4 reasons you need to go on a second honeymoon

June 22, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

I recently returned from a week-long Caribbean cruise with my husband. While onboard, a friend asked how long it had been since our last week-long vacation. I mulled over the question for a while and finally answered, “My honeymoon?”

Despite encouraging couples to make time for date nights, weekend getaways, and couple vacations, my husband and I had not followed my advice on that last one. So our cruise ended up feeling like a second honeymoon. Especially since we toured the ship on the first day and ended up in the wedding chapel, where my husband took my hands and prayed for us as we stood where a couple repeating their vows would stand.

That prayer set the right tone for our trip, and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Now here are four reasons you need to go on a second honeymoon too.

It decreases your stress.

Our marriages are stressed, with work, household, and family making constant demands on us. Some days those pressures leave little time and energy for our beloved mate.

With everything you’ve got going on in your life, you may have become neglectful, snippy, or flat-out frustrated with one another. What if you could remove that stress for a while? What would a bit of relaxation do to put you in a better mood to be with one another? How could that reset your perspective of your marriage?

The beauty of our cruise was not only did we get away from work and home—we had no access to cell phone service or internet, meaning no intrusions from the outside. That family member or co-worker who would normally bug us on our day off couldn’t reach us.

Go ahead and get away! You might be surprised what the lack of stress will do for you reconnecting.

It deepens your friendship.

Speaking of reconnecting, a second honeymoon is a great opportunity to grow your friendship. You have extended time to engage in mutually enjoyable activities, strike up conversations that are not about the kids or the household, and take on new experiences together.

You build memories of fun times and perhaps a few fails—you know, those stories you tell later that start with, “Remember when that cab driver started telling us all about his gallbladder surgery…” and end in fits of shared laughter.

While on the cruise, my husband and I watched the World Series poolside, went to open karaoke (where I sang, he applauded), toured a farm where they make chocolate, danced at a nightclub, shopped together, and much more.

Could we do these things at home? Some of them, yes. But when you set aside vacation time, you’re more intentional about finding things to do and interacting as friends.

It increases your sexual intimacy.

When you get away for that second honeymoon, guess what you get to do? Act like newlyweds!

Or, to tell the truth, you’re likely better lovers now than you were back when. Many couples report increased sexual satisfaction a decade or more into their marriage. In the time since you said I do, you’ve learned a lot about your body, his body, and how your bodies fit together. And if you haven’t, a second honeymoon is a great time for discovery or rediscovery.

My husband and I had more time to be affectionate, to flirt, and to sleep in the next morning or take an afternoon nap. I realized we wouldn’t keep up that level when we returned home, but it renewed our desire to prioritize the special bond of physical intimacy in marriage.

A second honeymoon might be the boost you two need for your sexual intimacy. Don’t make it about unrealistic expectations; rather, relax and revel in the opportunity to be more physically intimate.

It reminds you why you got married.

Remember that guy or gal you fell in love with? The one who made your tummy flutter, your heartbeat pound, and your eyes light up? You’re still married to that person.

In the usual busyness of life, we can forget what attracted us to one another. We get used to each other and perhaps take our relationship for granted. But taking a second honeymoon can remind you exactly why you committed your love and life to your spouse.

One of the best outcomes of my cruise was the ongoing reminder that I really like this man. He isn’t just a good provider, a good husband, a good father, or a good lover—he’s a fun person. I still enjoy our conversations, laugh at his jokes, and share many of the same interests. I’d choose him again.

You might need a reminder of your own good taste—that you married someone pretty awesome. And so did your spouse.

Of course, there are additional benefits of travel, including the activities you do, the lodging and views you enjoy, and/or the meals you savor. But as a couple, it’s important to find time to be just us two. It can benefit your relationship in these four ways and others. Maybe it’s time you took a second honeymoon.

“Come, my beloved, let us go to the countryside, let us spend the night in the villages” (Song of Songs 7:11).

- cross walk

10 warning signs you’re not meant to say ‘I Do’

June 21, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Marriage is serious. God takes it seriously, and so should we. But in an age where weddings take up more conversation time than marriage itself, it’s easy to jump into an engagement on a wave of infatuation without asking some hard questions.

In the church, marriage is sometimes used as a “solution” for sexually immoral couples – even though marriage won’t fix a struggle with lust. Other times engagement happens as the natural next step for a couple who’ve been together for years, but haven’t evaluated the true state of their relationship. Christian marriage is a picture of the gospel and as such, should not be taken lightly. God wants the best for His children, and He gives us guidance in order to find His will. Sometimes that guidance comes in the form of warning signs: signs we shouldn’t say “I do” after all. Here are ten things that should make you pause before getting engaged or married.

1. You don’t share the same faith.

For followers of Christ, it’s not just suggested that we marry a fellow believer; it’s commanded! This isn’t because God is cruel or unfair. Rather, it is because of God’s incredible love and protective nature that He issues this command. In the Old Testament He forbade intermarrying with people who served other gods for the precise reason that those gods would lead His children astray ( ). In the New Testament, we’re commanded not to form intimate relationships with unbelievers for the same reason: doing so pulls us away from our foundation.

Paul did give instructions to those already married to unbelievers, but he did so understanding how difficult that road would be. When we unite ourselves to someone who doesn’t share our faith, we’re putting a human relationship ABOVE our relationship with God. We’re also uniting ourselves to someone who has nothing in common with us spiritually or eternally, and who does not possess the Holy Spirit to guide thoughts and actions. It’s a dangerous game, and it grieves God.

2. You have different life callings.

If one person in a relationship is called to overseas missions and the other does not share this call, something has to be resolved. Whose calling will the couple follow? This isn’t something that can be “figured out” after the vows!

God places individual passions and skills within each of us. We get to steward those gifts for His glory! But if we partner with someone who refuses to go along with the use of those gifts, we’ll forever be in conflict over honoring our marriage or honoring our call. Have the discussion before engagement, and be honest with each other regarding your dreams.

3. Your partner is financially irresponsible.

Finances might not seem like a major issue pre-marriage, but they become one as soon as those vows are said. A unified couple is completely honest about their financial status and habits – even sharing a joint bank account. But when one partner is financially irresponsible, it doesn’t just affect them as a person; it affects the marriage and the future of that family.

That’s why it’s so important to discuss finances BEFORE getting engaged. Take a financial class together. Make a mock budget. Go over your spending habits. Once married, your spending habits affect the other person and vice versa. An irresponsible partner can destroy the future of a family. Don’t get engaged until you’ve found accountability and agreed on a financial path.

4. You think marriage will stop sexual sin.

The church has perpetuated an idea that is neither biblical nor healthy: that getting married is the solution to sexual lust. If a couple is failing to stay pure, well-meaning believers tell them to “just get married” so the problem will be solved.

Except it won’t be.

Sexual sin and lust are spiritual issues. They begin in the heart and mind. As such, they are not conquered when a couple is able to have sex. Instead, those heart attitudes remain dormant until another temptation comes along. When this sin is not dealt with spiritually, it causes further sexual sin IN marriage: pornography addiction, mental infidelity, and even actual infidelity. Don’t get married to stop an urge. Learn how to walk by the Spirit and control your impulses. Your spouse is not just meant to serve your sexual needs; you’re meant to serve theirs. Getting married won’t stop sexual sin. Only Christ can do that.

5. You disagree about children.

If you can’t agree about children, it’s time to take a step back from the relationship and evaluate your values. Couples who marry without coming to an agreement about kids find that ignoring the issue is not effective. When one partner wants several children and the other wants few to none, there is great opportunity for bitterness to grow.

This also applies to agreement over how to raise children. Where will they attend school? Will both spouses work? These questions should be discussed before engagement. A great way to have this discussion is to spend time around kids. Babysit together. Volunteer at VBS together. Learn what you want your family culture to look like before you get there.

6. “Privacy” is an excuse for secrecy.

A partner who claims to be “private” and doesn’t want to share information, communication, or time, may have bigger issues at play. Relationships are built on honesty and trust. Without that, love is hampered.

Get to the root of this need for privacy; what is it about? Why can’t the other party be involved? You need absolute openness in a relationship headed to marriage. Secrets before marriage become secrets after marriage – not a healthy way to begin a lifelong commitment.

7. You have unresolved conflicts.

Do you continually argue without reaching a compromise? Is there something bugging you that you don’t want to bring up because you’re afraid of conflict? These issues can cause a major rift in a marriage. It’s extremely unhealthy to head toward engagement without confronting any grudges you’ve held.

It’s also worth noting that confrontation is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing – if your heart is resolution! Learn to accept conflict. Learn to work through it with your partner. A person who avoids conflict, holds grudges, and wants their partner to “figure out” what’s bothering them is setting their marriage up for difficulty from the start.

8. You have drastically different theological views.

Subtle denominational differences can be overcome by talking through your beliefs, attending different churches together, and deciding together which church you’ll attend. But even among Christians, drastically different theological beliefs can cause a rift in a marriage. This often becomes an issue when the couple is deciding what will be taught to their children. Having parents who believe very different things about God, the Bible, and the authority of Scripture causes confusion for young minds.

Before getting engaged, discuss your view of God, Jesus, the Bible, and how the Christian life should be lived. This will naturally overflow into a discussion of Christian life issues: parenting and discipline, alcohol use, male/female friendships post marriage, and finances. Our worldview dictates how we make decisions, and it’s important that a couple be on the same page as much as possible.

9. One or both of you has jealousy, anger, or control issues.

It might seem cute when he’s jealous as you’re dating – but what’s the extent of that jealousy? How angry does it he get about insignificant things? Does she lash out frequently and blame it on her emotions? In his series Gospel Treason, Brad Bigny points out that strong emotional reactions to circumstances are often a sign of idolatry. When a person reacts with rage, jealousy, or passive aggression, the idol is often control. This can escalate into a very dangerous situation.

Until your partner gets counseling and acknowledges this problem area in his or her character, it’s better to wait on the wedding vows.

10. You think marriage will complete you.

Marriage is not designed to completely satisfy. God has not designed “the One” for each of us to discover in this life; nowhere in Scripture do we see the concept of a soulmate articulated – it’s rooted in Greek mythology. Marriage, while a beautiful picture of God’s love for the church and a powerful way to make disciples, is not an end-all-be-all. And it certainly will not solve the spiritual issues of loneliness, purposelessness, fear, or depression.

If you’re looking for marriage and a spouse to complete you, don’t get married! Marriage is an altar of sacrifice above all else. It is where we commit to love 100% just as Christ loved the church. There are many personal benefits we receive when we do marriage God’s way, but entering it with a selfish mindset destroys the foundation right from the beginning.

Don’t say “I do” until you’ve put your hope in the only One who can complete you: Jesus Christ.

- cross walk

4 rules to simplify Christian dating

June 20, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Is it just me, or has the whole Christian dating/courting/dorting thing become really, really complicated?

When Josh Harris wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye, he had good intentions. He was reacting against the casual, recreational, aimless dating that had come to dominate the American landscape. He was trying to help young men and women stop hurting each other through the endless hooking up, breaking up, hooking up, breaking up, etc. Like I said, good intentions, good impulse. I’m grateful for Josh.

But, as we are so prone to do, we took good principles and distorted them and distilled them into a series of unhelpful/legalistic practices. Dating/courting has turned into an elaborate set of unwritten rules which must be followed to the letter, no matter what the circumstances. A guy must ask a girl’s dad first, then the guy must ask the girl, then the girl must say yes, then the couple can start seeing each other IN GROUPS (!). If things go well for the first eight months or so, the couple may or may not be allowed to spend semi-unsupervised time together and possibly even (GASP!) hold hands. Once the young man has firmly established himself financially and is sufficiently godly, he can ask the girl to marry him. Of course, he again must ask the dad first. Both families, as well as lots of church members, must be involved in the entire process, from start to finish.

Now, is there wisdom in some of these practices? Of course. But the reality is, you can’t slap these practices on top of every relationship and expect the relationship to go well. There are so many variables in each relationship: the age of the couple, the spiritual maturity of the couple, whether or not both sets of parents are believers, how long the guy and girl have been a Christian, the ethnicity of the couple, and on and on. To take some variation of the practices above and arbitrarily slap them onto a relationship can actually end up harming the relationship.

And here’s the kicker: believe it or not, the Bible doesn’t actually say a whole lot about dating/courting relationships.

When we place our practices above Biblical principles, it’s a recipe for disaster.

I want to suggest that we can make this whole dating thing a lot simpler and less confusing by simply holding fast to the clear, relatively few principles spelled out in Scripture. What are those principles?

Christians Pursue Jesus Above All

This is the overriding principle which must govern every relationship. Loving Jesus first and foremost means seeking him above all else and obeying his commands above all else. To love Jesus is to obey Jesus. Once this is set firmly in place for both individuals in the relationship, many of the other details will fall into place. Obedience to Jesus is the filter through which every action must pass.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

If we are committed to obeying Jesus, than that necessarily rules out dating unbelievers. There’s no such thing as missionary dating. Missionary dating is simply disobedience dating.

Christians Pursue God’s Wisdom

When it comes to dating, God’s wisdom is desperately needed. There are so many issues which aren’t explicitly addressed by Scripture, and therefore require wisdom. Is it sinful for a couple to drive to a deserted area at night just to “hang out”? No, but it might not be the wisest thing. Is it wise for a young man to talk to a young woman’s parents about dating/courting their daughter? Sometimes. It depends on whether the parents are Christians, how old the woman is, and a host of other conditions. Does a young man need to have financial stability before he can get married? Not necessarily, but it is wise for him to think through his financial status.

The good news is, God loves to give wisdom.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

Christians Pursue Absolute Purity

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).

This is definitely a tough one. Here’s why: part of this is principle and part of this is practice. The principle stands firm: absolute purity. The practices, however, may differ from relationship to relationship. Obviously, premarital sex is out of bounds. Making out in the bedroom is off limits, as is all sexual activity. But there are certain things that may be tempting for some people and not others, like holding hands. This is why we need to be careful about laying strict, absolute practices. Life has so many hues, and each person is so different. Wisdom is an essential component when thinking through this issue.

Men and women must pursue absolute purity when dating. Each individual must wrestle through exactly what this looks like in practice.

Christians Pursue Community

This principle applies to dating couples, just like it applies to every other Christian. As Christians, we are part of God’s family, and we allow other believers to speak into our lives. Dating couples are called to let other Christians speak the truth in love to them. This doesn’t mean that they hang out exclusively in groups, or only in the context of their extended families. It simply means that they open their lives up to other believers.

Christians pursue Jesus, pursue wisdom, pursue purity, and pursue community. These are the firm biblical principles. The practice of these principles will look very different in each relationship. Let’s simplify dating by being committed to these principles, rather than a set of extra-biblical practices.

- cross walk

How to keep your little ones busy

June 16, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

If you have a baby, toddler, or preschooler in your home, you know how difficult it can be to keep them busy and happy while schooling your older children. Just when you sit down to help your older child with his math lesson, there always seems to be an interruption – a diaper to change, a nose to wipe, someone needs to go potty, or your 2-year-old has wandered out of sight. You don’t want to use the television as a babysitter, but let’s admit it – some days it sure is tempting!

If you’ve faced this dilemma as I have, you know how frustrating it can be. I have experienced this problem three times! My children have large age gaps between them. We’ve done kindergarten and high school with babies in tow! Some days the tyranny of the urgent is still overwhelming. But I know that, with a little planning and organization, I can help myself keep things running smoothly while helping my preschooler learn – all at the same time.

A good daily schedule is imperative. Preschoolers who have an established routine all their own will be much easier to handle, and you can feel sure that they are “getting their fair share,” too. It has always been my rule to schedule time for my youngest children first. I’ve found that if I give them the time and attention they need, I can teach my older children with fewer interruptions. I try to alternate my schedule between the older and younger children throughout the day.

If your youngest is a baby or a toddler, nap time is your best friend. You may have to schedule lessons during nap time, even if it is short. Otherwise, try to work lessons in after a feeding or snack, when young ones are most content. Spend some time reading to your toddler or playing with him on the floor; get him interested in a toy or activity, and then you’ll be able to school the older ones. Your goal should be multiple short lessons.

Practical Ideas

• Use gates to close off rooms that are off limits or to close children in. Set up your preschooler’s room like a giant playpen, making it as safe as possible, then gate it off. Require “room time” of 15-30 minutes at least once a day. Check on them frequently, especially if it gets too quiet! For safety reasons, schedule this for mature preschoolers, ages 3 and up. Use your own discretion.

• Keep young ones near you. Rotate babies and toddlers between playpens, baby swings, and bouncer seats. Don’t go more than 10-15 minutes before alternating or giving them a floor break!

• If you have the financial means, hire a teenage homeschooler to come over for one or two hours a couple of times a week to play with your preschoolers while you get some uninterrupted school time with your older children.

• If you use your kitchen table for school, have your preschooler sit at the table doing art or playing with manipulatives while you teach older children.

• When your preschoolers outgrow their naps, institute a quiet time instead. After lunch, wash up, brush their teeth, and read to them just as you would before nap time. Have your children rest in their beds for 30 minutes, quietly looking at books or listening to story tapes. If they don’t fall asleep during this time, they can get up. This gives you time to continue school with your older children or take a personal break. Some families continue this tradition even with older children, turning it into a quiet reading time.

• Have your children play on the floor near you with the “Box of the Day.”

Box of the Day

To help keep my preschooler’s interest, I have divided some of our toys into special boxes brought out only during school time – our “Box of the Day.” I use plastic boxes with hinged lids and store them out of reach. I also purchased a small rug for each preschooler. I lay the rug on the floor near me and get one box. Rules: keep the toys from the box on the rug. Before another box is brought out, the previous box must be put away. We put Duplos/Legos, Magnix, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, shape sorters, and other manipulative-type toys in our boxes.

I have also put together boxes of activities designed for “educational” play. The goal is to engage children in fun learning activities which they can pursue (almost) independently. If you would like further ideas, investigate the books Making the Most of the Preschool Years: 100 Activities To Encourage Independent Play, by Valerie Bendt; Workjobs: Activity-Centered Learning For Early Childhood Development, by Mary Baratta-Lorton; and Mommy Teach Me!: Preparing Your Preschool Child for a Lifetime of Learning, by Barbara Curtis (Montessori-style activities).

Our Boxes:

• Sewing cards: Cardboard sewing cards can often be purchased at discount or school supply stores. Or, purchase plastic canvas and a large plastic needle at your local craft store.

• Large, wooden beads to string: Great just for fun, or for making/copying patterns. A related activity is to string Cheerios or Fruit Loops on yarn (use masking tape on the very end to make a needle).

• Puzzles: Start with simple wooden knob puzzles and move on from there. Ravensburger makes beautiful cardboard tray “see inside” puzzles.

• Nest and Stack Boxes: Wonderful toys for learning about size. Some have pictures that are completed when the boxes are stacked in the right order. Discovery Toys’ Measure Up Cups are similar, but are correct measurement-wise and are great to use with sand or water.

• Magnetic fishing: Tie a small doughnut-shaped magnet to string or heavy yarn; this is your “fishing pole.” Cut out fish from construction paper, adding a paper clip near the mouth. Children try to catch the fish with their pole. Variations: make this a learning game! Write letters or numbers on each fish. When your child catches a fish, name the letter or number for them. Later, see if they can name them by themselves. This activity can be used in the same way to teach colors, shapes, letter sounds, and so on.

• Felt board play: Betty Lukens Felts makes beautiful, full-color felts for counting, telling stories, and so on, or you can make your own by using a black sharpie to outline or draw shapes, numbers, letters, animals, and so on onto heavy duty interfacing (find it at your local fabric store). Color with pastel crayons and cut out. You can also cut pictures out of magazines or discarded books and apply iron-on interfacing to the back. For the board itself, use a large piece of heavy cardboard, wrap in blue flannel, and secure with tape/hot glue.

• Nuts and bolts: Go to a hardware store and pick out several sets of large nuts, bolts, and washers that fit together. Buy several of different diameters. Use them as an assembly project. This builds eye-hand coordination and estimation skills.

Activities

• Water play: Let your child stand on a chair or step stool at the kitchen sink and “wash” plasticware, dolls or doll clothes—or play with plastic measuring cups and old shampoo bottles.

• Rice/birdseed bin: This is a fun alternative to a sand box that can be used indoors or out by children who do not put things in their mouths. Fill a large, shallow plastic box ¼ of the way with rice or birdseed. It’s a good idea to keep an old sheet underneath, or put the whole box inside an old wading pool to keep the spills under control. Add spoons, funnels, measuring cups, a two-liter bottle, a metal strainer, etc. for play. Play figures and toy cars work well, too. Activities: stand the two liter bottle upright. Try to fill it up using the measuring cups, and then the funnel. Compare/learn math: See that two halves equal one cup, etc. Add a container of salt to the mix. Have the children use the strainer and see if they can separate the two. Just playing with the rice/birdseed is soothing to children and will engage them for a long time.

• Play dough: Provide play dishes, rollers, and cookie cutters.

• Art box: Include stickers, felt-tipped pens or colored pencils, stencils, rubber stamps, etc. Other activities that will engage a young child for a good period of time (but are a little more messy) are watercolors, coloring books with watercolors built in, collage with paper scraps, beans and macaroni, etc.

Finally, try to take on a new mindset. I’ve come to realize that interruptions will happen—they are inevitable. However, I’ve learned that interruptions can be a part of learning for my older children. Our interruptions teach us all patience, and the children learn how to do their schoolwork even when distractions are present. My older children have learned a lot about parenting, too. I know they will be confident parents someday.

Remember, this is but a short season of life. All too soon, new challenges will concern us. In the meantime, let’s enjoy our preschoolers and keep them busy with creative play. All too soon they will be grown, and we’ll wish they were little again!

- cross walk

How to make a bad day better

June 15, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

When was the last time you had a bad day? I bet it wasn’t long ago.

Maybe you had an argument with your spouse first thing in the morning and spilled your coffee on your way out the door. Or you stopped at the grocery store after work and mysteriously lost your cart after you filled it with the items you needed for dinner. You got another cart and filled it again, only to wait 15 minutes in the checkout line with the most problems.

Have you ever wondered how to turn those days around?

Recently, a bad travel day almost undid me. My family and I were moving abroad, so we hauled eight suitcases to the airport. After we stood in line two hours, an unhappy airline agent rejected four of our bags for being overweight. We dragged the offending suitcases to one side and threw away 15 pounds of our belongings. (Believe me, rifling through your underwear in front of strangers makes for a bad day!) Then we waited in line another hour to pass through security before finally grabbing lunch at 4:00 p.m.

You don’t have to travel to have a bad day. Flat tire days, sick kid days, and tense work days happen to all of us.

Bad days happen, but they don’t have to undo us.

No matter how difficult our day, we can always end it on a better note with God. The Examen is a powerful prayer tool to help you find glimmers of God even on your worst days. You might be surprised to learn that it comes from Ignatius of Loyola, who taught his Jesuit followers to look back over each day using five steps.

You don’t have to be a monk to pray like this. Amazingly, this 500-year-old spiritual practice remains relevant today for business executives, housewives, engineers, and students.

5 steps to make a bad day better by ending it on a positive note:

1. Remember God’s presence.

“My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

Even after a trying day, God will quiet your soul as you remember His presence and intentionally seek to enter into it. Remember He’s with you. Invite Him to make Himself present to you.

2. Respond to Him with thanks.

“Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me.” (Psalm 50:23)

Giving thanks gives God glory and helps us look on the bright side of a bad day. What small blessings can you thank God for?

3. Reflect on how God showed Himself to you.

“For God does speak–now one way, now another– though no one perceives it…” (Job 33:14)

God reveals himself through scripture, but we also see glimpses of him in nature, events, and people. Sometimes He shows up loudly through miraculous, divine intervention. Other times He shows Himself quietly through the beauty of a flower or an earnest conversation.  During my bad travel day, God showed me His mercy through the kindness of an airline attendant. As you look back over your day, can you identify moments where you sensed God’s revelation or intervention?

4. Repent of your failings.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” (Acts 3:19)

I don’t like recognizing my own sin, but repentance is key to continual renewal in our relationship with God. We fail God every day, but bad days have a way of making sin spew out of us. We vent our frustrations. We fret and worry instead of trusting. We open the door to addiction. In the heat of a difficult moment, we react in anger. (You should have heard my husband and I bickering as we went through our suitcases at the airport.)

As you reflect on your day, remember specific points where you failed. Bring your shortcomings before God and ask Him to forgive you.

5. Resolve to grow.

“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

God is in the business of changing us, so don’t let your failings discourage or define you. His mercies are always new. Accept His forgiveness. Ask Him for grace to change. Is there anything you need to make right or anyone you need to apologize to? What can you do differently tomorrow?

Bad days don’t have to undo us.

We can make even a bad day better when we look for glimpses of God and ways to grow.

The prayer of Examen gives us five steps to process our day. I like praying through these before bedtime to prepare for a good night’s rest, but you don’t have to wait until then. A few minutes of prayer at lunch can press a reset button on your day. Prayer on the way home from work might help you get in a better frame of mind to spend the evening with your family.

Find a time that works for you, but don’t wait for a bad day to try this. The prayer of Examen will also make a good day even better. Practicing this now will equip you to better deal with a difficult day the next time one comes around.

- cross walk

Why I hope it rains on your wedding day

June 14, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

I’m not known for being optimistic, but when I chose our wedding reception location I was banking on the fact that rain wouldn’t be in the forecast.

Optimism has never worked well for me.

It didn’t just rain… it poured.

And the rain didn’t come alone. It brought a tornado warning as well.

The reception, which was supposed to be half-outside, was instead crammed into a tiny building with a tin roof. Did I mention it was also on top of a mountain? Not the location the fire department recommends in case of a tornado.

My vision of this perfect, sunny reception overlooking a gorgeous vineyard didn’t work out like I hoped. Instead, I watched hundreds of guests stand shoulder-to-shoulder, terrified of the impending storm.

My first thought when I saw the grey skies that day was, “What did I do wrong, God?!”

As a (recovering) control-freak and (slight) drama-queen it didn’t make any sense. I worked my tail off planning this wedding and I made sure to put in an early appeal for no rain. I definitely did not request severe thunderstorms.

But since it was my wedding day and I had my hair and make-up done so nicely I decided I might as well continue the optimism just a few hours longer. I made the conscious decision to stop focusing on my somewhat miserable guests who stood crammed like sardines, and enjoy my first dance with my new husband.

SEE ALSO: What You Should Read at Your Wedding Instead of 1 Corinthians 13

As soon as the dance ended, half of our guests high-tailed it out of there and the ones that stuck around had to scream the rest of the night to hear each other over the thunder. Instead of the sparkler exit I was so excited for, we ended up being almost the last to leave and we got soaked in the process.

It was perfect.

Before you brides-to-be have a heart attack as you imagine your wedding day going anything like mine, let me tell you why I’m thankful it rained:

It was a beautiful picture of the commitment Brandon and I were choosing to make.

And somehow in that moment, I knew that celebrating with Brandon during the rain was something that we would be doing on a much deeper level for the rest of our lives.

We are only 13 months into this being-married thing and we have had some storms already.

The first storm made me want to high-tail it out to avoid the tornado.

But then I remembered the commitment I made that rainy Saturday and decided this is what it means when we said for better or for worse.

Sunny days are wonderful. But rainy days are frequent. And we can run from the thunder or we can hold each other tighter.

It’s not easy. Most of the time storms pull us apart. And many times it seems like it’s the other person’s fault.

But thank God that God designed marriage to be about more than sunny days.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually get wedding invitations and then do a rain dance until the wedding day – that would be mean, and a really weird pastime…

But if you do end up having a little rain on your wedding day, I hope you don’t let it upset you. I hope you can smile and be thankful that the commitment you are making is about more than the weather… and it’s even about more than each other. It’s about love that’s deeper than emotion. Love that is only possible because of a God who loves us so dearly. Love that rain doesn’t water down, but that rain strengthens.

I hope it rains on your wedding day.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Mark 10:7-9)

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12 things every dad should say to his kids

June 13, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Memories with Dad live long and strong. Playing ball in the yard. Twirling in his arms. Wrestling in the living room. Fishing in the pond. Shooting hoops in the driveway. Dancing. Laughing. Racing. Working. Building. Biking. Living.

Dads.

One of the most important relationships in this life, because it wields such power to shape and influence what we believe about who God is. A loving father can point us directly to the love of God our Heavenly Father, so clearly and directly.

And in the same way, a father who seems distant, angry, hard to please, or vacant, may unfortunately invite some difficult feelings in how we view God and his care for us. Many have lost fathers too early in life – due to death, divorce, or abandonment. Others still wrestle through hurtful memories of abuse and fear of the very one who was supposed to protect them.

No matter what our experiences have been growing up, or where we find ourselves now, God still reigns supreme over all. He cares. He loves. He is near. He is trustworthy. And his heart for you as your Daddy shines through every step of life. He is powerful enough to help you navigate through the most difficult of memories and experiences, sheltering, embracing you in it all. And giving you freedom, blessing to grow, and healing to move forward. We can take every difficult experience and allow God to use it for good, by helping us to become the best parents possible for our own children. Pain is never wasted when God is Supreme over our lives. Where experiences have harmed us, even if unintentional, even if seemingly unfair, God can still use it for his purposes, to bring good through it all.

If you are blessed to be a Dad, you’ve been given a priceless gift in this life. The gift of pointing your children to Christ. The gift of leading. The gift of loving. Your actions matter, how you choose to live makes a difference in the lives of all you know.

We see from research through the years, that kids generally do better socially, academically, and emotionally, when dads are actively involved and participating in their lives. But it’s not just the fact that fathers are physically present that matters, it’s how they are present. Kids thrive most when dads recognize the need to provide a warm, understanding relationship under which their children can share life, learn, and grow.

Words matter. Our kids need to hear them. They thrive under encouraging, supporting, heart-felt words. And young children grow up into adults and yet they still need to hear, loving words from a father’s voice. Wisdom from a daddy’s heart, that lives on long in the lives of others.

Here are 12 things every dad should say to his kids, though there’s many more:

1. I love you. Period. No matter what. Unconditionally. And nothing will ever change that.

2.  I believe in you. You can do it. Anything is possible. You are a winner.

3. Love God. Love your spouse.

4. I am with you. And even when you can’t see me, you can be assured I’m thinking of you.

5. I am proud of you. You are beautiful. You are amazing. You have great purpose in this world.

6. Respect yourself. Respect others. Respect your Mom.

7. Your character is always more significant than your reputation. Never forget who you are and that you first belong to God. Who you are in secret is just as important as who you are in public, because God sees both.

8. I am sorry. Would you please forgive me? I forgive you.

9. I am praying for you. You have my blessing in all that God calls you to do in this life.

10. Work hard. Save some. Spend a little. Give a lot.

11. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh. Have fun in life. Every day is an adventure.

12. Be brave. Be strong. But always remember that it’s OK to be afraid. And it’s OK to cry.

Whether or not you ever heard these words from you own dad is not the end of the story. Because God is both the beginning and the end of your story, and He speaks love over you today.

Dads, you are powerful in the lives of your kids. You are hero status. You are a solid foundation. You hold the potential for great influence in the generations to come.

Live wisely. Live well. Live strong. Live with grace. Your Father God is with you, always.

“Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be men of courage, be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

“…but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

“He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.” Proverbs 14:26

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Calling all unemployed college grads

June 12, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Well, your college career has come to an end. You have walked the aisle, received your diploma, hung up the cap and gown, but have no job. You have cleared out your apartment or dorm room and moved home. You might be asking yourself, “What’s next for me?” The little voice in your head echoes “I didn’t know how to start looking for a job and was confused but didn’t want to admit it. I was too busy having fun with my friends to think about getting a job. Why didn’t I seek help from my career services office? What do I do now?”

Don’t wallow in the past of “what-ifs.” Jumping into the game at this point and gaining the job-search skills necessary will not be easy. But nothing worthwhile ever is, right?

Let’s get started!  Here are 12 steps to prepare you for a successful job search.

  1. Read up on vocational calling as your new starting point, which will transform your job search and provide the motivation you have been yearning for! You are wonderfully unique, and you were created for a purpose. Be a steward of the gifts, talents, abilities and transferable skills that have been entrusted to you.
  2. Self-Assessment. You will never have clear job search direction without knowing your design. Go to Monster.com and take some free assessments so you can be articulate about what you bring to the table.
  3. Do some job shadowing and informational interviewing. These will provide you with key information, new relationships, and excellent career exploration.
  4. Land on a general career direction, even if it changes later. Decide on a couple of areas of employment that interest you.
  5. Write or revise your résumé by using bullets that include: action verbs, transferable skills, accomplishments, and results. View the résumé writing guide and other outstanding resources from Grove City College Career Services.
  6. Utilize existing and new relationships to network. Ask the question “Who do you know that knows something about _____?
  7. Investigate Behavioral Interviewing. DDI (Development Dimensions International) is the world leader in preparing companies and organizations to interview you. Remember, someone is going to hire you not because of what you have done, but because of who you are! Transferable skills rule the day today in the entry level job marketplace. If you align your design with employment, you will be successful in finding a career “fit.” Develop your interviewing skills by viewing free online interviewing skills training.
  8. Volunteer your time and serve others! Don’t sit around. Tell your story and share your preparation and goals for employment with those around you. Also consider getting experience by pursuing temporary work. Break the cellophane on the package and get out there!
  9. Pursue accountability by setting some dates for accomplishing certain job search tasks. Get some traction; this will provide intrinsic motivation.
  10. Persevere—push past the challenges.
  11. Be confident. There is a place for you in the marketplace. Step outside your comfort zone and get started. It will be easier than you think it will be.
  12. Refrain from exclusively using popular job search web sites. The offerings there for an entry level candidate will be very limited.

Put your past indecision and inaction behind you. Move beyond your perceived limits and when you do, this job search will be extremely encouraging and rewarding. Employment is just around the corner for you. If you work these steps, you will be well on your way to a meaningful career. Stay positive and hit the curve balls. Today is a new day. Confidently get started, get informed, and get hired!

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Why stay-at-home moms don’t need to be embarrassed

June 11, 2017 by admin  
Filed under Miscellaneous, newsletter-miscellaneous

Why Is It So Hard to Admit I’m a Stay-at-Home Mom?

A few years ago I was traveling on an airplane for the first time without my children. The woman next to me asked me what I did for a living, and I paused for a moment to find an answer—because I’m a stay-at-home mom with my kids, but I also had just sent in the manuscript for my first book. In a place like that, I think, Do I say that I’m an author and a writer, or do I say that I stay at home?

I felt this internal struggle because I knew the culturally acceptable response was, “I’m a writer.” That’s more valued in our culture right now than being a stay-at-home mom. But I decided to go ahead and say, “I’m a stay-at-home mom.” I just kind of blurted it out. And she said, “Oh, I could never do that all day long. I’d be so bored!”

God sees your work as valuable because you’re caring for people created in his image.

I get bored. I struggle with answering that I stay home with my children. In a Christian subculture it might be easier, but in some parts of our society it feels like we’re letting down the team or we’re not doing something of value by staying at home. But the storyline of Scripture is that God chooses the weak things of the world to shame the wise. God doesn’t pick what the world picks as valuable in his eyes.

Does God Value At-Home Work?

While the work you are doing might seem embarrassing to the people that you’re coming in contact with, or it might seem embarrassing to the people at your ten- or twenty-year reunion—God sees your work as valuable because you’re caring for people created in his image. Whether you’re making a meal for your children or your neighbor who is recovering from surgery, or taking care of a sick husband or an elderly family member, the worthwhile work you’re doing is caring for the people that God has made and helping them know that they’re valuable in his eyes.

Work is not about doing something great and glorious. Work is about loving your neighbor and loving God by loving your neighbor. And the work you’ve been given to do is good work, whether it’s working in an office or working in your home. It’s good and valuable work that the world needs to see.

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Are we there yet?

Children are notoriously impatient – antsy is more like it. Mine were forced to hold my hand, stand in line at the hardware store, and forced to go “shopping” with mom. The waiting game inevitably broke them down emotionally – it’s called a meltdown. We had the “sit, flop, and fume” to the “Slap-the-toy out of your hand you are dangling in my face” to the “pouting Pearl Harbor” complete with explosions of anger and tears. On long drives to my parents every Christmas they all asked “Are we there yet?” Kids, right?

Men are just bigger versions of our “mini-me’s” with bigger needs and bigger destinations, but the same impatience – especially with God who, like our parents, does not wear our watch. We are trained by an “easy button” culture to believe that both private and public delays are the enemy. We are trained to lust after the product not endure the process. We work hard to ensure faster, smoother, and easier exactly to avoid slower, more difficult, and harder. Then life happens. Delays happen that we didn’t plan. Denials happen that we never expected.

We don’t “flop and fume”, but the negative emotions connected to waiting can destroy us from the inside out and, in the process, lead to some slippery slopes. We try to speed things up. We say and do things impulsively. We take wrong risks. We take control of the process and that decision back-fires.

Most men think the waiting game is for losers or the incompetent. The fact is that we all must play it, whether we like it or not, regardless of what we are waiting for. Every man will have moments and seasons when progress has been halted that demands patience.

The Bible has a lot to say about why we need patience. It’s a reflection of wisdom (Proverbs 19:11), it’s better than pride (Ecclesiastes 7:8), it shows great understanding (Proverbs 14:29), it calms a quarrel (Proverbs 15:18), it’s loving (1 Corinthians 13:4), and we’re commanded to be patient (James 5:7-8, I Thessalonians. 5:14, Ephesians 4:2, Zephaniah 3:8).

But the real trick is actually doing it. Being patient with the process takes practice. It’s like exercise that needs to be done daily. So for those patience-challenged men, try taking a W-A-L-K with God the next time you find yourself needing to wait, and jot down your thoughts in a journal using the following outline.

W – atch God’s movements. In John 3, Jesus used “wind”to explain God’s spirit which is constantly moving. Although you can’t see the wind, you can see the effects of the wind, just like with God’s spirit. In Genesis 8:1, Noah had to play the waiting game, and God sent wind. Being patient doesn’t mean sitting idle. It’s an opportunity to observe God’s movements. You will find, God is not idle either. He’s working, often behind-the-scenes on our behalf.

A – cknowledge God’s sovereignty. “Sovereignty”means possessing supreme or ultimate power. God is the Almighty One, Creator of the universe, Author of life and Savior of our souls. He’s good, really good. And His plans generally work out with perfect timing (wink). Waiting on God means acknowledging His sovereignty. He is worthy of our praise and adoration. Often, we need to chill and “Be still, and know that I am God.”as written in Psalm 46:10.

L – isten to His voice. Through regular meetings with God, you will refine an ability to listen to His voice, His Spirit. He wrote the Bible for us to connect and listen to Him. He sent His Son Jesus to deliver the message of hope. He taught us how to pray. He created us for a relationship, which requires communication. So, while waiting on God, ramp up your time with God, seek him by reading the Bible, engage Him with your questions and take time listen.

K – indle an expectancy with faith. Waiting on God is largely a test of faith. But the more we watch Him, acknowledge Him and listen to Him, the better able we are to expect great things in good time. In Romans 8:18-20, we read “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.”

Finally, remember that God is patient with us too. We’re a work in progress, and that takes time.

  • “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” — 2 Peter 3:9

See more verses about patience below:

  • “We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” — Hebrews 6:12
  • “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” — Psalm 37:7
  • “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.” — Psalm 40:1
  • “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” — Psalm 27:14

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