Posted in Thoughts from Others, What Works for Me

Relational Instruction

Last week, I shared the first of two thoughts inspired by a stranger’s random comment. The first had to do with how we learn. The second is more about how we teach – or maybe more how we share advice.

What About Ideals?

When the Facebook stranger offered his one-word instruction regarding my family’s library visit, he gave me instruction without having any knowledge of me or my family. He instructed based on his ideals, not based on relationship.

While I do agree that we must hold firmly to certain ideals, I have learned that the number of firm ideals is, in all honesty, much smaller than I might like to believe. There are biblical truths that must govern every action. Then there are the lesser things.

How we learn is a much lesser thing. And, it is something learned through relationship. Through interaction. I am still discovering how my children learn best. I am still working to teach them according to their strengths, while teaching them also to challenge themselves in their weaknesses.

My husband’s teaching is an even better example. He has served in ministry for over twenty years, and it has been fascinating to watch him tailor his teaching method to each new congregation. He may have taught the same lessons over the years, but he has rarely taught them the same way. Why? Because his audiences – his congregations – have differed. As a result, he has always taken the time to get to know each congregation as much as possible in order to teach according to their strengths.

Relationships are key to teaching and learning.

The stranger who replied to my comment has no relationship with my family. Yet, I also have no relationship with him. Just as he cannot know how to best teach my family, I cannot know how he best learns.

Yet, I wonder how many times I’ve imparted advice in the same way. Without relationship.

These thoughts do not simply apply to parenting and how I raise/teach my children. They apply to life. How do we interact with others who learn and grow in gloriously different ways? How often do we attempt to corral others into our patterns? And how often do we instruct without first building relationship?

Instead of continuing to be agitated, I’m now rather thankful to this complete stranger, because he made me think. I won’t be changing my habits and restricting my children (or myself!) to non-fiction only. But, I will be more careful to stop and think before I speak. To get to know before I instruct. And to delight in the ways God created us to be gloriously individual!

Posted in Marriage Monday

Attitude of Marriage

I don’t always like to read verses from Proverbs that deal with marriage. The typical look at the Proverbs 31 woman leaves me feeling like I fall very short (although I have also discovered some very encouraging teachings from Proverbs 31). But, there are also verses like the following that make me say, “Ouch!”:

Prov 21:9 It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.

Prov 21:19: It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.

Far too often, I am the contentious woman. I am easily agitated, I am opinionated, and I am proud. Those are all ideal ingredients for the creation of a contentious woman.

Miraculously, my husband tells me almost daily that I am easy to live with. That there is no aspect of “putting up with” me. That he enjoys living with me. I never ceased to be amazed and thankful that he sees me that way, but I know that I do vex him on multiple occasions. I stress and frustrate him. I say the wrong thing – or even if I say the right thing, I say it the wrong way. I do things that aggravate him. I neglect to pay attention or think through details. I drop the ball so often.

Honestly, it is a mystery to me that my husband does not add all of those things up and find the sum to be a hard to live with, contentious, vexing wife. But, he doesn’t. It’s not that he is blind to those things. Oh, he sees them clearly enough. He deals with them day in and day out. But, I firmly believe he is being perfectly honest when he tells me I am not a contentious wife.

I believe the solution to the mystery lies in attitude. You see, I do not desire to be a contentious wife. Even though I fail in my goals so often, I believe my husband can overlook my daily failures because he knows where my desires lie. He knows that I really want to be a good, supportive wife. He sees that attitude, those desires, instead of the mess that really comes out as I blunder through this thing called marriage.

I am constantly humbled and awed by his insight. I am driven by his faith in me. I want to be what he sees!

Please hear me when I say that our actions are critical. If we want to grow in our marriages, we – both husband and wife “we” – must, must, must behave in a way that shows submission to God first and foremost, followed by Christlike love for one another. That has to be shown in action.

But, having said that, I also know that our actions fail. Frequently. We sin. We falter. We make mistakes. We get selfish. It happens, even as we strive to make our actions fit with godliness. And that is why attitude is such a huge deal in a growing marriage. I truly believe that my husband sees me as easy to be married to because he sees that I do hunger to be a godly wife. The selfishness and contentiousness are all symptoms of my battle with sin. My heart attitude, though, is the opposite.

Oh, precious friend, we will all struggle. But, in spite of it all, may our hunger, our desire, and our goal in marriage be that we will, despite it all, have an attitude of godliness.

Posted in Around the Web, Christmas, Friday Faith Nuggets

What is Advent, Anyway?

‘Tis the season when Advent books and products are everywhere! There are Advent wreaths, Advent calendars, Advent devotionals, Advent Bible studies . . . and the list goes on. But, what exactly is Advent? What does it mean?

Advent Defined

In one of his devotionals, my husband describes Advent as “the idea of coming, of expectation.” Christmas celebrates the incredible moment when Jesus, King of creation, left royalty beyond our imagining to come live as the humblest of humans — all for the sake of mankind’s redemption. Our redemption!

When we celebrate Advent, we do more than simply set aside one day to wish Jesus, “Happy birthday!” We reset our focus over the course of the whole season. Nothing can make Christmas more precious than an increased awareness of what Jesus really accomplished by taking on our flesh.

When is Advent?

Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and runs through Christmas Day. Because of this, the season can vary in length from twenty-three to thirty-five days, depending on which day of the week Christmas falls.*

Some devotionals and celebration plans also include the Twelve Days of Christmas. No, that is not just an annoying Christmas song! It is, in fact, the time between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6), the day traditionally set aside to honor the Magi’s visit.

How Does One Celebrate Advent?

The celebration is about as varied as the people who celebrate. As long as you are diving into the spiritual significance of the incarnation of Christ on a weekly or daily basis, you are celebrating Advent. But, just in case you need a little more guidance, here are a few suggestions:

Find a Devotional

Advent devotionals range in style from weekly (each of the four Sundays and Christmas Day) to daily. Strive to find one that not only meets your schedule but also has content to appropriately meet your family’s needs.

Light Candles on an Advent Wreath

Advent wreaths, like devotionals, come in many forms, shapes, and sizes. But all Advent wreaths have at least four candle holders. The idea is to light one candle each Sunday of Advent. A fifth, larger candle should fit in the center of the wreath (some wreaths will have a candle holder for the middle). This is the “Jesus” candle, intended to be lit either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Each Sunday, light one candle. If you have chosen an Advent devotional, read the entry for that Sunday. If not, choose a focus for the season and discuss a portion of it each time you light a candle. Here are some ideas:

  • people of Advent such as the shepherds, Magi, angels, and Mary & Joseph; or Zacharias & Elizabeth, the innkeeper, Anna, and Simeon
  • Messianic prophecies
  • topics such as love, joy, peace, and patience, discussing how they relate to Christmas

Use an Advent Calendar

There are Advent calendars designed to open windows to cute pictures each day, create a manger scene, decorate a tree, discover a surprise, play music, and on and on! Whether you choose one of these or create one yourself, let this be more than just a daily countdown to Christmas Day. Let it be a time when you stop in the midst of the busy season and honestly refocus on the true reason for celebration.

Sing a Carol a Day

There are enough fantastic Christmas songs to pick one a day throughout Advent. Every day, sing or listen to one Christ-centered Christmas song as a family. Then discuss what that song communicates about Jesus and his first coming. (This can also take the place of a topical discussion when lighting the Advent wreath.)

In the words of my pastor husband, “You cannot fail Advent.” As long as you take a moment weekly or daily to step back and consider the truth of Christmas, you are appropriately celebrating Advent.

*This year, 2016, Advent began on Sunday, November 27, and runs a full five weeks. But, it’s not too late to start! 

This article was originally written for Well Planned Gal and published on hedua.com, now wellplannedgal.com. Reprinted with permission.

Posted in Around the Web, Thoughts from Others

The Impact of Story

My job opens the door for me to interact with some fantastic people. Last fall, I had the privilege of interviewing Warren Walsh, Editorial Director for YWAM Publishing, for a pair of Family Magazine articles. This morning, the first of these articles was republished online.

The stories Warren shared express so beautifully the reason I believe strongly in the ability of story to impact lives. This article also shares a fantastic opportunity for ministry this Christmas – one dear to the heart of my family.

Read and enjoy!

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Prison Heroes 101

Stories are the mother tongue and currency of our hearts. This is the stuff with which we do the business transaction of life. It’s worldview. – Warren Walsh

For decades, YWAM Publishing has worked to produce and distribute resources that stir Christians to actively impact their world for Christ. But recently, a door has opened for YWAM to directly partner with their readers to minister in a powerful way through the Prison Heroes 101 project. YWAM Publishing Editorial Director Warren Walsh shares that, in all his years at YWAM, he has “never seen a project that has as much traction as this one does.”

What exactly is the Prison Heroes 101? What does it accomplish? Why is it such a powerful and successful project? And how is it relevant to the HEDUA audience? Family Magazine had the privilege of sitting down with Warren Walsh to discuss these very questions.

Please click here to read the rest of the article.

Posted in Thoughts from Others, What Works for Me

The Beauty of Story

Some time ago, I commented on someone else’s Facebook post. It was an innocent comment about letting my children grab books from the library. I made the comment and forgot about it. But, months – yes, months – later, I was drawn back to the post when a complete stranger replied to my comment. It was a simple response:

“Non-fiction.”

That’s all it said. But the meaning was very clear. I would be a bad mother if I allowed my children to choose a new fiction favorite. I would be a bad teacher if I dared think they could learn from fiction.

Yes, I read all of that into this stranger’s simple response. Why? Because I’d heard the argument many, many times before.

Beyond What We Love

A quick response popped into my head. I wanted to make some comment about how sad it was that this stranger had never had the joy of learning from a fictional story. But, something stopped me. And as I took a moment to breathe and think, my irritation was replaced with sadness as two thoughts came to my mind.

Today, I want to share the first of those thoughts.

It is true that learning through story – whether fiction or non-fiction – can be incredibly joyful. But this stranger’s comment led me to realize just how often we dismiss forms of teaching that are not natural to us, simply because we do not learn well through them.

Several dear friends of mine greatly dislike fiction. It holds no allure for them. In fact, their minds simply do not process through story. Yet, they still recognize story as a powerful teaching tool. I, on the other hand, struggle with non-fiction that is not story-based. My mind needs a picture to take raw facts and turn them into something meaningful. Yet, I know that there is great value in learning to process factual information. So, I challenge myself to read non-fiction.

Learning happens in so many ways, yet we often get so caught up in our own learning preferences that we neglect – or even deny – all others. Then we criticize those who do not learn our way.

Every single time I have a “what works for me” thought, I am instantly reminded that it will not automatically work for my husband or my children or my dearest of friends or my fellow church members or my co-workers. If we all learned the same way, how boring would that be?!

So, what works for me? Learning through story and through narrative while stretching and challenging myself through non-fiction.

What works for you?

Posted in Marriage Monday

In Time

Advent season officially started yesterday. Each Sunday between now and Christmas, we will light a candle representing one aspect of the Christmas story or season. On Christmas Eve, we’ll light the last one, symbolizing the birth of Jesus. I love the excitement and beauty of welcoming Christmas through Advent celebrations.

As we process through Advent, I can’t help but think of all those who waited but never saw the Messiah during their earthly lives. God promised a Savior all the way back in Genesis, as the first sin created an uncrossable divide between God and man. Generation upon generation of God’s people awaited the Messiah and never saw Him. But in the fullness of time, God sent Jesus.

I could go on and on about why the timing was beautiful and perfect and amazing. Instead, I want to focus on the waiting and the fulfillment – and how that relates to marriage.

It sounds like a stretch, doesn’t it? Connecting the long-awaited birth of Jesus to marriage? But, I invite you to stop for a moment and remember all of the times you waited for God in your marriage.

Somehow, you just knew it wasn’t the right time. Perhaps it wasn’t the right time to make a move or have a baby or change jobs. Maybe it was simpler and just wasn’t the right time to have a conversation with your spouse. Or even get a pet. Or buy a new car.

When we get an idea in our heads, an idea we know to be a good one, we often push for it. We push God. We push our spouses. We push our children. We push our finances. We push our schedules. We push, push, push to get something accomplished. And every time we push, we suffer the consequences.

But, if we wait…oh, if we wait, God’s timing is perfect!

I can look back on my own marriage and see the times I pushed. I regret those times profoundly. But I can also see the times I waited. I waited and prayed. In those times, God worked. Sometimes I waited in quiet, sensing that God just might be preparing my husband and me differently for something. Other times, Doug and I waited together after discussing and realizing that it wasn’t God’s timing yet.

And yes, the waiting has covered everything from children and moves to buying cars and houses or welcoming pets into our home.

So very often, it feels like God is stalling. Or withholding. Or denying. It seems to take so long for Him to come around to fulfilling the thing we’re waiting for. But, look how long mankind waited for its Savior! Look how long we continue to wait for the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises in Jesus’ second coming!

God’s timing in my marriage is perfect in the same way His timing with eternal promises is perfect. Ultimately, His timing allows my marriage to give glory to Him, draw us closer to Him, and allow us to be more greatly emptied of ourselves and filled with Himself.

I don’t know about you, but I believe that’s fully worth waiting for.

Posted in Reviews

The Captive Heart

I must confess, I’m a bit particular about new authors. As much as I love to read, my fiction reading time is rather limited. So, I tend to reserve it for the latest from a handful of favorite authors, and I reserve my explorations for highly recommended books.

Something about the description of The Captive Heart caused me to make an exception, despite the fact that I had not read anything by Michelle Griep, nor have any of her books been recommended to me. It seemed, though, to be a book that would somewhat break the mold of the standard Christian fiction fare, focused on more than strictly a romance – offering depth of storyline and intriguing history as well. In other words, my kind of fiction.

I was not disappointed.

Beyond the Formula

Admittedly, like with most romantic fiction, it’s pretty obvious that the main characters will eventually fall in love. And, I could have predicted that they would each wrestle silently with their feelings, trying to deny and then hide them, each constantly misunderstanding the behavior of the other because of their own preconceptions. Those are not spoilers. They are just the nature of romance novels such as these.

But, Michelle Griep has taken a standard romance formula and turned it into a novel that overflows with rich character development, fascinating history, and a powerful story line. Perhaps the faith aspect of the novel is what grabbed me the most, though. It wasn’t forced, but it also was not lightly sprinkled. Instead, faith for both characters was real and hard won. It was interwoven throughout the storyline with such a natural inclusion that I can’t help but feel that I have caught a glimpse into the author’s own tried and true faith. Only someone who deeply understands what it means to have a growing relationship with Christ can communicate that to her characters. It resonated with me as personal and genuine.

The History

I must take a moment and confess that I did give this book four stars instead of five on Amazon. Why? Well, I’m a history nut. I absolutely love historical fiction. When compared to my favorite historical fiction novels, this one left me just a big hungry. The Captive Heart introduced a side of the pre-Revolutionary War years that is not widely addressed in the most popular history books or historical novels. In the process of trying to keep certain aspects of the storyline mysterious (which was fantastic, by the way) the author also obscured some of the potentially fascinated history of the time.

Ultimately, what does that mean for my inclination to recommend this book? Absolutely nothing. It’s a personal preference only. I highly recommend this book, and with just this one title, I now consider Michelle Griep to be a part of my “watch for the next release” list. Meanwhile, I will also begin gradually collecting her previous books. I already have my eye on a few rather captivating titles.

Michelle Griep states that she desires to glorify God in all that she writes. If The Captive Heart is any indication, she is fulfilling that desire by creating beautiful stories which fill her readers with a desire to know God as her characters do. To that I say…keep up the good work!

I received this book for free through the Amazon Vine review program.