From Spectator to Participate, Spiritually Let’s Grow

How would you rate your spiritual health?  Today, I’m continuing the series, Life is too valuable to merely be a spectator, shape up and become a participant. We’re looking at the S in SHAPE.  I’m certain I will not be sharing anything new. However, maybe a new context will somehow inspire and motivate.

 

S SPIRITUALLY Growing in Your Relationship with God

I am a rule follower and enjoy having accountability.  The drawback to this is that as a young mom of little ones, I was placing unrealistic expectations on myself.  Well meaning gals would share how they felt a quiet time should look like and I tried to emulate them unsuccessfully. I sought the perfect place and time to have time alone with God, which if you have toddlers running around you know how you are often in survival mode. So dear friend,  be gentle and realistic. Evaluate which season of life you are currently in as it will impact your spiritual depth and reach. Learn to be creative and how to best connect with God. Remember how much time you had when you were single or newly married compared to now with toddlers demanding your attention? I have a lot more time in my new season of life as I no longer am homeschooling, and my youngest is in high school for eight or more hours a day.  Your goal is to figure out how best to consistently connect with God BECAUSE as my friend Sally Clarkson said….

rose

 

Intimate relationships require dedicated time spent together.  There are many voices daily competing for our attention.  Peace, direction and hope come when we live for an audience of one. Making God’s Word your authority in every area is vital for defending against the many spiritual attacks we will experience as Christians.

 Ways to Shape Up Spiritually and Grow Your Relationship with God

  • Spend time with God. READ and LISTEN to His word. It can be a verse, a chapter, a book of the Bible, or a topical reading plan. My reading plans change almost yearly as I enjoy trying different approaches. Do you have a Bible? Some of you reading might be asking how do I choose the right bible?  I understand, and my friend Elisa Pulliam has a wonderful resource to help you discern  how to choose a Bible.
    • Have you discovered YouVersion? I am not recommending you replace your faithful Bible with a Bible app. However, there is a convenience to having your bible on your phone since we never leave home without it. Numerous times when I find myself waiting, I pull out my phone and begin to reading the Bible or one of various plans or to listen while driving as I always seem to be in the car these days.  I was convicted recently by my friend Elisa who once was asked, “When are you going to get God off your to-do list and start having a real relationship with Him?” After all, I don’t think to myself, “I need to spend time today with my husband or children.” We spend time with those who are a priority.  I want God to be my priority.  Last month while going through a book study with a group of women someone shared that she does not allow herself to get on Facebook until she has had time reading God’s word.  How have you made reading God’s word a priority?  Any tidbits to share with other readers?
  • Journal the insights gleaned while studying your Bible.  I’ve used the R.E.A.P. wmethod which was introduced by Matt Carter, the teaching pastor at Austin Stone Community Chuch.  Other methods include S.O.A.P. , S.O.A.K., and Inductive Bible Study  figure out which method works best for your learning style and go for it.  Do you already have a favorite study method that inspires you?
  •  Listen to worship music, podcasts, and more.  We are instructed in Philippians 4:8 to focus on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if any excellence and if  any worthy of praise–think on these things. While driving, walking, working around the house, or when going to sleep I listen to anything that exudes peace and goodness.
  • Meditate on what you read or the truth you hear. Quite your mind and ask Holy Spirit for His perspective and direction. Write down and memorize scriptures by placing them around your home or car on post-it notes.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Practicing gratitude is the easiest, fastest way to becoming happier and thus more spiritual. I have started the practice of writing down several things nightly I am grateful for. Someone said, “It is not happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy.” and Brice Wilkinson said, “A moment of gratitude makes a difference in your attitude.”
  • Implement family devotions.  As a young mom I relished family devotions as they were a way to refuel spiritually and make spiritual deposits into my children’s lives.  Ten of my family’s favorites include:
  • Find accountability. Personally, I thrive with accountability as I’ve realized that I am not alone in my struggles.   Thus far this year I have read five books because I have others holding me accountable whether in person or on-line (Meet the New You, The Lifegiving Home,  Daring Greatly, The Root of Rejection and Anxious to Please).   So may I suggest finding someone to hold you accountable?  Maybe a friend, a church bible study, an on-line course, or consider hosting a group study in your home.  It’s been said that accountability is actions towards or involving others that reflect the integrity of the person you want to be. So who do you want to be like?
  • Pray “Lord, teach us to pray.” –Luke 11:1  Prayer is the inspiring experience of conversing with, and praising God as our loving, gracious heavenly Father. It doesn’t matter how we pray but that we pray.

I hope this has been helpful.  Remember it’s not merely the method used, rather you are looking for the consistency and what best works for your current season of life.  It’s drawing closer to Papa who dearly loves you and has created you.

The Life Giving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming

The Life Giving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming is a book that has been in the making for 20+ years.  It is written by Sally Clarkson and her eldest child, Sarah Clarkson, offering a balanced perspective on how to have a life giving home.  I pre-ordered several copies to give as gifts as I knew I would not be disappointed once I received them.  Visiting Sally’s home numerous times has allowed me to experience first hand some of what she shares in the book and gleaned over the years. Below is a collage of photos from the September 2012 Mom Heart Intensive, where Sally fed, encouraged, and breathed life into over 30 women. Sally and Sarah have bona fide credentials to write a book about how to have a life giving home as that is truly what the Clarkson home is.  It is a welcoming respite.

#LifeGIvingHomeBook #Sally Clarkson

Mom Heart Intensive 2012 at Sally’s home.

Nearly 20 years ago, I was blessed to attend a conference where I heard a breakout session by Clay and Sally Clarkson on “Educating the Wholehearted Child.” Their talk and book redirected my path as a mom. They shared how to use real books and real life to make your home a vibrant place of living and learning. I greatly appreciated how they emphasized the importance of having a solid biblical foundation for nurturing your children’s hearts, minds, and souls. Throughout the book, “Educating the Wholehearted Child”, they share snippets titled “IN OUR HOME” offering a glimpse of their family life. As a young mom, I desperately desired to create a home firmly grounded in discipleship and a home of belonging. So I did what any desperate mom would do, I made Sally my mentor. Over the decades, I’ve read her books and attended numerous WHM conferences all because I sought to cultivate a close relationship with my children. Imitating another person whom you admire or treat as a role model is the fastest way to learn anything 😉  Through Sally’s vulnerable sharing via books, conferences, and blogs, she has inspired, equipped, and directed my path as a mother and homemaker.  

I’ve watched the Clarkson children grow into ambitious young adults making this book more credible given the closeness of their family and the implementation of values by the children.  Sally and Sarah share many of their families’ monthly rhythms, traditions, favorite books, recipes, and much more to inspire women how to consider creating their very own life giving homes.  

My daughters are now 27, 25 and 15 and because of the wisdom I’ve gleaned from my mentor and dear friend (Sally), my family too has created a place of belonging, growing, and flourishing. Our home is a place of peace – full of life and lots of love. More importantly, our home became a launching pad for our daughters as they went into a hurting world taking God’s light and love. Our home serves as a welcoming respite for my older daughters and husband when they return weary and in need of rest, restoration, and rejuvenation.  Below is one of my favorite quotes from the book as this is how we viewed our role as parents.

#LifeGivingHomeBook #SallyClarkson

#LifeGivingHomeBook #SallyClarkson

Below is another favorite quote from the book that not only spoke to me but was also convicting. It’s my desire to view every arrival at my door as a divine appointment, however, I struggle at times with wanting everything to be perfect. I am challenged by a question Sally asked, “What if there was an army of light bearers spread all over the world at outposts where people could come to feel the touch of God, understand the truth of God, experience the beauty of God, witness the joy of God in the place called Home where the reality of God was celebrated every day?” That is exactly the place I desire our home to be.  It’s my prayer that those who enter my door would feel God’s peace, love and joy by us within the four walls of our home.  This picture of our home serves as a reminder of God’s love towards me.  Do you see the rainbow? It was truly breathtaking. Rainbows are such a beautiful part of creation. After a rainstorm, it’s wonderful to see the big, colorful arc appear in the sky.  

Divine appointments by CDW

#LifeGivingHomeBook #SallyClarkson

I am thrilled that Sally and Sarah have taken time in their busy schedules to write this book as it will truly bless others.  Throughout the book, they end each chapter with the section, “IN OUR HOME”, offering a glimpse into their home and family life for each month of the year. There are so many wonderful ideas and practical suggestions for building a life giving home of your own. Sally shares some of their memories, celebrations and rich traditions. 

I now have a lovely gift to share with the young moms I mentor, to inspire and guide them in creating their own place of belonging that is not lost to the busyness, distraction and brokenness of our culture.

The Vision of home

#LifeGivingHomeBook #SallyClarkson

Here is another collage from the 2015 Mom Heart Intensive hosted at Sally’s life giving home. I am always amazed at how graciously Sally cooks and feeds 30-50  women with simplicity. Tables are beautifully decorated with her china and candles throughout the house. Their home reflects the reality of the living God which is so inviting. Sally is a woman who practices what she teaches which is why I can whole heartily recommend this book.

#LifeGivingHomeBook #SallyClarkson

2015 Mom Heart Intensive. Hosted by the lifegiving Sally Clarkson.

For those living in the Austin, TX  I hope you can join me at my home for Sally’s web party on Tuesday night (2/9/16). Bring a friend and celebrate a sweet time of fellowship and be encouraged by my friend and mentor. I have a few giveaways of my own that are sure to please.  

Gifts, recipes, printable posters, The 24 Family Ways poster, lovely offerings and a grand prize will be given away during the evening of festivities. Register HERE  

Be sure to order your copy.

The Life Giving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally Clarkson and Sarah

The Life Giving Home Experience: A 12-Month Guided Journey by Sally Clarkson and Joel.


Why Date Your Mate

I am privileged to be sharing over at The ART of Domesticity.  Sandra Maddox is an outspoken advocate for Christian Motherhood, a speaker, ministry leader, mentor, teacher, children’s book author and accomplished interior designer. She and her husband, Dr. Ron Maddox, live in Newport Beach, California.  Be sure to check out her lovely blog The ART of Domesticity.

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Before delving into the importance of why you should date your mate, my husband and I wanted to share a portion of our story to raise the question, is dating simply a prelude to marriage? Dating is important for couples who are exploring the possibility of matrimony, but it is also important for couples already in wedded bliss. 

Jon: I remember the first date I had with Cherie. We were in college and looking over my fraternity’s membership yearbook that had a picture of all the active members in alphabetical order. Cherie was doing an early version of tender by telling (swiping) which of the members she wouldn’t mind dating. We were friends at this point so this wasn’t as awkward as you might have thought 🙂 When she came to my photo, near the end as my last name starts with a “W”, she glanced up from the yearbook and said she wouldn’t mind dating me! I was shocked then quickly recovered and immediately asked her to go on a date to see a movie and grab dinner together. Thus began a year of dating followed by a year of engagement before I could call Cherie my bride.

Cherie: Before my prince charming came along I dated many toads.  While dating before marriage was fun, the process had several drawbacks including broken hearts, rejection, and confusion. During high school and my early college years I wasn’t  ready to settle down. For two years I had been a little sister for a fraternity that Jon was part of but we were not on each other’s radar. Thankfully, we both enrolled in summer classes my junior year. We were already friends so there was no stress to impress. We began hanging out, talking, playing tennis, jogging, watching movies, and sometimes he would hang out at the pool where I worked as a lifeguard. It was so much fun!  The intentionality of planning these fun outings together knit our hearts together over time and I began to wonder if he had any romantic feelings towards me.

While Jon and I are not always perfect in the field of marriage, we have over thirty years of experience and have equipped numerous couples for marriage by guiding them through premarital counseling. 

10 reasons we continue to date and counsel married couples to do the same:

  1. Dating is spending quality time together and we know that time strengthens any relationship. Couples that play together stay together.
  2. Dating builds oneness.
  3. Dating allows us to reconnect, eliminating the two ships passing in the night syndrome.
  4. Dating provides for deeper communication.
  5. Dating provides opportunities to create fun memories through shared experiences.
  6. Dating shows your spouse that they are a still a high priority and everyone wants to be wanted.
  7. Dating rekindles the flame of romance.  A fire that is not fed or tended to will eventually die out.
  8. Dating keeps things exciting which often leads to passion.
  9. Dating helps children feel more secure about their family dynamic and provides a great example for how they should treat their future spouse.
  10. Dating is a tangible expression of our love for each other and an example to others. 

Once married, dating your spouse should be done with intentionality. Block out time and put it on a shared calendar. Don’t let routine set in nor allow your career or children to push your dating aside. Dating is a simple way to nurture the most important earthly relationship we have by spending time together. To do this, it is important to intentionally disconnect from your everyday world and reconnect with the one you love.

Dating can involve simply doing fun things together to enjoy each others company. This looks different for everyone, but it is our opinion that couples should date as often as possible because it provides as safe space to reconnect. A date doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate in order to strengthen your marriage, however, it does need to be intentional. You are seeking quality time together. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Speaking of fail, a few date killers for us have been running errands, discussing finances, children, family issues, or work. Decide what boundaries you need to enforce ahead of time in order to enjoy the intentional time together.  

We have enjoyed sharing the responsibility of planning our dates. This allows for creativity, excitement, and fun. Part of the date should include hubby opening the door and gratitude at the end of your date.

Having lived in LA, VA, TX, OR, and CA we’ve been able to experience dates on the beach, hiking the Shenandoah Mountains, apple picking, visiting historical landmarks in Washington DC, hiking Multnomah Falls, and so much more. Depending on where you live, I encourage you to make the most of the free and fun opportunities that are around you. 

After thirty years of marriage, we have gone through numerous life stages that have impacted our dating. From having toddlers to teens, extensive travel, a demanding job, or a financial flux, it is important to keep in mind the season of life that you are currently in while planning your dates. 

2015 Dates with my mate

A few of the many dates we had in 2015. From mud baths, wine tasting, doing laundry, pedicure, hiking, walking, sunbathing, canoeing, etc… all of that with my hubby being on the road 100 days in 2015.

Below are numerous ideas to help you get your dating mojo going:

  1. Walking and talking. We do that several times a week.
  2. Biking 
  3. Have a picnic overlooking the ocean as the sun sets or out in the country after picking apples
  4. Serving the homeless or any other outreach in your community
  5. Gardening or landscaping
  6. Grocery or Home Depot shopping
  7. Being a tourist in your own city by visiting local attractions
  8. Visiting museums and historical landmarks
  9. Painting or wallpapering (when we were younger)
  10. Walking through model homes or visiting a parade of homes and talk about your dream home
  11. Test driving cars and talking about what your ideal car would be
  12. Planning vacations together and, of course, go on them together!
  13. Reminisce over old photo albums or your wedding album
  14. Watch your wedding video
  15. Explore local cuisine.  Your local magazine, newspaper, or a google search can help you compile a list of restaurants. Cut out//print out the places that interest you and then place them in one of three jars: (special occasions, casual dining, or inexpensive).  When it’s time to decide where to eat, randomly pull a place from the jar of choice.  
  16. People watch in a public place (airport, mall, downtown)
  17. Enroll in a class together (dance, cooking, educational)
  18. If struggling in a particular area regarding marriage (communication, respect, etc,)  buy a book to read aloud to each other.
  19. Visit the zoo
  20. Hang out at a local bookstore
  21. Take a scenic drive to enjoy the landscape and beauty of nature.
  22. Hot air ballooning is a once in a lifetime experience
  23. Find a couple’s devotion and nightly read from it together. One of our favorites is, Moments Together for Couples: 365 Daily Devotions for Drawing Near to God & One Another by Dennis and Barbara Rainey
  24. Once the kids were all in school we were able to have special dates in our house or meet up for lunch outings.  
  25. Plan and splurge once or twice a year for a weekend date away together.
  26. Learn each other’s love language and begin to give love the way your spouse best receives love. We give and receive love in one of the five ways.
    • Physical Touch
    • Acts of Service
    • Words of Affirmation
    • Quality Time
    • Gifts  

Do you feel like you are in a rut and stuck on planning a date?  Below are resources and blogs to help you become more creative.

  • 40 Unforgettable Dates with Your Mate by Dr. Gary & Barbara Rosberg
  • 10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage by David and Claudia Arp
  • 10 Great Dates for Empty Nesters by  David and Claudia Arp
  • 52 Fantastic Dates for You and Your Mate by David and Claudia Arp
  • The Dating Diva’s this blog was started by 11 women desiring to make sure they continued to date their husbands plus stoked the romance fire in their marriage. They have lots of ideas for various budgets.
  • Focus on the Family along with Greg Smalley’s expertise did a series dating your spouse.
  • 52 Date Night Ideas FREE printable cards categorized by
    • Outdoor & Active
    • Artsy & Cultural
    • At Home & Inexpensive
  • Date Box Everything you need for a fun and creative date delivered monthly to your door for about $30/month.

I hope you have found these resources inspiring and helpful. Have fun and enjoy planning your night out!