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Don’t Waste the Crust

I’ve never been one of those mothers who carefully pared the crust off the PBJ’s I served my children for lunch.

For well over 20 years now, I’ve been coaxing my kids to eat the crusts of their sandwiches using the following rationale:

  1. It’s wasteful to leave them.

    -and-

  2. That’s where most of the vitamins are.

And for well over 20 years, my children have accepted my mother-wisdom at face value and at least feigned an attempt to cooperate with this imperative.

But not too long ago, a couple of my (young adult) children decided to question the validity of this claim.

The crust is where the vitamins are? they repeated skeptically. “Seriously, Mom, that may be true of apple skins, but bread is bread. The entire loaf comes from a single batch of dough. The nutritional value is no different in the crust than it is in the middle.”

They’re smart kids. They’re also very articulate.

If you’d been sitting at our table that day, you might even have been inclined to agree with them….

But if you did, you would’ve been wrong, as they were. Fortunately, Siri was on my side for the ensuing debate.

I knew I’d read some relevant statistics on bread crust before, so I whipped out my trusty iPhone and within seconds had located this article which summarily proved my point: Cancer-fighting anti-oxidants are eight times more plentiful in the crust than in any other part of the bread.

Don't Waste the Crusts - lovinglifeathome.comSo what if bread crust is tough and chewy or hard to swallow? It’s good for you. It’s rich in dietary fiber and in nutrients that help your body grow healthy and strong.

That’s the reason I keep serving it to my children, and it’s the reason they (mostly) keep eating it.

Unfortunately, we sometimes approach life the way kids approach sandwiches. We prefer the soft and cushy parts. If we could leave those tough parts untouched on our plate — or if we could talk our Heavenly Father into trimming off anything that seems difficult to swallow — we’d do it.

I’m as guilty of this mindset as anyone. I’ve always prayed that God would teach me the lessons I need to learn in the easiest, most gentle way possible.

I’ve secretly hoped that if I stay attuned to His still small voice, God won’t have to shout through the megaphone of pain to get my attention.

"Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world." - C.S. Lewis

But guess what? The tough trials, the hard challenges, the parts of life that make us lose our appetite — often those are the very things God uses to mature us, to strengthen our faith, and to nourish our relationship with Him.

And trials come no matter how intently we listen for His voice or read our Bibles or follow His promptings. We can avoid suffering unnecessarily by walking close with Him, but we can’t avoid suffering altogether.

Jesus told his followers, “In the world you will have trouble” (John 16:33) — it’s not a question of if, but when, and how will we react when it comes?

Scripture tells us plainly how God expects us to respond. We are to:

  • “Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)

    -and-

  • Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

Perfect. Complete. Lacking in nothing.

That’s God’s goal for us.

So next time you find yourself in a tough season of life, don’t let it go to waste. Trust that your Heavenly Father has a purpose in putting that difficulty on your plate and accept it with gratitude, knowing there are things you can get out of the hard parts of life that cannot be found in any other way.

Just dip it in the pure milk of the Word to make it easier to swallow. (1 Peter 2:2)

"Consider it joy..."

No Complaining Allowed

Do Everything Without ComplainingThe Bible says we should “do everything without complaining or arguing.” (Philippians 2:14)

That’s not a suggestion. It’s a command.

Nobody wants to be around a whiner or complainer. It is wearisome, both mentally and emotionally, to listen to the constant grumblings of a perpetually unhappy person. It grates on the nerves.

Wise parents understand this fact and train their children to communicate without whining. Our Heavenly Father expects no less from us, as is repeatedly made clear in Scripture:

  • “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves.’” (John 6:43)
  • “Do not complain, brethren, against one another so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.” (James 5:9)
  • “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.” (Numbers 14:27)

While it is true that God encourages us to make all our requests known unto Him, He clearly desires that we do so with a spirit of gratitude, humility, and respect—rather than with an attitude of pride, bitterness, or entitlement. The following verses bear this out:

  • “…but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
  • “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)
  • “Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)

It all boils down to focus. Are you going to center your thoughts on what is wrong with the world, wrong with your husband, wrong with your home? Or will you choose to look at things with eyes of gratitude, love, and understanding?

There are countless things in life over which we have no control, but we can control our thoughts and attitudes and responses. So let’s begin there.

A Letter to My Father

A Letter to My FatherTomorrow marks the seventh anniversary of my father’s passing.

I remember dreaming that Daddy died several years before he actually did. The dream came long before the cancer diagnosis, before his health began to deteriorate, back when he was still in the prime of life, while he was still here.

But the dream shook me up. In my dream, my father died suddenly. I woke up crying, missing him terribly, stricken by grief, and filled with remorse over all the unspoken things I should have said, would have said, if only I had another chance.

How relieved I was to realize it was only a dream and there was still time to say what was in my heart.

So I crawled out of bed in the wee hours of the morning, bleary-eyed but grateful that my dad was still in the land of the living, and scrambled around for a pen and some stationery to write a few words of gratitude to my father while I still had opportunity to do so.

This is the letter I sent him the following day:

Dear Daddy,

So many things that I’ve taken for granted for so long come crashing through my consciousness sometimes when I talk to someone whose past experiences have been so different from my own. That was definitely the case when I asked a friend this week whether he had any fond memories of his father, and he faltered with “we used to wrestle, which was fun.” We sat in silence as he searched his mind for anything else, and all the while my mind was absolutely flooded by all my precious memories of you.

How grateful I am for every one of them!

I was reminded of how you searched through the sand until you found my lost birthstone ring; how you waved from the sidelines as I marched in a school parade; how you taught me about negotiation (even with retail stores) when you bargained with the manager for a better price on all those lap desks I used to paint; how you’d bounce and flop me around in your lap in that old Lazy Boy recliner (I can still see the room spinning upside down in my mind) and pull pennies out from behind my ears or make my hair ribbons disappear in your fist or remove splinters from my fingers and toes; how you’d spend what seemed like hours making and checking addition drills for me on that terrific yellow legal pad (I still love legal pads) and would give me logic problems to do in my head on long trips or would test my night vision on far-off roadsigns; how you and Mother would let me swing between your arms on the walk home from open house at my grade school; how you’d surprise us with chocolate milk and donuts from the shop on the corner or surprise Mother with a dozen Tyler roses you bought off a street vendor for a quarter (one of my favorite memories, as she always seemed so pleased); how you’d feed us ice cream cones for breakfast (unbeknownst to Mom) and claim it was the same basic thing as cereal with milk; how you’d fit a crib mattress into the backseat of the Plymouth for trips to Oklahoma or an occasional drive-in movie; how you made me the coolest art box (with the ingenious paint palette and built-in easel) when I decided I wanted to be an artist like Aunt Loura; how you accompanied us to church every Sunday and didn’t leave it to mother to take us like the fathers of so many of our friends did; how you even noticed that my makeup was caked on too thick and threatened to pull me out of the choir loft and personally scrub it off my face if I ever wore it so heavy again; how you went to bat for me with my eighth grade English teacher when she counted off for my spelling the plural of chimney as requested, rather than the singular as was in the spelling book; how you let us clean that dirty iron scrollwork on a house you were painting (and though it was hard work, and I may have grumbled at the time – did I? – it was a wonderful feeling to be able to help you); how you’d discuss with me – I thought you talked to me just like an adult rather than a child – such awe-inspiring topics as the universe, eternity, astronomy, theology and philosophy; how you would brag on me to the family on Mema’s front porch when you thought I was out of earshot and wouldn’t hear (or did you realize I was eavesdropping from the front room?); how your blue eyes would twinkle and you’d wink at mother whenever you teased me; how you walked past the dollar-bill-on-a-string a dozen times on April Fools’ Day without ever stopping to pick it up (which annoyed me at the time, but strikes me as funny now); how you and Mother would host the church youth at our house long before Kimberly and I were old enough for youth group (as well as during and after) and how you also had homemade ice cream ready and waiting for a party (be a celebration or consolation) after cheerleading tryouts in six grade; how you always encouraged me in every endeavor and taught me not to be afraid to attempt new things and told me I could do anything I set my mind to; how you’d rescue me whenever my car broke down or ran out of gas, and would beat the bushes for me if I were ever late for curfew (which I’m sure was much more difficult before the advent of cell phones);how you loved me, and taught me, and led me, and encouraged me, and built me up from the day I was born, even until now.

I just hope and pray that my own children will have as much good and as little bad to remember about me when they are grown and gone, and will have as inexhaustible supply a fond childhood memories as I do! I don’t tell you often enough, but I love you with all my heart –

Your appreciative daughter,
Jennifer

As I read back over this letter, I’m struck by the fact that my sweetest memories are often the simplest ones. My father didn’t need to buy expensive gifts or take me on grand vacations to make my childhood wonderful. It was the little things, the every day kindnesses, that spoke loudest to my heart and assured me of his love.

My daddy wasn’t perfect. No daddy is. He seemed pretty par at the time, although the intervening years have convinced me he was extraordinary in ways my child-brain couldn’t appreciate.

Not everybody is fortunate enough to have a father like mine. If you are one of the favored few, thank God. And if you’re father’s still alive, then by all means thank him, too.

But even if you weren’t blessed with my kind of father, you can bless your own children with my father’s brand of parenting.

You can do it by pouring yourself into them. Give them generous helpings of your time, your attention, your patience, and your love.

Sure, you’ll make mistakes. None of us are perfect. But it’s the little things — the approving smiles, the candid discussions, the interest you take in what interests them, the time you spend together — that make all the difference.

What are you doing today that your child will remember fondly tomorrow?

Don’t Let Anything Steal Your Joy

Joy springs from a grateful heart. Don't let the enemy steal your joy.Joy springs from a grateful hearts, but there are two things that will snuff out gratitude faster than blowing out a candle, and we must vigilantly guard against both.

Those two things are envy and expectations.

Envy causes us to see the glass as half-empty instead of half-full. It fills our hearts with jealousy and bitter resentment, so that we begrudge others the good things they enjoy and pity ourselves for not sharing the same fate.

Nothing will blind you to your own blessings more effectively than moping over what you lack, rather than rejoicing over what you have. When you can’t even recognize or acknowledge the good things in your life, then you certainly won’t feel proper appreciation for them.

Expectations can deal as serious a deathblow to gratitude as envy does, for expectations give rise to a sense of entitlement. You can’t sincerely appreciate anything if you think someone owes it to you. It is impossible to feel truly grateful for something when you’re convinced you deserve it.

Expectations have destroyed a lot of marriages, and it’s not difficult to understand why.

Imagine for a moment that it’s your anniversary. Your husband brings you flowers… but you were hoping for diamonds. You’ve been hinting for weeks and had even left a marked catalogue on his desk. Doesn’t he know this is the year for diamonds? He probably just bought these flowers at the grocery store on his way home from work. What a slacker! Can’t he ever plan ahead? Why are special occasions always an afterthought with him?

Before long, you’re really miffed. Your husband can see this in your eyes, sense it in your tone of voice—and it stings. He does something nice for you, and this is how you react? Whatever happened to a simple thank you? Why does he even bother trying? He stews until he’s boiling, then spends your wedding anniversary sleeping on the couch.

Life doesn’t have to be like this.

Let’s try that scenario again, but this time when your husband brings home flowers, you are delighted. He’s been so busy at work lately, you’re surprised he remembered your anniversary at all. What a sweetheart! You hug his neck, give him a long kiss, and thank him profusely. You arrange the bouquet in water, set it on the table, and stop to admire it every time you pass. Your husband sees you do this and smiles with pleasure. You comment on how beautiful the flowers look, how wonderful they smell, and how blessed you are to be married to such a sweet and thoughtful guy— not just tonight, but repeatedly throughout the week.

The question is, which wife will you choose to be? Which would your husband rather come home to?

Do you want joy? Then rid yourself of envy and expectations and any notions of entitlement.

Do you want to live happily ever after? Then cultivate a heart filled with gratitude — first to God, from whom all blessings flow, but also toward the people He has placed in your life. People whose kindnesses, whether great or small, should never be taken for granted.

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.

They Won’t Know It Till You Show It


Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving, from my home to yours…. As you count your blessings today, take time to tell those living, breathing blessings in your life how much you appreciate them!

Mixed Blessings

…. Life took yet another unexpected turn the day before Thanksgiving when our excessively thirsty Daniel tested positive for diabetes. That brings the tally to three children with Type 1, all diagnosed during major holidays. What are the odds?

Daniel took the news like a real trooper, although he has since asked, “Mommy? When do I get to stop having diabetes?” The answer is that, unless a cure is found, he will have it for the rest of his life.

I think it is significant that Daniel’s diagnosis came at a time traditionally set aside for counting blessings and giving thanks. It’s easy to express gratitude for obvious graces like warm homes, good jobs, sound minds, and full bellies, but Scripture bids us count it all joy when we encounter hardships, as well (James 1:2-3), knowing that our Heavenly Father loves us and can be trusted, even amid tragedy, to work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

So this year, we are also thanking God for His purpose and plan in allowing into our lives some things we would not have willingly chosen for ourselves—things like diabetes and miscarriage and broken bones (five of them in five different kids!). But God is good all the time, and we can see His hand of mercy at work even now. Won’t you join us in offering up a sacrifice of praise this season?