Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Tell the Story

I think that most of us are familiar with Psalm 107- at least the beginning lines.

... but take a second to read the next verse-

That's what we're doing, isn't it?

Often, when people ask what I do for a hobby, or ask about things I really enjoy, I sort of mumble under my breath... "Well, and I have a little blog... it's nothing really."

Blogging is kind of a weird thing, isn't it? Sharing our lives with the world, spending time peering into the journals of other people and making friends you only see through screens? And for what, really? I know that I've spent tons of time finding just the right image, editing that post, planning that series, and the posts I'm proudest of often are read by all of twenty people and I think, was that really worth it? 


I think it is worth it.

This little piece of the internet- this little space where I share my thoughts and my struggles- it's a testament to the goodness of God in my life.

This is giving thanks, in a small way.

This is telling my redemption story, the story of how I'm messy and broken and fight hard against God but He holds me anyway, loves me anyway.

I'm telling the story.

Over Thanksgiving (well, and any holiday, really), I often find myself being tolerant. You know? Families are wonderful, but there are jagged edges. Tension. Disagreements barely under the surface. I tolerate these other messy, broken people, because family and holidays.

And when I'm just tolerating, I really don't feel anything akin to transparency. To vulnerability. I don't share my story because my story is messy and personal and... mine.

But isn't that part of giving thanks?

To say, "Here. This is how God has done a great thing in me,"- to show the broken parts and the "ongoing projects" and how God is love and human perfection isn't real but He loves us anyway- isn't that thanksgiving? The looking back?

Yeah, life is so messy and broken and has lots of jagged edges. I'm far from "there" yet. Still growing, still learning, clinging on to the little tiny bit of trust I've somehow found in my sinful heart. But God's done a great thing in me, and He'll keep doing great things in me, and He's given me this day to come closer to Him and try again.

And that is something to be thankful for!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Relationship Red Flags

Even though we're often surprised by the unexpected, and even though there isn't really such a thing as "The One," I do believe that there is such a thing as the wrong one.

There are red flags.

There are warning signs, things that should tip you off that maybe this person isn't right for you.

First and foremost, dating someone who isn't the same faith as you are, that's a big red flag. Your values will be different than his, your background and history and priorities and understanding of some fundamentals will be different. And trust me, it causes problems. Red flag. 

Our friends are often the reflections of ourselves. If his friends don't like you, it's a warning sign that he may be acting differently around you- that he's not being true to himself. And if your friends don't like him, find out why. If it's something superficial (he stepped on her toes in third grade and didn't apologize), that's one thing- but if it's something bigger, be open and receptive to what your friend has to say.

You decide how you allow yourself to be treated in a relationship. If he makes you feel bad about yourself, even in the guise of teasing or joking around, tell him. And don't tolerate it. You are a beautiful person on the outside and the inside, and you are a child of the Most High God. You deserve respect and to be treated with kindness.

... including his parents or your parents. Disrespect for authority shows immaturity, defiance, arrogance, and trouble submitting to God. None of those things are healthy in a relationship. Down the road, if you marry him, chances are that he'll start seeing you as some sort of authority figure and resent you, or he'll just act like a spoiled child. Going against "the man" might seem cool or socially informed or whatever, but it's a sign that there are underlying issues here.

We've talked about this already a bit- but seriously. Not being yourself around this guy is a red flag. It signals that you're not really meshing well- your personalities or senses of humor or conversational styles just don't match up. That's okay. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you, or with him. But it does mean that pursuing this relationship probably isn't a great thing. You should be a better, more true version of yourself when you're with this person- but you shouldn't change into someone you're not.

And, of course, if he's violent, abusive, emotionally damaging, if he yells at you or hurts you, if he tries to violate the boundaries you've determined for yourself, stay away. I wish that it didn't need to be said, but unfortunately, we still live in a fallen world, and it happens. Don't think that it won't happen to you- be prepared, and get help if you need it.

I'm all for giving people chances- my life is one big huge second chance- but I also believe in guarding our hearts, in protecting ourselves. Here's the thing- you have to decide these things for yourself.

Maybe you see a red flag, but you're going to proceed. That's up to you and God. But I know that had I gotten some better advice as a young woman (or actually taken some of the advice I was given!), I could have avoided lots of experiences that took a long time to recover from.

What do you consider to be a Relationship Red Flag? 

-    -    -    -    -

Monday, November 24, 2014

How I Use My Cleaning Pages, and December 2015 Dailies {Free Printable}

The trouble with cleaning checklists, at least for me, is that they always make me feel so... defeated. See, in this stage of my little life, I don't always use the kitchen every day (or even every week!), there aren't any "kids rooms" to clean, and honestly, vacuuming every other day just doesn't need to happen. But then those unchecked boxes stare at me whispering, "Fail. Fail. Fail."

I dislike unchecked boxes.

So, instead of using a to-do list, I use a "cleaning record" system. This way, I have a list of what needs to be done, and a record of the last time I did it. I can see what hasn't been done in a while, and decide if it warrants some actual action on my part (ie, "is it bad enough?").

I copy-catted a DIYFish style chart, added in the cleaning tasks that should be done at least monthly, if not weekly, and folded it so it fits in the binder. Most daily tasks (like "start laundry" and "feed the turtle") go into my daily pages or are part of a routine, so I didn't need to add them here.

If I've done a task to completion, I put a dot in the box. For times when I just spot sweep or spot mop (or if I don't worry about moving furniture to sweep or vacuum), I put an "S" in the box- which usually means that I'll need to do a more thorough job later on. 

We have one bathroom upstairs and one downstairs, so if I get to one bathroom but not the other, I'll put a "D" or a "U" for "downstairs" or "upstairs." If I've done both, then I'll mark it with a dot. 

So, at a glance, I can see that I haven't done the entryway in a while (and it desperately needs to be done!), and I haven't dusted at all... but instead of feeling guilty, I can decide that whether or not it needs to be done. If not, no worries. 

My little chart also shows me that most of the time, I tackle a bunch of tasks all on the same day (mainly on my day off). It works well for me right now, but during the busy summer season, I may want to try to get one or two small chores done a day so that I can keep on track. 

Do you keep a cleaning list? What's your system?

In other planning news, I started actually using a schedule (I know!), so the daily printable pages for this month reflect that. And with December being such a busy month for most of us, I figured you wouldn't mind too much. 

A note about printing: These pages are 8.5 x 5.5 sized, so they should fit in Martha Stewart small format binders, A5 size binders, and Classic size binders. You may need to trim a little.

You will want to print these double sided, flipping on the short end of the paper (or top-to-bottom printing). They'll look a little crazy at first (i.e. the pages don't seem like they're in order) but it should work just fine. After printing, cut the pages in half, and three-hole punch the edge you cut.

Oh, and if you're looking for monthly calendars for 2015 (coming before we know it!) my calendar pages are also available as a free printable!

Happy planning!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Expectations: I Dumped My Husband After Our Third Date {Guest Post}

I dumped my husband, Tom, after our third date.

It was obvious from the first time I met him that he had a genuine love for God. My best friend's husband grew up with him and raved about his integrity and his involvement in the community. During our first few dates, I discovered he was also intelligent and fun. He made it clear that he was interested in me and that he wanted to pursue a relationship.

But he didn't look like the guys I was usually attracted to, and he didn't make me feel like the other guys, either. I'd spent years pining after guys who gave me that feeling of butterflies in my stomach. Sure, those guys were usually vague about their intentions, and very rarely committed to anything beyond coffee, but how I loved that butterfly feeling!

There were no butterflies with Tom. I liked super-tall, slender guys and he was 5'11 with an athletic build. He was loud. He had funny glasses. And he was bald! My hands didn't get clammy at the sight of him, and I didn't get that nervous feeling of anticipation around him. I immediately decided a relationship wouldn't work, and only agreed to go on the second and third dates to appease my best friend.

So when he asked me out for a 4th date, I said no. I felt confident in my decision until I told my friend Kate about it.

Kate looked me in the eyes and said, "You've been waiting 29 years for a godly guy who wants to pursue you. Now you've found one and you've dumped him because he doesn't look like you thought he would! Has it ever occurred to you that maybe the butterfly feeling you felt with the other guys was actually anxiety? You're not feeling that with Tom because he's made his intentions clear and you don't have to wonder what he's thinking."

Her words hit me hard and I knew she was right. I went home to pray and experienced one of the few times in my life where I clearly heard God speak to me. I knew 100% that I would regret it if I let this man walk out of my life.

Tom was gracious enough to give me another chance. Once I started looking at him for who he was (and not how he looked), he suddenly became extremely attractive and handsome to me. We were married 6 months later!

Since then, I've noticed that many of my single girlfriends are making the same mistake I almost did. They are praying for godly men to pursue them, but they immediately disqualify anyone who is not their "type." I recently watched a friend decline a match on an online dating service for the sole reason that the guy was too short at 5'7". He shared her faith, her interests, and they even had several real-life friends in common. But she wants a tall guy. (By the way, she's only 4'11").

Please understand me: I'd never imply that women should get involved in a long-term or serious relationship with someone they find unattractive. But I am suggesting that single women need to allow time for physical attraction to develop.

How much time is appropriate? That's between you and the Lord. In my case, the attraction didn't develop until I opened myself up to the possibility of a relationship with Tom on that 4th date. Someone women may need more time, and some may need a little less. My point is that you need to make sure you're approaching your time together with an open mind and open heart.

I realize that every situation is different. Not every man will be clear about his intentions like Tom was. Many of you have never had a man pursue you.

However, most women know at least one or two godly single men who, for whatever reason, aren't "boyfriend material." Maybe they're too geeky, too athletic, too short, too tall, or too whatever. You enjoy their friendship and you like hanging out in groups with them, but you are sending out a vibe that says "I'm not interested, so don't even think about asking me out."

Ladies, let me challenge you to make a conscious effort to take down those walls. This doesn't mean you start flirting or being forward. It means you show your interest in them as human beings, as fellow believers in Christ. You don't let your lack of romantic attraction color your interactions with them. It means that you give them a fair chance before you decide you're not interested in starting a relationship with them.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. How have you seen this play out in your life or in the lives of your friends? How do you decide when you've given someone a fair chance? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Lisa Newton writes over at Amateur Nester, where she provides support, encouragement, and awesome resources for couples going through infertility. I've really been blessed by her interviews with couples going through this infertility thing- I've found a great community and great hope there!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Expectations: Giving God the Reigns {Guest Post}

 Marie* ran into Joey at a bookstore. They recognized each other from the Christian club on campus. The sparks were obvious, but when Joey asked Marie out on a date she wasn’t sure she should say yes. She knew he was a new Christian, and being mature Believer herself, she didn’t think he could offer her the Spiritual leadership she was looking for in a partner.
An online dating service matched Mitchell with Joy. He found her big smile and love for the Lord attractive and immediately began pursuing her. Joy thought Mitchell seemed like a great man. But, he was older than her self-imposed limit and he had a young daughter from a previous relationship. Joy wasn’t quite sure he lined up with her expectations.

Ryan and Christy had been friends for ages. Then, Ryan started to sense that Christy was interested in more. He thought she was beautiful and he genuinely enjoyed being with her, however, aspects of her personality and interests didn’t completely line up with the qualities he wanted in a wife. Yes, they shared a love for Christ, had common interests, and similar life goals, but she could be shy: more introverted and less outgoing then him. He wasn’t sure he wanted a wife of those qualities.

I've been married for ten years, so when Adrie asked me to do a guest post on dating I had to laugh a bit. Dating seems like eons ago. However, after reflecting on her request I realized that my married status has given me an interesting perspective on dating. Because I married young I've had the ability to watch my friends and my sister navigate the dating scene from the outside looking in. This perspective, I believe, has given me some insight that I may not have seen had I been dating myself these past few years.

The above scenarios are all real. They are just three examples of many I could have posted. The first story is actually the story of my husband and myself. The other two are couples that invited RJ (my husband) and I along on their dating journey. Both couples are now happily married (to each other). However, as I insinuated above, they almost weren't. All three of these relationships almost failed before they began. For one major reason: Unmet, Self-Realized Expectations. Let me explain.

Christians are hugely fond of the cliche: God moves in mysterious ways. We laugh as we say it, believing the words are true, but genuinely hoping they aren't necessarily true for us. Particularly when it comes to our love life.

I believe it’s easier for many of us to give up control of our education, of our living situation or even of our careers than it is to relinquish control of our dating life. Trusting the Lord with our hearts is scary. Giving the Lord control of our romantic relationships leaves us vulnerable. Because what if what He has for us is different than we anticipated?

How many of you, and be honest now, have a list that looks something like this:

  • He should be older than me, but no more than five years older.
  • She must love mountain biking and backpacking, otherwise we will have nothing in common
  • I know people make mistakes, but a divorce or children from an unwed union is an absolute no-go for me
  • She must be college educated; preferably have a Masters like myself
  • Etc., etc. etc.

We use these rules and guidelines to maintain control over our romantic relationships. Control feels good. But you know what control does – it keeps us from hearing the voice of the Lord. It keeps us from the one that He might have chosen for us.

If we are to believe the equally beloved cliché: The Lord wants His best for us. (And he does!) Than we need to relinquish that control. We need to allow Him to guide our romantic relationships.

Learn to listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice. Especially when it comes to dating. The Lord loves you – He will not match you with someone you’ll be miserable with. He may match you with someone different than you originally expected, but it will be the person that is best suited to you. Don’t miss that special person, the love of your life, because you’re chasing your own self-imposed expectations. (Psalm 143:8-10)

My husband may have been a young Christian but his fervor for the Lord impassioned me when I was dry. He still many not know much Scripture by memory but he did, and continues to, continually lead me to the cross. He is very much a spiritual leader albeit different type than I originally thought I needed.

As for the other stories I shared, Joy agreed to go out with Mitchell. She was skeptical at first but it took only three dates for her to know that he was right for her. They've been married for over a year now and are head-over-heels for each other. Ask her now about their age difference being a problem and she’ll look at you like you’re crazy.

Ryan almost didn't ask Christy out. He really thought he wanted someone with a bigger personality. Five years after their wedding vows he now knows a big personality would have been completely wrong for him. Two big personalities in one household can make things crowded. Ryan is smitten, devoted, and thankful for his strong, peace-loving wife who compliments his boisterous personality perfectly.

(One last thing, listening to the Holy Spirit takes practice. You’ll hear His voice in prayer, through the Word, and through the guidance of spiritual friendships. Part of learning to hear His voice also involves trail and error. So take risks and seek opportunities. Is a friend encouraging you to try online dating? Give it go! Does your mom want to set you up on a blind date? Why not! That awkwardly cute guy at Bible study is staring at you? Go say Hi. You never know whom the Lord may have in store.)

Anna is a wife to RJ, a mommy to two busy little blondie boys, an outdoor enthusiast, and a blogger over at Two Cent Sparrow. She writes about travel, camping, raising little guys, adoption, books, fashion, and more. If you're planning on doing any camping with little ones this summer, I strongly recommend that you head over and pin her posts on camping with kids- they're brilliant!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Day In The Little Life: A Fall Friday

So, I'm a bit behind (okay, very behind), but Team Whitaker is hosting a link-up of posts about regular ol' daily life. And since it's been a while since I last told you about a day in my little life and I'm a big tag-along-er, I figured, why not?

We actually went to bed at about 9:30 last night. Zeke was wiped and I was wiped and sleep sounded really, really good. I was up at 5:30 because Zeke flipped over in his sleep and whacked my shoulder, but I settled back in and slept until 7:30. With dreams of registration check-in dancing in my head.

The morning has started off really well- staff prayer, cup of coffee, the usual. To the office I go, and answer seven e-mails (my life is thrilling, I know.) Then get a call from a youth pastor saying that she's registering five campers online right now... for the retreat... that begins at 8 pm today. <Sigh>.

Coffee is gone. The guy on the radio says that the lake is now hard enough to walk on, which means that it's really really cold out there.

I spend some time looking at screens like this...

And it's lunch time. I get to sit next to Zeke at the long table, and we talk with the others about the day and the radio and which lake is frozen over and if we're going to send Christmas ornaments this year. More coffee and it's back to the office.

I answer some phone calls, check the e-mail, and remove a cancellation from the system. I make name tags for the adults coming for the retreat, print them out.

My desk starts looking more like this...

To be fair, three of these were here from yesterday.

We have some high school volunteers for the weekend, and they arrive in all their Axe-smelling, unwashed glory. I have them cut the name tags and put them into sleeves, then alphabetize by last name. I prep the counselor t-shirt bin, answer more e-mail, run a few more reports and print them.

I assign adult housing and make door signs.

I get a phone call that we had two cancellations, and an e-mail that we are adding three more campers. I run the reports again and print off new ones.

My little nephew (age 3) and his mama call me to tell me that he pooped on the potty today and where's "Un-el" Zeke? He at work? Why he work? Can he take me for da ride when I come to your house? I congratulate him on the bowel movement, tell him I love him and bye, and reluctantly hang up the phone.

I run upstairs to the main printer and pick up all the stuff I printed. I shred the first set of reports, cut door signs, grab a thing of tape, and head over to the adult housing building.

And see these guys in the parking lot. They barely glance at me.

I hang up door signs, then build a fire so I can light it quickly around 7:30, just before everyone arrives.

I find the name tags the kids finished, and re-cut about half of them that look like they were cut with a chainsaw. Apparently we need to work on fine motor skills in our high schools...

It's five o'clock, so I take a break to write all of this down, surf the web, and confer with the staff member doing housing assignments for the kids (because changes. I do not envy her that job).

I say "hi" to my mom over Facebook chat- she responds with a string of emojis. I say goodbye and sign out.

It's suddenly almost 6, and I have mucho to do yet. I run upstairs and grab the medic bin, replace the forms, and clean it out because how many Skittles can get into one Rubbermaid container carted around by the camp nurse? (Answer, 14.)

Supper time. Counselors are arriving (and reuniting- some haven't seen each other since summer), and the screeching and running and hugging is a little overwhelming but I have to get over that because dude. 130 middle schoolers in t-minus 2 hours. I sit next to Zeke, and we hold hands under the table. It's like a date!

Then it's back to the office. I do a little tidy up, file some paperwork, and suddenly it's 7. Almost show time.

A pastor shows up. He's very early. He brought five campers, and can they move in yet? I tell them nope, direct them to the board games. I get the medic check in ready- set up the table, lay out highlighters and sharpies and post-its, lists and medical forms- and set up the chairs. I stick the check-in report on my Welcome Center desk, and light the fire in the adult building.

7:20. Last cup of coffee, and I figure I'd better go pee before they all arrive and I can't get away. That finished, I get the medic for the weekend all settled in and ready to go- answer her questions, show her the binder and explain how we record everything.

30 kids show up at 7:50.

We had a youth leader expressly ask that she be the counselor for her bunch of kids, and they show up without her. She's not coming. I run back and tell the housing person that we'll need to divvy up 12 little girls into other cabins. I check my e-mail quick- the youth leader didn't e-mail me or call me to tell me she wasn't coming.

We get a rush of three "big churches" all at once, bringing 70 of the campers all at one time. And they are loud, and all want to know what cabin they're in and can they be in the same cabin as Suzy/Hallie, Jill???

Three extra adults show up- one who I should have known was coming but didn't register, one who I had no idea about, and a bus driver (surprise!)... none of them registered, but all expect a bed. I whip up a couple name tags and open up an extra room. Glad I saved that room.

A child gets his t-shirt and exclaims, "Oh my gosh! These shirts are so swag!!!"

There's a lull, followed by a group of 30, followed by a lull. A camper says to his counselor, "You're the best counselor ever!!" as he walks by with his group. So, bonding is going well, from the looks of it.

Check in is over, but we're waiting for 10 campers- I call them. Their group got lost, and I direct the bus to the entrance. They're all checked in.

I take a minute to take stock- added 5 "surprise" campers, had 4 more cancellations (1 sick and 3 just didn't come). I check on my medic, she's doing fine and getting organized, but has a deer-in-the-headlights look. I don't blame her.

The kids head to chapel, and after clearing it with my medic, I follow for about 10 minutes or so. Then it's off to bed for me, at 11:00 pm.

Just another day in paradise. Or ministry. Or at Camp. Whatever.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Sick Day and Some Niblets.


I woke up with the beginnings of a cold sore (do you get those? awful.), and the headache and almost-like-a-fever symptoms that usually come with it. Oh, and outside looked like this...


Pretty, yes. But I'd rather just stay in bed all cozy and warm...

And since I didn't have any immediate things to do at work, I decided to take a sick day.

And really, I just wanted an excuse to lay on the couch all day and watch Gilmore Girls. So I did.

I actually napped for a lot of the day (while the stupid cold sore manifested itself in all it's nasty glory... yuck), until Zeke came home to keep me company.

He made me this...

It had three peppermints in it. Yum. Talk about happy!

And we watched this...

Yes. There is a "show" on Netflix (the Wii streaming kind, anyway) called "Fireplace for Your Home." You can choose a fireplace with festive yuletide music, or without music. And there's a fish tank one, too! Who knew?

Definitely a worthwhile sick day.

And now for something completely different...

Some Niblets

Around the blog lately...

I've been getting lots of comments/e-mails about my post about posting baby bump pictures on Facebook. Thank you all for your warm wishes and prayers- it means a lot.

We're still working through my series on singleness and dating from a Christian perspective. Somehow, what was planned to be a four-week series exploded... it's a huge topic, so I suppose I should have know that would happen...

Around the blog formerly...

I've been seeing lots of hits on my Budget Bride series recently! Looks like the wedding planning has begun!

And around this time a year ago, I used a carpet shampooer and thought deep thoughts about it. This year, I have a new vacuum cleaner- one with a clear canister, and the same philosophy still applies.

Around the web this week....

I'm notorious for apologizing for "the mess" when people come over... it drives Zeke crazy... so I loved this post.

And if you haven't seen/heard about Kim Kardashian's picture on the interwebs, don't go looking for it- I'll give you the Cliff Notes: Kim Kardashian posed mostly nude for a magazine cover, showing off her bottom and obviously Photoshopped waist. Now go read this awesome response - it's worth it.

This cold weather is reminding me that it won't be long until Advent, then Christmas... and I haven't thought of any co-worker gifts for this year! Last year I made cute little felt ornaments... they're somewhere in this post here...  And I think I'd like to do something similar. Any ideas?

And apparently I'm not the only one under the weather--- see more illness inspired PHFR over at