When Your Greatest Weakness is Strength

When Your Greatest Weakness is Strength

I couldn't stop looking at his ankles. Scrutinizing. Wondering if they were slightly bigger or slightly smaller. Was the edema coming back with a vengeance like it did in January? Were his protein levels elevated? Or was this because of something else? Because, we are finding, autoimmune diseases can be quite the puzzle. We began going over everything: exercise, nutrition, weight, water intake. And with everything, I kept scrutinizing. Wondering. Looking.

Stressing.

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If Resolutions Fade: 6 Timeless Tools to Quit Porn {or anything else}

If Resolutions Fade: 6 Timeless Tools to Quit Porn {or anything else}

Although this is an article intended to help those who desired to give up porn as part of their New Year's Resolutions, these tips on "what to do now" work for any habit you're trying to break. Whatever your detrimental habit may be, it's time for a check-in. 

How are you really doing?

I've found that the habits that bring the most separation between God and me are those that temporarily fill a hole in my heart. And the enemy to my health (physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional) is intent on helping me keep filling said hole with things that don't last so that I don't discover the fruitlessness of my actions. As I wrote in my journal the other day:

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When there's Nothing Left to do but Embrace

When there's Nothing Left to do but Embrace

As I'm typing this, I'm sitting in a hard hospital chair while Craig recovers from a kidney biopsy. Medical machines beeping, nurses soft-soled shoes squeaking on the tile floor, the murmur of hushed voices. It's been a long stretch of days filled with unknowns. 

One morning this week, I thought about how long we're going to continue on this roller coaster of despair. As many of you know, this summer was filled with loss of loved ones. And the start of Craig's health issues. One thing after the other and my continual question seemed to be: When will we catch a break?

I just longed for the season to be over.

When we found ourselves confronted with this round of health issues, I started to ask the same question. But mid-sentence, I stopped. In an act of somewhat pissed-off surrender, I said something like, "You know, what God? I'm just going to embrace it. Bring it all and I'm going to walk through it. Be in it. Sit in it. Wrestle with it. Help me learn whatever You want me to learn."

My conclusion is this: I am where I am and that is where Jesus is.

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8 Habits Worth Cultivating if You’re Stretched Too Thin

8 Habits Worth Cultivating if You’re Stretched Too Thin

Living life in this world can be brutal. There are days when every time I turn around, there is a new crisis—in my life, in my community, or in my world (and sometimes all three simultaneously). But the truth is, even on a day where there is no major catastrophe or unwanted surprise, life has the potential to be overwhelming. Work, chores, kids, spouse, friends, and volunteer work all clamor for my attention, shouting “Me first! Me first!” I bet you can relate, too. So how do we keep all this work, all this noise, and all these needs from pushing us over the edge? Here are my strategies:

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When Numbers Usurp Your #1 Priority

When Numbers Usurp Your #1 Priority

We're talking about intentional living, living out our daily lives with the important things front and center. We've covered distractions and the prioritizing of the roles we play. But what do we do when there's a continual gap between what we want our priorities to be and how we structure our time?

I will be totally upfront and honest and tell you that I have struggled with this in the past in very big ways. Damaging ways. When our book came out in October 2014, I was consumed by marketing and book sales. It wasn't about the money. It was about my needing to prove my worth, my desire to please my publishing house, and my need to be esteemed by Amazon rankings.

Here I had a book about the importance of marriage and relationships and I spent all my emotional energy on my job. I took every single writing opportunity. Craig and I did every single radio event we were invited to. I talked in person or phone or Facebook Messenger that asked me questions or needed help. 

And then my kids would come home from school and I would have absolutely nothing to give them, except the bare minimum. I remember the day that I realized how backward my priorities were like it was yesterday. I was standing at the top of the stairs, my youngest daughter was in front of me, her eyes pleading for me to be able to meet her emotional needs, and I had absolutely nothing in the tank.

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On Being a Rescuer

On Being a Rescuer

Today, my Facebook feed has been filled with images of ordinary people using ordinary boats to save ordinary people in an extraordinary situation. The catastrophe named Harvey has wrecked Houston and surrounding areas in the most unbelievable way. My father-in-law has been stuck in the hospital where he works as a chaplain (hopefully he's being rescued as I type), some of my friends have been evacuated, and I frequently check on my other friends to see if they've survived another night in a flood-threatening situation.

It's all terrible. 

But the rescuers. Praise God both for the people in uniform and the plain-clothes who are continually risking their lives to save people in danger of drowning and dying and despairing.

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The Power of Words in Marriage (from a 13 y/o's perspective) & Resources for your Walk with God

The Power of Words in Marriage (from a 13 y/o's perspective) & Resources for your Walk with God

Hi friends! My name is Abby and I’m the oldest daughter of Jen and Craig. I am so excited to be writing for all of y’all today. This week, I was just laying in bed when God talked to me about my parents. He gave me some questions to think about. But here was the big one:

How does my parents’ marriage affect me and my sister? 

You might think that your marriage affects only you and your spouse. If you think that, you’re wrong. If you don’t have children, there are other areas where your marriage can affect the people around you, but that’s for another week. 

Kids see and hear a lot more then you may think. If you’re showcasing a positive and healthy relationship when you know you’re around your kids, you think that they have the perfect vision of what married life may be like. What you don’t know, though, is that we kids are way more observant than you may think. You may be having a fight with your spouse, maybe even just with your body movement or facial expressions, and your kids can sense the tension. 

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Mindful Communication (New video!)

Mindful Communication (New video!)

That awkward silence when you walk up on a group. Eyes shifting to the ground. Whatever they were talking about, you weren't meant to hear, for whatever reason.

This is the scene in Mark 9. Jesus walks up, the disciples mouths close, their eyes downcast. They'd been caught doing something they weren't supposed to be doing—arguing about which one of them was the greatest, who had the most stature, who was the most gifted, the most right, the most _________. The content of their conversation was selfish, unfruitful, and led to division between them.

The guilt was written all over their faces and evidenced by their silence when Jesus asked them what they were talking about. They felt guilty. How do I know? I've felt the same way before. 

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What Do You Do with Despair?

What Do You Do with Despair?

I've been pondering what to say about the horribleness of what has happened in Charlottesville. I've been wondering about the potential nuclear threat of North Korea. And two more soldiers died in Iraq, the paper said.

"How long, O Lord?" I keep asking. How much longer do we have to deal with the injustice? With the hate? With the fear? With the arguing? The superiority complexes? How long are we going to live under divisiveness and when will the oppressed find freedom? I've caught myself often this summer asking Jesus if He could just come now and the only reason I find myself lamenting that He hasn't is because I know there are people who haven't gotten to know Him yet.

I've been reading through the Gospel of Mark. In chapter 9, I found that Jesus asked a question similar to my own . He's talking to the crowd gathered around Him, not to God, but He said, "Oh faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you?"

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Insecurities out, Believing God in (new video!)

Insecurities out, Believing God in (new video!)

It's easy sometimes to dismiss the Bible as irrelevant to our times, especially the Old Testament. But the story of Gideon in Judges 6 completely described much of what Craig has been going through. We don't often see ourselves as God sees us. But how would our outlook and attitude change if we did? How might our lives look radically different? 

It took me (Jen) awhile to see Craig as God does, but I am so glad He changed my vision, my perception, and my perspective. As a spouse, God can equip us to truly see our spouse and encourage him/her to step out of the hole and into the role God has for him or her!!

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Imitation Self-Control Tastes a Bit like Imitation Vanilla: The Real Thing is Better

Imitation Self-Control Tastes a Bit like Imitation Vanilla: The Real Thing is Better

I am, we are, works in progress. The past few weeks have been a painful work in progress. It seems like the whole onion analogy works here. There are layers and layers of my controlling nature and as God peels them away, sometimes I cry.

A large part of why I control is because I’m afraid. My biggest fear is that I will fail my husband and my kids.

So much of my planning, organizing, and caretaking stems from the anxiety that if I don’t do X, Y, and Z—or if they don’t—things will fall apart. I keep my expectations high for a well-run, well-organized life, doing my best to keep everyone moving along as they should, investing all that I can emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I believe that this continually striving will give me protection from all that failure that looms large out there.

Hey, guess what? I’m exhausted. Again.

Somehow, I fooled myself. I cloaked my controlling nature and hid it under the guise of simple self-discipline, self-control. That sounds so holy, right? How can self-discipline, self-control, be wrong?

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Expectations: A Kindness Killer

Expectations: A Kindness Killer

All last week, God's whisper of a voice was nagging me. Give up the expectations. Give up the expectations. Give up the expectations.

I shushed Him. I kept plowing on. Things needed to be done. You know—

People have needs.

The laundry needs to be done.

Deadlines need to be met.

Meetings need to be attended. 

The house needs  to be clean.

The kids need to do their homework.

We need to eat healthy meals.

The needs were the priority and they needed to be satisfied. I needed to be satisfied. And the only way I would be is if all these things got done—impeccably and on time.

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What a Tree Can Teach You about Kindness

What a Tree Can Teach You about Kindness

On Monday, Craig stayed home from work and through the morning, I still found myself bitter. Poor guy. HE'S SICK and I can't seem to muster up the compassion I know I should have and should be showing.

Part of the problem is that on Saturday, we spent all day working in the garden. Craig helped me. All day. But instead of resting in that gratitude for the day he was able to help, instead I grew resentful of the fact that we still had so much to do (inside and outside) and now, I would be completing all these tasks by myself.

I could have done the sane thing and adjusted the amount of items reasonably achievable by one person. But when I get in my "uber-productive" mode, I lose some section of my brain entitled "Rational thought." Words such as EFFICIENCY! PRODUCTIVITY! ORGANIZATION! ORDER! play through my brain on repeat. And anything (anyone?) that tries to disrupt my work? The image of Alice and Wonderland's Queen of Hearts passes through my mind.

Sad.

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Video Games Don't Yield Real Treasure

Video Games Don't Yield Real Treasure

I can tell you that I have spent a lot of time over the years doing hobby or leisure type activities.  Besides my addiction to porn, I’ve logged hundreds of hours playing video games.  I’m sure I’ve spent even more time binge watching shows and movies. 

But, what do I have to show for it?  Has it changed me for the better?  Has it deepened my relationship with God and others?  If I am truly honest about it, the time was spent simply to satisfy myself.  These were all self-medicating distractions to keep my mind off of what was really going on in my life.  Instead of seeking God and His presence, I chose to isolate and sequester myself in a fantasy world.  Now, I want more and these hobbies and distractions are not fulfilling me.

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Free with me?

Free with me?

"Free" is my word for the year. Craig was the one who thought of it, probably because he notices on a continual basis how enslaved I am. I rarely I notice the chains. I don't even picture them as chains—more like I'm a magnet and I allow burdens to become a part of daily living and breathing and moving. The problem is, when you've attracted all this weight, moving becomes heavy and breathing, ragged.

I want to be very clear: I love helping people. I love listening to people. It's an honor to be invited to share burdens, to be privy to vulnerability. But where I get muddy is I allow their problems to become my problems. When my thoughts wander, I find myself tangled in their possible solutions. I drown in their sorrow. I lament continually to God. I lose where I end and they begin. There's no clearly defined raindrop—just a puddle

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Living Big Goals in Little Bits

Living Big Goals in Little Bits

I will do a little of each goal every day.  Sounds simple, right?  Morgan Snyder (www.becomegoodsoil.com) uses the phrase “Live in the day.  Measure in the decade.”  I love that phrase because it really speaks directly to the impatient and frustrated parts of my heart.  Think about it: Real change, deep change, meaningful and everlasting change takes time.  That means it also takes patience and perseverance. This is true for our individual lives and for our marriage.

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