What I Read & What I Learned (2015)


I regularly get down on myself for not reading enough books.  It seems like I consume article after article, without picking up many printed pages.  Reading mostly short blogs and essays leaves me feeling distracted, unable to persevere through thousands of words.  So when I went to compile this list, I was pleasantly surprised.  I guess I read more books than I thought!  More than one a month isn't a bad average for a person who isn't getting a full night's sleep and folds laundry at 9pm.

Here is a list of the books I read in 2015, a short summary of what (I thought) they were about, and a take away...

Just Do Something
by Kevin DeYoung
Take away:  It matters less what you do (assuming you aren't overtly acting in the flesh), and more how you do it (your motivations and attitude).  When it comes to gray-area decisions, I need to stop being paralyzed by a 'special' feeling from God.  Yes, it's good to pray, but I shouldn't be so afraid that I'm going to be 'out of God's will'.  This understanding really helped me progress in my writing this year, as I'd spent a long time agonizing over whether or not I should use my gifts more intentionally.  I think the answer to that is, yes, I'm free to, especially when it doesn't compromise other God-given priorities and my husband supports me.  And if I really want to be in God's will, then what counts is how I image him and love others as I do it.

The Mission of Motherhood
by Sally Clarkson
Take away:  Motherhood is an eternally important job.  This book helped me catch a vision for that, realizing I have so much influence over the hearts of my children.  What I choose to do (or not do) in these few short years won't determine their salvation, but it can equip them, train them, help them and shape generations to come.  Why not give it all I've got in this relatively short season?

An Organized Heart
by Staci Eastin
Take away:  We don't need more organizational strategies, what we need is a heart change.  Staci's powerful personal testimonies and close look at the idols that prevent us from being orderly was really eye opening.  I realized that most of all, I idolize recreation, which often keeps me from doing that which really needs to be done to serve and love those around me.  Repenting of this and following the lead of Christ to lay down my life was a huge step forward this year in de-cluttering and getting into a better routine at home.

The Gospel-Centered Mom
by Sara Wallace
Take away:  Gospel-centered moms don't ride the rollercoaster of 'good mom / bad mom' based on performance and meeting standards.  Instead, they abide in Christ and seek to make disciples of their children.  Read my full review here.

Desiring God
by John Piper
Take away:  Our purpose is to give God glory and to find joy in him.  Joy is a natural response to a heart that is fully satisfied in God.  Honestly, I'm still chewing on this book - it gave a me a lot of hard things to think about.  Maybe I'll make some more progress on the concept of Christian Hedonism in 2016.

Women of the Word
by Jen Wilkin
Take away:  I can (and should) study the bible on my own.  I loved Jen's straightforward and generalized approach to studying scripture, which I used to study the book of Colossians this spring.  If you want to see what I learned, check out the four part series.  (p.s. Listening to several of Jen's talks, both at a conference this spring and online have really encouraged me to lay down my fears about sharing biblical truth with other women.  I'm thankful for her gifts and leadership in this area.)

Own Your Life
by Sally Clarkson
Take away:  I can take responsibility for my own choices in my Christian life.  Although salvation is by grace through faith, it's still important to put time into our relationship with God through prayer and studying the word.  If we want to be growing, influential women who point others to Christ, we need to be intentional about how we spend our time, energy, gifts and resources.  This book helped reinforce my desire to be thoughtful about pouring wonderful things into those around me by first being filled up with wonderful things - namely the things of the Lord.

Made for More
by Hannah Anderson
Take away:  We are first created as image-bearers of God, and should reflect him in all we do.  When we think of ourselves as image-bearers (versus women, wives, moms, daughters, friends, etc.), we can find purpose and joy in even the most mundane task, hoping in Christ alone and not our individual roles.  Reading this book made me realize that there are two different ways I can do the laundry.  I can reflect God's heart or I can reflect a sinful heart of flesh.  It brings me great joy when I pursue the former!

I Am a Church Member
by Thom Rainer
Take away:  Being a church member isn't about what you get, but what you give.  My husband and I read this short book on a recent drive, and it was helpful to reorient our perspective, which often borders on church consumerism.  We agreed that we want our hopes and dreams for the church to be born from a motive of furthering the gospel instead of furthering our personal preferences.

Crosstalk
by Michael R. Emlet
Take away:  Everything in the bible points to Jesus, so when we read scripture, we must seek to understand how it connects to the overarching gospel narrative.  Sometimes I'm tempted to use topical, taken-out-of-context scriptures to counsel myself and others; instead I should consider how I can utilize scripture to point myself and others to Jesus with hope in salvation.  Those topical scriptures aren't bad, but they are so much richer in light of the cross.

Lila: A Novel
by Marilynne Robinson
Take away:  I almost left this blank, because I'm still not sure what I thought about this novel - set in Iowa with a character named "John Ames".  From a literature perspective, it was very well written and the characters were developed beautifully.  Through the lens of "writer" I enjoyed it...but for something to do recreationally, it didn't keep me on the edge of my seat.  I could go to bed without finishing it.

Outliers (audiobook)
by Malcolm Gladwell
Take away:  This book was a secular way of saying, "Who we become is less about trying hard and pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and more about the opportunities and genetics given to us."  It was interesting to hear a non-Christian in essence argue that we aren't as much in control of our own 'success' as we like to think we are.  Instead, all we have is a gift or 'the chance' of our life experiences.  My husband and I listened to this in the car, and it started lots of great discussions...I'm not really sure what I learned - except that 10,000 hours is the magic amount of time you need to master something.

Make Yourself Unforgettable (audiobook)
by Dale Carnegie
Take away:  This was another book I listened to with my husband.  Dale argues that the key to being unforgettable is to be a 'class act', which he says is a person who doesn't complain and takes responsibility for themselves and others.  His rich examples really got me thinking about people I know who handle things with grace and poise, even when the situation is stressful.  It also brought to mind times when I've seen people respond childishly, grumbling, complaining and being the victim in a non-so-desperate situation.  Basically this was a secular way of saying, "Christians who have the fruit of the spirit should be controlled by God and his word, not the choices and actions of others."


You bet I'm already compiling my list for 2016, which includes more books about motherhood, productivity and more!  Looking forward to some book reviews in the future...
Happy New Year!

Bring Them Alongside You

An 'Interrupted' Morning
While the sun was still too low to be seen, I rolled out of bed anticipating a few moments to read, meditate and pray privately.  Knowing this was my one chance to care for hygiene, I put on real jeans and brushed my hair, and prepared myself physically for the morning.  But before my last brush stroke, I heard a little boy through the connecting bathroom vent,
"Moooooommmmmmyyyyyyy!!!!!"

"How does he know I'm awake?" I wondered.  "I still haven't left my room and this is nearly an hour before he's usually up.  What is going on?  And why is he YELLING my name?"
My heart sighed a little, but I still felt hopeful I could put him back to sleep.

"Mommy, I want you to leave my door open a little bit more."
"Okay, but Mommy is going to be in the other room for a while.  It's not time to wake up yet."

In the kitchen I scooped grounds into my coffee pot, looking forward to that warm goodness now that silence reigned again in the house.  "Maybe I'll get my quiet time after all." I smiled to myself.

But before the thought even left my mind, I heard my twin toddlers banging at their bedroom door, mounting into tears, pleading to come out.  I took a deep breath.

This is the morning that God gave to me.  Not a quiet, peaceful one (like I do get from time to time), but a child-filled one.  What will I do next?  Accept it or resist it?  Find joy or fight my circumstances?

I walked down the hall prepared to give everyone a speech,
"You may get up, but this is Mommy's time to read her bible.  So you can either play quietly or go back to bed."
"Ohhhh I will play.  I can play!" They all assured me of their good intentions as they scampered down the hall.
"Mommy, will you sit here on the couch and read?  Don't go in the other room.  Please sit by us." My oldest pleaded.
I could feel my ground slipping.  How could I legitimately refuse this request?  

As I repeated, "This is Mommy's time to read her bible.  Remember, you need to play..." a fight broke out over stuffed animals and train pieces.  Immediately I was wiping tears, calming spirits and negotiating among possessions.  But when the storm calmed, I whisked myself into the other room.
Little feet followed.

"Mommy, what are you doing?"  
"I do it!  I do it!  I read!  I read!"
A 2-year-old swiped my highlighter, "I color!"

As much as I wanted to enforce all the rules and draw a little circle around myself.  As much as I wanted to promptly send everyone to time out for disturbing me.  As much as I wanted to push them out, away and out of my space, something in my heart whispered,
"Bring them alongside you."

"Okay, fine.  You might not want to play, but this is what we do in this house when we wake up before dawn.  We read our bible.  So go get your bibles and come to the table!"  Little feet excitedly pounded down the hall.

After a couple minutes of arguing over who had what children's bible, each boy sat perched at the table looking at pictures.
"Look at this, Mommy!  What is he doing?" 
"Jesus!  Bible!  Mommy look mommy look!"
It was evident at that point - I was going to get NO personal reading time in.  This was going to be all about them.

"Okay," I closed my agenda and set it aside, relying on the Spirit because my flesh still longed for this moment to pass.
"Here's what we do when we read the bible...First, we pick a story.  Then, when we are done reading we need to ask 'What did I learn about God?'  Do you want to try it with me?"
"OOO YESS!"  My oldest exclaimed, shoving his bible in my face.  So I read the story of the good shepherd.
"Okay, what did this tell us about who God is?"
Silence.
"God is a sheep!"
(no)
"We learned that he is our shepherd.  Do you know what shepherds do?  They take good care of their sheep.  They feed them, watch them and help them.  That's what God does for us."  
"Mommy, I want to be a shepherd!"  Hmm...
"After we ask a question about God, then we ask a question about our hearts.  What does this mean for you?"
(blank stares)
"This means that you can trust God - today and forever."

A child was climbing onto the table.

"Let's pray.  We need to pray about what we learn in the bible."
They all were quiet...
"Dear God, help us to trust you as our shepherd.  Amen."

Come Alongside Me
For those of you thinking I always respond in this picturesque way, I don't.  This one, spirit-fueled response was the result of many frustrated mornings, followed by times of conviction, learning and repentance.  But here's what I'm gleaning, both from the scriptures and wiser moms who have gone before me:

So much of godly parenting involves "making disciples".  And making disciples requires time, modeling, attention and a general spirit of, "follow me, do as I do."

Yes, there is formal training and instructing in obedience.
Yes, there is a time to teach a child to play independently.
Yes, we want to involve other godly adults in the lives of our children to help.
But primarily, this discipling stuff happens in the mundane daily moments as we look for ways to teach our children gospel-centered living.  There isn't a shortcut - it's just steady, faithful, time-consuming, persevering work.

Sometimes I want to use stay-at-home motherhood as an excuse to be distracted.
"Well, I'm ALWAYS around my kids, so I can check out and parent-by-screen time for a while."
or
"I'm home every day, surely my kids feel close to me."  But that isn't necessarily the case.
  • A woman can spend days in the vicinity of her children, supervising, feeding and directing them without actually making disciples.
  • A woman can speak a million words to her children without actually communicating what it means to live according to the gospel.
  • A woman can squander whatever hours she has with her family away by staring at her phone or finding other idle ways to ignore her God-given responsibility.
This serious stuff is the reason I want to say yes when my children ask to read alongside me in the morning.
Would it be easier to do it alone?  Yes.
But would they learn as much?  No.

I hope that in the coming days, weeks and years I can do more saying "Yes.  You can join me.  Here's how we do this..." and less, "No.  You need to go play by yourself and leave mommy alone for a while.*"

*Final side note:  Self-care is important.  I'm not saying we should be mommy-martyrs and NEVER have time to ourselves.  If my children woke before the crack of dawn EVERY morning, prohibiting quiet moments, I would find something more structured for them to do because having personal time with the Lord is critical.  If my children never learned to play independently, and were relying on me for constant entertainment and stimulation, that would also be unhealthy.  But in my personal experience, I'm very quick to push them off by themselves and slow to engage, instruct, get down on their level and do the hard work of training.  Maybe your bent is the other way, and you need to care for your heart so you have enough to pour out.  This is just my experience!


Ideas for Sharing Jesus with Young Children This Christmas


Like most mothers, I have high hopes for the weeks and days leading up to Christmas.  With a houseful of children 3 and under, I envision rich traditions and excitement for all.  In my mind, we calmly put up dozens of ornaments, read long passages of scripture as a family by candlelight, and marvel at the presents piling under the tree.  The main issue with this vision?  I'm pretending that my very young children are as capable as 10-yr-olds.  I'm ignoring and wishing away this season of life, hoping for the future days of good tidings and great joy, feeling a little resentful that today's Christmas season looks pretty different.

Instead of decking-the-halls with complex activities, our Christmas season looks like a 3ft tree with no breakable items attached.  It looks like hiding all presents in the basement, because we know they would be ripped and opened within a few minutes of being placed under the tree.  It looks like early bedtimes and telling stories with our "Little People" nativity set.  And there can be joy in this too...

So what about the rest of you out there with very young children, feeling a little let down because Christmas doesn't look exactly like you envisioned?

Here are a few ideas to build anticipation and talk about Jesus with young kids in December:

  • Sing songs together.  
    • Kids of all ages love songs, especially if you use actions (and they don't know if you make them up on the fly).  A lot of traditional Christmas carols actually have excellent doctrinal lessons, so you can teach them as you fa-la-la.  Also, for moms of infants, this is a great activity to do with your baby.  Linger for a few more moments in the rocking chair and sing O Holy Night.  
  • Do short and easily accessible seasonal activities.  
    • Warm chocolate milk, put everyone in their car seats and drive around to look at a few lights, cut some holes in your coffee filters and call them snowflakes - you get the gist!  Preschoolers and young toddlers are easily impressed, so use that to your advantage. 
  • Play pretend.  
    • Assign your kids different characters in the Christmas story and act it out.  We have an infant at home, and our older boys love pretending he is baby Jesus.  They bring him 'gifts' like the wise men, announce his coming like the angels and run to see him like the shepherds.  No fancy costumes are needed, just some imagination!
  • Use toys as illustrations.  
    • If you have toddlers or preschoolers, it's worth investing in a nativity set that can be played with, even if it's a hand-me-down.  Throughout the day, talk about the different people in the scene and make a big deal about God's gift of Jesus.  
  • Put up kid-friendly decorations.  
    • Of course, everyone has that 'thing' they love to have out at Christmas that the kids can't touch, but it's wise to have at least some decorations they can interact with.  Maybe it's a felt Christmas tree, some cheap plastic ornaments or a big stuffed snowman, but it's helpful to have something you can say yes to.  Let them have fun, enjoying the sights and textures of the season.
  • Encourage the longing.
    • It's hard for young children to wait for things, and that is especially true as Christmas celebrations draw near.  As they ask for presents and events, capture that longing and talk about that excitement in terms of waiting for Jesus.  It might sound dorky as it's coming out of your mouth, but your kids won't notice.
Remember that the best way to show and tell our kids about Jesus is to live out the gospel.  To be changed women who model a lifestyle of clinging to the great gift of Jesus Christ when we fall short.
More than our perfect activities, our children will remember our habits and attitudes.
Just the other day I was standing at the computer and my 3 year old asked,
"Mommy, are you mad?"
"No, sweetheart!" I said (wondering why he thought that to begin with).
Upon further reflection, I realized I was rather stressed trying to shop on Cyber Monday, and maybe that stress was showing up on my face and in my body language.  That was a good reminder to close the computer, smile and enter into playtime with my children.

Definitely keep it simple.
If you are dealing with children under the age of 4, comprehension and attention spans are going to be limited.  The key is to start planting seeds - basic truths to build on for years to come.  Lord willing, there are many years to tell them all the exciting stories surrounding Christmas.  You don't have to do it all when they are tiny!

We don't want our lofty expectations to stand in the way of our children having joy in Jesus.  So let's all take a deep breath, take on childlike faith, and set down our idealistic picture of the perfect Christmas season!





The Fruit of Gratitude: cultivating a heart of thanksgiving in our children

Please enjoy this guest post by Rachel, and have a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!
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"What do you say?" I ask my son as he takes the cookie from the waitress. 
"Thank you!" he says with his silly four year old grin. 
I pat him on the shoulder with an approving look and secretly feel proud of myself that I'm raising such polite children. Even my one-year-old toddler says something slightly resembling those two words, although nobody outside our immediate family would be able to decipher it. 
I really swell with pride when our oldest, clearly and loudly responds, "Thank you" on his own accord. I must really be doing this mothering thing right! After all, every parent includes gratefulness in the list of character qualities they want their children to develop by 18 years old. 
As we head into another busy holiday season, though, I wonder if we're missing the mark with this thing called gratefulness. How can we cultivate this attitude in even our smallest children? 
A Heart Issue
First of all, we have to realize that gratefulness is a heart issue. All the "thank you's" in the world don't necessarily mean that a child (or an adult) is truly thankful for that gift or circumstance. I believe that true gratefulness comes from a heart that realizes that what they have is undeserved and hard earned. A great practical way to do this during this time of year is to show our children those who have less or are in more difficult circumstances than us. During the last couple years, we have taken our children to hand out candy canes and sing carols to the elderly at a local nursing home. We have found that it opens their little eyes and tender hearts to people in our own town who may be very lonely during the holidays. Seeing others in need naturally develops gratefulness for what we have been given. 
A Reflection
Secondly, gratefulness develops in our kids’ hearts when it is modeled in our own hearts and lives as parents. I believe this goes deeper than thankfulness for better circumstances or more money than someone else. True gratefulness appears in our lives when we realize how undeserving we are of the grace God has bestowed on us through His Son. When we are gripped with the sacrifice Christ willingly pursued and accomplished for a very ungrateful people, the response will naturally be one of praise. Whether we like it or not, our little ones are always listening. Our words and actions will reflect a heart that is satisfied not in money, position, or even a Pinterest-inspired holiday centerpiece, but in our riches in Christ. 
A Process
Finally, gratefulness is a process. It would be nice if once learned, it was a habit for life (like walking or potty training). If it were that simple though, we would have no reason to abide in Christ. John 15:5 is so important in the lives of Christian families. Apart from Him we can do nothing! As parents, the more we lean into the finished work of Jesus, the more gratitude will grow in our hearts. That attitude of dependence will be evident to even the smallest of children and will continue the process of more and more thankfulness in our homes. 
I will still be reminding my kids to say, "thank you" when they receive a gift from someone, after all it's socially polite to do so, but I pray God will give me opportunities to train them to see gratefulness as deeper than words. Paul says in Colossians 2:6,7:
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."
When our children are rooted in the gospel, gratefulness will {eventually} be the fruit. 



Rachel blogs at Dishes & Doctrine where she hopes to help busy moms find the everyday moments where theology and motherhood collide. She is a pastor's wife and "Mommy" to three little ones. Besides coffee, one of her favorite things is meeting new friends online. Find her on Facebook or Instagram

Don't Let Advent Activities Steal Your Joy


Before we'd even finished eating our first round of Halloween candy, one of my sweet sister-in-laws asked, “What are you doing with your kids for Advent this year?”  
I’m thankful for her question and intentional spirit, and am encouraged by her desire to make Christmas a highlight of the year.  I too want to make much of Jesus during Advent, separating our traditions from the world and training our children to know the true reason for the season.  But part of me also cringed a little bit as I thought of the pressure to do one more thing.

My oldest child isn’t even four, and I already feel bad that I haven't done sugar cookie decorating, Jesse Trees, Christmas caroling and crafts.  Can I even admit that we probably won’t put up a grown-up sized Christmas tree?  With twin two–year-olds freely barreling through house,  I don't want to protect a traditional tree from falling over everyday.  Not to mention that with dozens of little boy shoes, mittens, toys and smashed crackers, lots of Christmas knick-knacks tend to make things look even more cluttered.  Last year we had a chain of paper, and each day we removed one, doing a small activity to get excited for the upcoming holiday.  It’s a start, but sometimes I wonder how I can have a house full of little children AND have Christmas spirit.  I wonder if I'm doing enough.

As I pondered the question about Advent, a few thoughts came to my mind about what I hope to do for my family this year.

Help them anticipate the coming of Jesus
Whether it’s through bible verses, special toys, treats or fun activities, I hope this can feel like an extra special season.  As December 25th draws near, I want their hearts to be growing in their excitement to celebrate.  I hope we set a tone of expectation, both to talk about the birth of Jesus over 2,000 years ago and as we look ahead to him coming again.  I’m not sure of the best strategy for our family, but I do want Advent to be set aside for merriment and cheer about our Savior!  Christmas Day can be the culmination of the hope we've been building throughout the month.

Teach them to look outside of themselves
As we talk about the fun toys and games they look forward to receiving under the Christmas tree, I hope we can also get excited about generosity.  I want them to see my husband and I modeling a spirit of joy that we have opportunity to bless others with gifts.  When they see me spending hours online and in stores, I hope I will smile and say, “This is such a fun chance to get a gift for so-and-so…it’s more blessed to give than to receive!”  Whether it is through Operation Christmas Child or in purchasing gifts for family, I want to make gift-giving a bigger deal than gift receiving.  Involving my children in the process of wrapping, choosing and thinking intentionally about others will translate into conversations about the ultimate gift God gave us in Christ.

Model a life of joy and love
What is the Christian witness if it comes without joy?  If I tell them all the right verses, go through all the perfect Advent activities and I have not love – what is the point?  My children don’t need a mom rolling out sugar cookie dough to the tune of, “You guys are getting in my way and ruining everything!  Stop poking each other – and no, you may not use extra sprinkles!!”  If achieving my perfect Advent plan is going to stress me out and steal my joy, it’s not worth it.  I can best communicate the power of Christ’s coming by living a changed life and walking in the spirit.

Be a life-giver
Mostly, I want to be an overflowing cup of gratitude for what Jesus has done for me this Advent season, giving grace and life to my family.  It's worth the time to get down at the level of little faces and use a gentle voice, to snuggle and read stories.  As I'm connected to the true vine, Jesus, I can bear fruit and help my family thrive.  Our Savior was the ultimate life-giver, and I can be a little model of that during Advent as I minister to others.



Advent activities can look a lot of different ways, and some families will do more than others.  Intentional training is important, but we need to remember people matter more than programs.  Our connections and relationships with our children are the channel through which our teaching flows.  If that is blocked with pressure and stress, very little else can get through.  So this year, before you resolve to do a specific Advent plan, resolve to have JOY.  To be filled up in your relationship with Jesus, depending on him in each situation.  Then your children can have memories of a mom who laughed, played and smiled during the Christmas season.  In your joy, that Advent teaching will be much more real and meaningful to the soft hearts of your children.




Praying For Your Husband is Easier Than You Think (+ a GIVEAWAY!)



I haven't done an awesome job of praying for my husband over the course of our entire marriage.  I know that I should pray, but logistically, it feels challenging.  First of all, I have so many different areas I want to pray for him about.  Not because he's that flawed, but because life is complicated and I want to see God working in every corner of his heart.  In addition, sometimes praying for my husband becomes another thing on my to-do list that I feel guilty about.  Do I need another task to add to my devotional time with the Lord?  And how can I be consistent in this habit?

Many of you can probably relate to these feelings.  Praying for our husbands is hard, and we can even wonder if our prayers will really change things.

But I'm here to testify that by God's grace, I've found something that's working for me in this season.  And I've been completely blessed by the process of praying for my husband each week for almost a year now.  

>>> Enter, the "Praying for Your Husband" journal by Sarah at Glowing Local...

I went searching for a prayer journal on ETSY last January when I was convicted there were a few areas of my husband's life that were only going to be impacted as I got down on my knees.  It was clear that in my own strength, by my own manipulation, there were some situations that needed to be totally placed in God's hands, and I needed help organizing all those thoughts.  When I ran across this journal, I ordered it and wasn't sure what to expect.


Each week I would sit down and open it up and begin praying over the listed topic.  The journal gave me some wonderful scriptures as a guide, reminded me to write down specific requests for the week, and used phrases that helped me put my heart into words.  I found myself gaining momentum and even lingering in my prayer time for him.

At first it was all about 'him' and 'his needs' but over time the Lord directed me to see areas of my own heart that needed to change too.  I found myself feeling more gracious and patient, being grateful for all of the ways my husband was loving and leading our family well.  The most amazing thing was recording the answers.  After I had been consistently praying for my husband for about 6 months, I was completely humbled at how many things had noticeably changed.  Not just in general - but SPECIFIC things that I asked God for.  He was so obviously working in my husband's life, and it brought so much encouragement to me.  The best part?  It was all God.  

How I use my journal:
  • One morning each week I sit down and go through a new topic.  It takes me about 10-20 minutes to look over the page, consider my husband's needs and pray for them.
  • I underline things that jump out to me.  Scriptures that the Holy Spirit highlights as I'm reading or phrases that make sense for my husband's personal life.
  • I  write down specific requests for the week or copy down ongoing requests from the previous week.  Both are good and helpful, as it's great to see the short and long-term needs.
  • Finally, I write a short prayer for my husband.  It's important that I'm praying God's revealed will and not just my wants - which is why those scriptures are helpful tools!
  • Every few weeks, I will read over all of my requests and see if there are any that God has answered.  Usually there are - so I record those items in the back of the journal.


Seriously, the "God Working" section is my favorite part.  Not because God is a genie in a bottle who says "yes" to my every whim and desire - but because when I pray in accordance with His word, He is faithful to accomplish His purposes.  When my heart lines up with God's heart, and I ASK for His will to be done - amazing things happen.

I hope you will enter this giveaway for one of three "Praying for your Husband" journals by Glowing Local.  If you don't win, consider checking out her ETSY shop and purchasing one.  It would make an excellent Christmas gift for a friend, mentor, newlywed or a bride-to-be.  Or you could just pick one up for yourself for the New Year (which is a great time to start new habits).  

*Note that winners must be over 18 and must be United States residents.
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When Your Nap Time Plans Fall Apart [audio blog]

Today, I'm trying something a little different!
Often I find myself wanting to listen to podcasts or other audio / video recordings while I accomplish tasks around the house like laundry, dishes or cleaning.  Listening while I work helps me stay focused and helps excercise my mind while I serve with my hands.  I love writing (and won't get away from that completely), but one of my goals is to practice different ways of communicating truth.  Being that it's a 'first' there are many imperfections, but I hope you still find some encouragement in it!

Here are some notable points if you want to skip ahead:
  • 00:56 - Why am I talking about nap time?  Because who we are in Christ impacts all aspects of our life.
  • 1:23 - A day when my nap time plans fell apart and none of my children napped at the same time.
  • 3:35 - Sometimes I feel like I 'deserve' nap time.  Can you relate?  When my kids don't give me that time to myself, I can get frustrated and feel like they are encroaching on something that's 'mine'.
  • 4:08 - A practical tip for hard nap times:  see it as an opportunity to connect with your children.
  • 5:30 - A spiritual takeaway for hard nap times:  our ability to teach our children about Jesus flows out of the context of a healthy relationships with them.
  • 6:14 - I've learned these lessons from many times of responding wrongly, noting that harshness never works.  When I choose to be gentle and kind, our relationship grows.
  • 7:09 -  An example: bringing my oldest alongside me to finish my work instead of pushing him aside.
  • 8:56 -  These things aren't 'new' revelations, but I think they are hard to put into practice!  Connect first, THEN teach and train.
  • 9:44 - I hope you were encouraged and that you see opportunities to connect with your children today.
I'd love to get your feedback on this type of blog.  Leave me a comment on Facebook or email me with your thoughts!

On Looking Out For Our Own Interests


I confess that if you pass a tray of cookies to me, I'll be looking for the best one.  Of course, best to me might be different than best to you, but I'm scoping them out for softness, an even distribution of mix-in's, no burnt edges and size is important.  If you were to ask me about this almost automatic habit, I wouldn't consider it 'unloving', just a small something I do that doesn't mean very much.  (It's just a cookie.)

Or is it?
Have you ever noticed this about yourself?  Maybe it's the cookie tray, the best seat in the car, the TV channel or the extra time you take at Target to browse the accessories, but we all do it.  Why?  Because we are experts at looking out for ourselves and our own interests.
"Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:4
No one has to teach us how to look out for ourselves, but we do need to learn to love others as much as we instinctively pursue our own interests.

What does self interest look like?
Self interest isn't all bad.  It's the thing inside of us that makes us eat food and take care for our basic needs.  But it has its indulgent quirks as well.  Here are some ways I regularly "love myself" or "look out for my own interests" without even noticing:
  • I make sure I have at least some clothing that is new and fashionable each season
  • I prepare meals for our family that I find appetizing 
  • I make sure to nourish with a good breakfast and lots of semi-healthy snacks.
  • I pursue my hobbies, dreams and passions and make time for them when there doesn't appear to be any
  • I find moments to watch shows I like or read books that I find enjoyable
  • I take breaks when I need or want to, and ensure that I don't get burned out
  • I learn and listen to things that are of interest to me, growing and developing different parts of my mind
  • I favor my prefered time to rise in the morning and go to bed at night
  • I make sure to take my nice clothes out of the dryer, and I hang them carefully to prevent wrinkles
  • I take time for basic hygiene - showers, moisturizer, makeup, etc.
  • I find space in my life for friendships and deep conversations (something I enjoy)
  • I fight sin and look for ways to grow in Christ
This list could go on and on, but overall, as I evaluate my life, I see that I regularly "love myself" by meeting basic physical needs, making time for things I enjoy, pursuing my preferences and investing in my heart and mind.   Self-love like this isn't something I do through gritted teeth.  It's something that flows naturally from a heart that values a person.  And since I value myself, seeing purpose in my own life, I take care of it.  These things are important to my well-being, and I place a high priority on that without even thinking about it.

Looking out for the interests of others
A while back I read an article by Jen Wilkin that I haven't been able to shake.  In it, she discusses the biblical command to 'love our neighbor' and argues that our closest neighbors actually reside inside our home.  We love our neighbor starting with our own family.  On the surface, this sounds like a pretty straightforward command to obey.  I mean, of course I LOVE them!  I'm around them all the time, I like them, I take care of them and I give them lots of hugs and kisses.  Isn't this the sum-total of the love I'm commanded to give?
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself" Matthew 22:39 (is what Jesus Calls the second greatest commandment)
Well, Jesus says it's deeper than that.
The kind of love we are supposed to give to others should look a lot like the kind of love we instinctively and carefully give ourselves.  At the end of the day, can I really say that I care about the interests of my family as much as I pursue my own selfish desires?
  • Did I make sure they had nice clothes to wear as much as I clothed myself?
  • Did I make sure they had good food to eat as much as I fed myself?
  • Did I make time for their hobbies, interests and passions as much as I pursued my own?
  • Did I make sure they read books and engaged in activities that they found enjoyable?
  • Did I listen to their words as closely as I want people to hear mine?
  • Did I look for ways to feed their minds and hearts with truth as vigorously as I pursue that for myself?
  • Did I encourage them in Christ the way I wish people encouraged me?
  • Did I treat them with as much love and careful scrutiny as I give my own wants and needs, or did I knock them down a notch below my self-serving interests?
It's not a competition
I think the biggest thing I struggle with in all of this is the "yours or mine" mentality.  I tend to think that in order for me to care for someone else's needs or interests as much as mine, I'm going to have to suffer wildly.  That I am going to become a bottomless pitcher of giving until I dry up and wither away.  Do you ever fear that?  Do you ever fear that if you give an inch of care for others, it's going to run a muck and you'll never recover?

In order to be a fruit bearing branch, we must be connected to the vine.
The first thing to remember is that we can't do any of these neighbor-loving actions for very long in our own strength.  We need to be filled up in our own relationship with Jesus, abiding in him, and out of this overflow we can give even when that means a sacrifice on our part.  If we feel like a dry pitcher trying to pour things out, that makes us greedy for our own interests.  But if we are connected to Jesus and have all of our spiritual needs met in him, we can let him use us to pour out his love for others.

In order to care for the interests of others well, at some level, we have to be caring for our own.
Also, Philippians 2:4 makes an assumptions: that we already do care for ourselves.  The same assumption is made in Ephesians 5, when Paul says husbands need to love their wives as they love their own body.  It's implied that there is some level at which we do care for ourselves well, in order that we would care for others well too.  So I don't think looking out for the interests of others always means "neglect your basic needs".

We should see these things as compatible, not a competition.
As I care well for myself (by abiding in Christ and living in wisdom) I can care even BETTER for others.  As I make sure that my heart, body and mind are well nourished, I have even MORE to give.  Can this truth be skewed into selfishness...absolutely!  But I think there is a balance between indulging our needs and starving our needs.  If you are on either extreme, it's going to be difficult to love others well.

Because really, what do I have to lose if I pass up the best cookie on the tray? (except for a few unhealthy calories)  In the scheme of eternity, I have already been given the greatest gift and had all my needs met.  I get to spend FOREVER worshipping, living with and loving my creator...so that cookie can just pass me by...



Beginning Formal Gospel Instruction With Toddlers


As mothers, we have an important mission field inside of the home.  Each of our children starts life as a sinner born from Adam, needing to hear the good news of the gospel.  When the word of God is heard, it can then be planted as a seed in their hearts, which will be watered through the family and church body over many years.  The hope being that someday, by God's grace, our children will understand, accept and believe the good news for themselves.  Most Christian mothers agree that passing along faith is crucial, but it's the 'how' that sometimes leaves us feeling passive and insecure.  I've felt this way too, and have spent a lot of time considering what it looks like to give our children every opportunity to understand and believe the truths that we hold so dear (while it is ultimately only God's grace that can finally transform them).

For the word of God and the gospel to be received and believed, it must first be heard.  This should happen in a variety of settings throughout our day as we naturally discuss the word of God, and as it's modeled by our lives.  However, we also must be careful to assume that our children will just 'get it' as they watch our lives and attend religious services.  While children can perceive a lot from their surroundings, they can also wrongly understand and interpret what we hope to teach them.  Instead of remaining silent to spiritual matters, there is at least some portion of our teaching that should be done intentionally and explicitly in the home.

Many months ago, I was convicted that I was dropping the ball in this area - considering biblical teaching like baby sign language (a nice-to-do but not need-to-do).  But as I've considered what type of treasure I'm putting into the hearts of our children, I've realized that I'll never regret spending time and energy making this type of investment into their lives.

After many attempts to do things that weren't sustainable for us, here's what I learned and some tips for getting started:

Build into a routine you already have.
When I first decided to do a 'bible learning time' I thought I could corral all of our little chicks into a nice circle for a 10-15 minute lesson.  In hindsight, the thought of three boys under three sitting quietly is a little laughable.  Getting into a new routine and 'adding' something to our already crazy day was extremely difficult and hard for me to remember.  What finally made things work for our family was doing the bible time during breakfast - something we already do everyday.  Instead of adding a new activity, I just utilize the time while they are sitting at the table as a mostly captive audience.  This has also been an excellent way to involve my husband, as he is able to take the lead on our bible time when he joins us for breakfast.  It's turned into a meaningful meal for our family, so much so that the kids ask for us to do our bible learning time if we forget .

Keep it simple.
My first attempts at teaching included printed plans with craft activities and songs to go along with the lessons.  What I learned was that gathering materials and preparation took too long and was too intimidating.  In an attempt to do the 'perfect thing' I didn't end up doing anything at all.  After I lowered my expectations and did really simple, repetitious things that required very little preparation, I found myself doing bible time very consistently.

Don't give up.
I can sometimes be an idealist, and when I miss a day on a new routine, I can feel like a failure.  But when I started our bible time, I decided that I wasn't going to measure success as "doing it every single day" but instead, that I would keep coming back to it.  This is the same philosophy I have with my personal quiet time.  It's the consistency over a long period of time that makes a big impact on growth, even if you miss some days here and there.  Something is better than nothing, and God can do a lot with a little, sowed in faith.  Right now we do our bible time about 4-5 mornings a week, which leaves room for hard mornings and unusual weekend routines.

Start early.
Something we've learned the hard way is this: whatever you start when your children are infants can stick.  It will become your habit and the child's habit.  So much so that there will likely be less resistance as you just continue that routine when they are toddlers and preschool age.  It's easy to expand on an already established expectation than it is to start something completely new with a child engaging in disobedience and power struggles.  Also, what you start depositing into their mind as an older infant really does make an impact.  We have a gospel book that I used to sing through with our oldest child before he could talk, and as soon as he had strong language skills I noticed that he could sing it along with me from memory.  I've heard this type of story from many parents who started to teach their children scripture or spiritual songs from an early age - you'll be shocked at how it's stored in their heart!


Here's our routine:
1.  Sing a song with biblical truth - This is usually something easy, age appropriate and right off the top of my head.
2.  Review the verse of the week - Our church is memorizing the foundation verses from Children Desiring God.  We follow along and I try to explain what the verse means in really simple terms.
3.  Discuss one vocabulary word - I drew these really simple flash cards with basic spiritual words that our children will need to grasp if they are going to understand anything else we are talking about.  Some of those words include; love, forgiveness, grace, prayer, bible, repentance, etc.  Terms like this are foundational!
4.  Sing and discuss one page from our "Simple Gospel" book - This is a book I made with the 'ten points of the gospel' (one on each page).  We have a tune that corresponds with each page (think - twinkle twinkle little star) so it's easily memorized.  My hope is that our whole family will know how to simply and clearly state the gospel, so we can preach it to ourselves and others!  Even though it doesn't click right now for our littles, one day I pray that they will take it to heart.
5.  Pray - We say a really short prayer about who God is (based on our bible verse for the week), and pray for the day ahead.  

Other things I occasionally add:
  • A finger play - A short / silly rhyme for toddlers and preschoolers that can help with transitions and getting attention
  • A book - something from the library to change things up a bit
  • An educational focus - like discussing shapes / colors etc.
This sounds like A LOT.  And it sounds really awesome on paper - but I assure you - in reality this takes as little as 3-5 minutes to go through, and the longest I ever spend on it is 10 minutes.  It took some time to compile these things and think about what I wanted to do, but on a daily basis it takes ZERO prep.  Also, most days our kids squirm and talk through the whole thing.  It seems like no one is listening and I often have to stop and give correction, but they genuinely enjoy it and I'm always amazed at what they remember.

I share these ideas because I really didn't know what to do with our kids, and I hope it at least helps get the ball rolling.  Sometimes you just have to do something and start somewhere until trial and error helps you decide what works best for your family (which might look nothing like what we do).

Finally, I want to emphasize that I don't think this type of religious training will 'save' our children.  Even if they become experts at scripture recitation and can spout off the whole gospel, we want them to know that what matters is their HEART - that they know and love Jesus more than anything else.  But with that being said, when they truly are transformed, I think it will be a gift for them to already have so much truth stored up in their soul.  

How are you investing in your child's treasure chest?


How Business Management Can Help You At Home


In a recent article, I addressed something I've become quite passionate about in the last couple of years; finding a way to utilize my gifts at home.  For women who've primarily chosen to be at home, I think this can be an important topic to address, because it might feel like your God-ordained skills, life experiences and abilities aren't able to be used in that context.  This void sometimes creates confusion and discontentment, especially when women begin to feel that the 9-5 marketplace is the only place they can exercise certain passions - which is simply not the case!  Regardless of how many hours you are home during the week, every woman is called by God to prioritize and manage her home well.  This looks different for everyone, but for me, it's been important to leverage a wide variety of resources as I seek to grow as a home manager.

Here are some things to consider if you find yourself feeling a little bored and unchallenged as a 'homemaker':

Recognize yourself as a manager.
By definition, a manager is someone who is in charge of the administration, activities and development of an organization and the people within it.  Sounds a lot like a mom, huh?  If I were to start a list, I could come up with 20 or more things that I'm in charge of completing, delegating and administrating on a daily basis; including everything from pantry inventory to keeping appointments.  I oversee finances, purchasing, inventory, project completion and most importantly - PEOPLE!  While I'm not the 'head' leader in our home, I do have a significant leadership role in the lives of my children as I seek to carry out the vision my husband and I have for our family.  This is an important task, and it's extremely similar to the role of any other business manager.  Instead of labeling myself 'just a stay-at-home-mom', I try to think in terms of being a 'home manager' as much as possible.  Claim it and recognize that you can take your job as seriously as you want to.

Observe and engage other business managers to learn what they do.
On a regular basis, my husband and I talk about what he does in his own job and how he's managing tasks and people.  I love learning from him and hearing new ideas he has for developing his team and business processes.  When he has a good idea or something that's working well, I try to translate that practice at home (especially if it's something he can get excited about and be involved in).  Even if your husband isn't a manager in his workplace, maybe you have a good friend, parent, mentor or church leader who you can observe in their managerial responsibilities.

Care about productivity and efficiency.
Outline your tasks and responsibilities around the home, and a I guarantee you'll be a little shocked and overwhelmed by all the things you take care of!  A good manager would never go about overseeing all of the aspects of their job without any plan or process.  Instead, they would look at each facet of the job and make sure that those areas are individually functioning as well as they can  to benefit the greater goals of the organization.  This takes thought, planning, regular evaluation and good delegation skills.  Every area of your home management probably needs its own system (even if the 'system' is intentionally flexible).  Cleaning, food purchase and preparation, organizing, budget management, clothing, recreation, and scheduling are all areas that can be carefully evaluated to make sure you are spending your time and resources well to the glory of God!

Learn about leadership development.
Caring for, nurturing and training the hearts of children holds eternal importance.  In some ways, as a mom you have a little 'team' that you are in charge of developing and ministering to.  God has given you a small flock to shepherd, especially if you spend most of your waking hours with your children who look to you as an authority and leader yourself.  Have you ever considered that viewing yourself as a manager who develops other leaders might further validate and challenge you as a parent?  This includes (but isn't limited to):
  • helping your children understand your family's vision
  • recognizing and growing their strengths
  • acknowledging and helping them to overcome weaknesses
  • giving each person in the family clear and important responsibilities 

More and more, as I seek to challenge myself and really grow as a good home manager (of both tasks and people), I find myself seeking out business resources that aren't obviously applicable to the home front.  With a little bit of creative thought mixed with an understanding of my own gifts and passions, I can apply that knowledge to my current full-time job of mother and homemaker.  This is an investment that not only applies at the 'Jensen Residence', but will hopefully be useful in future ministry roles and will certainly have value if I ever re-enter the marketplace.

Some of you might find all of this business talk a little boring, and might even see its application as a stretch.  But I think when women start to see themselves as reflections of God, carrying out his will by living for his glory, they can find purpose in the smallest and most unappealing moments.  Dare I say, this type of identity motivated work can even produce unexpected joy?

Here are some helpful resources I've found if you're looking for a place to start:

How God Gave Me Mom Muscles

Just after 9:30pm, I was preparing an egg bake for my family to eat for breakfast the next morning.  It had occurred to me just 30 minutes earlier, that I could take down a few birds with one stone.  We had some bread that was on its last leg, several vegetables and breakfast meats that needed to be used, and a fresh batch of 30 eggs in the refrigerator.  That, plus the promise of a one-dish meal with no clean up in the morning, was enough to make me light an apple-scented candle and dirty the kitchen for the fourth time that day.  As I washed my last dish, dried it and put it away just before 10:00pm, I marveled for a moment at the transformation in my life from a sluggish to an industrious woman.  Emily three years ago would never have noticed the stale bread and brainstormed something to use it for.  Emily three years ago wouldn't have wanted to wake up an hour earlier the next day to pop a casserole in the oven.  Emily three years ago would have left the dishes in the sink and said, "oh well, I'll just get to it tomorrow."  But much has changed.

Our life over the last three years has been a lot like one of those bootcamp fitness places where you pay a lot of money for a few months of intense training.  You go in a little soft-around-the-edges with a love for ice cream, and you come out chanting while you push a tire up the street.  Those places thrive on total immersion.  You push yourself, plateau, push yourself harder and go until you've built muscles your body didn't know it possessed.  There are moments where you think, "I hate this. Why did I sign up for this." all while experiencing the benefits and freedom of a new, healthier lifestyle.

People often comment that our life looks hard.  And it is.
I can't and won't pretend for a moment that a day with 4 boys under 4 is without its challenges.  I mean, it's LOUD here...and people are literally bouncing off the walls.  The other day I wiped a thick hand-prints worth of dirt off of one boy after he stepped inside from the backyard.  That was one wipe, one boy.  We are the best of times and the worst of times.  You might see laughing, wrestling, fighting or crying in our house, and sometimes all at once.

But with the hard things have also come tremendous spiritual blessings, that I like to think of as my 'mom muscles'.  Because when I started this mom journey in 2012, I was that soft-around-the-edges, ice cream eating person signing up for the insane fitness bootcamp...starry-eyed and excited at the possibilities that lay ahead.  I had no idea what it meant to listen to a child's cries, what it meant to go to bed with a clean kitchen because the dishes will overtake you if you don't, what it felt like to discipline a child for the same issue day in and day out, what it felt like to scrub hardened cheerios off the floor or what strategic thinking it took to plan a morning's meal one night in advance.

Building my mom muscles has been a process, and a lot of times, I've wanted to give up.  I've wanted a refund, and I've wished there was an easier way.
Couldn't God refine me with something a little cleaner and quieter?
Couldn't he root out the sin and help me create disciplines without so much work?
Couldn't he have shaped me through something other than faithfulness in the mundane?
Probably, but that's not how he likes to work.

It's the fire that purifies.  It's the fire that pushes you to depend on God.  It's the fire that makes you hold Christ tighter, loving him more deeply than you did before.
It's the trial that makes you wake up at the crack of dawn and cling to scripture when you previously just wanted to stay in bed.
It's the challenges that you can't solve which push you to your knees more quickly.
And this is exactly where God wants me to be.
Dependent and humble.

So for that, I guess I'm glad for the cemented cheerios on the floor.  I'm thankful for the steady stream of whining, jumping, pushing and lion roars.  Because I'm absolutely convinced that I can't do this on my own, and it can only turn out well if it's taken care of by my good redeeming God.

If you are feeling weary as a mom - stay the course.  Yes this is hard, yes it's stretching you, yes it's making you uncomfortable.  But remember, physical training is of some value but this spiritual training you're getting is of eternal value.  Your weakness is a giant billboard, pointing you to the God of all strength who can transform you and give you the muscles you need for the work at hand.

Pray Before You Speak (4 Questions to Ask Yourself)


If you've been married for longer than your honeymoon, you know that a covenant marriage relationship includes conflict.  In some seasons it's more frequent than others, and the severity can range from vow-hindering sin to the slight offense of leaving a trash can un-emptied.  One great skill that happy and holy married couples possess is the ability to forgive, especially as they constructively approach difficult conversations.  Lovingly approaching sins and hurts in your marriage isn't the primary change agent for your spouse's heart, but it can pave the way for repentance, reconciliation, and restored marital health.

Here are a few things to consider before jumping into your next difficult conversation with your spouse:

1.  Have you prayed and waited on God?
Remember, there is only one person who can change a heart and rightly understand every situation - God himself.  Our first instinct shouldn't be to fix our marriage conflict ourselves from our earthly perspective, but to seek wisdom from the word in prayer.  It's amazing how sometimes just the act of praying can bring enough clarity to stifle the need for a 'difficult conversation' altogether.  Praying about what is hurting you and asking for God's help can allow you to be lead by the spirit instead of your flesh or your feelings.  If and when a conversation still needs to be had, it will be much more effective in God's timing preceded by a heart of submission to God's will.  And remember that God's perfect timing might mean waiting days, weeks, months or more to gracefully approach something difficult.

2.  Have you considered your own contribution to the situation?
In prayer and as you read the word, it will hopefully become obvious that you need Jesus just as much as your spouse.  That you have sinned against a holy God in similar ways in other times of your marriage or your life.  Most often, when I'm frustrated by something in my marriage and I stop to think deeply about my spouse's sin, I'm confronted with the myriad of ways I've failed God in the same area and I'm reminded of God's abundant forgiveness.  From that lens, I'm able to refocus on the situation and consider how I might have contributed to some of the frustrations at hand.  And even if I haven't directly contributed, I've already gotten the log out of my own eye so I can humbly discuss the speck in my spouse's eye.

3.  Have you thought about how you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed?
The bible makes it clear that we are to treat others as we would want to be treated, loving them as well as we love our own interests - our own spouse is no exception!  Would you want to be approached in an accusatory tone, feeling put on trial?  If that answer is no, then it doesn't quite seem right to head into a conversation with your beloved that way.  Instead, it might be better to recognize that you are both on the same team facing the problem as a couple.  Proceed with care and caution, considering how difficult and embarrassing it can be to sit on the receiving end of a hard word.  Ponder how you can lock arms with them, encourage them, preach the gospel to them, and grieve their sin alongside them in hopes of restoration.

4.  Have you considered overlooking the offense?
Overlooking an offense doesn't mean, "It's totally fine that they did this too me" or "I'm going to avoid conflict by punishing them silently."  But it does mean, "They sinned against God and me, but I forgive them, and I am going to trust God to work in their heart."  Overlooking an offense requires discernment, because sometimes it's sinful avoidance of an issue that needs to be addressed.  But in marriage, bringing every slight offense to the table would be overwhelming and discouraging.  Consider the severity and frequency of the issue before bringing it up.  It's especially helpful to think about their heart and intentions, believing the best in your spouse and judging their actions accordingly.

The encouraging truth:
For believing spouses who both desire to follow Christ and live according to God's word, these conversations can be a tremendous blessing (and so can the prayer and preparation leading up to them).  When two people love one another, look out for the interests of the other and listen to the spirit's timing, hard conversations can go well and end well.  And the best part?  When we wait and trust God, he gets all the glory in the resolution.



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