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Archive for February, 2013

It’s Not About Me

“for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:13

 

I hate to admit it, but when I hear bad news, one of my first reactions, usually silently, is, “How is that going to affect me?”  If my kids get sick and I have to cancel my date with my husband, I’m stuck on the computer all weekend because of a work deadline, the house needs to be cleaned top to bottom for the birthday party and my husband is working overtime, or I’m spending all day in the car shuttling my kids from various activities, birthday parties, and play dates, my first thought usually isn’t my sick child, the importance of teaching responsibility by following through with discipline, deadlines, and housework, or taking the time in the car to truly bond with my kids and have fun.

But why not?  I think it’s pretty normal for our first reaction to be about ourselves and how decisions and actions affect us personally.  However, we need to move past those first initial instincts and focus instead on the bigger picture.  How can this inconvenience, disaster, or minor annoyance be used for the greater good?  Maybe we can get creative and the money we saved by staying home all weekend with our sick child can be used for a weekend getaway during the off season.  Maybe through our example of finishing our work to our best ability will encourage our children to persevere with their grades and get a scholarship for college.  Maybe cleaning the house gives us some uninterrupted time to catch up with a friend on the phone, and maybe shuttling our children to various activities will allow the time to build trust, so that when the tough choices in life need to be made, they are comfortable to come to you and listen to your advice.

We need to remember that God created a bigger plan long before we were born.  He knew what you were going to be doing, struggling with, the crises you would be facing, or the relatively “easy pace of life” that you would experience today before Adam even came into existence.  He also knew how our choices, actions, and all those preceding us and following us would affect and influence the world we live in for years to come.

I’m glad I serve a God who has everything under control.  I’m glad that He loves me enough to care about my feelings and opinions, and is willing to listen to my deepest desires.  I love that He can (and has) changed His mind at times as a result of individual, earnest prayers, and I’m even more thankful that because He knows the bigger picture, He loves me enough to stand firm with His “no” for my own good.

So, the next time plans are uprooted, changed, altered, or destroyed, I’m sure my first thought will still be how it affects me personally, but I pray that I will very quickly change that thought to one of peace, that God has everything under control, and all I have to do is obey.  Part of obeying is with a grateful attitude, trusting that He knows what’s best.  The other part is setting a good example to those around me who may be having a harder time letting go of the previous agenda and accepting the new course.

What about you?  The next time your plans are changed, what mindset are you going to choose?

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Reaction or Interaction

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 7:12

 

God has been speaking to me about something lately.  My attitude.  When I get stressed out, juggle a million things at once, or I feel like I have too much to do and not enough time to do it, I end up reacting more than interacting.  And I hate that!

When that happens, as it did about a month ago, and last week, and yesterday, and, okay, ten minutes ago, I don’t like who I become.  The worst part is, I can feel it building and even though I know I should keep my mouth shut and go be a hermit until I’m rested up and more relaxed, life doesn’t stop just because I need to.  So, I continue on, checking things off my list, and sometimes spewing when I would rather choose more appropriate words, with a more appropriate tone.  Just knowing the right response isn’t always enough.  My true character comes through when, despite knowing what I should do, I do the opposite instead.

I admire the way my husband responds to chaos.  I love how he can be in the midst of a stressful situation, but takes the time to pause, refocus, and think about his response carefully before opening his mouth, no matter whom he’s talking to.  It’s rarely about the situation for him but more about the person.  He interacts while I react.

However, there is hope.  I have a choice.  If, when I make mistakes (and I will because I’m not perfect), I take the necessary action steps to rectify my attitude (whether it’s to apologize, ask forgiveness, or just admit that I was wrong to who I offended), I’m still interacting instead of reacting.  It’s not the same as choosing the right response the first time, but it’s still letting Christ shine through me despite my imperfections.  I know I love it when after my kids mess up (and they will because they’re human) they come to me without being prompted and apologize for what happened.  I’m quick to say, “No worries,” and am happy to hit the restart button because of their sincerity and Christ-like humility.

There is another step, though, that needs to be talked about that is just as significant as the one above.  Admitting your guilt and asking forgiveness is huge, but putting an action plan in place so that reacting doesn’t continue to be the “go to” emotion is equally as important.  For myself, I haven’t mastered the perfect arrangement yet, but it definitely will consist of a timeout of sorts.  It could mean giving myself permission to get some fresh air and a new perspective as I pray while walking to the creek and back, going into a room by myself for some one-on-one prayer (asking God how I can best handle the situation), or calling a trusted friend for five minutes to get help with that new perspective after talking to my Heavenly Father first and releasing my attitude to Him.  For me, the best solution is going to involve God first and foremost.  It’s only when I humble myself before Him that I can gain the necessary attitude adjustment.  He helps me feel love toward others, seeing them through His eyes, and then the need to react to whatever is happening around me naturally fades away.

The solution is going to look different for every person and sometimes different for the same individual depending upon the day, but the bottom line is this.  I want to give my children the example of going to God, filling up with His love, and then passing that love on through positive interactions.  I don’t want them to remember me as only reacting to stress, chaos, and turmoil.

Life is going to continue to happen.  Deadlines will always be there, chores will need to be repeated often, and stressful days will occasionally creep up on me, sometimes catching me by surprise.  When I remember that my most important job is to fill up first with God, then everything else will fall in place and I will naturally learn to interact more and react less.

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Compromise Versus Control

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1 

As my kids get older, I’m realizing more the need for compromise versus total control.  Our goal is to raise self-sufficient individuals, not children who are great obeying but lack the skill to think for themselves.  I never thought of myself as a very controlling person, but when I’m stressed and lots of responsibilities or demands are bombarding me at the same time, I tend to shift from negotiator to my “assembly line” mentality, when I focus more on the job at hand than on the humans involved in the process.

However, a good friend recently, gently I might add, reminded me about the gift of compromise.  Compromise is defined by “…blending qualities of two different things” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) while control is described as “to have power over.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

Compromise can be a win-win for each party.  It approaches the issue with both people working together toward a solution that is at least partly agreeable to each one, keeping a positive relationship intact. Control tends to pit people against each other, and usually creates negative feelings and a tense atmosphere.

I realize having positive interactions with my kids, bringing us together working toward a common goal is what I ultimately want.  I want to give them the gift of thinking through problems and growing their self esteem by figuring out a solution for themselves while I still provide the boundaries and structure they need.  The structure and boundaries will obviously differ depending upon the stage of life they are in.

For instance, and this happens quite often, my daughter comes downstairs in the new clothes she was just given today, cleaning day.  Instead of yelling at her to go change right now (setting up a defensive response from her), I could approach her with the question of, “Do you think that’s the best choice of outfits for cleaning the house?”  Eventually we could come up with a compromise of older clothes to clean, but she can change if we go run errands later in the day.

I’m starting to realize (slowly) that most everything can be fixed.  There are very few real disasters that occur in life.  Work can be replaced if a computer crashes, houses rebuilt if there is a fire, objects replaced if broken, and clothes mended if ripped.  However, it’s much more difficult to repair a relationship that has been negatively destroyed with harsh words or cruel statements.  I want to make sure I keep in mind at all times.  Other’s feelings are much more important than any goal, objective, or item I need to check off my list.

What works with my kids will work in other areas of life too.  Most people we come in contact with on a regular basis have our best interest at heart, as do we (or we should) toward them.  Using this mindset from the onset of our interactions sets up the structure for positive outcomes.  I have faith that most of the time, we can figure out a solution that everyone will be able to agree with.

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Blog Hop

Good morning, Friends!

 

Today we are “Blog hopping.”  I get to answer ten questions about the two devotionals that were released late 2012, and then you get to “hop” on over to some other great blogs to visit and hang around for a while.  Hope you enjoy it as much I am…

1.  What is the working title of your book?

A 40-Day Habit Between Friends: Taking it to the Next Level  is the title of my devotional that was released in November 2012.   A 40-Day Habit Between Friends: Because They Need You, was released in December 2012.

2.  Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for the devotional came to me from my blog.  I started a blog in October 2011, and received such a positive response about my content, that I was approached one day about the idea of creating a devotional or series of devotionals from my actual blog.  I loved the idea and God blessed me with the above.   

3.  What genre does your book fall under?

Non-fiction devotional.  The stories and examples in the various devotionals all really happened.  I am a work in progress and give you a glimpse into my life as I strive to live more and more like Christ on a daily basis.  Some days I do better than others, but I don’t give up.  I keep taking it to the next level.  Because They Need You is a devotional geared toward parents and the challenges we are faced with as parents in today’s society.

4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I would be in total shock if a movie was ever made from this devotional, so I could only wonder who they would cast.  Someone down-to-earth would be perfect.

5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A chance for me to offer encouragement and hope, friend to friend, as well as to challenge you a little in taking it to the next level in your own life.

6.  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It has been a blessing to have been offered a contract through Mantle Rock Publishing.

7.  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Since October 2011, when I started my blog.  I have gathered forty blog posts for each book and compiled them into two books that are compact and easy to take in your purse or briefcase.  Also, these books are great to give away as gifts either “just because” or for a special occasion.

8.  What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

There are so many other terrific devotional books out there.  I tend to gravitate toward the books that are casual, easy to read, but pack a powerful punch.

9.  Who or What inspired you to write this book?

God first and foremost, but also my husband, my children, my family, and my friends.  I learn so much from each of them on a daily basis that I can’t help but write about the truths I am being shown.  

10.  What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

They are truly just a series of conversations between myself and the reader meant to encourage and challenge.  I pray that they will pick one up, love it so much, that they will then want to buy the next.

If you want to hear more about my heart for marriage, parenting, and relationships from a Christian perspective, feel free to visit my blog: https://journeysfromtheheartofawifeandmother.wordpress.com or “like” me right here on Facebook.  I love to interact with my readers, so feel free to connect with me at clSwalwell99@gmail.com.

Now, here’s the fun part:  “Hop” on over to these other great blogs and see what they are up to!

http://www.maryeellis.wordpress.com

http://www.susansims.blogspot.com/

http://www.jessieclemence.com

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Well-Oiled Machine

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

 

I love the family that God placed me in.  We’re all unique with different talents and gifts and abilities.  My daughter can find ANYTHING – I mean it.  If it’s lost, she is your go-to gal.  She finds money, jewelry, and even the DS that was missing for months at our house.  She’s so observant to what is going on around her (not good when you’re trying to buy her a present and she’s along for the ride).  Our oldest is great with facts and rules.  He’s great keeping us on track, teaching his younger brother (in a calm and controlled way) what’s expected and then patiently guiding him a few times while our littlest gets to practice.  My husband is very detail oriented and meticulous in all he does.  I love that when he starts a project, it’s going to be fantastic when it’s finished because he has the expertise, knows where to look for answers if he needs some help, and takes his time to make sure it’s done right.  I’m more of the multi-tasker.  I can talk on the phone scheduling appointments, make cookie dough, fix lunches, start dinner, and help find the missing belt all without breaking a sweat.   Our littlest loves to help.  He will cut vegetables for soup, pour ingredients, move clothes from the washer to the dryer, and empty trashcans without being asked twice.

We’ve had a few issues lately, though, where people don’t necessarily want to take ownership for what is truly their responsibility.  For some reason, our children have occasional amnesia when it comes to picking up after themselves, such as that stray banana peel that didn’t quite make it in the trash can, the granola bar wrapper wedged between the couch cushions, or the bowl that made it to the sink but stayed there all day.

I like to remind them that in order for our family to work well, we need to maintain a well-oiled machine mentality.  After all, there’s no magic fairy that comes to our house after everyone’s asleep and cleans up after them.  If everyone not only takes care of the tasks they’re responsible for, but actively looks around and asks themselves, “What can I do to help make life easier for someone else?” then our family will run much more smoothly.  There’ll be less stress about missing accessories, less arguing about “It’s your turn to do the dishes, I did them last night,” and less trying to manipulate their way out of unpleasant chores.

I think that principle works well in other areas too.  What about standing in the checkout at the grocery store and someone drops a glass bottle of juice, splashing it everywhere?  Instead of thinking, “Wow – I’m glad that’s not me,” what about offering to go back and grab another bottle so the line will continue to move forward?  At the office, instead of racing to get the prime parking spot, what if you parked further away, leaving the primo place for someone else?  What about actively seeking ways to make life easier for your husband, your children, or your best friend?

Your challenge today is to start small.  Find one thing you can do to help make life easier for whomever you are focusing on (husband, children, co-worker, best friend). Who knows?  That smile on your face when you serve others might become contagious. I think you’ll agree with me that the feeling you receive is better than any magic fairy who might come clean after everyone falls asleep.

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Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Psalm 103:1 (NIV).

Last time we were together, I shared with you the only way to be completely filled in this life is through Jesus Christ.  Relationships, careers, hobbies, money, and objects won’t fill us but instead tend to leave us wanting more.  However, when we allow ourselves to be filled by our Heavenly Father, then we’re much more able to see the blessings that surround every one of us.  I wanted to take time today, on Valentine’s Day, to share with you some of the blessings in my life.  I pray that my list will get you thinking about the many different ways you also are blessed by those who are special in your life:

I am blessed to be married to my best friend; someone I love to laugh with, who will hold me when I’m sad, and who loves me enough to tackle the hard conversations when necessary to help me be the best person I can be.

I am blessed that our marriage is one of partnership and unity:  We worship the same God, raise our children with the same values, and enjoy many of the same activities and hobbies.

I am blessed that my husband and I embrace each other’s differences, allowing the other to be who he (or she) is without judgment.  I am blessed my husband loves me despite my flaws.

I am blessed to be a mother of four: three here on Earth and one waiting for me in Heaven.  I am blessed that even when I’m bone tired after a hard day they occasionally will fight over who gets to sit next to me or ask me to play a game, read a book, or watch a movie.

I am blessed to work from home.  Even though at times it can be crazy, I don’t have to miss out on the daily influence I have in their lives, even as it challenges me to “take it to the next level” with my attitudes, actions, and choices.

I am blessed to have a husband who supports my dreams.  I am blessed to be able to support his.

I am blessed we have enough money to keep food on the table, shelter over our heads, and a little extra now and again for something fun.

I am blessed with parents and parents-in-law who are willing to watch our kids so my husband and I can spend time together, remembering why we fell in love in the first place and having time to dream about our future.

I am blessed with parents and parents-in-law who are willing to help entertain their grandkids while I’m working.  That breaks up their boredom and gives me a few hours to think uninterrupted.

I am blessed with time to create memories with our extended family.  My whole family is blessed from trips we have taken together and the promise of future trips to come.

I am blessed with terrific friends who support me, challenge me, encourage me, inspire me, laugh with me, comfort me, and overall put up with me.

Lastly, and most importantly, I am blessed to be a child of God: I make mistakes, I have many flaws, and no matter how many times I hit the restart button I have to keep hitting it again and again.  However, because of Jesus Christ dying for my sins, I stand before God redeemed, forgiven, blameless, and perfect.

This last blessing is a gift freely offered to each one of us.  I’m not special or unique or chosen any more than you are, my Friend.  God has offered this gift to all humankind, no matter how many mistakes you have made, how imperfect you are, or how many times you have had to hit the restart button in your life.

This Valentine’s Day, if you haven’t already accepted the best gift of all, why not consider choosing it today?  It will forever change your life and “I am blessed” will take on a completely new meaning for you personally!

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Filled by “The One”

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV). 

In just a few short days, we will be celebrating Valentine’s Day.  The day traditionally marked with chocolate candy, long-stemmed red roses, expensive dinners, and sweet cards speaking of unconditional love, romance, and the promise for tomorrow.

However, not everyone has a “special someone” to share Valentine’s Day with.  Maybe your spouse of fifty years has died after a long illness or maybe after seven years you were left unexpectedly when he or she filed for divorce.  Maybe you are holding onto unresolved anger and as a result haven’t talked to your extended family for years or your grown children are too busy with their own lives to call and say “hi.”

Maybe you just haven’t found “the one” yet but long for a lifetime of “happily ever after.”  Instead of eagerly anticipating the upcoming holiday, maybe you feel lonely, empty, and a little sorry for yourself.  Maybe you’re jealous of what your married coworker has and secretly wish her bouquet were for you.  Have you stopped to think, though, just because your co-worker wears a wedding band doesn’t mean she feels filled by her spouse.  She also might be lonely, empty, and feeling a little sorry for herself.  Maybe she received a huge bouquet of flowers delivered to work, but she’ll be going home to a house filled with people but void of meaningful conversation or the intimacy she longs for.

I’m here to celebrate with those who are happily married as well as to encourage those who aren’t.  No matter your status in life (single, married, divorced, widowed), Valentine’s Day should be less about whether or not you’re with that special someone and more about filling up with the only One who can fill those empty places inside of you.  Expecting once you get married that all your dreams will magically come true and you’ll never be lonely again is the same as presuming to drive your new car off the dealer’s lot but never having to fill the gas tank.  Subconsciously demanding that your spouse, children, or friends meet all your needs isn’t fair to anyone – not to them, and not to you.  People disappoint.  We all make mistakes, so therefore, it’s inevitable that you’ll be unintentionally let down by the ones you love the most.

However, God is consistent, unchanging, and always present.  He does have the capability (and willingness) to fill us, even in spots we don’t know exist.  That’s just one of the amazing things about our Heavenly Father.  When we truly ask Him to take away the loneliness and fill us with Him, His love reaches into every area of our life, leaving us more peaceful and more fulfilled than we could have imagined.

Just like with human relationships, in order for that to take place, we need to spend time with Him, getting to know Him, allowing Him to get to know us.  Now He already knows everything there is to know about us, but He wants us to share our thoughts, our secrets, our pain, our happiness – every detail of our life with Him so He can fully embrace us and fill us with His peace.  When that happens, and it will, your circumstances won’t automatically change, but your perspective probably will.  Personally, it wasn’t until I handed my loneliness, my longings, and my deepest desires over to God regarding a future mate that I then was introduced to who became the love of my life.  I’m not saying that when you tell God you’re okay being alone then you will automatically become engaged.  No, I’m saying that every one of us needs to acknowledge in our lives there is only One that can and will fill us completely.  One who will always be there, one we can depend on and trust with every part of ourselves.  He loves us unconditionally.  Until we come to that place, we’ll never be satisfied with the position we find ourselves in in life, single or married.

My challenge to you today is this.  It’s okay to eagerly anticipate the roses, the sentimental card, or the fancy dinner – but instead of making one day out of the year over the top, why not start today focusing on growing closer daily to the One who loves you the most in this world and will never stop loving you for eternity?  Once that relationship is on track, all your other relationships will reap the rewards.

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