To Have Purpose

When I was single, I thought that I would only find purpose if I had a boyfriend. When I was dating, I thought that life would only have meaning if I was married. Now I’m married to an amazing guy, yet I caught myself just the other day wondering if having kids would give me the fulfillment I felt that I was lacking. What does it mean to have purpose?

I felt like I had “arrived” (whatever that means) when my sweet husband and I rented our first home, bought our first couch, and settled into a routine together. But then I wanted to buy a “better” couch, buy a “better” house, and get “better” jobs. I wanted us to get more education and more possessions and more friends and more fun experiences. Where does the cycle end?

What does it mean to have purpose? | www.graceupongracetoday.com

What is My Purpose?

Having grown up attending a Christian school that was affiliated with a Presbyterian church, I learned the Westminster Catechism. I remember reciting lines and lines of it before my fifth grade Bible teacher. Over a decade later, there’s only one line I can still repeat word for word: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” (You can find the Westminster Shorter Catechism at Creeds.net.) Therefore, what is our purpose? That we glorify God and that we enjoy God.

John Piper is oft quoted as proclaiming: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” I see “satisfaction” as being parallel to “enjoyment.” Likewise, Piper argues that God’s demanding of our praise and adoration “is his highest virtue, and your highest joy.” That is our purpose.

What About…?

The human life does not seem to line up with that, unfortunately. Typical American Christianity argues that family and prosperity are the chief ends of man. One of the two Christian radio stations in my area is touted as being “family-friendly” and consistently relays information directed at parents and children. It is as if singles and couples without (or with grown) children are somehow less Christian. I get the message that the radio station is not for me because I do not have kids.

Is a spouse, 2.5 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence what Christianity is supposed to look like? We are all too guilty of turning our “American Dream” into a “Christian” goal. Have we forgotten that the Savior of the world did not own a home or get married or have a savings account? What did he do? He glorified God.

A home and a marriage and a savings account and a family are good. But they are not the best. In summing up Philippians chapter 1, John Piper explains: “Christ is glorified in you when he is more precious to you than all that life can give or death can take.”

“Nothing Can Separate Us”

See, “life” can give a child. “Life” can give a house. “Life” can give a spouse and a job and a retirement plan. “Life” can give those vacations you’ve always wanted and the next item in your collection and the car you have dreamed about. We forget that death can also take those things away. What are we left with at the end of the day? Either Christ or an eternity without Him. The Apostle Paul writes that “nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” Not even death. Yet, death can separate us from literally everything else.

“To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain”

Why would I not value Christ Jesus higher than everything else? In life, I have the opportunity to love Him, to serve Him by ministering to others, and to enjoy Him and all that He has made. In death, I have the joy of spending eternity worshiping Him and enjoying His literal company. To the Apostle Paul, life was good and death was also good, because both meant that he got to be with Jesus.

Living in the state of constantly wanting more and better and bigger has left me tired and empty. I realize now that getting a boyfriend did not complete me. Neither did getting married. Neither will having kids. I will only find my purpose when I glorify God, when I make much of Him, when I enjoy Him, and when I am satisfied in Him.

What does it mean to have purpose?

It means finding everything I need in Christ. It means going to Him first when I am sad, stressed, overjoyed, or at peace. It means not self-medicating with the things of this world when only God will satisfy. It means I do not compare my life with my Instagram feed – I compare it to Scripture. It means I do not ask Google what it thinks about my life choices – I ask God. It means I choose to cultivate friendships with people who love God and challenge me.

John Piper writes that when we realize our purpose, we see the treasure that Christ Jesus really is. We want to share him with others because we know His intrinsic value. We want to give freely of our money because obeying God by serving others is more important than our retirement plans. We want to deny our immediate desires in order to do what God immediately desires.

Deny Yourself

What does it mean to have purpose?

Jesus said that if anyone is to follow Him, they must deny themselves. I do not want to deny myself. I do not want to give up what I want. But what if the way to purpose, satisfaction, and joy is by obedience to someone other than my desires? Yes, family is good. Children are good. Homes and cars and savings accounts are good. But these are not my ultimate goals. These are not my ultimate priorities.

Counter-intuitively, my goal is to deny myself my desires in order to serve the God who already owns everything in the universe. The beautiful part of this is that God does supply my desires when I put my joy in Him first and foremost.

See, my goal is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. That will give me purpose, joy, and fulfillment even when the outward circumstances of my life do not look picture perfect.

What practical choices can you make in your life today to find your purpose in Christ?

Guest Post: Why God Calls Me To Submit to My Husband – And Why I Gladly Do It

Today I have the joy of featuring a guest post from the lovely Madison of From This Day Forward. You can read more about her at the end of this post, but I want to go ahead and let you in on a little secret: her words about this divisive topic are refreshing and true, and reading this makes me actually want to submit to my husband! She does not shy away from God’s Word in this post or in any of her writing. I am honored to call her an excellent author and a sweet friend.

{This post contains an affiliate link. See my policies page for more information.}

Why God Calls Me To Submit to My Husband Becoming One Devotional for Wives

“Submission? I will never let a man control me! There is no way that I am going to let my future husband rule over me like I’m some kind of slave!”

Sassy, I know. I said phrases like that very often before I started dating and got married. I was a headstrong, independent (or so I liked to think) young woman who really didn’t know the first thing about true biblical submission. To be honest, I think a lot of women nowadays don’t truly know what it means, either. The world tells us that being a submissive wife shows weakness and timidity. It tells us that if we submit to our husbands, they will abuse us and run us down. It tells us that submission is an evil thing that should be avoided at all costs.

If we look at what the Bible tells us, though, it is the exact opposite! God created submission for our benefit. It is not a punishment or burden, but a huge part of what makes marriage more fulfilling and joyful.

There are some things that I had to learn before I could truly submit to my husband the way God called me to. It wasn’t (and still isn’t at times) easy to do, but it is rewarding for my marriage in so many ways.

I had to realize that my husband’s God-given role is to be the leader and head of our home, while MY God-given role is to stand beside him as his helpmeet.

My husband is called to submit to God in order to be the leader he is made to be. I am called to submit to God first and foremost, then to my husband. Our roles should never be switched. If they do, there will be chaos! I believe God created our families to run this way for a reason.

Our husbands are called to love us like Christ loved the church (His Bride) in every aspect of our marriage. Christ loves His church by leading, teaching, and providing for us. We are called to submit to His authority and let him lead our families in the way we should go. Isn’t that a great model of submission in marriage as well? Everything Christ does, He does out of love for us. Your husband should be striving to lead your family in the way Christ leads the church.

I believe another reason why women have a hatred for submission is because they believe, as women, they are required to submit to every man in the world. That is yet another lie!

True biblical submission only requires that a wife submit to her own husband. A woman is not obligated or required to submit to all men in general.

I am so thankful for this! My husband is a Godly, loving and compassionate man who would do anything for me. He is a strong leader and wonderful mentor, and I look up to him a lot. As for the majority of men in this world, I would not even want to be around them; much less be their wife! The good news is I am only called to submit to the man I chose to love forever, my husband.

So, I’m sure you’re wondering, what exactly does biblical submission look like? Do I have a say in anything that goes on in our marriage and life, or is that only my husband’s job?

You DEFINITELY have a say in every single aspect of your marriage and life!

You and your husband should ALWAYS consult each other before making any decisions in your life or marriage. You are a team; your husband is just the team leader!

Before I got married, I thought that submission meant that I would have to let my husband make all of the decisions without consulting me or my opinions. Wow, what a misconception!

Why God Calls Me To Submit to My Husband - Becoming One Devotional for WivesYour husband should most definitely be including you in ALL of the decisions that affect you and your family. If he doesn’t, then he is not being the leader that he is called to be. He should be coming to you for advice and input, as well as your opinion and how you feel about things. His number one priority should always be God’s will, you, and your children (in that order). Being a submissive wife just means that you trust your husband to make the right decisions. It means that you are okay with whatever decision your husband ultimately decides to make regardless of which path you would have chosen yourself. Even when it is hard to let go of the desire to control, we are called to let our husbands lead us.

Jesus provided the perfect example of submission when he went to the cross. He submitted to God and His will, even if it was not the path he would have taken.

When I need a powerful example of biblical submission to go by, I look at Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). He went to the garden to pray because He knew He was about to go to the cross. It was taking a huge toll on Him, and he felt as if he was dying already. Through all of that stress and sadness though, Jesus prayed “Father, if it’s possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. But let your will be done rather than mine.” (Matt. 39) That sends chills down my spine! If Jesus, the King of Kings, can go to the cross and be brutally beaten to death and still say “not my will but Yours,” what is stopping us?

It is God’s will that my husband and I submit to Him and that I submit to my husband. Even when it is hard, we can still practice submission. God can help us! All we have to do is ask Him.

Pray for your husband; that he will be the true leader that God calls Him to be. Remember that your husband will never be perfect and he will make mistakes. Even so, trust him. Help him remember to seek God in all that he does and always follow His will.

Becoming One: A 30-Day Devotional for Wives

If you want to invest in your marriage and learning how to truly become one with your husband, I have the perfect resource for you! I just released my new e-book Becoming One: A 30-Day Devotional for Wives! It is designed to help wives grow closer to their husbands while also growing closer to God. To learn more about Becoming One and purchase it for yourself or a friend, visit this link.

About the Guest Poster:

Madison is a follower of Jesus, wife to Steven, and mommy to her fur baby Bentley. She strives to encourage and equip wives to grow closer to God and their husbands on a daily basis. She loves to spend time in the Word of God, go on dates with her husband, whip up treats in the kitchen and travel the world when she can. In all that she does, she strives to please God most of all.

To read more of Madison’s reflections on marriage, you can read her blog.

If you’re interested in reading more about working together within a submissive marriage, see my thoughts on teamwork in marriage.

What Does it Mean to be Held By God?

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

-Matthew 5:25-34

What does it mean to be held by God? | Thoughts by Grace Upon Grace Today

What have you been anxious about recently: upcoming bills? School or work requirements? Broken relationships? As women, we are faced with so many obligations, concerns, and worries every day. It is exceedingly difficult to heed our Heavenly Father when He commands: “Do not be anxious about anything…” (Philippians 4:6, NIV)

You may be wondering how you can just stop being worried. The fact is God isn’t asking us to avoid our emotions or shun our feelings. Instead, He is asking us to bring our worries before Him “by prayer and petition,” as Paul says in Philippians 4:6. He is asking us to acknowledge Him and trust Him as bigger and more powerful than anything else on our minds or hearts.

Sometimes it seems as if the insufficient paycheck, the infertility, or the illness has knocked us out of the loving arms of Christ. In fact, the opposite is true. Our Heavenly Father encourages us to turn back to Him and to trust Him in our worries. He is holding us tightly in His grip despite the anxieties within us.

Sisters, when you feel far from the Lord due to life’s uncertainties, turn towards Him again in prayer. Rely on His grip around your life. He will not let you fall. He holds even the birds in His hands; He definitely holds you.

This devotional originally appeared in the April 2017 edition of Her Binder Project, a free printable devotional for women. Click here to see what else I have written for Her Binder Project.

What does it mean to be held by God? | Thoughts from Grace Upon Grace Today

5 Things that Surprised me about Marriage

Last week marked ten months of marriage, and my husband and I are eager to celebrate our one year anniversary very soon. In this relatively short time, I have come to realize that so many things I once thought about marriage are simply not true! I thought I might share some of these marriage surprises so you could commiserate – some hilarious and some not-so-funny.

Marriage Surprises | Things That Surprised Me Once I Got Married - perfect for newlyweds | graceupongracetoday.com

{This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our policies page for more information.}

Morning Breath

When I thought about all the joys of romance in marriage, sleeping in the same bed and waking up next to my sweet husband was top on my list. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to flutter my eyelids open, roll over, and peck my sweetheart on the lips? …gross. The first time I tried it, we both had such terrible morning breath that I vowed to never try that again! We still like to cuddle some mornings when have time, but definitely not kissing.

It Still Takes Work

Before we got married, we met with an older married couple from our church for mentoring and we worked through a pre-marital study book together. We also met with our associate and lead pastors, and we gleaned advice from other couples and from various books. (We spent quite a bit of time and money on our wedding, and I felt like we were spending more on our marriage!) There was a lot of effort put in up front. However, after our honeymoon and as time went on, we realized that we could not just “coast” through our marriage. When things got difficult or other obligations got in the way of our proximity and connection to each other and to God, we fought more and we felt less close. One morning, I woke up and realized that I could not simply set the car of my marriage on “neutral.” I had to continue to invest in our relationship. I realized that marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. When you put in the extra work, you get to enjoy it.

Some Things Matter More Than Others

You want to know a simple way to make your marriage better? Ask your husband what matters to him! It blew my mind when someone gave me this advice. Here’s the thing: My husband does not really care if the house is spotless or the bed is made or the kitchen floor is clean. He values having clean clothes and something to eat. When I realized this, I was able to stop trying to be SuperWife and instead be the wife that he needs and desires. I choose to focus on laundry and grocery shopping first. Yes, the kitchen floor gets swept, but I focus on how to serve him how he desires it first. Likewise, he does the same for me! I love that he picks up extra work on the weekends sometimes, because it helps the budget. I also love when he’s home on the weekends. We are able to work out a schedule each month that satisfies both of us as well as the budget.

Socks… Socks Everywhere

Since I graduated high school, I always lived with female roommates and/or housemates. I know what it is like to walk around someone else’s laundry or dishes. However, I was just not fully prepared to find socks on the living room floor that no one will pick up until I pick them up on laundry day. At first, I became angry with my husband: How dare he leave his stinky socks on my floor? But honestly? It’s not that big of a deal, and I am thankful that he is home long enough to take off his socks in the evenings. Sometimes I ask him to pick them up (which he does gladly), and sometimes I gather them up with the rest of the laundry. It’s not worth yelling over – most things aren’t.

Men are Different From Women

I know, newsflash, right? Even though we married women roll our eyes at this one, we too often assume that our husbands think and feel just like we do. Ironically, my wonderful, sweet husband is just plain different from me. He has strengths in areas where I have weaknesses, and he has weaknesses where I have strengths. Case in point: Our kitchen sink began leaking around the seal. My husband cleaned it up, examined the sink, and made a plan for how to reseal it. Then he left the wet towels by the sink. At first, I only saw the wet towels. I did not see his effort in repairing the sink. His thought-processes work differently than mine, but that’s a good thing. Did God not create man to lead woman and woman to be man’s helpmeet? We need each other in a beautiful way.

Marriage Surprises | Things That Surprised Me Once I Got Married - perfect for newlyweds | graceupongracetoday.com

What have been some of your marriage surprises?

Mother’s Day: Beautiful Unique Gifts

As a newlywed, this year will be my first mother’s day with a mother-in-law. I have been racking my brain for what would make a nice gift. Honestly, this sweet lady raised my wonderful husband during his difficult years – I want to honor her with something special! I am so excited to have collected these gorgeous and unique mother’s day gift ideas to share. These gifts are perfect for mothers and mothers-in-law, and also grandmothers, aunts, nieces, and sisters-in-law. If you are looking for beautiful, unique, personalized, precious, and not-too-expensive mother’s day gifts, keep reading!

This post uses affiliate links. This means that I may be compensated at no cost to you if you make a purchase using one of my links. Please see our policies page for more information.

Mother's Day Gifts Guide | Grace Upon Grace Today

Personalized

Mason Jar From the Kitchen Self-inking Stamp
Personalization is so fun! Why not personalize a self-inking stamp for your mother, grandmother, or mother-in-law? I love this “From the Kitchen of…” stamp by arrayforhome at Zazzle.com. It comes in nine different colors and two different sizes. It would be perfect for a lady who likes to cook and bake. Isn’t that mason jar image adorable?
Woodland Wildflower Personalized Social Stationery Notepad
You can completely customize this Woodland Wildflower notepad by kat_parrella (right) because Zazzle.com makes it so easy! What a beautiful design for mothers new and experienced! See more notepad designs here. Zazzle.com can personalize almost anything… Yoga mats and aprons, too!

DecorativeWatercolor World Mom Hand Lettering Quote Throw Pillow

When you picture your mom’s home, does it seem as if she is missing something? Perhaps a couple throw pillows on the couch or something to hang on the wall in the kitchen? This watercolor throw pillow from JunkyDotCom communicates Mother’s Day sentiments in a cute way. It’s also available as an outdoor pillow!

If a special lady in your life has a favorite or cherished china pattern, like my grandmother does, a piece that she’s missing might make a lovely gift. Replacements, Ltd. has one of the largest collections of replacement china and glassware patterns, and they make beautiful custom pieces out of extra china. For example, I ordered a clock made out of a plate from the same pattern as my grandmother’s china. It made a memorable gift for both of us. (You can see my grandmother’s china pattern in this post’s featured image. Isn’t it lovely?)

I also love the gorgeous monograms that I’ve seen on front doors recently. I even got one for my wedding! Initials are not just for newlyweds, though. Mothers and grandmothers would love this more refined take on modern monogram signs. Look how gorgeous that circle design is!

Faith-BasedDevotional Journal for Moms | Morgan Harper Nichols Shop

I am honored that my mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, and grandmother-in-law are all believers. What joy this brings to my heart! If you share your faith with the special lady you are gift-hunting for, why not give her a gift that will bless her soul? Morgan Harper Nichols (the lovely lady behind Her Binder Project) has released these gorgeous devotional journaling for moms pages. They are beautiful and are a perfect match to the monthly Her Binder Project devotionals. (You can also catch seven days of the mom journal for free here!)

A lovely gift to celebrate a significant mother’s day would be a Bible or devotional book. The New Mom’s Prayer Bible comes highly recommended, as does the Mom’s Devotional Bible, and both are New International Version. There are other lovely options for mothers who prefer the New King James Version (this gorgeous large print edition) and ladies who would like to journal in their Bibles (see my review of two popular journaling Bibles). A woman who is interested in learning more about Scripture might enjoy studying the Women of the Bible yearlong devotional. Don’t forget to write a personal note in the front cover of the book!

Which mother’s day gifts best suit your mom or mom-in-law?

P.S. Want to share this gift guide with your friends? (Or give your husband some ideas?) Pin this for later!

Mother's Day Gift Guide | Grace Upon Grace Today

Being a Team in Marriage

To me, the most beautiful thing about marriage is that it instantly lays the foundation for teamwork. Notice that marriage does not instantly create a fully-functioning, healthy, and established team… It only builds the framework for what could be a healthy team. I consider the second most beautiful thing about marriage to be the act of building that team. If you are interested in becoming a team with your spouse and developing teamwork in your marriage, this is for you. Developing teamwork in marriage takes work!

Being a Team in Marriage: developing teamwork in your marriage | Grace Upon Grace Today

When my now-husband and I were going through premarital mentoring with a couple from our church, we mentioned how our small group had recently spent an evening discussing marriage. We were disappointed that the general consensus from the evening was that marriage was difficult and challenging. I expressed my disappointment to our mentor couple that there was no rejoicing in the beauty of marriage, but rather, commiseration in the challenge of marriage.

Our mentors responded along these lines: “Yes, marriage is hard, but it is good, because it is two people working together towards the same goals.”

When two people commit their lives to each other, they make the decision to fight for the other person’s best interests. In that way, they are therefore taking care of themselves, since in marriage, the couple is now one flesh. In addition, a couple following after God has chosen to commit their lives not only to each other, but also to their Lord and Savior. His glory becomes their goal.

My husband and I have the joy (and sometimes headache) of working together: we are teachers at the same Christian school. Literally, our occupations involve working towards the same goals: for our students to be well-educated and to develop relationships with God and with each other.

Additionally, outside of our careers, we have taken the words of our mentors to heart. We have chosen to seek the other’s goals and best interests, so we can not only honor each other, but also live out an enjoyable marriage. For example, my husband chose to do the household chore I hate the most. It doesn’t cost him any extra time (he would be doing something around the house anyway), but it makes me much less stressed to focus on the chores I hate the least instead.

The author of Ecclesiastes writes similarly to the encouragement of our mentors:

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NLT)

The last line speaks clearly of a good marriage. Not only is there a husband and wife who seek after what matters to the other person, but they also seek after God’s presence in their marriage. With the Lord as the basis for our marriage, my husband and I are stronger and tighter than we would be otherwise. We have the same goal of glorifying Him.

In all these things, we are becoming a team: fighting for each other, fighting for God’s will and desires, and serving Him. We are choosing to work together instead of sowing discord in our relationship.

How is your marriage a team? What can you do to make your marriage full of teamwork and not discord?

How to Survive Your First Big Trip with Your Spouse

Most married couples take their first big trip together on their honeymoon. With all of the happy feelings from the recent wedding, however, couples are more likely to compromise and even acquiesce during the honeymoon. Of course, the bigger the trip, the more opportunities for disagreements. Whether honeymoon or not, this post is for your first big trip with your spouse.

My husband (of three-quarters of a year) and I drove a few hours to the beach for our honeymoon, so I don’t consider it a really big trip. On the other hand, we just recently returned from a long weekend getaway trip to California, though, and it was amazing. Flying over four hours definitely makes that a big trip… One of the biggest you could have without leaving the continental USA.

Here are a few things I learned…

Express Expectations

When I say “vacation,” what comes to mind? Lounging by the beach? Hiking through mountain ranges? Sightseeing and shopping in a busy city? Skiing over snow slopes? Now, what comes to your spouse’s mind?

One of the very things I learned about marriage is that each spouse brings his/her own expectations to the relationship. Without acknowledging those, someone’s feelings are going to be hurt. Your spouse might feel unacknowledged, unheard, or even ignored. A big trip together is no exception.

Ask your spouse some questions, preferably before the airplane tickets have been purchased. Answer these yourself, too! Some to consider might be:

  • What is the one thing you have to do/see while we’re in _____? 
  • What would your ideal day look like once we arrive? Busy? Calm?
  • What is the ideal amount of money you’d like to spend on entertainment/shopping?
  • How important is taking photos to you? Do you want both of us, one of us, or just places/things in the photos? Are we going to be making a scrapbook?
  • How important are souvenirs to you? Who would you like to purchase for?
  • Would you prefer to eat every meal out? Or can we take advantage of complimentary breakfast, an in-room kitchen, or packed meals?

Don’t Assume… Ask!

This is my biggest weakness. Too often, we assume when we should instead ask. I assume that my husband will remember where we parked the car. He assumes that I know what time the reservations are. I assume that he brought his hotel room key. He assumes that I brought my rain jacket. It is truly a never-ending cycle. Instead, ask! I always ask my husband a series of quick questions as we’re leaving our house in the morning, and I did the same over our trip. My usual question is: “Do you have your keys, wallet, cellphone, and wedding ring?” I do this not to be annoying, but for us both to remember the things we need every day.

Similarly, on your first big trip with your spouse, it is important to ask. As I was ordering tickets for a tour this past weekend, I made sure to run the cost and the length of the tour past my husband, instead of assuming that he would want to purchase the tickets as well. Together, we found a couple different tours that we both liked and that fit into our budget well. Without asking each other, we would have missed out on the opportunity to make the decision to take more than one tour.

Have Patience When You’re Irritated

Yes, you will be irritated after five and a half hours couped up in the middle seat of row 34. Imagine how your spouse feels, and let that encourage you to develop patience. When I forget that my sweet husband is tired, too, I end up expecting more and more from him. The truth is that we are both exhausted. We must each do and give and serve, even when we do not want to.

Finally, we finally made it back to our car at the parking garage after our long weekend away. We realized (too late) that we had to pay for the ticket before we could exit the parking garage, instead of paying as we exited. My husband backed up the car and pulled around towards the elevators. “Here,” he said, “You go pay for the ticket while I stay up here with the car.” Now to me, that sounded like a terrible idea. I did not want to get out of the safety and warmth of our car to trek downstairs again and pay for the parking ticket. In that moment, though, I could have served my husband by taking the ticket. (He could have served me by asking more nicely, but that’s another post!) Having patience in moments like these enables your vacation to go much more smoothly and peacefully. You might even want to take another trip very soon!

How to Survive Your First Big Trip with Your Spouse: the latest post from Grace Upon Grace Today about enjoying a big trip with your new husband or wife. graceupongracetoday.com

What enables you and your spouse to travel together peacefully? Share below!

5 Practical Ways to Love People Around You

I wish I knew what to do… Let me know if you need anything… I’ll be praying for you…

Have you ever said those words? You know the person before you is hurting or has gone through some major life transition. You know they need to be shown love, to be encouraged, to be uplifted. But you have no idea how.

Me too.

Recently, there were four deaths of loved ones among my colleagues. A friend is adopting two special needs daughters from overseas. One of my sisters-in-law had an emergency hospital visit.

What can I do? I’m just a new wife, working more than 40 hours a week, and as busy as ever. I want to help; I want to show them the love that Christ has shown me. But how?

I asked a few friends about what would show them love and encouragement during a stressful or hurtful time, and I wanted to share these five practical ways to love people with you.

Write a Card

Hannah of The Young Wives Club shared with me that, in the midst of her miscarriage, the most helpful thing she received was handwritten cards. She treasured the encouraging words from people who loved her and from women who had been there. I like making my own cards, but you do not even have to be creative to send a thoughtful card. It just takes a moment to write a word of how much you care. Your words and even your written prayers could mean so much.

Bring a Meal {or more}

I’m from the south, where potlucks and casseroles are a way of life. I usually think of bringing someone a meal first. However, I did not realize how impactful it could be. My husband’s family suffered the loss of my sister-in-law before I knew them. My mother-in-law says she wishes she would have allowed people to keep bringing them meals. A couple weeks is not long enough for a mother to be willing and able to cook for her family again. In fact, bringing a meal or two a couple months later is such a blessing. You can even pick up simple things like toilet paper at the grocery store at the same time! My friend Leah of Shelemah wrote a post featuring my mother-in-law’s 15 Ways to Help a Family Grieving the Loss of a Child. I encourage you to read it if you are looking for more practical and thoughtful ways to minister.

Use Your Talents

Serving others is not just for good cooks! Naomi, the adoptive mom and blogger at 127 Living, challenged me when I read her post about supporting foster and adoptive families “for the long haul,” as she puts it. God has given you unique talents that you can use for a variety of purposes – why not use a few of them to minister to others? Can you babysit? Teach or coach? Help around the house? Mow the lawn? How has God gifted you and how could this gifting be used to help others?

Be Careful with Your Words

I love Abbey’s advice in her post on loving women who have dealt with infertility and loss. She challenges her readers to be careful not to speak incessantly about babies and pregnancies, as this easily alienates women who are suffering with infertility. I find this to be so true: Women are more than mothers. Motherhood is a wonderful, amazing thing, but a woman is no less complete without children than with them. Abbey also relates how important it is to be there for your friends who are struggling, but to allow them to determine what they need. Allow them to set the tone for your help, and don’t request that they talk about it before they are ready.

“Put Yourself in Their Shoes”

…says Heather Hart in this post on three ways to practically love others. Consider what they might be feeling or how they might be affected. If this happened to me, what would I need? This enables you to show love, grace, and empathy to those around you who may be hurting, stressed, or going through significant changes. It is important to keep in mind, though, that you probably do not know exactly what this person is going through. Avoid saying things like: “I know exactly how you feel!” Instead, humbly come into the situation willing to learn how God would like to use you. Prayer is a mighty tool for sensing how best to respond in any situation.

I found that these bloggers and friends ended up encouraging me to continue loving people as they struggle with whatever they may be facing. I hope they did the same for you. As we are the hands and feet of Jesus, we are called to practically love and serve. Perhaps you have gleaned some ideas, like I did, for some great ways to do just that.

What are the best ways people have served you in your times of heartache or transition?

Five Practical Ways to Love People Around You courtesy of Grace Upon Grace Today www.graceupongracetoday.com

How to Divide Household Chores {Plus Freebie!}

Of all the aspects of married life, one of the most difficult parts of our first few months of marriage was the division of household chores. We got married in June and, as teachers, went back to work at the beginning of August. Suddenly, we both went from working 0 hours per week to working over 40. We had to reevaluate how to divide chores, household maintenance, and cleaning tasks.

I would like to say that I instantly knew how to solve the problems of what I perceived as an unequal division of labor. Unfortunately, that’s not true. I ended up complaining and arguing with my husband about who had to do what. What I should have done was begin a conversation. When we finally sat down and talked about it, I realized that I had no reason to be upset. We were able to solve our problems so easily just by being honest with each other!

Here are my steps to fairly dividing household chores.

How to Divide Household Chores | Grace Upon Grace Today | how to divide chores, how to share household responsibilities in a marriage

Make a List

The first step in your conversation is to make a list of everything that needs to happen on a daily, weekly, twice-weekly, monthly, twice-monthly, and yearly basis. The good news is that I have already done for you in my beautiful chore chart. It is three pages of a variety of tasks. Subscribe to receive it free!

Once we created that list, we were able to see exactly how much had to be done around the house. It was a lot! I felt that my husband and I understood each other’s concerns better when we had a written list. This alleviated the “Why do you never put away the laundry?” complaints.

Assign Tasks and Frequencies

Someone once said that if your spouse hates vacuuming, but can tolerate washing dishes, you should take on the task of vacuuming. It’s just polite and thoughtful. It shows love and consideration towards your spouse, and helps you work together as a team. My husband and I followed this after we had written our list. I do not like washing the hand-wash only dishes, but I do not really mind any of the other chores. My husband signed up for dishes first.

It is also important to consider the frequency of tasks.  How often do you want to change the sheets on the beds? Or take out the trash? Or check the smoke detector? How often should you? Thankfully, I have already done this for you on the chore chart!

Fair is not Always Equal

In an imaginary world, husbands and wives have exactly the same number of household duties that perfectly match their desired jobs. (Or they have a maid!) However, this does not always work out in real life. For example, a stay-at-home spouse should have different duties than a spouse who works full time. If both spouses work equal hours, one should not have more duties than the other. A spouse who has physical limitations should not be assigned the outdoor lawn-care tasks.

Some of this is common sense, but it is important to note that neither the husband nor the wife gets a free pass when it comes to chores. As a team, each must contribute to the cleanliness and safety of the home. Since my husband and I had both lived on our own before we got married, we both felt confident doing our own dishes, laundry, and yard care. I’m so thankful for that opportunity.

Set a Routine

The best way to alleviate arguments over who does what at home is to make the household chores run efficiently. It’s almost like a machine. If I always empty the wastebaskets on Monday nights and my husband always rolls the trash can out to the road on Tuesday mornings, there’s no fuss each week. The key is establishing those routines and sticking to them early in your marriage, and then reevaluating every so often. For example, if my husband studies for a Master’s degree or if I stay home with children, those pre-determined chore assignments might change. In addition, a family with older children might assign certain jobs to their children.

Write it Down

I’m a visual person. It helped me tremendously to write each chore and mark when it had been completed. That’s the beauty of my chore chart: I have already labeled the weeks and months. Just place a checkmark in each box as you complete it. I keep my chart on the refrigerator, but it would also be perfect in your homemaking binder. We’ve been using our copy of the chore chart for over four months, and the fights about chores and duties have all but disappeared.

How does your family avoid arguments about household duties?

Back to Blogging {The Next Level}

I have had this blog since 2013, and I had a Blogspot site before that. However, I have only recently taken the steps to make this space something that others would want to enjoy. It has been only a few months since I decided to get serious about blogging and actively look for ways to reach more viewers and perhaps get into monetizing.

When I first became interested in blogging again, I posted Back to Blogging {A Basic Starter Kit}, and now it’s time for The Next Level!

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Spread the Word

I love my blogging Facebook groups. Some are only for sharing your posts and requesting others to pin your Pinterest pins. Others are for advice and encouragement and random questions. It helps to have someone in your same niche or someone with more experience to guide in the blogging process.

Here are a few of my favorites (you may have to request to join):

Social Media Scheduling

I work more than 40 hours a week at my day job. I do not need the additional stress of posting to Facebook and Pinterest at the ideal times. And that’s why scheduling was invented.

I highly recommend Tailwind. As I am still getting the hang of it, I cannot provide a full review, but I have loved everything it has done so far.By the way, if you sign up with my referral link through the month of February, you will receive $30 off! (That’s roughly two months free.) If you are reading this after February 28th, don’t panic, you can still use the link to receive $15 off… http://twapp.it/i/deannalexis?

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And who could resist a cute pun?

Office Supplies

When we were looking for a place to rent right before we got married, I prayed that we would have a third bedroom or even some kind of space that we could turn into an office. I was incredibly surprised when we happened upon a three bedroom house – the third bedroom was the perfect size for our little office.

 

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This is a page from my planner, downloaded from Building a Framework.

It’s no wonder I love crafting and office supplies. Keeping my blog planner accessible and neat requires a binder and a variety of pens so I can color-coordinate it. Okay, just kidding. I bought the Sharpie pens because they were cute, but my attempts at color-coordinating have fallen by the wayside. I do use very handy binders, though! Avery is my favorite brand of 3 ring binder.

 

As I develop as a blogger, I will be sharing more and more ideas and tips.
Why don’t you share yours? What tools do YOU use to grow your blog? Share your methods in the comments!