Nourishing Your Spirit During the Holidays: Part 1

Nourishing Your Spirit During the Holidays: Part 1

Our is a hungry society.  During a time of year when treats are rarely out of reach, it seems odd to say. But we’re not hungry for food or nourishment for our bodies. We’re hungry for connection and a way of nourishing our spirit.

 

We’ve all seen the unexpected effects of social media. We’re “friends” with hundreds and hundreds of people online, yet we’ve never felt so alone. If we do meet face-to-face for coffee or small groups, we fly in at the last minute, barely making it on time. Then we watch the clock the entire time we’re there. We rarely settle in to be present. Instead, our minds remain distracted by the tasks that await when we leave.

 

It can be hard to make new friends when we move at such a rapid pace. And it can feel even more difficult to keep friends when we let our busyness control our lives. Our feet hit a treadmill the moment we get out of bed and don’t stop till well after nightfall. Who has time for connection?

 

And then we add holiday festivities to the craziness.

 

The Cost of Holiday Craziness

 

Like most of us, I adore Christmas and the holiday season, even with its chaos. From Thanksgiving through New Year, so much points to Jesus and we have heartwarming reasons to celebrate. Our Lord came as Immanuel, entering the world to give His life so we can spend eternity with Him. The festivities draw loved ones to gather. We take in traditions and delicacies that come only once a year. The sights, smells, and generosity of the season often move me to tears.

 

But the stress!  The stress that stems from the busyness and overwhelming commitments gets the best of me. You know the drill… There are gifts to buy, treats to make, relatives to gather from the airport or a family to shuffle off to faraway destinations. While I adore my distant relatives, we don’t always see eye-to-eye and I find myself suppressing my ‘religious’ side so I don’t offend. I long for people to see the beauty and peace of Christ in me. Instead, in the busyness, they see a stressed-out and impatient hot mess.

 

It’s crazy to me how we can immerse ourselves with so much to do, so many people to see, and still carry a level of loneliness that makes us feel as if we live in Antarctica.

 

 Nourishing Your Spirit Through Connection

 

We feel lonely because we were created for connection. It was God’s idea from the beginning. That’s why we crave it so desperately. It’s why we feel so empty without it.

 

You and I were designed to connect within our communities, yes.  But we were created to connect first with God.

 

Since the beginning of mankind, God connected with His children. Following His creation of the world and mankind, God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

 

Now God is Holy. That means He’s perfect, without fault or blemish. It means He’s set apart—completely set apart from evil. When original sin happened, God could no longer fellowship with Adam and Eve. Because of His holiness, and because of their sin, He could no longer “hang out” with them.

 

What is Sin, Anyway?

 

You might find yourself asking, what is sin anyway? Simply stated, sin means missing the mark. In the Garden, Adam and Eve ate some fruit. It’s not like they ate processed carbs or sugar. They ate fruit, which is supposed to be good for us. The act seems so insignificant, but it was fruit God had specifically instructed them not to eat. They missed the mark and caused a devastating chasm of separation between them and God.

 

The Bible teaches us that sin brings death, but that there is life in blood. As strange as it sounds to us now, only by a covering of blood can God continue to fellowship with sinful people. There in the Garden of Eden, God provided the first blood offering to make amends for the sins of Adam and Eve. He made garments of animal skin to clothe them. God did that. He did all the work necessary to reconcile.

 

But because of Adam’s sin, all people are born with a sinful nature. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Separation from God continues to this day.

 

Why a Tabernacle?

 

In the book of Exodus, God took reconciliation another step. He commanded Moses to lead the Israelites to build what was called a Tabernacle. It was a huge, elaborate and ornate tent — essentially a building in early Bible times. God said to Moses “They are to make a sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them” (Ex 25:8).

 

Catch that — God was separated from mankind because of their sin, but still loved them so much He desired to abide with them.  That depth of love carries into our own lives today. Our sin separates us from God, but He provides a way to reconcile. He provides a way to connect and allow us to abide with Him both now and throughout eternity.

 

In the next post in the series, see the extent of God’s effort to reconcile with His beloved children—that’s you and me!

 

We long to nourish our spirit through connection. We’re hungry, but we don’t have to stay that way. The God of the universe desires to dwell in our hearts. When He does, we are never alone. When we connect with God in the way that He designed from the beginning, we nourish our spirit and can embrace a level of joy that is unshakeable in any circumstance.

 

I can’t wait to share more with you! Read the next post in the series here.

 

Nourish Your Spirit

Wisdom From the Vineyard

Wisdom From the Vineyard

My father-in-law is a viticulturist.

 

In other words, he grows grapes. The vineyard he planted is among fertile fields of northern California, surrounded by miles of thriving nut orchards. My husband and I love to visit, taking time to quiet our hearts and nourish our souls in the scenic farmland. Sometimes, while walking through the property we jokingly caution, “don’t drop a bean, or a beanstalk will sprout and climb to the clouds!”

 

When we return home, we find an opposite-world. We consider our Colorado property a small slice of paradise but compared to the lush greenery of our “California home” our residence resembles more of a desert. Ours was among the first divided parcels and new home construction in a once-rural area more than 50 years ago. I reason that a farmer sold the least fertile ground first. That’s where we live.

 

Wisdom from the Vineyard

 

When it comes to developing a green thumb, I study and try to learn as much as I can from my in-laws. My mother-in-law sends me seeds harvested from her own gardens. Some years when I plant them, they surprise me with stems and leaves and flowers. Other years late freezes add to my gardening struggles, or pesky weeds take over.

 

My father-in-law freely shares the wisdom and knowledge he’s acquired as he’s learned the craft of vine dressing: careful cultivating, nourishing the vines, and most importantly, thoughtful and meticulous pruning.

 

Nourishing our Spirits

 

The lessons we’ve learned from our time in the vineyard go far beyond agricultural and point us to the spiritual, too. Biblical references to pruning and tending vines reach deeply into our lives. They encourage us to nourish and care for our spirits by staying closely connected to our Source of sustenance, Jesus. That’s the place where we find unshakeable joy.

 

I’ve written a blog post for the Joyful Life Magazine to share more about what I’ve learned that the wisdom I’ve gleaned from the vineyard. I invite you to read the entire post here at JoyfulLifeMagazine.com.

 

Read the full post here.

 

May you find strength and joy in the Lord today.

 

Blessings,

 

 

 

 

 

Wisdom from the Vineyard

How Dating Can Transform Your Marriage

How Dating Can Transform Your Marriage

If you’re married, you’re going to make relational mistakes. You’ll say the wrong thing. Maybe you’ll sigh at the wrong time, or hold your eyebrows in the wrong expression, or worse. However it comes about, there is 100% certainty that you’ll disappoint your spouse. Since no marriage nor individual is perfect, disappointment is inevitable.

 

The good news is, we can quickly overcome these times of disappointment if a marriage receives proper care and focus.  Then, we can more quickly set aside suspicious or selfish thoughts with the assurance that there’s no ill-intent involved.  On the other hand, when TLC of marriage is neglected, challenging times can seem nearly impossible to conquer.

 

I’ve seen too many of what appear as unbreakable relationships (marriages, friendships, and family relationships) crumble from lack of attention. The hard reality is, we can’t strengthen a relationship while simultaneously neglecting it. No relationship is protected from breaking down without intentional effort to build it up.

 

When Schedules Don’t Mesh

 

One of the most memorable seasons of neglect in our marriage came as we lived through shift work. As a patrol deputy, Mike rotated onto an annual 4-month period of swing shift (5 pm – 3 am) and our schedules were completely opposite from one another.  That’s tough on a young family, yet typical in law enforcement lives.

 

When I’d get up for work, he was just reaching his deep sleep zone, so it was me, alone, getting myself and the kids ready to face the day.

 

I’d arrive home from work after he was gone for the night. It was me, alone, picking up kids from their caregivers, preparing dinner (often resorting to drive through), helping with homework, and getting ready for bed.

 

Much of the time I felt like a single mom. It wasn’t fun, but we knew it was temporary so we determined to muddle through. We had amazing kids, great careers, and above-average income. We had good friends who shared at least one evening a week with us. Truly, we believed we’d “arrived.”

 

We didn’t know we needed to take time,

just the two of us,

to cultivate our marriage.

And so we didn’t.

 

The more time we spent disconnected from each other, the more selfish my thought life became. Selfish thoughts bred more selfish thoughts that worked in opposition to a healthy married life.

 

And then, some of those relational mistakes hit us. Some big ones. While we used to easily talking things out, the neglect of our relationship had weakened our trust. We weren’t communicating effectively and had each become too self-centered. We needed to discover how dating could transform our marriage.

 

It took us several years to get back on track.  We had to make some significant change, letting go of things we valued in order to protect what we valued most. Eventually, with the Lord’s help we brought friendship, trust and balance back to our marriage. If I can name one thing—in addition to prayer—that had a monumental impact, it was prioritizing our date nights.

It can sound so “high-school” to say we’re dating our spouse. But consider the history of your own relationship. When did you get to know your spouse? Did you have one 10-minute conversation over coffee and realize this was true love? Was a quick hello and kiss on the cheek enough to develop a longing for life-long commitment? We get to know each other by spending time together. By talking, laughing, planning and even dreaming together.

 

Saying “I Do” shouldn’t mark the end

of a dating relationship,

but the promise to continue it.

 

No More Excuses

 

Sadly, dating our spouse is one of the first things that ends when the honeymoon is over. Pressures of life (careers, kids, finances, and many others) often distract us from prioritizing marriage. The reasons for NOT dating are many:

 

  • I see him /her all the time.  I need some “me” time.
  • We don’t have a good baby sitter.
  • We feel guilty for leaving the kids after working all day.
  • Who has time for a date?
  • Cash flow is too tight for entertainment.

 

 

These are valid concerns, but also easy to overcome. The value of dating is not entertainment, it’s the investment of time into our relationships. It’s growing closer in friendship, trust, and communication. It’s the process of showing that you value and esteem each other.

 

How Dating Can Transform Your Marriage

 

After years of a very rough road in our marriage, a breakthrough came when we learned to laugh together again. We considered ourselves friends anew and romance sparked from there.

 

Dating remains one of our go-to marriage solutions. When communication begins to misfire (and it still does), we carve out time to spend alone. Our schedules remain untraditional and hard to manage, so we get creative with our time.

 

We meet for breakfast or sit outside to share morning coffee. We squeeze in lunch together whenever possible.  A date can look like dinner out or a few hands of a card game at our kitchen table and can occur at any time of day or night. When Mike isn’t due home until very late in the evening, I take a short nap during the day so I’ll have the energy to spend time with him. Part of the fun of dating is finding inventive ways to sneak away together.

 

Dating is transformational. It reconnects us. Investing time in each other breaks down any walls of ill assumptions. It helps us re-center our focus on what matters most: God and our family.  If Mike and I weren’t willing to continually invest in strengthening trust and connection, we’d have given up long ago. Instead, a series of dates helped (and continues to help) change our thought patterns and transform our marriage. I believe that with the right mindset and a focus on honoring the Lord, dating is effective enough to bring positive strides in any marriage.

 

I encourage you to get creative and break down the barriers that have quenched your old dating habits. Schedule a date night and spend some time laughing and connecting with your spouse. You’ll find the investment will pay priceless dividends.

May you find God’s joy in your marriage,

 

 

 

 

 

Surviving Infidelity in Marriage

Surviving Infidelity in Marriage

Adultery is something that happens to other people. I never dreamed that it would find its way into our marriage story.

I certainly never imagined that it could be me who stumbled.

In spite of early convictions to never stray, I’d misjudged the strength of the enemy of our souls who constantly prowls. He moves with stealth precision, looking for someone to devour, for unsuspecting souls who think they’re immune to temptation.

I gave him an easy target.

He pounced.

I fell.

That was over a quarter century ago. By the grace of God, our marriage survived. In fact, it did more than survive, it has thrived and provided my husband, Mike and I with more than three decades of strength, joy, satisfaction, and partnership.

Surviving Infidelity in Marriage

In one of the most miserable seasons of my life, I’d lost all hope for our marriage and asked Mike to move out of our home. He obliged. The pain of separation was colossal, bringing a hollow emptiness where despair ricocheted rampantly.

God met us there, in those long weeks of anguish.

Alone in separate beds, without the other knowing, we each turned to prayer. I was untrained and uncomfortable in intercession. Mike was rusty at best. But in the dark of night, we cried out, asking God for His direction and help. We prayed for our marriage, for each other, and for healing within our own hearts.

When we mustered courage to look into each other’s eyes, we recognized that neither of us were ready to call it quits. Over the weeks and months that followed, the Lord helped us re-establish a friendship and even find laughter. We began attending church and responding to our Savior as He drew us closer to Himself.

Eventually, we started to feel safe in each other’s presence. Our cracked foundation of trust was gradually mended by rekindled companionship and devotion.

Confessing the Secret

But I still held a secret that threatened to destroy it again in an instant. The affair had been over for years by this time, but God was actively pressing in, bringing conviction and prompting me to confess.

Today Mike and I share our story in the #IStillDo marriage series, Contending for the Covenant. It’s a truly remarkable collection of hope and encouragement for marriage. I hope you’ll take the time to read about our journey and many others who have flourished through the fiery trials of marriage.

Click here to read our story.

May God’s Word strengthen you today,

Prayer is Powerful and Effective

Prayer is Powerful and Effective

There are countless—and urgent—reasons to pray for your husband. Over the last 5 posts, we’ve touched on a small selection of those reasons. Among many other benefits, prayer for your husband:

 

Marriage is difficult but it can become easier with deliberate action and intentional practices. One of the practices I recommend most when seeking a stronger marriage is prayer.

 

Last summer, I released a prayer devotional with a specific emphasis on praying for your marriage. I’ve heard from a number of readers who immediately saw changes in their own hearts and eventually experienced improvements in their relationships. That’s because prayer is powerful and effective. (See James 5:16).

 

Prayer is Powerful and Effective

 

When we speak to the Lord, when we pray, God’s Word tells us that He hears (see Psalm 55:17). And not only does He hear, but He takes action. I think of the blind man who cried out to get the attention of Jesus as He walked by (see Luke 18:35-42).  Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” When the blind man asked for sight, the Lord granted his request.

 

Make no mistake, Jesus already knew what the man desired, but He wanted to hear it from his own mouth. Just as we often know the needs of our own children before they ask, we prefer to hear it from their own mouths. We wish to discuss it, to spend time with them, to hear their hearts, and to deepen our relationship with them. I believe God feels the same way. He adores when we seek Him in prayer and share the burdens and the joys of our hearts. He cherishes our attention and the ways that we draw near to Him. Then He, in turn, draws near to us.

 

Because God unleashes His power when we pray, we must keep seeking, keep asking, and keep petitioning for the needs of our man. Our prayer helps our husband. While he’s away at work, or on the golf course or traveling for business, or coaching little league, our prayers sustain him. They encourage and strengthen him—whether he knows that we’re praying or not.

 

I regularly pray Colossians 1:9-10 for Mike. That portion of Scripture says, “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,” (NIV).

 

I pray it like this:

 

“Lord, help Mike know and understand your will. Give him all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that he can walk in ways that are pleasing to you. Help him bear your good fruit in all he does and grow in His knowledge of you.”

 

 

Your prayers, too,  are powerful and effective, but be prepared. Before you begin to notice changes in your husband, you’ll most certainly see changes in yourself. You’ll become more patient and even begin to feel less annoyed by those personality quirks that used to drive you nuts. Allow the Lord to mold and shape you and as you strengthen your discipline of prayer you’ll experience joys and blessings that you never imagined.

 

You’ll also continue to experience hardship. Just because we draw close to God doesn’t mean that He makes our path simple and easy. He desires that we lean on Him through both the easy and challenging parts of life. So don’t grow weary of doing good. Set your mind to pray, then do it—no matter what. Don’t give up.

 

I’m praying for you as you deepen your prayer walk, asking that the Lord gives you perseverance and that you won’t grow weary of doing good.

 

If this post, and this blog series, has encouraged you, please share it on social media to encourage others!

 

May the Word of the Lord strengthen you today,

 

 

 

Prayer is Powerful and Effective

 

Prayer is Powerful and Effective

 

Strengthening Intimacy with Your Husband

Strengthening Intimacy with Your Husband

I don’t believe there’s any person in the world who knows my husband as I do. There are many who are close to him, several who spend hours each day with him in a work environment. Family members adore him as much as me, but each shares different types of relationship with him.

 

I’m the one who best knows the nucleus of his personality, his drive, his insecurities, strengths, and challenges. He shares his heart with me, casts vision, and ponders dreams. I can look in his eyes and sense from his tone of voice when something is bothering him, or when he’s overjoyed or angry.  He lets his guard down when he’s home with me and invites me to partner with him in mulling over circumstances and decisions.

 

Therefore, it stands to reason that I can pray for him like no one else. I have the role and ability to seek the Lord’s help in areas that no one else understands. I can discern areas where he’s challenged by more than situations—where the enemy might be trying to gain access or shoot fiery darts in his direction.  When I pray on his behalf, I can share a level of closeness and familiarity.

 

Mirror and Strengthen Intimacy

 

Praying for my husband mirrors the intimacy that I have with God as well as with my life-long partner. Through prayer, I can also stand in the gap for him and resist the schemes of the evil one over his life. This strengthens my intimacy with the Lord and in a supernatural, spiritual sense, the closer I draw to the Lord, the more intimate our marriage relationship becomes.

 

This is the fourth urgent reason to pray for our husbandsTo mirror and strengthen intimacy.

 

I enjoy praying Ephesians 6:10-12 which says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places ” (ESV).

 

I pray it like this

“Father, please strengthen Mike in You and in Your might. Help him put on the full armor of God every day so that he can resist and stand firm against the schemes of the enemy. We know, Lord, that our battles are not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces in unseen realms. Equip him to walk in ways that are pleasing and honoring to you.”

 

When we draw near to the Lord, He draws near to us and we can draw closer to one another as husband and wife. We mirror our intimacy with the Lord through prayer and strengthen our intimacy with each other.

If this post has encouraged you, will you please share it on social media to encourage others?

 

May you find strength in the Lord Word,

 

 

 

 

 

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