Fighting For Your Family

boxing_wallpaper1337Several Sundays ago, we were getting ready for church and from across the hallway you could hear screaming and yelling. There was an all out brawl in our living room over which child took the other’s pink story Bible.

“No, it’s mine!” my five-year-old daughter yells.

“No, I want it! I want it!” my three-year-old daughter yells back. After some hair pulling and name calling, the three-year-old then runs from her sister and into our bedroom hiding from her sister with a sneaky face.

I still had to do my hair and finish putting my mascara on because you know, we had to be at church in 20 minutes. I was still waking up too because I’m not a morning person. I could barely handle the noise level and sibling rivalry. The yells and screams were shattering to my ears. After some discipline and working out the conflict, I assured my three-year-old that she’d get her own Bible one day and that was enough to dissolve the chaos…

Read the rest of the article over at FortheFamily.org. 

Strong God, Strong Mom

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At the beginning of the year, my husband and I were asked to speak for my mother’s group on the topic of marriage. During our talk, I shared some stories on how our kids have impacted our relationship and how I struggle at times with anger and control in raising our four young children. Sharing the more raw details of life can be a scary risk that involves vulnerability but I always figure that if it can help someone else, being authentic is worth it.

Well after our talk, one of my mom friends who I respected and was a “super mom” in my eyes, came up to me and said how much she related to what I had to say.

“Really?” I asked her…

Read the rest on FortheFamily.org

 

 

 

Loving the Man God Gave You

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A few months ago, my husband found a killer deal for a nice bed frame off Craigslist that he wanted to get for us. We’d been married 9.5 years and had never experienced the thrills of a king-sized bed. The problem was that it was nap time for our kids and we had to drive his chevy pick up truck in order to haul the frame and mattresses and comforter and so on. Not to mention the air conditioner on his truck was out, and the trip was not exactly a hop, skip, and a jump.

“I don’t know about this trip,” I told Jeremiah who thrives on spontaneity. “We’ve got to haul a lot of stuff and our four needy kids.”

“It will be fine,” he responded. “They can sleep on the way.”

It will be fine. Those four famous last words…

Read the rest over on Forthefamily.org

Learning to Release Your Children to The Lord

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It had been a normal Saturday with my husband and two year old son, John. We had plans to enjoy the morning at the lake. We parked our car and walked to the bridge where the geese and ducks were. The setting and serenity were perfect. My son stuck close to us as we showed him the beauty of God’s creation. Bicyclers flew by us and other runners on the bridge. Out of nowhere, my son darts out in the middle of the path just as a bicycler is heading straight for him. He screams, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Get out of the way!” My heart stopped…

Read the rest over on FortheFamily.org

6 Surprising Ways to Survive the Younger Years

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If you’re like me and you’re in the trenches of raising young children you’ve probably at least thought or said the words, “Help! I’m in survival mode!”

This has been true for my husband and I for the last several years. Our four children are a blessing to us – a gift from God whom we love and cherish with all our hearts – but we still have our share of challenges, trials, and conflict on a daily basis.

Just a couple hours ago, my 1.5 year old took a nice big bite into my 4 year olds cheek. She was screaming with tears running down her face simultaneously with my cranky 3 year old who has a runny nose and fever. Meanwhile, my 6 year old is in the bathroom having a hard time, and well, let’s just say there was a mess to clean up…

Read the rest here

A Letter to My Son (The Kindergarten Graduate)

IMG_7500I am pretty excited to be writing as a new contributor for Forthefamily.org. Especially as our family has grown in size over the last few years, I find myself having a lot of ideas for articles. Or rather, the struggle in raising children and keeping your marriage #1 is so real that I can’t not write about it! I wrote this letter a while back for my son and decided to edit it now that he is a kindergarten graduate. I read it to him recently and it was a sweet time between the two of us. I hope this brings you encouragement as you train, love, and disciple your own children and hopefully keep your hair in tact. :)

Dear Son,

You are growing into such a smart and sweet-spirited young boy. This past year you’ve gone from reading only a few words to reading chapter books and doing addition and subtraction. You recently graduated from Kindergarten and it feels like yesterday that your tiny fingers wrapped around mine and I couldn’t stop smelling your soft baby skin, over and over again.

I consider my role as your Momma a serious responsibility and privilege to which I will be held accountable to God. Every day I get to spend with you is a gift to invest in your precious life. I know that the time I have with you in these formative years is numbered. I still can’t believe you’ll be entering first grade in the fall. How can it be?

Read the rest over on FortheFamily.org

 

 

The Love Song {That Changes Everything}

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Last night, my husband and I had one of those out of the ordinary evenings where we stayed up late in bed together talking, reminiscing about our college and dating days, and how we were so thankful God gave us one another when we least expected it. We reflected on our wedding day and all that led up to it.

“It’s kind of sad… we never really had a song,” Jeremiah said.

I thought about it for a minute and it was kind of sad.

“We just chose one because we had to for our first dance,” he said.

He was right. We dated for seven months and were engaged for six. Everything happened so fast. I thought about the beautiful song we chose (or that he let me choose!), “When You Say You Love Me” by Josh Groban and some of the words in it:

“And this journey that we are on. How far we’ve come and I celebrate every moment. And when you say you love me, that’s all you have to say. I’ll always feel this way…”

Our wedding day was just the beginning of our journey together. We weren’t that “far” into it yet. Like our vows, we didn’t fully understand the words of that song or that a day might come when we’d be tempted to throw in the towel. That there might be a day when our burning, unquenchable love wouldn’t “always feel this way.”

“I think the journey we’ve been on is our song,” I told Jeremiah. “It tells the real story better than any mere love song could. Plus, our song is still being written.”

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The journey of our marriage sings the song that no matter what, through thick and thin, we are committed to one another and will fight for our marriage. We will persevere through adversity because we promised, “Until death do us part” to God and to our loved ones.

The lyrics over our last nine years tell a story of lost dreams, disappointments, job promotions, job losses, accidents, lessons learned, poor communication, passion, romance, pursuit, isolation, intimacy struggles, financial pressure, adventure,  forgiveness, reconciliation, suffering, unconditional love, friendship, unmet expectations, unexplainable joy, and more.

Our relationship has been filled with mountain tops and valleys. Marriage is a battlefield, not always the bed of roses we often dream of. It’s more about strapping up your boots and putting on your armor to fight against your flesh and sinful nature.

Our nine years of marriage have told a story of our sin exposed to the bone, but also of unconditional love, acceptance, and grace – where we have seen our Savior’s love shine brighter than the love we share. We’ve experienced a Savior who sought us in our messy sin – who didn’t wait for us to clean up.

We know a Savior whose blood was shed for our freedom and righteousness. We worship a Savior who has rescued us out of darkness and into light and who is restoring and making all things new.

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We live for a Savior, Jesus Christ, God’s son, who has reconciled us to himself – not because of anything we have done but because of everything He has done. We surrender to a Savior who cares deeply for our relationship so that His song would be a melody for others to join in and be inspired by. So that ultimately others would know what His love is really like.

Patient. Forgiving. Sacrificial. Gentle. Kind. Humble. Selfless. Strong. True. Perfect. Enduring. Everlasting. And so much more.

The truth is that we’ve always had a song – the song of redemption. It was lived out as two imperfect young lovers anticipating the day we would say “I do.” It’s been lived out every year we’ve tried to love the best we know how, yet still come up so short. It has met us in our biggest fights and shameful behaviors. It sings louder than all other songs written by human, finite hands.

This song of redemption – Christ’s rescuing and restoring of broken people back to Himself – is for every marriage to behold and know personally. It is far greater than any song shared solely between two lovers because it invites others to share its glory and splendor.

It changes everything. And it is yours to sing too.

Book Proposals and Trusting God’s Plan

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It’s been quite some time since I blogged last. Okay, four months! That is a long time but so much has been going on that I wanted to fill you in on. At the beginning of this year, an email popped up in my inbox that I didn’t expect. A Christian publisher who I greatly respect had taken notice of one of my article’s and asked about my interest in writing a book on the topic of relationships. Anyone who has known me for a long time knows that being an author has been a life long dream since the 4th grade. My heart beat fast and I was ecstatic.

I told my husband and my family and closest friends. I got back in touch with the publisher with an idea that they liked and I moved forward with working on the proposal. Jeremiah watched the kids for me on the weekends while I’d go to our local coffee shop to hammer out the first few sample chapters.

I felt like God was calling me to write for single women who are waiting on God’s will for a spouse, similar to the book Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Eliott. Deep down, I felt too intimated to tackle the topic of marriage. I submitted the proposal and felt confident. In May, I heard back from the publisher and they loved and affirmed my writing and passion, but felt like the market was too crowded for the idea to sell, but that maybe we just needed to explore a different direction.

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I was tempted to get discouraged but Jeremiah encouraged me that it wasn’t rejection, but redirection. I knew he was right and I wasn’t going to give up. I realized the market really was crowded and deep in my heart I felt God had something different in mind. Shortly after that time, Jeremiah and I began to brainstorm ideas on marriage. After all, I had been writing marriage articles for over 2.5 years now.

Jeremiah was able to make my ideas better since he’s a visionary and I’m more detail oriented. We found ourselves really excited working on our idea together. We pitched it to the publisher and suggested the idea of Jeremiah and I writing it together as co-authors. Slowly, my fears of writing a book on marriage began to fade as I realized it wasn’t about me.

Several weeks later while we were on our road trip from Texas to Michigan, we were able to talk on the phone further with the publisher.  I was so thankful for our conversation and their willingness to help us narrow our idea. They asked us to come up with a detailed proposal so when we got home from vacation, we got right to work whenever time allowed.

As we neared the end, we sent it to a few author and editor friends for feedback, we changed one of the sample chapters completely, we kept editing and polishing it up some more, and after letting it sit a while and then coming back to it for more edits, we decided it was finally ready.

Well,  I’m happy to say that we just recently submitted the proposal! So now we are waiting to see if the publisher would like to move forward.

This whole process has been such a journey, especially in the midst of raising our four young children and Jeremiah starting a remodeling business. It’s been busy, chaotic, hopeful, and exciting. We’ve definitely experienced spiritual warfare and arguments–  To be expected when tackling such a project. But I have been so blessed being able to work alongside my husband and watch his gifts shine through. When I compare this proposal to my first, I feel like it’s so much better having his point-of-view, insight, and thoughts from the male perspective. I absolutely love the book concept and it is unique in today’s market.

What I’ve realized most in this journey is that God’s plans are not mine. They are better. After hitting the send button to the publisher, I felt nervous and excited. Nervous knowing that they may or may not think it will sell, but excited at the possibility that it very well could and we might get to sign a contract. Of course, we’re praying for the latter.

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During the writing process, I’ve also felt who are we to write a book on marriage? At times, we feel so broken in our relationship and some days are just plain hard. But that is the beauty of the gospel. Jesus comes down to us. He puts things in our lap not because we deserve them. With his life laid down, he raises us out of brokenness and sin and chooses us to be a part of his mission. He uses imperfect people and reveals his perfection. That is a mystery I’ll never get over.

I’m humbled and honored at even the chance to send a proposal to a publisher and at the thought that God could use our stories and experiences to encourage other young married couples out there.

So rather than doubt myself or God’s plan, at the end of the day the only questions that really matters are, Am I surrendered to His will? Do I trust that His plans are good?

So no matter the outcome, we’ve giving it over to Him with palms open.

We certainly appreciate your prayers as we wait. In the mean time, I look forward to posting again when I’m not cleaning up messes and taming tantrums. :)

Book Review & Giveaway: “Team Us” by Ashleigh Slater (Moody Publishers)

UnknownToday I’m so excited to review the new book Team Us by first-time author Ashleigh Slater. I was first introduced to Ashleigh several years ago when she gave me the chance to write for her webzine for women, Ungrind.org. I have always appreciated Ashleigh’s love for helping others grow in their walk with Christ. I’m thrilled that her first book is out and that it’s doing so well… as in… it’s selling so well that it’s out of stock on Amazon :)

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get through a whole book so fast. From the moment you open the first pages, you see Ashleigh’s gifted story-telling, passion, respect and love for her husband, whimsical humor, and the ability to intertwine real life issues with biblical truth.

Ashleigh writes in such a way that is refreshing and real, like you’re having coffee with a close friend. She doesn’t claim to have marriage all figured out either, which I love. She writes with authority on the subject because she’s lived it out for more than 10 years. Ashleigh and her husband Ted have learned how to practice grace towards one another in every day life and dealings and she lets you in on their experiences and life lessons. Learning how to extend grace to your spouse and adopting a team spirit is what the book is all about.

Halfway through Team Us, Ashleigh candidly reveals a time in their marriage that she calls the Weeping Years where she and Ted experienced some of the most difficult trials of their lives but how God’s grace remained steadfast and pulled them through. She vividly describes a situation where all hope seemed lost and then God made a way. Those chapters were my favorite and I found myself nodding my head and relating so much to them.

The beauty of this book is that you’ll remember the truths in it long after you’re finished. It’s no wonder that Team Us has been endorsed by Gary Thomas, Gary Chapman, Kirk Cameron and more. The team work approach was a huge takeaway for me so much that when my husband and I are working on something together or need to be reminded that we are in fact a team, I’ll say out loud to him, “Team Us!” in an encouraging tone. He smiles and we remember that we’re not against each other even in the midst of our struggles. And speaking of husbands, throughout each chapter Ashleigh includes funny and insightful blurbs written by Ted offering his perspective.

Whether you’re single, newlywed, or have been married for years, Team Us will help you learn how to have a more satisfying, light-hearted, and God-glorifying marriage.

I’m giving away one copy today. To enter to win, please comment with what your primary love language is (Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Physical touch, Receiving gifts, or Acts of Service). I’ll choose the winner randomly and announce on Monday.

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Congratulations, Ashleigh!

About Ashleigh Slater: Ashleigh Slater is the author of the book, Team Us: Marriage Together (Moody Publishers). As the founder and editor of Ungrind Webzine and a regular contributor at several popular blogs and websites, she loves to combine the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application. Ashleigh lives in Atlanta with her husband Ted and four daughters. To learn more, visit AshleighSlater.com. You can also find her on Facebook here or follow her on Twitter at @ashslater.

 

A Few Simple (and Freeing) Truths I’ve Realized in Raising Young Children

10341519_902198183138904_4226605190141266055_nThere’s a lot of stuff flowing around in my newsfeed about what you should and shouldn’t be doing with your children. Articles about how much screen time your child should have, what they should or shouldn’t be eating, when they should or shouldn’t be potty trained, who they should or shouldn’t be hanging out with and more.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel intense pressure and fear that I’m not getting it right. I’m screwing up because I’m not doing “this” or “that.” Half the time, I’m just trying to make it to the next day.

As someone who already struggles at times toward legalism, I gravitate toward the do’s and don’ts. And sometimes I sadly take pride in it.

After having my fourth child however my views have changed a lot. I’ve become more laid back realizing that my “list” isn’t always God’s agenda. I can say now that my daughter Rebekah is fully potty trained (at 3 1/2). Praise the Lord as it’s been a long journey. And it was never on my timetable no matter how much I prodded. My son John took until just before he was 4.

Some times my kids eat macaroni, hot dogs, and non-organic popsicles. Sometimes they play with kids at our local park that live in the affordable housing near it. Yep, and sometimes they hear cuss words from them too.

I get it though. I want to protect them as much as I can. I want them to be healthy. I want them to be on time developmentally. Contributors not burdens to society. Lights in this world of darkness. I don’t want them to follow the broad path that leads to destruction and death. I really want them behaving well and for their hearts to know right from wrong. I want to be present with them and enjoy them as young babies. And most of all, I want them to follow Jesus and all his ways.

I’ve found so much freedom though in letting go of control, my do’s and don’ts, and letting God guide our family. I’ve found freedom in flexibility and moderation. I confess that we do watch Netflix when I’m cooking meals. Otherwise my house would burn down. I know the news and writers out there mean well in the parenting articles. I’ve probably written a well-meaning article and I’m sure a reader has felt he or she hasn’t measured up in some way. Most of the time those articles are written to help us be better parents and I think that’s great.

But my point is to encourage you as a parent to live in freedom, not chained to the do’s and don’ts regarding the smaller things. To live in moderation because it is possible. To not feel guilty because you’re doing a great job and the best you know how. If you’re a Christ follower, rest assured that the Holy Spirit will convict you when you’ve been on the iPhone too long, when that video should be turned off, or when you feel the nudge to have your son say goodbye to his rough-on-the-edges friend at the park.

The Holy Spirit will convict you when you’re not leading well as a parent. And He can change you in that struggle toward anger, control, or whatever it may be. Be patient with yourself.

God is molding all our families in different ways and He is the One who is sovereign over all the details. I know I’ll read another article where I won’t feel like I measure up, but I hope to remember the truth that I only need to look to the Lord first for help and direction.

And I really do have the ability to live freely as I love and disciple my children. I can rest in the truth that they know I love them.

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