Friday, December 5, 2014

Come Visit the New Blog!

Welcome!  Only From Scratch has moved and changed names!  Come, and visit us:

Lauren is still the author, and she'll be writing about the same kinds of things, so if you want to keep following along, visit us here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Thankful List

Our Pastor here read a verse from Psalm 33 a few weeks ago that has been running through my mind a lot:  "Praise befits the upright."  Praise, thankfulness, adoration, gratitude...all these words we use when we talk about praising and giving thanks to God.  They are suited for us.  Let's wear ourselves out with praise, not just because it's Thanksgiving, but because it is beautiful for the people of God to live lives of praise.

My friend Julie has been writing Monday Gratitude posts that I've really enjoyed.  She always inspires and encourages me in my walk with the Lord, so I thought I would put feet to what she's taught me, and make my own Thankful List this week.

1. warm bedding
2. coffee with cream and sugar
3. electricity
4. healthy children
5. the ability to have children
6. a husband who "loves me more than babies love breast milk" (he just told me this)
7. a husband who keeps me laughing (see above)
8. in-laws who came to visit us and have watched my children, helped around the house and spent precious time with us this last week.
9. 10 hour date with my husband on Sunday
10. direction about our future
11. parents who celebrate 37 years of marriage today
12. siblings who love God
13. God's Word that I can open freely every day and read in my own language
14. the gospel
15. family who is hosting us for Christmas this year, since we will be in transition
16. Down syndrome
17. leaves that change color in Florida
18. neighborhood children that play in my backyard
19. a playground for my kids
20. the ability to walk and run
21. good books
22. steak and shrimp for Thanksgiving dinner
23. my education
24. people I've met on Instagram that point me to Jesus
25. technology
26. the conviction of the Holy Spirit
27. friends who live all over the world
28. sunsets
29. quiet early mornings
30. music
31. tickle fights between my husband and children
32. daughters who care for their brother
33. vanilla lattes
34. a gift card to purchase said vanilla lattes from my favorite coffee shop
35. a sister who's opening her home for my girls' birthday party this year
36. a new Advent book that looks incredible (order yours here in time for Advent which begins on Monday!)
37. Jesus--the greatest gift of all time
38. the love of a great God

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Home I've come to love

During the 8+ years we've been married, we've lived in seven different cities, purchased two homes, and rented various apartments.  Each place has been unique in style, age, and function.  All of them have been home.

This place that we've been in for the past four months in Florida didn't feel like home when we first moved in.  We were without belongings for almost two weeks which stretched us, contributed to my closing the blinds and refusing to answer the doors, and we were frustrated living here for about two months.  The carpet and fixtures are dingy.  The rooms are smaller than we're used to.  We don't have a beautiful yard like our home in Georgia.

But something changed.  We began to feel at home here, not because the interior became more beautiful, but because our hearts accepted that this was the place God had for us right now.  Our home, this town, this season of life.  These months have been a gift, and our home has been a part of that gift.

Things are not centered on the walls.  My children decorate their room in ways that I dislike, and they love it and get much delight out of creating their own space.  Mason's bed is on the floor and doesn't look how I would want, but at least he's not falling out of it every night.  Our front porch has a random assortment of items on it, including a dead mum and fishing poles.  But these things are evidence to me of a fun hobby to enjoy, and not being overly worried about appearance (something I needed to work on).   The living room is missing two lamps because my son finally broke them after pulling them onto the floor multiple times.  You will see items where they 'don't belong', books placed haphazardly on bookshelves, and dead branches, pine cones, and seashells on the piano.  The upstairs bathroom door stays off of the hinges at all times (unless we have company like we do right now) because it's almost impossible to bathe my children with the door on.   And you'll notice a pillow behind the headboard in our master bedroom.  (When your bedroom backs up to your neighbor's bedroom, you have thin walls, and your bed squeaks....well, you get the reason for the pillow...)

I miss my granite counters, deep bathtub, large windows, window treatments, and extra square footage.  I look forward to the day when I have space to store papers and use my seasonal decor.  I would love to have neatly made beds and clear surfaces at the end of every day.  I like pretty things and beautifully decorated spaces.  Some day I'd like to have those things again.

But do you know what I've come to learn?  Those things are not necessary for me to feel at home.

Home is created when I cultivate an attitude of gratefulness and joy in my heart.  When I  accept God's plan, regardless of how different it is from my own.  I can choose to be thankful for what He has given me because I don't deserve any of it.  I can embrace the different places and circumstances He gives me because I trust that His purposes are good and best and He is at work in my life.

Today, I want to invite you into our home, the home I've come to love.

You won't find these pictures on Pinterest or in a magazine, but this is our life right now, and it is good.

May you have a blessed weekend!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Next Steps & New Blog Name

Living in Florida has resulted in a new hobby for Bradley.  And, we found out yesterday that we'll be able to take this hobby with us!  Virginia Beach, here we come!!

We're looking forward to being closer to family and still being able to live near the water.  Now, we have a lot of decisions to make before the kids and I head out of here in just 6 weeks.  I already started looking into housing and schools yesterday.  This process can always be a bit overwhelming, so we'd appreciate your prayers as we strive to be wise in our choices.  I couldn't get to sleep last night thinking through all of the things that I need to get done.  I'm asking the Lord for calmness of spirit. 

It's been over a month now since I shared that I'll be launching a new blog.  Well, October was a full month for me writing every day, so I didn't have as much time to work on the finishing details of my new blog.  But, things are underway now, and hopefully sometime within the next 2 weeks, I'll be ready to start writing on my new space!

In the meantime, I've had to request a change to my Facebook page, and because of that, I decided to share the name of my blog with you now.  Here's my new name and logo:

I tossed around many ideas for a name, and finally landed on this one, and I love it.  It summarizes exactly the things that I enjoy writing about, plus it gives me the freedom to truly be what's called a 'lifestyle blog'.  That means I'm not limited to cooking or decorating, or even motherhood.  I can write about my life--whatever is happening--and my desire is to share all of that in light of the truth of God's Word.  Again, a more eloquently written description will be coming. :)

During the first few weeks of my blog launch, I'm planning to host some giveaways.  I'm really excited about this next step for my blog and I want to celebrate it.  For you, it's just a treat, because you'll have the opportunity to win some fun new things.  This is where some of you come in!  

If you own an Etsy shop, online store, sell a product that you think my readers would enjoy, or know someone who does, please contact me!  I'm looking to highlight some great products during this celebration giveaway.  You can email me at onlyfromscratch (at) gmail (dot) com.  

Here's what I'm looking for:

1. A shop who would be willing to donate an item(s) to be given away.

2. Shops who would provide discounts for Life with Truth readers.

3. Shops whose products I LOVE that I can purchase from and highlight in a blog post/giveaway.

Happy Friday to all of you!  

May you have a refreshing weekend!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What I Learned in October

It seems hard to believe that we're already into November!!  I went to the mall on Saturday and was shocked to hear Christmas music playing.  While I love the holiday season, I also really love November and I refuse to think about decorating and getting ready for Christmas right now.

Emily hosts these end of the month link-ups every month, and I love to think back through the different things I've learned.  Some serious, some silly, but all lessons worth noting.

1. Southern food continues to be my favorite to eat and cook.  I was sent a copy of the new Southern Living Community Cookbook to review, and let me just tell you it is hands down, the best cookbook I've ever used.  I've made several recipes from it, each of them being a hit.  Sweet Potato Biscuits, Butternut Squash Soup, Grillades and Grits, Sausage and Pinto Bean Dip, just to name a few that I've cooked so far.  I look forward to trying out more recipes, including a Hummingbird Cake, which has been on my 'to-do' list for awhile.

2.  Persimmons are a fruit that grows on trees.  They look like oval oranges, but aren't supposed to be eaten on their own; usually you put them into jams or baked goods.  We didn't taste any, so I can't comment on the flavor, but I had always been curious about these things.

3. Cotton fields are beautiful, particularly when the cotton is ready to be picked.  It's like big snowballs growing in a row.  We found this patch on a back road near an Alabama farm.  I might have picked some to take home...

4. Losing weight in my 20's was way easier than losing weight in my 30's.  In college, I could simply cut back on my calories.  I've found now that doesn't work.  Exercise and cutting back are necessary.  But, when I combine them, it works.  As of this morning I've lost 62 pounds since giving birth to Jennavieve 15 months ago.  This is very exciting to me, and it's fun to finally wear some clothes that have been collecting dust in my closet for the past few years.  My favorite pair of  red pants will be worn this year, without fear of ripping the seams when I bend over. Ha!

5. Running is way better with a friend.  I had a goal to try and do a 4-mile run by the end of October.  My sweet friend Trish was in town for the weekend and she agreed to accompany me on Friday.  With her help I did it!  Having someone to talk with made it go by more quickly, and I didn't even want to give up.  Now, my goal before Christmas is to try for a 6-mile run.  I may need to find a running friend :).

6.  Writing everyday on this blog is not realistic during this season of life.  I thoroughly enjoyed the #write31days challenge, and had fun with my topic, Made to Pour, but it's been nice to take a break the past few days from writing.

7. Fall does come to Florida, it's just not full of cold weather, brightly colored leaves, and snuggling under blankets.  There is beauty to be found, though, and the colors on these plants by the ocean are gorgeous.  I have always loved wearing shorts and a long-sleeved shirt, so this weather is perfect for me.  My sandaled feet are quite happy each day, and it's possible I'll still be wearing them come Thanksgiving.  I'm very much okay with that.

What did you learn in October?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Day 31 :: Concluding Thoughts

This month has been a fun challenge for me to try and write on the same topic every day.  At the beginning, I wasn't sure if I would make it through the whole month, but here we are and I didn't miss a single day.  I made a deal with myself that I would only keep going if it wasn't interfering with my family's needs.  The other part of the deal was that I had to enjoy it.  I'm thankful to say that I kept both ends of the deal with myself :)

But, here are some of my concluding thoughts on Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing, and the #write31days challenge:

1. There is MUCH more about living a life of blessing than I have written in these blog posts.  I crammed some of my thoughts into my posts, but many more are swirling in my head, and surely there are things that I'm still yet to learn.  It's a process.

2. My family is teaching me how to be a blesser as I live with them every day.

I asked Mallory one day, "What makes you happy?"  Her answer?  "Eating doughnuts makes me happy."  So, one of the ways I've learned to bless her is by doing fun things throughout the day.  She often gets lost in the shuffle of Isabella's schooling and Mason's therapy.  When I plan specific things for her to enjoy in the midst of running errands, she lights up.  We get muffins or doughnuts from the coffee shop, throw coins in the fountain, she puts the groceries in the cart at the store, and she even enjoys helping me clean the house.  I'm learning to understand each of my children and strive to minister to their hearts in special ways.

Mason--oh my, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to count the number of lessons I've learned from him.  Recently, though, he's been teaching me that being a blesser is rejoicing with others.  He finds great delight in others' happiness.   He loves watching kids play on the park and wants to join right in with them.  If we laugh, he laughs, and usually he has no idea what's so funny.  Everyone we encounter is a friend to him and he eagerly waves and says "Hi" to each person we pass by.  He doesn't hold back his joy, and I'm learning that in this freedom he feels, other people find delight in the things that make him happy.

Isabella thrives on playing with the kids in our neighborhood.  It doesn't matter who is out there, she wants to have fun with each one and says, 'Goodbye!  We'll play with you tomorrow!' a million times when we call her in for dinner each night.  If her friends are thirsty, she runs inside, fills up cups with ice and water and brings them a drink.  She gives without hesitation and her joy in giving inspires me. She loves her siblings well, and each of them adore her!  There is clapping and exclaiming from all of them when we pick her up from school each day.

Jennavieve is our little firecracker right now.  She can be full of delight one minute and cranky the next.  But she loves her brother.  Their relationship is precious and each day as I observe them I get to see firsthand what it means to love someone unconditionally.  Yes, they steal each other's toys and get mad at one another, but they have a bond that won't be broken and I love it.

My husband (I mentioned him earlier this month as one of my amazing blessers) just keeps on.  The sacrifices he makes for our family are wonderful and I couldn't be more thankful for a husband who fiercely loves each one of us.

3. I cannot continue to write a blog post every day.  This was not a new realization to me, but having it confirmed was quite helpful.  My new blog should be launched very soon (stay tuned for more info on that next week!!) and I've been thinking through how I'm going to make that transition.  Knowing my limits is wonderful as I look toward making my new blog really be a place where I can write, and hopefully write well.  Yes, challenging myself to write everyday certainly helped in some ways, but in this season of my life, it's just not realistic on a regular basis.

4.  There might be a few more posts coming on this topic, specifically some stories that I'd like to share with you.  The nice thing about writing on a blog is that you're not limited to a number of pages or confined by a publisher's deadlines and restrictions.  I can write whatever I want, whenever, and I can keep writing about living a life of blessing as God teaches me more and more what that looks like.

Thanks for joining me on this journey this month.  It's been fun for me, and I hope you've come away with some things to think on.

Happy Friday!  Happy end of October!

And, stay tuned for more info on my new blog coming soon...

This is Day 31 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day 30 :: Pouring comes from a deeply contented heart

When I am content with what the Lord has given, or taken away, or not yet revealed, I can bless Him.

A heart that is content can see the success and joy in others without becoming envious.  Envy rots the bones and is a hindrance to blessing others.  When I compare my life to someone else's it becomes very easy to withhold serving and blessing them because I begin to feel they are undeserving.  

If I want to truly live a life of blessing, pouring out to the Lord and those around me, I must have a heart that is content.

"God carries his children through this world through a variety of conditions.  Sometimes we lack, and at other times we abound.  This allows our graces to be tested.  We will find that God's love is stable, certain, and constant in a variety of conditions.  God does not change, and his love is constant however our lives might change.  We must learn not to quarrel with God's government.  Let God do as he pleases as he brings us to heaven.  It is no matter what the way is like, or how rugged it is, as long as he brings us there.  God's grace is able to carry his children above all conditions."

Richard Sibbes, Voices from the Past, p 323

This is Day 30 of a series:  Made to Pour, living a life of Blessing

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day 29 :: How to pour when I'm empty

Throughout this month as I've been thinking on my topic "Made to Pour" and learning what it looks like to live a life of blessing, there's been a nagging question in the back of my mind:

  How can I pour when I'm empty?

Maybe some of you wonder the same thing.  Life can be so busy and we go and go, give and give, and then we're spent.  Good things can be so draining.

In addition, hardship comes to all of us in different forms and these crises cause grief and pain that make us feel needy, not ready to give to others. 

I've been there.  I experienced months of soul-neediness and I learned that backing away from some of things that I typically did to serve others was okay. 

Being a part of the worship team at church was a way that I used my gifts to bless our church family.  But when I was working through the news that Mason had Down syndrome I couldn't play the piano without crying.  It's kind of hard to hit the right notes when you can't read the music, and messing up the band wouldn't have blessed anyone.  So, I backed off of this ministry for awhile.  

When Jennavieve was born and I was juggling two babies and two preschoolers, I had a hard time planning out my grocery list.  The thought of entertaining people in our home was way too overwhelming.  It took forever for me to cook dinner for a few extra people and I would get distracted, usually ending up in tears at the thought of having to talk to people for a few hours.  This was something we had always done, so giving it up for awhile was really hard.   But we knew it was best for our family, so we put that form of 'blessing' on hold.  

Did this mean I stopped being a blesser?   I hope not.  I think part of living a life of blessing is just being a follower of Christ.  If we are seeking to walk in the Spirit, then whatever we do, will bless others because it will point people to Jesus.  

I liked what one person said as a definition of being a blesser:  it's bringing someone to a point of seeing God more clearly for who He truly is.

Maybe by knowing our limits and living within those, we're helping others to realize that our relationship with God and service to Him is not about how much we do.  It's just being in Him.  When I watch people depend on the Lord, I see God as a God who loves, comforts, and strengthens His people.  This is a blessing.

Blessing others doesn't always have to be about serving others either.  It blesses me when I hear people's honesty about their pain, and still acknowledge God's goodness in the midst of their suffering.  So, even when you're backing away from doing, you can bless people by continuing to live a life of faith in God regardless of your circumstances.  

Not only have the challenges of life left me feeling empty, they also make me feel like I'm a mess.  

How do I bless the Lord when I'm a mess?  I think it's pretty simple: I have to realize that my mess is where He met me in the first place. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)  "Bless the Lord...who redeems your life from the pit" (Psalm 103:4)  So, if I think that my mess--whether I made it or not--is a hindrance to blessing the Lord then I've failed to understand God.  He is my Redeemer.  And His love never fails.  When I come to Him in the midst of my mess, His very presence becomes the most precious gift, and He continues to teach me that He is enough.

Blessing others when I'm a mess?  Maybe a break from some forms of service are needed so we can heal.  

But the truth is, we're all a mess, whether we realize it or not.  There is nothing in any of us that is capable of blessing anyone apart from the grace and strength of the Lord.  We are simply vessels.  

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us...For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh...So we do no lot lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day..." (portions of 2 Corinthians 4:7-16).

The acts we do of blessing others, pouring out, will probably look different from time to time, but we can live a life of blessing by allowing the power of God to shine through us so that others see Jesus, even when we feel empty and in the midst of our biggest messes. 

This is Day 29 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of blessing

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Day 28 :: On wondering how to bless

"What is the best way for us to encourage you?"

This was how my Mom started one of our evening conversations at the beach last month.

After we all joked that Starbucks gift cards, Chick-fil-a meals, or cash worked, we took turns sharing how we feel most encouraged.  There were a variety of answers:  written notes, a listening ear, words of praise, empathy, truth.  In  a group of just 8 people we differed in the ways we liked to receive encouragement.

So, I concluded that not everyone likes to be 'blessed' in the way that I do.  And if I'm struggling to figure it out?  Just ask.  

People around us might be hurting, struggling, or going through a challenging time.  And, yes, we can certainly depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us on how to minister to them.  But, I think sometimes we feel at a loss as to how to help and so we just don't do anything.

Maybe we need to say, "How can I best serve you right now?" 

I have always loved this verse.  There is so much packed into those few words about how our speech can hold power to impact someone in a positive way.  While it is a verse on speech, I think the principle can hold that any timely act of service or word of encouragement will bless someone.  

Maybe we need to sit down with those close to us and have a 'how can I encourage you' conversation.  It was really fun for our family to spend some time discussing this.  We all came away learning a little bit about one another.  

So, if you get a question from me about this, you'll know why :)

And, to the one who might be asked the question:  Tell them.  Be honest.  If someone is wanting to bless you, allow them that opportunity.  I'll be the first to admit that it's really hard for me to receive help from people.  But I continue to learn that this whole 'living a life of blessing' isn't just for me.  If we're all striving to bless those around us, then we need to be willing to be blessed.  And just as giving blessing takes humility, receiving blessings also requires humility.  

This is Day 28 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day 27 :: The time I kept the blinds closed and refused to answer the door

Right before we moved to Florida this summer I had the privilege of attending a Missions Conference at my parents' church, the church I was raised in.  It was so encouraging to be around missionaries from all over the world and hear the stories of relationships they were building with their neighbors, co-workers, random people they encountered.  They had a theme song for the conference; the chorus went like this:

I wanna be your hands and feet, I wanna be your voice every time I speak.  
I wanna run to the ones in need in the name of Jesus.  
I wanna give my life away, all for Your kingdom's sake.  
Shine a light in the darkest place, in the name of Jesus.

I left that week with a resolve to be intentional with relationship building once we got settled in Florida.  I even wrote this post about friendship, sharing a little bit of what I had learned.

Well, do you know what I did the second day we were in our home?  I closed all the blinds and refused to answer the door because I didn't want to talk to anyone.  

Within five minutes of opening our front door I had been bombarded with people who were very different from me, heard some unsettling stories, and had children clamoring to come into my empty home asking to eat our food (we had none) and play upstairs with my kids (who had no toys).  

I didn't want any of them in my life.  They were disrupting my space and making me uncomfortable.  I blamed it on the fact that we had no furniture for two weeks.  But the truth was I was neglecting to simply be someone who lived to serve people in the name of Jesus.  

I guess I was looking for something comfortable, hoping for people who were like me that were easy to get to know and be with.  The reality was that might never happen.  I could always be in a place where I looked different from other moms and had differing values.  I needed to look beyond the apparent differences to peoples' hearts and love them the way Jesus does.  Isn't that what I had been singing about just weeks before?  

This is what happens sometimes with living a life of blessing.  We look for opportunities, sometimes even wanting a big or new ministry.  But, there are probably people already in our lives that we can serve.  We might just not want to, or we might blind to the opportunities because we want something better, more interesting, or people who are easy to serve.  

Lysa Terkeurst wrote a book recently called The Best Yes.  In it she shares how to make wise decisions in our lives that are often too busy, sometimes with good things, and what it means in the midst of that to have a 'best yes'.  I was convicted in a lot of ways as I read through her book, but what stood out to me this summer was this:

"We will see our Best Yes answers most clearly when we are present, paying attention, seeing what we need to see, and being willing to extend God's love in the moment."

I didn't need to find people like me to serve and bless.  I just needed to pay attention and love the people around me. 

When I started paying attention I realized that my next door neighbor was hungry to learn about God's Word.  So we started doing a Bible study together.  One of Bradley's co-workers was here without her husband and kids for six months and feeling lonely.  So, I try to stay connected with her through the week, we try to include her in our family movie nights every now and then, and she is interested in learning about God, so she has come to Bible study too.  The neighborhood kids can sometimes have a negative influence on my children, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't encourage relationships with them.  The girls are learning how to serve, love, and be with people.  Yes, we have many teaching moments as a result, but our prayer is that even our kids will learn how to be a light and extend God's love to those around them.  

I want to extend God's love to everyone I encounter.  My husband, my kids, my neighbors, my friends, my extended family, a cashier at the grocery store, a homeless person on the side of the road, a parent sitting next to me during Mason's therapy sessions.  

Living a life of blessing means I have to pay attention.  To the Holy Spirit's prompting and to the people and situations around me.  Practically this will look different for each of us, but it requires being involved in the small moments of our days, aware to what's happening around us.   

This is Day 27 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

In the midst of reading Lysa's book, my friend Julie also wrote a series on Hospitality.  And although we aren't seeking to do a lot of entertaining in our home while we're here, the principles that Julie shared in her posts encouraged me that there were still ways that I could seek to be hospitable and open up my home in different ways. For those of you who are hesitant to open up your homes, her series is excellent!  Please, go and read her 3 part series:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day 26 :: A Sunday Hymn

  1. Living a life of blessing can only happen through the strength that God gives.  And it is my prayer that as I seek to serve those around me, looking out for their needs before my own, that they will see Jesus, not me, through whatever it is that I do or say.  

This hymn is one of my favorites and I think it summarizes beautifully this idea.  

May you have a blessed Sunday.

  1. May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
    Live in me from day to day,
    By His love and pow’r controlling
    All I do and say.
  2. May the Word of God dwell richly
    In my heart from hour to hour,
    So that all may see I triumph
    Only through His pow’r.
  3. May the peace of God my Father
    Rule my life in everything,
    That I may be calm to comfort
    Sick and sorrowing.
  4. May the love of Jesus fill me
    As the waters fill the sea;
    Him exalting, self abasing,
    This is victory.
  5. May I run the race before me,
    Strong and brave to face the foe,
    Looking only unto Jesus
    As I onward go.
  6. May His beauty rest upon me,
    As I seek the lost to win,
    And may they forget the channel,
    Seeing only Him.

This is Day 26 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of blessing

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Day 25 :: Blessing others should become a habit

Writing this month has been good for me in several ways, but mostly, it's been good because I'm learning.  And, oh, how far I have to go to truly live a life of blessing. 

Earlier this week I asked for your input on what a blesser is/does, and I received some great feedback that I wanted to share.  Thank you for your input--it has really helped me!  Here is what was said: 

A blesser is one who, by the Holy Spirit's enablement, brings another to a point of seeing God more clearly for who He truly is, thus glorifying God.

A blesser is someone who is sensitive, tuned in to people around them, and obedient to the Holy Spirit's direction as to how to reach out to those people.

A blesser "shows up" as God's ambassador when there is a need in someone's life to be encouraged, prayed for/with, assisted, or just to let someone know that they are cared for in such a way that through their love, God is glorified and praised!

Blessers use their words to speak life and blessing into those around them.  Blessers see others for their calling and destiny in Jesus instead of their immediate behavior.

And, in one email, I received the following that I thought was excellent:

Oh, how I struggle with these things!  May God continue to teach us how to live as blessers!

This is Day 25 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Friday, October 24, 2014

Day 24 :: How a rainbow led to a conversation about hell

Florida weather can change at any moment.  This can make planning for outdoor activities challenging, but it also means we get to see some amazing aspects of God's creation.  And when I'm paying attention, these glimpses of God in nature can bring about opportunities to teach my children.

As we drove to school one morning, it was starting to drizzle, but up ahead I could see blue skies.  I was inwardly praying for no rain by the time Isabella had to walk into school, when I noticed a gorgeous rainbow in the sky.  The girls saw it too, I snapped a picture, and we continued on our way.

On the way back home, 45 minutes later, Mallory, squealing with delight, pointed out the rainbow to me once again.

So, I talked with her about what I had been thinking of earlier when I saw the rainbow  "You know, rainbows are a way of reminding us of God's promises.  The first rainbow was in the sky right after Noah and his family got out of the ark."

Mallory:  "Mommy, is Noah dead?  What about Zaccheus?  And Moses?  How did they die?"

Me:  "Well, the Bible doesn't tell us how Zaccheus died, but it does mention that Moses and Noah died when they were old."

Mallory:  "I don't want to die."

Me: "We don't have to be afraid of dying if we believe in Jesus."


Mallory: "Why aren't you saying anything?"

Me:  "What do you want me to say, honey?"

Mallory:  "I want you to talk to me about dying."

These are the moments that I pray for.  The questions that my children might ask, opening a door for the gospel.  Often times I feel inadequate to answer the questions, and I sometimes fear misspeaking or not explaining things well enough for them to understand.  When a door opens, though, I try to seize the opportunity and beg God for wisdom in that moment.

So, when Mallory said she wanted me to talk to her about dying, we talked about dying.  I told her about Jesus, how He had died.  And that He rose again, and then God took Him to heaven, where He lives forever with God.  That was a good enough answer for her at the time, but then she asked me another question.

"What is Satan's place called?"

In this particular conversation she was working through the difference between heaven and hell.  Nothing more.  God is in heaven; Satan is in hell.  When we die, we either go to be with God in heaven, or we go to Satan's place.

Later on that day as we were driving home from picking Isabella up from school, Mallory said to Isabella, "When you die, if you believe in God you go to heaven, and if you don't believe in God you go to--Mommy, what's Satan's place called?--hell."

Isabella's exasperated reply, "Mallory, you have to believe that God SAVES you."

Before an argument broke out, we talked about our sin that requires being saved, and yes, we do need to believe that God alone can save us from our sin.

This isn't the only conversation we've had with the girls lately.  They have both been asking very good questions and wanting to understand salvation.

It's amazing to me how much they grasp.  And, yet, at the same time, there is so much about the Bible they don't understand.  "Faith like a child" has become something Bradley and I talk about more and more frequently.  What is a necessary measure of knowledge for salvation?  Specifically for our children?

Salvation came for me at the age of almost 5.  I distinctly remember sitting on the middle cushion of our brown faded couch, reading family devotions one night, and understanding that I was a sinner, I needed Jesus to save me, and I trusted in Him that night for my salvation.  It was pretty simple.

And from that point forward, the roots of Truth took hold in my heart and continued to grow, by the grace of God, in fertile soil.  People from my church invested in my life through discipleship, teaching me how to read my Bible, share my faith, and live in the light of God's truth every day.  My parents talked about the Bible with me, we discussed theological issues around the kitchen table late into the night.  They asked me about my faith.  They prayed for me.  They pushed me to seek God in everything, from relationships to teachers that I disliked, to college, career choices, and marriage.  Their counsel came from their own deeply rooted faith and by simply living it out and sharing it with me, I saw firsthand what it meant to follow Jesus.

This is what we want for our children.  We want to constantly be talking with them about the things of the Lord, not in an awkward or forced way, but in a 'this is my life of faith in Jesus, come live it with me' kind of way.


And so, when I see a rainbow in the sky, I share with my children that it reminds me of God's promises.  I didn't plan for that remark to bring about a conversation about hell, but it did.  Mentioning God in the midst of our days, as we go about our tasks, these are the moments that will open up doors for the gospel with our children.  

We can't make them believe, only the Holy Spirit can do that work, but we can be faithful to pray for open doors for the gospel, share the truth and live it out before our children.

This is the best way to bless our kids. 

This is Day 24 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Verse print can be found at Gracelaced.  Ruth is an excellent artist who creates beautiful prints and custom pieces.  She incorporates Scripture into her art and has a gorgeous collection of Christmas prints.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day 23 :: 10 Ways to Bless Your Husband

The first person in my sphere of relationships is my husband.  He comes before my children, my parents, my siblings and my friends.  And often he gets the leftovers.  I don't want this to be the case.  So, I asked him the other day:  "What do I do that blesses you?"  The post you see here is a result of that conversation, just in my own words.  

Trust him.  I am constantly having to relinquish what I think is best in order to trust my husband.  We do things differently.  But when I push my way on him I only build a wall between us that causes frustration on both sides.

For the most part, I don't find it hard to trust my husband to provide for our family and be a hard worker.  The areas in which I struggle to trust him are the day-to-day things.  Like when when he tells the girls it's okay to cross the street together.  Sometimes he feeds our kids chocolate cake for breakfast, and I have to stop myself from taking it away.  If he wants to buy me a new laptop, I need to trust that he is aware of our finances and making a wise decision.  Nagging him about every little decision that he makes that might be different from my way of doing things will only cause him to stop taking initiative.

I have to trust that my husband is seeking to do what he thinks is best and desiring to honor God in each area, just as I am.  Trusting our husbands is one of the greatest ways to show respect and be the help-mate we were created to be.

 Dream with him.  I learned early on in my relationship with Bradley that he is a dreamer.  It was fun when we were dating and I could get caught up in the romance of his ideas.  As time went on, though, the dreaming continued and I just didn't get it.  He would mention an idea that to me was ridiculous, and immediately I would tell him why it wouldn't work.  Not too long into our marriage this became a source of tension.  When we finally talked about it, he shared with me that even if I didn't think his ideas would work, he just wanted me to let him dream and join in the dreaming with him. 

So now, when he mentions having a lobster farm, buying a yacht and sailing around the world, or purchasing land in Montana, I try to settle in for a long conversation.  I ask him questions.  I give ideas of how it might work.  We research online together.   What I once considered a waste of time or 'chasing fantasies', I have come to realize is a great way for us to connect and have fun together.  And, as I dream with him, I find that his dreams sometimes become my dreams too.

Support his endeavors.  Sometimes Bradley's dreams move to reality and it's my job to trust his decision to move forward and get behind what he's doing.  This can be anything from career choices to hobbies to ministries that he wants to be involved with.  I support him by cheerfully responding to extra responsibilities placed on him at work, asking him questions about the things that interest him, joyfully helping him to pursue career choices that might be hard on our family, speaking positively about him to others (including my family), and work hard to not nag him about the areas that I dislike. 

I'll be honest that sometimes this is really hard for me.  I've had to learn a balance of being a cheerleader versus being a coach.  Supporting his endeavors will often be me on the sidelines cheering him on, and other times it's me helping him to figure out which endeavor to pursue.  God has helped us to learn this over the years; it always requires communication, humility, and wisdom.

Allow him to serve you.  My husband offers to do things for me all the time, but I spoil his desire to serve me by demanding my own way and things to be done on my terms.  When he does the dishes, I want the dishwasher loaded just so, and the counters wiped off completely.  If he watches the kids for a few hours I want him to play with them, not let them watch a movie, and if the kitchen isn't cleaned up when I come home, it spoils my time away.  

I'm learning that putting terms on his service to me is not being a good receiver, and is in fact quite selfish.  I should willingly accept his desire to help me, whatever that might be.  When my husband serves me, he is doing it out of love and I should consider his intentions to be good toward me.  Even if it's not what I would consider to be perfectly helpful, I need to allow him to serve me in the way that he can serve.  

Take care of yourself.  Showering, getting dressed, exercising and  making  an effort to be attractive for my husband goes a long way.  No, appearance isn't everything, but I have learned that my husband likes it when I try to look good.

For the past few weeks I've been more disciplined with my health and exercise than I ever have been.  And you know what?  I feel good about myself.  Taking care of my body helps to boost my self-esteem, confidence, and general well-being.  My husband notices this change and it helps him because I start believing his compliments, I'm more inclined to physical intimacy, and my spirits are lifted.  

Serve him.   In our home, I'm the one who cooks, cleans, and manages the household.  I don't work outside of the home, so taking on these responsibilities has suited us well.  I find joy in cooking meals for him and making sure there is always food in the house.  If the laundry piles up, he is forgiving, but I usually try to have his clothes clean, uniforms ready, and everything put away.  Making sure the bills are paid, spending isn't extravagant, and the kids are cared for frees him to focus on his work.  

Another way I have served my husband is by maintaining our social calendar.  I know his desire to have people in our home and I try to make this happen.  But, I also try to be flexible to allow for last minute guests that he decides to invite.  (I'll talk more about hospitality as a form of blessing in another post). 

Create a haven in your home.  With a little bit of effort I can make home a pleasant place for my husband.  I make our bed and try to keep our bedroom free of clutter.  If toys are scattered all over the floor when he comes home at the end of the day (which does happen from time to time), he can't relax as easily.  By taking a few minutes of my afternoon to straighten things up, sometimes light a candle, or have dinner cooking on the stove, I create an environment that my husband wants to be in.  

Havens don't need to be magazine or Pinterest worthy.  A haven is simply a peaceful, comfortable, and restful place.  

Initiate Sex.  When I asked Bradley how I bless him, his first answer was to chuckle and say, 'Well, nothing you can write about...' , which tells me that is exactly what I should write about.  I'll never understand the male need for sex, but I can't ignore that it exists.  Just like I want my husband to initiate conversation or time together, he wants me to make an effort to pursue him sexually.  And not just halfheartedly.  I often get it wrong in this regard, but he remembers (and often reminds me) of the times when I've made a creative and extra effort to initiate sex.  

Ask him what he wants.   In each of these areas I simply need to be willing to ask my husband for his input.  How can I trust him better?  What ways can I serve him?  How can I make a haven for him in our home?  Does he prefer a clean home, a dolled-up wife, or a good meal?  Our husbands are all different. so what works for my marriage might not work for yours.  By simply communicating with my husband about these areas I bless him by showing that I truly desire his good.

This is Day 23 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing