We Built This Nest

As has become our custom, I took a walk with my children yesterday. We went to a nearby park where we had heard sightings of amazing birds, including Bald Eagles. We began our journey walking around the lake, scrutinizing the nearby woods and trees for anything of interest.

The park, being a popular walking trail in our town, was scattered with many other pedestrians doing the same. Several paces in front of us, an older couple was squinting through binoculars into the nearby trees.

It was that couple who pointed out the nest to us. It was the largest, most breathtaking bird’s nest I have ever seen. My snapshot, did it little justice.

“It is a Bald Eagle’s Nest.” The sweet lady commented as we came close. My children gasped in awe of the magnificent nest towering in the tree beyond us. I had never seen a nest so big. According to my Audubon Bird book, Bald Eagles’ build the largest nest in the entire world! It really was breathtaking.

We watched carefully for a bit to see if we could catch a glimpse of the creatures inside the nest, but never saw the eagles.

As we admired the home of the eagles, the sweet older fellow beside her, commented:

“He built his lady a nice nest.”

Without missing a beat, his wife corrected him.

“I think they build it together.”

I smiled at those comments as they unknowingly sunk in my mind. Later, as I pondered our afternoon walk, that image of the amazing Bald Eagle’s nest brought a sense of deep awe, combined with the words of the sweet older lady that “they built it together.”

Eagle’s Nests are Built to be Permanent

Back at home, I looked up the facts of Bald Eagles and their nests in our Audubon Bird book and learned that, yes, indeed, both birds gather sticks to make their nest together. But the female eagle is the one who weaves the sticks together to form a sturdy home.

The nest is not built for a season and abandoned forever. Mr. and Mrs. Eagle build their nest with the intent that it will be the primary place for them to raise their young throughout the years. The nest is built with thought and care, catered to the needs of the eagle family. The nest is build to weather not storms for one season, but storms and seasons for many years.

Both Eagles Build the Nest

I let a sigh escape my lungs. What a beautiful example of teamwork. But even more, the fact that both eagles were needed to build a secure home.

Both eagles gather sticks. That does not mean that mama eagle would choose the same sticks as papa eagle. Or that he would choose the same as her. But both gather the sticks that they perceive will be suitable for the formation of a large, sturdy nest. Not only teamwork, but both eagles have the same goal of building a strong nest. My Audubon book tells me, that the female eagle is the weaver. She will use both the sticks she and her mate have gathered to form a sturdy home for their growing family. The male is more of the protector and provider. One might say that they have a very traditional family life.

Eagle’s Nest Building is Never Done

As the Eagles spend time in their nest, and bring up little ones, the nest needs constant upkeep. Leftover food and droppings are covered with forest leaves, ferns, or moss. The eagles are constantly perfecting and moving the nest sticks around to keep their home in good condition and comfortable. Sometimes, an Eagle will build more than one nest, so there is another place to live when the first nest becomes to dirty. They will move back to the first once nature has cleaned it.

I leaned back to ponder these magnificent creatures that God created. And then then looked around me at the nest my husband and I built together. I see many similarities to my Bald Eagle friends. Both my husband and I are different people. We both have different ideas about what it takes to create a strong, lasting nest. But it takes both our thoughts and opinions, woven together to do the job. Both my husband and I have the same goal, and we both take responsibility for the various necessary jobs in the building of home and raising of family. Teamwork, support, using our gifts, and striving toward the same goal are essential in the making of a strong, lasting home.

But one more thought grasps my mind when I think of the great birds. One more personal, and needful.

That the existence and sustenance of a Bald Eagle would be impossible if that bird had not been created with intent and purpose to work out their God-given nature.

Each bird is also completely dependent on a Greater Provider for life, as seasons come and go and food must also be replenished.

In the reliance on my Creator, is the real lesson for my heart. Without God creating me to be the exact person I was meant to be, I could not do what He has given me to do in life. And without His ongoing provision of all I need to thrive in body and spirit, I could not exists.

“Consider the birds of the air, how they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of much greater value than they are?” Matthew 6:26

Power of Affection in the Home

happy affectionate family

I stopped her as she crossed my path in the hallway, gave her a big hug, and “mommy loves you.” She stated “I love you too Mommy.” And then she skipped off on her way.

I have seen children skipping many times in my life. But the significance of a skipping child has recently riddled my thoughts. A skipping child is a happy child. A skipping child is a loved child. A skipping child has peace within.

How often a tender word, a simple hug, has brought on skipping feet. As my children have grown, the skipping has become less and less common, but I know the inner warmth felt by a moment of being seen and shown love lingers, because it is the same feeling I understand when my husband stops me in my path for a moment of affection.

Although most of us adults have completely outgrown the inspiration to skip in expression of our feelings, the feelings do not slip us by. When given consistent and faithful affirmation of being loved and noticed in our busy day, it balances our step in a very good way.

All that said to point out the value of taking a pause to show a moments affection to those in our lives throughout each day.

Consistent affection builds stability of the long term love we know others have for us. It confirms to me that , “yes” I am loved. “Yes” I am seen. We adults need it. Children need it. And children need to see it in their parent’s relationship as well. Relationship security and trust is built brick by brick through our faithful, daily treatment of each other.

How often I have been told to seize the moment as my children’s childhood slips through my fingers. Seizing the moment is a classic and admirable phrase, but backing up a bit more, moments cannot be seized without purpose and planning. We purpose to maintain health by building healthy eating habits over a period of time. We purpose to have a great harvest by spending a little time every day in the garden, watering, pruning, and pulling weeds. We cannot seize anything without a purpose to do so. Habits and plans must be formed for us to accomplish any goal.

  1. Build habits of affection into your life. Do not pass a loved one in the hall, especially a spouse, and let him by without a kiss. Greet each child in the morning with a snuggle, hug, or kiss. Take a moment longer on a busy morning to snuggle with your spouse in bed. Take a nap with a child on occasion. Read books to children while holding them, not while they are beside or across from you. Always kiss your children goodnight. Plenty more tips could be added and catered to each family, but I will stop at that.
  2. Prioritize the giving of affection. Do not ever withhold affection. If a child asks for a hug or leans into me in the middle of my work. I always pause (unless it is dangerous that they cannot be near me), and give that child a moment of my time. I do not ever push a child away or ever tell them I cannot hold them. If I must keep the child at a distance from me for safety reasons, I quickly snatch them up as soon as the dangerous work is done. I have had a little one sit and wait a good ten minutes for a hug from mommy. That shows you how valuable affection is for the soul.
  3. Keep the channels of affection open. So often little children do naughty things that make mommy or daddy cross. It is crucial that after a just punishment has been served that the child be embraced, forgiven, told he or she is loved, and the relationship restored completely. I feel very strongly about quick punishment and quick reconciliation. God does not withhold himself from us once punishment and forgiveness are given. I feel it is very wrong for me as a parent to withhold an affectionate relationship with my child as well.
  4. Learn to accept affection. I am a busy person, sometimes it is difficult for me to  value the importance of receiving affection from others when it is given to me. I might have my arms full of folded laundry and on a mission to deposit the load in the closet when my husband stops me for a bit of a snuggle. I want to finish my work before fully accepting the moment, but have learned that it is not only very important to give my husband the moment, but also that it is important for my own heart as well. I need to take in the love being offered to me and treasure it, far more than I need to be putting laundry on the shelf.
  5. Make plans for the sharing of time with others. I am currently taking my oldest daughter out every Saturday for a Bible study and coffee. She loves this time with her mommy. My husband will often plan take one of the chidlren out alone to go shopping, get lunch, or watch a movie. Even when my husband and I will get a sitter and go out alone together, that moment cannot be seized if it isn’t planned. We put affection on our calendar. We set aside time for it. We make arrangements for special times with those we love.

I understand that everyone is not inclined to show affection and love in the same ways, but as we each know what shows love to someone in our God given circle, we should certainly figure out ways that would show another person how loved they are to us. The outpouring of affection would be sporadic at best if we relied upon our emotions or given time. If affection is to truly portray the depth of love we feel for someone, then it must b purposed, planned, and given room to exist on a consistent basis. Affection is truly a beautiful way that we can show our deep love for each other on a daily basis and we are wise to lean into it as a sweet tool of showing love to those in our home.

The Ministry of Scents of the Home

I have always been rather sensitive about smells. When I was pregnant, those sensitivities would escalate to the point I wanted to crawl out of my skin to even take out the trash. Once when I was pregnant, we had dead possum under our porch. The horrible smell leached into our basement and then into the entire house. I found it unbearable to the point I packed up the children and left the house for the day. When my sweet husband came home and saw my distress, he removed the porch floorboards and shoveled out the rotting possum. Then he poured bleach over the entire area. Without the consuming horrid smell, my heart was again at peace.

Smell has a greater affect on our hearts than we realize. Potent, stifling smells can be very stressful and make us want to run as far away as we can. Warm, welcoming smells of stewing applesauce and fresh bread, vanilla and spices, or even a clean, crisp lemon scent can set a tone that makes our hearts be at peace and want to stay a while.

Within the home, creating inviting scents and working to keep unpleasant odors under control is therefore essential in preparing a platform for ministry to happen within our walls. The sense of smell, is therefore a wonderful tool I can use in my pursuit of creating a home environment the welcomes spiritual growth and joy in God.

Pay attention to the smells of the home. So often we become accustomed to smells within our walls, that other people might find foreign or uncomfortable. As much as I enjoy fish, I am careful to chose the nights I will cook it. If I am expecting company after dinner, fish will not be on the menu. Although it does not have an odor I find appalling, for many people, the smell of fish is extremely potent and unpleasant.

Animals that live in the home can also make a home smell. It is important to keep indoor dwelling creatures clean and the places they hang out washed and freshened regularly. We do not have an indoor cat, but have kept ours indoors during certain stages of his life so I know that if there is a cat in the house, the kitty littler should be in a room that is tucked away from the rest of the living space…a laundry room, sun-room, or closet where a door can be shut on the ever present odor.

There various are smells that are built into the walls of our home and therefore a constant that we must work to mask or continually re-eliminate. We lived in an old farmhouse for a few years and it always had a very musty smell. In the room above the wet basement, was a den with wood paneling on every wall. I found rubbing that wood paneling down with a mixture of cinnamon oil and coconut oil made the house smell fabulous for weeks.

Carpets and walls may hold in smell from ourselves or even previous dwellers. while fresh paint often takes care of the walls, carpets can be far more difficult to deodorize. Despite the wide market of products on the market, the smell will keep coming back. I recently invested in a carpet cleaner for our current home and it has made a big difference in freshening up the carpets on occasion. Baking soda sprinkled on the carpet and left overnight can be helpful. But powdered products are awfully hard on the vacuum cleaner, so they shouldn’t be used except in extreme cases. For me, just keeping a regular carpet cleaning is the best move. I have sprinkled peppermint or lavender oil on the car carpets and car-seats from time to time. That doesn’t eliminate bad orders, but can cover them up in a natural and pleasant way.

If at all possible use natural scents in the home. This is an area that is still in progress for me. I love to burn candles, but finding candles that are safe to breath hasn’t always been a priority because of the cost and accessibility. But after having a guest with sensitivities to a candle I burned, I will at least do my best to burn a naturally scented candle when we have visitors.

I already clean with natural products as I discussed in the post, Household Cleaning on the Cheap, Practical, and Natural. Cleaning products are certainly a vital area we homemakers need to watch. Many products we use daily and  weekly, are not only toxic to breathe, but can cause severe allergic reactions to some people. I want a home that has air as safe to breathe as I can am able to create.

Chemical scents are often loaded into laundry as well. Guests with allergies would be unable to stay with us if I wasn’t careful about the products I use in laundry. My husband is also one of those who is sensitive to laundry softeners. So, if I must include softener in my laundry, I am careful to get one that is natural and hypoallergenic…yes…and unscented. But laundry doesn’t have to be boring. A few drops of lavender oil on a rag can brighten up the smell of hot clean clothes tossing in the dryer. I also LOVE a laundry line. Read about that more in my Laundry on the Line post. Nothing has a more amazing scent than line dried sheets and clothing!

I am very opinionated on the subject of plug-ins and sprays that are made to make a room smell good. They can be incredibly overpowering and in fact even though they might not stink like a dead possum, they make many folks…like me…gag. I find the artificial smells overpowering and believe many others do as well. Instead a diffuser with a favorite blend of essential oils, a few spices in a pot of simmering water (or mini crock pot), a naturally scented vanilla candle, fresh flowers, potted plants, or even a batch of freshly baked bread can make a home smell incredible without concern of causing anyone discomfort.

Cleanliness is vital to maintaining a home without bad odors. One of the most effective ways to keep a home smelling pleasant is simply to keep it clean. Some of the most notorious bad smells in the home are poopy diapers, kitty litter, and un-emptied trash cans.

My children collect trash throughout every room in the house on a daily basis. I empty those baskets in the kitchen trash, and take it out to the trash bins outside. Baby diapers get wrapped tightly in a special bag to lock in the smells, or they get put in a diaper bin. Kitty litter should be changed daily to prevent it from any odor. I already discussed carpets, but carpets and wood can absorb smells.

Wood is like skin, when it is warm and humid it opens up and releases all those lovely or less lovely smells. Wood floors and paneling can be cleaned with a gentle soap and water (I favor Murphy’s oil). Then the wood can be nourished with a simple blend of a cheap oil like sunflower oil and a few drops of an essential oil. I like to rub oil into the wood just after it has been cleaned with warm water.

Dust has a smell. Have you ever turned on a heater the first brisk day of fall and smelled the dust getting hot? Well, imagine a layer of dust on blinds, furniture, or framework. Being faithful at wiping off the dust can be very helpful in keeping a room smelling fresh.

Appliances can hold odors as well…dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines need to be cleaned as well. Appliances should all work without producing any bad odors. For tips on how I clean, check out how I use baking soda and vinegar in my home in My Household Friend: Baking Soda and The Role of White Vinegar in My Home. And just a thought…if you have a vacuum cleaner that has a dusty smell even after it has been emptied, it is time to ditch it and get a new vacuum. A vacuum cleaner should function without any smell.

Fresh air is a wonderful way to keep a home smelling good. Open the windows in the spring and fall can really help air out the house and keep fresh air rotating. The smell of fresh air naturally soothes my mind and a the smells of flowers, soil, and trees give my heart thoughts of God’s goodness.

Prepare for bad smells. The bathroom is a place where bad smells occur. It is a great idea to keep a plan on hand to mask unpleasantries to noses. A bathroom spray or a match are very effective and should be kept available for guests as well as ourselves to use as needed. When we have guests, keeping a candle burning in the bathroom is an easy way to remove the potential of embarrassing smells. If possible one should also make sure there is a way for air to circulate within a bathroom by keeping a vent or window open a crack at all times.

Bad odors can also occur in the kitchen. Even kept clean, a fridge can breed odor. A box of baking soda is a helpful odor absorbing product to keep in freezers and refrigerators. I simply punch a few holes in the top of my baking soda box and put the whole box in the back of the refrigerator and freezer. The kitchen trash should be emptied daily. Our trash is emptied more like 2-3 times a day. Burnt foods should be disposed of outdoors as quickly as possible. If you are planning to do a project inside the house that will involve paints or chemicals, plan those projects on warmer days if possible so windows can be opened for ventilation.

The sense of smell enhances all of our other senses. Because of smell, food has taste, flowers have freshness, and a walk in the woods is so refreshing. Smell is like salt to our sense of sight, hearing, touch, and taste…perhaps it could be lived without, but life is far better with a sense of smell! As a homemaker, I certainly try to put smell to good use to enhance the overall flavor of my home into a place that nurtures our souls and opens pathways for our heart to rejoice in our Creator.

The Ministry of Taste in the Home

Food thought a very temporal and tangible substance has incredible spiritual implications and is essential to the life of the body, and theretofore the life of the soul within the body. The sense of taste, is therefore an essential ministry we homemakers need to study for use in our home.

Foods served in each home very much reflect the culture and lifestyle of that home. As the post, Ministering Through Physical Senses in the Home describes, there is no right or wrong on the matter, we each will make foods we serve based upon our upbringing, who we married, allergies, time constraints, nutritional needs and eating habits, as well as our level of joy and comfort in cooking.

In biblical times eating was not only treasured during fellowship with others, but various foods and feasts held specific symbolism. Our constant need for physical nourishment is symbolic of our need for constant spiritual nourishment. Taste can open up incredible pathways for our spirits to be nourished.

Food provides opportunities for fellowship and spiritual conversations with our own family as well as with friends and un-churched folks. How often our own family has lingered around a dinner table as we discuss a topic of our faith. Or in small group, food is an avenue that allows us to ponder our faith and lives together as we share a snack together after Bible study. Food slows us down and gives us a reason to linger a moment with others. Even a simple cup of tea is all that is needed to pause in life, to be still, alone or shared with others.

I try to keep a balance of eating habits in our home. Taste has so many intricate affects and meets various needs from celebration, to nutrition, and to prayer. All should be included thoughtfully through the patterns of home-making.

On a daily basis, I serve the best food I can afford that will enrich the bodies of my family. Wholesome food helps us think clearly and have energy to serve others. I find if I am not eating balanced meals and snacks, my mental clarity and physical stamina plummet. I go into more depth about how my faith affects impacts healthy eating habits in the post:  Pursuing Health for God’s Glory. Someone once told me that it is those who are sick who eat the healthiest diets. It is because the sick are the ones who are who realize the value nutrients bring their bodies because the sick hunger for healing so their souls can engage in life without the restrictions their body presents. One should not wait until our bodies malfunction before beginning healthy eating practices. Each day is the time to nourish our body, so we can be as physically fit as possible for us. Yes, that level of health will vary from person to person depending on the body God has given us and its age. Regardless, it is our responsibility to maintain properly, just like our car, our house, and our children. We must care for our bodies the best we know how to do. Food should be eaten with others in mind, not for our temporary selfish comfort.

I make it a priority in our home to share the tastes of our home with others. When I share the tastes of our home, I am essentially sharing the goodness God has poured upon us, with others. I LOVE doing that! I like to keep casseroles, bread, and soups in my freezer at all times. It is so easy to grab a few items and deliver them to whomever the Lord lays on my heart at any given moment. If I have nothing adequate prepared, I have a small list of “go to” comfort dishes to take to folks. We once had a sweet neighbor, and I enjoyed setting aside a portion of the food I made to tun over to her. I also love having others in our home to share food around our table and fellowship! My point is that we must find ways we can share the tastes of our home with others. So often we wait too long for opportunistic to pop up instead of making our own opportunities. Sharing food with others can be done on a weekly basis without too much effort. We can run some cookies to our neighbors, take a jar of home-made soup to a sick family we know, invite folks over for a meal, run a surprise dinner over to the single working mom across the street…with food in our hands, we can intrude into others lives with ease. For those who want to learn more about how to minister with food, I do include more practical tips about sharing food in the post: Sharing Meals With Others.

I like to use food as a tool of showing God’s goodness to hurting hearts. Food can provide a level of comfort. Eating food for the comfort it brings is not entirely evil. There are seasons in our lives where we draw comfort from silence, music, a walk in nature, or a cuddle with a furry creature by the fire. God has made an incredible world full of little things that bring us joy. Now, God is certainly the source of eternal, lasting comfort. Truths from Scripture will provide our souls with the kind of comfort that heals our wounds. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” II Corinthians 1:3-4. Food can be an incredible tool that can help us reflect on God, His goodness, and blessing. Sometimes a meal from the past brings comfort as we are reminded of sweet memories and blessings the Lord has given us in the years before. Sometimes a meal taken to a hurting soul provides comfort as that meal is eaten with thoughts of not facing trials alone and God’s sustaining grace through each moment. Food shared with hurting souls can be such a beautiful picture of the table prepared for us by our Loving Shepherd. If I know my husband has had a rough day at work, I will often choose to cook something comforting, a favorite casserole or meat and potatoes dish, I can ease the stress of his day by preparing a meal that will bring rest to his soul. Food, like no other sense, can aid in helping souls see the many blessings in their lives and praise God for His goodness. 

Food can serve as a means of celebration. A dear friend of mine once pulled me aside as I struggled over the enormous amounts of sugar being fed to my children during Christmas. She kindly reminded me that throughout the history of Israel, various feasts were encouraged to help the people remember the faithfulness of God. The Passover is one such feast and every item in the Passover meal is symbolic for s And as Christians, we should embrace seasons of feasting with grace, not guilt. Certain foods are customary in our home for specific holidays. As a home-maker, I can use those foods in ways that will help my children remember the holiday and remember the goodness of God as we make and enjoy Christmas cookies, pumpkin pie, and cinnamon rolls. Those are not every-day foods, but ones reserved for a day of worship and joy in our God. It is not enjoyed in vain. Now, there are traditions others in our family hold to certain feasting days, we are not all the same, and we can change some of our traditions into healthier versions if we so desire. Now, feasting does not mean gluttony. I will note here that gluttony and feasting are different. Feasting is a heart enjoying in gratitude for God’s blessing. Gluttony is over-indulging in food with a thankless, mindless greed. Gluttony is always a sin, and has nothing to do with how much a person weighs, but about the greedy heart of the thankless eater.

The absence of food is also important when we homemakers set aside time to fast. I am a firm believer in the art of fasting and prayer. I have seen the Lord work amazing things when I have set aside my physical hungers in my desperation to see the Lord work. My heart in prayer with even more fervency than on a full stomach. As my body feels the pangs of hunger the hunger fills my prayers. For those who have not taken a time to fast, it is well worth the effort. Yes, it takes discipline, but it is amazing to me how the physical cravings can be flipped into spiritual cries from my soul. I have a friend who would set aside Sunday’s to fast and pray. Another who fasts every Wednesday for his children. One day doesn’t make me hungry enough to bring my soul into fervent prayer. I often prefer to do a week to three week increment. It isn’t always going completely without food either, sometimes limiting myself to bone broth or a simple vegetable soup once a day keeps me hungry, but also gives me enough energy to keep up with my children for that time. Recently, Esther has come to mind and her request to Mordecai that he and all Israel fast and pray with her before she went to see the king. “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish” Esther 4:16. The people of Nineveh also fasted and prayed fervently as described in Jonah 3:5-8. Desperate people will fast and pray. Are we not desperate? Fasting is not practiced by many Christians. It is almost as though we are awkward even talking about it. Many people don’t even know what it means to fast. Most of us simply don’t make time for it in our lives. We fear the discomfort we will have from fasting more than the spiritual discomfort we experience. Fasting should not be something we are self-conscious about as Christians. It should be a way of life. But as Jesus reminds us, we are not to tote it about pridefully either. It is not a badge of honor, it is a humbling, serious, prayerful experience we should make plans to embrace in our lives.

Regular meal times are invaluable. In our own home, I guard mealtimes. We have a dining room, which I love. That is where we sit down every evening together to eat dinner. I try to keep meals “on the go” to a bare minimum and plan our schedules around dinner-time. It is a time our family can re-group, fellowship with each others, and well…learn how to love others by practicing good manners. Our sit down dinners vary in formality depending upon the meal and time I have in the day to prepare dinner. But we always sit together. My husband’s evening work hours are always different depending upon meetings and sometimes traffic. So, we do have a later dinner hour than most. On rare occasions I will feed the children early, but in general we wait until he is home so we can enjoy dinner together. The family dinner table is not something required in Scripture. It is very much a personal endeavor as a home-maker to connect the lives of everyone inside the home for one short period in the day. It also enables me to make sure balanced eating habits are maintained. I believe it is an important time for my children to share their day with their busy Daddy too. Maintaining dinnertime is a way I have found that, whether they know it or not, ministers to the souls of my husband and children.

I love being able to use tastes to minister to not only my own soul, but everyone I can! Food is truly a versatile toll of ministry like no other. I do believe how I use taste in the home is an evolving process, and will continue to grow and change through the years as  I continue to taste the goodness from the table of my heavenly Father!

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Ps. 34:8

The Ministry of Sound in the Home

Sound is probably the most important human sense.

I took a special needs psychology course in college and was challenged to go out in public for several hours without the use of one of my senses. I choose to go without sight. I believed sight would be the most difficult sense to go without and wanted to experience what it would be like not to see.

So, I put band-aids and sunglasses over my eyes and had a friend drive me to the grocery store and then a restaurant for dinner. I thought not having sight would be far more challenging than it was. I was surprised that I could navigate my way through the store using my senses of sound and touch. I was able to pick out items I needed. I even dropped coins and pick them up. I managed to find my credit card in my purse to pay. I also enjoyed a splendid lunch with my friend.

After experiencing a sightless adventures, I became extra grateful for my other senses, especially my hearing.  I could engage in conversation with my friend, hear cars, conversation, enjoy music, and even sense the closeness of objects because of my reliance hearing. Had it not have been for my ears, I would have been at a terrible loss. I also would have felt completely alone and isolated. I learned that day that not being able to hear would be far more depressing than not being able to see.

Have you ever noticed while watching a movie how the music is truly what engages your emotions during the plot? Watching a movie in silence would not have near the affect as even listening to the soundtrack with closed eyes! The music gives away more of the plot in a movie than the visual affects. We can tell a scary event is occurring simply by the change in music. Romantic portions of a movie have certain notes, as well as the heart pounding rush of a man on the run. The music sets the tone for what we see and feel throughout a plot. Movies that are extremely successful are also known for their amazing soundtracks.

Stores also know the power of sound. The music played in Fresh Market sets a tone of elegance and leisure while a store like Best Buy monopolizes on the latest hits to emphasize the modern tone of their store. Restaurants often play music that will either speed people up on their eating experience, or cause them to relax and slow down a bit. What sounds we hear in various places are not put there haphazardly, but with careful thought to the impact those sound will have on our psychology. 

In the home, sound is also a crucial player in ministering to our souls. Just like the sights of our home must be thought out as discussed in The Ministry of Sight in the Home, so it is important for us homemakers to set the auditory atmosphere in our home. As a Christian, I strive to have sound in my home that allow the soul to be free and at ease to seek God, I also try to eliminate sounds that are disturbing. I find there is more chaos in obnoxious, incoherent, mixtures of sounds than in the chaos of what I see visually. Although sounds in the home, especially with lots of children, can be sometimes difficult to manage, my husband and I work on keeping excessive loudness down inside the home and maintaining peaceful and nurturing audio in conversation and entertainment.

There are a few basic steps I have taken to ensure control what is heard in our home. 

Maintain volume guidelines. This is crucial for every home, but extra difficult the more little people that live in a home. I do believe the volume does have to flex a bit according to the size of the home and the size of the family. We instruct our children to use quieter and keep their volume down while inside the house, but do allow a lot more vocal exuberance when they are outdoors. I have little tolerance for squabbling and whining and fits are simply not tolerated. I have often sent an incessantly fussy child to his or her room with instructions not to return until he or she is done fussing and pleasant to be around again. If that fails, the child in question has signed himself or herself up for an afternoon nap. Sometimes, extreme grumpiness is a result of a poor night sleep or overstimulates the day before, or even the first clue a child isn’t feeling well. A nap has altered many a bad emotional course in our home. Hey…it even works for me!

Build a quiet time into each day. I have built in an hour-two hour quiet time in every day. It is a moment of quiet for myself as well as for each of my children. Even little ones need a social break. Children under five spend the quiet time in their rooms, usually napping. If napping days are past, quiet play is permitted. Each child older than five plays alone and quietly for the one to two hours, usually after lunch I ask each child to pick a spot where he or she is going to be for quiet time. And they gather coloring, toys, or books, art supplies, and nestle in that spot for an hour or so, no TV or electronic devices are permitted. On occasion I will allow quiet group play, like play-doh at the kitchen table or even outdoor play, but the children are not allowed to bother me except for emergencies. They know this quiet time is important for them and to me as well. I can study Scripture, pray, write, take a nap if needed, make phone calls, or catch up on housework. This quiet moment in the day is gold to me. 

Don’t mix too many various sounds. I have a one thing at a time policy for many things in our home. The children play with one toy at a time and pick it up before moving on to another. If I allow nature to take its course, toy after toy would be pulled out, every room would be a disaster by the end of the day. By keeping a “one-toy-out-at-a-time” policy, this does not happen. Sounds are the same way. We do not practice piano while the stereo is on, one will be turned off before engaging in the next sound. 

Allow noise in designated times and places. Yelling and shouting is for outdoors in our home. I do not give the children volume regulations when they play outside, unless they are going out before 9 a.m. of course. There are also certain toys that are specifically outdoor toys…horns and whistles to name two. If those toys are played in the house, I take them away for a while. I am strict about this rule because the volume of noise from a whistle or horn would overwhelm our home. Most battery powered toys today are not as obnoxious as I remember as a child, however musical instruments can border on obnoxious if played with inexperienced hands. I feel it is important for children to explore musical instruments, so do not disband them in the house. We have bells, a recorder and a piano, but all three are not engaged simultaneously. And very often a time limit is imposed for the exceptionally loud “concerts.”

Listen to music and podcasts that draw our hearts into worship and growth in our walk with God, not pull us away from Him or distract us from finding our complete satisfaction and joy in God. I have my favorite podcasting friends I love to listen to on a regular basis. But, I also find worship music and classical music to be my “go-to’s” for daily listening. Those genres minister to my soul more than any other type of music. I admit that Mozart plays in our home the most. I love the intelligent calm my soul receives from listening to Mozart. I find myself able to think better than any other genre. Not everyone is wired the same, so certainly there is plenty of room  for various tastes and needs. My husband can stomach news and weather broadcasts and keeps up on them without too much aggravation. I find the bias and irrelevance too frustrating for my heart and do not keep up with listening to news or political events. This does not mean I am apathetic, but that I simply am very choosy about what I put in my brain. I prefer to read news from selected sources rather than listen to it. I also do not want my children to listen to the news until they are old enough to discern truth from fiction and recognize methods of propaganda. So, we don’t watch or listen to news in our home. Regardless of what we choose to listen to in our home, it should be something we spend time considering and don’t thoughtlessly let our ears hear voices that could impact our souls.

Don’t underestimate the power of silence. Silence is a very wonderful indulgence for our ears. How easy it is to have noise constantly pouring into our souls from our ears, it can be very difficult to “be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10 if we don’t embrace quiet in our lives. As a camp counselor one summer, part of my training was to go out into the woods at night. Woods in the middle of nowhere in the dark of night truly limits ones sense of sight, and I was taught to embrace the sounds of the night. How rarely we actually listen to the world around us! Crickets, bugs crawling on dry leaves, sticks falling from a tree, and the slight rustle of leaves in the breeze… all of what our ears hear points to our amazing Creator and can draw our hearts to worship. Sometimes, only in silence can a soul actually hear what it was made to hear.

Fighting and arguing should be moved from quickly. Scripture commands us in Romans 12:8 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We are a family of sinners, living in a sinful fallen world, so yes, there are times when the sounds in our home are not beautiful. My children do squabble. They do say hurtful things to each other. They can be very cranky and argumentative. My goal is to nip it quickly. It takes two to disagree, so I usually find the perpetrators and try to discern the reason for the quarrel. Very often, pointing them to Christ is all it takes to re-align their thoughts. “Does what you are doing and saying bring God glory?” Then a hug between the two offenders accompanied with an apology ensues. Giggles often follow as the two try to over-hug. But I do believe humor is a great mood adjuster…making my children partake in a tickle fight or game of making funny faces is very helpful in getting them to change mental directions. I do not want to ignore their squabbles no mater how trifle they seem to me. Disagreements are normal, but it is important to teach children how to handle those situations and how to move past that moment of pain and back into friendship. I do realize not every child is wired to adjust his or her attitude on a dime, but as parents who know our children, we can certainly find ways that work for each of our children, to help them respond in biblical ways to squabbles and hurts. This takes time…years in fact, but it is essential to cultivate in little hearts. Way too many adults have no idea how to handle conflict correctly, leading to broken relationships, divorce, and un-Christlike Christian testimonies. As the post His Grandma Shocked Me describes, it is essential for our grown-up hearts to learn and practice quick make-ups that finish with a dash of warmth. Bitterness, grudges, the silent treatment are immature and godless responses to disagreements and hurts in children just as much as in adults.

Yelling and shouting is for outdoor play and emergencies…that includes Mommy and Daddy. There are occasions for shouting and yelling like: “Stop running into the road!” But very often, I try to keep that sort of volume for emergencies. In our home, we have utilized technology to help keep yelling and shouting to a minimum. We have Amazon Echo in almost every room of our home and find that to be an excellent venue for announcements and intercom chats. I can call children to dinner from my kitchen, without raising my voice. My husband can drop in the children’s rooms and tell them to be quiet at bedtime. It has worked out quite well for us. If I must address a child, firmness is my mode of conversation over volume. I know there can be some very long frustrating days for parents, but to keep an atmosphere of peace and godliness, both my husband and I do our best use firm, serious voices instead of loud, angry voices in addressing those situations that must be dealt with sternly. I want my children to pay attention when I yell, and if I am always yelling, they will quickly learn that it doesn’t matter. so, if I do raise my voice, it is for a matter of upmost urgency and they all look right at me with wide eyes. 

Oh how crucial it is for a home-maker to have mastery over the sounds in her home! Chaos in the ears goes straight to the soul. We can cultivate such beautiful environments for spiritual growth, godly focus, and worship if we purpose what sounds echo throughout the walls of our home. 

The Ministry of Sight in the Home

Sight is a wonderful sense. There is so much we can behold with our eyes that points to our Creator.

Hearts that find joy and complete satisfaction in God will see everything through wide eyes of amazement in God. I try to cultivate sights in our home that will enrich our amazed hearts. What we see with our eyes, can draw us closer to God and bring us to worship. The sights around us can also aid our hearts to be at rest and allow us to focus on God without distraction. What we see around us has great power to point us to be in wonder of our Heavenly Father.

The contrary is also true that various sights can cause our soul to be troubled. Certain sights can be a distraction from our focus on God. Some things we see with our eyes can give us fear, stress, and anger. There are even sights can be utterly dangerous to our souls if we succumb to temptation through what we see and choose to sin. I try to think through everything in my home…books, wall decor, entertainment, and even order. I want to evaluate the visual affect each room will have on the soul. I want to purpose to use what is seen in our home to draw our souls to Christ and keep us from distraction that would fix our eyes on anything but Christ.

As discussed in: Ministering Through Physical Senses in the Home, The culture of the home does determine a lot about how each person’s home looks. Not everyone is naturally neat and clean. Not everyone has the same taste in decor and style. Not everyone has an eye for beauty in the home. In fact, even if we are good at something, there is always someone who is better at it than we are. Since we are all different, we all have areas in our lives that we need to cultivate and grow, in order to better serve the Lord. Not to be discouraging, but like all areas in our lives, the path of growth in homemaking is endless. It is essential however, that we are on the path of continual learning and changing, and improving our home environment. I have found that the Lord does show me ways I need to grow in my ministry of homemaking. But it is most certainly very important that as makers of homes, we seek ways to purposefully cultivate the inside view of our homes to a place that enhances the light in our soul.

Neat and Clean: I know some people struggle with order more than others, but I cannot impress enough how crucial it is to maintain the home in an orderly way. The standard and ease of order will look different for a woman in her sixties compared to a young mother with three toddlers. But we should all do our best to have patterns of cleanliness and order in the home. If not for our own sake, we must strive for neatness for God and for others.

Sometimes people, I would be one, who get stressed just looking around a home in disarray. I see work to be done and my heart does not feel at peace. My husband also breaths easier when he looks about the house and it is in order. Somehow messes breed a sense of chaos in us. I do not want that feeling in my home, so the solution is to pick it up and teach my children how to pick up after themselves…certainly a work in progress. There are those, who are at peace with mess. That is a good thing, but that does not mean the mess should be left because one is at peace with it.

Our home is not about us, but about God. The home is a tool God has entrusted to our care. If everything was just about us, we could do as we please, but the point is that our lives are about God, as is our home. We need to treat it with respect for the One who placed the home under our care. We can minister to souls with our home in good order.

If I think of chaotic noise, for instance simultaneously a trumpet being practiced in one room, the stereo playing rock and roll playing loudly while children squeal and dance, and a blender on in the kitchen… the chaos of sound can be very disturbing to the soul and prevent the soul from being still and knowing God. Visual chaos has the same affect as visual sound on the soul. Just like we need audio quiet, we need visual quiet to aid in the stilling our souls. Order is primary, but so is simplicity. Too much going on visually can take place in a neat and clean room that simply is filled with too much stuff. Like five Mozart sonatas playing simultaneously. Only one is needed, too much of even a good thing is chaos. So, decreasing clutter is also vital in maintaining the visual peace in our homes. Note: Many books have been written on the subject, but I highly recommend Marie Kondo’s Book: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Although I do not embrace all of the concepts in her book, many of the principles in the book are truly life changing.

Scripture on the walls of every room: I absolutely love Scripture verses everywhere in my home. My mother always had Scripture posted on the walls of our home as we grew up, and I have found it invaluable. My mother would write out verses on 3×5 cards and tape them around light switches. I will paint verses on canvas, buy prints with Scripture, or yes, I do stick verses around on 3×5 cards as needed. My goal is to have Scripture in every room of our house. I see Scripture as of primary importance as seek to keep it close by. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, God commands the Israelite’s to value it and keep it before them:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Psalm 119 also emphasizes the importance of God’s Word over and over. As a home-maker who desires God above all, I like Scripture to be in every room. It is good to have it always in sight for pondering.

Reminders of God’s Goodness: Wedding pictures, family pictures, and sentimental keepsakes can be helpful to remind us of how blessed we are. I also have enjoyed keeping a chalkboard on the wall in our kitchen to write down various things we are thankful for. It is so much easier to complain than to see the world through eyes of gratitude. And to keep our heart fixed on God and His goodness, I like to see and point out the sentimental reminders of the goodness of God in our lives…yearly photo books with images of what God did in a year, a clay vase my late Grandpa made, beautiful paintings of nature, and family photos on the walls…all point my heart to remember how good and gracious God is to me in my undeserving state. He has given me these temporal earthly blessings of family, material goods, and creation so that I might glorify Him. Putting those things on display in my home is a good thing.

Visual Calm: Although I do not embrace the new age belief of the energy of Feng Shui, I do love the concepts I have learned from books on the subject. Creating open, free spaces is truly an art I can utilize effectively in my home to give visual ease to the eyes.  I am not naturally gifted in home decorating despite classes on the subject. I have to play around with a room for a while before settling on wall hangings, window treatments, and furniture arrangements. I do find having a flow of online and library resources is helpful in my quest to bring more visual harmony to each room of my home. It is very much an area I feel is important to press on in my learning.  Simple touches like candles, a crackling fire. fresh flowers, open windows, natural light, and empty spaces are helpful creating an atmosphere that welcomes growth, fellowship, worship, rest, and healing for the soul.

Wholesome entertainment and books: Having wholesome viewing and reading material easily accessible is also a valuable  asset in our home. My husband and I carefully consider the viewing material we allow our children and we are also careful to choose books that enhance, and do not degrade the work of God. Now this topic can be stretched into its own post. But in short synopses, we do our best to choose material that will draw our hearts closer to the Lord and do not cause our hearts to be tempted. Although sin is most certainly from the heart, I do believe that our eyes do play a first hand role in allowing our hearts to be tempted. It isn’t completely unavoidable, but, it is most certainly something I have more control to curb inside the walls of our home than anywhere else. I have notes to indulge in this topic further in the future. 

For now, those five little concepts are my primary goals for visually preparing a space for Spiritual rest and growth as well as setting up guideposts that point to the Lord in our home. By thoughtfully arranging the sights of the home, it is possible to create an atmosphere that welcomes our soul to worship, rest, and focus on the Lord. I am absolutely learning more about how to do that best in our home. And always adapting as I learn. I welcome any further thoughts on this subject.

 

Cuddle Prayers

As each year of motherhood passes, I find myself challenged to pray more for my children. As a mother of four children, the youngest still being two, I find quiet time to prayer very difficult to schedule. I work in Bible study but for some reason I find it easier to drop and pick up a study in Scripture than a thought in prayer. As I have asked the Lord for wisdom about my need to spend more time in prayer for my children, I was expecting a revolutionary idea about how to fit an hour or two into my day for prayer. But instead, verses came to mind, convicting me about my inconsistent prayer life.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18  “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.Colosians 4:2 “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

The prophet, Daniel, has always pricked to my heart by his testimony of faithfulness in prayer. Daniel 6:10 “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Even the threat of death should not deter my heart from faithful devotion to prayer. Since my faith can be freely lived out, I certainly have no excuse NOT to pray with consistent faithfulness.

Prayer is not something to only set aside for moment of quiet, but to be a thread woven into every thought and event throughout the tapestry of every day. Prayer for my children can easily be incorporated as I interact with them throughout the day. I can pray not only for my children, but with them, during disciplinary moments, around school lessons, before bed, at mealtimes. 

As I have worked through these thoughts, I have found that snuggle moments are amazing opportunities to lift my children’s hearts to the Lord…my husband too! 

All of my children LOVE to cuddle. When they wake up in the morning, each one of them is hungry to curl up in a groggy stupor and sit with me for a bit until their brains get in gear. These moments are wonderful times for me silently whisper cries to God for drawing their little hearts to Himself. It also helps me as a mother to be reminded of the eternal purpose I have been given in mothering each of the dear little souls entrusted to me.

Throughout the day, I am provided with other moments of snuggling with my children, rocking my tot for nap time, holding an injured little girl until her hurt fades, taking a momentary break to squeeze one of my little girls before we begin reading lessons, a long hug after discipline, after a nap, or during times of illness…the day is full of such moments that I now use for prayer. 

As my children lay down their heads for sleep at night, another opportunity to snuggle arrives. I like to spend a moment with each child to chat, read, or simply snuggle. Sometimes we pray out-loud together, sometimes I pray out-loud for them, sometimes, a silent heartfelt prayer fills my soul. But I like to pray for each little one under my care before they fall to sleep.

So, yes, I have found snuggle prayers to be a day-altering habit for me. Prayer for my children helps me as a mother maintain an eternal focus. I also have found, that it is easy for me as a mother to feel like the burden of child-raising, home-schooling, health, is on my shoulders, and I NEED to fall into the arms of my Savior and “snuggle” with Him throughout the day. I can rest in Him completely to do what is best in my children’s lives, to give me wisdom as a mama, and to hold the burdens I feel I must carry as a mother. He, after all, loves my children far more than I do. Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:11

Becoming a Companion Helper

I have been married twelve years now. I am still learning so much about marriage and my role as a wife.

My primary desire in life is to bring God glory in all I am and in all I do. With that foundation at the core of my theology, my heart is continually made aware of how often I fail!

I have discovered that the greatest area of failure is in marriage…true. Honestly, I think it is because I do not perceive marriage as the God given ministry that He ordained it to be. In particular, I fail to see my role in marriage as the ministry it has been created to be. My husband’s ministry in marriage is a little more clear to me than my own…especially when he fails in his ministry of marriage…sad right?

I have read book after book on the biblical purpose of marriage and in particular of being a wife. I have learned much from such resources, but like everything, what we know in our heads is useless, if that knowledge is not applied practically in our lives.

As Genesis 2 states, a woman was created FOR the man to be HIS HELPER.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Gen 2:18

That verse says so much in a few words. As I have pondered it, I collected a few insights from that verse. Many more are to be had, and still more as that verse can be paired with so many other passages in Scripture. But for starters, here are a few thoughts…

1) Adam was is in need of very specific help. God, the creator, would not have created such a complex creature (woman) to fill a need that could have been filled by a simpler creation. I would even venture to guess that woman is God’s most the most complex creation. LOL.

2) Adam wasn’t necessarily aware he had a need. He also wasn’t aware of how he needed help. God is the one who saw Adam’s need and knew exactly what kind of creature (woman) would be a perfect fit for Adam. God knows His creation better than the created knows itself!

3) Eve, the wife, was created…tailor made by God… to be exactly what Adam needed. She was created FOR Adam, not Adam for her. Adam, already existed. Eve was created to fill his need.

4) The need Eve was created to help Adam with was companionship. Adam was ALONE…God did not see that as good. Adam needed a partner, someone with whom to enjoy and share life.

5) God is brought glory as the Creator, when His creation strives to fulfill the purpose for which it was created. What a beautiful couple Adam and Eve must have been together before the entrance of sin into the world and the curse sin brought! Talk about the perfect marriage!

Thinking on those concepts from Scripture, my heart is truly enlightened as I contemplate my modern marriage.

It is hard to have a Biblical marriage without ideas from the sinful world tainting it! Even among church people I have found misconceptions of biblical marriage.

As I said earlier, knowledge of truth alone is irrelevant if it is not lived out.

So how do I seek to live out what I learn about biblical marriage? Honestly, this is an ongoing process for me. I am still learning. And expect I always will be…at least I hope so!

1) Focus on being a companion helper. I was not created to change my husband. I was not created to be my husband’s housekeeper. I was not created for the purpose of being a mate and procreation. I was not created to disciple my husband…I will leave that to other men in the church. I was created simply to be the perfect friend, companion, earthly hand-holder for my husband. So completely simple, yet marred by the complexities of my sinful nature. And so I fail in my purpose time and time again.

How do I focus on being a companion helper? Honestly, I could use more tips in this arena of thinking, because for me, I find it easy to think I am accomplishing my purpose by helping my husband in almost every other way, except being there. I help him by caring for his home, cooking wholesome food, supporting his callings and interests in life, submitting to him, washing and pressing his clothes, doing jobs and errands for him…yes, I truly enjoy ministering to my husband by meeting his material and physical needs. But I greatly err if I think that is the purpose I was created by God to fulfill for my husband! Those tasks can actually cause me to check the “helper” box off without actually fulfilling the one glorious need of my husband that I was created to fill. My husband needs my companionship, far more than my service!

So, going back to the drawing board…what makes a true friend? What defines a faithful companion?

An endearing creature like the Golden Retriever provides a descent illustration of companion helper.

That sweet old dog is simply there…there waiting with expectation at the window for his human friend to return. That dog leaps, and wags in circles of excitement when his human walks in the door. When the dog’s friend invites him along, that pooch leaps into the truck and tag along with his friend, it makes no difference where they are headed, he is just glad to be with his human friend. At home, that dog, lays around watching his human friend rake autumn leaves outdoors and then follows him from room to room around the house. That dog is always there. He doesn’t care if his friend is a drunk, a murderer or a prince. That dog doesn’t care what his friend does for a living…rich or poor. That dog will stick close to his human friend until death. And the dog will look longingly down the road for hours when his human companion packs up for a journey without him. Much more could be and has been said concerning the faithful friendship of a dog. But my point has been made. I have much to learn about companionship from God’s creation.

There are a few habits that are part of my life that are also helpful in keeping me mindful of my purpose to my husband.

1) Greet my husband in the morning, see him off to work with kisses, and welcome him home with excitement and more kisses. Unless I am sick or have a newborn that always happens. My husband never leaves the house without a kiss.

2) Colliding in the day with affection. Weekends my husband is usually home. We both often have household tasks to get done, but as we pass in the hall, or when I take him tea while he works, or such we interact with affection for a moment and in essence join our diverse days.

3) Listening time. When my husband returns home from work, I like to hear about his day. I like to know how he is doing since I haven’t had any or very little contact with him all day. I want to know his conversations and his take on the day he had. It makes me feel connected to him, although we haven’t shared the same experiences in the day. In turn, I connect him to mine and we talk about what we both did. I sometimes find this end of the day connection is easy to disregard as children clamber for attention, dinner is being cooked, or my current emotional state blocks my freedom to communication. I usually like him to share his day first, but there are days I need to clear the air with my thoughts so I can emotionally connect with him. Thankfully, I am married to a very understanding man. It can sometimes take a lot of effort to have a daily conversation about the day!

4) Spend alone time together…every day. We began the habit of putting our children to bed early from their birth…7pm in fact. We are pretty faithful with that time. It gives me and my husband a couple hours of time alone before we too go to bed. Unless we are in the midst of an unusual season, we don’t go our separate ways and do our separate things. Whatever we do, it is done together…read, watch a show, decorate and wrap gifts, work on a house project. Yes! There have been many an evening my husband has a project like a plugged drain, faucet replacement, painting, or light fixture installation to do in the evening. I do not let him work alone. I do not have the knowledge or ability to do some of those things, so like the king retriever, I pull up a chair and keep him company those evening he has work to do. I do not sit there on my phone either…I chat with him, ask dumb questions about what he is doing, and simply enjoy being there with him. It is simple. My husband does travel for work. Those days we cannot be together we spend time talking on the phone…and always text a “good-morning” and “goodnight.” That is what a dear friend would do right?

5. Make his life mine. This is still an ongoing process. I feel that even though we have been married twelve years, we both are changing and growing in the Lord. I strive to have interest in what interests my husband. I might not gave the enthusiasm for NASCAR that he has, but I do not brush it off has “his thing.” It is “our thing.” He has taught me a lot about the ins and outs of the sport. And I seek to know what is going on and will go to races, watch them with him, and support his interest. NASCAR is part of who I am married to, and therefore, important to me. The same with my husband’s job, past, family, dreams, goals… what is important to him and a part of him is also important to me because I love him, I want to be a part of every aspect of his life.

6. Work together. If my husband has a lot to do, I seek to be there and help him get it done. If he needs quiet to write a school paper, I take the children out to a park. If he has enormous yard work and there is something I am able to do, I scrap my plans and join in his. As a couple we minister together. What ministries he chooses to embrace, I fully support, either by joining in too, or by tending to the children and other responsibilities at home so he is free to serve. I have no complaints on that subject. We are in God’s work together and any way we can bring God glory by loving others is a win win in my opinion.

7. Walk through life…holding hands. This may seem like sweet sentiment to some, but in reality the symbolism is powerful. We don’t let go of each other’s hands in a metaphorical context. There is no division of “his life” and “her life”, of “his goals” and “her goals,” “his problems” and “her problems…” It is OUR life, Our goals, and OUR problems… When times are hard we tighten our grip and pull each other up (emotionally) as needed. We are there for each other. Being close to someone involves a constant mental connection. We have that with the Lord as Christians. I believe it is also possible to have that as a married couple. It is trashing the individual mindset and focusing on the mindset of a coupled team. I strive to let my husband never feel alone. I am WITH him in heart, body, mind, and soul.

The Love Paradox

We women do all sorts of things in order to fill our bottomless hunger to be loved. A woman will stay in an unhealthy relationship hoping that someday…the man she is with will come to love her. A girl will choose a career path, thinking that someday, her mother or father will be proud enough of her to love her. A woman will tolerate years of abuse in hope that things will someday change and she will be loved. A woman will put her body on display with her clothing, in the hope that by noticing her body, perhaps someone will come to love her heart. A woman will marry and divorce, and marry and divorce, in an endless search to find someone who will truly love her. A mother can even have controlling demands of her grown children, in fear of loosing their love. There is an endless list of things a woman will do for the mere hope of being loved.

When I think of an unloved woman in Scripture, my heart goes immediately to Leah. She was a homely woman, coerced into marrying Jacob by her father. Repeatedly, Scripture points out that Jacob loved Rachel and hated Leah. Leah yearned for Jacob to love her. Each time she had a baby, she hoped the baby would give her favor and love from her husband.

Genesis 29:31-35 “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, ‘Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.’ She conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.’ And she called his name Simeon. Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, ‘Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.’ Therefore his name was called Levi. And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, ‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.”

We are never told in Scripture that Jacob ever loved Leah. In fact, in Genesis 30:14-19 we see Leah’s struggle for affection continue. I am sad for Leah, yet as Scripture unfolds, I see a deeper love story in Leah’s life. God created Leah to look the way she did. God loved her the way He made her. God noticed her, and in her pain of being unloved, God blessed her. It was through Judah, her fourth son, that King David was born, and eventually the eternal King, Christ. Leah was a very loved woman.
Did Leah ever know how much God loved her? There are glimpses through her children’s names that she might have understood that God loved and cared for her. However the question I wonder is if Leah ever found her satisfaction in God, or if she forever longed for the love of her husband. It is one thing for a person to know they are loved with an everlasting love, but that knowledge is powerless. It is only when a woman casts out the idols of her life and rests in God’s completely filling love before can she be completely satisfied and find perfect joy in God. “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” Psalm 16:11.

Looking past Leah, another woman pops up in Scripture. Ruth forsook her idols and found her satisfaction to be only in God. Ruth followed God without an expectation of blessing.

Ruth 1:15-17 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

In leaving Moab and following Naomi and the God of Israel, Ruth not only forsook her gods, but also her family, marriage, and the hope of having children. She completely threw herself, wildly, and unassuming into her faith in God. We continue to see Ruth’s dedication to God through her love and care of Naomi her mother-in-law. And then, Ruth choose to follow God’s command in seeking a kinsman redeemer through her husband’s family’s in Boaz. When Boaz realized that Ruth was sacrificing the possibility of a long marriage for an old man like himself, he was deeply touched and told Ruth, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich” Ruth 3:10. Obed, the son of Ruth and Boaz was the grandfather of King David, and in time, Christ, as we know was born from the lineage of David.

Both women, Leah and Ruth were created, chosen, loved, and blessed by God. Ruth followed God, fully aware that the consequences of her choice to follow God could mean a loss of earthly love and earthly relationships. Yet, Ruth was content in God and obeying His commands. Ruth had found that God was more than enough to satisfy. She did not require a husband, a family, children to complete her happiness. God was enough for her.

Like Ruth, Leah was obedient to God. Leah also honored her father and husband. Leah saw God’s hand at work in her life by providing her with children. So, Leah acknowledged that God loved her. But Leah was continually unsatisfied. For Leah, God was not enough. Leah longed to be loved by her husband. I admit it would be a very difficult scenario for any woman. So I do not judge Leah for the struggles of her heart. But I can’t help to wonder how different dear Leah’s life story would have been IF she had pursued her joy in God instead of earthly, faulty, human relationships.

“You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing” Psalm 145:16.

My Husband’s Safe Place

A few weeks after Jim and I began dating, we were still feeling very vulnerable and cautious in our relationship. It was at that point  that a quarter entered the picture. Jim described his heart like a quarter a little boy has. Sometimes the little boy pulls the quarter out of his pocket to show it, but then puts it back in his pocket for safe keeping. I remember Jim telling me  “Rebecca, someday I would like you to have my quarter to keep forever.” We both understood that “quarter” meant his heart.

It was a few weeks later (our relationship moved fast) when Jim pulled out a slim, flat, blue box with the words “U.S. Mint” on the top. He handed it to me. I opened it to find two shiny new quarters. Based on our earlier conversation, I knew Jim had given me his whole heart. Jim told me that he actually had no trouble giving me his heart, and it came easily and naturally. I remember fighting back tears as I handed him one of the quarters to show him, that I too was entrusting my heart to his care. The other quarter I have kept until this day.

We are now eleven years and four children deep in our marriage. And I still keep my husband’s quarter safe. I do not take the keeping of his heart lightly. Our challenges on a daily basis supersede the simple crisis that popped up during our courtship days. My husband kindly bears the brunt of the burden of the care of me and the children.

It is a tough world for the only money-maker in our home. There are people my husband works with who are demeaning, irresponsible, egotistical, lazy, cranky, and negligent. Such people he is around every day for 9-10 hours. Besides the difficult people my husband engages with on a daily basis, he, like most working folk, has a job that is stressful. There are problems and crisis that pop up even simultaneously. My husband’s days are full of deadlines, schedules, classes, and meetings. Even at home, he is bombarded with phone calls in the evenings and weekends, and required to settle company concerns at a moment’s notice. Such is that nature of what my husband does. I do believe, it is a common type of life most employed people have.

My day is also full. I am greeted with a whining baby first thing in the morning. He tends to be cranky until after his morning nap. My children are not always pleasant. They argue, complain, and can be disobedient. Even when the children are cheerfully obeying, we are busy. My days are full of tending to children, housekeeping, cooking, planning, schooling, laundry, and the business of the home. I can get tired and ornery. Just like those who go to work, my days are stressful, even though my stresses and concerns are different from those with jobs outside the home, the topics of concern are just as meaningful to me as though I was paid for my work. It is easy for me to become self-focused on my needs and the troubles of the home that I neglect to have compassion on my hard-working husband.

But I have found it easy to set my selfish feelings of the day aside when I think with compassion toward my husband. Love is self-sacrificing. My husband sacrifices every day of his life by working hard and giving his hard earnings to feed, shelter, and care for the needs of me and the children. His sacrificial love for our family is something I truly cherish. I get to enjoy the days at home with my children because my husband works hard. Even those rough days I have at home, are probably better than one of his easy days at the office. I wouldn’t trade the moments I am able to share with my little ones for anything in the world. I am truly grateful for my husband’s job and his willingness to give me his earnings to spend on electricity and groceries.

Besides working hard to provide for our family, my husband takes our emotional and spiritual needs seriously. He is responsible for our hearts, and he knows it. There are days I save certain issues for him to deal with after he gets home from work. For a time, he gave our eldest daughter her reading lessons because she wasn’t putting forth her best effort for me. She seemed to do better for Daddy. He also helped potty train our littlest girl, who simply became too lazy to take the time to go potty when she needed. Somehow, Daddy was able to get through to her when mommy had no effect. My middle child wears glasses, she doesn’t like them, but it is necessary. Often our baby boy needs a bath in the evening. My husband is quick to volunteer with that task while I clean up from dinner. It helps for my husband to get involved in asking her about them when he gets home from work. So, when he gets home, there is no putting up of his feet watching TV. He is busy, just like me, until every child is in bed for the night. And then, there is me. I am a woman…emotional…hormonal…and well complicated. My husband loves me dearly and does his best to help me sort out my heart and re-focus ton the Lord.

My husband also has jobs around the house that he does. He mows the grass, fixes broken things, moves heavy things, repairs and remodels as needed. He has come home many an evening to do manual labor on the house until dark.

So, after taking the time to reflect on all my husband does and the burden he bears in life, I can easily find gratitude and compassion for him. He is tired and emotionally spent from a days work. He needs a place he can be at ease I feel very strongly that I am to be my husband’s safe place.

I am cautious about addressing my concerns. Not that I do not share my opinions and timidly hold up the wall. But that I am gentle with my words and careful about timing when I do discuss heavy topics with my husband. The moment he walks in the door from work is never the time to bombard him with my concerns, difficulty I have had with the children, or a crisis that came up. That can all wait until he has taken a few long breaths…usually after dinner. I am not saying this is how it is ALWAYS played out in our home, but I do put forth a conscious effort to give him some peace after he gets home, and time my conversations for when he is relaxed. Sometimes, I have waited a few days until he is through a stressful situation at work.

I am not my husband’s critic. When Jim is with me, he should feel free and open. He can be vulnerable with assurance of my support. He shouldn’t be on edge, wondering if he is going to do something to upset me. He shouldn’t have to worry about everything he says in case it might hurt my feelings. He shouldn’t feel my critical eye with how he disciplines the children, eats, organizes his day, or addresses a situation. My husband needs to feel at ease and at home with me. There are times I fail in this matter, but with every passing year, I am learning to allow my husband to make his own paths with my support. Perhaps I will eventually be consistant in relinquishing control of his choices and methods.

I make myself available for companionship. Jim and I curl up on the couch together nearly every evening after the children are in bed. I don’t pull out my knitting, a book, my phone, or the laptop. We might watch a show we both enjoy or a NASCAR race. It makes no difference. I am there, strictly for snuggling. I don’t mind curling up on him and doing nothing for a couple of hours at the end of the day. Being a warm companion is crucial to being my husband’s safe place. My world and his are joined. Although we both have tasks throughout the day that we must do, our hearts are all knotted up together and we look forward to being together the end of each day. I want my husband to long for that time snuggling with me. It is when he is with me that he does not get criticisms, conflict, or reproach.

I want him to be at peace with me. We have had brief seasons of tension, and neither of us like that, and work at making those moments of tension as brief as possible. I am not a perfect, supportive, devoted wife, but I value my position as my husband’s safe place and I guard that role. I struggle with submission, but the point is that I struggle. I do my best to give my husband preferrance. Sometimes that comes easily, and other times it is difficult. But i know, he loves me, and also seeks what is best for me, even if I disagree as to what that might be.

I speak highly of him. I never degrade him in public or private conversation. My husband knows, at least I believe he knows, that I do not ever paint him in a bad light even when chatting with my closest family members and friends. In fact, very much the opposite. He is a fabulous man. So, I honestly have nothing bad to report about him. I love everything about him…even his quirks are very dear to me. The husband of the virtuous woman mentioned in Proverbs 31:23, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.” I believe no man stands a chance of success if he is not promoted first by his wife. No wife does her husband favors if she complains and makes fun of him. I find much of my inspiration from women like Clementine Churchill and Elizabeth Bunyan. Women who truly sustained their husbands through difficult and complicated years. Because of women like them, we have men like Winston Churchill and John Bunyon. 

Now, one might ask if I have a bit of an old-fashioned mentality in such devotion to my husband. Perhaps that is the case, but it is my mentality about the untily of marriage that is probably the motivvation for my adoration of my husband. I believe marriage should have a mutually supportive role, adorned by a selfless love for each other. I don’t see my husband as alone, and he doesn’t see me as alone. We are one…one unit…one person. Just last night, a leaf ended up at the bottom of our sheets. I made the comment that it must have gotten stuck to “our foot.” My husband got a kick out of that, but truly, his foot and my foot are pretty much a part of the same unit in my mind. We don’t peruse our own agendas and goals. We are as one single being working together for one goal. And that goal is to bring God the most glory we are able through our lives, love, and oneness in marriage.

And if anyone were to ask where my safe place is. Most certainly it is with my husband.