seven things

Well hey there, little blog! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I’d all but abandoned this blog when the busy season at my job started and I basically lived at the office. Afterwards, I was low on motivation and creative energy (and maybe feeling a little inadequate compared to some of the ultra-shiny bloggers out there with jillions of readers and glamorous sponsors). But my friend Annie recently jumped back on the blog bandwagon and reminded me that blogging should be fun and doesn’t have to be perfect!

I’m starting my grand re-entrance into the blog world with a quick ice-breaker. In no particular order, here are seven things I’m loving lately.

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1. The response to Hurricane Harvey

How could I not start with this? I love Texas and Texans. It has been so heartwarming to see people coming together, putting their differences aside, and, in some cases, literally dropping everything to help. My church’s worship leader borrowed a boat and headed down to Houston with a friend to get stranded families out of their homes and onto dry land. Austin Pets Alive! has had to turn away volunteers and is literally out of space for donations because so many people have showed up to help dogs and cats rescued from the coast. The residents of Rockport, Massachusetts, are raising $5,000 to help Rockport, Texas. And for once, the disaster has mostly escaped being politicized.

This is what Texas — and America — is about.

If you’re still looking for a way to support communities affected by Harvey, or a way to help specifically with the long-term recovery process, I hope you’ll consider contributing to the official Rockport-Fulton Chamber GoFundMe. Rockport holds a special place in my heart since my family has been going there for vacation since my dad was a kid. (My first fish below!)

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2. Pilates

I stumbled upon The Balanced Life while searching for at-home workout videos. I had always assumed Pilates required über-flexibility and was maybe a little snooty…but I am so glad I was wrong! I’ve been doing 20-30 minutes almost every day since March and have gained so much strength, stamina, and muscle tone. “I can’t wait to get home so I can work out” is now an actual thought that goes through my head.

Robin does an amazing job of making Pilates accessible and fun. I love her $19/month membership program, but she also has free videos on YouTube that are fantastic to dip your toes in. Better yet, join the free 7-day Back to the Mat challenge! If you’re looking to change up your workout routine (Or start it. No judgment here!), check her out.

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3. Harry Potter audiobooks

Audible now carries the entire Harry Potter series narrated by Jim Dale. If you grew up a Potterhead, you might recognize his voice from the cheesy (but, let’s be honest, amazing) PC video games from like 2002. Listening to his very comforting voice reading one of my favorite stories has been such a delightful way to brighten up my commute downtown!

4. Grapefruit sparkling water

I hate grapefruit, but for some reason grapefruit sparkling water hits the spot on these toasty summer days!

5. Sunshine

Y’all, I’m like a flower. I love sunshine. I need sunshine. There is nothing, in my opinion, like waking up to bright, cheery sunlight filtering through the blinds and spending every possible moment outside soaking up that warmth.

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6. TED Talks

I feel like I am a decade behind the rest of the Internet, but I just realized that TED Talks really are awesome. Here are a few I’ve watched lately that stuck with me.

I’m 17 // Own your face // The power of introverts // How to gain control of your free time // The wait is sexy // Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model. // Why you should define your fears instead of your goals

7. Simplicity

This season is all about simplicity for me. Trimming down our stress and our stuff; spending more time being quiet, creating things, growing good habits. I feel settled and in a comfortable routine more than I have since high school. I guess that comes with being a quarter-century old, hitting my groove at work, and clarifying what is really important to me.

I hope to be back on this humble blog soon. Have a great week, friends!

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a carb lover’s guide to going gluten free

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I love carbs. All the carbs. Pasta. Cookies. Bread. And not just squishy white bread — all manner of grainy wheat bread too. And pizza.

PIZZA. 

My husband has chronic allergies, and when our physician assistant friend mentioned that going gluten-free often helps, even if you’re not technically allergic to gluten, he laughed. We couldn’t possibly live without bread, we thought! But we came around and decided to try it for six weeks as an experiment.

The Results

I was skeptical of the gluten-free phenomenon at first, but even in the first few days I found that I felt lighter, even when I ate pretty heavy food. I got headaches less often, and I felt less draggy in the afternoons. I felt like I had more energy (although, for full disclosure, I’ve also been better about moving my lazy self around since the new year). I didn’t understand why, but I liked it.

We ultimately decided not to stay gluten-free — it had only a marginal effect on hubby’s allergies — but I’m leaning towards consuming less gluten than we used to. First, it’s just better for you, because eating less bread forces you to eat more fruits and vegetables and unprocessed food. Second, it was actually pretty easy to put tasty meals together. I found that I didn’t miss food containing gluten all that much.

For those of you interested in reducing or eliminating gluten from your diet, here are five tips that helped me, a carb lover to the core, survive and actually enjoy our six-week experiment.

1. Focus on what you can have.

You know what you’re not going to miss out on when you go gluten-free? Literally all Mexican food. As long as you opt for corn tortillas, there is like zero flour ever in Mexican food. As a native-born Texan who could eat her weight in enchiladas, this makes me a happy camper.

I made a list of food groups and dishes that do not contain gluten and referred to it frequently. Whenever I got bogged down in self-pity that I couldn’t stuff my face with Panera mac and cheese, I would go back to that list and be reminded of all of the yummy things I could eat instead.

For example, the following items from my go-to recipe binder were already completely gluten-free: my above-mentioned world-famous enchiladas, red beans and rice, posole, pot roast, frittata, stuffed bell peppers, carnitas, one-pan Greek chicken and veggies, chili baked potatoes, most soups, stir fry (with tamari instead of soy sauce), and migas. Not to mention every salad ever and every combination of meat/fish, rice/potatoes, and veggies ever.

Also my mom’s Christmas fudge, which could be the only dessert I eat for the rest of my life and I’d be pleased as punch.

2. Make simple substitutions.

You don’t have to find all new recipes, although that’s always fun. I bet if you flipped through your recipe collection you could find a few that are way easy to adjust.

For example, my jambalaya couscous recipe can be made gluten-free by switching from couscous to quinoa (I tried it, and it’s just as delicious!) or rice. As mentioned above, you can use corn tortillas instead of flour for your Tex-Mex fix. You can substitute corn starch or corn meal for flour breading. And with gluten-free pasta, my list of eligible recipes nearly doubled. Banza chickpea pasta is actually delicious (plus loaded with protein)!

3. But don’t buy gluten-free things just because they’re gluten-free.

I first read this recommendation on The Penny Hoarder, and it was incredibly helpful. It’s easy to feel like you have to buy a lot of new products to make your pantry gluten-free, especially in the overwhelming gluten-free aisle of the grocery store. But you don’t need seventeen kinds of flour and crackers made out of weird grains you’ve never heard of. (What is sorghum anyway??) Not only do those foods cost a lot more than their gluten-full twins, you often just don’t need them.

I recommend starting out with “regular” food. Eat like you would normally eat, just without bread or pasta. You won’t miss gluten as much as you think you will! And when you do, you can add in gluten-free replacements as you need them a little at a time.

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For example, here’s what I ate on our first gluten-free day. Scrambled eggs with sausage and bell peppers and an orange; tacos, chips, and guacamole; and broccoli beef. No weird fake flours here.

We regularly bought only four gluten-free alternative products.

  1. I missed having toast for breakfast almost instantly and found a gluten-free sandwich bread I liked.
  2. We added in lentil chips for lunchbox snacks…
  3. and rice crackers as vehicles for hummus or almond butter when we got tired of chopping vegetables.
  4. We tried a few kinds of gluten-free pasta and settled on Banza as our favorite. Even then, we only ate pasta occasionally.

You don’t need a total pantry overhaul.

4. Buy lots of fruit and vegetables.

I’ve always loved fruit, but before going gluten-free I admit I focused more of my grocery shopping on the snack aisles than I should have. During our experiment, I doubled the time I spent in the produce section and made sure I picked up at least four or five fruits and vegetables each to have on hand during the week. That way we would have no excuse for moaning and groaning about having “nothing” to snack on.

Having extra vegetables handy also helps make more flavorful and interesting salads. Bored with lettuce? Top it with grilled chicken, crumbly cotija cheese, a jillion extra vegetables, a handful of chili powder, and some kind of salad dressing with lime, and you have yourself a delicious southwest salad.

5. Get your vitamins.

I am not a health care professional and this should not be construed as medical advice. But one thing that came up several times in my research was calcium deficiency, which can be a problem for people with Celiac. Most wheat flour is apparently enriched with calcium and other vitamins, and missing out on that is no bueno. Just to be on the safe side, I made sure we always had milk, orange juice, and other vitamin-filled items on our grocery list.

If you’re concerned that you might not get enough vitamins, please talk to your doctor!

There you have it. These five tips helped me tackle six weeks with no gluten — and while I’m back to eating it occasionally, it was a valuable experiment and I definitely got into some healthier eating habits along the way.

Have you thought about going gluten-free? Gluten-free friends, what other tips do you have for carb lovers like me?

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how i read the bible in less than 6 months

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I did it. The thing that I started this blog to record. I read the entire Bible, and it took me less than six months.

What was that? How did I do it? I’m glad you asked.

Over the years, I cycled through a lot of excuses for not reading the Bible. One was that I felt like I didn’t have time. (“Lol OK,” says God, who if you recall created the entire universe.) Another was that I couldn’t decide what plan to use.

I’m a very structure-dependent person. I like having routines and spreadsheets and to-dos to check off. I write my grocery lists in order by aisle. But in this area, structure had become an obstacle instead of a support. I would agonize over which plan was perfect, try one for a few weeks, feel bad about skimming passages that didn’t appeal to me, forget a few days, and then give up. I was holding myself too much to reading an arbitrary number of chapters and meeting arbitrary deadlines.

When I picked up the Bible this summer, I decided to just go with the flow. I did some cursory Googling to gather ideas on which books I should read first. From there I hopped around between the New and Old Testaments as I felt like it. Though jumping around might seem uncomfortable to someone like me who likes point-A-to-point-B solutions, I found I was actually experiencing a pretty cohesive story.

I’m sharing this plan so anyone who wants to read the Bible but has struggled to keep up before has a loose framework they can start with.

But before we get to the plan, here are three things that you should know you have permission to do.

1. It’s fine to stop after just a few minutes.

This plan does not prescribe a certain number of chapters per day. In my view, the important thing is to be filled up with God’s word as you read, not to get through a certain amount each day. If you’re not feeling it, it’s fine to just read one or two chapters. If you are, go ahead and read a whole darn book in one sitting. It’s totally up to you.

2. It’s fine to skim, every now and then.

I read a some of the Old Testament books pretty quickly. Generally you should avoid skimming, but let me be the first to tell you that you don’t have to memorize every single requirement for sacrificing sheep or pigeons or whatever. Especially if this is your first time through the Bible, the point is to learn about God and invite him into your daily life, not to get bogged down in details.

3. It’s fine to skip a day here and there.

Don’t beat yourself up. Just pick it back up when you can. Over the course of my study, I read at least every other day.

So, without further ado, here’s my ultimate not-a-Bible-plan Bible plan.

The Beginning

  • To learn about Jesus’ life: Two Gospels (I picked Mark and John)
  • To learn about the early church: Acts and Romans
  • To learn about prayer: The first book of Psalms
  • To learn about God’s first followers: Genesis and Exodus
  • To learn about the law: Galatians and Leviticus

(Why Galatians before Leviticus? Here’s why.)

About Halfway Through

  • To refocus on Jesus: Another Gospel (I picked Luke)

The End

  • For wisdom: Proverbs
  • Because it’s the end: Revalation
  • Jesus again: The last Gospel (Matthew)
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a year of intention

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2016 was a year of learning new things. Mostly learning new things about myself.

Learning that I like some things I thought I didn’t: coffee, local politics, animal print shoes, reading the Bible, running, purple grapes, occasionally wearing yoga pants.

Learning that I don’t like some things I thought I did: being busy, Twitter, infinity scarves, living near shopping and restaurants, most music written after the 1970s.

Learning — or really just solidifying — what’s important to me.

2017 will be a year of living intentionally.

I’ve noticed a pattern in my life. When I make poor choices (usually small ones, but poor nonetheless), 99% of the time it’s because I was operating on autopilot and not thinking carefully about my actions or words.

I’ve also noticed a consistent call in my Bible study to “be self-controlled.” 1 Peter goes on and on about it.

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” 1 Peter 1:13-14

“Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” 1 Peter 4:7

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

It’s like, OK, God, I get it, JEEZ.

I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions. I’ve set a “word of the year” a few times and enjoyed that experience, but this year I’m taking it a step further. 

My brother-in-law got me the Powersheets Intentional Goal Planner for Christmas, and I have absolutely loved using its goal-setting questions to brainstorm, doodle, answer prompts, and figure out exactly what matters to me and how I can pursue it next year.

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My goals for 2017 are:

  1. Earnestly seek the Lord because he created me for more than coasting through life.
  2. Be a cheerful, selfless, supportive wifey because two are stronger than one.
  3. Work hard and well because my team worked hard to hire me and good work is hard work.
  4. Cultivate cheer, optimism, and confidence because there is so much good in this world to get bogged down in bad attitudes.
  5. Live healthy because the Bible says our bodies are temples and I only get one.
  6. Spend with intention and be content with less because memories are greater than things.
  7. Live in the moment and soak it all in because time is precious and I don’t want this year — the year I turn a quarter-century old — to fly by before I’ve even noticed it.

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2017 means more family time, more prayer, more creating, more sweating, more reading, more connecting, more giving, more resting.

It means less Internet, less criticism, less hurtling through the day on one hand, less laziness on the other, less selfishness, less worrying.

It means living on purpose and living with purpose.

2016, it’s been real. 2017, Let’s do this.

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Note: This post is not sponsored. I just really enjoyed the planner and wanted to share the process!

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merry christmas, and a fun announcement!

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Hooray! It’s Christmas Eve!

I love Christmas. Love love love it. I’ve never understood the question “What’s your favorite holiday?” How could it be anything but Christmas? I love the quiet family time, the yummy food, picking out gifts for my favorite people, the joy and excitement that’s in the air.

Ok, I like getting gifts too. There, I said it. Let’s all just admit that we like this part, no matter how holy we pretend to be, and move on.

I’ve never been one to get caught up in the stress and consumerism many of us struggle with during this season. That said, I haven’t always done a great job of keeping my focus on “the reason for the season.”

This year I’m proud to announce: I FINISHED THE BIBLE.

The whole shebang. All 66 books, 31,102 verses, 695 pages.

It took me just under five months, from July 30 to today, December 24. And I did it with no Bible-in-X-months plan, no predetermined order, no accountability partner (other than this friendly little blog). I think I could have just as easily finished it in four months at the same reading pace had I not taken a few multiple-day breaks here and there.

Folks who either haven’t read the Bible or have struggled to do it, take heart! It’s possible!

I’ll post more in-depth later about how I tackled this project. But for now I just wanted to pop in and say Merry Christmas to all!

I hope you and your family have a delightful day celebrating with family and friends.

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on cows and contentment

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My husband’s intern lives on a farm in what you could reasonably call the middle of nowhere. It’s a good 20-minute drive down windy county roads, some of which aren’t even paved, from the nearest grocery store. It’s the kind of place where you can stop and listen and hear nothing. Nothing human, anyway — just the wind rustling the trees and a duck call here and there.

Among their menagerie of farm animals is a small herd of beef cows — big, burly mamas and tiny, fuzzy babies in varying shades of chestnut with long, luxurious eyelashes.

The weird thing about being in a field of cattle is the overwhelming sense of contentment that washes over you. These cows are perfectly happy to munch on grass and wander wide-open fields and snuggle their young day in and day out. If they get a few extra alfalfa cubes, they’re pleased as punch. But they never moan and groan about what they might be missing. They’re just cows, doing their cow thing.

I think we could learn a thing or two from cows.

As I write this, my Bible is open to Numbers 11. So here are the Israelites, getting ready to go on a journey to the promised land. Not just anywhere. The promised land. They need food along the way, so God provides them with manna — which is reportedly both delicious and nutritious.

But after a few days, the Israelites get unbearably bored. And they start whining about not having the exact kind of food they want as they are on their way to the special place that God set aside just for them.

Typical.

It’s easy to laugh at the Israelites and to think that, if we were in their position, we would be so much more grateful to God for all the help he provided us. But would we?

I don’t know about you, but even as a routine-oriented person who enjoys a quiet and largely predictable life, I too get bored. I see the sparkly, impressive parts of other people’s lives selectively shared on the Internet and itch to have what they have. I frequently daydream about throwing my responsibilities off onto someone else.

As humans, we crave adventure. We yearn for excitement. It seems our biggest fear is monotony.

But it’s in the day-to-day of life that real joy and contentment can be found. In embracing our role and our place and finding contentment in every moment.

Maybe your place is in an office cubicle or at home with a gaggle of children around you. Maybe it’s in a field of beef cattle.

Wherever you are, remember:

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:4-8

May we each embrace our place today and every day — a place we’ve been set in for a purpose unlike any other’s — and may we do it cheerfully.

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white space for your soul

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I’m a compulsively early person. About 20 minutes before I actually need to leave the house, I get the worst ants in my pants. I just can’t sit around anymore.

You’re supposed to arrive everywhere you go five minutes early to show respect for the time of the person or group you’re visiting. But 20? That’s just annoying.

But the cool thing about leaving 20 minutes early is that it forces space into your life. And space is something we all need more of.

In document design, “white space” is an important concept. Studies (ironically, this one features very little white space) have shown that a document with ample white space is not only more aesthetically pleasing (think your favorite style blog vs. your college biology textbook), it actually helps our brain process information better.

The same can be said for our mental and spiritual health. God calls us to do, yes, but also to rest and to think. We need white space.

I’m a scheduler. I have my plans for each day planned out on my Google Calendar and on the calendar whiteboard in my kitchen. When I’m not actively doing something, I’m still doing something. When we’re “watching TV,” I’m reading Twitter. When I’m “getting ready for bed,” I’m clearing away dishes and other junk that’s accumulated from the day. Shauna Niequist calls this “fake-resting” in Present Over Perfect.

I’m getting some things done, but I’m also forgetting about other more important things. The more we fill up our minds, the less room there is for God.

Some people suggest scheduling downtime — like, putting it in your planner or on your calendar. That doesn’t always work well for me, unless I leave my house and go to a coffee shop so I don’t get distracted by clutter. Instead, I find I get the most refreshing white space in downtime I’m not expecting — like those 20 minutes when I can’t help myself from arriving early. There’s something about the spontaneity.

As I wrote this, I was sitting outside a coffee shop waiting to go to lunch with a friend. It was a beautiful sunny day — one of those wonderful Texas fall days when the sunshine is warm but the breeze is just cool enough to justify wearing your new suede ankle boots. I had no laptop or book with me and my phone was almost dead (oops), so I was using an actual notebook and pen(!!). It was crisp and quiet and I could feel the white space restoring my soul.

I can’t say I’ve ever heard the literal voice of God, but after the initial OMG-what-am-I-going-to-do-for-20-minutes panic subsided, I felt him answer:

You don’t have to do anything. Just be.

Ladies and gents, take some time to just be today. It may only be a few minutes, but let that white space push out all your worries and busyness and fill up your soul.

Be — be with yourself, be with God, be creative, be silent.

Just be.

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author of creation (literally)

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Over the years, I’ve returned again and again to a question: How can God possibly care about little old me? Of the billions of people on this planet, there are so many who are more faithful, serve more, study more, pray more. How can I even be a blip on his very crowded radar?

And then I happened upon a new way of thinking about God.

Picture an author. Maybe he’s sitting in front of a computer with a cup of steaming coffee or curled up on a couch with a fancy fountain pen. Maybe he’s in a cabin in the woods, or maybe in a high-rise apartment in a big city, or maybe he’s here in your living room.

Whatever this literary figment of your imagination looks like, there are two key characteristics authors share with God that can help us better understand how we play a role in God’s plan.

God cares deeply about all of his creation because he created them.

An author cares deeply about all of his characters. The main characters play a bigger role in the stories he weaves, yes, but no story is complete without supporting characters. They are equally important and equally complex in the author’s mind, even if their full stories don’t come through on the page.

Geeky aside: I listened to this interview with J.K. Rowling while preparing Thanksgiving goodies. About halfway through you get some great insight into how she thinks about her characters and how fully she developed them, even beyond the “main” characters.

Think about Harry Potter for a second. Sure, the books aren’t really about Professor McGonagall or Stan Shunpike or Justin Finch-Fletchley or Cornelius Fudge. But the plot would have been radically different without them. They are all Rowling’s creations and all critical to the story.

Likewise, you are God’s top priority as his beloved creation. It doesn’t matter what other people are doing (or what they make it seem like they’re doing). God’s focus is on all of us. 

This is the big one: God has time for you because he is outside of time.

An author is not beholden to the minutes and hours and days that pass in his stories. He can linger over special or challenging moments, jump ahead to future chapters, jump back to ponder what he’s already written. He can develop new traits or memories for his characters before or after a scene is written. And he can rewrite scenes. The characters keep moving forward in their plot, but the author is free from that constraint.

Your life is constantly moving forward, but God is the past, present, and future. He has more than 24 hours in a day, and so he has infinite time for each soul he created.

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God is called the author of peace, author of life, author of creation. I think that wording is just a coincidence. It means author in the sense of creator. But author in the literal sense? That’s a new and, for me, encouraging way of understanding of God.

Through this lens, I find much greater comfort in scripture about his concern for us. “Cast all your anxiety on him, for he cares for you” rings a lot more true from this perspective. He created us, he knows us deeply (even the parts others don’t see), and he loves us deeply.

God is writing a story, and he created you specially for the role he’s put you in. Let him tell it.

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we are ambassadors

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Marriage has kind of a bad rap these days. Though the oft-cited statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce is not true, it is true that culture today views marriage as temporary, unnecessary, and even a burden.

These perceptions are false — and there is so much more we can and should be doing to dispel them.

As Christians, we are ambassadors of Christ. Even if straight-up evangelism isn’t your thing (it’s certainly not mine), it’s still our goal to reflect Christ to others. For those of us fortunate enough to have found a husband or wife, we should have the same goal for marriage. Others, especially non-Christians, should look at our marriages and say, “Wow, they really do love each other unconditionally.” They should see what we have and want it for themselves.

That’s why it irritates me to no end when I hear people make comments against their spouses in public.

These errors are rarely made with any malicious intention. A sigh here. A comment there about something he forgot to do or a honey-do list she left for you. (Full disclosure: I’m sure I slip sometimes!) But they are thoughtless and cause three potential problems:

  • They damage perceptions of marriage.
  • They damage your spouse’s reputation.
  • They can chip away at your heart and the work you’re doing to become more like Christ.

There are tons of verses I could quote here about the power of words. But my favorite is a verse from Psalms that my pastor prays at the beginning of every sermons:

Father, I ask that the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart would be pleasing in your sight…

I love this verse not only because of my pastor’s important role in my (very young) faith journey, but also because of its greater ramification: that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts are inextricably linked.

The more we think or say something, the truer it seems. And as marriage partners, it’s our job to build each other up, not to tear each other down, and certainly not to tear each other down in public. That’s why even thoughtless, unintentional comments that reflect poorly on your spouse are so critical.

Whether we like it or not, our behavior is on display for others to see and judge. Husbands and wives, let’s tear down the ball-and-chain view of marriage. Let’s be vigilant with our words and make a commitment to share the joy of marriage and change the cultural conversation.

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holding tight to permanent

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Part memoir and part biblical wisdom, She Reads Truth: Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That’s Passing Away is a powerful commentary on change, loss, and learning to depend on God. And oh man, y’all, this book hit me right in the feels. It’s touching and powerful and occasionally funny (there’s a great line in there about God waiting for his creations to figure out how to make sushi).

SRT provided gentle answers to a question I’ve been wrestling with lately: How do I reconcile loving my life in this world when Christians are called to not be of the world?

It’s not a question the book addresses head-on, but it’s critical in my current stage of life.

Because I do love it. I love my family, I love my job, I love my friends, I love snuggling with my pups, I love writing, I love sitting outside in the sunshine with a glass of Topo Chico. Heaven sounds nice and all, but I’m not quite ready to give it all up. Does that make me a bad Christian?

No, Amanda and Raechel write. It just means we need to put the things we enjoy — things God intended for us to enjoy — in a greater perspective.

Contentment is having hope that is not dependent on our circumstances. It’s living with everything we ever wanted or none of the things we really needed, and being joyful either way because we are dwelling on the good things that has already done. I was learning, maybe for the first time or maybe all over again, that God was good because of who He was, not because of what He could do for me…

Contentment was going to be a lifelong exercise in fixing my gaze on the Lord both in plenty and in want.

I have plenty right now. I know, unfortunately, that in the future I’ll be in a stage of wanting. But the message this book shares is applicable to both: The things in this life that we love are anything but permanent, but that’s OK, because their value doesn’t come from their permanency. Their value comes from their creation by God and their role in our lives as his plan unfolds. It’s a subtle but important shift in perspective. And it’s one I think we could all benefit from.

My rating? A solid four stars out of five.

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P.S. I received a copy of this book through a giveaway by Lifeway and Eric Geiger, who blogs about ministry and leadership. Check him out!

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