Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Being Vulnerable With Your Spouse

  I have been listening to a podcast called Marriage is Funny, which is produced by a married couple that has been married about as long as Adam and I have. I have only listened to a few episodes and have started from the beginning (there are currently 40+ episodes). I love that they speak honestly about things that they have experienced and are able to insert a little humor into serious topics. From the first episode I have felt like we are kindred spirits and that they can relate to my experience of marriage (they talked about fighting about hanging a chandelier early in their marriage, our tension stemmed from making homemade pizza and painting our new house). It seems like we might be good friends even though our life paths have veered slightly (and the small fact that we don't live anywhere close to one another). I love how they are willing to be vulnerable with one another and their listeners. It has endeared me to them.

  A few days ago I listened to their seventh episode "Putting On A Bikini is the Best Way to Cheer Up A Crying Husband". The woman, Jessie, was talking about wearing bikinis, Gerard's perspective and the conflict some people have regarding Christianity and modesty. She then kind of veered off topic to share with Gerard (and the listening audience) that she sometimes struggled with feeling attractive to Gerard and needed him to tell her that he thinks she is beautiful more frequently.

  I, too, have struggled with the very same thing. The fact that she got choked up a bit sharing this, encouraged me because I also got the weird tear-strangled voice when I once said this to Adam. My immediate thought was relief that I am not the only one who has felt this need for their spouse to reassure them of their beauty. It seems anti-feminist to want to be attractive to my spouse, but the need is there regardless. It doesn't matter what others may think as long as I know the man who has won my heart thinks I'm pretty.

  I know that I am God's beloved. I know that he created me and did not err in the features I have. I know that I have his heart and that I am a delight to him. I suppose that ought to be enough, but I am human. I desire that reassurance from the person who knows me more intimately than anyone else.

  I remember how I hated to bring it up because I knew it might make him feel like he was somehow lacking. He loves me so well and demonstrates it in so many ways that I don't want to negate all that he does for me over one thing. Sometimes I wonder if what I feel is a need is actually the devil trying to drive a wedge between us. Regardless, I felt it was important to share something that felt important to me so that I did not feel resentful (and truly put something between us) and perhaps might receive the reassurance I desired.

  I am sharing this because I have now learned that I am not the only one who has struggled with this and am wondering if you, too, have also felt this way at some point. I want you to know that I understand and that your feelings are valid and normal. Please be courageous and share your heart with your spouse. It's very difficult for your spouse to meet an unexpressed need or desire. I pray that God would give you wisdom on when and how to express your desire and that your spouse would have a heart to receive your request without feeling personally attacked.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Trust and Rest: The Current Themes of My Life

  A few months ago I was introduced to interactive prayer journaling (found in the book Joyful Journey: Listening to Immanuel by E. James Wilder, Anna Kang, John Loppnow and Sungshim Loppnow). I have journaled my prayers for many years but a friend of mine said that this particular style helped her to really hear what God wanted to share with her. I am terrible at sitting in silent meditation trying to hear from God. My mind is forever wandering to my to-do list or something in the room that is distracting. Her declaration that she received clearer communication with God peaked my interest.

  I received the instructions and chose a day to try it out. I wrote a short prayer of gratitude to God. I was then to invite him to respond to my gratitude, writing down what I felt he was saying. I then had five prompts that I was to ask God to finish and record his responses. At the end of the exercise, I was to read out loud all that I had written.

  The whole process took between five and ten minutes. It felt very weird. I tried to write down whatever came into my head. I was a little skeptical/hesitant to declare that they were God's words to me, rather than my words to myself. However, if you're anything like me, you're not always very kind, positive or encouraging in your inner monologue. The things I wrote down were kind, compassionate, honest, truthful and loving. Reading the words was so encouraging and comforting.

  God cut to the chase and reminded me that he knows what is going on in my life and what matters to me. I received clarity, comfort, wisdom and a feeling of being truly known. As I have continued to practice this form of prayer, it has become less weird. It has grown to be one of my favorite ways of spending time with God.

  Two common themes have emerged through these prayer times. The first theme is God has been asking me to trust him. He has reminded me that he is faithful and has a good purpose for my life. I am an independent person and try to do and figure everything out on my own. I am not good at delegating to others because I worry that it will not be completed the way I would like it. I'm a bit of a control freak, you could say. God's constant reminder of faithfulness is helping me to open up to allowing him to guide me and to trust in his provision for various areas of my life.

  The other major theme has been encouraging me to rest. I am a go-getter and don't like to be idle when there are plenty of things that can be done (it's probably tied to my independent/controlling nature). I am the initiator of many of my get togethers with other people which has been draining lately. I tend to do housework during QRT (Quiet Room Time for my children) rather than use the time to rest and refresh myself. A wise person helped me to see how important this time is for me in order to be the wife/mom/person I need to be the rest of the day. Not using my little bit of daily free time wisely is noticeable in my attitude (specifically my patience levels).

  I feel like there is a reason for God's desire for me to rest right now and over the summer in addition to the benefits of a daily rest time. I am trusting God to provide the social interactions I need which is a huge deal for me - it's quite a stretch for me and I was quite tempted to make something happen the first few weeks. I tried to manipulate my agreement (which was to not do any inviting for the month of May). Instead I am working on trusting God completely.

  May was a very busy month because of the end of school and having our first trip away from home for the year. I am glad that I did not try to cram more things into the month. God was faithful in providing social invitations and activities. It almost seemed like he was showing off to me. Now that it's June, I don't feel like I am on a strict ban from inviting but I have seen the blessings of having space in our schedule so I want to be wiser in scheduling things and our time. Even though it's summer, we already had a number of commitments scheduled.

  I am definitely continuing to grow in both trusting God and resting well/wisely. I hope that I can continue to give things over to God in trust and rest confidently in the faith that he will continue to provide what is needed when it is needed.

Friday, June 3, 2016

May Book Review

It's finally summer break! I hope that means time to read even more books (crosses fingers). I had read 28 books through April, more than half-way to my goal of 50! This month I finished seven books. You can see my selection below. If you want to catch up on my former reads, check out my posts from January, February, March and April.

1. How Can I Help?: Caring For People Without Harming Them or Yourself by Lynda D. Elliott

   A good friend told me that our pastor suggest that she and I read this book together. So we started to and both were enjoying the book. Then life got busy and we have not had time to talk more about the book. I continued to read it (and told her I was going to) because I found it to be full of useful information about helping people dealing with various issues. I have a friend who is now in the midst of a lot of stress and upheaval and have found some wisdom in this book that I hope is encouraging her in her process. It covers a variety of topics - helping someone with anger, fear, depression, abuse, grief, illness, betrayal, poor self-image and bitterness. I know we all deal with some of these in our own lives. I tend to be someone who becomes a safe place to share struggles so I want to be as equipped as I can to offer encouragement and healing. I anticipate referencing this book often when helping others.

2. When They First Met (Short Story) by Debbie Macomber

   I borrowed this from the library. When I checked it out I did not realize it was a short story. Apparently it's the prequel to the Rose Harbor series she has been writing. I thought it was the story that told the meet/romance/marry story of a couple who bought an inn in Rose Harbor and then the other books would tell the stories of the occupants. Apparently the first full book of the series takes place after the man in this story, Paul, dies and his wife, Jo Marie, purchases an inn. The short story moved along fairly quickly and did not have any twists to it. Short, sweet, to the point. I suppose if you choose to read the Rose Harbor series, it might be good background information for you. I don't know that I'll read the first book, The Inn at Rose Harbor.

3. Deeply Devoted: A Novel by Maggie Brendan

   This book is about a mail-order bride who moves from Holland to Wyoming with her two sisters to marry a man she has corresponded with for six months. She has secrets from her past that she is hesitant to share with her husband. She dives into learning life as the wife of a wheat farmer. Her new husband's mother is not keen on his choosing a mail-order bride over the woman she had picked out for him and stirs up trouble for the newlyweds. 
   I like historical fiction, especially with a faith-based bent, and this hit those marks. The story was enjoyable, but predictable. I believe there are additional books about each of the sisters and I'm sure they would also be a nice read. Nothing world-changing, but a nice summer read.

4. Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Soul's Path to God by Gary Thomas

   This book states that there are nine spiritual temperaments that describe how people relate to and worship God. It has a chapter for each temperament, talking about what worship and relating look like, various ways of practicing the temperament and potential weaknesses of the temperament. Gary states that people tend to be a combination of several of them. There is a quiz at the end of teach temperament chapter for the reader to determine how well that temperament fits them. He encourages the reader not to completely ignore the weaker scored temperaments, reminding us that we can learn something from each one. The temperaments listed are: naturalist, sensate, traditionalist, ascetic, activist, caregiver, enthusiast, contemplative and intellectual.
   I very much enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the descriptions of different ways people feel closer to God and choose to worship him. I know I have tended to think that the way I spend time with God is the best way and, perhaps it's the best way for me, but it's not for everyone. I also have times when I feel like my quiet times become rote and I desire something to shake it up and make it new and refreshing again. This book gives me ideas on how to relate with God in a new way. I filled out the survey and discovered my top three are ascetic, contemplative and traditionalist. I was very low in sensate and activist. It wasn't surprising to me, but I enjoyed feeling affirmed in my temperament/personality. 
   I would very much recommend this book if you are feeling like your time spent with God is not fulfilling or helping you feel closer to him. It can spark ideas for drawing closer to him and worshiping in meaningful ways. It's a great book to refer back to and to help others who feel confined by the general prescription of "30 minutes in prayer and reading the Bible". 

5. Transformed from the Ashes of Brokenness: A Step-by-Step Plan Toward Wholeness by Donna Adams

   This book was written by a member of the church I attend. I was interested in learning more about her story and supporting her as an author. I only know her as a woman who is deeply in love with Jesus, has a strong, effective prayer life and is passionate about caring for people. I did not know about her traumatic past and all of the hardships she has endured. This book gave me more insight into how God transformed the woman I know and given her victory, hope and life in spite of her history and circumstances. 
   Donna's experiences have given her a desire to see healing come to all others and has provided a way for healing to come through her book. Each chapter talks about a way she found healing and freedom and provides an exercise for the reader to complete in order that he/she might begin his/her own healing process. It is a practical and useful book.

6. Four Letter Words: Finding Hope in a Tiny Wild Life by Krista Wilbur

   This is a memoir-type book that reads like fiction. Krista Wilbur opens up about her 30+ years of living and shares the good, the bad and the ugly. Her childhood and adolescence are heart-breaking. Reading about her history of neglect, abuse and being shuffled between family for most of her youth, I just wanted to scoop her little girl self up and tell her that she is loved and valued and that I would protect her. It hurts my heart to learn of all that she experienced and to know that there are many others who could tell a similar story.
   I hoped continuously throughout my reading for her rescue and restoration. I was grateful to read about her resilience and strength and God's pursuit of her. I was quickly captured by the way she shared her story and was very engaged and emotionally moved throughout the book. I appreciate how she has allowed God to love her, change her thoughts and beliefs and use her experiences for the benefit of others and God's glory.
   I greatly admire Krista's transparency, vulnerability and truthfulness. I was encouraged by her story, her strength and the reminder that God can redeem all of us and give our history purpose and meaning.

7. The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd

   I chose this book from a recommendation off of The Happy Hour podcast. I had read The Secret Life of Bees a long time ago and remembered enjoying it. This book is a fictionalized account of Sarah Grimke's life, a young woman who grew up on a plantation in Charleston and had an abolitionist's heart from an early age. The book is told from both Sarah's point of view and Hetty's, a slave that was given to Sarah on her eleventh birthday to be her maid. 
  I did not realize that Sarah Grimke was a real person. I looked it up after I recognized the name Lucretia Mott. I enjoyed getting to see the viewpoint of both Sarah and Hetty as it allows the reader to be more knowledgeable about what was going on in various circles during the early to mid-1800s. 
  I found the book very interesting and engaging. I am rather fond of historical fiction. If you are, too, I would recommend this book.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Fifth Month Goal Review

May has come and gone and it's once again time to check in on my goals for the year. You can read about JanuaryFebruaryMarch and April if you'd like. Without further ado, let's get to it.

1. One arts and crafts time with the kids each month

Perusing Facebook one day I saw a video showing how to make tote bags out of t-shirts. It looked like a fun idea, one my daughter would love, so I saved it until we had time.

Our first task was to find t-shirts at a thrift store. I took my son and daughter with me so they could pick out their shirt. J flitted back and forth between Batman and Mario before seeing a Transformers t-shirt that he liked best. K wanted something feminine and found it in a purple shirt that had a glass slipper on it and the words"Girl's Day Out". I chose a blue-green tie-dye shirt.

I watched the video again and tested out the design on my shirt while the kids were otherwise occupied. It turned out fine so we got started on theirs. My daughter did most of the cutting and a good portion of the tying of the strips. When it was complete, she drew Cinderella on the back of her bag.

My son tried to cut the shirt but it was too tough for him. His contribution was drawing on the back of the bag. I'm sure he would have preferred to just wear the t-shirt.

2. Blog at least twice per month

I have continued to successfully post at least two blogs in addition to my goal and book reviews. This month I used one post to promote my book geared toward high school and college-age women. Another one was about my current life dreams. A third post was me pretending to be interviewed by one of my favorite podcast hosts. A good variety of topics in May.

3. Grow in gratitude, contentment and generosity

I have continued to regularly write my gratitude journal entries. It is always interesting to see what I am grateful for that particular day. I would highly recommend it.

I am continuing to try to find things around the house we do not need so that we can live with less and enjoy what we do have. It is very eye-opening to hear the discontentment from my young children. It is definitely a learned behavior. I'm hoping that we can grow in contentment as a family and help instill this in the kids while they're young.

I am trying to grow in generosity with my time and attention. I want to be fully present with people, especially my children. I am trying to not keep my phone with me at all times so I am not tempted to spend so much time looking at it when I am bored or waiting. This tends to be an ebbing and flowing desire for me. Sometimes I am convicted that I am staring at my phone so much. Other times I see doing nothing as a poor use of my time (when I could be communicating or reading on my phone). I know this is a newer, generational problem I am grappling with.

Here are my verses for the month:

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Ephesians 5:1-2 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

So, how did you do with working on goals this month? Please share with me what you're working on!