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Relationships

How to Keep That Lovin’ Feeling

Brian and I have been married almost two years. I know that means that we’re supposed to still be newlyweds, and like an increasing number of newlyweds these days, we have had a child for our entire marriage. (Rachael is from his first marriage.) Life is busy and it’s easy to lose our connection in the hustle and bustle of life if we don’t make time for us.

Like most couples with young children, we don’t have a lot of time to focus on our marriage unless the kids are with someone else. This was easy when we just had Rachael because she was at her mom’s house three evenings a week, so we had built in date nights. Once Henry came along, we had to work a little harder for date nights by making babysitting arrangements or maximizing our time together once the kids are in bed. (Having Brian’s parents close by and his brother and sister-in-law next door is such a blessing!)

Here are a few suggestions of things we’ve found that strengthen our bond and help us keep that lovin’ feeling.

Daily connecting time

We spend time alone together every day. Sometimes it’s after the kids are in bed. Sometimes we go to our bedroom and shut the door. However we have to work it, we connect daily. The one common theme of this time we spend together is that we touch each other. Make it a point to hug and kiss every day and take a few minutes to talk. We often ask each other, “What was your favorite part of the day?” during this time.

Mini-dates

In between date nights (we have about two a month), we have a couple of mini-dates – one or two a week. Mini-dates are time spent doing something special together that we plan in advance so that we can look forward to it. They’re usually worked around the kids’ bedtime. You can squeeze mini-dates in anytime the kids are engaged in a safe activity where you are unlikely to be interrupted for 20-30 minutes.

I try to keep our bedroom clean and bed made and clothes put away so that our bedroom is a haven for us. A lot of times, these mini-dates take place in our bedroom so that I can turn my heart and mind toward my husband rather than my to-do list. Our back deck is also a good place for them. Just choose somewhere that you can quiet your mind and focus on each other.

A few things to do for mini-dates:

  • Get a bottle of Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider or sparkling grape juice and pour a couple of glasses, light a candle, and chat.
  • Watch an episode of Andy Griffith on Netflix with a bowl of popcorn
  • Have a special dessert to enjoy together after the kids are in bed
  • Ask each other questions like you did when you were first dating
  • Snuggle up outside and look at the stars

Date Night

We love date night! Date night is so important because it allows time to share an experience together and have a few hours of quality time. At-home date nights don’t usually work for us, because I can’t take my mind off things that need to be done at home (even if the house is spotless), but I know they’re great for some people. Date night doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to be spent together.

Check out Alison’s Almost Free Date Ideas post or the book $10 Great Dates: Connecting Love, Marriage, and Fun on a Budget.

Just Do IT

We’re going to refer to it as IT to reduce the Google traffic looking for things they won’t find on EIG. In a HEALTHY marriage, IT is powerful. A man who feels loved will move mountains to make his wife feel loved. Do it. Do it often. If you’re having trouble in the bedroom, find an appropriate person to talk to about it, like your doctor a married girlfriend. Don’t be afraid to research (and try out) products to help with physical difficulties or look for ways to make it more fun. Remember that God made our bodies, IT was His idea, and He intended for it to be fun. So have fun! In a healthy marriage, IT is a great way to keep the love alive and the connection strong!

Two good books by Christian authors on this topic are:

Sheet Music by Kevin Leman
Is that All He Thinks About? by Marla Taviano

Solve the Problem

If you crawl into bed and suddenly you find that your husband feels like a stranger and you’ve only been coexisting for a while, FIX IT! Talk about it. Figure out when you disconnected and if there is a break that needs mending or if you just need to spend a little extra time together. Don’t stay disconnected; make it a point to reconnect.

Jesus Time

Maintaining a relationship with Jesus both individually and as a couple is also vital to our marriage. Having spiritual conversations, reading the Bible and praying together, and ministering to others helps strengthen our marriage. Our marriage isn’t just a bond between two, but a bond of three — Brian, Amber, and Jesus. This is our most vital connection.

What are some things that you do to stay connected in your marriage? What are some ideas and resources that you can add to what I’ve suggested?

Relationships

When Someone is Sad, Let Them Grieve

Over the Christmas holidays, there was a light display at one of our local parks.  Not only that, but they were opening up the model train exhibit that we always see when we go walking but is always locked up tight.

I thought our two-year-old would enjoy the lights and I knew he would love the trains.  And I was right.  He would have stayed looking at those trains for hours upon hours if we had let him.

But we eventually had to leave for bed.  He cried.  As we put him in his car seat he cried and I tried to console him.

“We can come back another time.”

“We have trains at home.”

Then I had a moment where I realized, he is sad.  It is disappointing to leave seeing something you have wanted to see for so longSo I stopped trying to stop his tears and cries.  And I said, “It is sad isn’t it?”  He sniffled, “Yes.”  “I am sorry you are sad,” and then I reached over and held his hand.  “Mmmhmm,” he said. And then holding my hand he calmed down.

I sat there stunned and realized that often we try to “make things better” for others and “fix things” but sometimes what people want and need is someone to acknowledge their sadness. Understand and validate the disappointment or pain.  Then it seems they can move on to heal.

It actually reminds me of a scene from Inside Out.

So often we want to fix it with happiness when what someone needs is understanding.  For you to acknowledge the pain and loss.  Even if you don’t understand it.

I challenge you, instead of trying to fix pain this next time around.  Sit with them in it.  Affirm and acknowledge their loss and hold their hand.

It might be the most healing thing you can do.

Relationships

3 Encouraging Ways To Keep Praying For Family

A few months ago I was visiting a church where a testimony was shared that changed my perspective on prayer. An older couple was getting baptized that morning. The woman, named Evelyn, began explaining that she actually grew up Seventh-Day Adventist. In fact, her father was a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor. She said that she never experienced a personal relationship with Jesus though she grew up in a very religious household. When she was 18 years old she married a man who was not religious at all and she decided to leave the church. Her parents were heartbroken by her decision but they accepted it. However, they spent the next 30 years praying that their daughter would return to the church and come to know Jesus for herself. Eventually, Evelyn’s parents passed away never knowing what their diligent prayer would result in. Finally, at the age of 71, Evelyn was driving down the road and a thought came to her mind that she had not considered in 53 years. “You should go to church, Evelyn.” Evelyn asked her husband to take her to church and he easily complied. The next Sabbath Evelyn and her husband walked through the doors of the church and the greeter immediately spotted them and made friends, she even signed them up for Bible studies. Six months later I got to witness Evelyn and her husband be baptized. Evelyn said that she truly believed that it was her parents’ faithful intercession that opened the door for the Holy Spirit to speak to her.

This testimony really touched me because most of my family are not in the church or religious at all. Often times, family can feel like the hardest to reach; you can’t always give your extended family Bible studies or pray with them. However, you can always pray for your family. I have seen God do miraculous things in my family because He loves to answer prayer.

Here are a few things I have found to be helpful when praying for family:

  1. Patience

Be patient with God’s timing, He knows what He’s doing. Sometimes we won’t see the answers to the prayers that we pray, but God hears them and He does answer. I like to keep a list of prayer requests and then put a check mark on each of the requests as they are answered. The key with this is writing down specific requests, it helps you see how much God is really doing in your family’s life as you’re praying for them. This way, you will not overlook the progress and your patience will be increased.

  1. Consistency

Have consistency in your prayer. In the past, I have been inconsistent about praying for my relatives usually stopping at busier times. One way I have tried to combat that is by giving myself visual prompts to pray for them. Write down the people you want to pray for on a note card/sticky note or set it as a reminder on your phone. I have also hung pictures around my house as a reminder of who I am wanting to pray for.

  1. Claim some promises

I think one of the most encouraging things is to see the promises God has for us when we ask for His help. Here are a few of my favorite promises to claim when I am praying for family:

Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. – Jeremiah 29:12

Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. – Mark 11:24

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. – Romans 8:26

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Earth Psalms: Reflections on How God Speaks Through Nature by Francine Rivers

This is a beautiful book.  I have always enjoyed Francine Rivers as a fictional writer and to have her write this devotional focused on God’s “second book”: nature is very special.  There are 52 sections, one for each week of the year.  Each week is focused on a different aspect of creation.  At the end of each reading, there is a “Reflect”, “Apply”, and “Connect With God” section that you can do alone, journal, or use in a discussion.  The Bible verses that she has chosen to go with each chapter you could memorize or put somewhere in your home where you can see it throughout the week.

I read this with my family, which includes my two-year-old.  He sat on my lap and listened and looked at the pictures, which are bright and engaging.  I love that these are short enough to do with my young family and yet deep enough that it causes me to pause and look at creation differently.

One week it talked about the stenocara beetles and how they use the way God made them to collect fog droplets on their back and then tip it forward into their mouths.  Our toddler was fascinated by the beetle and then we took time to look up more pictures and videos to learn more.  I feel these devotionals are jumping points to draw us into nature.  Francine Rivers creates each devotional in such a way that you are interested in nature and how it works to reveal God.

This is a great devotional book and I highly recommend it.

Relationships

10 Tips for Winning Food Battles

Food battles. I don’t know of a single parent of young children who doesn’t fight the good fight (or who hasn’t just surrendered). Meal time can quickly become stressful when you’re dealing with a picky eater. For the most part, we have overcome, though there are times that Rachael still acts like the food will eat her, rather than the other way around.

If you’re fighting the good fight, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be a fight at all. Meal time CAN be a pleasant family time without food battles, but happens by design, not by chance. Here is what has worked in our home.

  1. Be consistent — This is the #1 most important thing and applies to all areas of parenting. My Papa gave my parents only one piece of parenting advice, which they have handed down to me. It was, “Whatever you do, be consistent.” Without consistency, you will only have inconsistent results and frustrated parents and children.
  2. Cook one meal — I make supper and I serve it. If kids are hungry enough, they’ll eat. If they are stubborn enough to not eat and go hungry, then they won’t starve to death until the next meal!
  3. Clean plates are by design, not demand — Skip the one bite rule and give small portions. If it’s a new food, give a tiny portion and expect it to all be eaten. It’s still only a bite or two, but it eliminates the discussion. Make your child’s plate intentionally. I want Rachael to eat a balanced diet, so I make her plate accordingly and make it with small portions, so that it all gets eaten.
  4. Turn your no’s into yes’s – When you follow #3, it’s easy to say yes more. Yes to dessert, yes to seconds of a favorite (but not-so-healthy) food, yes to being excused from the table… yes, yes, yes! Rachael loves macaroni and cheese and will always eat it first. So, I give her a smaller amount of macaroni and cheese than vegetables. When she asks for more macaroni and cheese, it is so easy to say, “Absolutely! You can have more of anything you want when you finish what you have.” Either she eats all of her food and gets more macaroni and cheese or she cleans her plate and no longer wants it.
  5. Plan ahead – Kids are much more likely to eat food they don’t prefer if they are hungry. If I am planning to make something for supper that Rachael probably won’t like, I give her a smaller lunch and no snacks so that she’ll be hungry and more likely to eat without complaint.
  6. Educate – I teach Rachael about nutrition. We talk about why certain foods are healthy and why others are unhealthy and how those foods affect your body. This is so important and helps influence healthy eating choices when you get past the every-meal-is-a-battle stage.
  7. It’s not a discussion or a negotiation – We don’t talk about “how many bites”. We also don’t allow whining and rude behavior. We don’t remind her that she’s not getting dessert if she doesn’t eat. A meal is not something to endure to earn dessert. We only allow positive comments about food during mealtime.
  8. Communicate – Communication and discussion are two very different things in our household. Communication is respectful and beneficial, while discussion is what happens instead of obedience. So while we don’t discuss, we do I ask Rachel for feedback on a meal and she is free to give me an honest answer as long as it is kind and respectful. I am careful to ask open-ended questions like, “What did you think of ______?” I ask what she liked, and what she didn’t like. I’ll ask if she liked it, disliked it, or if it was “just ok”. I have discovered that sometimes what Rachael doesn’t like about a food is easily fixable (example: beans and rice separate instead of together).
  9. Involve them in meal preparation – When kids are involved in meal preparation and menu planing, they have invested in it! And even if they don’t like what is served, they’re more likely to try it!
  10. Give them freedom to choose – This is last for a reason, because it doesn’t work unless you’ve ended the food battles and taught healthy principles. You have to establish the ground rules and do the hard work before you can reap the benefits. Meal time becomes so pleasant when you can finally say, “Eat based on what you know to be healthy and stop when you are full.”

This approach to meal time has been successful in our home and we’ve been reaping the benefits of it for over 6 months now. What has worked in your home?

Relationships

Why Celebrate Christmas?

With Christmas just a few short days away, I wanted to share with you something I came across a few days ago that reminded me about the “true meaning” of Christmas. I know, that’s such a cliché saying, and it seems like such an obvious thing, but sometimes it is worthwhile to dig a little deeper into the obviousness of God’s Bible truths.

Most Christians, if asked why they celebrate Christmas would say that they celebrate it as the day of Jesus’ birth, the day the Son of God left his rightful place in Heaven to come as a helpless baby to save the world. And I would say that I agree; that’s the reason that I celebrate Christmas. And most frequently when I think about the Christmas story, I think about the gospel stories of Jesus’ birth, and of his birth being the ultimate gift of Love from God. But a few days ago as I was reading in Genesis for my morning devotions, I came across a story and a verse that I had not previously connected with what I typically consider the “Christmas story.” In fact, the story does not directly connect with the birth of Christ, but the story perhaps lends itself to giving a deeper and more rich meaning to the birth of the Messiah.

I have shared before some of my thoughts on the story of Cain and Abel. But as I was reading it most recently, I came across this verse:

“Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.'” (Genesis 4:13, ESV)

I think when I have read it in the past, I have mostly focused on Cain being afraid of someone killing him to avenge the death of Abel, and I have always kind of thought maybe he wasn’t truly repentant for his crime, just afraid of being unable to bear the consequences of his actions. And maybe that is the truth. However, I think there is more to it.

My Bible gives a note about how the first sentence can be translated. It is often written the way that I have quoted it here, but another translation of the sentence that is given in the ESV is, “Cain said to the Lord, ‘My guilt is greater than I can bear.'” This may seem like semantics, but when I think of the word “punishment” I think of consequences. The word “guilt” however, evokes imagery of sin and its effects rather than simply the consequences of actions, although I think that is part of it too. But when translated as “guilt” instead of “punishment” it seems as if Cain is saying that he is unable to carry the burden of his own sin, his guilt, not just that his punishment seems too harsh.

This is where the true meaning of Christmas comes in: Jesus, the Son of God born as a baby, was sent into the world to bear the guilt that we could not carry on our own. We are, like Cain, unable to carry the weight of our own sin, and God must hide His face from us, unless one could be found who was able to bear the burden for us. And One was found; Jesus, the Lamb of God that was born to take away the sins of the world– your sins, and my sins.

We celebrate Christmas, the birth of the Messiah, because what happier news could there possibly be than the news that God has given his Son as an offering of one who is able and willing to bear our guilt for us that we might live to see the face of God again.

Merry, happy, joyful Christmas to you all.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

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4 Simple Ways To Help People This Holiday Season

During this holiday season, it can be pretty tough for a lot of folks. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in making sure you get the right gift for your kid or that you spend the right amount of time with everyone that you love. At the same time, it is also easy to forget those who kind of slip through the cracks. Those that usually end up spending the holidays alone, without any family. Maybe you are even someone who dreads spending the holidays in solitude. I thought it would be a good idea just to throw a few ideas out there that will remind us to think outside the box and be able to bring cheer to someone in the next couple of weeks.

Find someone else who is alone and have dinner together.

I know that it is easy for me to all start feeling sorry for myself and think I have it hard. At the same time, there are ways to combat this. We have the power to make a change and one way of doing that is reaching out and finding someone else who is also alone this season. If you have nothing else in common, this one thing will bind you. It might take courage, it might take guts. I know that any time I start thinking about others and what they need, it makes my woes not seem so bad. If you feel uncomfortable meeting them in their home alone, you can invite them out for dinner!

Send out personal messages to those needing encouragement.

Snail mail is not dead. I still love getting cards in the mail that are personal and took a little thought. Even if it’s a payment for a project I worked on, the little note included still makes a warm spot in my heart. Think about all those going through really tough times this season. Maybe you know someone who lost a loved one over the past year and this season is a painful reminder. Or maybe your friend lost their job and they need a little extra cash tucked in with a word of encouragement.

Offer to watch kids for a busy couple or single parent.

We all know that this time of year can get pretty crazy. Though I am not a parent, I am pretty sure that parents out there can attest to the fact that they just want to catch a break. Offering to watch a friend’s kids while they either go run errands or maybe spend time with their spouse or friends can be a simple way to lighten the load.

Practice being aware of simple needs around you.

Thinking about extravagant ways to make someone’s day or really be of help, can paralyze me sometimes. It prevents me from noticing the little moments that need care. Take time to just be aware of the little things around you that need help. Just the act of helping in a small way can make a big impact. It makes others feel extra special because you took the time to notice the details. When someone looks down and they end up opening up, offer to pray with them. Listen.

All throughout the Bible God has made it clear that helping others is a big priority. The widows, orphans, and poor are especially on His list of those we must care for. We shouldn’t just do it to make sure we are good people. I am beginning to understand that God wants us to make sure others are taken care of because He wants us to participate in His ministry. By participating He can make a big impact on lives that would otherwise not know Him. If God has blessed you in a mighty way and shown you His abounding mercy, doesn’t it just make you want others to know that love too? God wants to spread LOVE. Why not join in?

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:40

If you have any other helping ideas, please share with us in the comments!

Relationships

Being Present During The Holidays

Our family has started a tradition of decorating our Christmas tree on the day after Thanksgiving. This year we had Thanksgiving early because that’s when family could be here, so we decorated early too!

This year was the first year that we let our girls hang most of the ornaments. That was definitely a test for this Mommy! Most of our ornaments are hanging on the front lower half of our tree, because that’s where the girls could reach. Some branches have more than one ornament!

Emma

I had planned to redistribute the ornaments after they went to bed. It was hard for me to really look at the tree! But those two girls had such a great time hanging ornaments and candy canes, they were so proud of their work! My husband convinced me to just let it be.

This year Christmas means something a little different to me. It’s not about having a perfectly decorated tree or exquisitely wrapped presents.

This year I want to watch my girls experience Christmas. I want to take them to every walk-through nativity we can, every fancy light display, I want to read them the story of Jesus’ birth as many times as we can… I want to pay attention and soak in every moment. I want to watch their faces light up a little more as Christmas gets closer.

Cora

Yesterday my girls asked my husband to read the story of Baby Jesus from The Jesus Storybook Bible. If you don’t have that book, I highly recommend it! I love how it’s written for children, but it’s not babyish. Anyways…

In the chapter called “The Light of the whole world” it tells the story of when the angels visited the shepherds to tell them about the birth of Jesus. The beginning of the chapter is so sweet…

“That same night, in amongst the other stars, suddenly a bright light appeared. Of all the stars in the dark vaulted heavens, this one shone clearer. It blazed in the night and made the other stars look pale beside it.

God put it there when his baby Son was born — to be like a spotlight. Shining on him. Lighting up the darkness. Showing people the way to him.

You see, God was like a new daddy — he couldn’t keep the good news to himself. He’d been waiting all these long years for this moment, and now he wanted to tell everyone.

So he pulled out all the stops. He’d sent an angel to tell Mary the good news. He’d put a special star in the sky to show where his boy was. And now he was going to send a big choir of angels to sing his happy song to the world: He’s here! He’s come! Go and see him. My little Boy.” – The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones, pg. 184-186

I’m not the only parent who gets excited at Christmas time because of their kids. I’ve only had to wait a year to share this with them. God waited thousands of years before His Son was born. The birth of that Baby meant the plan of salvation was in motion. All of Biblical history was leading up to that moment in a stable, and God wanted the world to know!

It’s so easy to get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas and forget the story behind the season. There is so much joy to be had if we really watch for it!

So this year, I want to be more present. I encourage you to do the same!

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Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas by Ann Voskamp

I have seen little Advent calendars at the store.  You know the ones where you open a little flap each day as you await Christmas?

When we had our son we wanted something deeper and richer to help celebrate the anticipation to Christmas.  When I found Ann Voskamp had written an Advent-type book I knew it would be what we wanted for our family.

This beautiful book is rich and deep.  And moves beyond being self-focused during this season.

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At the end of each day there are thoughts to discuss.  This can be perfect for older children or to begin discussions with little ones.  One of my favorite things is that each day you are given something to do for others.  Instead of the Christmas holiday focusing on self, this Advent book allows you to focus on Jesus and on others.

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This book also comes with free printable ornaments that you can hang on your tree that reflect each day.  There is also a Christmas wreath made by Ann’s son, Caleb, that you can also purchase to go along with the book.

This wooden spiral can be set on any flat surface.  This picture from the Joy Ware website shows the idea beautifully.  You can do all short candles, or alternate tall and short, or do all tall.  Whatever you want.

There is also a little wooden figuring of a donkey carrying Mary.  It is the journey to Bethlehem, to Emmanuel, God with us.  For each day you move this figurine around the spiral.  Moving toward the center or moving out, depending on what you want). We chose to add a candle each day and light them all before we read the story.  Then we enjoyed the candles and the story together.

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We just started this tradition last year and I am so excited to do it again this year.  I want to teach my son how all through the Bible the stories point to Jesus and God’s promises.  I want to teach my son to give that hope and promise and love to others.

What are your ways of celebrating Christ’s birth?  Do you have a special Advent calendar that you use?  What do you do? Share with us!

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Angels in the Trenches

This week I reached a point where I just needed to talk to someone. This pregnancy has definitely not been the easiest for me. I’ve been tired, hormonal, emotional, and I’ve had the possibility of complications weighing heavy on me. It’s hard to feel excited about having a baby with all of that against you, even if 99% of it is all in your head.

So I decided to talk about it instead of bottle it all up. I have a group of women on FaceBook that has become quite close. We pray for each other, cry with each other, laugh with each other… We are all moms — some are first-timers, while others have been doing this for a while. We are spread all over the country, even the world! Several of them even live local to me.

This is the group that I went to with my fears and worries and concerns.

And these Angels in the trenches of motherhood wrapped me up, lifted me up, and reassured me that what I’ve been feeling is fine. That I’m not going through this alone. That I’ve got this.

“A” gave me permission to feel what I’ve been feeling, and frequently tells others in the group the same thing.

“J” wrote to me personally, she used to work with many of the doctors in this area, and knows my doctor well. She told me I was in good hands, that she experienced similar possible complications with one of her pregnancies, and that it all worked out.

“L” is in the same boat as I am, in her 3rd pregnancy, and facing some of the same insecurities that I am. Just hearing that I’m not crazy or alone in this was a huge comfort.

And these are just a few of the lovely ladies I call friends!

When I finally got to my doctor’s appointment, I shared my concerns with my doctor, and one of the first things he asked me was “Do you have a good support system?”

Yes! I do! Besides my lovely family and friends who I’ve known for years, this group of women, these angels in the trenches with me, are a wonderful support system. The things I have witnessed these women do for each other is amazing.

This Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful for my support system. I would be so lost in my own head right now if it weren’t for being able to share with them my worries.

So Ladies, you know who you are… Thank you.

Do you have a support system? It could be your family or friends. Near or far. It could be people you have met through church or school. It could be many people, or only one or two. Whoever your support system is, take a few moments today to tell them how much you appreciate them.

Maybe you are their support system too!

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Lonely in a Crowd

Sometimes you feel loneliest when in a crowd of people.  Hopefully you are surrounded by loved ones this holiday but I know that sometimes even in the midst of others you can feel this ache of total aloneness.

Do you feel that way? I know that I have.  I do.

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But recently I have been clinging to two verses.

Isaiah 41:13

For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you. “Do not fear; I will help you.”

These last few months I have needed to cling to God in a new special way.  I have needed to remember that even when I feel alone that God is holding my hand.

When I had my C-section with my son, they didn’t allow Matthew in the room until after they had put the spinal tap in.  When they were putting the spinal tap in I grabbed my nurse’s hand, I wanted comfort.  It is natural to want to hold someone’s hand when you need comfort.

I have wanted to know I am not alone.  That how I feel isn’t real, the aloneness.  And so I read Isaiah 41:13 and remember that God is holding my hand.

God is holding your hand.  He says to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.”  No matter how you feel, you can repeat the truth to yourself that God is holding your hand.

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Matthew 1:23 is the other verse I have been holding on to.

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which means, “God with us.”

In the Old Testament God has them build a sanctuary so that He can dwell among them (Exodus 25:8).  In the New Testament Jesus comes and His name is Emmanuel, which means, “God with us.”  Both Old and New Testament He is always wanting to dwell with us.  To be with us.

When you feel alone remember Emmanuel.  God with us.  God is with you.

I don’t know if you are feeling alone today.  But if you are, read these verses and remember the truth that is in them.  I don’t always feel the truth in these verses, but I hold on to the truth there.  I pray you will too.  You are loved and you are not alone.

You are not alone. Emmanuel is holding your hand.

Relationships

God and the Five Love Languages

Today I wanted to follow up on my previous post about extravagant love because I felt like I could make it a little more practical and less nebulous. In that post I was writing about how God craves from us the extravagant kind of love like Mary Magdalene showed when she anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive ointment—the kind of love that goes way above and beyond what is expected or necessary. I had asked what ways we can show that kind of extravagant love to God and someone commented that we could show God love by obeying Him. I agree, and I think that’s a great start; but I also think that there are also many other practical ways that we can more abundantly express our love for God.

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You may or may not be familiar with the Five Love Languages written by Gary Chapman. The five love languages are different ways that we show and receive love from other people, and I think it’s a solid place to start when thinking of practical ways to express your love for God. So I’m going to share some examples from each of the five different love languages to help give you some ideas of ways to give back extravagant love to God.

Acts of Service
This expression of love can take on many forms; it could be shown by participating in your church work bee to help keep God’s sanctuary beautiful and clean, going on mission trips, giving Bible studies, or by something as simple as helping an elderly neighbor rake their leaves or go grocery shopping. Remember, in Matthew 25, Jesus said that at the final judgment God will say to his faithful followers, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (verse 40, ESV). When you do kind things for other people, it is a sweet offering to God. I have also thought about how God admonishes his people throughout the Bible to take care of the widows and orphans; I think this was meant literally, but also as a principle. Widows and orphans in Bible times were often unable to provide a living for themselves, so any time we are able to help someone who is unable to provide for their own needs, we are in essence taking care of the “widows and orphans” of our society.

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Gift Giving
The most obvious way that we can give gifts to God is by donating money to our local churches, to mission projects, or to people who are homeless or in need. But another type of gift giving can be gifts of special music at your church, or singing at a nursing home. We often think of gifts as money or physical things, but any way that you can use the talents and special abilities that God has given you for His service, that is like giving a gift to God. This kind of goes hand in hand with acts of service.

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Quality Time
This too, seems obvious; we show God love by spending time reading our Bibles and praying to Him. However, I think we can show a deeper love for God by not only reading our Bibles and praying, but also by giving God the best of our time. So maybe for someone this could look like making time earlier in the evening to pray to God so that they are not falling asleep during their prayers. Or perhaps it might mean going to bed earlier so that you are well rested and alert during your morning devotions. The general principle is not just setting aside time for God, but giving Him priority in your time, giving him quality time.

Physical Touch
Now, I admit, this one is difficult for me to figure out in relation to God. We cannot physically touch God or hold His hand. But something about physical contact with loved ones that makes me feel loved is just the fact that I can feel them present and close to me. So following that principle, some ways we can show physical love to God is by being 100% present mentally and physically when we are spending time with God—either at church, or in our personal devotions and prayer time. Also, in the Bible Paul says that our bodies are the temples of God, so keeping ourselves in good physical health by eating well and exercising is another way to show physical love for God.

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Words of Affirmation
This is something I think I often neglect. And the easiest way to do it is simply by thanking God for the blessings in your life, thanking and praising Him for the ways He has revealed Himself to you, and acknowledging in our prayers His power, majesty, and worthiness of our worship and adoration. Some ways you may not have considered before might include writing love notes to God (just like you might to your spouse), praying Psalms of praise and thanksgiving out loud to God, or sharing with other people the great things that God has done in your life.