Losing my jewels

When I turned 7  years old my grandmother decided to give me a sapphire (my birthstone) ring.  I am not sure how or why but somehow this was decided upon as a good idea.

I currently have an 7-year old who, until recently wanted to be a mermaid when she grows up.  I can’t imagine trusting her with such an expensive piece of jewelry.  But never-the-less, when I was 7 my grandmother thought I could handle the responsibility of taking care of this expensive gift.

You can imagine my 7-year-old-self receiving a piece of jewelry that sparkled and glittered and made me look like a princess.  I CHERISHED IT!

My mother who was certainly grateful but I’m sure slightly terrified that her 7 year old has been trusted with this the ring sat me down to make sure I understood this responsibility and to also give me a rule in how to care for it.  

I was given only one rule.  The rule was to make SURE the ring was kept in the safe place.  My ring had two safe spots, it stayed on my finger most the time but when I went swimming or took a shower, it stayed in my jewelry box, on the second shelf, where it was safe.   Those places were determined my “ring’s safe place.” And didn’t need to be anywhere else, EVER.

A few years went by and the magnitude of what I have been trusted with faded and I became careless with my gift. 

One day we went to the beach. Right before I ran to the ocean I looked down at my hand and realized my ring was still on my finger.  I had this inner turmoil in my mind, my mom said the safe places were my finger and my jewelry box.  My jewelry box is back home in Atlanta and I’m afraid if I leave it on I will loose it in the ocean…also I heard somewhere sparkly things attract sharks?  Either way I’m not going in the ocean with my ring. 

I didn’t tell my mom but I told myself JUST THIS ONCE, I’ll take it out of the safe place.  I put my ring in the pocket of my mother’s cover up hanging on the back of the beach chair.

You know where this is going….

Later that day I was searching everywhere.  Tears falling on the sand as I searched every inch surrounding the beach chair desperate to find what I lost.

 I was careless ONE time.  I thought I knew better, I thought I could do as I wanted and have no consequences. My gift was lost.

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Photo credit Ashly Cathy 

God has given us each a gift,  A RARE, precious, expensive I would even say sacred jewel, and that is our body.

 Our body, made to be shared with a life partner is given to us as a gift.  We don’t realize how rare, expensive and precious our gift is.  And sometimes we think we can take our bodies “just this once” out of the safe place it will be fine and there will be no consequences.

God gave us ONE rule regarding our sexuality.  Keep it in its safe place. Just like a fire, in a fire place it is beautiful and helpful.  In the middle of my living room, a fire is destructive and leaves scars. 

‘Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.’ 1 Corinthians 6:18

Do we think God gave us this command because He is mean and doesn’t want us to have any fun?  Or maybe it’s because He genuinely knows what a precious jewel you have been trusted with and he knows the consequences when it is taken out of the safe place.

 You were designed to become one with one.  Your body is treasured, cherished and unique.  Sex is a gift to be shared in the safe, trusting and mutual respect of the covenant bond of marriage.

You are worth immensely more than what our culture has taught you.  You are a jewel my friend.

What if I never get married?

Leading college small groups for about 10 years,  I hear this question a lot.  “What if I never get married?”
First of all, I get it. When I was 20 I was totally terrified to end up middle aged with my only companions as jelly donuts and 17 cats.

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Ashlyn Cathy Photo 

I’m in my 30’s now, married with kiddos (no cats) and a little life under my belt.  Now I see this question much differently.  

I look across our lattes as we sit together at the coffee shop listening to the NINETEEN year old worried she won’t find a husband.  With genuine love totally remembering feeling that way I look at you now and honestly want to say, “You are an infant!!!  What in the actual heck are you worried about!”

Good news from my side of the fence:
Do you know how many of my friends (also my age) from college, sorority sisters, or anyone I even knew that did NOT get married?
Two
As in 1 more than 1.  As in only 2.

I don’t know how to prove what kind of odds that is other than comparing how many people I currently know on facebook.  Assuming we know about the same amount of people that gives you a  .0016 chance that you won’t get married.

The odds are in your favor.

While I only have 2 friends that never married I know tons of people who are fighting custody battles with their kids because they are divorced.  Or married and miserable.

Permission to speak freely here?

 While there are few guarantees in the marriage and dating world I do have one guarantee for you.  
Sleep with as many men as you want, give your heart and body away with little or no expectations and I GUARANTEE you will have a million and 1 marriage problems IF marriage works out at all. YIKES I KNOW I SAID IT.

OR

You can look differently than the world.  Protecting your heart.  Protecting your body.  Working on becoming the best future wife you can be with as little baggage to carry into the marriage as possible.
Worry less about getting married and more about becoming a whole complete and loved by Jesus YOU.

Wouldn’t you want your future husband to be doing the same thing?

The Huffington post said it this way:

it’s a question of supply and demand. “Easy” women are easy to get. The supply exceeds the demand. Now, it’s the sexually modest woman that stands apart in the dating world as a rare and desirable thing.
(the whole article is great) 

From the Good Man project, author Dave Booda says it this way:

Ladies, if you really want men to step up and become the real men you talk about, you must demand it. I’m not saying ask for it, I’m not saying hope for it, I’m saying demand it.  What does that mean? It means you don’t settle for anything less. It means if you aren’t satisfied, you walk away. Men will rise up and meet your challenge, I promise, it’s what we do best. We love challenges. We love it when women make us step up and work.

Men are hard wired to work, we just have to expect no less of them!

There are some amazing men out there ladies.  But the good guys are not looking for a girl dancing on top of the bar.
The most profound question I have heard for singles to take heart is this: “Are you who you are looking for, is looking for?” -Andy Stanley

Guarding your heart, protecting your body and seeking your heavenly father FIRST will prepare you to be a wife of nobel character.

Be beautiful inside, in your hearts, with the lasting charm of a gentle and quiet spirit that is so precious to God.1 Peter 3:4

I think the real question is not “Will I get married?” but  “Is my God big enough to take care of this?”

He is a good father.  He sees you begging and pleading for what you think will fulfill your heart.  But he loves you too much to let you believe the lie that another human can fill the void that only He can fill.  He wants to pour into your broken places.  Make you whole and complete.  He wants you to become the person you are looking for is looking for not just for them, but for yourself as well.  Enjoy your single time. Make the most of it.  And don’t worry.  He’s got this.

I wannabe a weirdo

We are all subject to peer pressure whether we admit it or not.  But when your peers are doing some questionable things its time to go against the grain.  Here is a snapshot of our typical “normal” peer in America:

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, at least 8 million Americans are at least one month behind on their mortgage payments at this point.

Average household debt in the United States has now reached a level of 136% of average household income.  In China, average household debt is only 17% of average household income.

Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today,one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid.

The average US household credit card debt stands at $15,216 

Average mortgage debt: $148,443

Average student loan debt: $32,054 (source)

Of all countries, the United States has the highest rate of obesity. From 13% obesity in 1962, to 35.7% in 2010 (source)

55 percent of all marriages result in divorce. (source)

Research indicates that people who live together prior to getting married are more likely to have marriages that end in divorce. ” The Boston Herald

The average American spends 2.7 hours a day watching TV (source)

“More than ever before, work dominates people’s lives in this country” –Joanne B. Ciulla,

One-third of children age 8 – 17 believe their parent has been always or often worried or stressed out about things during the past month.

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If the average “normal” American is financially upside down, unhealthy, overworked, in a bad relationship and stressed out…then I don’t think being normal sounds so fun.

Craig Groschel wrote a book (I highly recommend) called “Weird because normal isn’t working” that states, “when people describe his family as weird, he finds comfort.”  I couldn’t agree more.

The bible tells us: If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. John 15:19

“If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me first”.-Jesus

Living differently sometimes results in criticism.  Going with the crowd can be so easy that being “weird” requires seeking correct guidance and it isn’t always  the easiest route.  I don’t want our family to be a statistic.  I want us to be…well…weird.  

I want to be so WEIRD I save up to buy things and delay gratification instead of buying on credit.

I want to such a WEIRDO that I could stand living with less if it means I can have less stress and more time with my family.

I want to be the WEIRD family that guards the media that comes into our home.

I want to be so WEIRD that I eat food whose ingredients I can pronounce.

I want so be so WEIRD that I take INTENTIONAL time with my husband so we can still be in love years after the, “I do.”

And I want so be criticized for saying NO to something good so I can say YES to something great.

What do you think about all this weird talk.  Are you a weirdo too?

Media Minimization March week 1 what I have learned so far

Our first true test of this whole media minimization came quickly.  The second day of March was on a Saturday.  It was the first Saturday in ages we had NOTHING planed.

Not a birthday party, baby shower, or a single thing on the agenda.  It was FREEZING outside and we are sticking to 7 hours TOTAL of any screen time at all per WEEK.  (click here for why)

Sooooo what’s a family to do?

We got creative.  We went swimming under the dome at the local park, we did puzzles and went for ice cream after dinner.

I was worried the kids would rebel against the whole idea but they kind of like it.  The great thing about kids is their ability to go with the flow.  When the screen time is up, it’s up.  And it’s time to get creative.

For me, I have had a hard time justifying what is “work” and legitimate internet time and what isn’t.  So the rule obeyer in me (she’s very small but still there) decided to give up instagram and any status updates (facebook or twitter) for the month as well.  Those are much more of a sacrifice for me (I miss you instagram) but in sacrifice we grow BIG time.

You know how many people have missed my updates?  Let me count…..Hmmm…..ZERO.  Not only can I live without social media, it can also get along just fine without me.  

Bryan is limiting TV and other media as well.  We have MANY more conversations in the evening without computers or TV’s to compete with.  This whole experiment is way more tolerable together.  We hold each other accountable too.

But it’s not all happy puzzle time and ice cream either .  Media is not all bad.  Here are the cons I have experienced:

1) Status updates are kinda handy.  Anybody know how to fix a fridge?  And if you had to pick one would you choose a trampoline or swing set for your backyard?
(updates I have wanted to post lately)

2) I don’t take near as many pictures.  I never realized it but I was taking pictures mostly for social media purposes.  Please humor me and tell me how cute this little collage is of Ava at the mall the other day.  She was dancing in front of the mirror.

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At the end of the day this teeny tiny, hardly mentionable “sacrifice” helps remind me of the millions of people who have so much less than me.

Everyday, several times a day, when I stop myself from thumbing through my phone, I am reminded of HOW MUCH we have.  We are blessed beyond measure.  If limiting media can help remind me to enjoy the HERE and now, be present, and become less distracted…then I am all for it.

Media Minimization March

We didn’t start this whole idea with the goal of a clever title…but the 3 “m”s is kinda catchy if I do say so myself.

Have you heard of this book called “7” by Jen Hatmaker?  I’m kinda in love with it.  She takes 7 areas of her life lived in excess: Food. Clothes. Spending. Media. Possessions. Waste. Stress.   They spend thirty days on each topic, boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places. Eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe “seven sacred pauses.”

A few months back we did stress, and observed the “seven sacred pauses”

For the month of March we are cutting back our media.  Media has a way of sneaking into stealing away our life.  It is very subtle but it happens everyday.  We decided cutting back media is a great way to re-focus on what we value as a family…each other.

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In the book, they cut out 7 different forms of media completely for the month.  We decided to just cut all media back to a total of 7 hours a week.

What does this include?  For us we decided “media” was anything with a screen (music is permitted).  It gets a little tricky because,  of course, a computer is how we both work.  But thanks to a handy site called rescue time  it will automatically track where we spend our time online.   And true work will not count toward the 7 hours.

I almost choked on the air when my husband originally suggested we use our phones as just PHONES.  We have only had smart phones for about a year but I seriously think my iphone is as magnificent as disney world and cheesecake all wrapped into one.

Ultimately we decided it was impractical NOT to use all of the handy things a smart phone lets you check, but it would all count toward our 7 hours per week.  Toggl is an app that will keep me accountable there.

And of course TV.  I’m not much of a TV fan but the rest of our family is.  Cutting back on the TV for the kids means more work on us but I am really excited about all the alternatives we will discover with the default of TV gone from the line up.

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I originally thought 7 hours was a generous plenty (about 1 hour per day) but when you start to time ALL YOUR MEDIA into one hour…it’s not that much.

So far..it is going surprisignly better than expected.  I am learning a lot but that is for another post.  For now…my time is nearly up.

Have you every had a media fast/minimiztion?  What did you think?

Imperfect Marriage

“And they lived….Happily Ever After”

Well thanks Disney and romantic comedies.  That makes a cute story and all but there are an AGGLOMERATION of details we are missing here.

In real life:  He forgets to take out the trash and she doesn’t always shave her legs.    When you are covered with spit up and diaper rash cream you don’t feel very sexy.   And, I hate to break it to you, but you both fart too.

Culture, movies, advertisements, magazines, and comparison to others can do a pretty convincing job in telling you marriage is supposed to be blissfully perfect and if not,  you should call it quits, plus you “deserve” to be happy right?

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The truth is this:

Perfect marriage is as unrealistic as Cinderella and the prince.  Perfect ended in the garden.  We ALL have arguments, real life temptations, money strains, and unexpected stressors.

When it comes to deserving to be happy:

The King of the world who “deserved” the finest palace with a 100 servants at his feet was born in a dark cold MANGER with animals and dirt all around.
As an adult, He took the pain that he did not “deserve” in a cruel and awful punishment that He could have walked away from in an instant.
He voluntarily placed the comforts of heaven, His rank, and all he “deserved” to the side, because of love. 

In light of this I think overlooking a few annoying habits and thinking of ourselves a little less, and our spouse a little more gets much easier.

YOU are the only one in control of your happiness.

All this being said, marriage can absolutely be “blissful and happily ever after” It just looks different than it does in movies.

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times — always with the same person.” Mignon McLaughlin

As the days and years pass, we change, we grow, and we are not the same people we were on our wedding day.  As Steve Perry says in “Faithfully,” my all time favorite 80’s song, “I get the joy of rediscovering you.”

We must never stop dating and learning the about what is exciting in each others lives.  Discovering your mate in their new roles as they change from newly wed to married with young children.  In new jobs, with new hobbies and new experiences we always have something new to discuss.

Bryan and I are as imperfect as any couple.  We just decided not to be committed to ” the marriage” because we could get another “the marriage” we are committed to each other.

Growing old together is not always glamours.  It’s about real life, and real people learning how to put their selfishness aside to love UNCONDITIONALLY.  Not because they always deserve it, but because that is they way Jesus loves us, when we do not deserve it.

imperfect marriages

 

 

Choosing to cheat

I told my husband the other day I could stay up all night long and still have way too much on my to do list, to which he responded, “shorten your to-do list”

Profound!  Simple, maybe even obvious but I thought it was brilliant…he’s a smart guy.  I think all of us have expectations we place on ourselves that don’t REALLY have to be done. 

Andy Stanley wrote a book called “choosing to cheat” The premise states that we cannot possibly do everything so we must cheat in one or more areas of our life.  There are simply not enough hours in a day or days in a year to do and be everything we want.  We are then faced with the choice to decide what is most important.

Although we don’t see it this way it is even a little egotistical to think we are soooo important that we must get so much done.  If the world will keep spinning and no one will be physically harmed if we don’t complete the task then is it really THAT important? 

Cheating suggestions:

Housework:  Everyone has different “must does’” for a clean home.  I think it is essential to take a moment to define what a clean home is to you.  What is most important and what areas can you cheat? It will just get dirty again anyway!

The Internet:  Rescue time is a free internet service designed to keep you accountable for how much time you spend on the net.  On average it rescues people from almost 4 hours of time a week! 

Television: Along with the internet these are the two biggest time suckers for most families.  Be intentional with your television.  Ask is this show WORTH my time?  Give yourself a number you are comfortable with for hours spent per week in front of the tube. 

Extra activities:  If your kids are in soccer, dance, karate, football, and piano all at the same time you might want to take a step back and ask what is most important and what is not.  Or maybe you are the president of the PTA, the bible study leader, the volunteer and the helper for EVERYTHING in your city.  Just incase you need permission…It’s okay to say no.
(ouch I am so guilty of this)

Work more effectively:  No matter where you work: in an office or at home there are ways to work more efficiently.  4 hour work week  is a book dedicated to helping your work more effectively.

Barter anyone?:  You can’t do it all but together we can.  Babysitting is a great way to trade services.  You watch my kids and I’ll watch yours.  I have a friend that does all my monogramming and I make her little girls hair bows.  PERFECT!! 

What is a skill or service you can offer?  Trading is much more fun that spending money and is a helpful way to get what you need by “cheating” 

Share your thoughts: In what ways do you “cheat?”


17 Cheap (and romantic) date night ideas

Want to have a fun date night?  Don’t have a lot of cash?  Then I hope this list helps you enjoy your date and save some cash too!

First things first, if you have kids, babysitters are expensive.  Talk to a group of friends about setting up a babysitting co-op.  Where you trade out “tokens” for babysitting instead of cash. 

Now that the kiddos are settled in here are a few cheap and romantic ideas:

  1. Walk down memory lane:  Reminisce on how you first met, your dating life, wedding, and early marriage.  Get those butterflies back in action! 
  2. Stare at the stars INSIDE:  Go to the Planetarium, learn about our universe and cuddle with your sweetie. 
  3. Enjoy the weather together.  Depending on the time of year ice skating, picnics, or going for a swim are all fun date nights.  
  4. Dress Rehearsal: Got a play in your local theater you would love to see but don’t want to pay for tickets?  Call around to see if you can attend the dress rehearsal.  They are often a fraction of the price and sometimes FREE!
  5. Cuddle up with a book:  The book store is our personal favorite cheap date.  I grab a book about gardening or kids and he grabs a magazine or book on sports and we sit together sipping coffee and playing footsie.
  6. Dinner Coupons: www.Restaurant.com has specials and be sure to check your local paper or weekly circular for local coupons. 
  7. Just dessert:  You can have dinner at home, put the kids to bed, then go out for dessert and coffee.  Babysitters usually don’t expect as much if the kids are sleeping the whole time.  I have friends that trade out with a neighbor and do this once a week!
  8. Play 40 questions:  Print out this Conversation starters booklet and get to know each other better.
  9. Take a Tour:  You would be surprised at all the places that would be glad to give you a tour of their business if you just ask.  Candy shops, distribution centers, factories,  whatever interest you and is close to where you live.
  10. Flea Markets browsing:  There’s something for everyone at a flea market and plenty of things you never knew existed — you might even discover he has a hobby or weird collection you didn’t know about…plus often times there is cotton candy. 
  11. Art museum:  Even if you don’t live near the Guggenheim almost every city offers art on display at a local city building or college.  Just for fun dress up and talk with your best English accent as you study the art.
  12. Botanical Gardens:  Almost every town has an amazing world of horticulture just waiting to be explored.  Call in advance and they will gladly give you a tour.  
  13. Share what you love: Spend time teaching each other about your favorite hobby or skill.  Playing an instrument, gardening, crafting, photography etc.  You may be surprised how much you enjoy their hobby. 
  14. Be a tourist in your own home town.  We went on charted tour (very inexpensive) of a neighboring city and learned more than we ever learned living nearby for years!  Contact your local visitors bureau for events and tour information.
  15. Open mic/karaoke night: Check out the nearest karaoke or open mic night.  Even if you don’t participate you will enjoy free talent or lack there of (which is sometimes even better). 
  16. Local College/University events: If you live near a college log on to the school’s website and check out the schedule of events.  Schools will open large events, from lectures & panels, to movie screenings and plays.  Usually free to the public.
  17. Go back home: If you took the kids to a friends house, go back home.  Light a few candles…need I say more?

 What is your favorite cheap date night? 

 

 

Love Language Assessment Test

Valentines day is just around the corner.  Do you know your love language?

Picture Credit

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about Gary Chapman wrote a book called the 5 love languages which he says we all give and receive love in the following ways:

  1. Acts of Service: Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes.
  2. Words of Affirmation: Unsolicited compliments mean the world to you.
  3. Physical Touch: Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show love.
  4. Quality Time: Nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention
  5. Receiving Gifts:  Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift.

It really makes a difference understanding how people in your life give and receive love. For a short glimpse of your language take this test! 

For a more in-depth (and probably more accurate) test you can go to Gary Chapman’s website  They have the same test for children, singles, and teenagers here too.

Share your findings.  What is your love language? 

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