Life-Long Learning

In less than four months I will be graduating with my Bachelor’s degree!

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I am, however, going an extra year to get my teaching license. This is honestly pretty exciting because though I am ready to be done with school, I also really love learning.

Learning isn’t confined to a classroom, though. Nor is it confined to any one period of time in our lives. As we live our lives we are constantly changing and growing. Any and every point in our lives is a great time to learn.

I love to soak up information about the season of life I’m currently in as well as future seasons. I’m not a mom yet, but I hope to be some day. So I do spend time reading articles and books and listening to podcasts that have to do with pregnancy and parenting because someday they will be relevant. I’m not a teacher yet, but I try to learn as much as I can to help me with that season of life. I am also currently a wife and a follower of Jesus, two things that I’m not going to stop being; however, there is always room for growth and development and thus I strive to learn and grow constantly.

We are not done learning when we are finished with school; we aren’t done until we take our last breath. Read books, go to conferences, listen to podcasts, read blogs. Learn. Grow. Change.

With love,

B

Photo credit: unsplash-logoNick Hillier

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Heart-Matter

When we invite Jesus to be the Lord of our lives we become free from not only the penalty of our sin but from the Law as well. Though the books of the Law are still important and give us wisdom, we are no longer bound to it. While of course there are things that are simple – I mean, we really shouldn’t be out thieving and murdering – our lives are no longer solely painted in black and white.

This being said, a lot of people don’t live this way. The message of the church often seems to be full of dos and don’ts, cans and cannots. We have freedom in Christ and God has given us free will, but not everything is beneficial to us (1 Corinthians 6:12). The Bible also instructs us to use our freedom wisely (Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 2:16). Freedom in Christ isn’t about legalism, it’s about motive, which took me awhile to understand (Phylicia Masonheimer is very helpful with this topic).

The Bible lays certain things out clearly for us, but other things are vague or not mentioned at all, and what it boils down to is our motive. Is what we’re doing beneficial to me? Is it hurting someone else? Is it hurting my witness to someone else? And perhaps most importantly, why am I doing it? For example, there’s a lot of controversy over whether or not Christians should drink alcohol. Firstly, the Bible does not prohibit drinking alcohol, it prohibits drunkeness. That leaves us each with a choice of whether or not we choose to drink. Are we prone to making irresponsible decisions? Are we drinking because it’s “cool”? Are we drinking as a coping mechanism? By drinking are we encouraging a friend’s alcoholism? What is our motivation?

We have great freedom, but with it comes great responsibility. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be caught up in legalism – in fact, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for that very reason!- but we should exercise our freedom wisely through prayer and self-examination.

With love,

B

Photo credit:unsplash-logoFlo Karr

Just Do It

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

-Chinese proverb

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How often do we find ourselves saying, “I want to do           ” or “Someday I’m going       to           “? If you’re anything like me, the answer is probably “much too often.” What I have realized lately is that if you want to do something, just do it.

You want to learn to paint? Buy supplies. You want to write? Put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). You want to exercise more? Find a gym.

We become obsessed with waiting for the right time to do things, but most of the time, there is no “right time.” Why start tomorrow when there is a perfectly good today? Take the first step, even if the first step is just researching what you want to do and figuring out what supplies or resources you need.

We also let the possibility of failure become a stumbling block to us. One of my professors once wisely said, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing wrong.” What he meant was that if something is really worth your time, it’s worth the knowledge you gain from your mistakes. Every mistake is an opportunity for growth. I dabble in crocheting, and a friend of mine wanted a hat for Christmas. I think I started over on the darn thing about seven times. I was doing something wrong, and it took patience and the willingness to try again to get it right. The finished product, though not perfect, looked a lot better than if I would have just given up and left it a half-done mess.

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If you are wanting to try something new, stop being your own worst enemy. Also, it’s okay to do something simply because you enjoy it and not because you’re going to show it to the world. Who cares if your paintings aren’t masterpieces? If you enjoy doing it, don’t stop! Don’t let the voices of the world or the voices in your head stop you. Just do it.

With love,

B

Photo credit:unsplash-logoChristopher Sardegna

Love Isn’t All Romance and Glass Slippers

I am a huge Disney fan. I love Disney movies, Disney World, Disney in general (my husband and I even have Mickey and Minnie Christmas stockings, and I’m totally wearing my Mickey pajamas while writing this post).

The downfall to Disney is that it distorts our view of love. Have you ever noticed that couples in Disney movies rarely have any conflict? In a lot of the movies you have one person from a high socioeconomic status and the other from a low socioeconomic status (for example, Prince Charming and Cinderella or Jasmine and Aladdin) yet they just seamlessly merge there lives together? Yeah, that is not realistic at all, and it’s not just Disney: the media in general portrays a false version of love. We expect constant passion and spontenaity, but love isn’t all romance and returning glass slippers, it’s a day-by-day, moment-by-moment choice. 

It is so easy for me to just do what I want to do and act how I want to act without taking my husband into consideration, but that’s not how marriage is supposed to work. We’re a team, a partnership, and since the moment I said “I do” my life no longer was about my needs. Love is serving. Love is selflessness. Love is not about you. It’s not always easy to act on, though, is it?

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In the past ten months of being married, I have learned a lot about what it means to love my husband, and I know that over the next several years I will learn so much more, but for now, here are some things I have learned.

Learn how to love your spouse. One of the most helpful pieces of advice we have gotten is to learn each other’s love languages. My number one love language is Acts of Service. The best way to my heart is for him to do something that helps me out and shows that he understands the effort I put into maintaining our home. If I do the same for him, however, it doesn’t have that big of an impact. Knowing how to love our spouses in the ways that they need to be loved is huge – as is periodically reevaluating your love languages because they do change with time and with seasons of life. In addition to this, simply paying attention to how your spouse reacts to certain things will give you a lot of insight into how you can love them better.

Communication really is key. One of the most frustrating things in marriage is the fact that my husband can’t read my mind. That would make everything so much easier, wouldn’t it? Since that is (unfortunately) not the case, we have to intentionally tell our spouses what we are thinking and what we are needing. Not only that, but it’s important to tell our spouses how much we love and appreciate them, because they need to hear that, too.

Never stop trying. There was a reason Never Stop by Safety Suit was the song we danced to at our wedding. Never stop pursuing your spouse. Never stop trying to learn about them and love them better.

What are some ways that you show love to your significant other? Shoot me an email or connect with me on the blog’s Facebook page!

With love,

B

Photo credit:unsplash-logoJorge Martínez

I Don’t Have a Five-Year Plan

From the time students start high school they are expected to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. They are encouraged to choose a “track” or program for the rest of high school to help shape their future education and career. The problem I find with this is that life is always in flux.

When I started college, I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life. Little did I know that three and a half short years later I would be married and on a completely different career path than I went in with (and the journey that I took to get there wasn’t a straight shot either). We can make plans all we want, but education and experiences can change things.

Because of this, in my life I choose to make tentative plans over concrete plans. When it comes to the future, my husband and I typically lay out how we could see things going while including alternate possibilities and keeping in mind that things could change completely. For example, when we have kids, we aren’t sure if we are going to home school or if our children will attend a public school, but we have tentative plans for both. This is important because if you set your heart on something turning out a certain way and it doesn’t happen, you will be crushed.

But what about God’s will? I think that in some instances God may have a very specific plan, or specific door, that He intends for us. Other times, however, I think that we have a wide array of doors to choose from, but our attitude is the key. Colossians tells us that no matter what we do, we are to do it in the name of the Lord. I feel that that gives us some freedom in choosing what we do. Want to be a teacher? Do it as if working for the Lord. Want to be a welder? Do it as if working for the Lord. Want to be a business owner? Do it as if working for the Lord.

So, for me, there’s no five-year plan. I have goals, hopes, and dreams for my career and my family, yet I trust that if the Lord has a specific plan for me I will find it and follow in faith. If He doesn’t, I will still treat whatever it is as my calling and do it for the Lord, because God’s will is sometimes a specific plan, but it’s always an attitude.

With love,

B

Photo credit:unsplash-logoPeter Aschoff

Making Better Use of My Time

College will teach you a lot of things, but one thing it will teach you for sure is how bad you are at managing time.

I have a tendency to procrastinate. I always have a justification excuse as to why I can put the task off, and then I end up ten times more stressed than I was originally. Once I got married, my time management spiraled even further out of control. I made half-hearted attempts to get on track but soon fell right back off.

Recently, however, I decided that I was no longer satisfied with the way I was doing things. This came about mainly because I started doing more of the things I love. Some of the podcasts I have been listening to – specifically Happier – as well as a book I’ve been reading (10 Time Management Choices That Can Change Your Life by Sandra Felton and Marsha Sims) have greatly inspired me to lead a more productive life and have given me practical ways to do so.

What I have learned is that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for time management. I’ve tried out several strategies, taken some on, discarded some, and tailored others to fit my needs better. Keeping that in mind, I thought I would share some of the strategies that I use:

  • The one-minute rule: if there is a task that will take you less than one minute to do (for example, hanging up your coat or putting a bag of chips back in the cabinet), go ahead and do it. By doing it right away, you are eliminating having to deal with several little things that will have piled up.
  • A categorized to-do list: I break my to-do list into four quadrants: housework, homework, other work (such as going to the bank or going to the gym), and leisure (like reading, writing, Netflix). For me it helps to see my to-do list broken down into specific types of work.
  • Scheduled housework and workouts: knowing what you need to do on any specific day of the week saves a lot of time and energy. My schedule looks like this:

 

Housework Gym
Sunday
Monday Vacuum Exercise bike & arms
Tuesday Clean bedroom & office
Wednesday Cross-training elliptical & core
Thursday Clean kitchen
Friday Clean bathroom Treadmill & legs
Saturday Clean living room

Some tasks like sweeping and laundry vary depending on need (though I do sweep             every-other day to keep up with dog hair), but they still go on the schedule. And, sometimes things just don’t get done because life happens. When this happens, I just stick them on the schedule for the next day!

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These are just some time-management techniques that I use to lead a more productive, happy life that utilize wisely the resource of time that God has given me.

What are some time-management strategies that you use?

Photo Credit: Cathryn Lavery

Doing More of What I Love

Sometimes life seems to be an endless repetition of tasks: wake up, eat breakfast, get ready, go to class, eat lunch, do housework, do homework, go to work, eat dinner, sleep, and repeat.

Honestly, life often is a series of repeated tasks, but that doesn’t mean we have to let our lives become boring and stale. Recently I’ve made it a goal to do more of the things that I enjoy. Some of these include:

  • I go to the gym three times a week. That may not sound like an enjoyable thing, but to me it is. I enjoy how I feel after, and I enjoy seeing how hard work results in progress, even if the progress is slow. It also requires a lot of discipline, and being disciplined in this area of my life helps me to be disciplined in other areas of my life (“Discipline” is my word of the year, so bonus!).
  • I read everyday. I’ve made it a point to read something everyday in addition to my Bible reading. I prefer to read a mixture of fiction and nonfiction everyday, but I’m satisfied if I get to read one of the two.
  • I listen to more podcasts. I take advantage of long care rides by listening to some of my favorite podcasts (which include Happier, Uniquely Woman, Cultivating the Lovely, and Mosaic).
  • I write everyday.  Just like with reading, I’ve made it a goal to write something everyday. I love to write – obviously, hence the blog. I have been an avid writer since I was in first grade and participated in the Young Author’s Convention (so if anyone ever asks, my first book was really Sammy the Toothless Shark). For years a lot of my free time was spent writing or daydreaming about stories I wanted to write. Because of school, work, life, and excuses I haven’t spent much time in the past few years writing much other than blog posts (which I definitely love writing). I’m getting back into writing fiction which fills me with so much joy.

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Life often is a series of repeated things to check off of the to-do list, but these tasks can be made much more enjoyable by pairing them with the things you love (for example, listening to a podcast while cleaning). Your days will also become more enjoyable if you schedule in time for activities you love; the things I’ve listed are things that are put on my to-do list. I carve out time among my daily tasks to do things that bring me joy. Why? Self-care is important: take time to relax and do enjoyable (and creative!) things without feeling guilty because you think you should be doing something else.

So that is my challenge to you: make time in your schedule to do things that you love. You’ll be happier for it!

Photo Credit: Jacalyn Beales

Seasons of Life

Our lives are not linear; we do not stay in the same place constantly. Like the seasons of the year, the seasons of our lives come and go. This thought is comforting in difficult times and perhaps bitter in more joyful times.

The season that we are in is unique to us and may look quite different from the people around us even if they are in a similar time in their life. For example, my best friend and I are one month apart in age, we are both seniors in college, we have similar majors, and we are both married, yet we are in very different seasons of life. The season I am in involves managing a full-time course load for school, work, and an internship. I am not home very much and spend most of my time doing homework and housework. Genelle on the other hand is going to school full-time as well, has a work-study through the university, and is preparing to have a baby in three months! Though the seasons that we are in share commonalities, they are quite different indeed!

Both of the seasons we are in are beautiful in their own ways, and one of my favorite things to do as of late is have conversations with her about what is going on in her life and sharing what is going on in mine, because for the first time, the seasons of our lives are more different than similar and the priorities and focuses of our lives are different. I love it.

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The thing about life is that we can never really expect what the future seasons of life will look like. For instance, when I was a freshman in college, I never would have guessed that I would change my major or that I would be getting married my junior year. We can plan all we want, but that doesn’t mean that things are going to work out that way – and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Genelle, for example, wasn’t necessarily planning on having a baby this year, and the season she was expecting to go into changed, but the unexpected season turned into a season of joy and blessings.

A valuable skill I have learned in the past few years is to accept the season of life that I am in. The current one I’m in is quite busy. I rarely get to spend time with my husband or my family and I have to be extra intentional about finding rest and being still in the presence of the Lord. When things feel like they are too much to handle, when I’m upset about not seeing my husband as much as I would like to, I simply say to myself, “It is only a season.” Though it is a trying season at times, it is a season full of immense blessings and joy as well. I can’t sit around and wait for that perfect time in my life to come along – it’s never going to. I have to find joy in each day.

This season will go and the next one will come. What will it be like? I have no clue, but perhaps the mystery is part of the adventure.

Photo Credit: Fineas Anton

These Last Eight Months

I sat down with my adviser the other day to discuss my degree plan (because there was a confusion and it didn’t get done last semester like it was supposed to) because I graduate in eight months. It sounds cliche, but I remember my first day of college like it was yesterday.

I’ve been getting quite emotional recently about graduating (it doesn’t help that I just finished Gilmore Girls and near the end of the series Rory graduates from college). It is certainly an exciting time – but it is sad as well. College has taught me so much: how to manage time (I get better at this every year), how to accept failure, how to work collaboratively, and not to mention how to survive on little sleep.

I love my school dearly and I love learning. I know that I will be a life-long learner, but there is a good chance that after May I will never learn in a formal classroom setting again. I may never again feel that rush of accomplishment after receiving a good grade on a paper I slaved over. I may never get the opportunity to spend months of my life focusing nearly purely on learning. It makes me sad.

Yet I’m excited. I’m excited to equip the information and experiences from the past few years and step into the work force. I’m excited to get a job where I can impact people’s lives in ways I couldn’t before getting my degree. I’m excited to read books and articles about topics I’m interested in solely because I want to – and without deadlines!

You can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a lot of tears shed on that fateful day in May when I go from an undergraduate student to the holder of a Bachelor’s Degree. I will cry for the professors I will miss, the friends I will miss, the experiences I will miss, and the campus I will miss. Yet I will also cry with gratitude over the professors I got to know, the strangers that became friends, the unique things I got to experience, and the campus that became my home. I will cry with gratitude over the fact that I made it.

Though I know I will grumble along the way, I will cherish these last eight months, these last classes, these last college experiences, this season of my life.

Photo Credit: Baim Hanif

More than a Physical Act: A Story of Grace

Luke Holter in his book Filthy Fisherman says, “Nearly every Christian I know has an amazing story of God’s grace and redemption. None of us are above His grace; we all badly need it. Once we have been redeemed, our job is to tell that story of redemption” (Emphasis added). And here, in the final post of the marriage series, I’m going to tell you some of my story.

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I often think of how my husband and I are going to approach the topic of sex with our children someday, because our story is a story of grace and healing. My relationship history includes manipulation and abuse (you can read more about that in Toxic) as well as me going along and making my own mistakes. Sex and it’s counterparts were just things on a “Don’t” list for me. I didn’t understand what the harm really was. I mean, I knew God created sex to be in the context of marriage, but I didn’t understand why.

Needless to say, I had trouble with staying away from things on that list. I didn’t understand the emotional bondage that came along with physical acts. Though I didn’t have sex until my wedding night, I had given a lot of myself away prior to meeting my husband, and the breakup that followed devastated me.

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My heart breaks when I see others go through things like this. It breaks my heart when people believe society’s lies that sex is casual. It breaks my heart when people weaponize sex. It breaks my heart to see the aftermath of breakups when too much was given. What breaks my heart more is when I see people looking down their noses, thinking that others are undeserving of grace – as if that’s our call to make. Christ came to redeem all of us, not just those whose sins we deem are worthy of being saved from. It reminds me of the story of the adulterous woman in John 8:

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn He appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Jesus didn’t tell her that her actions were okay, but He didn’t condemn her either. This is the kind of scandalous love and grace we are called to give if we call ourselves followers of Christ. We are called to love people with the truth, but we are not called to condemn them. I can’t tell you how much it hurt when I heard people shaming those caught up in sexual sin while I sat there with my dirty little secret holding back tears and shame.

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When my husband and I have kids, I want to be honest with them – about the truth of what sex is and also about my mistakes. I want them to know that sexuality is not a bad thing. I want them to know that God designed marriage and He designed sex as a part of that. It is the ultimate display of intimacy and vulnerability – it is becoming “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). It is so much more than a physical act. 

I want our kids to grow up knowing that they can ask questions and that they can talk to us freely. I also want my kids to know that we love them unconditionally. I pray that our children will hold tight to the truth and that they will protect their hearts. I pray they will not go through the heartbreak that so many others and myself have gone through. But if my child comes home one day, crying because she made a mistake, you can bet I will be right there crying with her, not because her actions are excused, but because I have been there and because God didn’t turn me away. How could I look at her with shame and condemnation? How could I spit in the name of grace?

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While others looked at me with shame and condemnation, God looked at me with love and grace. I know that He grieved over my choices and He rejoiced when I repented. And I know that I am thankful for the grace that was lavished on me while I was undeserving. I know that while the decisions I may have made were not wise, I experienced God’s grace and love all the more, and I can’t help but extend it to others.

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To those of you misguided by society’s portrayal of what sex should be, it’s not true. It is so much more than the cheap version being sold.

To those of you who have a warped view of sex because of what others have done to you, this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. This isn’t all there is. There is hope and there is healing.

To those of you who are critical of those caught up in sexual sin, remember grace. Don’t let your hearts be hardened.

To those of you caught up in mistakes you have made, I’m crying with you. It’s not over. Grace is so much bigger than any mistake you will ever make.

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Photo Credit: Bekah Russom