This month I am doing something exciting.  And scary.  Which is really the best kind of thing to do.  Each year in October, The Nester hosts a 31 Day Writing Challenge.  You choose your own topic, link up to the site as accountability, and then write.  And then write some more.  With a bit more writing thrown in.

I’ve thought about joining it for a couple of years, but never had the spizzerinctum to do so.  (Side note: I so thought this was a word my Grandpa had made up, but it is indeed real!  Boom.)  And actually, I didn’t decide to join this year until yesterday, so I’m behind the game.  A lot of people already have their 31 days’ worth of posts already written.  *insert emoji with wide eyes here*

Topic after topic flit through my mind.  Do I want to write for 31 days about knitting?  My mom and I might like it, but it would bore everyone to tears.  Then I thought about 31 days about love.  Because love seems to be all I ever write about these days.  What about 31 days of painting all the orange wood trim in my house to white?  Riveting.  I’d mix some days’ posts up by showing videos of paint ACTUALLY drying.  Genius.

Then it came to me.  And I’m excited and scared.

31 Days button

For the next 31 days, I’ll be writing about Becoming a Woman After God’s Heart.  This phrase kind of has two meanings.  When you first read it, “a woman after God’s heart,” you think about a woman in search of, wanting, trying to find, or in pursuit of God’s heart.  But it also brings to mind King David from the Bible.  It says multiple times in Scriptures that he was a “man after God’s own heart.”  As in, David’s heart resembled God’s heart.  His heart was set on the things upon which God’s heart was set.  He took after Him.  David had fashioned His life and thought processes in such a way that God couldn’t help but be drawn to him.

So what does that mean today?  What does being a woman after God’s heart look like?  I’m not 100% sure, but I’m hoping to get closer to the answer by the time this 31 Day Writing Challenge is over.

This post will be the landing post, so if you click on the little button on my sidebar, it will take you right here.  I’ll be updating this post with links to each day’s writing as I go.  And if you’d like more information about the 31 Days Writing Challenge, you can check out the site here.  You’ll also be able to find a whole bunch of other bloggers writing about specific topics for 31 Days.  So if you’re disappointed that I didn’t choose knitting, maybe someone there can make your day.  Ha!

Would you like to join me?  I’m oh so excited.  And, of course, scared.  My interests always bounce around multiple times a day, and I usually only blog once or twice a week.  So this will be stepping way out of my norm. But I’m ready.  Most of all, I’m ready to be stretched by God.  And I’m ready to start pursuing His heart.

On October 1, 2014 · 1 Comment · In Lovely Life
 

BECOMING | Reaping and Sowing in Marriage

I can vividly remember the first hard core argument Timothy and I ever had.  We were months away from getting married and he casually mentioned the fact that he’s often heard the first year of marriage is the hardest. Looking back, I still can’t explain what happened.  I just flipped out.  I got flustered, started crying, and hung up the phone.  I felt like it was a personal attack and how dare he say that our first year of marriage is going to be hard.  It’s going to be perfect!  We’ll be the ones to prove everyone wrong!

Ha.

That first monumental argument came to mind recently when I was listening to this podcast by Dr. Gary Chapman and guest speaker Tyler Ward.  Tyler has written a book called Marriage Rebranded: Modern Misconceptions & the Unnatural Art of Loving Another Person.  Quite a mouthful.  Ha!

The basic premise that I gathered from the podcast is that Tyler and his wife dated for about nine months, got married, and were chugging along splendidly until about a year and a half into the marriage.  Then things got rocky and they had to reconfigure their expectations and redefine the marriage.  The whole “unnatural” part refers to the fact that the lovey dovey honeymoon stage fades, and then you’re left with hard life and love that doesn’t always come easy.

So the podcast wasn’t exactly promoting the idea that the first year of marriage is the hardest, but it was definitely saying that there comes a time when your just-wedded bliss fades and real life gets hard.  Real hard.  Dr. Gary Chapman said that from his years of experience, the in love stage lasts about two years.  Which is kind of depressing.  I can’t really speak from experience on how long that stage lasts, because Timothy and I were kind of catapulted into real life a little over a month into our marriage.  So technically, our in love stage lasted a month.  But in spite of that, or maybe because of it, I always get a little itchy and cranky when I hear the statistics on how long those romantic feelings should last before real life takes over.  I feel like a defender of love, and just want to give all the naysayers an ice cream cone so they’ll be too busy eating to spread their gloom and despair.

I guess some things never change.  I wanted to pause the podcast, call up Dr. Chapman, and then hang up on him.  Because how dare he say that the lovey-dovey-ness goes away at two years.

 

But then Tyler Ward introduced a concept that I’ve heard a million times, yet have just never applied it in this way.  He said that a lot of couples today are trying to reap what they haven’t sown.  I think this is especially true for Christians.  I know this was true for me in my marriage.

I just assumed that I would have an amazing marriage.  I mean, I had daydreamed about it often enough.  Ha!  Since I had guarded my heart my whole life, kept myself pure, and lived my life in pursuit of God’s will, I just expected that my marriage would be this fairy tale thing.  I thought I had already sown enough.  I didn’t have any past intimate hurts or baggage.  I didn’t care if we lived in a mansion or a shack.  I just wanted God’s will in our lives, so I figured God would kind of shine down His blessings on our marriage.  But that’s not really how it works.  Don’t get me wrong, God has blessed our marriage like crazy, but I never expected that His blessings could and would sometimes come in the form of trials to make us stronger.  That our first few months of marriage would make us confront things in our minds and hearts that most couples don’t face until years down the road.  I was expecting to reap an “easy” marriage where everything clicked and where the in love stage would last until death do us part.  I thought that since I had sown a pure life, that I had sown good intentions, that my marriage would reap the benefits.

But nope.

It takes more than that.  It takes daily sowing into your marriage.  While I don’t necessarily agree with Tyler Ward’s idea that love is “unnatural,” I do know that love is hard.  Maybe that’s where the whole two-year in love stage concept comes from.  Maybe it’s not an inevitable journey to no more romance and smelly socks, maybe it’s just the fact that the newlywed blissful rose-colored glasses can only get us so far.  Then, if we haven’t been diligently sowing into our marriage, cracks start to show.  Real life bleeds through.  Being in love isn’t enough to pay the bills or solve arguments or pick up those ever present socks.  We have to have a firm foundation to fall back on.  And we do that by sowing into our marriage.  By praying for our husbands and wives even when things are going great.  By fasting for our marriages even when no troubles are in sight.  By continuing to work diligently to protect our hearts and keep them only for each other.  By continuing to pursue each other, continuing to woo each other, continuing to treat each other as if we just got married yesterday.

So, yes.  I will cease my love flag waving and phone slamming and rose-colored glasses donning long enough to admit that yes, at some point, those “feelings” will no longer be enough.  At some point, be it two years or two months, what has been sustaining your marriage thus far may not be enough.  But that’s not when the love goes away.  That doesn’t mark the end of your fairy tale.  Just the opposite in fact.  That’s when it gets GOOD.  That’s when you begin to see your husband or wife for the person he or she really is.  A beautiful, broken human.  Just like you.  And it is then that God can step in and use your brokenness for His good.  He can transform you and remold you and change your mindset and remove your expectations that were simply set too low in the first place.

For He is the Lord of the Harvest.  He works in reaping and sowing.  He is faithful.  If you sow into Him and the things that He places value on, the reaping will come.  Then you just keep sowing.  And reaping.  And sowing and reaping.  And reaping and sowing.

Yes, the in love stage doesn’t last forever, but what comes after that stage is just about the best thing ever.

On September 26, 2014 · 6 Comments · In Mr. and Mrs.
 

Just a few things I’m loving lately.

BECOMING-_-thumbs-upThe Jesus Culture Leadership Podcast.  A million thumbs up.  Plus a few extra.  I just recently got into podcasts (Elise’s podcast got me hooked!), and now I’m a podcast devourer.  Podcast.  Maybe I can type it again.  Podcast.  This *podcast* is geared for leaders of all types – church leaders/leaders in the work place/community leaders.  And it’s good.  Very good.  I’ve cried and laughed.  And since I generally podcast it up while mowing, it’s been a lovely site for my neighbors I’m sure.

BECOMING-_-thumbs-up-4Car knitting.  Mitten knitting.  Knitting in general.  It’s all good.

BECOMING-_-thumbs-up-2Sweater weather!!!  It’s here!  And I’m ecstatic.  But who am I kidding?  I wear sweaters year-round.  It’s the inner 70-year-old librarian in me.  She likes sweaters, historical fiction, wool socks, and hand work.  It’s pretty hardcore.

BECOMING-_-thumbs-up-1Steffany Gretzinger’s new album, The Undoing.  I like to play it in the morning at work when I’m still trying to make sense of the world.  She eases me into my day.  Then I can switch to shuffle.  And when the 1:30 blues comes, I can switch to Group 1 Crew and get pumped back up.  Music listening.  It’s a science.

BECOMING-_-thumbs-up-3A fresh new batch of laundry soap.  I posted about this quite a while ago, and in case you were wondering, I’m still its number one fan.  Here recently I had to buy a bottle of Gain because I ran out of the good stuff.  After a few weeks of using it, Timothy brought his work clothes to me and said that something was wrong, that the stains weren’t coming out like usual.  In a moment of heart swelling pride, I realized it was because I had switched from my homemade stuff to the store bought stuff.  And the homemade laundry soap beats Gain’s tail!  I felt very proud and cave womanish.  This is an amazing example of a homemade product that saves crazy money, isn’t too complicated to make, and is so much better than store bought.  Boom.

These are a few things I’ve been loving recently.  What about you?  Have you been giving thumbs up to anything recently?

On September 17, 2014 · 2 Comments · In Lovely Life
 

I have a soft spot in my heart for weeds.  Maybe it’s because I can’t seem to keep any other plant life alive?  Or maybe it’s because I feel sorry for them that they have been labeled too harshly.  I mean, who called them weeds in the first place?  One man’s weed is another man’s garden.  Stick that on a mug and call it a day.

Photo-Aug-11,-6-56-09-PMRecently one of our bushes died.  It was a huge bush – as tall as me – and seemed to be thriving.  Then it just shriveled up and died.  Am I supposed to water bushes?  Trim them in certain shapes?  Sing to them?  I’m obviously doing something wrong.  Anyway, my dad graciously came over and sawed it down.  A few weeks later when mowing, I noticed new life where the bush used to be.

Three baby trees were growing!  I was sure of it.  They were huge.  They had to be trees.  I let them grow for a few more weeks and then decided that I had to pull them down since they were so close to our foundation.  I felt so sorry for the trees that I clipped off the leaves of one and stuck them in a vase.  Poor Herman the tree could live his last days treated as the most beautiful bouquet of flowers.

As you can see above, he looked pretty sad.  But after a few days of love and attention, he perked right up.

Photo-Aug-13,-6-27-48-PMThen my dad bursted my bubble by seeing Herman on our table and asking why I had a weed in a vase?  Ummm, because he’s a tree?!  And I had to kill him?  He quickly set me straight and said that Herman was a weed.  Just a weed.  An unlovable weed.  When Timothy found out about it, he just laughed.  You mean you really thought the weed was a tree this whole time?  I thought you were joking.

Men.  It was probably a man who labeled the weeds of this earth.

But see how much Herman flourished when he was treated as more than a weed?

Photo-Aug-13,-6-27-59-PMThis is where we could spin this into some heart-warming moral of the story and declare that we should never label anybody as less than, or as a “weed.”  Treat them like trees and flowers, like they’re the most valuable humans of all, and they’ll thrive.  But that’s not what this post is about.  This post is actually about weeds.

Because my little shrub area is covered in weeds.  And I’m just so proud that they’re alive.  They’re my flowers.  These guys are tough.  They’ve grown through layers of plastic and rocks.  They’ve survived many applications of weed killer.  (I know, I caved into social pressure.)  They’re just trying to flourish.  Who am I to say they are less than roses or daisies or ferns?  I can’t keep any of those plants alive.  But weeds?  Weeds are my jam.

On September 12, 2014 · 7 Comments · In Lovely Life
 

BECOMING WHITNEY | A Handmade Legacy

This week I went on a road trip with my mom and Bibi (my mom’s mom) to have a visit with my great-aunt Edith.  Great as in she’s my grandmother’s sister, but she’s still great as in wonderful.  Ha!

We spent all week chatting over coffee, finding treasures in thrift stores, and passing along stories that I’ll share with my grand-children and grand-nieces and -nephews some day.

I can’t describe how powerful it is to soak up your history and fill in all the missing pieces, to answer all the questions you didn’t know you had.  Like my great-grandmother for instance.  The pictures I have seen of her look just like my Bibi and my mom.  Dark headed, feminine, warm eyes, full lips, and great cheek bones.  But I just learned my great-grandma was 5’2″ – unlike my elegantly tall Bibi and mom, she was short like me!

I heard stories about how they survived the depression.  Coordinating how many bags of pig feed to buy at a time so my great-grandmother would have enough of the same fabric pattern to make a dress for her girls or a shirt for her son.  Watching as my great-grandmother pulled strings of thread from worn clothing and made her own chenille bedspread by looping the strings around pencils before sewing them down.  (I think she must have been half magic.)  Only having two dress shoes and taking turns on which sister could wear the cutest pair.  Holding newborn siblings that would only live a short while before going to Heaven.

I heard stories of pain and stories of triumph.  Stories of loss and stories of gain.  And stories that made me see that although my life now is so different than the life my Bibi lived as a young girl or the life my great-grandmother lived as a young wife, we are still the same.  We are still women that find strength through God.  We are still women that delight in family.  We are still women with goals and hopes and dreams.  We are still women that show our love by manipulating fabric and thread into clothes and curtains and blankets to warm our families.  Although now I can just drive down to Jo-Ann’s to pick up my thread.  Oh how my great-grandmother would have loved Jo-Ann’s!

BECOMING WHITNEY | A Handmade Legacy

My great-grandmother passed her love of the handmade down to her daughter, who passed it down to her daughter, who passed it down to me.

This is the power of handmade.  It instantly connects you to the maker and the story.  Whenever I want to curl up on the couch, I immediately reach for this quilt that my Grandma (on my dad’s side) made.  It’s out of a bazillion colors, doesn’t match at all, but it’s made from the scraps of dresses that I remember her wearing and it makes me smile.  Whenever I want to be reminded of how much my Bibi loves me, I can just pull out this huge, gorgeous, and insanely intricate cathedral window quilt that she hand pieced, stitched, and quilted just for me.  And don’t even get me started on all of the beautiful things my mom has made me.  You can go in any room in my house and find handmade evidence of love.

My Bibi and great-aunt told me of the time their mother made them white shirts for school and embroidered the names of all their classmates on them.  (See?  I told you she was magic.)  Both of them smiled and their eyes twinkled as they remembered the time she lovingly spent on each stitch.  My future children may never get a chance to say that I sustained them all winter long by canning 500 quarts of food each summer (again with the magic), but they will be surrounded by handmade quilts and booties and buntings declaring my love.  It’s how my 5’2″ great-grandmother passed down her love, and it’s how her 5’1″ great-granddaughter is going to keep on sharing the legacy.

On September 5, 2014 · 2 Comments · In Lovely Life