Come On In! The Husband is Sharing.

(…And the thing you’re going to read about toilet paper? I promise, I really don’t use more than the average human being. I think.)

The “Hubby List” happened when Michael and I sat down recently with one of our favorite dinners: pasta, butter, and the all-fancy processed Parmesan cheese you can buy from the spaghetti aisle and it doesn’t need to be refrigerated before you open it. (Sometimes I get really sophisticated and add bread crumbs to the butter mixture, because clearly pasta needs more bread. Can you ever have too much bread? My mom and I would say no.)

And then I looked over at Michael.

He was warm and cozy with a blanket (we like to eat on the couch with about ten blankets each), Love It or List It was on and I was pretty sure they were going to “love it” (my favorite outcome…who ever feels satisfied when they list it), and I had extra cheese in my bowl and life was just – good.

Michael and Tucker in our favorite spot. Despite the slightly crazed look on Tuck's face, he really does love us... ;-)

Michael and Tucker in our favorite spot. Despite the slightly crazed look on Tuck’s face, he really does love us… 😉

And so I snuggled in and asked Michael between bites of buttered noodles what are the biggest or most surprising things he’s learned about being married for a little over a year and a half now.

He thought for a minute and gave me some answers. And then a gigantic-sized neon pink light bulb lit up over my head. Because clearly I had a brilliant idea!

And so then I squealed a little. And maybe spilled some noodles.

And I said, “OH WOW, HUBBY! This would be a good blog! YOU can help me write A BLOG POST!!”

And then Michael’s eyes got big and he paused his chewing.

And so then I came down a notch or fifty in excitement and also assured him he wouldn’t actually have to write.

Maybe he could just jot down a list of things he’s learned about being a husband in our humble year and a half experience.

And so then he smiled and said “Sure.”

So without further ado, Michael’s list: “What I’ve Learned as a Newlywed Husband”: (p.s. – you’ll notice Michael can say in like 10 words what takes me 300 words. But it’s totally cool. Can I get a “what what,” fellow female talkers of the world?!….No? …Bueller? …Bueller?)

What I’ve Learned as a Newlywed Husband

  1. Get her a cat. Don’t ask questions — just do it. (Well… maybe that’s just my wife.)
  2. When you buy said cat, make sure she cleans the litter box like she promised. Oh, wait…
  3. You will probably go through toilet paper at an exponential rate.
  4. You will have more baking supplies than you ever thought possible. Just let it all in. Good things will come from these items. 

    The Best Cookie Ever

    Life-Changing Cookie! Click on the picture. You’re totally welcome.

  5. Friday nights at home with your wife and a movie will probably become one of your favorite times.
  6. Do guy stuff with your guy friends. There is something healing about hearing things go boom.
  7. The more you lead her, the more she’ll follow. It’s an amazing gift how God designed it this way.
  8. Success at home is way more important than success anywhere else. If you are succeeding at work but failing at home, it is time for a long look in the mirror.
  9. Your growth in The Lord and your growth as a husband will be one of the most important aspects of your marriage.
  10. Don’t hide from arguments and conflict. More often than not, you both needed to shed those layers that were so uncomfortably ripped away.
  11. Your wife is a princess of the King. Treat her that way every day, and it will amaze you how she flourishes
  12. Your marriage will be the catalyst for the best and hardest things you will ever experience, but it is the best adventure God ever created. 

———————————————

He’s great. I love the man. 

And so now I figure, with Michael’s super mature and helpful advice to newlywed hubbys, maybe I should jot down some things I’ve learned, too.

Hear this: I. AM. NOT. PERFECT at always applying what I’ve learned about being a God-honoring and husband-honoring wife, but the lessons I’ve learned are worth mentioning because perhaps they will be helpful to you as they are to me on my good days when God helps me remember:

What I’ve Learned As a Newlywed Wife

  1. Unconditional respect is to my husband as unconditional love is to me. Clearly, we both need both from each other, but I’ve learned there are few things that build Michael up like when I believe in him and tell him I do.

  1. Just because he’s not doing things my way doesn’t mean he’s doing them wrong. We’re different people, so we’ll approach some things differently. Like loading the dishwasher. And emotions. And loud chewing noises.

  2. It means a lot to him when I recognize all the things he does for me, like make the bed. And it really means a lot when I turn around and do those things for him in return.

  3. Tell your hubby EXACTLY what you mean. Chances are, he will not pick up on the 3 million emotions in your head and then correctly translate them. Trust me. And on that note…

  4. He WANTS you to tell him what you mean! Because your husband wants you to feel loved! So if an extra hug or nice note would mean a lot to you, tell him! Otherwise he might not know. That sets him up for success, rather than confusion and frustration. 

    I told Michael how much I like when he brings me flowers. So then he knows to bring me flowers! It's like the best win/win.

    I told Michael how much I like when he brings me flowers, so now he knows! Win/win if you ask me 😉

  5. Pray with your husband. There is literally nothing more intimate. You’ll love it.

  6. Believe him when he says you look beautiful.

  7. When he hurts your feelings, always give him the benefit of the doubt: He didn’t mean to to hurt you. He loves you! Yes, he did hurt your feelings, and yes, you do need to talk it out, but approach the problem with a healthy and trusting perspective.

——————————————–

Now, if someone would like to volunteer to remind me about these things daily, that would be awesome. (Kidding, but, really.)

Happy Tuesday!

God’s Peace and Love to you,

Robyn

Kick Those Anxious Thoughts to the Curb!

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition [humble and earnest asking], with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me [Paul, author of Philippians] – put it into practice. And the God of peace [contentment, fulfillment, security] will be with you.”

-Philippians 4:4-9 (emphasis and additions mine)

Goodness, I love this passage. 

And maybe you’ve read it many times – but I like to go back and read it with fresh eyes as though it is an official instruction manual for my heart and mind.

(Maybe that’s just the type-A, always-loves-a-good-plan part of me. But it works!)

I have this passage written down on an index card in the form of a checklist (type-A again, folks!):

  • Pray
  • Give the worry to God
  • Give thanks
  • Think about what is true.

Then, when I start to worry, I pull the card out and remind myself to give my worry to One who loves me most.

Or, in other words, I kick that anxious thought right in the pants! WABAM!!! (Also, can you tell I work with kids? I literally just did the slicing-the-air motion with my arm. I think I might be heavily influenced right now by the new ninja moves I’m learning).

Anyway, I’m not a very practical person – emotions are like, way better (kidding! sort of.) – but sometimes it’s good to have plain old practical advice. Here are two practical heart and mind “ninja moves” (I can’t get over this ninja theme!), that I like to use to kick worry to the curb. 🙂

1. The What-If’s and Worst Case Scenarios

Typically, if I have an anxious thought that won’t leave me alone and preoccupies my mind, it’s a “what-if” scenario.

I’m sure you know the thoughts well:

What if she thinks _______? What if they don’t like _______? What if I do something wrong? What if_______ happens?”

Clearly, these thoughts need a good karate chop.

So when I realize I’m playing a what-if on repeat in my mind, then I look back at my heart instructions from Philippians 4:8:

Paul writes, “Whatever is true…think about such things” (Phil 4:8).

Oh!

Because you know what?

“What-ifs” are not true! That’s why they’re called, “what-ifs” instead of “reality!”

So we shouldn’t even worry about them!

Whew! Praise God, right?

(Because what-ifs can be downright scary. Especially if you’re a creative type like me and think up scenarios for a living).

So why worry and focus on what-if scenarios as though they are true?

Because God, in His lovingkindness, has shown us what to focus on instead.

He instructs us to focus on “what is true.” Not on what we’re afraid might happen.

Karate chop number one, folks!

2. The Power of Giving Thanks

If you’ve read any of my posts, or if you’ve ever heard me talk… pretty much ever, then you know I love the writer, blogger, and photographer, Ann Voskamp.

God has blessed and used her book 1,000 Gifts to truly change my heart and my life.

1,000 Gifts beautifully illustrates the importance of giving thanks to God.

Voskamp says, “It is impossible to feel thankful and anxious at the same time. So we must choose to give thanks.”

Do you see the beautiful gift we have here, friends? That we can choose the path of life instead of the path of worry simply by choosing to give thanks?

And not only is a mindset of thankfulness an open window and fresh air for our hearts, but giving thanks is a command from our Perfectly Loving Father.

Looking back at our heart instructions, Paul writes:

“…with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6).

How beautiful. That very sentence makes my heart sing! Not only are we free to give thanks, but we must give thanks! What a delightful charge.

And yet, how often do we all skip over the “with thanksgiving” part and head straight to the “present your requests to God” part?

…Yeah, me too.

Because when I’m worried, I am not in the mood to focus on things I am thankful for.

And so, I must choose. We must all choose to give thanks in those times of worry.

I also ask God for His help.

And then, quietly but surely, my heart and mind start to think calmly and hopefully while I give thanks.

If you’ve never prayed prayers of thanksgiving when you’re worried, I find it helpful to start off by telling God thank You for the truth about who He is.

We can thank Him for all these things because they are written in scripture, so they are the truest of true:

God is good and faithful (Lamentations 3:22-23),

He is all-knowing and all-powerful (Isaiah 55:8-9, Psalm 139: 1-6),

He is perfectly loving (Psalm 23:6, John 3:16, Psalm 103:8) .

He has good plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11).

And then, with a heart growing calmer and steadier through the giving of thanks, I love to move on to thank Him for fuzzy socks and cat purrs and then sometimes cat bites and space heaters and chocolate chip cookie dough and the small but beautiful gifts like those.

And I’ve learned through experience that a thankful heart opens the door to let God’s peace come in, displace the worry, and strengthen the faith.

Karate chop number 2! WABAM!!! (I felt the sound effect was warranted again. Thankfulness makes me so happy!! What can I say?)

Encouragement

Friends, if you are like me, and you get caught in the net of worrying way too much, you are in good company!

Remember how Jesus walked on water that one time, and Peter got out of the boat to walk toward him, but then Peter got scared – started to worry – and so then he started to sink? I love how even Peter, a man who is looking right at Jesus, a man who gets to touch Him and talk to Him in person, who is His very apostle, and who is called “Blessed” by Jesus in a conversation with Him, still struggles with feeling anxious. I also love how even though Peter became anxious, Jesus reached out and saved him. Jesus did not let him sink.

Perfect Love.

Perfect Love Who desires us to “Cast all [our] anxiety on Him because He cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7, modifications mine).

Now, in a very serious conclusion, if you ever get stuck and are drawing a blank about something to be thankful for, hear this:

“And on that day, God made bacon and said, ‘Men, I love you.’ And then He made chocolate and said, ‘Women, I love you too.’” – Michael.

I like to think God laughs at our jokes sometimes. 🙂

There is ALWAYS bacon, chocolate, and the never-ending love of the God who loves you more than life!

Blessings, peace, karate chops, and bacon and chocolate to you,

Robyn

Those Ugly Stepsisters: perfection & fear

Dear friends, a few nights ago I froze at my computer.

At the keyboard, more specifically.

My brain turned into a blank piece of paper and the words wouldn’t come.

I felt anxious.

And so I prayed and I read Ann Voskamp (highly recommended) and I wrote in my journal and I ate chocolate and I watched a rerun of Boy Meets World.

Then, I told Michael about what I was feeling. He said, “You need to write about this. About how you took on something big and you’re nervous but – God’s in your court.”

And I said, “…Okay. Done.”

Because Michael knows me better than I know myself a lot of the time.

And when that logical, loving man tells me I need to write, I know he’s right.

Now, the “something big” I’ve taken on is becoming a writer professionally.

More specifically, writing books for children.

That’s a big leap.

It’s awesome, it’s scary, it’s for such a time as this, it’s blessed, it’s my dream, and its biggest adversary is this:

Perfectionism.

Ugh.

Even that word is pointy and ugly and harsh, isn’t it?

Back to the moment when I froze at the keyboard.

Perfectionism does that, doesn’t it?

Makes you freeze.

Paralyzes you.

Ever heard the phrase, “paralyzed by fear?”

Yep.

Fear and perfectionism go together.

They are like the mean, ugly stepsisters in Cinderella.

(I relate most things to Disney movies, by the way.)

Like the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella, fear and perfectionism see beauty and hope and creativity and boldness and God’s glory – and they don’t like it.

So they try to sabotage it.

Remember when the mean, ugly stepsisters see Cinderella in her mother’s dress, getting ready for the ball, and they rip the beautiful dress to shreds so she can’t go and display all her God-given beauty?

Terrible!

Horrible!

Putting that moment in writing is even worse than watching it happen.

It also makes me want to go watch Cinderella again.

Can’t you see that’s what happens to us, dear friends, when fear and perfectionism attack?

Let me put it in non-Disney terms for those who don’t see things quite like me:

Perfectionism is:

  • When you’re afraid to start something – simply because you’re afraid you won’t be good at it. If you procrastinate, then there’s no opportunity to fail, is there?
  • Quitting something because it’s harder than you thought and you were supposed to be good at it, right? But you weren’t perfect right off the bat. So you stopped.
  • When you’ve worked for hours on a presentation and you’re smart and you’re ready, and then you get to the front and start sweating bullets and wondering how you look to the people in the room. What if they don’t like what you’re saying? What if you get something wrong? You get distracted and you fumble your smart words.
  • When you’re teaching, and you teach every day with those kids in mind and you plan for hours and your heart is all in and yet the minute your principal walks in your room to observe, you doubt. You fear. Are you perfect enough in her eyes? What if she sees you make a mistake? What grade will you get on your evaluation? You get distracted and you forget what you were even teaching in the first place.
  • When you don’t want to go on that date with the nice person or agree to a relationship with the nice person who has given you no reason to doubt, simply because you don’t want to get hurt if it doesn’t work out.

I think all these examples can be summed up in this one kicker of a paralyzing lie:

“I want to do everything perfectly, I want to be perfect — so I don’t get hurt or disappointed” (in your job, in your marriage, in your friendships, etc).

Dear hearts, this is no way to live.

Perfectionism isn’t living.

It’s striving. It’s frustrating.

It’s also impossible.

And yet, perfectionism and fear are so commonplace we don’t notice them for what they are most of the time.

But they’re there.

And like the ugly stepsisters in Cinderella, they will rip to shreds our beautiful gowns of creativity, beauty, intelligence, success, and any God-given glory we have if we let them.

Dear friends, perfectionism does not protect. Fear does not protect.

Rather, they stifle.

I am glad Thomas Edison was not a perfectionist.

He said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

I like him already. Refreshing, isn’t it?

He’s not saying he doesn’t ever fail, he’s just saying he uses those failed attempts to keep trying.

And I’m glad he did! (He invented light bulbs, for those of you who are scientifically unaware like I am).

Isn’t that what God tells us to do, dear friends? (Not to invent light bulbs, ha!) – but to keep trying?

We cannot pick back up and try again by our own strength, but here is why we can pick back up and try again:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

His mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23, emphasis mine.

You see, He picks up back up each time. And so we can try again.

Because like the rising of the sun each morning, so does the Lord’s grace fall upon and bless and strengthen the hearts of His children.

And so, we try again.

Because our Father separates our sins from us so far as the east is from the west, we try again (psalm 103:12).

And then, we try again.

We are loved as high as the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103:11). And so we pick back up and try again.

And when a group of Pharisees (a.k.a perfectionists, if you ask me, because I see my own weaknesses in their flawed perceptions) ask Jesus why He is eating with the “screw-ups” of that society, if you will, he responds with this:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17.

I suppose that is why Paul says to boast about our weaknesses (2 Cor 12:9). Because when we are real about our weaknesses, about our imperfections, the humble sacrifice of realness sets a beautiful backdrop for Christ’s light to shine brightly into our weaknesses and into the hearts of others, setting hearts free to abide in His love.

So let’s do this, dear friends.

Let’s love Christ without fear. Let’s love others without fear. Let’s stop trying to be good enough for God.

Because we never will be.

But because He sent His Son, we are.

We are.

Take a breath.

He’s got you. And He loves you.

“Relax! Be silent and stop your striving,

and you will see that I am God.”

Psalm 46:10, passion translation.

So go put your Cinderella dress back on.

Let the God who loves you most stitch it back up.

And don’t let those ugly stepsisters Fear and Perfectionism sabotage your ball anymore! 😉 

Peace, blessings, and fresh mercies to you in Christ,

Robyn

Behind the Christmas Card (the one with the crazy cat…)

Greetings! Here is mine and Michael’s Christmas card for this year:

P1030795

And here is a more accurate representation of our family: (Tucker trying to escape, and us trying to smile while also making sure he doesn’t run and hide under the bushes just to be difficult while we wait with treats as people drive by and give us questioning looks because we’re outside in church clothes crawling around in the pine straw attempting to grab our furball like what happened last week).

P1030792

Sometimes the holidays can be like that, can’t they?

We want the first picture. The perfect one. The Christmas carols are playing and the candles are lit and the tree is bright and so shouldn’t everything be perfect, just this month, if no other time?

And if things aren’t perfect for me at Christmas, am I alone in that?

Is everyone else having a way more normal and sugary and wonderful experience as meanwhile Michael and I work through newlywed lessons only learned and planted beautifully in the heart while forged in the heat of challenge?

If your holidays, dear friends, at times resembled crawling in the pine straw (probably not, but you get what I’m saying) instead of decorating Christmas cookies, you are not alone.

And I don’t mean things were negative or bad all the time this Christmas.

Lots of times this Christmas season, things were wonderful.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow, dear friends! I am so thankful for all those good times!

I instagramed about our tree and cookies and presents, and we drank hot chocolate and sang carols and snuggled and laughed and watched the Polar Express and stayed in our pajamas all day.

But also lots of times this particular Christmas season, things were hard.

Michael and I were (and are) in the process of setting boundaries in respect to how we spend our holidays, based on what is best for our marriage – our marriage, the sacred beginning of our own little family.

Someone didn’t like – didn’t respect — the boundaries we needed as a young family, and it hurt.

Really hurt.

The kind of hurt where you choose to genuinely thank God for His Son while you string the Christmas lights because you must choose joy when the emotion isn’t easy to find in the moment.

The kind of hurt where your husband sits on the couch and prays and wants peace with someone he loves but it’s just not in his control anymore because people have free will.

This was our Christmas, dear friends. Our second Christmas as a married couple. Our second Christmas as our own family. As one flesh. And I am so thankful for it.

It was a beautiful time. It was sacred. It was also messy.

But isn’t beautiful and sacred and messy the story of our lives?

And isn’t beautiful and sacred and messy why we needed Christmas in the first place?

Because who could rescue us from sin so messy, but the God who made us beautiful and sees us as beautiful despite the mess? Who could rescue us but the God who chose to come in the most sacred, pure, loving way: as a newborn baby?

If your Christmas was hard, I know it’s disappointing. It’s frustrating.

Especially if you wrestle against perfectionism (you’re in good company here, folks) and your Christmas wasn’t like the picture, it’s confusing, even.

Please know Jesus didn’t come for the perfect.

Christmas didn’t happen for the perfect.

It’s so much better than that.

Like a fresh breath of air, Jesus came for you and me. He came because we’re not perfect. And our situations here on earth will never be perfect, and so we can celebrate Christmas because He came!

Hallelujah, He came!

And so now, because He came for you, He promises when there is pain, there is purpose (Rom 8:28).

When you hurt, He is near (Psalm 34:18).

When you trust in Him, you will live with Him forever in a place more perfect than we can imagine (John 3:16).

Maybe this Christmas was wonderfully peaceful and bright and joyful for you. I pray it was! Michael and I have had those simply sweet Christmases, too, and I know we will again.

Praise God for those Christmases! They are gifts.

With a humble heart and by the grace of God, I echo this: Praise God for these hard Christmases, too. They also are gifts. They are. And you are not alone in them.

This is the promise: everything that happens will be used for the good of those who love God. The hard Christmases will be used for good, and the peaceful, easy Christmases will be used for good.

What an incredible God we serve.

Dear friends, I don’t yet see the purpose in our pain from this Christmas. I don’t.

But I do see little glimmers of hope, like little surprises in the tree: the smile Michael gives me when we pray together, holding hands more lately because we’re a team and we need each other, praising God with hearts freshly bowed at the Christmas Eve service because we can see more clearly now in the pain how He truly is our Comfort, Shield, Savior. The moments where we share hearts because we have to lean on each other instead of watch TV. The moments when we look at each other in difficult situations with eyes that understand and we just know. We’re in it together.

These things are all the little gifts God softened my heart to receive this Christmas.

I pray whether your Christmas was easy or hard, peaceful or chaotic, that God gives you eyes to look back and see the gifts He gave. I pray we’ll all have eyes to see the gifts He gives today.

And I pray we all have fresh eyes to see, and hearts to know the greatest Gift we’ll ever receive in Christ Jesus.

Peace and blessings to you and your family,

Robyn

When plans don’t go as planned.

My name is Robyn, I am type-A, and I am a planner.

Also, I have a 1 year-old cat.

But the cat’s beside the point.

(It’s just that he’s sitting next to me so cuddly and furry and green-eyed I couldn’t help but mention the puff of joy who likes to bite).

But, back to being a planner.

I plan lots of things, joyfully and meticulously, partnered with slow-sipped second cups of coffee and pencils freshly sharpened. (There’s just something about writing things down instead of typing, something freeing and creative and solid, isn’t there?)

I love to-do lists, grocery lists, big calendars, small agendas, lesson plans, outlines, iCalendars, automatic reminders, blank pages just waiting for words to come fill their spaces, and pens of all colors and sizes to further color-code and organize my well thought-out (and foolproof, right?!) plans.

The teacher in me is nodding an enthusiastic YES! ORGANIZATION! PLANS! Is there anything more satisfying in this constantly changing world? (Other than a perfectly crafted and baked doughy chocolate chip cookie, of course.)

But I digress.

Michael loves that I’m a planner. It helps us a lot.

Planning allows us the freedom to see friends because we carved out the time. It helps us organize finances. It helps me organize my writing into a finished piece. It picked out our wedding colors and turned them into a beautiful scene in which we became husband and wife.

I love that I’m a planner, because I think God made me that way for a reason.

But with all strengths come weaknesses, and this is one of mine: It’s easy for me to rely on my plans. In fact, I LOVE relying on my plans, because they act as my security far too often.

(Surely if we’ve planned it, we can’t fail, right?)

 But plans rarely go–ahem–as planned. Pun intended.

So then what, friends? What happens to the security blanket then – when plans don’t work out? When we get hurt or disappointed despite the amount of planning we’ve done to ensure our success and comfort?

I’ve realized recently when I stop using my owns plans as a security and choose to rely instead on the One who knows me and loves me the most, then I start to really live in the fullness of joy, success looks different to me, and comfort is not a necessity.

And yet, here is the most comforting news of all, dear friends! (Yes, even more comforting than an agenda that gets checked off with a brand new hot pink felt-tip pen.)

As lovers and followers of Jesus, we are held tightly together by our Savior, and not by our well-thought out plans (Col 1:17 “…in Him all things hold together,” emphasis added).

Note, this verse doesn’t say “in flawless plans all things hold together.”

Would someone elect to remind me of this every day? Thanks in advance, friends.

And truly, when I really think about it, how many of my plans have actually turned out the way I thought they would?

And yet, am I okay? Am I living fully?

Yes, and a joyful yes.

But, clearly not because of my own plans.

It took a recent change in my well thought-out career plans to throw me into the loving arms of Jesus and lead me to find my worth in Him, and not in my job title nor in my plans.

It’s humbling. It’s nerve-wracking. And it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.

Not because of the event itself, but because Jesus had and has His careful hand in every aspect of my life, and when I look and see where I’ve been and what I’m doing now, there’s no doubt in my mind about His goodness and His love for me.

Isn’t it great, this grace? That when our plans don’t work out as we originally hoped, we are held together. We are loved.

And maybe that’s the bigger point of this whole thing than having perfect plans.

 Further, I’ve come to see in a more tangible way that God has His own plans for me – and they are good:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

I don’t know what exactly these plans are for me at this moment in clear detail, but isn’t that faith, dear friends? Having the knowledge that God created our very hearts and thus the desires within, and has the loving-kindness to give us our hearts’ desires through His good plans for us?

So what then, referring back to Jeremiah 29:11, when we are harmed? When we are disappointed? When we are hurt? Certainly, these painful things will happen, even when we are smack in the middle of God’s good plans for us. Jesus tells us hurtful things will happen (John 16:33).

Could it mean God’s plans have gone awry? Does it mean that I should, indeed, fold and find security in my own painstakingly thought-out plans as an attempt to protect myself from being hurt?

That is the temptation, is it not?

You understand. In the midst of the plans God has for us and the plans we’ve made for ourselves, certainly we’ve been deeply hurt. We’ve been disappointed. We’ve been hurt by circumstances, by those who love us, by those in charge of us, and by those who hardly know us at all.

So what then, dear friends?

Beautiful news! As Christ’s children, we have a promise in those hard circumstances. This promise from our loving Father reveals even more of God’s good plans for us, and it assures us with a burst of light and hope and peace that nothing can change God’s good plans for us:

 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28)

 What a deep sigh of relief. And yet, this verse does not say, “If you are following God’s plan, you will not get hurt.”

Oh, friends. I do not like pain. But the joyful hope and redemption is this: in His good plans, God has a glorious purpose for us in every hurt. Tears spring to my eyes with the joy of this Love.

Here, God not only promises to work all things for our good (meaning, not just the good things – but the bad and hurtful things that happen too), but He also reminds us here that we were chosen for a purpose. For a plan. So when someone hurts us, when circumstances disappoint us, when we get sick, when we feel lost, when our own plans don’t work, these disappointing things will be used for our good by the Father who loves us most and who also promises us a plan for our lives so great we can’t even imagine it (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Considering these truths, I hardly feel the need to rely on or find security in my own plans. I do not feel the need to plan myself into safety. In fact, doing so feels silly.

How could my plan even compare to the plan my Heavenly Father has for me? And since God promises to work all things together for my good, from what must I plan to protect myself?

This is great news, friends!

Perhaps this is what Paul meant when he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil 4:4).

Paul did not say to rejoice when our plans work out. He said to rejoice always.

Perhaps it’s because he knew that which I am just now understanding: God’s plans for us are truly good and full of hope in every circumstance. And so, we rejoice!

Blessings upon your heart today. Blessings to you on a day planned just for you. Blessings to you who are made for a brilliant and grand purpose so delightful and lovely you can’t even fully understand it until you see Jesus face-to-face. Blessings to you who are safe in Him.

And praise to the God who loves us steadfastly, is faithful always, has good plans for us, and who also created big, blank calendars and multi-colored pens for His beloved planners 🙂

In His steadfast love and grace,

 

Robyn

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8).

So Good.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

Michael, Tucker, and I like to watch the world go by on our screened-in porch.

Tucker in particular likes to watch people walk to and fro on our street – bonus points if those people are walking a dog and making a lot of noise. In Tucker’s world, those are the best kinds of people.

Today, kitten’s ears pricked and his paws cupped his chin as he lowered his head to stalk the nearest movement. I looked up to see what grabbed kitten’s attention this time.

It was a toddler wearing plaid and his dad following him with careful hands always at the ready to catch a tumble.

The toddler chose his points of interest and without hesitation followed his tiny little heart’s desire to each new moment: the grass, the sidewalk, a small, flat boulder.

The toddler and his dad stopped at the boulder. The toddler slapped it and looked at his dad. The dad slapped it too and smiled and showed how to climb on. Toddler stared in determination and climbed, but cautiously stayed crouched down on all fours. The dad held out his hands and encouraged Toddler to stand on his own on top of the boulder he’d just conquered.

Boldly, the toddler stood on shaky legs, thrilled to pieces. But the cute thing was, he wasn’t really standing on his own. His dad was holding him with careful arms but Toddler didn’t notice. Toddler was too excited and pleased with life at the moment to notice. He smiled at his dad, and his dad smiled back. The toddler delighted in his boulder victory, and the dad delighted in his son.

It stirred in my heart: they are made in the image of God – the baby and the dad.

Just look at the wide-eyed curiosity and enthusiasm the toddler enjoys. I like to think that the God who made fluffy clouds and macaroni and cheese and slinkies and giraffes with long necks and ticklish spots is a creative and curious and enthusiastic God, just like the hopeful toddler.

 When Jesus’s disciples asked Him who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, Jesus responded this way:

“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2-4).

But my favorite part to watch might have been the toddler’s dad. While the toddler delighted in the world around him, in the flat boulder and the green grass, the dad delighted in his son. I like to think that’s how our Heavenly Father feels about us. The toddler’s dad was protective. He encouraged. He played. He smiled and he laughed along with Toddler’s squeals with kind eyes and when his son tried to run at top speed down a hill, the dad was there to run with him and slow him down because the short toddler legs were tying up in knots.

It reminded me of how sometimes all of us get tied up in knots. And Jesus tells us we have a Father “Our Father in heaven, Holy is your name…” (Matthew 6:9), who, David reminds us, is there with us in both the tangled knots and the victorious heights:

“Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar…If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:1-14).

So the dad delighting in his son is an image of our Heavenly Father. And the son smiling with delight is the image of our powerful, good, exciting God.

How God can reveal Himself through both the unashamed joy of a toddler and the unconditional love and security of a dad all at the same time is a mystery and a comfort. I like to think God has loving eyes and careful hands for His children like this dad on our street. And at the same time, I like to think God has excitement, adventure, and joy like the toddler exploring the land.

So if we are made in His image as sinful (but forgiven, my friends!) humans, how much greater, then, is this perfect God we serve? Mm. So good.

Things Learned As a Young, Jesus-loving Post-Grad Female – Two Years In

1.     Everyone doesn’t have it all together – no matter what Facebook and Instagram make it look like.

        You can see mine and Michael’s wedding pictures on social media, but what you don’t see is the months of pre-marital counseling, hard work, tears, and prayers that got us there with God’s love and help.
        You will see pictures of friends’ new jobs and their smiling faces on the way to their first day of work, but what you don’t see is the months and even years of job searching it took to get them to that exciting day. You are not the only one searching.
        You will see pictures (someday!) on my Instagram of the house that I am so excited to buy. What you won’t see is the year I spent living with my parents to save money on rent.
       As Louie Giglio said, “We don’t Instagram a lot of our reality, do we? If it’s not a good hair day, no selfie today!”
I’m all for sharing delightful, joyful pictures depicting God’s faithfulness and goodness and fluffy kittens and beautiful sunsets and elaborate dinners. My Instagram is proof of that. But I also finally realize that we are all real people behind our social media. No one has it all together. But, praise God! He does. And He holds everything together (Colossians 1:17).
      Jesus said “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). It takes wisdom and self-control, but I can’t let comparison steal, kill, and destroy my self-worth via social media. Jesus came so that we can have life, and have it abundantly – even if that abundant post-grad life feels different sometimes from those pictures on Facebook because it’s lived under the roof of a parents’ house to save money on rent, is spent searching for a job, is spent working hard for a marriage, or is spent at a job other than the one you wanted right off the bat. Despite the mirage of Facebook and Instagram, everyone is real. And we are promised an abundant life from the One who loves us most.

2.   Being anxious doesn’t add a single hour to anyone’s span of life. Matthew 6:27. I need this reminder daily. Hourly, even.

3.   When having a particularly bad day, it’s best to go do something active and listen to “Gold” by Britt Nicole or any fast songs by Mandisa. Seriously, do it. It will change your day. Mandisa understands – and she’ll make you dance on the treadmill while she’s at it. Really.

4.   On that note – Go for the run! Eat the ice cream, too! Both are glorious treats to end any work day. I would advise eating the ice cream second, however.

5.   Pray for the people who hurt you. Really. It’s healing for you, and it’s a blessing for them. Plus, you need God to do it. That’s the best position to be in.
Praying for hurtful people is hard, sanctifying, and beautifully freeing. I love the God we serve. He heals and blesses us in miraculous ways.

6.   Italian bread crumbs make any meal taste better. Literally. Pasta, chicken, green beans, everything. It’s a good idea to keep the 24 oz can handy in the pantry.

7.   It’s okay to start at square one. In fact, now I think it’s good to start at square one. I think sometimes as graduates we expect to have the jobs our parents had and the house our parents had and the budget our parents had, but what we forget is they started at square one, too. And they worked hard.

8.   Cleaning is a necessary evil. I like to start at square one with cleaning, too. For instance, I’ll put a load in the wash. Then I’ll take a break to watch a Boy Meets World rerun. Next I’ll switch the laundry. And then I’ll watch Love It or List It. Then somehow the cleaning gets done. Michael probably has a lot to do with that. But really, there’s nothing like getting home from work to a vacuumed carpet. It’s the little things.

9.   Coffee.

10.   Focusing on other people around you helps put things into perspective. If you tend toward worrying incessantly (like me) it’s also one of the best cures for anxiety, alongside thankfulness.

11.   Watching Pride and Prejudice is a surefire way to make any bad day better. If you’re female.

12.   You’re beautiful. Praise the Lord! All beautiful, actually – flawless. That’s in the Bible (Song of Solomon 4:7). So it’s true! Woohoo!! Don’t let the “frumpy” days fool or define you.

13.   A wise person once told me, “The work WILL get done.” And it does! It always does! At some point you need to take a break and do something you love. The work will get done. Far better to finish the work refreshed than to finish it cranky and at 1 in the morning.

14.  Reading scripture is not about checking a good deed off your list. It’s about being lovingly reminded in the midst of the busy work week of who you are and to Whom you belong.

15.  Upon entering the working world – give yourself grace. Something I think God has taught me is that He is not checking logged hours of reading the Bible or praying. No, that’s a perfectionist mindset. When you enter the working world, it’s different than college. Much less of your time is your own. Your day looks different. Your job can drain you in ways that a marathon of finals in college doesn’t even come close to. The pressure can feel constant – new employee, you are NOT ALONE in feeling that way! But what God promises is that He is the Constant One (Hebrews 13:8), and He loves to meet us where we are. Jesus surprises me with the reality that spending time with Him isn’t about proving that I love Him. It’s Him proving His steadfast love and graciousness. Performance-based mindsets need humility to receive that love. And about that constant pressure from your job – from personal experience, I bet the pressure is from your own “standards” and I bet you are doing an awesome job. ☺

16.   Your name. Your name happens to be Beloved Child of God (Eph 5:1). The world will try to call you lots of different things. Lots of things. Not always in words, even. Not always bad names, either. But, sometimes we take on burdens and identities based on how someone treats us. It’s a daily choice to remember your true name: Beloved. God has the final say. Rest in that.

17.   But really, above everything else, Jesus. All these good things come from Him. And He is good. All the time (Lamentations 3:22-23).

18.   Coffee. It’s worth mentioning again.

Praise God, for His loving mercy on us post-grads and all His children! ☺

Blessings to you, and peace,

Robyn