Archive | July 2013

Want to Have a Happy Home?

Make up your mind to be happy. Choose joy.Martha Washington once noted, “The greatest part of our happiness depends on our dispositions, not our circumstance.” And she was right.

Did you know that whether or not your home is a happy one largely depends on… you?

As wives and mothers, we have the power to transform our homes from what might have been a vortex of negativity and darkness and despair into a refuge of joy and radiance and hope. Shouldn’t we be using that power for good?

The answer is yes. Yes, we should.

Our outlook on life has a profound effect not only on our own happiness, but on the happiness of our husband and children, as well. We have a duty to our families to maintain as cheerful an outlook as possible. We do our loved ones a grave disservice when we cultivate a perpetually sad or sour disposition.

Such a disposition has little to do with life circumstances, and everything to do with choice, for as Abraham Lincoln once noted, “most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

When I say that wives should “choose joy,” I am not suggesting that we be dishonest, “fake,” or insincere. Being joyful is not about smiling on the outside when we are shattered on the inside. It is not about pretending that life is hunky-dory when serious problems exist and we need help.

Choosing joy is not about putting on a show for another person’s sake. It is about changing the way we look at things — for our own sake.

Being joyful is not about repressing feelings, but about attacking negativism at the root — in our heart and mind and attitudes. It is about being selective in our thoughts.

In every circumstance in life, there can be found something good, as well as something bad. Being joyful is about choosing to dwell on the good instead of on the bad. It’s about being grateful for what we have instead of upset over what we don’t.

That Scripture repeatedly urges us to rejoice implies that joy is indeed a choice:

• “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
• “Always be joyful.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16, NLT)
• “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:2-3)

It's never too late to live happily ever after.
This sort of constant, abiding joy has at its root an outward rather than an inward focus. It asks not, “What can others do to make me happy,” but “what can I do to make others happy?” Personal happiness is seldom the result of the former mindset, but it is a natural byproduct of the latter.

Showing kindness to others and doing things to bring happiness to those around us is one of the surest ways to find happiness ourselves.

As Helen Keller so wisely observed, “Happiness cannot come from without. It must come from within. It is not what we see and touch or that which others do for us which makes us happy; it is that which we think and feel and do, first for the other fellow and then for ourselves.”

You want to live happily ever after? It’s never to late to begin. The choice is yours; choose joy.

Grace for the Undeserving

Extending Grace to the Undeserving | Loving Life at Home
Sometimes showing grace to others is easy. The person in need of grace is someone we like, someone who is naturally sweet, someone who’s normally very easy to get along with.

Sometimes, though, extending grace is a challenge. Some folks are difficult, demanding, and inconsiderate. Some take advantage of others. Some are disagreeable. Some cut us off in traffic. Some are just plain rude.

They don’t deserve grace, we may think to ourselves.

But, then again, neither do we.

Yet grace is exactly what God has given. In fact, He has lavished it upon us. (Ephesians 1:7-8)

It is not something we’ve earned. It’s not something we deserve. He gives it freely, because he loves us deeply.

In turn, God expects us to demonstrate that same grace in our dealings with others.

And that includes those cranky, cantankerous, “undeserving” types, too. Often, they’re the ones who need it the most. We need to demonstrate grace to the “undeserving” or unappreciative, not only for their benefit and blessing, but our own, as well.

But how do we go about it? How do we extend grace when doing so may be completely out of sync with our natural reaction in a given situation?

We do it by praying for God’s help and by following Christ’s example. (Philippians 2:1-15) Scripture spells this out for us:

G = Grant forgiveness freely

Harboring grudges and resentments doesn’t hurt the target of our bile and bitterness nearly as much as it hurts our own health and wellbeing. We must learn to let things go and move on, for our own sake as well as for the people around us. God has forgiven us an insurmountable debt. So must we forgive others. (Matthew 19:21-35)

R = Remain patient at all times

We shouldn’t allow the words or actions of others to inflame us. Instead, we must stay steady. Think clearly. Remain calm. The Bible teaches that patience is a mark of wisdom (Proverbs 19:11). We are told to “count it all joy” when we encounter trials, knowing that such difficulties mature us and build our patience and endurance. (James 1:2-3)

A = Answer evil with good

We must resist the urge to repay tit for tat. “Getting even” is not a godly mindset, it just escalates and perpetuates the conflict. Instead, we should “bless those that curse you and pray for those who despitefully use you.” (Luke 6:28-29) We should not return evil for evil (Romans 12:17), but should treat others the way we’d like for them to treat us. (Luke 6:30)

C = Consider others’ viewpoints

There may be contributing factors to their behavior of which you are unaware. Put yourself in their shoes, not to justify another’s wrong actions, but to help you better understand underlying causes so that they can be effectively addressed. Examine your own heart, attitudes, and actions in the matter. Have these contributed to the problem you are facing? If so, ask their forgiveness and do what you can to make amends. (Matthew 5:23-24)

E = Exemplify Christ’s love

“Let everything be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14) Love is our standard. It is patient, kind, and longsuffering. (1 Corinthians 13) We should love, because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19). Love and grace are inseparable.

But showing grace to others does not mean we must sweep problems under the carpet and pretend they don’t exist. Wrongful behavior needs to be addressed, and it may sometimes fall on us to do it (especially for those of us who are mothers with young children still at home). Yet in the midst of addressing such difficulties, we must pray for wisdom, then speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) with sincere humility.

This is the path grace marks out for us — even when dealing with the most difficult cases — and it is our best hope for resolving conflicts in a way that honors God by communicating His love and grace to those around us.

This article was originally published at Laundry Moms as part of their ongoing study, 31 Days of Grace. I encourage you to check out the entire series… and be blessed.

Girl Power: Don’t Waste It

Don't waste your girl power | a guide for using your feminine fortitude to its full advantageWe hear a lot about female empowerment these days…but how should we define it? What does an empowered woman really look like?

Is she wealthy? Is she world-famous?

Does she radiate prestige? Does she command the respect of her peers? Does she carry political clout?

Is she her own woman? Completely autonomous? Answers to no one?

Is girl power something she wears like a badge? Or wields like a weapon?

Would we even recognize an empowered woman if we met her on the street?

Maybe. Maybe not.

In the past half-century, women have spent so much time focused on fighting for equality and closing the perceived gender gap that much of the very real power unique to our sex has been lost: relinquished, squandered, forgotten, or ignored.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Girls are smart. We have brains. We can think.

And when we notice — as of late so many have — that the proverbial baby has been tossed out with the bathwater, we have sense enough to retrieve it. We can learn from past mistakes — both the mistakes we’ve made individually, as well as the mistakes made by the generations ahead of us — and change course as needed.

The battle for sexual equality has morphed into a full-blown attack on common sense and decency. Regardless what popular pundits of feminism may argue, being equal in worth and value is not the same as being identical in nature and function.

There are (by design) some very real, very wonderful differences between men and women. True power comes not by denying such differences exist, but by embracing those differences with gratitude and grace.

  1. An empowered woman INSPIRES those around her.

    It is no secret that girls typically outperform boys on verbal tests. Women are communicators at heart. We are relational to the core. We are good with words.

    But words can be used to help or to hurt. To encourage or to tear down.

    An empowered woman understands this fact and chooses her words carefully. She is not catty, caustic, or overly critical, nor does she curse like a sailor. That’s merely rudeness masquerading as power.

    A hurricane makes a great show of brute force, but look at the destruction, devastation, and despair that follow in its wake. Gentle spring rains may never make headline news, but they pack a potency we’d do well to emulate — the power to refresh and rejuvenate, to nurture and nourish, to bring life and growth and beauty.

    Words of Encouragement

    It takes sustained strength and directed determination to build up rather than destroy. To teach by example. To encourage. To bring out the best in others. To inspire those around us.

    This is real power. It is a power each one of us possesses. A power that women, with our communicative tend-and-befriend natures, are especially well-suited to employ — if only we’ll purpose to do so.

    “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

  2. An empowered woman INVIGORATES the opposite sex.

    As the mother of eight boys (and a casual observer of their many friends), I cannot help but notice the effect feminine company has on a group of guys. When fellas know that girls are watching, they will run faster, play harder, and push themselves further than they’d ever do without such an audience.

    Beach Volleyball

    That’s because they are hard-wired to want to woo a woman and win her attention and affection.

    When a girl first starts to sense the sway she holds over guys, it can make her feel a little heady. At that moment, she faces a choice: What will she do with this newfound power?

    Some will choose to misuse and abuse it. When that happens, everybody suffers.

    One of the most devastating effects of the sexual revolution is that it has duped girls into believing they can use their sexual power indiscriminately, without diluting its effectiveness or damaging themselves (and others) in the process.

    That is a lie.

    It is a lie that has cheated many women out of the things they most desire in life: good health, lasting love, a stable marriage, a happy home, and bright, beautiful, well-adjusted children.

    An empowered woman doesn’t squander her sexuality. She understands what is at stake. She respects her power — and she respects herself — enough to use it wisely. She guards it. She protects it. She cherishes it.

    She says no to sex before marriage and yes to sex within marriage. When the circumstances are right, she channels all that vivacious energy into one man — her husband. And in doing so, she not only blesses her spouse, but she benefits herself, her family, and society as a whole in myriad and magnificent ways.

    “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
    ― Jane Goodall

  3. An empowered woman INCUBATES new life.

    Bearing children is certainly not the only thing a woman can do, but only a woman can do it. Only a woman can conceive, carry, and give birth to the next generation. This is a power that has been completely denied to men.

    Granted, men are necessary for conception to occur, but it is within the womb of a mother that new life begins, that each tiny human is knitted together. As women, we are given the privilege of participating in this miracle of creation.

    Pregnant woman

    There are many who have fought long and hard to give pregnant women the power to choose death, but the far greater power lies in our ability to choose life.

    An empowered woman values life. She recognizes life for the gift it is, a gift that she willingly passes on to her children, even at great personal sacrifice.

    If you are reading this article now, it is because your mother chose LIFE for you. And if you are pregnant now — even if the circumstances surrounding your pregnancy are less than perfect — you in turn can choose LIFE for your little one.

    This is what my husband’s mother did for him, although her situation at the time was far from ideal. Carrying him to term was not an easy choice (nor was placing him for adoption as soon as he was born), but it was the best and bravest choice she could make, and one for which our entire family is eternally grateful.

    “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live…” – Deuteronomy 30:19

  4. An empowered woman IMPACTS future generations.

    Of course, giving birth is just the beginning. As one philosopher observed, “The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before.”

    Motherhood has a way of modifying how a woman thinks, of altering what she values. Things that may once have seemed extremely important will often lose significance once a baby enters the picture — not because the things themselves have changed, but because she has.

    Investing in the future

    An empowered woman is okay with this change. In fact, she embraces it. She recognizes what an incredible but fleeting opportunity a mother has to pour into the lives of her children, to love and hold and spend time with them, to train and teach them.

    True power is not to be found in the boardroom, but in the classroom. Not in the White House, but in your house and mine. When we invest in the lives of our children, we are investing in the future — a future that will be upon us much sooner than we expect, for in the blink of an eye, all our little ones will be grown and gone.

    “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”
    — William Ross Wallace

  5. An empowered woman IMPARTS practical wisdom.

    There are many voices in the world today that want to tell us how we should live. What we should do. How we should think.

    When deciding which voice to listen to, it’s always a good idea to first look at the fruit. You shouldn’t plant apple trees if you don’t want to grow apples. And you shouldn’t take advice from bitter, angry, miserable people if you don’t want to be bitter, angry, and miserable yourself.

    an empowered woman imparts wisdom... passes down knowledge

    The Bible paints a compelling portrait of an empowered woman in Proverbs 31: She is smart. She is strong. She’s hard-working and industrious. She is capable, confident, and cool headed.

    Beyond all that, we are told that “she opens her mouth in skillful and godly wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness, giving counsel and instruction.” (Proverbs 30:26)

    An empowered woman has a wealth of wisdom and experience to share with others. The counsel she offers is sound, not some half-baked theory or failed rhetoric. It is tested and proven, tried and true. She teaches through example. She lives out her faith day by day, month by month, year by year.

    I’m thankful for the many wonderful mentors God has provided for me over the years – friends who were further down life’s road than I, who took seriously God’s charge for the older women to teach the younger to love their husbands, love their children, and be keepers at home. (Titus 2:3-5) As I transition into the role of an older woman myself now, I hope to clasp, carry, and pass on that baton as smoothly as they have done.

    “It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.”
    — Walter Lippmann

The power to inspire others, to invigorate the opposite sex, to incubate new life, to impact the future, and to impart practical wisdom — this is Girl Power in a nutshell. But “with great power comes great responsibility.” How will you use yours?