Who are you?

“Who we are at home, behind closed doors, is who we really are.” (Women Living Well) OUCH!

Who are you at home?  Are you the same person that you are at church, at your kids’ school, at the grocery store or the bank?  I think we all tend to put on a happy face to the outside world when there is trouble at home.  I will be the first to admit that I do this.  The problem, though, materializes when you become someone completely different when the front door closes.  Our homes are our “safe places,” therefore it becomes all too easy to take our frustrations or stresses out on those we love, especially if we have been letting them build up over time.  It’s one thing to not air your dirty laundry in public, however it is something entirely different to morph into a completely different person in the confines of our homes.  The root of this problem is bitterness.

Proverbs 19:13 says, “A wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.”   That sounds pretty irritating, huh?  Do you ever find yourself pointing out your spouse’s flaws?  Or maybe you try to hold your tongue, but find yourself keeping a mental list of the things that irritate you or that you think he has done “wrong” only to blow up at some point and spout the list off in its entirety without missing a beat?  Focusing on the things that we deem as bad, wrong, negative or flawed is the quickest way for bitterness to set into our marriage.

What if the expectations we have set for our marriages and/or spouses are unrealistic?  Setting expectations in our minds of how we think our spouses should react or behave is one of the quickest ways to find ourselves let down, unhappy or discontent with our marriages. What if, instead of expecting our spouses to do something, say something or respond to something in a certain way, we simply wait and listen for their true response? I think what we might find is a lot more contentment and a lot less bitterness due to these feelings of not having our expectations met.  The goal is to strive for happiness in the home that, even in the difficult times, triumphs the bitterness that can eat away at our lives.  So, how do we accomplish even part of this?  Thank you for asking!

First, when you find yourself making that mental list of “wrongs”, try making a similar list of “rights.”  Maybe even write these good things down and look back over them when you find yourself reeling through your mental list of “wrongs.” If you’re feeling especially giving, try reading your list to your spouse! Courtney suggests not letting your bitterness fester.  She suggests confessing to God the bitterness that is in your heart through prayer.  You could also memorize scripture to repeat to yourself when you find your mind spinning toward the negative.  And finally, if you feel something that you absolutely must get off your chest, by all means do so! Holding on to true hurts will absolutely cause bitterness!  However, instead of blowing up immediately, take time to pray about it and ask God to soften your heart when you speak to your spouse.  Then, instead of completely focusing on how you were hurt or upset, point out some positives in the situation.  Leave the conversation on a positive thought and with a prayer.

Strive to be one person, the same outside the home as you are inside the home.  Live like He is always watching (He is)!

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Marriage…Culture vs. Bible

Genesis 2:18 says “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper who is just right for him.”  Genesis 2:24 goes on to say “…a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”  From the beginning, God intended men and women to come together, care for one another (Eph. 5:29) , submit to one another (Eph. 5:21) and to put this relationship second only to our relationship with Him (Deut. 6:5; Eph.  5:25).  Unfortunately, the cultural view of marriage does not parallel with the Biblical view of marriage.  The media is one outlet that has helped to entirely reshape our culture’s view of marriage.  From reality television shows  to social media, the ideal of marriage has been completely ripped apart.

Reality television has created entirely UNrealistic ideas about marriage, family and life as a whole.  In Chapter 7 of Women Living Well, Courtney describes several different types of reality relationships.  First you have the “Casanova,” where the man says and does everything picture perfectly…think The Bachelor.  Second, you have the empowered woman.  This woman is liberated, independent and has no problems running the home…think Wife Swap.   Third, you have the revolving door of husbands and wives.  When one relationship doesn’t work out, simply move on to the next suitor…think Real Housewives.  Fourth, you have the couple that simply live together, perhaps even raising a family, yet refuse to get married…think Kardashians.  All of these are readily accepted by society, due in large part to their glorious portrayal by the media, however none are Biblically sound.  Sadly, all these shows do is serve to incite discontentment in the hearts of many spouses.

Outlets like Facebook have opened up doors that have caused many a failed marriage.  What may begin as an innocent online friendship, or a rekindling of an old friendship from the past, can quickly escalate to the inappropriate realm.  Courtney herself has stated that, although her marriage is strong and thriving, she felt it necessary to delete men entirely from her Facebook page.  How many of us have logged onto Facebook to find pictures of flowers sent for “no reason at all” or updates from friends about their wonderful spouse that brings them breakfast in bed or makes their coffee every morning?  These types of posts can stir feelings of envy and/or jealousy in even the strongest of spouses and marriages. These feelings create a “grass is greener” syndrome which, again, leads to discontentment.  Discontentment is detrimental in marriage. Disrespect also seems to run rampant through social media.  In the heat of an argument, before thinking things through entirely, a spouse can become quick to air their frustration online.  We’ve all seen the posts that have made us stop and think to ourselves “whoa, marital dispute!”  Social media also eats away at our family time.  The amount of time we spend looking at the screens of our phones, iPads or computers should never outweigh the time we spend looking into the face of our spouse and/or family.

So, what can we do to strengthen our marriages in a culture that is ready to throw in the towel at any minute?  For starters, arm yourself.  Arm yourself with the Biblical definition of marriage.  Arm yourself with the Word and how He says we are to live together in marriage.  Second, weed out the bad seeds.  If you find yourself bitter or upset at your spouse after watching a tv show or reading status updates from friends on social media, cut those areas out of your life.  If you think time is an issue, do as Courtney suggests and make a log of the amount of time you are spending looking at your phone, iPad, computer or any other electronic device.  If this time outweighs the amount of time you are looking at your spouse or family, it’s time to cut back drastically.  Third, filter what you post, say and associate with on social media.  Fill your newsfeed with positive, uplifting sites and people. If you believe having men in your newsfeed may be a weak spot for you, by all means delete them. Weed out anything and everything, anyone and everyone, that stirs negative emotions about your marriage.  It may sound dramatic, but then again, so is divorce.

Slowing Down Social Media

Do you find yourself browsing Facebook during your down time?  Do you check Instagram and Twitter to decompress and unwind from the stresses of the day?  Once there, do you ever find yourself shocked, offended or even appalled by what your “friends” post or say? Do you feel pangs of jealousy at your friends latest vacation pictures, new houses, new cars or endless shopping sprees and nights on the town?   At the beginning of Chapter 4 in “Women Living Well,” Courtney states that social media in and of itself is neither good or bad, it is “amoral” as she so accurately describes.  However, what we choose to do with social media, how we choose to spend our time there, who we choose to talk to and what we choose to say is where the morality lies.

Courtney lists several ways social media and technology can negatively impact not only our spiritual life, but our family life, our personal relationships and our own self worth and confidence.  First and most importantly,  technology and social media can very easily distract us from God and our families.   Have you ever sat down to study your Bible only to be berated with an endless series of beeps and pings  coming from your phone, iPad or computer?   Did you allow these interruptions or did you win the battle and continue in your commitment to study his Word?  I personally believe that the technology that provides us with Bible apps on our phones and iPads are both convenient and crushing at the same time.  The ease of studying scripture at any given moment is amazing, however the temptation to stop midway to check the latest email, Facebook or Twitter notification is far too much for many to withstand.  We’ve all heard about (or maybe even seen) the moms who take their kids to the park, but are too engrossed in their phones or iPads to really see all that their kids are made of.  But, how many of us are willing to admit that we, at some point, have also been that mom?  Maybe your point of social media weakness isn’t when you’re at the park, maybe it’s while your kids are swinging in the back yard, maybe it’s while they ride their bikes in the driveway or maybe it’s simply while they play in the living room floor.  I think we all can admit that, at some point, social media has gotten the better of our time.

Social media impacts our personal relationships, both positively and negatively.   It’s great to have this medium to keep in touch with distant relatives and childhood friends, but have you ever been taken aback by something one of these people said or posted?  Have you ever had a friend comment on something you posted, only to sit and analyze it endlessly, trying to find the meaning behind their words?  Judgment and hurt feelings run rampant on social media.  As Christian women, we are called to extend grace in these types of circumstances.  This means that when your friend posts a picture of her girl’s-night-out rendezvous, you extend grace, not judgment. There may be instances when we are called to address sin in a sister’s life, however this should only come from a place of love and grace, and only to those we consider close at heart.  As Courtney states, we are “not on Facebook and Twitter to be everyone”s Holy Spirit!”

For a lot of women, the real killer in social media comes from the death it can have on our self worth and confidence.  As women, we naturally take pride in our homes, our husbands and kids.  Just when we think we’re doing good, the laundry is finally caught up, the house is (semi) clean, there’s actually hot food on the table and the kids are all still alive, we log on to Facebook only to see other moms’ fancy Pinterest dinners (organic and made from scratch of course), pictures of our friends’ latest home remodel, home purchase or new car and immediately our chest deflates like a balloon that has just been popped.  How do they find time to cook like that?  Where does all their money come from?  Once again, there we are, comparing our insides to their outsides, and our recent boosted confidence and self worth are shot.  This, dear friends, is the ultimate  burden for women in social media. That we would get our self worth from the realms of social media, rather than Him and what His word says we are takes our entire identity and changes it from something based on love to something based on works.  If this is your weak spot in social media, do not be afraid to abandon it entirely before it clouds your ability to see yourself through His eyes.

So, how do we maintain healthy relationships on social media, while not allowing it to consume our every free moment or change our perception of who we are?  I think the biggest step to take is to be selective in who you befriend or follow.  If you find yourself struggling not to pass judgment based on someone’s lifestyle portrayed through posts or pictures, maybe you should unfollow them or hide them from your newsfeed.  If you find yourself contrasting and comparing your life to that of other wives, mothers and homemakers, then maybe you should stop following those people.  You may feel bad at first, but the burden that will be lifted from the weight of negativity and judgment will far exceed your need to people please.  The next  step is to flood your newsfeed with positivity. Follow positive people, pastors who preach the truth, authors you admire and/or public figures that encompass your same beliefs and values.  Flood your mind and spirit with the word and thoughts from those who follow Him and your social media experience can be transformed from one of hurt feelings,  judgment and envy to one of peace, grace and contentment.

My quiet time was loud

One of my goals this year was to study my Bible daily, truly STUDY. I was already reading my Bible pretty often but it was very sporadic in nature.  Some days I might find time to do it in the morning during my daughter’s morning nap time (which no longer exists), sometimes I might pull up my Bible app on my phone in between fixing toys, handing out snacks, cleaning messes, doing laundry, making grocery lists or (gasp) checking Facebook and Instagram.  On really good days, I might actually steal a few extra minutes to get my pen, highlighter and Bible and actually STUDY what I was reading.

I knew this lack of dedication in my relationship with Him was not good, and quite frankly it was really bothering me.  In perfect timing, I began reading “Women Living Well.”  In her book, Courtney devotes the entire first section of the book to stressing the importance of our daily “walk with the King,” as she so accurately describes it. Why is this the first section of the book, placed even before marriage or parenting? Because this aspect of our lives should be the most important, taking precedence over anything else. She gives loads of suggestions on how to accomplish this, backed with real life ideas and ways to make this happen.  While things still aren’t perfect, I have learned there are a few key things to creating a consistent, meaningful, beneficial daily quiet time routine.  Here are some things I did:

1.  First, I bought a cute notebook to devote strictly to daily studies.  Some days I might simply make notes, some days I might write out full scriptures, some days I might do some verse mapping and somedays I might actually write out specific prayers.  I am extremely organized, so any reason to buy a new notebook excited me!

2.  I bought a new devotional and Bible.  It’s totally not necessary to purchase an entirely new Bible to become more devoted to a daily quiet time.  However, I had been wanting to purchase a Bible geared toward women/mothers for quite some time, so for me this was the perfect reason to go ahead and do it!

3.  I committed to studying daily.  For me, 30 minutes is the perfect amount of time to schedule each day, anything extra is bonus (and I’ll definitely take it)!  I began the year prepared to give myself this 30 minutes immediately after dropping my son off at school.  However, I quickly discovered that this time isn’t exactly quiet with a 20 month old in the house. In fact, it’s pretty loud…and hectic! Some days I would get lucky and get to spend my full 30 minutes uninterrupted while she played happily, but most days I  found myself stopping every 5 minutes to get out a new toy, turn a toy on, fill a sippy cup, get a snack, etc.  This clearly wasn’t working!

So, where did that leave me?  Honestly, irritated and stressed.  Which is where I’m at now.   I know exactly where this 30 minutes I’m craving needs to come from…my alarm clock, set for 6:00 a.m. instead of 6:30.  This is my biggest hinderance in my daily walk with God. I have always been someone who sets my alarm for the very last second and jumps out of bed and gets ready as quick as possible, not wasting any precious sleep. So, now my new goal is to not only set my alarm clock for 6:00 a.m., but to actually GET UP and take advantage of these 30 quiet minutes before the day gets loud. Honestly, I think I’ll find those extra 30 minutes really are precious…just not for sleeping!

Women Living Well Book Study

Last October I took part in on an online Bible study that truly changed my life.  The study was based on the book “A Confident Heart” by Renee Swope.  Through that Bible study I discovered several awesomely inspiring women bloggers, one of which was Courtney Joseph from Women Living Well.

At this time, Courtney was very close to the launch date of her new book, also entitled Women Living Well.  I downloaded the book after finishing the online Bible study and immediately dove in.  Who was this woman that had the exact same thoughts as me?  To say I agree with Courtney’s views on Biblical living would be a vast understatement.  In “Women Living Well” Courtney discusses topics such as our husband’s being the head of the household, a hot topic after the release of (and subsequent interviews regarding) Candace Cameron Bure ‘s new book (whom I also love and entirely agree with and support). 

Other topics include ideas on daily Bible time, the effects of social media in marriage, parenting and more.  I am very excited to begin working through this book as a full-blown study, rather than a simple reading of ideas.  Will you join me?

First, pick up a  copy of Courtney Joseph’s book, “Women Living Well:  Finding Your Joy in God, Your Man, Your Kids and Your Home.”  It is available at most major book retailers, as well as in many ebook formats. Next, follow this 8 week reading plan:   (click to enlarge).

WLW-Book-Club-Reading-Schedule-4

Then, simply join in the discussion over on Courtney’s book club blog page and be sure to check back here for my insight as well.  I pray this study will impact your life in the days to come!

~Kayla~

You have a choice

The choices we make in our marriages have generational effects.  The choices your grandparents made effected your parents and, in turn, effected you and the way you perceive marriage.  In Ephesians 5, the relationship of marriage is likened to that of Christ and the church, the most important relationship there is and will ever be.  Therefore, it goes to reason that our marriages should be as important to us as our relationship with Jesus.  When your walk with God gets hard do you throw in the towel and look for a better God?  Hopefully not!  Why then, when times get tough in marriage, are we so quick to throw in the towel and look for a better spouse?

Our grandparents seem to have had a much better grasp on this truth than our generation today, which is all to willing to resort to divorce at the first sign of struggle.  Maybe you were raised in a home where the ideals of marriage were not Biblically portrayed.  Maybe your own marriage is now struggling.  You have an opportunity to positively impact your children, their marriages, your future grandkids and their marriages.  Value your marriage, respect it and your spouse.  Put as much effort and emphasis on it as you do your relationship with Jesus.  Study God’s word on marriage in Ephesians 5.  Even though this is not society’s ideal of marriage, it is Christ’s ideal of marriage and will truly stand the test of time if we let it.  Imagine the impact this could have on society!

Are you making positive generational decisions in your marriage?  Will your kids and grandkids be able to view yours as a model of Biblical marriage?  If not, now is the time to make changes that will positively impact the path of your family for generations to come.

Building Grandma’s House

Picture your grandma’s house as a kid.  Was it quiet?  Was it calm and peaceful?  Was it well-kept?   Did your grandma seem rushed to get from here to there?  Did she seem in a hurry to finish the next thing on her to-do list? Did she cook dinner (and maybe even breakfast and lunch) every day? Did she work outside the home?

 Now picture your own house.  Is it peaceful or chaotic?  Is it well-kept or does the clutter cause you stress?  Are you constantly feeling rushed and in a hurry to finish the never ending to-do list?  Do you want to cook better meals for your family but still find yourself hitting the drive thru most nights?  Do you work outside the home but feel guilty about time lost with your kids?  Or, do you stay home with your kids but feel like you’re wasting your college degree or loosing momentum in the workforce?  Do you wish things would slow down just a little so you could enjoy life with your kids and family?

 Join me as we use God’s word to discover how we really can, and should, slow down, eliminate distractions and build homes that are loving, peaceful and maybe even old-fashioned.  Join me as we build homes like Grandma had.