Clutter-Free Parenting: Managing Expectations and Compassion

Clutter-Free Parenting: Managing Expectations and Compassion

clutter-free parenting

I can just hear you now: “Clutter-free” and “parenting” in the same sentence? For real?

Well, not so fast. Clutter-free parenting is not a one-and-done proposition. When my children were little, I took delight in the nice, neat shelves in my basement, holding up totes clearly marked with clothing sizes. I was also Y2K ready (dating myself here), and had organized shelving stocked fully with massive quantities of food for pending disaster, enough to feed a small country. Yes, some of you are judging me right now while others are in awe.

Okay, so I have my skeletons in the closet of overdoing things when it comes to organization. I readily admit that maybe, just maybe, my focus on being clutter-free and organized bordered on being a little neurotic. Notice the past tense in that last sentence.

Clutter-free parenting as your kids grow older

Making five little people do their chores was stressful, but it does not compare with four college kids who all have jobs and school and a creative twelve-year-old who reenacts Curious George episodes again and again. Somehow the college “adult” status has a built-in entitlement that they just simply cannot do chores nor participate in the clutter-free schooling environment of days gone by.

A little background might help here. I home-educated all of my children all the way through. Yep. I am one of those. I delighted in purchasing books – LOTS of them – and organizing it all. Until … Until our lives were interrupted by a tragedy that transformed our very existence.

Suddenly the pet peeves about clutter really did not matter anymore. Just making my kids happy, just surviving, just trying to maintain some level of cleanliness, that’s where my focus shifted.

Balancing compassion and expectations

The problem with that state of living is that if we aren’t careful, it becomes our new norm. Kids are smart and realize this. The compassionate heart of mommas can, um, enable their disobedient behavior with excuses. I confess I have done this many times. I rationalized in my brain that it was cruel to stress them out with the burden of having to actually chip in around the house. They had a past pain that somehow overruled maintaining a clutter-free zone.

Now I have four kids, all with jobs and in college. “I’m an adult now,” several of my children have informed me. I mused over what those words meant as college textbooks were scattered all over my dining room table, kitchen table, coffee table, well, actually EVERYWHERE! “Mom, I have to work.” “I don’t have time to rinse the plate off.” “Gotta go.” The enabling side of me felt compassionately that it was just too hard for them to be expected to do 5-10 minutes of chores. They were stressed. But then, so was I. I work too.

The climb back to a clutter-free zone with children is not completely victorious. We fail and sometimes give ourselves space and grace when times get really hectic. But we don’t stay there.

When I am tempted to feel guilty and mean about expecting children who live in our home to pitch in, I am reminded that allowing clutter to reign in our lives and in the lives of our children is actually not kind.

One Small Win: Holding kids accountable to a standard that fosters peace can set the foundation for their lives to be clutter-free in their mind and homes.

So to our children who are now young adults, my husband says, “You’re right – you’re an adult now . . . act like it!”

“A servant pampered from childhood will become a rebel.” Proverbs 29:21

clutter-free parenting


Denise Pass is an author, CCM artist, worship leader and speaker from Fredericksburg, VA, where she lives with her amazing husband and five children. Denise is passionate about writing devotions and music that foster unshakable hope and healing in the face of seemingly insurmountable circumstances. Her ministry, Seeing Deep in a Shallow World seeks to be a compass grounded in Scripture and a place where real problems meet real, transparent faith and needed answers in Scripture.

You can read more about Denise’s ministry, Seeing Deep, over at www.denisepass.com or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Message in a Bottle: How a Simple Jar Can Help Grow Deep Family Connections  (Plus a Book Giveaway!)

Message in a Bottle: How a Simple Jar Can Help Grow Deep Family Connections (Plus a Book Giveaway!)

Once upon a time I thought if I could make enough spreadsheets, post enough lists, or structure my planner enough, then I could build the scaffolding for smooth, meaningful days. I imagined days where love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control could just spill right out of my heart.

Turns out “fruit” doesn’t grow on spreadsheets. Nothing against lists, mind you. But through God’s gentle teaching over the past several years, I’ve embraced the natural rhythm of days and grace in the midst of busyness.

It’s a beautifully confounding idea that the miraculous is often present in the mundane. A moment setting aside a scrambling schedule in order to kneel down, look a little one in the eye, and just listen to what is on their heart, is worth all the crossed-off lists in the world.

In short, I’m learning that the “small” can be momentous. That the moments make the days. And that it’s the humblest things that make life the richest.

How a jar can unify your family

Take for example the idea of a simple jar and a few pebbles. What if these everyday things could help unify your family throughout the day? What if it weaved hearts together? Here’s what I propose:

1) Find a jar, bowl or vase.

2) Obtain a group of pebbles, glass gems (as you might use in a fish tank or for the game Mancala), or other memento—one style or color for each person in the family. Even just a slip of paper with each person’s name written on it would do the trick.grow deep family connections
3) Each morning every person takes a pebble of another person’s chosen color. Slip it into a pocket, lunch box, brief case, purse, pencil box or backpack. Gather before parting ways for the day to talk about prayer requests for the day.

4) Throughout the day, whenever that person comes across the pebble, it’s a prompt to say a quick prayer for the person it represents, and whatever they might be facing in their day.

5) At the end of the day, take a moment to go around and debrief about the day. Each person asks the person whose pebble they drew how their day was. Then let them know how or when they were prayed for.

6) Finally, deposit each of those traveling gems into your chosen jar. Over time, the intermingled pebbles (or other items) serve as a visual reminder of how cherished each person has been in thought and prayer.

grow deep family connections 

A message in a bottle

In my research for the newly-released Message in a Bottle Romance Collection, I’ve come across some incredible stories of objects and messages in simple vessels. This is just one way to make a living message of your own and create a beautiful tradition.

grow deep family connections

For a chance to win one of five copies of that book, tell us in the comments: What is one simple but important message you would love your family to carry in their hearts each day?


grow deep family connectionsAmanda Dykes is a drinker of tea, dweller of Truth, and spinner of hope-filled tales. She spends most days chasing wonder and words with her family, who love a good blanket fort and a stack of read-alouds. Give her a rainy day, a candle to read by, an obscure corner of history to dig in, and she’ll be happy for hours. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Bespoke: a Tiny Christmas Tale, a contributing author to the newly-released Message in a Bottle Romance Collection, and enjoys connecting with her readers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Embracing Our Sweet Spot: Living out Our God-Given Talents

Embracing Our Sweet Spot: Living out Our God-Given Talents

embracing our sweet spot

HURT:

Maybe it is the new year, but I’ve plugged along with decluttering my cupboards. Then one day, while at a friend’s house, she asked me to grab something from under her kitchen sink. Upon opening the two doors I found literally five items (if that) inside a bare white cupboard. It was beautiful. My jaw dropped.

I immediately envisioned opening the doors underneath my own kitchen sink. Cue the shower scene music from the movie Psycho. Eek, eek, eek… I have a billion items under there. I own every cleaner under the sun and then some. My heart was deflated. I left her house feeling completely terrible about my own organizing capabilities. Wondering, what is wrong with me?

HOPE:

The next morning I was ramping up to work on a design project but my organizing ability was spilling over into my work and making me feel insecure. I read my daily devotional. It talked about how God uses us best when we are operating in our “sweet spot.” In fact, the devotional quoted my go-to verse.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

This verse always reminds me Christ gives me the strength I need, especially whenever I approach a challenge and in spite of all my weaknesses.

But this time when I read it, in light of the words in the devotional, it occurred to me: Christ accomplishes much when we need his strength, He can accomplish so much more when we are leaning into our strengths and operating out of our sweet spot. The place where we are supposed to operate as opposed to operating out of this place that isn’t unique to us, it isn’t where we are gifted.

HEALING:

I sat down to start the design project I felt to inadequate to accomplish. I ended up painting a picture inspired by flowers found on my morning walk. I must admit, I have not painted a true watercolor in years, and I was scared. What if it didn’t turn out as I envisioned? I am guilty of not even doing something if I don’t think the end result will turn out perfectly.

But this time, recognizing only Jesus is perfect, I mustered up my courage and his strength. I sat down to actually do the work I was called to do. God sparked in me my passion, my very own “sweet spot.” When I witnessed his creation through me I knew without a doubt I was doing what he called me to do.

embracing our sweet spot

I cried, tears of joy that resonated in my heart. “I am an artist.” I had been so defeated about not being organized and I hadn’t embraced my true calling in a really long time. I am an artist. I work great in organized chaos. I may not have a completely bare cabinet, but I am truly gifted in art. Now that I found my sweet spot, I will be brave with my God-given talents and no longer wish I was someone I am not. Someone I was never created to be.

One Small Win: Christ accomplishes much when we need his strength, He can accomplish so much more when we are leaning into our strengths and operating out of our sweet spot.

embracing our sweet spot


embracing our sweet spotJulie Landreth has a passion for healthy and thriving relationships – especially in marriage and friendship. She is a speaker and a “wife coach” who loves sharing with women her passion for prayer and ways to actively cultivate a thriving marriage.  She leads a growing number of women in San Jose, CA, through her curriculum: Consistency and Persistency: The Art of Praying for your Husband.

Having been married 12 years, she and her husband have cultivated a marriage filled with intentional love, effective communication, sustainable fun, and a date night every Friday night for the last nine years. She also finds deliberate ways to spend quality time with her nine-year-old son who shares many of her artistic talents. Follow her on Instagram: @julielandreth.

Simplifying with Seasonal Planning

Simplifying with Seasonal Planning

seasonal planning

Planning out goals for the New Year can be both exciting and overwhelming. There are SO many opportunities, the world is our oyster. So we often start strong, ambitious; thinking this is the year we’re going to do all of the things.

But then reality sets in and we realize maybe we can’t do everything, but if we can’t do everything can we do some of the things? Anything? Or do we get stuck in the overwhelm?

How to utilize seasonal planning

I’d like to suggest a better way of planning out our goals. It’s what I call quarterly or “seasonal” planning. One of the greatest changes in my life has come from shifting my perspective from chasing “balance” in my life to embracing seasons.

I’ve learned that I don’t really believe in “balance” when it comes to time management. I think it’s a good thing in theory but balance implies some kind of equal distribution of time, energy and resources. And in reality, that’s just not possible. We don’t divide our 24 hours into equal parts where all of our roles get the exact amount of our time, energy, and attention. That would be balance.

Really our lives are made up of rhythms and consist of seasons.

By seasons I mean seasons of life sure, but also annual seasons; winter, spring, summer fall.

Every season brings with it opportunities and limitations and when we work within a seasonal framework we are better able to maximize our time.

I would guess that your calendar also moves with the seasons whether you are intentional about planning projects and goals around them or not.

If I break my calendar into four quarters, that gives me four unique opportunities to work on goals and projects. When I plug in opportunities and limitations based on seasons I have a better idea of how to maximize my year.

Let me give you a few personal examples based on some of my own seasonal opportunities and limitations.\

Spring:

Opportunity– our school year is wrapping up so I have more time to focus on work projects.

Limitation– my youngest plays baseball so on Monday and Friday afternoons I have to plan on getting him to practice, but I also have a window of time to run errands or read a book while waiting for him. I know this commitment will be over before the summer begins so I can plan accordingly.

Summer:

Opportunity– kids are out of school and we usually plan a vacation during this time. There is ample opportunity for play and rest. It’s also a great time to tackle larger home projects.

Limitation– because the kids are home I have to get creative about keeping them entertained while I work so I often use this time to plan and grow by taking a class or attending a conference rather than take on new work projects.

These are just some very simple examples but you can see how taking into account our family’s seasonal responsibilities can affect how much I decide to add to my schedule.

Perhaps you have your own seasonal opportunities and limitations. They may include:
• work deadlines
• family celebrations, holidays, birthdays
• health limitations (think seasonal allergies)
• seasonal church or ministry responsibilities
• conferences or classes
• vacations
• back to school and end of school year events and responsibilities

seasonal planning

One Small Win: Spring is just around the corner and it might be a great time to consider your own rhythms and seasons and the role they might play in how you plan out the rest of your year.

DOWNLOAD: Click here to download a quarterly planner.


seasonal planningZohary Ross is a life coach, speaker and author of the Aligned Parenting Workbook. Zohary is passionate about encouraging and equipping women to have clearly defined “most importants” and live out their values and priorities. Connect with Zohary at http://zoharyross.com/.

Get in the Word: 3 Steps to Scripture Memorization

Get in the Word: 3 Steps to Scripture Memorization

scripture memorization

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase Scripture memorization? I used to associate that with “Super Christians.”

I’d look at my friends who regularly memorize God’s Word and think:

I’ll never be able to do that.
I’m just not disciplined enough.
I can barely remember my important phone numbers.
I’ll just stick to prayer. I can do that one.

Do any of these thoughts sound familiar? You’re not alone.

A few years ago, motivated by anxiety and desperate reliance on the Lord, I finally gave scripture memorization try. Let me tell you — memorizing Scripture has transformed my spiritual life and relationship with the Lord! I learned by trial and error, but once I settled into a grove, I realized that Scripture memorization was all about a simple three-step process:

1. Choose a line or passage that is MEANINGFUL TO YOU.

Why is it so natural for us to memorize our favorite songs? Because something in the lyrics resonates with us. If you turn on the radio and try to memorize the first song you hear, you’ll probably struggle. In the same way, it will be difficult to memorize a random piece of Scripture. All of God’s Word is precious, but choosing a piece of Scripture that sticks out to you will be most effective for memorizing.

During this difficult season in my life, I found comfort in Psalm 23, so that was the piece I chose to memorize.

2. Write it down with pen and paper.

Okay, call me old school, but there is research behind memory and the physical act of writing something down in your own handwriting. It really does help with the memorization process!

3. Recite chunks of your handwritten passage out loud to yourself.

The key here is repetition and speaking out loud. Again, there is research about memorization and auditory recitation. You only need 5 minutes before bed to recite your passage. Add a little more each night until you’ve memorized the entire scripture, including the reference.

That’s it!

I’m convinced that after your first successful memorization you’ll be hooked! You’ll see that despite the message of the little voice inside your head, you CAN memorize scripture, and you’ll reap the benefits of hiding God’s word in your heart, as it influences your every day life.

Pick a passage that resonates with you and start memorizing tonight!

http://www.kathilipp.com/2017/02/steps-scripture-memorization/

“You word is a lamp upon my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105


Kelsee Keitel is a graduate student, writer and speaker, living in Indianapolis, IN, with her newlywed husband. She is passionate about cultivating sisterhood through vulnerability and introducing young women to the freedom and abundance of life in following Christ. When Kelsee is not snuggled up with a book and sipping tea, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or chatting with her mom.

You can read more about Kelsee’s ministry, Detangled&Free, over at kelseekeitel.com or connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

The 5 Senses Guide to Sex

The 5 Senses Guide to Sex

senses guide to sex

My husband and I are fans of the book The Five Love Languages, by Gary D. Chapman. Our love languages relate to more than just the day to day, but it also impacts how you approach your sex life.

The 5 senses guide to sex

It came as no surprise my husband’s love language is physical touch, and knowing this caused me anxiety because I thought physical touch just meant sex and I needed to be ready for it at any time. I took a risk and asked him about it. To my surprise, we talked about sex in a productive way. It wasn’t easy at first, but over time I gained confidence. Together we learned sex is more about the journey than the destination. One way to enrich the journey is through the five senses guide to sex.

Sound

Sound is not only about what you say to each other, but also how you say it. Let your tone and inflections be gentle; try greeting each other with kindness or a soft word after a long day. Create a good vibes playlist on Pandora or Google Play to set the mood. Our men listen for our verbal cues ,so it is important that you provide verbal sounds or whispers to express how much you enjoy your husband in the moment.

Taste

Taste is more than things like brushing your teeth or chewing gum for a fresh taste. It’s also about the food and drink you share together. Think about how your lips taste, or how your body tastes, especially after a work out. Go ahead and rinse the salt off!

Smell

Smell is an aroma that is pleasing to you and your spouse. Try lighting a candle, using a pleasant smelling lotion, or spraying fragrance that he loves.

Touch

Touch is about caressing, massaging, holding hands and skin-on-skin contact. Always kiss while saying hello or goodbye. Wear something that feels soft. Put clean sheets on the bed so it’s fresh.

Sight

Sight is about getting out of the loungewear and feeling good because you know you look good. Text each other throughout the day to let your spouse know you are thinking of him and can’t wait to see him. Before you part ways for the day linger a little longer between changing clothes, make sure you catch each other. Or while you’re out shopping make a stop at the lingerie store.

Later, put on an impromptu fashion show and he helps you decide what to keep and what to return. If it helps set the mood, replace one of your bulbs in your bedroom with a red bulb. Maybe it is just the signal you need to help you both get in the mood. Lastly, schedule it. Honestly, when I look at all the things on my schedule for the day and I see “sex” pop up, it is a visual cue that helps get me prepared well in advance.

senses guide to sex

One Small Win: This list is just a small start, but I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and let one or all of the senses be your guide. The goal is to build and/or enhance physical intimacy in your marriage.


Julie Landreth is a speaker and a “wife coach” who loves sharing with women her passion for prayer and ways to actively cultivate a thriving marriage.  She leads a growing number of women in San Jose, CA through her curriculum: Consistency and Persistency: The Art of Praying for your Husband. Having been married 12 years, she and her husband have cultivated a marriage filled with intentional love, effective communication, sustainable fun, and a date night every Friday night for the last nine years. She also finds deliberate ways to spend quality time with her 9-year-old son who shares many of her artistic talents. Follow her along on Instagram at @julielandreth.

Accommodating Dietary Needs: It Doesn’t Have To Be So Hard

Accommodating Dietary Needs: It Doesn’t Have To Be So Hard

accommodating dietary needs

It’s a Thursday night and you just invited a friend over for dinner later this weekend.

You’re excited to reconnect and share a meal — until you get a text from this friend: “Hey, just wanted to let you know that I am now a vegan. Hope this won’t be a problem!”

Your heart sinks and anxiety kicks in. What will I make? None of my dishes fit this diet.

Accommodating dietary needs

Does accommodating a dinner guest with dietary restrictions overwhelm you?

Is there a friend whom you’ve avoided inviting over for dinner out of fear that you won’t have a meal that will be both enjoyable and fit his or her diet?

As a gluten intolerant person, I get it. When I first cut gluten out of my diet it really frustrated my friends, family, and me.

(In case you haven’t heard … some gluten free items taste a little like chewing on cardboard. Here’s a list of my favorite go-to gluten free products that I always have in stock.)

At first I created a Pinterest board and started cooking new meals from scratch using special gluten recipes.

Over time however, after adding a few staples to my cooking supplies, I discovered a loophole that made cooking for my diet a breeze!

One Small Win: Rather than making an entirely new dish from scratch, create dishes you already love and modify only the ingredients that don’t fit the diet.

Let’s pretend your signature meal is some kind of pasta dish with meat sauce, but your guest is a vegetarian.

You can make the dish as usual, but leave the meat sauce on the side. You can also make an additional, meat-free sauce and have it on the side, giving your guest options.

Maybe your guest eats meat, but is gluten intolerant? Use certified gluten free pasta instead, and research your other ingredients to see if any of those need replacing.

Here is a worksheet to make this process easier if you are a visual planner like me!

Remember, if all else fails, ask your guest if he or she has any meal recommendations or if specific ingredients will be a problem.

Asking doesn’t make you look dumb; on the contrary, it shows that you care!

Your dinner guest will feel loved and cared for with your efforts and consideration.

accommodating dietary need


Kelsee Keitel is a graduate student, writer and speaker, living in Indianapolis, IN, with her newlywed husband. She is passionate about cultivating sisterhood through vulnerability and introducing young women to the freedom and abundance of life in following Christ. When Kelsee is not snuggled up with a book and sipping tea, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or chatting with her mom.

You can read more about Kelsee’s ministry, Detangled & Free, over at kelseekeitel.com or connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

Love Intentionally: Respect Your Husband (Even if You Think He Doesn’t Deserve It)

Love Intentionally: Respect Your Husband (Even if You Think He Doesn’t Deserve It)

respect your husband

My husband Ron admits he used to be jerk, but I discovered a secret formula that turned him into a loving husband. I started treating him like a VIP!

Ron always wanted my respect, but I thought he should earn it — and I had to feel it — before I could give it. Wrong.

We women are good at pointing out our husbands’ faults and failures and punishing them for not meeting our needs. That only leads to discontent and distance in our marriages. Yelling, nagging, and belittling are disrespectful and ineffective.
I’m suggesting a radical alternative: Treat him like a king, and eventually, he may begin to treat you like a queen.

Instead of waiting for him to earn your respect, behave respectfully and watch him grow into the man God designed him to be.

Twenty-five years ago, we were on the brink of divorce. I was controlling, critical and disrespectful. Ron was defensive and angry. We were Christians but not living spirit-filled lives. My emotions dictated my actions, and I thought it was Ron’s job to make me happy.

Then, we made a decision to rebuild our marriage.

A Christian counselor read Ephesians 5:33 to us: “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” He then said, “Nancy, if you want to win Ron back and stay married, you must begin to respect him.” I knew he was right. I swallowed hard and came up with a plan.

Here are three of the ways I began to respect Ron. They spell out the goal — to treat him like a V.I.P.

Respect him:
Verbally
Intellectually
Physically

1. Respect Him Verbally. Replace complaints with compliments. If you want to have a peaceful, happy marriage, learn the art of the compliment. Compliments have magnetic pull. The more you compliment your husband the more he’ll be drawn to you. Notice what he does well and encourage him by complimenting him at least once a day.

Can’t think of anything to admire? Consider these categories:
• Physical traits
• Mental skills
• Financial strengths
• Spiritual growth
• Healthy relationships with others–children, parents, or friends.

If you want your marriage to grow and bloom, water it with kindness and encouragement. Don’t wait until he changes. Just start. Then, as he sees your sincere efforts, he’ll begin to transform too.

If you need to bring up a difficult issue, sandwich it between two compliments. Here’s an example, “Honey, I know how hard you work for our money and that Chloe’s braces will be expensive, but I need your decision before her appointment tomorrow. I hope we can do this for her, but if you want to wait, I trust your judgment. What should I tell the orthodontist?”

2. Respect Him Intellectually. Men are problem-solvers. They like to fix things. Appeal to his intelligence by asking him to help you solve a problem. Instead of saying “This garage is a mess, clean up your camping stuff!” Try, “I’d like your help with something. Could you figure out a storage system for the camping supplies?”

Avoid saying “I think you are wrong about…” Instead say, “I’m confused about…please explain it again.” (Remember to keep your tone of voice sarcasm-free.)

Request his help on spiritual matters, too. Ask him to explain a Bible passage or ask him to pray for you about a specific challenge you’re facing. He’ll likely grow as a spiritual leader when he knows you respect his spiritual life.

Men don’t give a lot of weight to feelings — show them facts and they’re more likely to listen. For example: if he wants to buy a car that you think is too expensive, don’t give free reign to your emotions. Instead, list your expenses and ask him which should be cut out in order to buy his car. Let the facts speak for you.

When you can’t reach an agreement, instead of trying to wear him down ask, “Is that your final decision or can I give you my input?” If it’s his final decision, then honor it. It’s freeing — let him carry the responsibility.

3. Respect Him Physically. Find out what his top three physical needs are. Ron likes the laundry done, sex a least twice a week (guaranteed!) and he likes me to keep my “girly make-up stuff” off of the bathroom counter.

Once these needs are met, he’s content and easy to get along with. I know it sounds simple, but ask your husband what makes him feel loved and appreciated. Then do it!

Be aware of your body language. You can communicate disrespect by rolling your eyes, crossing your arms, or slamming doors. Commit to express your respect heart, mind, and body.

Change your attitude and actions.

Respect is both a verb and a noun: an action and an attitude — begin today to respect your husband in thought, word, and deed. He’ll be more willing and able to give you the love and affection you crave if he’s respected and admired.

When I began to respect my husband, he was skeptical. However as he saw my changed behavior, he began to treat me differently — lovingly. Now we help other couples discover the blessings of true love in action.

Ask the Lord to strengthen you as you obey His word.

respect your husband

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” ~ Philippians 4:13


Guest blogger Nancy C. Anderson is an award-winning author and speaker who loves to teach women and couples to avoid the “Greener Grass Syndrome” by watering their own lawns. Nancy and her husband Ron teach at marriage seminars and banquets. For more information about their speaking schedule and other marriage articles: www.RonAndNancyAnderson.com or their blog www.joyfulmarriage.blogspot.com

Love Intentionally: Letting Go of Expectations

Love Intentionally: Letting Go of Expectations


Valentine’s Day wreaks havoc on a girl with unrealistic expectations. I know. I’ve been there.

My husband, Mike, set the bar very high during our whirlwind courtship, fairytale wedding, and over-the-top honeymoon. He pursued me like a glass of cold water in the middle of a desert. He spoiled me with gifts and sent huge bouquets to my work (too big to fit on my desk!) He was a man on a mission. I felt loved and valued.

So, when we got married, I expected him to continue to pursue me with the same fervor he showed while dating.

Before you laugh, I felt justified in that expectation since he promised to pursue me in his wedding vows.

We were both naive to think we could pour into our marriage the same level of energy we had before the wedding. I brought an adorable daughter into our marriage (my second), and we added two more children to the mix in the first three years. Mike went from single to married father of three almost overnight.

Add to that a job change and a move and you can see how his focus necessarily changed. Any reasonable person might have given her husband a bit of slack in the area of creating romance. I can’t always claim that title.

I held on to my expectations, creating a bar too high for Mike to clear.

And little by little, the romance faded.

I wanted (expected) him to initiate dates with me and go all-out for birthdays and holidays. One of my top “love languages” is gifts. My expectations made it hard for him to feel confident in buying gifts. He thought it wouldn’t be enough (and, in all honesty, he might’ve been right). I expected thoughtful gifts that reflected his love for me and that showed he really knows my heart. (No pressure, right?)

Mike’s love language is acts of service. He’ll do anything for me: chores, filling the gas tank, he’ll even go grocery shopping. If it can be checked off a list, he’s happy to do it.

That’s all wonderful, but what I really wanted was to know that he still loved me as much as he did when we dated, when he expressed his love in ways that flooded my heart with joy. All his acts of service just weren’t doing that for me.

My expectation kept me from enjoying him in the present

Every time Valentine’s Day rolled around (or any other special occasion), my expectations soared and were dashed.
I knew Mike had it in him to shower me with romance and create a memorable day, but he didn’t. My disappointment festered.

Then, after a lot of pain and struggle, I laid down my “right” to be pursued and dated, and began to accept the husband God gave me.

Now, anything he does – a gift, a date, holding my hand on a walk, or simply cuddling on the couch to watch the latest installment of Victoria — I express my gratitude to him. More than that, I feel gratitude toward him. It’s a great place to be.
And you know what happened? He started exceeding my expectations!

If you have unrealistic expectations this Valentine’s Day, here’s what you can do:

1. Let your husband off the hook. He’s already proven his love to you. Let him know he doesn’t have to vault over the high bar of your expectations anymore.
2. Shower him with gratitude. If your husband gives you a Valentine’s Day gift or card, let him know you appreciate it. If he doesn’t, pick something else to express gratitude for. Focus on what he brings to the marriage.
3. Accept your reality. Celebrate Valentine’s Day in a way that works for you, your unique marriage and your season in life.

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to look like a Hallmark movie – or even a Hallmark commercial – to be special. Celebrate the man God gave you, not the fantasy of who you think he should be. Celebrate your love free of unrealistic expectations and I promise you’ll have more fun!


Elizabeth M. Thompson is an inspirational writer and speaker who helps women lead Scripture-based, Spirit-graced lives. She lives in Gold River, CA, with her family and enjoys kayaking and walking along the American River with her two adventurous dogs. Connect with her at www.elizabethmthompson.com

Undone by the Mundane? How to Combat Overwhelm with Gratitude

Undone by the Mundane? How to Combat Overwhelm with Gratitude

I have an overwhelmed heart. It’s not because my calendar is crammed full of responsibilities, social gatherings or obligations though.

I’m overwhelmed with the mundane.

• Overwhelmed with two toddlers who need my attention for what feels like every minute of the day.
• Overwhelmed that the moment all the laundry gets folded and put away it’s time to start all over.
• Overwhelmed by the dishes that never seem to be done. The day-in-and-day-out responsibilities never end.

And it makes me weary.

This is a unique sense of being overwhelmed, one less talked about. But it is a reality for all.

Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling undone by the mundane. I mean, mundane is better than a crisis, right? Of course. Yes.

But our feelings – of being overwhelmed from the day-to-day grind – are still valid. It’s real and a daily struggle for many of us. So what do we do with our beat-down hearts?

Undone by the mundane

We engage our minds to bolster our hearts.

Philippians 4:8 tells us to think on things that are true, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. So, what if in the middle of unloading the dishwasher for the umpteenth time this week, we think about what is praiseworthy about getting to unload a full dishwasher?

For example, as I’m putting away dishes, I praise Jesus for the simple fact that I have dishes to put away. Also, a dishwasher full of dishes is an indication that we ate well that week and no one is hungry.

Or when I’m folding my kids’ laundry that only seems to multiply, I think about what’s lovely about all of those clothes. My kids have never been in want for clothes that fit. They have warm clothes when it’s cold and cool clothes when it’s hot.

Shifting our mind to think on these things places a new song in our heart. It’s one of gratitude, awareness and renewal. In doing so, gradually the mundane begins to melt away, and you feel overwhelmed in a completely new way. You’re overwhelmed with thankfulness.

This isn’t an easy practice to start, I know. It’s hard when our hearts are tired. But it is worth it, friend!

Pick one mundane activity this week, something you despise even and consider Philippians 4:8 in light of that activity. How can you turn your mind toward things that are true and pure about that activity to bolster your heart?

Try it for one week with one activity, and I promise you will see change in your mundane.

(As for me, I have linens to move from the washer to the dryer. I’m choosing to think about how wonderful it is to have fresh-smelling bed sheets.)

One Small Win: Identify one activity this week you dread and begin thinking about what is pure, lovely or admirable about that activity. Then, pay attention to how God begins changing your heart toward that mundane act!


Kate Hollimon delights in helping women learn their God-given purpose while growing in Christ through the study of scripture. Kate is a speaker and blogger who designed the Live Your Purpose Workshop Live Your Purpose Workshop to help women discover their purpose to glorify God. Kate is married to her husband Matthew of seven years and together they have two kiddos – a boy and a girl – and are in the thick of sippy cups, potty training, temper tantrums and peanut butter and jellies.  You can connect with Kate at www.katehollimon.com.