Demonstrating Your Faith (+Giveaway)

faith christian jewelry devotional divaI’m excited to share with you the first “feature post” on Devotional Diva!

FAITH Christian Jewelry is a family-owned and operated business that sells faith-promoting jewelry and gifts including Spirit and Truth, Bob Siemon, and many more.

 

Since we’re all about sharing your story on Devotional Diva, I asked Andrea from FAITH Christian Jewelry to share a little bit more about the people and story behind the business.

Who are the “faces” behind FAITH Christian jewelry?

The faces behind FAITH Christian Jewelry are just me and my husband Matt. He loves to geek out and build websites and I love to talk about religion. Therefore we thought what a great way to build a small store and have some fun. We have two kids who are the absolute joy of our life and are our inspiration for trying to build a small online store.

How did FAITH Christian jewelry get its start? How long have you been in business?

We have actually only been in business for a year. It was actually started as a hobby for my husband and I to do outside of our real jobs. As a stay-at-home-mom, I have been able to work on it a lot more and generate extra savings money we can put away every month. 🙂

faith christian jewelry on devotional diva

How has your business been a blessing to your family?

One of the biggest blessings to us has been the fact that we can continue to save for our kids’ college funds. This isn’t a business right now that will replace my husband’s job but it is nice to give us extra savings and perhaps a vacation every once in a while.

What kinds of items do you love to fill your store with?

My absolutely favorite items are the jewelry that help remind me to be strong when things aren’t going exactly to plan. Inspiring quotes and ideas are one of my absolute favorite things to look at online. One of my favorite rings to wear is my “Serenity to accept, courage to change, wisdom to know” Rom 8:28-30 ring. These are the types of pieces we love to carry!

faith christian jewelry kids heart cross
CROSS NECKLACE – CHILDREN’S KEY W/HEART

 

Why do you think it is so important to some people to be able to outwardly demonstrate their faith, like with jewelry, accessories and decor?

Not only do I think jewelry like this inspires yourself but it can also inspire those around you. When I see someone with a cross or another piece of religious jewelry, it helps me to know what they believe and that they rely on The Saviour as much as I do. But I think one of the best reasons to outwardly demonstrate your faith is to be an example to those around you. In today’s world it has never been more important to try and be an example of what it means to be a true follower of Christ.

FAITH Christian Jewelry is hosting a giveaway for Devotional Diva readers!

They’re giving away TWO $25 e-gift cards to the online store. That means there will be two winners. This giveaway is open internationally and will run for one week. I will contact the winners, but they will send the e-gift codes. All you need to do is answer the question in the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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I partnered with FAITH Christian Jewelry on this post and giveaway. It’s important to me to provide great content for Devotional Diva readers while helping to promote Christian businesses, bloggers and authors. I take who I partner with very seriously. You can learn more about feature posts and sponsorship on the sponsorship page here.

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How to Move On With Your Life

How to Move On With Your Life 2

One of the toughest questions to answer is how to move on with your life.

Why?

Because it’s both personal and painful. Unfortunately, it’s a question no one else can answer but you.

I’ll never forget a few years back when I sat in my church’s counseling office. I had booked an appointment last minute because my life at that time was in major crisis mode.

I never knew when I was going to have a panic attack or how long it would last.

But, I remember her vividly.

The lady whom I didn’t like or care for much. She was just someone who could see me at the last minute. Not to mention, I didn’t have to pay her an arm and a leg for counseling appointments. It was during our last visit that she told me,

“I think you should go back on your anxiety medication and stay on it for the rest of your life!”

Or maybe she said “for a long time.” I don’t really remember much after that. She scared the crap out of me. Her words hung over me like a death sentence.

***

Recently, I woke up. It was as if a light bulb suddenly went off inside my mind, and I yelled at the top of my lungs.

“I reject those words spoken over me by her.”

I said those words of freedom loudly and resolutely.

It was one of those rare moments of freedom I’ve experienced since that fateful day at the counselors office, and I didn’t want to let the moment go.

I want to be free of my anxiety.

I want to let go of my past.

I want to move on with my life.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been on anxiety medication before–a few times in fact.

It helped me when nothing else did.

What I appreciated about my nurse practitioner is that she took the time to listen to me. She didn’t just tell me there was nothing (or everything) wrong with me. When she diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a young 20-something–it felt nice to finally know what the heck was wrong with me!

But.

But anxiety medication was never prescribed as a forever pill.

It was meant for a temporary fix to help me through my moment of crisis (and I’ve had a lot).

***

I’m excited that I am ready to share my story!

Quote 12In my new book, Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me I share the good, the bad, and the ugly about forgiveness and how it took me a really long time to forgive myself.

I am no longer hiding.

I am a giant mosaic of brokenness, and I’m finally okay with it.

I know each piece, each layer has made me who I am: beautiful.

It reminds me of the story of Joseph. In Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, I share how God mightily turned around evil into good for Joseph and his entire family and extended families.

Friends, I believe you and I were intended for good.

Dr. Larry Osborne of North Coast Church asked a key question recently in a sermon on Joseph,

“Why do we have to get to the point of desperation before we let go?”

He also said that what we really think is self protection (or self-care) is really playing the perpetual victim. Joseph’s dad Jacob, couldn’t see that God was blessing him. All he could see was his grief and why he couldn’t let his family move on with their lives.

***

Going back to the story of her, and the reason why I was sitting in her office in the first place.

I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.

I thought I could handle working full time along with a brand spanking new literary career and my first book contract. For once in my life I wasn’t struggling with how to pay the bills or take care of my health.

Instead of viewing a new writing ministry as an opportunity for God to bless me (and something I had prayed many, many years for), I played the perpetual victim.

I didn’t want to move back in with my parents.

I didn’t want to give up my amazing ministry job that paid the bills.

I didn’t want to be “housebound” once again.

But that wasn’t what God had planned for me. And that wasn’t all God had planned for Jacob.

Thank God Almighty that He uses boneheads like Jacob and like me. And thank God the story doesn’t stop there.

God’s the kind of God that will sit there and help you pack your bags while you sob your eyes out. I did it. I’m sure Jacob thought he was losing his other favorite son for good.

But.

But God brought Marc into my life. He gave me a new home and an office (my first office)! And He gave me more book contracts!

If only I could go back in time and give my former self a hug and tell her what she thought was the worst thing ever was really the beginning of many blessings to come.

Would you pray for me as I move on with my life and go off my anxiety medication? How can I be praying for you?

[Photo: Tanya Puntti, Creative Commons]

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When Dreams Become Reality

when dreams become reality

[Guest Post by Joanna Hyatt – Thanks to my other site, Quarter Life Conference, I got to know Joanna. She said she would be glad to share about it on her site, and one thing lead to another, and now she’s sharing an encouraging piece on when dreams becoming reality for you all!]

This time a year ago, I was the Director of an established Non-Profit program with a growing national presence.

The job could have been mine for as long as I wanted it, bringing the opportunity for broader influence. Yet by May of 2012, I had walked away from that to pursue a different dream.

As great as that job was, it wasn’t quite where I envisioned my life going, where I felt I could be best used, what I thought was my calling. I felt so sure that I knew what this next chapter would look like, certain that the dreams I had been harboring in my heart were God’s dreams for me and would therefore happen as soon I had the faith to step out. 

“Calling” is a word we throw around a lot in Christian circles.

What is your calling in life?

What has God created you to do?

We then spend our lives searching for that perfect fit of job/family/life experiences, slightly in fear that we’ll miss it and therefore miss our purpose on this earth. As though we’ll get to heaven and God will say,

“You tried really hard and did some great work, but that’s not exactly what I had planned for you.”

It’s a fear I regularly have to battle and call out as a lie.

In this season where my reality hasn’t quite matched up with where I thought I would be at this point, Abba has been gently teaching me two very hard and yet freeing truths about dreams and calling:

1) What you do matters less than how you do it.

When I look in scripture, I don’t see God picking the CEO of the Fortune 500 companies for His big works. He tends to go for those who are doing the jobs the world would call lowly, socially insignificant, or common.

A young sheepherder and the youngest brother becomes a King, a teen mom the avenue for the world’s salvation, a tent maker the greatest evangelist ever, and a loud-mouthed fisherman the rock of His church.

What they all had in common was the attitude with which they did their work.

They were faithful in the small things, the mundane day-to-day tasks. They sought to serve God with their whole heart wherever He placed them, giving thanks for whatever their present circumstances might be. Most of our heroes in scripture never even saw their dreams realized, trusting only that their faithfulness today would bear fruit in the future.

In his devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes,

“A Christian worker has to learn how to be God’s man or woman of great worth and excellence in the midst of a multitude of meager and worthless things. Never protest by saying, “If only I were somewhere else!” We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people.”

Whether we are waiting tables or dining with presidents and rulers, our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who, “…made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…he humbled himself and became obedient to death.”

2) Love the Dream-Giver more than the dream.

Dreams are a good thing. Dreams are a God thing. I believe God has more planned for our lives than any of us could ever imagine, and He wants to continually surprise and delight us.

But those dreams are given as a way to experience Him, not as a replacement for Him.

When my focus becomes the dream, rather than the Dream-Giver, I risk becoming so intent on doing great things for Christ that I neglect to spent time with Christ.

Where I think I’m sacrificing so much through my time, energy, or resources, it may be that my greatest sacrifice at that moment is actually the surrendering of those dreams I believe God has given me.

The dearer the dream, the harder that is to do.

But as Jaimie Bowman put it so beautifully in her post When Dreams Die,

“Every great dream has to die at least once, for that is when the dream becomes less about us and more about Him.”

Success is not measured in numbers or accolades but in the quite and humble, “Yes,” to whatever God might ask of us today.

By letting go of my expectations and giving back the very gifts and dreams He has given me, I’m learning that’s really when dreams become reality. I’m also learning to live each day with purpose and joy. Whether I’m speaking to thousands or doing laundry and sweeping the floors, I can rest in knowing this is exactly where God would have me today.

Joanna HyattBased out of Los Angeles, Joanna Hyatt is a national speaker on dating, relationships and sex, and the author of The Sex Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents. She blogs at www.joannahyatt.com and tweets @JoannaHyatt.

[Photo: Angélica Vis, Flickr]

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For Such A Dream As This

dream

[Guest Post by Tiffany Dawn – My friend Rayni Peavy introduced Tiffany to me, and I am in-love with her story. Like her, I also quit my job to pursue writing and speaking. It shows just how much passion she has to follow God first. If any of you are struggling to follow His leading, keep reading!]

Wherever you are, God has known about this for years, before you had a clue.

He has strategically set pieces in place so that at this moment in history you could do what He’s called you to do.

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to walk into the dreams God planted in my heart as a little girl. Dreams that I thought were distant fantasies. Dreams I idolized, surrendered, and then dared not hope for.

Last summer I released a book called The Insatiable Quest for Beauty. My friends gave me the ultimatum–letting me know (in no uncertain terms) that it was time to get off my butt and finish the book I’d been stalling on.

I was waiting for a magical word from heaven saying, finish the book, but most often God works through ordinary people like you and me.

So I finished it.

I also finished my master’s degree, and started making room in my schedule to speak more often.

Then…nothing.

I felt like I was supposed to spend more time in a speaking ministry, but had no idea how to make that happen.

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8).

One day during a conversation about future goals, my dad asked,

“Tiffany, why are working full-time? Quit your job, move your belongings home, and go travel and speak around the country. What do you have to lose?”

It seemed crazy. No one knows who I am! This is literally impossible, but that’s the beautiful thing–because when something is impossible for us–it means He gets all the glory.

Here was the moment I’d waited for, and yet I felt like throwing up!

Leaving my church, friends, and apartment?

What if it didn’t work?

Leaving my 401K and salary?

How would I keep paying my student loans?

One Sunday during worship I had a holy moment, when the music fades and the voice of God wraps around you. He simply said,

“You are about to stand in awe of Me.”

I cried. I knew that if this was His will, He would make a way where there was no way. I put in my two-weeks notice for work. Gave away furniture and kitchen supplies. Moved to my parents’ house, four hours away.

I felt like Abraham, when God told him, “Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you” (Acts 7:3). Abraham left in faith, not knowing where he was heading or how he’d get there. I felt like that: Leaving all I knew for something I didn’t know. But I knew He’d called me, so I would never walk alone.

“Known to God from eternity are all His works” (Acts 15:18).

Here’s the thing. Unbeknownst to me, God had known about this from eternity.

While I’d been loving Him and loving others in everyday life, He’d been at work. While I was working a 9-5 desk job, He was allowing the seed to fall into the ground and die, so it could come to life. While I was getting my finances in order, He was putting things into motion that I had no idea about.

In October of last year (just six months ago) I started traveling. I was scared and had no idea what to expect, but God kept reminding me that my identity was only found in Him, not in ministry. He reminded me that my number one life calling was to know Him and make Him known, not to be a preacher.

So I relaxed.

I had fun.

I learned to trust Him.

And I was blown away.

Absolutely, completely blown away.

God started making divine connections with organizations and churches I never could have made myself.

I started hearing stories from people all over the country reading the book – stories of lives radically shifted, of lunges toward freedom. Things started to snowball, slowly but surely.

Recently I was amazed to see emails arriving from pastors and principals I’d never contacted, who heard about this ministry and want me to come speak. I was shocked to realize I am now bringing in more income than I have ever brought in at a job. Now I can give more! Sometimes I just want to laugh from pure giddiness because I can hardly believe my eyes–He is doing it. All the glory goes to Him; this is literally nothing I could ever accomplish.

I realized that He’s been setting this up for years. Before I had a clue!

He brought people into my life and then spread them out all over the country. Now I can stay with them, spreading the word about my book without worrying about hotel expenses.

He provided the skill sets I needed–through my job in Higher Education. He opened speaking engagements in secular settings through my master’s in music therapy. And the thing is – right now, there’s such a need for this message of identity. I was reading in Esther 4 and felt like verse 14 was for me:

“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise…from another place… Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Right now, wherever you are, God has been and is putting things into play that you cannot see.

He’s working behind the scenes, bringing together the pieces of the puzzle. When everything seems silent and dark, it’s not. He’s working. He’s putting them together so that right now, at this moment in history, you can do what He’s called you to do.

Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a dream as this?

Tiffany Dawn26-year-old author, speaker, and singer/songwriter Tiffany Dawn has escaped her native New York winters by traveling cross-country on a speaking and book tour. She shares her journey into freedom from struggles with body image and identity through “The Insatiable Quest for Beauty” book and seminar. With her master’s degree in music therapy, Tiffany serves as adjunct faculty at an online high school, where she teaches music classes, including “Intro to Songwriting.” Some of her favorite things to do are watch spy movies, take long walks, eat marshmallows, and grab coffee with her girlfriends.

[Photo credit: ayça. via photopin cc]

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Pursue A Dream

pursue a dream

[Guest Post by Alexandrea J. Wilson. When I met Alexandrea through social media I wasn’t expecting to find such a warm-hearted person. She seriously exudes (is that a word?) self-confidence and passion (my kind of girl). I hope you’ll welcome her once again as she shares about which dream to pursue.]

I have a confession. Sometimes I can feel really lost.

I mean totally and completely lost.

Not the lost where you need to turn on the GPS to find out how to get where you’re going. I mean the lost where I have so many passions, so many ideas, so many questions, so many desires that I don’t know where to go.

I’m currently in my final year of graduate school-not exactly on the schedule I originally planned but on the schedule I planned after plan A, B, C, and D fell apart.

As my years of being a student are coming to an end, I found myself doubting every choice to get me to this point.

I didn’t expect to feel like I made a mistake with my degree.

I didn’t expect to start to truly wonder, “do I really want to be a counselor for the rest of my life? Or even for the next few years-and that’s it?”

I started to panic because those were questions I was really not prepared to ask myself and was very afraid to answer.

I mean, I’m in my final year of GRAD school–you don’t exactly quit what you thought you loved to pursue something else. So I continued my course work like normal and figured the thoughts would go away, but they didn’t.

Things actually got worse.

So I prayed. I prayed for God to show me what my passions were, help me choose a path, give me comfort and peace as to what I should be doing. To help me identify my dreams because–to be honest–I wasn’t even sure I knew what they were.

I wasn’t sure which dreams I was inheriting from others and which dreams were my own.

So I reached out to people for encouragement.

I cried (a lot).

I totally ate a lot of chocolate (it’s my coping mechanism).

I wrote.

I prayed, and then I cried some more.

How can I pursue a dream when I don’t even know WHICH dream to pursue?

And then finally in a conversation with some very wise and strong women, I learned something: Pursue them all.

Experience is our greatest teacher and it is only when I begin to experiment with my dreams will I know which dreams to pursue.

Volunteer.

Take classes in certain topics.

Talk to people who are in the same career path.

Get out there and look at all the options.

It’s okay.

We all have various passions, and it’s okay to have them.

Cultivate all of your desires. If you’re a stay at home mom who is in love with homemaking and your family but you also love to write and want to see if you can do that professionally–take a writing class, start a blog! Do it!

If you’re a nursing home administrator who also loves theater–take an acting class or try out for the community theater.

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, and do not be afraid to pursue the things that interest you.

Even if no one understands your interests.

Even if you feel it in your gut.

It takes courage to pursue your passions. To believe in your inner voice and trust in God’s ability to provide the wisdom and strength to listen to Him, and do what He asks. Trust Him. He will surely give you all the tools you need to be able to find how He wants to use you.

May you find peace and happiness you pursue a dream.

Alexandrea J. Wilson is the Director of The Mt. Ephraim Center, an online Christian ministry that focuses on helping people create the family and life they love.
Her passions include encouraging others and constantly talking with God about the future He has planned for her! You can find her blog at www.TMECenter.org, her facebook page at www.facebook.com/TMECenter and chat with her on Twitter at twitter.com/ajwilson412

[Picture: nicole.pierece.photography, Creative Commons]

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Becoming My Best Self

becoming my best self

[Guest post by Catherine Hawkins. I just met Catherine, and I am already glad we met. After submitting her first piece, I read it and thought how much I still feel this way. Maybe you or I will never quite feel like a grown up, but that’s okay too. Enjoy her piece!]

When I was little, I pictured my future self as a fully functioning adult.

I thought there would be one defining moment when I would suddenly say, Yes, I have become a woman, and the road after that would be solid and straight–no more of this winding uncertainty that seemed to be the mark of growing up.

I sometimes call myself a “recent college graduate,” although that seems misleading now that it’s been almost two years.

I still wrestle with what it means to be a “grownup.”

Does it mean moving out of your parents’ house?

Having a full-time job with benefits?

Owning a car, being married, having babies, having a mortgage?

If those are the marks of adulthood, I am failing miserably.

In one of many conversations with my father about this nagging fear that I wasn’t “measuring up,” my father said:

“That’s the big secret, Catherine. No one feels like an adult.”

It was strange to hear him, the man who raised me, say that he still does not feel like a grownup. If this 6’2″, bearded, hard-working man doesn’t feel like an adult, there is no hope for this girl.

I have always been a passionate person, so I was shocked at the heaviness graduation presented.

I loved so many things, yet I felt paralyzed.

I couldn’t commit and I couldn’t decide, and all these dreams that had seemed so beautiful – so attainable –now seemed far from possible. I felt my passion seeping away, and the fear that I have always tried to suppress came roaring out of me, immobilizing me with its strength.

For a year, I juggled part-time jobs, searched the internet for The Perfect Job, and struggled to name the growing anxiety I felt. Trusting God is difficult, and it gets even harder when you can’t envision the next week, let alone the next year.

In late August, I was thrown into a job that I never dreamed I would have.

A friend from college recommended me to a Latin teaching job at a Christian school. I think my response was:

“Oh my gosh, are you serious?”

She was serious and I was intrigued, and I knew as soon as I walked in for the interview that this was where I was supposed to be.

Since then, I have been stretched and challenged, and every day I wake up and think:

“Wow, so I do it again? I go to the same place again? I teach Latin again?”

This will be a lifelong struggle, I think, becoming okay with repetition, with rhythms.

It seems God doesn’t wait for us to grow up. He pushes us along and says,

“Trust me.”

The other day, I watched the kids gather their backpacks and head for home.

The hall was full, the kids were happy, and I watched, smiling. One of my sixth grade girls saw me through the window. Her eyes lit up, and she waved excitedly.

“Hi, Miss Hawkins!” she said.

I waved back. And then I thought,

“Oh my gosh, I have become Miss Hawkins.”

I am becoming my best self.

I thought I would be so different by this point, that I would have everything figured out. I thought I would have settled down into a calmer, more thoughtful, more loving me.

It should be noted that the very same evening after I was joyously called “Miss Hawkins” and admired for my “pretty outfits,” I got in a fight with my sister over the silliest thing. My life is a constant foil of itself.

Becoming Miss Hawkins has taken less time than I thought.

At the same time, the result is very different, too. I am still, in a lot of ways, the same girl I was when I was seven, planning Laura Ingalls Wilder Club meetings, writing stories, and wishing someday to be a beautiful, smart, kind writer-woman who surrounds herself with lovely people and good books.

I have ninety-nine children who call me Miss Hawkins. Ninety-nine people who will always think of me as their Latin teacher, their Magistra, the one who sang all the time and laughed too much at Latin jokes.

I have officially become Miss Hawkins.

catherine hawkinsCatherine Hawkins is a lover of words, music, coffee, and sunlight. She recently found herself teaching Latin, and she hopes to keep doing so for a good long time. She writes about these and other things at http://catherineannehawkins.com.

[Picture: Danikapierce, Creative Commons]

 

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Becoming a Stay At Home Dad

stay at home dad

[Guest Post by Sonny Lemmons. One of the most humble and equally funny writers I’ve (never) met. Can’t wait to meet Sonny, an amazing stay at home dad/writer at Story Chicago Conference this Fall. I hope more people stop judging SAHD’s after reading this article.]

I wish I could say that when Ashley and I got married there was a period of adjustment that was difficult.

Because drama and tension always make great stories, right?

I’d heard tales of horror from male friends who talked about the unbalanced selection of decorations in their now joint living situation (saying goodbye to exposed stereo wiring and unframed posters on the wall), the days and nights when everything was done together with no “me time” built into the schedule, or how Saturdays were spent…shopping…filling in the gaps of essentials not purchased from those registries you spent so much time constructing.

But other than an ongoing debate over the proper technique one should use when squeezing toothpaste out of a tube (back to front; is it really that hard to understand?), my inability to be dexterous enough to fold a fitted sheet, or a clear phobia one of us possess over replacing an empty toilet paper roll, it was relatively easy.

We were just two friends who got along great.

Once we became an “us,” it was merely an extension of the dynamic that was already there. For the period of time when we were without a kid, life was more or less simple: everything from cooking to laundry (minus folding the aforementioned fitted sheets) to spending afternoons drinking coffee and hanging out at a bookstore was done in tandem as equals.

And it wasn’t the birth of our son that threw everything out of joint and made living together difficult. It was me becoming a stay at home dad.

And I have to be honest–the bulk of it was my fault.

When Kai was a baby, I fell into a routine of taking care of everything around the house. Part of it was motivated out of boredom (infants sleep a lot, and there’s really nothing daytime TV has to offer), but the bulk of it was motivated by a sense of obligation to Ashley.

She was the one at work, providing for us to have a place to sleep and be able to afford food, so the least I could do was make sure when she got home the apartment was clean, laundry was put away, and dinner was ready. Every day.

Just call me John Cleaver.

She continually told me to not worry about making sure everything was perfect in the house. My priority was to make sure the several-month-old infant I was taking care of was fed, played with, got to see sunshine instead of just fluorescent lighting, and was loved on like crazy.

I never slacked off in those duties, but I always felt like I had to do more, be more, give more.

It was my responsibility to take care of everything. I was obliged to take care of it all. Otherwise, I believed it wouldn’t get done. Or, she might think I wasn’t pulling my equal weight. In hindsight, it might have been beneficial had we sat down and actually talked about these things and my feelings, but I just let it fester and grow. And the loss of love as my driving force to take care of her caused me to start resenting Ashley.

My misplaced sense of obligation to Ashley caused an unhealthy balance in our relationship.

I was swearing under my breath at a bedsheet with rounded corners because I felt I had to be the one to be responsible for it all. The foundation for everything we had experienced as a couple up to that point was in danger of eroding because I was too busy focusing on the “how” of us and not the “being”of us.

To be honest, four years after I became a stay at home dad–we’ve still not completely resolved this dynamic.

Ashley has even stated she sometimes feels an expectation for me to take care of everything around the house because I have done it for so long. And once Kid Number Two arrives in June, things will become even more complicated.

We’ll just all need to grab a corner and learn to fold together.

sonny lemmonsSonny Lemmons (yes, that is his real name) fancies himself a writer of stuff, a receiver of grace, and a drinker of coffee. At least one of these can be quantifiably proven true. He and his wife Ashley have one manic ball of energy (Malakai) and are expecting their second diaper creator in June 2013. A stay at home dad for almost four years now, Sonny can usually be found Tweeting (@sonnylemmons), blogging (www.lookthrough.net) or doing laundry while his son is sleeping.

[Photo: Gilzpics, Creative Commons]

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Moving Back Home With Parents

moving back home with parents

[Guest post by Diana Palka] – There’s really no glamorous way to come to terms with moving back home with parents.

It’s not that it’s a wretchedly horrific concept–in fact, I didn’t think much of it until I was here. But once the excitement of graduation fizzled away and I settled into a non-academia life for the first time in 22 years, it hit me.

All of the sudden, there was this abrupt realization that I’d entered the front end of a cumbersome transition from a built-in community to a community-less environment.

It’s a transition that no one talks about.

Without anticipation, life was a little lonely. Instead of spending nights in the living room of my apartment with roommates and an intense game of Catch Phrase, they were spent alone in my childhood bedroom. A 10 by 10 bungalow on the second floor of my parents’ home.

Instead of falling asleep on the couch with The Bachelor blaring in the background and my roommates’ boyfriends sneaking in and out of our perpetually cracked-open door, I slept nestled underneath a down comforter in a twin-bed that’s not quite long enough for my 5’11” frame.

A majority of my high school friends had either moved to new cities or stayed in the same cities where they’d attended college.

Gone were the random slip and slides on the quad. Gone were the free movie and bowling nights at the theater slash bowling alley slash arcade in the smallest rural town in the state of South Carolina. There were no more late-night rendezvous to star-gaze on the practice soccer field. No more mattress surfing or impromptu “Real Men of Genius” contests on the lawn beside the lake.

All of it was different.

Now don’t get me wrong, my relationship with my parents is wonderful. They’re the type of parents who have been involved in my life and my interests for as long as I can remember. Their support of me, my sisters and our decisions was and is made obvious through their continual love and encouragement. Bar none.

Moving back home was an adjustment and I had to re-learn how to “live together” with my parents.

It meant being courteous enough to answer my mom’s text and say, “No, I won’t be home for dinner tonight.” It meant pitching in and doing the dishes–even if I didn’t dirty them. It meant calling my dad on the way home from work and asking, “Do you need anything from the store?”

As humans, we hate adjustments and we hate change– even the jingling kind. We don’t like being uncomfortable and we don’t like when our normal is interrupted, flip-flopped or altogether rearranged. It’s awkward and it’s inconvenient.

But it’s in these moments of life–irritation that we are stretched and pulled and tested. It’s in these moments of gross discomfort that we are growing–even if it feels like we took a giant step back toward being high-school versions of ourselves.

Change propels us toward the person we were created to become.

And “becoming” is a process.

It’s a perpetual and, at times, redundant but in the end – it’s so good.

The fact of the matter is that in May 2011, I wasn’t ready to live on my own. (The real kind of living on my own – not the college kind.) I wasn’t ready to pay rent, make sure the doors were locked before I went to bed or remember to buy toilet paper because I ran out–again.

Moving back home with my parents was a necessary stepping stone in the path to being ready.

Moving back to a place that was vacant of the rich-community I’d grown so accustomed to in college really forced me to step outside of my comfort zone.

I had to look for community–because community wasn’t looking for me.

I had to make it happen.

I had to pray–and I had to be intentional about fostering quality relationships.

(If I didn’t, I’d be an island).

And now – as I prepare to move to a new city on my own – I can finally say (with only a little bit of healthy hesitation) I’m ready!

Diana PalkaDiana Palka is a Long Island-based writer, runner, lover of words and life-long learner. She has a passion for brave vulnerability that exposes the ugliest of impurities in the light of His perfecting grace. You can read more of her writing on her blog, On The Heights or at the Good Men Project where she serves as the Associate Editor for Education, Humor and Gender.

[Photo: Robert S. Donovan, Creative Commons]

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Moving Out and Living On Your Own

moving out and living on your own

A day or so after I decided on the theme for March–I read an article in the February 2013 issue of Marie Claire that caught my attention.

It was written by a young and witty woman named Lauren Mechling. In her article House Mate, she says,

“At 26, I moved into a typical Brooklyn apartment–two bedrooms connected by a windowless living room–with a good friend…When we signed the lease, my roommate was nursing a broken heart and wanted a fresh start. But a few months later, her ex started to appear with increasing frequency, lounging on the sofa and strumming a guitar in his pajamas. One afternoon, a month before our lease was up for renewal, she emailed me: ‘Will you be home tonight? I need to talk to you.'”

I’m pretty sure I know why the article caught my attention.

Maybe it’s because the same thing happened to me.

Well, almost.

“By the sixth roommate talk, I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me” she continues.

Yep.

Been there. Done that.

How many roommates did I lose because I was the last one to find a man?

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re tired of feeling lonely.

Tired of looking for yet another roommate.

Here’s my favorite quote from the article:

“This time, the idea of renting the room to another slew of female drifters seemed too bleak to bear. I’d wake up and the walls would seem to be falling in on me. I needed to move out in order to move on. After years of living with women on their way to committing, it was time for me to commit–to myself, and an apartment that I could call my own.”

I was so inspired by her article that I asked Lauren for an interview–and she said yes!

Below are three tips on moving out and living on your own!

“Was there a particular moment of epiphany or thought where you felt you needed to move out in order to move on?” I asked.

“I’d been happily living in the apartment for years. It wasn’t until after a very difficult break-up that I needed a change of scenery. I recall lying on top of my corduroy duvet cover, trying to concentrate on my novel while the sound of my roommate and her boyfriend’s voices filtered into the room. They were debating over what neighborhood to move to. Meanwhile, my bedroom light was all flickery and the closet door would no longer slide all the way shut. It seemed like a sign.”

“There are many girls, including myself, who have been the roommate left behind. What word of advice or encouragement would you give to the woman who feels alone?” I asked.

“First off, I’m sorry to hear that! Being left behind is doubly hard because a) you feel lousy about yourself, as if you lost some game you didn’t even realize that you were playing and b) you feel another layer of terrible for finding it hard to be doing jumping jacks of joy over somebody else’s good news. Yet it’s forgivable to be grumpy. Somebody close to you is moving on–quite literally. My advice to the woman who feels alone? Nurture your non-romantic relationships. Society places so much value on pairing off, but as I get older and now know what the inside of a marriage looks like, I realize what short shrift friendships get. They can be so complex, satisfying and life-enhancing. And the happier and sillier and richer your life is, the likelier you are to stumble upon the unexpected–be it a new-found passion for Norwegian indie rock or, um, other stuff. . .”

“For those who cannot afford to buy their own apartment, is there a next-best advice you can give to those who need help moving on with life?” I asked.

“Yeah–buying a place is SO NOT the solution (I didn’t get enough space in the article to get into what a financial disaster it all was). What really helped me feel better was to take ownership of my space and to be good to myself. So I’d say don’t be passive and let your surroundings get you down. A friend of mine is in a similar situation (living with a roommate, finding dating to be the pits) and said after reading my story she wants to get her own apartment. We talked about how she doesn’t have to go into debt. She can paint her room and treat herself to a few cute pieces of furniture. I’m also encouraging her to buy a puppy. But that might be because I wouldn’t mind having one to borrow.”

QUESTION: Whether you’re moving out of your parents home for the first or twentieth time, what scares you the most about living on your own?

Lauren MechlingLauren Mechling is an author and editor living in New York. You can read her blog here, and about her books here.

[Photo: pixieclipx, Creative Commons]

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The Benefits of Living Together

the benefits of living together

Around Christmas time, I was walking Star–my dog–and stopped to talk to my neighbor.

I told him how excited I was that this was going to be my second Christmas with Marc. His immediate question was,

“So when are you getting married?”

Shocked, I said that we were already married. His next reaction was priceless.

“Good. As it should be.”

Wait, what?

Why is it that we presume all young adults who are living together aren’t married?

Maybe because less and less people delay marriage until they’re in their upper 20’s and early 30’s.

Maybe because young adults in church look (and act) no different from those not in church.

I apologize if this is offending anyone or stirring up needless drama. This really is the first time I’ve written on the topic–and this time I’m not wussing out. It is not my aim to judge or condemn anyone, but to pose the distinct question:

What does it really look like to do life together in a healthy way?

I’m not just talking about living together inside or outside the context of marriage. I’m talking about Acts 2 where the believers lived together and had everything in common (Acts 2:44).

Whether you’re single, married, divorced, or living with roommates or parents–it’s a question I find myself asking quite often, especially in the first year of my marriage.

I’m totally stealing this from The Sacred Search, a new book by Gary Thomas. In it he says,

“God made you a sexual being but commands you to restrict sexual activity to marriage (1 Cor. 6:15-20; 7:36-38; 1 Thess. 4:3-7). At a certain point, for some of you it will become overwhelming difficult, to the point of courting temptation, to delay the marriage that will allow a holy expression of sexual activity” (The Sacred Search, page 84).

When Marc and I got married I was scared.

Terrified.

It is by the grace of God I waited until marriage for sex, and also for living together. It wasn’t because God made me or my parents forbid it, but because I truly desired to have a physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy marriage from the start.

When I say there are benefits to living together it’s because I’ve lived them.

Not because I’m making you see my point or telling you what to do. I can only tell you what I am experiencing and what I’m experiencing has been nothing short of a miracle.

It wasn’t until I got married that I realized how unhealthy I was living.

Through Marc, God showed me it was the way I was living that was causing me pain–and I didn’t even know it. I was living at my parents, and not watching my eating habits. I was in an abusive relationship with someone I thought was my “best friend.” I wasn’t exercising regularly and my anxiety was out of control.

Just because I was living a pure lifestyle (by Biblical standards) didn’t mean I was healthy.

Not everything is beneficial. Twice in the Bible it says,

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12 & 10:23).

I’m so glad God didn’t let my impulsive behavior get in the way of Him bringing Marc into my life. So often I try to outrun God. To make things happen on my own simply because I can.

This.

Is.

Not.

Healthy.

Living together with Marc has shown me a softer side.

A gentler side. A more (gulp) patient side of life. One that doesn’t assert his or her own way, but submits and surrenders to God. As a result of our healthy lifestyle I’ve been able to get back in the gym, eat more healthy and let go of hurtful friendships.

That’s why I’m starting this series. It is my hope to create conversations, ask the tough questions, and allow God’s Spirit to lead and guide.

What does healthy living look like for you?

I can’t tell you, but God certainly can.

I can’t wait for God to reveal to you the benefits of healthy living that are nothing short of a miracle–like He has in my life.

[Photo: craigCloutier, Creative Commons]

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