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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 22 :: Baked Goods are always a blessing (Best Brownie Recipe)

One of the easiest ways to bless someone might be to simply bake some treats and take them to a friend, a neighbor, your co-workers.  And not just during times of sickness or if there's been a birth in the family, although meals at those times are needed.  What about the people who are always the ones to bring the meals to others?  Maybe they could use a little sweet surprise in their day.  Giving someone something 'just because' might be the thing they need to feel encouraged and loved.   Again, it's going out of my way to think of others before myself and serve them in love.

Brownies and cookies are a wonderful treat to give, but breakfast baked goods are also a great treat to bring.

Pumpkin Bread at this time of year, especially, is a big hit.  And this recipe is one I shared in my 31 Day series last year.  

Whole Wheat Banana Bars are great for breakfast, but can also be a good snack.


This Cranberry Chocolate Coconut Granola (my sister's recipe) looks delicious and would be so pretty wrapped up in a bag with some twine or in a jar with a cute label.

This brownie recipe is so easy, and most of you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry.  The point is not to wow someone with your baking skills, it's to simply bring a small gift of food to someone to let them know you were thinking of them.

The Best Brownies

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate (or 18 tablespoons cocoa powder and 6 tablespoons oil, melted)
1/4 cup butter
4 eggs
2 Tablespoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375F.  Butter and lightly flour a 9x13-inch pan.  In a heavy bottomed saucepan melt the butter and chocolate over low heat, watching and stirring often.  When melted, remove from the heat and cool.

In a mixing bowl, put the eggs, vanilla, salt, and sugar, and beat well using an electric mixer for 8-10 minutes.  Stir in the chocolate mixture gently, then add the flour, stirring only until blended.  Spread evenly in the pan and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove and let cool.  Let settles for a few hours, then slice.

source:  Fanny Farmer Cookbook

This is Day 22 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Day 21 :: When you don't know who to bless

Thinking about 'being a blessing' can be pretty overwhelming.  Does anyone remember that little song, "Make me a blessing"?  It's really a prayer, asking God to help us be a blessing to someone who needs something.  I googled this song to try and find the words, and I was surprised to find that there are many songs with this same title.  The one I've pasted here was written by Fanny Crosby.  

I like the fact that the desire here is to bless others out of the Spirit's leading.  This is what I talked about last week in a blesser being someone who walks in the Spirit and displays the fruit of the Spirit's work in interactions with others.  

What I fear is overwhelming to some of us, though, is the wondering.  Who am I going to rub shoulders with today that I can bless?  The prayer, 'Help me, Lord, not to miss out on someone who might need encouragement'.  While looking for someone to bless is part of it I think we might be missing something.

The reality is that we have people in our lives everyday who need us to bless them.  Searching for someone to bless is not the point of being a blesser.  Being a blesser is about recognizing the people that are in our lives and living out the love of Christ to them on a daily basis.

We each live within a sphere of relationships:  family, roommates, neighbors, co-workers, friends.  It's within this sphere of daily relationships that I often find myself neglecting to bless.

Like my neighbors. When was the last time I went out of my way to serve them or to include them in my life?  Friends from church or other social settings.  Can I invite someone over to have a conversation, instead of just liking and commenting on their photos on Facebook?  Or my family who live far away.  In what ways can I continue to build those relationships and encourage, support, and love them when our lives only cross paths a few times a year? My husband and kids.  This is where it really gets me.  Yes, I take care of them--cook meals, make sure everyone has clean clothes--but am I actively finding specific ways to be a blesser to the people who are most precious to me?

Okay, so now that list was a little overwhelming at first glance.  How in the world do I bless all of these people when I have so many other things to do?

It's a dying to self.  This is why blessing others is so hard for me.  I like myself.  I like my time, my things, my comfort, my relaxation, my ideas, my whatever, you fill in the blank.  Doing what is important to me is easy and if I'm not careful I can get so caught up with myself without even realizing it.  

Everyday I have to put myself aside and allow God to fill me and honor others before myself.  

It's what I tell my girls all the time when they aren't getting along, "Think of others before yourself", "Do unto others as you would have them do to you,"  "Serve each other in love."

This has to happen in my marriage, with my kids, my neighbors, my friends, the people at the store, the homeless man on the side of the road, the people who irritate me, my enemies if I have them. 

Is it hard?  Yes.  Will I fail?  All the time.  

But I have the greatest example of one who blessed in this way.  

Jesus, the servant of all, who in every way thought of others as more important than Himself. And by His humble service He blessed.

This is Day 21 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Monday, October 20, 2014

Day 20 :: The blog post that YOU are going to write

On Saturday I introduced you to some people who have been blessers in my life.  By no means did that list contain all of the people that have blessed me throughout my life!  In fact, as I continued to think about it, many more individuals came to mind.  It's fun to look back and remember how God has used various people throughout my life to impact me in one way or another.


If you haven't taken a minute to think through the blessers in your life, I'd encourage you to!  It's a great exercise and you'll come away from it with a thankful heart.

Before I press on in this series with who we are supposed to bless and how we do that, I thought today you should write my blog post!  I need your help with my definition of a blesser.  It certainly doesn't cover everything, and I'd love to have your input on how you feel blessed, or what you do to be a blessing.

Once again, here's the definition I made up:

We're focusing now on the second aspect of this definition--blessing other people.

In one word, or one sentence, I'd love to have you answer one of both of these questions today:

1.How would you define a blesser? 

2.What does a blesser do? 

Feel free to comment here (don't worry if it doesn't appear right away. I approve all comments so you'll have to check back later), or simply comment in the comment sections on Facebook.

Thanks for your help!

This is Day 20 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of blessing

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Day 18 :: Meet some amazing blessers

In coming up with practical ways to bless others, I started thinking through the people who have blessed me.  And when I thought about the practical things they did that blessed me, I had to ask myself:  Why was that a blessing?

If I want my life to be a blessing to others I probably need to start blessing in the ways that I have been blessed.

These friends of ours...I can't even begin to tell you all the ways they have blessed us over the years.  From monetary gifts, to a camera, to bags of goodies on my front door after having babies, taking our photos, talking through major life issues, watching my kids, driving out of their way to visit us, teaching me to be more relational...I could go on and on.  Friends who give of themselves over and over again are a blessing.

Friends who empathize in life's most challenging circumstances.  These kinds of relationships are rare, but so valuable.  It's easy to find people who will listen, but people who let you hurt instead of trying to fix your problems--this is what my friend did for me, and she blessed me.

These relationships span over years of time.  I married into these friendships (some aren't pictured here) and can I just tell you that they have loved me as if I was with them from the beginning?  They call on our birthdays, they visit no matter where we live. When my brother died, they gave, called, texted, and drove hours just to attend the viewing so they could hug me.  We laugh, cry, talk, and share a lot of life with these people and they bless me over and over again.

These friends represent those who have blessed me by the lives they live overseas.  I spent six weeks with this couple and their family one summer, and they allowed me to participate in their cross-cultural lives.  They challenged me, pushed me, and asked me hard questions.  Just being an observer to how they lived was a blessing.  Countless others through the years have been blessers by the ways they have poured into the people around them.  Although I don't see you all often, some of you only every few years, please, know that by living in obedience to the Lord you bless me.

Oh, these ladies.  The one on the left helped me to deliver Mason, and then just a little over a year later she held my hand, cried with me, and took extra special care of Jennavieve while she was in the NICU for two weeks.  And, the nurse holding Jennavieve is the one who sat with me during my labor with Jenna. She was amazing.  Not only did she offer quality medical care, she also took my camera later on that day and snapped hundreds of pictures for us.  Nurses have become dearer and dearer to me as I've given birth to my babies and I'm so grateful for the way that they love on me and my kids.

Family blesses time and time again.  I married into this one and I am so thankful.  They love me, my husband (of course!) and my kids.  We share joys, trials, and silly moments.  I know that they pray for our family and that in itself is a blessing.  My in-laws give and give, not just to us, but to countless others around the world.  Their lives have impacted many and their faithfulness to the Lord impacts me often.  Do you know what else blesses me about family?  The fact that other people give to them.  When I hear how someone invited my mother-in-law over when she's alone makes me thankful.  Friends who give of their time and resources to support my sister-in-law and her family as they prepare to move overseas--those people bless me by their sacrifice for my family. 

I couldn't find a very recent picture of my own family (we've added three children among us since this one), but the ways in which my parents and siblings bless me are boundless.  Watching my parents handle challenging circumstances encourages me in my own walk.  My sisters' interest in my life makes me feel loved and cherished; they remember the details.  The love that they all pour on my kids is something I never could have imagined.  And, again, it blesses me when I hear how people are serving them.  Like the time a friend watched my sister's children so she could have a much needed morning to herself.  Or the boss who showered my sister with a generous Christmas gift.  The young families who bring meals to my parents "just because".  Blessings extend beyond the immediate recipient. 

My husband (I'm going to talk about him later on) but I can't let him go unnoticed here.  I was completely in love with him when we got married, but that has only grown deeper over the years.  He gives sacrificially every day.  He pushes me to be a better person.  He loves our children.  And even in the face of great discouragement, he doesn't give up.

These pictures are just a few of the many who have blessed my life.

This list doesn't include the strangers that bless me with their smiles, their compliments on my children, their willingness to hold the door for me when my hands are full.

And the lady that I saw yesterday who was visiting her son.  By the little bits I heard from their conversation as I ran past, it sounded like they hadn't seen each other in a while and they were just catching up on what was happening in each of their lives.  It just made me smile to see a mother-son relationship in action.

I think there's a common thread here:  serving.

The people who have blessed me throughout my life are people who have served me or someone I love out of the love and generosity of their heart.  This takes humility, selflessness, sometimes sacrifice, and always love.

So, I ask you today: who has blessed you?

This is Day 18 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of blessing