Category Archives: Faith

Lenten Reflections #1

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For Lent this year I have decided to read the entire New Testament over the course of the season, reading just a few chapters each day. So far I have read through the gospels and am in the midst of Acts and learning more and more about the early church.  I’ve read parts of the bible, and I’d even venture to guess that I’ve read most of the new testament already, but never in order and never consistently over a short period of time.  So, it’s been quite enjoyable to take time each day to learn a little bit more and maybe get some more context about some things that I thought I already knew or understood to be true.

One of the stories that really stuck out to me was the story of the woman at the well.  If you want to read it, you can find it in John 4:5-42.  The image of thirst is used through out the Bible to speak to the human longing for God.  In this story, the overall message is that God is thirsting to have a relationship with us more than we even realize.

Here’s a synopsis of the story to give you some background info if you are unfamiliar.  Jesus, travelling back from Judea to Galilee, had gone through Samaria and sat down beside the well to rest.  He was hot.  He was tired.  He just needed to sit.  We’ve all been there, right? So while he’s sitting there, a woman comes up to the well to get some water and Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water.  But Jesus, being Jesus, isn’t just thirsty for some water–he’s thirsty for the woman’s faith.  He wanted the woman to believe in him and he wanted her to see him for who he really was–the son of God.  In many ways, our salvation is summed up here, in that our thirst for God meets God’s even greater thirst for us.

Sounds like a simple story so far, right? You’d think so, but that’s not where the story ends.  At first, of course, the woman is a bit evasive with her response. She doesn’t understand why this Jewish man is asking her for a drink.  You see, fierce hatred between Jews and Samarians goes way, way, way back in the history books, so the woman is at first just a tad confused. The woman asks Jesus why he wants water from her, since she is a woman of Samaria.  Since we know that Jesus is actually referring to a spiritual thirst, we can take the woman’s response to refer to her spirituality as well.  Here she’s essentially asking Jesus: how could God be thirsty for my faith and my attention? What would he see in me? What do I  have to offer Him?  Maybe you’ve felt like this from time to time too.

Jesus’ answer to the woman’s question is beautiful and sincere: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.”  We are made to have a desire for God and a desire to know him.  At times that desire may seem small, other times you might feel that desire become overwhelming.  Here Jesus shows us that His desire to know us and be with us is even greater than our desire for him.

Your picture at the top, Rachel, is supposed to represent the times of prayer and reflection that happen during the season of Lent.  Lent is an excellent time for spiritual growth and reflection, and I urge you to try to incorporate that into your life as you get older.  When I took this picture though, aiming to capture prayer and reflection, I found that what I actually saw ended up being different.  When I look at that picture, I see the innocence of a child.  The purity and the sweetness of a child, combined with my own personal overwhelming feeling of love and pride that a parent has for their child. I am proud of you–you are kind, and smart and funny and compassionate.  You have some faults, like the rest of us; however those faults could never outweigh the rest of my love for you.

If we only had the power to see ourselves through God’s eyes, imagine what we would think about not only just ourselves, but other people too.  As I think about you and Jake and how special you both are to me, I can’t help but think about what God must see in me too.  When I have trouble thinking of even one thing that I would have to offer Him, He can rattle of probably 50 things that he sees in me.  I know He thinks of each and every one of us that way.  Let’s try to see ourselves the way that God sees us.  After all, He is thirsting for us.

 

I love you to the moon and back. Forever and ever.

Love always,

Mommy

 

 

Relationship Advice #9

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“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord  not for men.”  Colossians 3:23

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Rachel and Jake,

For the past few years I have written to you here, here, and here with a variety of relationship advice for you to use in your everyday life.  Your Mama’s “pearls of wisdom,” as I like to call them, are not meant for mastery but more for your own reflection.  These little pieces of advice that I give are things that I am working on myself in my relationships and are in no way anything that I have mastered or do day in and day out.  Simply put, each year when your father’s and my anniversary rolls around, I reflect on what I have learned over the last year or what stuck out as the most pressing piece of advice I want to share with you.

When the time comes for you to get married, my hope is that you’ll be able to see what it takes to make a marriage last for a lifetime.  Your father and I have committed to the vows we made before God to love, honor and cherish each other as long as we live. It’s a large scale promise that can only be fulfilled by purposely choosing how we make up those day-to-day moments that create a lifetime of loving each other. What do those moments look like? Well, sweet little ones, that’s what I hope these posts will help you understand.

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{Relationships are a lot like sledding.  You have to mentally prepare yourself beforehand, get all of the tools you need in place and then you get to enjoy the ride! When you think you’re done, you just get back up, climb the hill again and head back down for some more adventure! Important note–It’s more fun if you enjoy the people you are sledding with.}

So, here it is, relationship advice number nine. It might sound a bit odd, but just bear with me here: get a hobby.  Yes, that’s right, a hobby.  The key to happiness does not rely on  relationships alone.  You need to be able to find things that make you feel happy and content and confident in yourself because as you will find in your life, and I’m sorry to say this, but people and relationships will sometimes disappoint you.  You need to be able to find satisfaction and fulfillment outside of relationships so that when the chips are down you can still have something that brings happiness into your life. On the flip side of that, your hobby will allow you to share your joy with others and many times will bring new and varied relationships in to your life.   God has given you specific interests and skill sets for a reason–it is up to you to develop and explore the natural talents He has given you!IMG_3135

Relationship Advice #9: Get a hobby. It could even be something that doesn’t have to involve the other person at first, if you want.  “How does that work?,” you might wonder. Or “What does that have to do with anything?” Well, that’s the beauty of this blog, just let me tell you…

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According to the researchers at the School of Medicine at Temple University, engaging in a hobby awakens the area of the brain that produces positive feelings and reduces stress.  Doing a particular task that you enjoy can enhance your ability to concentrate and encourages self-motivation and increases self-confidence.  All of these can have a profound impact on your relationship with those around you.

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Over the past few years your father and I have developed several hobbies.  Some we share with each other, and some we do completely on our own. Having a hobby that we can share together is a fun way to connect with each other, especially during these years when most of our conversation centers around you.  For example, in the past year or so your Dad and I have started exploring craft beers together.  We enjoy trying new beers together and finding beers for each other that we think we might like.  Sometimes we are surprised at how well we know the other person’s taste!

After you are in bed for the night, sometimes we will try a new beer together while we talk about the day or anything else that might be on our mind.  It’s a way for us to purposefully make an effort to connect with each other. Recently your Dad has even started learning how to brew his own beer with a friend.  I fully support that endeavor and enjoy reaping the benefits of it as well! IMG_3656.JPG

Photography has been a bit of an outlet for me lately.  I enjoy taking pictures and have been blessed to be able to share some of the joy that you, my children, bring me through sharing my photos with others.  I have been humbled that other people have chosen me to take their family photos and am loving some of the experiences and doors that photography has opened up for me.  It was completely unexpected, but it was an outlet your father (and some really great friends) encouraged me to explore!

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It’s no secret that your Dad has always been in to cars and Corvettes especially.  When we first started dating I thought “Go to a car show? Really??” Sometimes your friend or spouse might have a hobby that you are “just not that into.” And that’s ok! But, please try to like it for that other person.  There is always something that can be gained from new experiences.  Something that brings joy to your friend or partner can in some way bring joy to you too.  Even if it’s just spending time together or having something that you do together to support each other–it’s important!

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Who knows, some day you may like it and end up taking your kids there and posing them beside sweet Corvettes that you never really appreciated before your relationship began.  You might realize that it’s really not that bad, after all.  And when you find yourself saying “Hey, want to take the Corvette out and take pictures of it on some crazy back road I found?” you’ll realize that your two worlds have collided in the best way possible and then you’ll realize that the things that you thought were weird in your younger years really aren’t that bad after all.  Because in the end, my little ones, it’s all about supporting each other and bringing parts of yourself into a relationship.

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Trying something new can be a good thing when you look at it as an adventure or as a way to learn about new things.  In fact, we should welcome change and new opportunity into our lives because it helps evolve who we are as a person. Our lives weren’t meant to be stagnant.  You will grow and change throughout your lifetime and you want to be sure that you surround yourself with people who are going to encourage you and support your interests too.

If you want someone who is going to support you, then you need to be willing to do that for them, as well.  Being a good friend requires having a willingness to grow and bond over new experiences.  After all, no two  people are ever exactly the same.  Everyone comes in to a relationship with their own set of experiences and beliefs that can impact the way they view certain situations. Celebrate those differences, encourage others to pursue what makes them happy and enjoy the ride as they find their place in this world.

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I’ll leave you with one final thought, which happens to be an excerpt from an exceptional author.  Read these words and try to let them really sink in.  It took me a long time before I finally got the gist of what he meant.

Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.  Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.  Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.  Give one another of your bread, but eat not from the same loaf.  Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are along though they quiver with the same music.  Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.  For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.  And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow. ~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

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I love you more than you will ever know.  To the moon and back.

Love always,

Mommy

ps. Happy 9th Anniversary, Tim! Thank you for always supporting me and encouraging me and for helping me find my hobby!

 

Relationship Advice #8

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“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Luke 12:34

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Our wedding day

Rachel and Jake,

Another year has passed since I last wrote to you about relationships.  If you need a refresher, you can look here and here to see some of my other entries about love and what it takes to make a relationship work.  Now I’m not saying I have all the answers, because I don’t.  Marriage is work and it is hard, hard work.  But with that being said, it’s also the best kind of work.  It stretches you and helps you to grow and see yourself as a part of something that is working for a common good.  It’s a beautiful thing, really.  Anyway, my hope is that by the time you are old enough to read this blog you will have a nice collection of advice from your dear old mom to consider when navigating through the dating world and eventually settling down into marriage–then the real fun begins! Each year I hope to give you one more tip to add to  your Rolodex of relationship advice (not sure what a Rolodex is? It’ll probably be non-existent by the time you can read this, but as your mother I find it most appropriate to talk about the things from yesteryear anyway 😉 )

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Let’s talk a little bit about presence.

Ok, ok, I’m sorry, but we’re going to talk a lotta bit about presence, because it is very, very important in any stage of any relationship.

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When you, Rachel, were born, your Dad and I had no idea what the every day expectation of having a newborn was going to consist of.  We knew that we would feed you and change you and hopefully get to rest when you did, but we did not know what our new little family of three was going to look like and how those dynamics of our family would be shaped.  It’s something that you just can’t experience or fully prepare for until it happens! We had lots of conversations about what we thought it would be like, but looking in from an outsider’s perspective before something happens is always different from when you are 100% in the trenches living it day in and day out. By the time Jake was born, we had a better picture of what our expectations were–but again, you can never really be prepared until you are living it.  So once Jake was born, things were shifted and moved around in ways that we could not have foreseen, but it just worked for us.

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Rachel, my sweet little dear, I have a confession to make to you right now.  From the time you were born until the time you were about one week old, I did not change a single diaper.  Your Dad changed every. single. one. until you were nearly a week old.  Every single one.  Every single time.  I still get blown away when I think about that.  There I was on the couch after a tough delivery that left me in pain to move any ol’ which way I tried, and there was your Dad (never having changed a diaper before you, by the way), taking it upon himself to change your diaper no matter what time of day or night without giving so much as an inkling that he felt it should or even could be any other way.  Luckily, when Jake was born my recovery was much easier so luckily for us both, I was able to help out much more the second time around.

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Before you were born, I thought it was only a mother’s instinct that would cause her to wake up because her newborn baby was stirring in the bassinet beside her, ready to be fed.  And yet, each time either of you woke up at night, guess who was the one to get out of bed and bring you to me before I even had a chance to sit up? Yes, it was your Dad.  From the very beginning of our parenting experience he has been there for us with an enthusiasm and outlook that can only come from love in it’s most pure form.  He’s there because he loves us and he wants to be there.  It really is as simple as that.

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There isn’t a job that he won’t do. He has never handed either of you off to me because he doesn’t want to change a diaper, and he doesn’t ask me what I’m making you for lunch. If he’s playing with you and your diaper needs changed, he changes it! If he notices that it’s time for lunch, guess what? He makes it! And likewise, I do the same.  It’s truly a wonderful thing.  In your Dad’s and my mind–there are no “woman” or “man” jobs, there are only “parent” jobs.  And for those jobs, either one–mom or dad– will work.  Our expectation is that whoever is able to do it, does it. At the end of the day, we clean up the toys together, we put the dishes away and prepare things for the next day.  Oh yeah, your school lunches? Those aren’t always packed by me either–your Dad can cut sandwiches into sailboats better than I can!

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The best part, is that these are things we didn’t even talk about ahead of time.  These examples (and there are many more to go along with them!) are just some of the ways that your Dad has been there for us without ever even giving it a second thought.  Not keeping score, not throwing it all on one person, but really choosing over and over again to be there for us in every way possible.

So…without further adieu, here’s relationship tip #8.

Tip #8: Be with someone whose second nature is to be physically, spiritually and emotionally present in your relationship.

Choose someone who not only wants to be there in those ways–but someone who really does not see any other way of conducting themselves in your relationship without those things.  Begging for support in any of those areas can be totally draining to both sides.  Choose someone who will meet your expectations in each of those areas.  If your expectations are not met, it can lead to resentment and hard feelings–both of which can be toxic to any relationship.  In the entire picture of your life, your relationship should be equally balanced between two people who are willing to sacrifice and give in order to make it work.  BOTH people need to be present in order for those sacrifices to be made and valued.

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In closing, here are some questions to ask yourself when trying to determine if you and your spouse are really and truly present in your relationship.

– Do I offer help with every day tasks without keeping score? Do I see what needs to be done and do it, or do I wait because it’s not my “job”? Do I value my partner enough to go outside of my comfort zone in order to help my partner feel supported?

– Do I know the spiritual concerns of my partner? What can I do to help my partner along in their spiritual journey? What do they feel called towards? How can I help them reach their calling?

– What is troubling my partner today? What is my partner proud of themselves for doing recently? What is my partner’s emotional climate like? Why? What can I do to help support my partner’s feelings and emotions?

Don’t worry–you got this! And if you don’t, your partner will be there to help you pick up the slack! 🙂 Right?

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With all that said, I love you both very much. More than you could ever know.

Love always,

Mommy

xoxo

PS. Let’s just take a minute and cheers to your Dad! He truly is one of the best one’s out there…Cheers to you, Tim! We wouldn’t be who or where we are today without you! Happy Anniversary! Here’s to a hundred, and a thousand more.

Happy Easter 2015

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Happy Easter, my little sweeties! What a fun day we had filled with candy, Easter baskets, songs and a wonderful message shared later in the day by my sweet girl about how Jesus makes us “clean” again (Thank you, Miss Dani!)

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It is because of the sacrifice Jesus made by dying on the cross for us that we have reason to celebrate today.  Always know that Easter is not just about the candy and eggs, but that it signifies a promise fulfilled and a love so strong that it was willing to go to any length to sacrifice for you.

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Some people put much emphasis on telling others that they love them…a spouse, a friend, a child; but Easter reminds us that real love is more than just words.  Real love requires action and sacrifice.  Jesus dying on the cross is the perfect example of the ultimate sacrifice to display the ultimate love.  I challenge you, my little ones who will one day grow into adults, to show the world your love not just in words alone, but also through your actions. The choices that you make and the sacrifices you endure will show the world (and yourself) where the intention of your heart lies.  Love the ones who are the most difficult to love, reach out to those who need your help the most, sacrifice your time being of service to others.  Volunteer your time, your energy and your heart.  Do what you can to make the world a better and more loving place.  By choosing to live a life of actionable love, you will get to know the Father’s love for you (and all of us) in ways you would never have known before.

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Romans 8:1

I love you to the moon and back. Forever and always.

Love always,

Mommy

xoxoxo

Reflections on Love {Part 2}

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Happy Valentine’s Day to my sweet little valentines who mean more to me than anyone else in this entire world! I hope you always know how much you are loved, not just by me, but by the One who made you! You were created in His image and likeness, and I believe wholeheartedly that we are here on this earth to spread His love to others in any way we can! You can read a little bit more about my thoughts on what love is here. 🙂

jake valentines day 2015One of the best parts about being your mom is that I get to watch your life grow and change right in front of my very eyes.  I know that you were created for a purpose and that your life has meaning to it, and I can’t wait to watch you both grow.  One thing that I wonder about is how you will react to the world’s expectations of you when you are a young adult.  I hope that the values that I am trying to instill in you today will carry over into your experiences as you try to make sense of this big ol’ world around you.

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I wonder, if by the time you feel the desire to have a significant other, will you still value yourself if you do not find someone in the time frame you were hoping to? Will you still stay true and steadfast to your core beliefs–both personal and spiritual? Will you know that your life’s worth, and who you are as a person, is not measured as “successful” by the ability (or inability) of someone else to love you? If the answer to these questions is “yes!” then I will feel as if I have done my job successfully in preparing you for the inevitable disappointment of a failed relationship or in the longing of a new relationship.

YOU, my sweet ones, are worth the wait in any relationship.  Hold strong to your worth and know that you are a prize.  You are so loved already by so many people around you.  No matter what happens, your life has a purpose and your life has meaning.  Do not let others make you feel lesser or that you are not worthy according to society’s standards (those standards are bizarre and unrealistic most of the time anyway).  The only standard that really matters is His, and He loves you more than you could ever know.  Think about that for a minute or two, reflect on that…..Know that love.  Feel that love.  Share that love with others. You are worth it.rachel valentines day 20152

I  love you to the moon and back.

Love,

Mommy

Happy Baptism Day, Jake!

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On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus.  “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “What is written in the Law?” he replied.  “How do you read it?” He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” Luke 10:25-28

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Dear Jake,

Happy Baptism Day! Today you were baptized and welcomed into the church as a child of God.  Your Daddy and I made a promise to God in front of our family and friends to raise you in a way so that you know Jesus and come to accept Him into your heart as you grow.  Just like we have for Rachel since she was baptized (and even before that, really), your Daddy and I take our role as your parents very seriously. We will do our best to honor Him by raising you to be filled with love, knowledge and understanding of our God and His teachings.  I hope that one day you will read the scripture verse I have posted above, and know that you are loved and claimed as a child of God.  If you love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, everything else will fall into place. Love, my sweet babe, is the answer to so many of our questions.  And as I wrote in my previous letter to you, when we choose to love, we can also gain a fresh perspective on the world.

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All in all, little guy, we had a beautiful day celebrating with family and friends and welcoming you into your new life as a child of God.  I am blessed to have you be apart of my life journey, and I am beyond blessed to be apart of yours.  You are so very special to us all.

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body-whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 1 Corinthians 12:13

God loves you, and I do too.  Always.

Love always,

Mommy

Reflections on Love

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My little sweeties,

Happy Valentine’s Day! I love you so, so, so very much! You bring so much joy into my life, the kind of joy that could never be duplicated or felt with anyone else.  As your mother, I hope that you always feel loved in the world, but most importantly, I hope you realize that love is meant to be given and not just received.

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Valentine’s Day can sometimes be a day where people are reminded of a love they desire to have.  To some, Valentine’s Day is an over commercialized day that can leave people feeling as though they are not good enough or loved enough or cared for enough.  It can leave people feeling bitter about the day, and even love in general.  As someone who has found love, but is still learning and growing in love, there are some things I would like to share with you.

The history of St. Valentine is an interesting one.  Valentine was a priest who performed marriages during a time when marriages were banned by the Roman Emperor.  The emperor felt that soldiers would fight more valiantly if they were unattached.  So, was Valentine a hopeless romantic? Or did he decide it was more important to glorify Christ through his strong beliefs about the sanctity of marriage? I believe it is the latter.  Even if it meant death, even if it meant going against the culture of the time, Valentine was willing to perform marriage ceremonies to unite people in love and faith.  His faith was the driving force behind his actions, regardless of popular culture.  How inspiring!

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So, in keeping that brief synopsis in mind, here are a few things I want you to know about love.

Love is more than something that should be celebrated in a commercialized fashion just one measly day a year.  Love is more than a bouquet of flowers, a box of chocolates or some funny card you pick up at the grocery store.  And yes, love is more than just the fleeting feeling of being “in love” (I’m talking butterflies and daisies, here). 

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Love is more than just about you.  Real love….true love….agape love comes from God.  It is only through receiving His love that we are able to give love to others.  When you receive God’s love, love will flow from you until it touches every one you come in contact with.  And instead of looking to receive love from others, you will realize that you have so much love to give. 

Let His love consume you….Let His love take over your life so that you can develop into the person you were meant to be.  You were made for and created to love.

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The bible says many things about love, but the one that inspired me to write this to you can be found in the book of John.  John 3:10-12 says,

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

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The word love is mentioned 667 times in the bible…and this is no mistake.  God calls us to love one another.  He doesn’t call us to receive superficial love from others, or to foster an “all about me–what can I get?” mentality. He doesn’t encourage us to criticize or knock down others, even under the false pretense of doing it “in the name of God.” Extreme criticism and hatred go against the very essence of Christianity–which is to love.    He calls us to GIVE love. By choosing to love others through our words and actions, we are giving glory to God in a way that makes it all about Him—and not about us.  When in doubt, choose love.  When we are open to receiving God’s agape love, only then are we able to choose to really give real and unselfish love to any and every one we meet.

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What better gift could there be than that?

 

Love always,

Mommy