Wednesday, February 27, 2013

{Loving Your Wife} J.T.'s beautiful sacrifice.

This story has been reposted with permission from my friend Nat Pugh.  Nat often speaks of the precious unconditional love of his parents, but recently when he blogged about the tender care his father showed his mother as she grew ill.  Reading it made me want to love my Mr. Wonderful better.  I pray it inspires you in the same way.
Dad said he would slow down and quit traveling so much once Mom could no longer take care of herself.  She had Parkinson’s and the disease progressively ate away at her mobility and agility…but not her sense of humor or her spirit.  They were in their early 80’s but he was still in demand as a preacher and he loved nothing more than to hop on a plane and jet off to some location to inspire all who heard him.  If you ever heard him, you never forgot him.  But he loved Mom more.  He did stop his traveling and tirelessly devoted himself to caring for his bride of over sixty years.

Before bedtime he would remove his hearing aids rendering him basically deaf.  There was no way he could hear Mom’s soft voice in the middle of the night asking assistance to get up to go to the bathroom, or help rolling over.  So dad came up with a profound act of love.
He went out and bought a small rope and cut it to about six feet.  He tied one end  of the rope to the railing of Mom’s hospital style bed they had moved into their bedroom.  Nightly, he would tie the other end to his wrist before going to sleep.  When Mom needed him she would tug on the rope, waking him so he could get up and help her.
Dad lived love in action as her daily care took a toll on his own health.  She became his focus.  I told him those last few years were his finest.  I told him I was more proud of how he loved and cared for Mom than any of the significant accomplishments of his life.  His actions spoke volumes as he, more than any man I know, practiced what he preached.
Question:  I see J.T.'s love for Bessie in Nat's life as he loves his sweet wife, Dana, with the same sacrificial love.  Are you putting the interest of your husband or wife above your own like J.T. modeled so beautifully?  A great way to find out is to ask your spouse a simple question:
What do I do that makes you feel most loved? 

Monday, February 25, 2013

{Giving my son away} Loving him enough to let him go (twice).

 I'm back from my wedding planning trip, and I'm tired.  So. very. tired.  

It's not so much because Mom and I explored the city of Houston for two days looking for rehearsal dinner venues, or even the tsunami of details yet to be decided before the wedding...

I'm tired because it's hard work emotionally to let go of my boy~ 
Even to the most deserving bride.
And his Meagan truly is above and beyond what I could have ever hoped or imagined.  
There's not a doubt in my mind that she is the one I've been praying for.

Most of the time I'm giddy as I anticipate the moment their blue eyes meet as she glides down the aisle on her father's arm like a dream.  But there are moments, like right now, when the house is empty and quiet {Mr. Wonderful is out of town} when tears blur 
the letters on the computer screen, and it is really hard. 

Giving my boy away creates a sacred, ironic, noble kind of sadness.  

  • It's sacred because the glorious, God-designed mission of motherhood allowed me to birth and raise a son.   
  • It's ironic because I don't want things to change, but I don't want them to stay the same, either.   
  • And it's noble because letting him go requires a profound, selfless act of courage.

I made this sacrifice once before, on my knees, after my cancer diagnosis.  Uncertain about my future, I wept and prayed and lifted my hands to Jesus, offering my children to him forever.  I survived cancer, but that moment marked me.  I gave him away once, so I figure I can give him away again.  Because that's what mother's do.

Tonight I escaped to the attic and sat amidst the boxes of soccer trophies and tubs full of Legos and plastic army men.  I shifted things around until I found the large, long plastic box labeled "Blake."  Holding my breath, I could feel my throat tighten as I snapped the lid off and looked inside.  It was full of over sized, extra large zip-lock bags bulging with memories.   Random things filled the box along with Blake's school work, journals and art. 

His first pair of Stride Rite walking shoes,
a grey construction paper mouse,
a spiral full of prayers from his fifth grade 
Bible study,
his tattered, thread-bare, sharpie-scribbled red converse sneakers 
(oh, how he loved those shoes!),
and his graduation tassel.  

It was good to sit and drink in his life as I laughed and smiled through my tears.

There have been times when my children needed to move on, when instead of trusting God, it was as if I grabbed both their ankles forcing them to drag me out into the world with them, my weight holding them back like an anchor.  As they went off to school, camp or college, sometimes I would tighten my grip on those ankles until I heard the voice of God. 
"Do you want my best for your child?  Then you must let him go, trust me.  
I'll help you."

I'm claiming a mothering victory on this one. 
I've had my reflective moment.  Now I'm getting out in front of it, pressing into the sadness, and pushing through to the 

Question:  Is there something you need to release your child to do on their own?  Are you hindering their growth by holding on too tightly?  Whether it's starting school or getting married, kids learn to rely on God when we release our grip and let them fly.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Wedding planning and marriage advice.

I'm off to Houston to secure the venues for the Rehearsal dinner and Bridesmaid's luncheon for our upcoming wedding.  I'm taking this pair of precious coffee mugs with me to give to the bride and groom {see the writing on the inside rim?  It reads, "I have found the one my heart loves." from Song of Solomon 3:4}

I can hardly contain my joy!

I also packed a copy of The Knot Book of Wedding Lists just to make sure I'm not missing any of the details, and of course my trusty organizational binder that holds all the sacred lists~ it is adorned with my "She said, YES!" printable

The other day I read a terrific blog post by Chance Scoggins where he shares a valuable piece of marriage advice he learned from his wise friend.  

Chance tells about their conversation.  

It began when he asked this about marriage:

I asked him, “How can I be sure we’ll last forever?”

“You can’t.  You can only be sure it’s going to last forever a day at a time.  You make it to forever bit by bit.”

Read the rest of Chance's story here.  {And consider following Chance's blog; he's terrific!}
Question:  When you consider your marriage and the difficulties you face in it, is your first reaction to examine how well your spouse is meeting your needs?  Why not reframe the question to something like this:  How well am I meeting the needs of my spouse?
After all... he (or she) is the one your heart loves!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

{Howard Hendricks} Do the job you love.

image by skylab via
Howard Hendricks died today.
He was a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary for 52 years, and according to this video interview, he loved it so much he would have done it for free.  Watch and see this gentle man describe the joy he experiences doing what he loves.
Prof Hendricks influenced many prominent preachers: Tony Evans, Bruce Wilkinson, Charles Swindoll and David Jeremiah are among the most renown.   He also taught my Mr. Wonderful, and thousands of other students who went through Dallas Theological Seminary. 

  Back in 1983, Mr. Wonderful went to a Campus Crusade conference called KC '83 with 17,000 other college kids.  When he heard Dr. Hendricks speak he was profoundly moved.  In fact, Mr. Wonderful enrolled in Howard's Bible Methods class at DTS after moving to Dallas the following year.   

Fast forward 20 years or so, and Mr. Wonderful was introduced to Howard's son, Bill Hendricks.  As you can imagine, Bill makes his father proud by helping others find their God given calling through his Giftedness Center.  Dwight worked with Bill during a difficult career transition and Bill helped him find his way.  If you ask Dwight about Prof or his son, he will tell you that Howard and Bill changed the direction of his life.  

Mr. Wonderful introduced me to Howard when we ran into him at a Young Life Ski Resort in Colorado a few years ago.  His face lit up when Dwight spoke to him, and I saw the twinkle in his eye and sincere delight in his voice as he engaged his student.

I found another AMAZING teacher you need to meet via video.
The video is 12 minutes, but you must watch it until the end.  It just gets more remarkable along the way.  Jeffery Wright teaches Physics and COMPASSION.
This blog post is our way of saying thanks, Prof Hendricks, for embracing your God-given calling and finding joy in it..
No doubt, your legacy will just keep rippling outward. 

Question:  As you think back to the teachers in you life, which ones were the most influential?  Why don't you take a few minutes and see if you can find them through Facebook or an internet search, then text or tweet or post a little thank you on their wall.  It's never been easier to say "thank you!" 

If you are reading via email, you will need to click HERE to view the videos on my blog.

Monday, February 18, 2013

{Cleaning closets as a labor of love} What to keep, what to give? Free Printable

Download Robert Morris Quote HERE.

A few summers ago, my sister and I helped my mom and my aunt clean out my grandmother's house.      It was privilege to help, but it was difficult.  
We laughed and cried throughout the week-long process. 

Just like the reality television show, Clean Sweep, we created "give", "throw" and "keep" piles as we worked through the house.  After hauling a lot to the trash, we were left with some useful furniture to pass along to our young adult children and lots of beautiful items {letters, recipes, photos and other treasures} that told the story of my grandparent's lives.  

As a result of that experience, Mr. Wonderful and I are getting a head start purging and sorting our packed closets and overstuffed attics.  We decided the empty nest was a good season for starting the project.  
This wonderful quote by Robert Morris has given me the perfect filter to evaluate each item.  So I ask myself, "Is it useful or beautiful?"
We hope to purge the excess and keep the useful and beautiful.                    
I created a little chalkboard printable for myself~{And to share with you}  
Don't you find it oh, so inspiring?!

This purging and organizing process is meant to bless our children, so we'll leave them with less to sort out later in life.  I also hope to organize family pictures, the children's  artwork and other keepsakes so they can be enjoyed.   I'll be sharing about some of the ways I discover to help make that happen on Bless Your Neighbor.
Won't you join me?

Question:  Have you experienced the difficult process of cleaning out a loved one's house?  What if you spent a little time each week cleaning out your own house so that your children wouldn't be left with the burden of doing it later?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

{Perfect Love} The One who loves you most.

On this day of love... a beautiful reminder:
Our capacity for love exists because of His great love for us.
He loves you.  No matter what.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

{Music for a Happy Soul} Rend Collective's Campfire Story

My young adult children have the most remarkable taste in music.  
Their generation is blessed with technology~ allowing a generous sharing of music,  exposure to independent musicians and the ability 
to record their own music in a closet on a whim.

This morning, Mr. Wonderful and I received a group text from the kids alerting us about  
       Rend Collective's new album, The Campfire Story.  
This album was literally recorded by a campfire at the beach.  
My heart beat a little faster and I was swept away to Lakeview United Methodist Church Camp when I listened to the first song... they began with a chorus of Kumbaya.

But don't think this is a throwback to 1970. 
It is fresh and real and current and amazing.
Hear the story of it's inspiration in the following video, and then buy it on iTunes.  
It will strengthen your faith, lift your spirits~ 
and put a jig in your step!  
The album ends with with a song called Praise Like Fireworks that had me 
dancing around my office!

And for all my friends who have young adults in your lives~ 
you will be a super cool, in-the-know friend if you tell them about this worship band 
you've discovered called the Rend Collective.  
Find their music HERE.
And their website HERE.

Question:   When was the last time you invested in some new music to feed your soul?
Why don't you send an iTunes gift card and link to the Rend Collective's new album to a friend or college student? 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

{Working with Joy} Mike the Mailman

Image credit: Sean McCabe

Is your work monotonous? 
Does the routine of life rob you of your ability to see the people in front of you every day?  
Take a lesson from "Mike the Mailman."  He works at the Post Office at Penn State.  A postal worker for 38 years, he believes he can bring sunshine to people's lives as he sells stamps and weighs packages.  Take time to watch this segment by CBS  ~ it will inspire you to serve coffee with a smile, call your customer with cheerful voice, or notice the shiny new pair of sneakers your student is wearing.
Watch the video HERE.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

{Loving Your Valentine} Everything you need to spread the love. Free Printables

This season of love makes my heart palpitate!

When I met Mr. Wonderful he turned my world upside down. 
hyperventilated every time he looked at me with his dreamy brown eyes. 
Two months into our relationship, during February {the love month!}, 
I  KNEW he was my guy.  

It wasn't the big things like diamonds and fine dining that won my heart, 
it was the little, sweet things like...
  • Discovering a rose on the seat of the car when he picked me up for a date.
  • Getting a phone call after he arrived home from our date just to say, "I wanted to make sure I told you how much I enjoyed myself tonight."
  • Noticing the "to do" list on the desk, he would add a line item: "Tell Dwight that you love him." Which I would discover later in the day to the great delight of my heart!
  • The hot air balloon gram that arrived at the school where I was teaching on Valentine's day announcing to every fourth grader that Miss Ridgway was in love.
Circa 1986, Notice the 80's "big hair"!
I'm crazy about the love month because the simple, creative ways to say "I Love You" are encouraged and celebrated~ and the blog world is full of all the inspiration you need to make your feelings known!  I posted some ideas for care packages, red dinner and links to great valentines last year.  All praise to the creatives who generously share their FREE graphic design talent with the rest of us so we can start loving the world!

I've done you're research again this year...
Check out all of these sweet, simple ways to say you're loved, 
then click on the links in the guide below. 

Valentine Peep Notes by Sissy Print
Valentine Decor by Pleated Poppy
The Love Verse by Project Inspire
Paint chip heart garland by Julie Ann Art
Another link up by Joy Ever After
I'll love you always and forever from the Pretty Blog
Have a little Crush on You from The Idea Room

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

{Loving Your Teenager Daughter} What teen girls wish they could tell their moms.

I love my girl.  Sometimes, too much. 
Last summer she asked me to join her on a weekend away~ just the two of us.  
We headed to Galveston where I took this shot of her on the dock.  
Arms spread wide, eyes and heart full of wonder.  
At 21, I am in awe that she is a thriving young adult!   

Some days I wonder how she ever made it~ And in spite of my many desperate-panicky-neurotic-mothering-episodes!  Looking back, it seems that she only began to thrive as God revealed  something to me: 
Desperation is actually fear~  and parenting through fear is unhealthy.  

By shear choice of my will (and the support of other moms),  I began to loosen my grip and relax in her middle school years.  Fear makes us say and do crazy things, we lose our composure when we need it most, even plotting how we might tether our daughter's ankle with a chain to keep her from leaving the house!  It's true that we love them, but we can also use fear-filled love as a means to justify our actions~  "I love her so much!  I just don't want her to get hurt!"

Because I mentor teen aged girls through a ministry called Coffee Talk, I was able to do a little research with the girls in our ministry by asking this question:

   What is it you would like your mother to know, but are afraid to tell her? 
{Ouch. Just reading it makes you squirm, doesn't it?}
Below is a summary of their responses:

I wish my mom would use a different tone of voice.
I wish my mom understood me and celebrated the way I'm wired.
I wish my mom wouldn't get defensive and would admit when she was wrong.
I wish my mom wasn't so overprotective.
I wish my mom would ask how I feel about things and respect my opinion.
I wish my mom would show signs of seeking God and growing spiritually.
I wish my mom would pick her battles and let go of the little things.
I wish my mom would be more fun and make our house a place to bring my friends.
I wish my mom would listen without trying to fix my problems and encourage me more.
I wish my mom would give me more space and trust me more.
I wish I wasn't scared to tell my mom things that bug me about her.

Question: How do you feel when you read through the list? Do you get defensive at the end of every line?  Or do you ask yourself... I wonder if my daughter feels this way about me?  

I believe that most of these issues are rooted in fear {and PRIDE}.  There are times, even now, when I see myself in every one of them.  

You can change the tragectory of your relationship and increase your influence on the heart of your girl with this simple tool: A Report Card for Mom
Download Mom's Report Card HERE.
You may use it two ways:  
  • Sit down with your daughter and assess how you're doing.  Get feedback and understanding as you move through each line.        
  •        Simply use it as a tool for self reflection.  Invite the Holy Spirit to teach you as you read through it and then talk to your daughter about your convictions. 
Moms, wouldn't it bless your daughter if you gave her a little speech that consisted of these things....
Tell her you want to learn how to be a better mom and you need her help.  
Ask her to grade your communication skills.  
Ask her what she wants you to know, but is afraid to tell you~ 
and tell her you will listen without overreacting or defending yourself.  
Admit that you sometimes react out of fear, but that fear is rooted in love and sometimes you express your love in an unhealthy way.  Tell her you want to grow to be a mom that responds with love and faith.  

How would you have felt if your mother had said these things to you? 

{A Word of Caution!  Before you give this to your daughter, ask her to be kind and gentle toward you.  Tell her you are willing to learn, even if what she says is hard to hear~ 
And then ask God to give you a tough skin and soft heart!}

Sunday, February 3, 2013

{Engaged!} Free "She Said Yes!" Printable

It was a magical night!
Full of giggles and goosebumps,
and laughing through our tears. 
He started with a private candlelight dinner...
Then serenaded her with a song...
  When he got on one knee, he said that he loved her. 
That he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.
Her answer was precious and enthusiastic... 
"Yes, yes! A hundred times Yes!" She said.
Cupcakes and champagne and throngs of people waited  
to offer toasts and congratulations back at her parent's house.
And all our of our hearts REJOICED!
Do you know someone who is getting engaged, or could use these sweet little signs for an engagement photo shoot?  Bless their hearts with wonderful printable signs. 
Trip Carroll, one of Blake's dearest friends, whipped them up for me so we could take this cute shot.  He offers them to you for your personal use, so you can bless someone in love!    
Download "He Asked! She Said Yes!" HERE.
I better get busy~ I've got a rehearsal dinner to plan and a new daughter to love! Wee!

Question:  Think back to the day you got engaged.  
Remember how you flaunted your ring and floated on a cloud?  
Makes you want to tell him you would marry him all over again, doesn't it?  

Friday, February 1, 2013

{Fresh Start} Where I've been...Where I'm going.

{Where to find the chalkboard vase, yellow bowl, journal, and mug all of which were sweet gifts from those I love.}
I blogged for a year and took a break... for a year.  

I hadn't lost my passion for blogging~ I just decided to put first things first. 

Our youngest was finishing his senior year and heading off to college and I wanted to finish well as a mom.  Being totally honest, I also feared that what I wrote might not be worth the effort; who was I to write about love?  When the nest was empty, I was going to reevaluate.

Would I miss writing about the movement of love in the world?  

I discovered that writing was not only an exercise in learning to see love, but a lesson in learning how to love.  You can't write about love without recognizing the words and actions that display love to the world.   Observing life through the lens of a potential story made it come alive, opened my eyes to the details, urged me to capture it in pictures, and compelled me to ask, 

"What is it about this story that shows love?" 

As I began to think about writing again, I began to notice things...

~The man pulling trash cans from the street up the driveway for his neighbor.
~The lingering touch and gentle smile of the nurse after after she drew my blood.
~A text from my daughter thanking me for the care package.
~The lady at the dry cleaner who knew my name when I walked in the door.
~Precious friends cheering on my newly engaged son and his fiance.

Without the discipline of writing these beautiful displays of love down, I now began to fear that they would go unnoticed and unremembered.  These simple actions were lessons in love and needed to be told~ and I realized that I'm still compelled to tell them!

As fuel to restart my engine, I shared a cup of coffee with graphic designer, Jenn Sprinkle, and web designer, Mackenzie Turner, and asked them to redesign my blog. {Side-note: these precious, loving women could be the subject of Bless Your Neighbor post themselves!}  So, as they create and design my new page, I am scanning the world for blessings and love~ it's time to start writing again!

I hope you'll re-engage and partner with me on our quest to "see" love and live it out in a profound way.  It's a perfect time of year to Bless Your Neighbor ... After all, it's the season of love!  

Happy February!

Question:   Have you side-lined a dream that needs a fresh start?  
Join me as I push the reset button and begin again. 
{Would love to hear about your dreams in the comments below~ let's start fresh together!}