.

Also, I'm at Melanie Dorsey's women's ministry place today where I'm sharing what I learned about retreat planning.  If you are thinking about putting on an event and would like to learn what I did, please click here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Prayer Works on Porn


I'm upstairs in the study, the room tucked around our bedroom.  My husband?  He's downstairs on the couch, playing a video game with his friends online.

It's just a typical Friday night.

But, it's nearing 10:00pm and I am tired.  Why not just shut off the computer and cuddle with the pillow that beckons me to sleep after this long day?

Because, friends, it's time to pray.

For those of you who do not know this part of my story, my husband struggles with a porn addiction.  He's recovering, yes, but he still needs lots of support and help.  Me sneaking off to bed, longing for the cool sheets right now, is not an option.  It's not part of the plan, at least, not yet.

First, I must go downstairs.

To continue reading, please click here to join me at Critty Joy's blog for her 31 day series on prayer.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Close Enough to Forget: Neighbors Who Care for Naughty Dogs and Hurting Hearts

About this series:  We all need encouragement, to be reminded we matter. Sometimes the nearest and dearest to us get the least of that needed encouragement. We've all spread ourselves too thin at times leaving little reserved for the ones we've committed to give to most, our spouse. So we're going to do something about it. We're going to focus on the ones living right under our own roof, sleeping in our own bed. But no worries if you're spouse-free. You can apply the encouragement to someone in your life who needs it: children, co-workers, friends, family members. Any soul will do because we all long to know we are seen and heard. Wherever you see "spouse," substitute someone else's name.  So grab a cup of coffee or whatever it is you're drinking today, and get ready to give a little. You'll be glad you did.
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Today, my partner in this series, Lori McClure, is hosting the beautiful, talented, and very funny writer, Amy Sullivan.
photo source

She hiked her pregnant self up the hilly road in front of my house with a dog and three kids.

Smiling, Kristi introduced herself. Welcome to the neighborhood. She lived five houses down the street and around the corner. If I ever needed anything, look for the yard full of toys. She'd see me around.

My new life in North Carolina brightened. After trading the Rocky Mountains for the Blue Ridge Mountains, I was doubtful I'd ever have a single friend in the South. Kristi promised possibility, a glimpse at friendship, a reminder that God didn't just plop me in the South to eat okra and drink sweet tea. 

The next day, I took Kristi up on her offer. I marched my kids through our neighborhood and knocked on three doors (all homes with toys in the yard), but I couldn't find my new, potential best friend.

No Kristi.

Months passed, and I started consuming sweet tea by the gallon, but not okra (never okra).

So, of course, you are totally hooked.  Click here to read the rest of the story.

Comments turned off here today. Please head to Lori's to join the conversation.

Monday, October 22, 2012

put away your sword and the Soli Deo Gloria party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.
To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.
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I don't have any pictures of her speaking, maybe because I was so enraptured by what she was saying.  My focus was on her words and not my retreat leader duties.

She talked about her book and how it all came about and I listened intently as she tells me that for her, the homeless are still hard to love.  But in that there lies the point:  God wants us to love even though the effort it will take us is akin to climbing a mountain.

She asks us "where is your heart? Who are those whom you find easy to love?  Who takes a whole other kind of effort?"

And I make my list.  Unfortunately those who fall under easy are in smaller number than those who fall under difficult.  Immediately, I start to feel guilty.  What is so wrong with me that I cannot love without abandon?  My eyes search for answers and meaning as they shift from one name to another.  I draw a line in between the two categories and one underneath all the names and then I label them.

I am afraid.

I am not afraid.

Those who I find difficult to love I fear will hurt me.  Or I fear that somehow I will not be able to love them enough or in the right way.  Some of them, I just don't know how to help them and so I give up my opportunity to love them.

And under these two short sentences, I write a third:

I've made it all about me.

I shake my head because this year God has been showing me that so much of what happens in this world is.not.about.me.  To find yet another area in which I still need refining can be a bit heart-breaking.  I am determined not to stay in this place of discouragement and so I ask Him for a Word.

I see John 18: 11 written in my head and I open my bible to find this:

"But Jesus said to Peter, 'Put your sword back into its sheath.'"  

Peter has just cut off the ear of Malchus because he is the high priest's slave that has come to arrest Jesus.  Peter doesn't want Jesus to go.  He is afraid.  And so he lashes out.  He tries to protect what is his.  And so, he doesn't love.

Put away your sword, Jen.  You see, I often cannot love because I am choosing to protect myself from real and imagined hurts.  I choose to lash out first because somehow I think this will cause me less pain and less suffering. I choose to dictate what I will do and what I will say and who I will love because I don't want this command to love your neighbor as yourself to cost me too much.

It comes down to a step-by-step, moment-by-moment decision.  I can choose to become hard or I can choose to become soft.  If I can allow Jesus to go before my decision, if I can remember that He loved despite very intentional pain and suffering aimed directly at Him, if I can remember that this life is not just about me and my feelings, it makes it a bit more fathomable to live in love.  I want to remember that in spite the fact that Malchus came to bring harm to Jesus, He still reached out and healed his ear.  Without even being asked.  (Luke 22: 51)

I'm still scared.

When I protect myself, it usually ends badly.  When I allow Jesus to protect me, I may still get hurt.  But God uses that hurt in the end to bring freedom, to turn me closer to Him, to refine out more of the impurities that keep me from living in the fullness of His beauty.  Allowing Jesus to protect me may mean that when the phone rings, I don't answer it because He tells me not now.  When someone brings forth unsolicited criticism, I take those words to Him before I pull out my weapons of judgment and harsh words to use against my accuser.  When I start to shy away from someone who looks different or helpless or mean, I ask Jesus to help me see them as He does and ask Him first if there is anything He would have me do instead of thinking that I've just got to get away.

And as I type this today, I realize that often, the person from whom I need the most protection from is myself.  Because it is me that cradles the lies in my heart to which other's hurtful words cling.  It is my own disbelief of the promises of God that leads to the cracks in my faith foundation.  It is me that goes into my corner licking my wounds instead of baring my soul to the Healer whose words are better than any bandaid fashioned in this world.

It's time to hand over my sword.  It's time to let the Healer and the Lover in.

What about you?  Do you self-protect?  How do you tangibly let God protect you in the face of a hard and hurtful world?

Want to read more about Annie's book?  Click here to find out more info and/or purchase.

Also, Hope for the Weary Mom (expanded version) launches today!!!.  You can enter to win some great prizes at the big celebration!!  Click here for details.  But today  and tomorrow only (TUESDAY & WEDNESDAY) you can get Hope for the Weary Mom FOR FREE!!  Go download now (I've met these beautiful ladies in person -- their words will touch your heart!)

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I am so happy to see your face here at Soli Deo Gloria.  Did you know we have small groups?  As SDG has grown, it started to lose a bit of the small community feel.  As such, we have groups that visit each other and leave comments for each other on SDG days so that you don't feel lost in this big blog world.  Would you like to be a part?  If so, please email me at jenfergie2000@me.com.  Also, if you are new here, please put "I am new" as your caption so that we might give you a proper welcome.

Friday, October 19, 2012

He Sees You (and that is not a bad thing)


He sees you.
If you are wounded or crying,
or if your arms are raised up in praise.
He is close to the broken-hearted
and He bathes us in light.
Even when darkness seems to offer
cover and refuge,
it cannot shift our perspective
as only light can do.
Sometimes, thoughts of being seen
make us want to shrink back
but when He sees you
even if you think you are
dirty
ugly
rotten
He is thinking
precious thoughts about you.
His thoughts
they are not our thoughts,
His ways, not our ways.
And that is something
for which I am 
eternally thankful.

Linking with Sandra on SaturdayDeidra on Sunday, and  Laura on Monday (because drawing and poetry, no matter how bad, are always playtimes with God)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why Mothers Must Recognize Lies

me and my girls

If I hadn’t just experienced it, I would have missed it.  Missed the root, I mean.

You, my oldest daughter, eight years of age, began protesting about going to swim practice.  Full-blown melt down, I tell you, filled with words like this:

“You’re a mean mommy!  If you were a nice mommy you’d let me stay home.”

(Tears)  “Why can’t you let me miss just one class?”

“I’m not good enough.  Coach Steve said “perfect” to me only once.  I am so bad at swimming.  Everyone else is better!”

“I’m not going.  Ever.  Again.”

And my personal favorite:  “You don’t understand how I’m feeling!”

Oh, sweet child of mine.  I understand all too well.  And if I hadn’t been under the thumb of the enemy just yesterday, I would have just chalked up all of this to disobedience.  But God is faithful and He doesn’t waste anything, even the bad stuff.  He used my own war with the liar to help me spot the lies coursing through your mind.  You see, I know that:

You think if you can’t do something perfectly, there is no reason for doing it at all.

To continue reading, please click here to join me at Erin's place, The Whatever Girls.


And by the way, I just joined Twitter!  Would love to hang together there!
@jenfergie2000

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Close Enough to Forget: Live Big. Love Big.

About this series:  We all need encouragement, to be reminded we matter. Sometimes the nearest and dearest to us get the least of that needed encouragement. We've all spread ourselves too thin at times leaving little reserved for the ones we've committed to give to most, our spouse. So we're going to do something about it. We're going to focus on the ones living right under our own roof, sleeping in our own bed. But no worries if you're spouse-free. You can apply the encouragement to someone in your life who needs it: children, co-workers, friends, family members. Any soul will do because we all long to know we are seen and heard. Wherever you see "spouse," substitute someone else's name.  So grab a cup of coffee or whatever it is you're drinking today, and get ready to give a little. You'll be glad you did.
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Today my partner in this series, Close Enough to Forget, is posting.  Lori has been SO MUCH FUN to hang out with and develop this new run of guest posts.  Here's a little teaser and then you can head over there and leave her some comment love.

It's hard to believe I have been married for 15 years. It seems impossible really since I often still feel like a kid myself. Steven and I met in college, and within 5 months, we were man and wife. A year and a half later, we were parents. So I think it's fair to say we grew up together. Well, we're still growing up together.

I love to hear stories of how couples met, and I find each story fascinating. Love seems to find us all in different ways, at different times, and every couple shares the inevitably of ups and downs of a life shared together.

I could take my time to highlight problems you may or may not have encountered in your own relationship. I could try to pick out what I think a common struggle is and expound upon it. However, I think there is an easier way to hit it all. At the heart of every conflict is the desire to be seen, heard, and understood. Beyond that, we're all looking for a safe place to land. We all need that someone in our lives who will love us when we're mean and ugly and awful. We all need to know that when we show the very worst we have to offer, someone will still be there to love us.

Because don't we all have times of darkness? Don't we all fall down and skin our knees? Don't we all have moments when we fail hard? And don't we all know what it's like to be rejected after the dark side has been shown? After the temper flared? After the job lost? After words were uttered we can never take back?

Don't we all know the sting of conditional love?

To continue reading (and yes, you for sure do want to keep reading), please click here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

when overwhelm is good and the Soli Deo Gloria party

It's time to pull up your chair.  Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria?  You do.  It's reserved every week only for you.  This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone.  This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter.  Scooch in close.  You won't want to miss a word.
To read more about the Soli Deo Gloria community, please click here.
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Congrats to Shelly Faust!  You won a copy of Emily's book!!
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O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies! Where is there anyone as mighty as you, O LORD? You are entirely faithful.
Psalm 89: 8
Online Soli Sisters, can you find Jenny, Jean, and Jan?
It went off without a hitch.  

God showed up.  He showed UP.  

My biggest fear concerning this whole grand adventure was that somehow it was all rooted in my pride and God was going to use it to make me fall flat on my face.  But that was just a lie trying to thwart me from doing that which He has called me to do, which is to bring together women and create a community that recognizes how active and alive God is and how He desires us to walk together as sisters in Christ.

Being a part of community building is a beautiful privilege and I'm learning that it's like the role of a gardener.  You prep the soil, you create the boundaries, you provide a safe space and nourishment.  But God is the one that grows it.  A gardener cannot manually crack open the seed's shell, prying off the hard casing, and using words, command it to sprout.  It is in fact, just the opposite:

Seeds split open when the root begins to grow out from the center of the seed, a result of being exposed to warmth and moisture in the soil. (1)


Did you know you were part of this warmth?  You were part of the nourishment, friends.  Your prayers were felt at every turn -- through the logistics, through the worship, through the connecting and sharing that happened, and through each speaker.  It wouldn't have been the same without you and I want to make sure that you know this.  I saw this quote on Cindy Bultema's facebook page before the retreat and this weekend, I saw it lived out.

"I strongly suspect that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers to God make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect, and all the consequences of those effects down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our our knees for the rest of our lives. " -Peter Krieft


I think everyone in attendance would say that their seed casing was split open this weekend.  I think they would say that their roots grew deeper not only in their relationship with God, but with each other.  It is no small coincidence that these things happened at the same time because when we walk together in His Love, the Truth is always so much closer, isn't it?  

Because we help each other remember what He has done for us in the past.

Because we speak His Words into each other's hearts when the lies seem to overtake.

Because when we pass the tissue box, we often grab one for ourselves.  We weep with those who weep.  We mourn with those who mourn.  And then, we rejoice with those who rejoice.

Because we remember to pray.  We recognize our own limitations so we travel with our sweet sister as she brings her burden to the foot of the cross.  And we help her to leave it there.

God is entirely faithful.  He started a good work with this group that is Soli Deo Gloria and He will see it to its completion.  He has set us upon a path and He is with us.  Thank you, Soli Sisters, for being a precious part of this journey.  I could not have done it without you.

I have more stories to tell, but you can read Jennifer Luitwieler's reflection here.  I'll be processing this retreat with y'all over the next few weeks.
Jen's teaching:  Are you chained to the death star or to the cross?
To purchase Jennifer Luitwieler's book, click here.

(1) Read more: Video: How Does a Seed Split Open? | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/video_4872718_seed-split-open_.html#ixzz28pQadA6U


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I am so happy to see your face here at Soli Deo Gloria.  Did you know we have small groups?  As SDG has grown, it started to lose a bit of the small community feel.  As such, we have groups that visit each other and leave comments for each other on SDG days so that you don't feel lost in this big blog world.  Would you like to be a part?  If so, please email me at jenfergie2000@me.com.  Also, if you are new here, please put "I am new" as your caption so that we might give you a proper welcome.
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And by the way, I just joined Twitter!  Would love to hang together there!
@jenfergie2000

Friday, October 12, 2012

lots of lost, one found


No matter what kind of lost you feel:
whether you feel confused or perplexed,
whether you feel like you are missing pieces in your life,
whether you lament something that is gone,
or that you forfeited,
or that you squandered,
there is just one solution.
There is only one antonym to all these
synonyms
to lost.
No matter what kind of lost,
there is always this:

FOUND.

"So he returned home to his father.  And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.   Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him."
Luke 15: 20, NLT

Linking with Sandra on SaturdayDeidra on Sunday, and  Laura on Monday.

And by the way, I just joined Twitter!  Would love to hang together there!
@jenfergie2000

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Close Enough to Forget: Love Believes First

About this series:  We all need encouragement, to be reminded we matter. Sometimes the nearest and dearest to us get the least of that needed encouragement. We've all spread ourselves too thin at times leaving little reserved for the ones we've committed to give to most, our spouse. So we're going to do something about it. We're going to focus on the ones living right under our own roof, sleeping in our own bed. But no worries if you're spouse-free. You can apply the encouragement to someone in your life who needs it: children, co-workers, friends, family members. Any soul will do because we all long to know we are seen and heard. Wherever you see "spouse," substitute someone else's name.  So grab a cup of coffee or whatever it is you're drinking today, and get ready to give a little. You'll be glad you did.
photo credit
Underneath a capricious prairie sky, we drive east along the Trans-Canada Highway.


The autumn sun is behind us. It pours out all it has left, in yellow and gold, and turns this concrete highway into a river of fire. But today as we drive home from Thanksgiving, we remember how to feel safe in the wispiness of clouds, remaining open to receive whatever comes our way, even as a dark and steely weight walks across the prairie and sets off whispers of a looming storm.

In the far distance, some of the clouds have already collapsed into thin strands. They hang over the barren fields like frozen tears.

A train hums along beside us and we eventually pass it. The colourful cars stand out against the sky which has turned strange and smoky grey. Ella Fitzgerald's "Solitude" comes on the radio. "Dear Lord above, send back my love."

Her prayer wobbles through the speakers.

"Are you looking for a rainbow, too?" asks Toby. She doesn't look at me. My wife simply leans forward in her seat, into the promise.

Our youngest is sleeping in the backseat. Our oldest sits behind me, musing over the infinite questions which a five-year-old mind can already harbour. Meanwhile, I'm wrestling with just one question: what can I say about marriage?

I don't know. But I do look up into the sky and see how love dances. And how love also moves along, beside me, drawn by the tracks of a purposeful journey.

When love moves you in so many directions, marriage becomes a daily practice in the art of vision.

Eight years ago, when Toby and I first met each other online, we were living in separate countries. Within days, though, we both began seeing rainbows. And now we've been watching them unfold ever since. Because we both continue to believe that our greatest promises will show up, even during our darkest moments.

Before anything else, marriage is an act of believing.

And then seeing.

The world often sees it the other way around: seeing is believing.

But love believes first -- and then chooses to seek and find a promise in any sky.

Sometimes I'm guilty of focusing on the grey. I wallow into a despairing chair of solitude. But I cannot sit there for too long because God has shown me the richness of colour, how His promises can light up a sky.

As well as two beautiful eyes.

My wife has brilliance. Her colours touch me with the weight of heaven. Her heart serves as a kind of prism, refracting everything which passes through it. I learn to see her in a new way. I learn to see myself in a new way. And I learn to see -- and understand -- God in a new way.

Love always believes there is something beautiful waiting to be seen. Once you commit yourself to actively looking for the promise, you are bound to behold glory.

Regardless of how long the highway looks today. Or how capricious the sky.


Tips for intentionality:
1.    Begin looking (not demanding) for a quality in your spouse that you don't currently see.
2.    Find something specific and concrete (your own rainbow) that you and your spouse can begin looking for, something you can celebrate together throughout the coming days and months.
3.    Sit down together and describe a dream. If either of you feel any tension or old hurt surrounding it, then begin today by simply giving words to the dream -- without the pressure of expectations or timelines. They'll come in time, after you first nurture the vision.

Matthew Kreider is a husband, father, writer and professional rainbow spotter. After 13 years of teaching high school students in Northern Indiana, he and his wife finally decided to pack up the house and move to Canada, where they were greeted by a rainbow at the border. Matthew is also a contributing writer for Tweetspeak Poetry.  You can read more of him here on his blog, Matthew Kreider.

Linking today with Emily, Jennifer, and Laura.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Chasing Silhouettes, a giveaway, and the Soli Deo Gloria Party


I haven't mentioned it recently.  It just hasn't really come up in conversation.  It's not something that I'm proud of and perhaps when I wrote about it, maybe I came across as "recovered?"

I have honestly repressed the thought that food is still an issue for me, but as I was previewing Emily Wierenga's new book, Chasing Silhouettes, God kinda tapped me on my shoulder.

I say "kinda" but really what happened is I read the definition of all the different kinds of eating disorders.  There is one in the "Lesser known forms of eating disorders" that Emily lists called the Food Addicts.  Definition?

Uses food as a means for soothing stress, dealing with anger, or celebrating a joyous event; food is a constant preoccupation

Stress-eater?  Yes.
Dealing with anger?  Not so much.
Joyous events?  Yes
Constant preoccupation?  Yes

I look forward to eating.  I look at the time and I think "in just two hours, I can eat lunch."  I reward myself with a chai latte, and at night, a glass of wine.  After dinner, perhaps I'll have a few Oreos or sneak one of my kid's ice cream sandwiches.

How harmless can one chai a day be?  A few Oreos at the end of the day?  What is the big deal, really?

I don't eat copious amounts of food.  I am not overweight.  I am very fit.  I don't talk about food incessantly.  

And yet, as is most things in this life, it's not the outside with which God is concerned.  It's the state of the heart and the fact that I often turn to food -- no matter how in portion or healthy it is -- for comfort.

And this is what I love about Emily's book. It is chock-full of amazing advice on how to care for a loved one who struggles with an eating disorder, but it also beautifully describes that this relationship with food is a spiritual matter at its very core.

And this means that prayer and love and grace is required, both on the part of the one helping and on the one who needs help.

I am thankful that I am not in full-relapse mode, but I am grateful for the God who puts books like this in my path that remind me from where my true strength and comfort come.  And I am grateful for a sister in Christ who is willing to be brutally honest about her story so that I can be brutally honest about mine.

I think about my own eating habits and I watch my daughters like a hawk, for I know where I have been and I don't want them to arrive at the same destination I did.  But Emily's book gives me new perspective and new hope.  While I can model good eating habits and encourage healthy foods, I can also delight in conversation with them, be open to their thoughts, allow them to grow into their own person (giving them many opportunities to make their own choices), and pray, without ceasing, for them.

If you, or someone you know, has an eating disorder, I know you will find hope and help within the pages of this book.  God's presence is found throughout the chapters, fueling the belief that yes, through Christ, we can do all things.  Even finding freedom from those things that bind us tightly and obscure our relationship with God.

A note from Jen:
Can I just say how incredibly honored I am to be a part of Emily's blog tour?  For those of you who know Emily and her writing, her book is just as authentic as you'd thought it would be.  For those of you who don't know Emily, she writes on her blog here and at the Chasing Silhouettes website, a space specifically designed to be a place of hope and healing for families and caregivers of people with eating disorders.

Emily is giving away a copy of her book.  Are you wanting to help someone with an eating disorder? Do you know of someone else that could use this book?  If so, please enter into the giveaway by leaving a comment.  You can leave up to three to increase your chances of winning. 

Post on FB about this book, perhaps mentioning the YouTube trailer found here.
Tweet about Chasing Silhouettes.
Buy a copy for your church, library, or any other place that you think might benefit from Emily's words.

The point is, we want to get the word OUT about this book!  If you can think of a better way than the ones that I listed, just let me know in the comments.  I'll use a random number generator and let you know who wins next week.

Also, good news!  If you are one of the early purchasers of this book, there is something very cool in store for you.  Purchase Emily Wierenga's new book Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a loved one battling an eating disorder within the first four weeks after its September 25, 2012 release date and receive a special invitation to watch an online forum on eating disorders with bestselling author Dr. Gregory L. Jantz, FindingBalance CEO Constance Rhodes and author Emily Wierenga. 

Readers must email a scanned receipt, a picture of them with the book or tell us when and where they purchased the book to events@ampelonpublishing.com, and they will be logged in to receive a special invitation to watch the event. They may also submit questions for the panel to answer, some of which will be selected and answered during the forum.


Don't forget -- leave comments letting me know how you've spread the word!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Close Enough to Forget: The Top Ten


Last Sunday, I  cuddle close to my husband as he sits next to me on our sofa. It is our babysitter-free date. It only requires intentionality.

We ignore the bills waiting to be paid, and the vacuum cleaner begging for attention.
For the past few years, on and off, we slow, and connect on Sunday night. We ask what was a highlight, and what was a down point for the day and/or the week.

Some days roll into each other to become a seamless ball of weeks. In the past, several Sundays have whizzed by without any deep heart connection. We give grace when we fail to slow and savor each other's presence.

The day to day talk about doctor's appointments, paying bills, and what's for dinner is necessary; but it won't create the deep soul-to-soul touching needed for a thriving marriage.
It is crucial to set aside time to have fun together, and to connect emotionally. It doesn't always have to be a deep conversation. The main thing is to focus on each other exclusively - even if it is only for 15 minutes.

Marriages have seasons, and some seasons are more challenging than others in terms of carving time out for a date. Be gracious to each other in the process.

I can hardly believe we celebrated 21 years of marriage. As I wrote this post, I recognized I am still a student in the art of marriage.

I write from the perspective of two sinners seeking God's wisdom in their relationship. My husband has never been abusive, so I am not qualified to address that situation.

Confession: I am a better encourager today, than I was 21 years ago, and I was not very good at encouraging him when we married.

We are all in-process, and in need of God's grace daily.

My top 10 lessons I have learned, and am still relearning some days.

1.      Your husband needs you to encourage him more than he or you may realize. Men are fighting an uphill battle to be faithful to their families. I didn't grow up in an uplifting environment, so I had to learn how to encourage him.
         He needs you to tell him that you still find him attractive. We hold each other accountable to exercise, and eat healthy (usually...wink). He's better than me at exercising, and I tell him I appreciate his efforts.

2.      The little things matter more than you think. Saying "thank you" for taking out the trash, working hard at a job (or taking care of the kids), and for being faithful. Saying "please" when you make a request, instead of demanding, or nagging.
         The longer you've been married, the more important the little things become. Unfortunately, the longer you've been together, the easier it is to take each other for granted, and neglect the little things.

3.      Discover your husband's love language. Is it time together, acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, or gifts? Ask him: what floats his boat?
         You can learn more about the five love languages as taught by Gary Chapman at http://www.5lovelanguages.com/ 

4.      Love/encourage him using his love language. My husband's main love language is acts of service, so he feels loved and encouraged, when I cook a meal with his favorite foods. He loves mushrooms so I make an effort to cook mushrooms.

5.      You will not be able to love your husband well in the long-term if you do not let God fill your love tank. Only God is unconditional Love. So if you want to love well, then make time with the Lover of your soul a priority.
         Check in with God, daily, even if it is only for a few minutes. The more I spend time with God, the more my soul craves His presence. Left on my own, I cannot love well. But when I let God love me, He gives me the love I need.

6.      Pray for your husband. Instead of nagging my husband about joining a men's group, I prayed. I knew he would benefit from the friendships, and from studying the Bible with other men.
         If you don't know what to pray for, ask your man how you can pray for him. It may open up a window into his heart.
         I like to pray Scripture. For example, I pray that he will grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18).

7.      Do not expect your husband to read your mind. Don't get mad at him, because if he really loved you, then he should have known to do/say, or buy "X" for you. Your man doesn't think like you.
         If something really makes you feel loved, please tell (not nag) your husband. I am assuming, he cares about what makes you happy.
         At this point, we know each other well enough to surprise each other, but sometimes, we will tell each other what we need.

8.      When you blow it, apologize without any excuses. Even he is not modeling grace, you can still give grace when you rely on the Grace-giver, God. It may soften his heart, and help him to own up to his share of the conflict.
         "A hot-tempered wo/man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute." Proverbs 15:18 This is very hard. This is why spending time with God is crucial. Only He can change my heart.
         It is also why my husband and I agree to step away if tempers are flaring hot. We agree to table our, ahem, discussion, until we are both calm enough to disagree and talk in a productive way.
         As long as we know we are not burying the issue forever, it is wise to have a cool-down period.

9.      Respect your husband in your communication. Never ever criticize your man in front of anyone. Ever. Even if you are justifiably irritated, and upset with him, do not publicly correct him.
         Likewise, a husband should always treat his wife with the utmost respect (publicly and privately).
         Talk to him in private, and not in front of the kids. I'm not talking about minor disagreements, and where kids can learn healthy conflict resolution. If you were a kettle, you would be steaming hot and ringing loud, then speak to him alone.
         You must find a way to communicate your anger, and disappointment in a respectful manner. We have basic rules on how we deal with conflict before it arises. The rules help even if we sometimes break them.
         When you talk, focus on how you felt, and not on labeling him as an "uncaring brute," or worse. Never ever name call.

          Healthy conflict resolution leads to a greater awareness of what makes your spouse feel loved. Marital conflict is inevitable, but constructive conflict resolution requires both parties to work.
One can learn how to resolve conflict in a healthy way. We have read books, and attended marriage seminars.

10.    Study your husband, and become an expert on what makes him feel loved.
         If you ask your husband, what encourages him, or what you can do to better love him, he will tell you. I also observe and note what makes him happy.

A few years ago, I read Shaunti Feldhahn's book, for women only: what you need to know about the inner lives of men. As I read, I asked my man if what the research said about men was true. He agreed with most of it. We recommend her book to you.

What lessons have you learned from either your marriage, or by observing another marriage?

Which of the 10 lessons resonated with you?

Thanks, Jen, for the honor of guest posting here.

About Dolly:
Hello, I’m Dolly… Wife to my best friend, and mother to our answer-to-prayer girl. Passionate about time with God, prayer, and making a difference: one small thing at a time. Spending time with friends, blooming hydrangeas, and reading always make me smile. You can connect with her online at http://soulstops.com, where she writes about what God reveals when she stops and listens, or follow her on Twitter @soulstops.

Copyright. Dolly M. Lee 2012.