It Really Is About Balance


Forget itOne of my favorite words is balance. It reminds me that staying in balance is a key goal for my life. Life can seem like tightrope walk of trying to keep from straying too far in one direction or the other. When I get out of balance, it impacts every area of my life. Extremes in any area of your life can cause you to lose focus on what’s really important.

This is why I love this picture. It’s all about balance. We all go through difficulties in our lives. People hurt us and let us down. We make mistakes, some with lasting consequences. We make choices that prove to be wrong.

And when those times occur, we have to remain in balance. Life’s hurts and challenges have a way of pulling us to extremes. Sometimes we are so wounded that we carry the pain or unforgiveness for far too long and it holds us back from moving forward with our lives. It can take over our thoughts and cause us to lose our joy and lose our focus on God and His goodness in our lives.

The other extreme is when we fail to learn from our mistakes. For some of us, we continue a pattern of poor choices that keeps us bound in a cycle that never allows for progress and change. Many times we blame others when in fact it’s us that keeps the cycle going.

The key truly is balance. Bad things will happen. You will experience hurt and disappointment. You will make mistakes. But let those times be a lesson. Ask God what He wants you to learn from those times. He will show you. And forgive others and yourself during the difficult times in life so you can move on. Don’t stay stuck because you can’t let go. Stay in balance.

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Does Anyone Really Live Happily Ever After?


marriage5Recently my husband and I have had several people comment on what a great marriage we have and how we seem so happy with each other. This has prompted me to share a few things that we’ve learned along the way and to dispel some myths regarding our marriage.

The truth is, sixteen years ago (after being married only 5 years) we were not happily married. We were on the verge of divorce and were miserable and without hope in our relationship. We were headed straight toward the 50% of couples whose marriage ends in divorce. But at our lowest point we made a decision to do 3 things that changed our marriage, our lives and our situation.

First, we eliminated the option for divorce. We decided to work on our marriage and do so with the intention that we would never, ever divorce. We decided that we would not threaten divorce in the heat of arguments, we would not include it as an option for our future, we would no longer assume that if things weren’t working out that we would end our marriage and we would not think about it in our mind. It was simply removed from our lives and our vocabulary, period. And we didn’t do so just so we could be two people who didn’t divorce but were still miserable together. We did it with the intention that we were going to be happy in our marriage, no matter what it took.

marriage6Secondly, we knew it was going to be work and we committed to be lifelong students of marriage. We were at our rock bottom and it was not going to magically change overnight with the wave of a wand. We were going to have to work and work hard for a very long time to repair the damage that had been done and to build the marriage that we both wanted and needed. It’s been 16 years now and we are still working toward that goal. We read books, we get emails in our inboxes about marriage, we go to conferences, we pray together and for each other, we watch DVD’s, we go on date nights, we lead marriage small groups so we’re forced to study the topic of marriage, we put into practice the tools and information we have learned and are still learning. And guess what, it’s not easy and it’s still work but we know now that it has been worth every bit of effort we’ve put into it. We had to decide what our priority was going to be – our own selfish desires and our own unrealistic expectations or putting in the hard work it would require to make our marriage strong and healthy. We made our marriage the priority and it’s paying off.

Finally, and most importantly, we made God the Lord of our lives and the center of our marriage. We realized that everything we were doing was failing and that we couldn’t fix the relationship on our own. We surrendered our marriage to God and asked Him to do what we had been unable to do our own – restore our marriage and renew our love for each other. And as God always does and with the grace and mercy that only He can give, He came through and answered our prayers in a big way. We promised God that if He would restore our marriage then we would spend the rest of our married lives telling others what He had done in our marriage and encourage them to trust Him to do the same in theirs.

marriage7God transformed our lives and changed our marriage. And He placed in us a desire and determination to do everything within our abilities to continue to work on becoming the husband and wife He created us to be for each other. Our marriage isn’t perfect and we never want people to look at us and think so. Our marriage has the same struggles, the same disagreements, the same challenges as every other marriage. The thing that is different in our marriage that is lacking in the marriages of many young couples today is that we removed divorce as an option, we committed to work on it for the rest of our lives and we surrendered it over to God.

We have people tell us “you don’t understand how bad things are, we don’t love each other anymore and we don’t want to be married.” Trust me, you might be surprised just how much we can relate and how much we do understand. The point is, we do not have the perfect marriage. And we don’t for two reasons, #1 – it doesn’t exist so quit thinking it does and #2 – just because we’re in a good place now doesn’t mean we have never been in a bad place and we still don’t have bad moments. We do not have it all together, never have and probably never will. We simply chose a long time ago to not stay there and decided to do something about it.

marriage4So the question is “does anyone really live happily ever after?” The answer is yes but…..it won’t be easy and it’s going to take hard work and commitment on your part. Just like in the fairytales you have a very real enemy that you will have to battle for your marriage and that enemy IS NOT your spouse. And it will take time, commitment and a willingness to trust God to change you (not change your spouse, to change YOU) into the best husband or wife you can be and to study what His word says marriage is supposed to look like and be like. Then you will have to practice – you will fail many times but with practice you will find that over time you fail a whole lot less often. And you must remove divorce from your thoughts, your vocabulary and your options.

If you do these things I promise your marriage will succeed. It’s God’s will for you to live happily ever after (Jer. 29:11). Start doing your part and start trusting God to do His – you deserve the fairytale He has planned for you.

Lessons From Remodeling: Lesson 2 – You Must Perform Preventative Maintenance


remodelingThere’s that old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Well, that’s exactly what we learned from the whole remodeling experience. Owning a home is a big responsibility and we discovered that if your not really paying much attention and when you’re definitely not taking preventative steps in caring for your home, it’s going to cost you.

I am a bona fide procrastinator and when I see that something needs to be done, I can unfortunately find reasons to put it off. There’s always a to-do list for our lives, and for me house stuff tends to be low priority. But the problem with not performing regular maintenance and  fixing things when they first need repair instead of putting it off, is that it will usually end up costing more than if you’d just fixed it when you first noticed a problem. I learned through our bathroom remodel that many times there are things happening that you cannot see until it’s too late. Regular maintenance and checking on the condition of things in your home can ensure you don’t end up with unforeseen surprises that cause you to spend more than you had bargained for.

remodeling2The same holds true in our personal lives – both physically and spiritually. Most of know that if we take care of ourselves on a regular basis by eating right, exercising and routine visits to the doctor and dentist then we lower our chances of illness and disease while improving our overall health. Our spiritual lives require the same preventative care. But unfortunately many do not consider their spiritual lives an area of concern when it comes to regular, routine maintenance.

Many times we ignore our spiritual health much like I ignored the repair needs in our home. We rationalize that we’ll do more “some day”, when we have more time, when our circumstances improve, when we “clean up our act”. We plan to go to church when work’s not so busy, when the weather gets warmer, when school starts back for the kids, when things get better. The problem is that just like our health and our home repairs – things don’t magically get better and there’s never a good time. You have to start somewhere and you have to take responsibility for yourself. No one else can do it for you and ignoring it won’t make it go away. You have to do your part then trust God to do His part. The longer we ignore our spiritual life, the more damage is done. And like my home, there can be things going on that we’re not even aware of. We can have unforgiveness toward someone, issues with pride, wrong attitudes and thoughts or a lack of knowledge about something we’re doing that can cause harm and we can be completely unaware of the damage it’s causing to our spirit.

remodeling5So how do you perform preventative care of your spiritual life? The same way you do your physical health – with regular, routine visits with the Great Physician. You must spend time with God regularly through prayer and reading the bible so that He may reveal to you the areas in your life that need attention.  The Holy Spirit will convict you of the things you need to correct in your spiritual life and God will speak to you through His word to teach you how to improve your spiritual health. But you have to make it a priority.

remodeling3And you need people in your life who are trusted fellow believers who can point out the blind spots that you may miss or are unaware of. We need spiritual family – people who have gone before us and can help teach us how to follow Christ, not just on Sundays, but every day. The only way to ensure you maintain your spiritual health is to do regular maintenance. You must be purposeful and it must be a priority. Remember, there may be things occurring that you’re not even aware of and preventative care will keep you from a spiritual catastrophe that can happen when we ignore the need we have for God daily in our lives. Denying that fact could cost you more in the long run. Don’t learn that truth the hard way like I did with our home. Check your spiritual pulse today and make an appointment with God to ensure a healthy, peace-filled spiritual life.

Off the Beaten Path


Recently while on vacation I decided to get some exercise by going on a hike at a nearby state park. I love to hike at home so I figured it would be a great way to get in some exercise while enjoying the local area. When I got to the park I asked the ranger if the trail was shaded. She confirmed that it was because the trail went straight into the forest and there were plenty of trees. She gave me a map and showed me exactly where the first trailhead began off the main bike and walking path. I headed out on the main trail after double checking the map. The trail I intended to take was a little over 2 miles. I knew I’d be done in about an hour so I left my water bottle in the car. And since the ranger told me the trail was shaded I didn’t bother with putting on sunscreen or my hat and left both in the car. I stopped at the big color-coded map at the beginning of the bike and walking trail to make sure one final time that I took a look at where the trail began. I took off thinking “this is gonna be great!” – you can see where this headed but keep reading, it gets better.

I came to the point where the trails began and they were marked just like the ranger had told me they would be. The problem was that they were marked by color, not name. I had memorized the name of the trail I was going to take. But it was ok, I was sure the color was green (wasn’t it?). Green was the first trail off the main path just like the one I wanted to take so it had to be right. So off I headed into the woods. About 10 minutes in it struck me that there was an awful lot of sun beaming down on me. I’m not quite sure what I was thinking but Florida doesn’t really have woods, at least not like woods we have in Tennessee. Their idea of woods is a gathering of tall, stick pine trees with little tuffs of greenery on top. Yes, there were various points of shade along the path where a really big pine tree offered a sprinkling of shade but for the most part my very pale, unsuncreened self was walking directly under the intense Florida sun. “That’s no big deal” I thought, it’s only going to take about an hour so I should be fine.

I started to notice some of the wildlife in the area as I passed a small pond filled with water lillies. There were many birds gathering there and it was a really beautiful spot. I kept walking on the my green path and felt confident it was the right one each time I came across a tree with a mark of green paint on it that assured me I was still on the green trail. I reached a point where I had to choose to go right or left. Both were marked with a sign showing a green arrow pointing in each direction. I was a little confused because I didn’t remember there being a fork in the path I had chosen. It was just a big circle that would have brought me right back where I started. Oh well, I was sure it was the right trail so I picked a direction and kept trekking along.

As I kept on walking…and walking…and walking I began to check my clock. I was 45 minutes into the hike and it was really, really hot. I thought “I sure could use some water about now” but figured that it was only about 15 minutes until I finished my hike and was safely back to the car so I would be fine. I kept on going still feeling confident by those trees marked with a green stripe. I continued on for what seemed quite awhile only now I wasn’t thinking about how lovely the sunny, Florida forest was. I began to think things like “wow, I haven’t seen another soul on this trail. Am I the only one out here?” and “I wonder if the ranger took mental note of me and knows that I haven’t returned yet” and “what did Bear Grylls say to eat if you ever get lost in the woods?” I stopped under a little piece of shade to check the time. I was now an hour and twenty minutes into the hike. “Ok, surely I’m almost to the end” I thought. I surmised that the information was wrong and the trail was longer than 2 miles. So I kept walking.

I looked ahead thinking that the parking lot would be in site as soon as I rounded the approaching corner. But suprisingly it was not the parking lot I came upon. It was a huge lake. I could see that the path went all the way around the lake, the really big lake. I felt a little twinge of panic come over me. I found a tiny piece of shade and sat down to take a look at the state park website from my phone. Surely they had a map on the website so I could see where I was and quickly get back on track. Nope, no map. So I searched other sites, blogs, topical maps, wikipedia, anything that might have a map. Nothing. I checked the time again. I was now 1 hour and 45 minutes into my hike. I started wondering “why in the world has my family not called, texted, sent out a rescue team or something?” Don’t they know I should’ve been back by now!?”

Finally I came across a blog from an avid hiker who described in detail each trail at this state park down to the most minute description like “the trail turns left by a bush that’s 2 feet tall next to 3 pine trees on your right”. I read the entire thing before it hit me – I took the wrong trail! I was supposed to follow the blue trail, not the green. I read in detail how to get out of the mess I was in until I noticed that she wrote the blog 4 years ago. Who knows that could’ve changed since then? I sat there completely miserable, hot, thirsty and wondering “do I go the entire way around this huge lake which will take me back to my car after a 9.8 mile trek or do I go back the way I came after I’ve already walked close to 4 miles?” I decided the only sure way to get back to where I started was to go back exactly the way I came. So, there I was. Lost, hot, thirsty, a little worried and a lot frustrated. I got up, made an about-face and headed back the way I had came. About an hour and 45 minutes later I arrived back at my car. I sat there for another 20 minutes drinking every drop from the now hot water bottle I had brought with me as I tried to cool down. I looked over at the map, sunscreen and hat sitting in the passenger seat and thought about the lessons I’ve learned, as a Christian, through my mistakes. Here’s a few I want to share:

  • In your walk with Christ be prepared for anything. You cannot assume that just because life has been good and you’ve never faced any major difficulties that it won’t happen to you. Take everything with you along the way – your bible, prayer and friends who will hold you accountable. You never know when you may need them.
  • Know what you’re getting into when you choose to follow Christ. Make sure you’re always headed in the right direction as you follow Him.
  • Stay on the path no matter what. And if for some reason you get off the path, figure out how you got to where you are, where you made a wrong turn and make sure you never do it again.
  • Even when things get challenging in your walk and you face difficult circumstances always take time to notice the good things along the way. There are always positive things to give thanks for even in the middle of the negatives.
  • Know that things are always what they seem. You may think you’re out of the woods but you may not be. Don’t get too self assured. About the time you start to think “I got this” is the time you realize you don’t.
  • No two situations are the same so what worked for someone else may not work for you.
  • You’re not helpless and neither is your situation so don’t even let those thoughts enter into your mind.
  • Don’t expect others to come to your rescue. It may be just you out there so don’t rely on others to save you. God is the only one you should be relying on.
  • Don’t go so far into it that you think it’s too late to turn around. It’s never, ever to late to go back to where you started.
  • When you do go back, go back EXACTLY the way you came. Don’t try to look for a short cut but follow the path you took as you return to what you know is assured.
  • Pay attention to the inner feeling that you may be headed in the wrong direction. Stop and evaluate the situation instead of just pridefully plowing ahead assuming that you cannot make a mistake.
  • When you get back on track stop and give thanks that you’re headed back in the right direction.
  • Search for the lesson in your mistakes, seek forgiveness for the choices you made that took you off the right path and then forge ahead toward the end goal with renewed strength.
  • And next time, stick to a nice walk on the beach.