Friday, May 30, 2014

{coffee talk} THANK YOU


Sometimes I sit and stare at a blank screen and try to gather some worthy collection of words to express. As much as a worn-out body can muster. And then I think how much easier it was before the Internet. There are so many bloggers out there writing such smart things.

I don’t even belong in the same category.

Yet, I thank you. A very sappy, excessive, over-the-top….thank you!

How we have been blessed to know and be a part of so many loving people’s lives, I’ll never know, but man do our people know how to love. The deliveries, the gifts, the comments, the emails, the tweets, the texts, the visits, the snail mail cards…transform my life.

Reef told me one evening last week that he “has pictures in his eyes.” I sure got a kick out of that, realizing it’s dreams that he is referring to. I adore how his awe of the world and his continuous new discoveries humble me in so many ways. He teaches me how important the small things are.

I told Reef that “when I close my eyes, I see and hear happiness and family and friends…and love.” And I do. And I didn’t ask for any of it. But God blesses me anyway.

There is a reason for everything and things always sort themselves out to reveal beauty. And yes bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people and the outcome is not always as beautiful as we wish it, but there is always love in the end. You guys prove that to me…every…single…day.


So, thank you!





Tuesday, May 27, 2014

LIFE STARTS NOW


You can choose to blame your circumstances on fate or bad luck or bad choices. Or you can fight back. Things are not always going to be fair in the real world. That’s just the way it is. But for the most part, you get what you give. The rest of your life is being shaped right now. With the dreams you chase. The choices you make. And the person you decide to be. The rest of your life is a long time. And the rest of your life starts right now.





Monday, May 26, 2014

IN OUR LIVES ON PURPOSE


Pinterest is awesome, right? There are some amazingly talented people pinning their projects, ideas, and quotes, and I just stand in awe of their creativity. I tip my hat!

I like reading the quotes -- some are just downright brilliant!

There was one on there recently that talked about associating with others that bring out the best in you. Another stated something along the lines of not tolerating people that make you feel other than what you want to feel.

Well, I digress.

It's like saying, only hang out with robots...people that only bring you one single emotion...the good one. The phrases and quotes sound great, but really are just pleasant semantic tom-foolerie meanings for I'm using you for what you can bring to the table in this relationship...better make me feel good.

Our friends, our spouses, our sisters, our kids. They jolt our emotions from time to time, bring out the best in us most days, but have spat in our faces a time or two or more.

What if Jesus said those quotes about you? No one can honestly say they are always pleasing in the Lord's eyes.

So, why put so much emphasis on these platitudes and sayings that make us feel good about being selfish and refusing to love others when the cost is too high? When Jesus has been and continues to be belittled, taken advantage of, and betrayed.

People in our lives are in our lives on purpose.

We often recognize people that do us good favors with "God put ___ in my life!" Well, frankly, he also put the difficult relationships in your life. So, perhaps both are gifts, even though it may not seem like it.

Maybe just maybe, those difficult relationships give us purposeful opportunities to be an example of God's grace to an undeserving people.

Do you feel like people around you accept you for only what you bring to the table?





Saturday, May 24, 2014

SUNSCREEN HOW-TO


Since my bout with skin cancer, I make sunscreen more of a priority than ever. I even put it on in the morning -- my tinted moisturizer has an SPF of 15, which is not much but it's something. When I know I'm going to have a little extra exposure to the sun, I make an effort to protect myself. And my family.

I read a little tip on how to figure out when to reapply: you multiply your SPF number by how long it would take to get a sunburn. So, if it would take you fifteen minutes to burn and you're using a SPF 15, then: 15 x 15 = 225 minutes, or 3 hours and 45 minutes. Of course that doesn't take other very likely factors into consideration – like, swimming or sweating which are both highly probable in the summer. Not to mention that little calculation doesn't stand true for sunscreens with a SPF of over 30.

So if you don't feel like crunching numbers just to figure it out, do what i do: every two-ish hours, just reapply it. And sooner if you've been swimming. That way you know your sunscreen is doing its job. Because, let's face it, that morning application isn't doing you any favors at 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

The biggest motivator for me using sunscreen is seriously groundbreaking – ready? It’s actually having it on hand. And secondly, as a rule I don't buy anything fancy or overly expensive or in a tiny bottle – otherwise I’m reluctant to use it because it feels like something that should be savored and applied sparingly. And if there's one thing sunscreen should be, it's used.

If I have a few big tubes of sunscreen – one in the bathroom, one in the kitchen, one in the never-unpacked beach bag – I’m much more inclined to use it liberally and often.


Happy summer!





Friday, May 23, 2014

{coffee talk} MESSY BEAUTIFUL LIFE

Everyone needs a war, something they can turn to, something they can die for in the end.*  I want to live a passionate life, a messy beautiful and crooked life. I want to be so impulsive and trying so hard to love so well that I trip a lot and build my house there. I want to sweat and bleed and rise up and crash down hard. I want to grab tight to God because it’s all too much if I don’t. Live. Humanly.
*from a song by Carolina Story called In the End





Tuesday, May 20, 2014

HOW TO LOVE YOUR SPOUSE

In honor of our recent anniversary, I’m feeling inspired to share messages of love on my blog. This excerpt from Paul Tripp’s, How to Love Your Spouse by the Grace of God, is rivetingly eye-opening. It makes one realize how self-focused and self-absorbed we tend to be, and that when it comes to love, we are incapable of being experts without God’s grace.

Love is willing self-sacrifice for the good of another that does not require reciprocation or that the person being loved is deserving.

What does this look like in a marriage?

1.       Love is being willing to have your life complicated by the needs and struggles of your husband or wife without impatience or anger.
2.       Love is actively fighting the temptation to be critical and judgmental toward your spouse, while looking for ways to encourage and praise.
3.       Love is the daily commitment to resist the needless moments of conflict that come from pointing out and responding to minor offenses.
4.       Love is being lovingly honest and humbly approachable in times of misunderstanding, and being more committed to unity and love than you are to winning, accusing, or being right.
5.       Love is a daily commitment to admit your sin, weakness, and failure and to resist the temptation to offer an excuse or shift the blame.
6.       Love means being willing, when confronted by your spouse, to examine your heart rather than rising to your defense or shifting the focus.
7.       Love is a daily commitment to grow in love so that the love you offer to your husband or wife is increasingly selfless, mature, and patient.
8.       Love is being unwilling to do what is wrong when you have been wronged but to look for concrete and specific ways to overcome evil with good.
9.       Love is being a good student of your spouse, looking for his physical, emotional, and spiritual needs so that in some way you can remove the burden, support him as he carries it, or encourage him along the way.
10.   Love means being willing to invest the time necessary to discuss, examine, and understand the problems that you face as a couple, staying on task until the problem is removed or you have agreed upon a strategy of response.
11.   Love is always being willing to ask for forgiveness and always being committed to grant forgiveness when it is requested.
12.   Love is recognizing the high value of trust in a marriage and being faithful to your promises and true to your word.
13.   Love is speaking kindly and gently, even in moments of disagreement, refusing to attack your spouse’s character or assault his or her intelligence.
14.   Love is being unwilling to flatter, lie, manipulate, or deceive in any way in order to co-opt your spouse into giving you what you want or doing something your way.
15.   Love is being unwilling to ask your spouse to be the source of your identity, meaning and purpose, or inner sense of well-being, while refusing to be the source of his or hers.
16.   Love is the willingness to have less free time, less sleep, and a busier schedule in order to be faithful to what God has called you to be and to do as a husband or a wife.
17.   Love is a commitment to say no to selfish instincts and to do everything that is within your ability to promote real unity, functional understanding, and active love in your marriage.
18.   Love is staying faithful to your commitment to treat your spouse with appreciation, respect, and grace, even in moments when he or she doesn't seem to deserve it or is unwilling to reciprocate.
19.   Love is the willingness to make regular and costly sacrifices for the sake of your marriage without asking anything in return or using your sacrifices to place your spouse in your debt.
20.   Love is being unwilling to make any personal decision or choice that would harm your marriage, hurt your husband or wife, or weaken the bond of trust between you.
21.   Love is refusing to be self-focused or demanding but instead looking for specific ways to serve, support, and encourage, even when you are busy or tired.
22.   Love is daily admitting to yourself, your spouse, and God that you are not able to love this way without God’s protecting, providing, forgiving, rescuing, and delivering grace.
23.   Love is a specific commitment of the heart to a specific person that causes you to give yourself to a specific lifestyle of care that requires you to be willing to make sacrifices that have that person’s good in view.

Jesus died not only so that we would have forgiveness for not loving as we should, but also so that we would have the desire, wisdom, and power to love as we should.

Jesus suffered in love so that in your struggle to love you would never, ever be alone. As you give yourself to love, he showers you with his love, so that you would never be without what you need to love.





Sunday, May 18, 2014

THE VIEW UP HERE


Sometimes, we miss the mark, deciphering the difference between a relationship and a marriage.
That breathtakingly gorgeous day when we looked each other square in the eye and consciously said “forever”, I think we both made the most concrete commitment of our lives. It was not about a wedding, a day of dress-up, just having fun, or a show for friends and family. Though it was all of that, those aspects came free with purchase. This day…this decision…redefined the way with which we would experience life. No longer would we ever be alone. Physically or mentally. No burden, heartbreak, challenge or triumph would be shouldered or celebrated on our own. There was no escaping, no saying I quit. We were going to do this and we were going to do it together.  We made that promise to one another on an evening in the middle of May and our new reality was like lightening through me.
I’m amazed at how much we had to learn about the commitments of marriage. How much five years of combined courtship and marriage would teach us about patience and courage and partnership. I stare at the lines in our faces now, how they’ve been drawn there by time and the weight of responsibility. Etched by worry and so much laughter. It warms me to see the hints in his eyes of the man Pete will be at 80, and the way his hair is even more speckled with gray. I’m so incredibly grateful to be growing older alongside him.
Frankly, there was no love at first sight. The last thing I wanted in my life at that time was a romantic relationship. Yet, I knew he was the one was because Pete was the only guy I had ever dated who I grew more attracted to and in love with as time passed. There was always a peak and a turn downward in all of my relationships before him. But this romance has been nothing but a steady climb. Always uphill. And I’ve realized that being in a relationship on an incline has made us work harder than ever before. It means walking into the wind occasionally. It sometimes means holding on to each other for dear life when our footing slips.

But the view up here with you, Pete… there’s nothing else in this world that compares.

Happy anniversary, my darling! Here’s to the next sixty years of uphill… and to the mountains and clouds and the stars that await us.

I love you,
M






Friday, May 16, 2014

{coffee talk} FORGIVENESS



In honor of our anniversary, I wanted to share about what I have been thinking about recently. I feel that there is ALWAYS room for growth in all areas of life, particularly my marriage and my relationship with others. But forgiveness has been at the forefront of my thoughts lately. And how I had it all wrong there for awhile...

It's hard to go there, but the nitty gritty is that I got hurt early on in our relationship. Now, Pete will tell you that he loved me at hello. That he never knew love until me. That he knew shortly upon meeting me, we were meant to be together. That I am his soul mate, if there ever were such a thing. But the way he went about showing it was insanely painful the first year. Where for me it was a vulnerable experience, for him, it was all he'd ever known -- surrounded by probably the most evil and vile of human examples, of both men and women he associated with -- he defiled what I thought was sacred. He basically let me suffer and watched. Chose himself over us. Yet in my every attempt to walk away, Pete would ask for my patience. Ask for my forgiveness. And ensure me that he was working on himself...to be a better man. A man that I would be proud to marry one day.

It's hard to recover from that. And hey, most people don't because of what I just explained. No one starts a new romance and says "sign me up for a hellish experience." Now, MY adversity may not be remotely similar to YOUR adversity, but this post is more about that of forgiveness more so than experiences, or the comparisons thereof.

But I remember being there. Anger mixed with sadness, mixed with deep hurt, and intermingled somewhere in there were feelings of love. Strange feelings to have all at once, huh?


I walked into this relationship, ready for the fairytale, missing the part about God using it to point out your sin, change you, mold you -- you know, the whole 'dying to self' thing. Yet there HAVE been so many parts that are just like a fairytale... so many beautiful, raw parts that I hold so close and so dear. They just came differently than I expected.


Sometimes the downward spiral in a relationship starts with something small in the grand scheme of things. He lets her down, so she withholds a piece of her heart from him. She disrespected him here so he is not going to meet a need there. And so it begins. The downward spiral begins....until it's a thrashing river rapid, appearing hopeless, and your only solution is to jump ship.


There’s a difference between having a real relationship and just being together because that’s all you’re used to. There’s a difference between meaning your “I love you’s ” and just saying them every night because “that’s what you do.” There’s a difference between being together and wanting to be together, it’s a relationship, not a routine. 

It's attaching yourself to someone and sharing your life with them. Entirely.

It's a journey, but you start with forgiveness. You somehow, at some point, make a decision. A choice to absorb all the costs of that forgiveness. Just as Jesus' example when he absorbed our sins and said, no more. I'm paying for this. While we were still sinning, He died for us. While we were enemies, He died for us. While we deserved the opposite of grace and mercy, He died for us.


God came down and changed our hearts, mine and Pete's. He showed us that forgiveness is the beginning. Not the end.

5 years later, as we sit on the couch together, my husband stealing kisses and making me laugh at something utterly ridiculous, I smile on the inside. About the past. About the future. Thanking God who kept us together. Because it is so good. So rich. We stuck it out, saw it through, during the growing pains. Pete continually encourages me to spread my wings and is always trying to make my dreams come true. And there is truly no one I would rather figure out all of this with than him. He makes me laugh, he loves our babies well and he has fought for us even when things seemed hard. He's helped me find myself in a lot of ways. He gives me the freedom to be me and has taught me more about love than I ever imagined. He not only sees what's good about me, but he sees the bad, and still wants me. I love him more than I could dream.


I read an article today written by Dr. John Yzaguirre, a specialist in marital enrichment. So many beautiful points that when intertwined can form a beautiful union of marriage that is full of grace, peace, and filled with humility.



"Listen. No advice, no conversion, no change, no great response. Just listen with love. No agenda. Answer with the way they want to be loved."

"Be the first to love. When we practice initiative, we are free."

"Anything I don't share, gets lost. Love becomes real when we share who we are and what we have."

"First say it with your life. Then say it with your lips."

“Live in the present. Worry prevents loving. Worry is self absorption."

"Wisdom reminds me what matters. Is this worth losing unity? Renew decision to love. Fruits of a decision to love are tolerance, flexibility, patience. Wisdom puts things in perspective. People first; tasks second."

Do you know someone who needs forgiving?





Tuesday, May 13, 2014

{meet my guest} RAINSTORMS & LOVE NOTES






Give us a little background about who you are and what you do.
I'm Ashley, blogger at Rainstorms & Love Notes. I'm a perpetual Netflix binge-watcher and die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, who really loves cooking and sharing recipes. My husband and I have been married for just over 2 years, and we live in Raleigh, North Carolina with our 3 very spoiled cats.

What sparked your interest with blogging?
I've been blogging in some capacity since 2010 (I even wrote a slightly embarrassing post about the blogs of my past) I really just love the community and “meeting” people across the country/world that I otherwise wouldn't have been able to connect with.

Has being a blogger changed your life? How?
I think so! It’s helped me to be a better writer, photographer, and cook. It’s also helped me develop an interest in “coding stuff” (technical term) that has absolutely thrilled my web developer husband.


You can keep up with Ashley on all of her social sites…
BLOGLOVIN || INSTAGRAM || TWITTER || PINTEREST

Monday, May 12, 2014

ONLY LOVE TODAY


“Mean people are mean because they’re mean people…” he said. “Being a Christian doesn't oblige you to always be nice. It obliges you to have boundaries.” Our pastor communicated a very liberating sermon this past weekend. In short, it was about being trapped in the “wilderness”, and it’s in these difficult times that our hearts are tested.

I've written about it before, perhaps you remember -- about a family member who’s repeatedly caused scuffles at what should be pleasant gatherings. Upon introductions a few years back, the greeting was cold. Nothing of a hand-shake, smile or “nice to meet you” was extended to me. She's like that of a cruise missile-type of offender – stealth-like enough that no one really notices. Still, several years later, it’s a cynical remark made here and there, under her breath, and easy enough for her to disguise or defend in case she does get caught by fellow family members.

I never could get my mind around it. I never can place my finger on any logically good reason for it. So, a part of me had entirely turned my emotions off as it pertains to her (as though I have a switch), but a recent church sermon was a reluctant acknowledgment I had needed and didn't know it.

I don't stand up to this bully, though others suggest I do. Because Jesus’ teachings don’t imply that if we are victims, then other people need to change. Rather, He puts the responsibility entirely on us. The Bible tells us that if someone hits you on one cheek, present the other. God is instructing us to be courageous and to allow the bully to strike us without retaliating. It’s about being fearless, my friend, not wimpy! Retaliation is weakness.

So, the next time you find yourself in a similar setting, and your face turns hot with ugly feelings, try this little exercise that works for me…Swallow hurtful thoughts, relax your disapproving face, and recite to yourself, ”Only love today. Only love today.”

Because love is always a good place to start a new beginning.







Saturday, May 10, 2014

{coffee talk} COMMUNITY


Back in 2010, when we were the new kids in town, we were excited to start anew, but like most people, we were wearied by life -- we were in desperate need of community, but didn’t feel like we had the time to devote or know how to get it. Well, God held us and used people to carry us along our new lives in our new town.

God was using life and people to move us in the direction of church. Though doubtful, we obeyed and set a goal to visit 3 churches in the area. Having had a not-so-good track record of finding community at church, we braced ourselves for a long and disappointing search.

We found a church alright. It was the first church we visited. The connection was nearly instantaneous. The hospitality surprisingly impeccable. Its pastor embraced us and cheered for us. He met me for coffee soon thereafter, simply because he was interested to know my passions, my callings. He invited us to outings with him and his wife and connected us to other members of the congregation. And most recently, his family delivered a much-needed meal upon the arrival of our infant son. He became a friend to us. He and his wife became an integral part of our spiritual family.

My point, however, is this: To those of you that are always reaching out to others, I want to thank you. You’ve taught me how to be brave in community and live it forward to others. I’m not the perfect picture of hospitality – I don’t have a meticulous designer-decorated house, hardwoods that glisten, or a manicured lawn, but you are always welcome. Comfort isn’t about four walls as it the connection between two hearts and that connection can happen whenever and wherever.

How are you showing hospitality to others?





Wednesday, May 7, 2014

{sponsored post} H-E-B BABY DIAPERS

{This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of H-E-B Baby Diapers.}


I have four kids, with two in diapers, and we are always on the go. With that being said, disposable diapers are my friend. In fact, between diapers and formula, I am at H-E-B more times a week than I shower.
  
The opportunity presented itself to demo H-E-B’s Baby Diapers, and I gladly accepted. If there are pro’s and savings to diapers on the market, I want to know about them.
Aside from convenience, available at my local H-E-B, their brand of diapers is significantly less expensive yet work incredibly well. They’re soft, comfortable and great for our sons’ sensitive skin. Fragrance-free and hypoallergenic are factors grossly important to help keep rashes at bay. And though they may be thin, they provide us with a nighttime of leakage protection, and can withstand a leak test for up to 12 hours (though we’ve never gone that long without a diaper change).

See here, roughly a $10-12 savings compared to the leading brands....


Another characteristic I like is the Soft-Stretch® waist and side panels that allow our toddler to move freely and comfortably. They don’t appear to sag, and that in itself is HUGE for a busy toddler that consistently runs, jumps and climbs.



Lastly, Satisfaction is guaranteed, or they will refund your money.

 

{This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of H-E-B BabyDiapers.}

Have you tried H-E-B's Baby Diaper? If so, what did you think?

Tracking Pixel




{life in pictures} RESURRECTION SUNDAY








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