Friday, October 28, 2016

Tears Over Dirty Laundry

It was a normal Friday night at the Cochran house. We had just finished supper, bath time, and story time with Riley Grace. Patrick was grading papers for his classes, and I was putting Riley Grace to bed. After Riley Grace was snuggled in her bed with about fifty stuffed animals and goodnight kisses (along with fifty “last things” she had to tell me before I finally left the room), it was time for me to soak in my bubble bath (my Friday night ritual after a long work week). J I walked through the kitchen to the bathroom when I noticed the laundry closet was open. I peeked in to see that Patrick had washed some clothes. This is no big deal. He washes clothes often. But something about the laundry that night made me tear up. (And, yes, I do tear up easily, but not usually over laundry!)

Before I made it to the bubble bath, I stopped to sit next to Patrick on the couch. I just sat there and gazed at him until he looked up from his work to question why I was staring at him with a goofy look on my face. I said that I needed to tell him something. He immediately got nervous wondering if it was a good “something” or a bad “something.” I told him that it was a good “something.” I started tearing up and said, “Thank you for hanging up my wet clothes.” When he loaded the dryer that night, instead of drying some of my clothes, he took the time to hang them up because he remembered that I don’t like to dry those particular articles of clothing. He didn’t realize why it had meant so much to me (although he later asked if I was on my periodwhich I was, so that may have played a role in my tears over the laundry ;-) )

In that simple loving act, I learned a few things about marriage and was reminded of how marriage can and should point us to Christ.

1.      Little things matter // Take time to know what matters to your spouse. Patrick and I have been married for almost four years. He has learned that I don’t like to dry certain items of clothing. He noticed, and he remembered. And he cared that it mattered to me. He knows that I like the dishes to be rinsed in the sink so that they’re easier to clean later (since we don’t always get to them right away). He knows that I want him to tuck me into bed if he has to stay up and do school work. He knows that I like my coffee to be the color of chocolate milk. J And all of those things are small in the grand scheme of things, but I notice that he knows those things, and I see his love for me in his noticing and remembering. It doesn’t take much effort to notice and remember the little (and big) things that matter to your spouse, but we so easily focus on ourselves or are so busy with our daily tasks that we don’t take time to really see each other. Take the time to notice and remember what matters to your spouse. When you were dating and engaged, you noticed everything and wanted to remember everything. But when the busyness of life comes into play after years of marriage, it’s easy to believe that the little things aren’t that important, but they are!

2.    Make the effort to accomplish those things, no matter how trivial they may seem to you // This may sound pretty similar to #1, but if you know what little things are a big deal to your spouse, then DO THEM! Take the time to serve your spouse in small ways. My husband comes home from work/school, eats supper with us and plays with Riley Grace until she goes to bed, and then starts doing more schoolwork once she’s asleep. He does lots of work at home into late hours of the night. He could go to bed earlier if he worked all evening, but he values time with Riley Grace and me very highly, so he takes a break from work to be with us. Once he finally settles into his studies each night, he usually drinks a cup of coffee, water, and maybe hot tea. When we were first married, I always jumped up to refill his cup or reheat his coffee. After a few years of marriage, I don’t jump up to serve him so readily. I might be working on lesson plans or in the middle of a book or movie, settling into a warm and cozy spot on the couch, and I just really don’t want to get up. That’s selfish of me when I know it means a lot to him that I notice that his cup is empty and refill it. He’s not chauvinistic in a way that he expects the wife to jump up when his glass is empty; rather, I know it means a lot to him that I notice the empty cup and want to serve him by refilling it. It’s a small task requiring little effort, but sometimes I’m too selfish to get up. As wives (even if your husband doesn’t notice/remember/act on the little things that mean a lot to you), we need to serve our husbands because Jesus served. HE is our standard for love, service, and humility.

3.    Don’t let negativity overwhelm your interaction/conversations // Truthfully, many times when I tell Patrick we need to talk about something, it’s not a good “something.” Sometimes it’s a valid concern or complaint that is necessary to bring up, but other times it’s something that I am nagging or nitpicking about. I do not want Patrick to be anxious when I say that we need to talk about something, but if my conversation topics often point out a perceived flaw in him (not in me, of course) or a way that I’m disappointed or frustrated, then it is understandable that he is not going to look forward to serious conversations with me. When he asked me the nature of my tears over the laundry, he had every right to think that I was going to complain about the way he did something in the laundry processbecause truthfully I nag more than I like to admit to myself. What if I would have walked by the laundry closet to notice that he had put those articles of clothing in the dryer? Would I have felt like I needed to bring that up to him???... This night reminded me that I want to be positive and encouraging. I want to be my husband’s biggest fan, not his harshest critic. I want to build him up in love. I want him to cherish our conversations, even if it’s dealing with a hard topic, because I can be positive and encouraging in the hard times instead of negative and discouraging. Yes, I want to be honest with him if there truly is something on my heart, but I can work to say things in loving and encouraging ways, rather than demeaning or depressing ways.

So in all aspects of marriage, remember Paul’s words in Romans 12:9-13:

“Let love be GENUINE. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. OUTDO one another in showing HONOR. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, SERVE the Lord. REJOICE in hope, be PATIENT in tribulation, be CONSTANT in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show HOSPITALITY.”

And Colossians 3:14-15:

And above all these put on LOVE, which binds everything together in PERFECT HARMONY. 15 And let the PEACE of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be THANKFUL.”

I pray that we will be strong and humble women in the midst of godly marriages who strive to put our husband’s needs, wants, and desires above our own. I pray that the small things that matter to our husbands will matter to us because we are one. I pray that our minds and hearts are always focused on how to love, serve, honor, and respect the husband that the Lord has blessed each of us with. And I pray that the Lord will give us joy as we continually pursue marriages that mirror Christ’s love, devotion, and sacrifice. May you be encouraged to serve your husband in new and fresh ways! “Outdo” him in the ways that you love, serve, honor, and respect him!



Sunday, October 16, 2016

What Happens on November 8

Our church is currently studying the book of Daniel. Our pastor is bringing to light some amazing points about how Daniel served the Lord wholeheartedly while God’s people were living in captivity in Babylon. Among a pagan culture, God was glorified through the obedience of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It’s amazing to see the parallels to our own culture, as we are living among a culture that is increasingly pagan while we as Christ-followers are trying to be obedient in living out our Christian faith. It’s not easy to pursue holiness amidst a culture that celebrates immorality and denies God at every turn. When living in a materialistic, self-centered, culture filled with immorality, it’s a struggle to focus on the eternal things of God’s kingdom rather than temporal things that will fade away.

This morning, our message was regarding anxiety, specifically anxiety about the future and the events that we cannot control. Our pastor explained the events that Daniel experienced as he was taken into captivity. He lived among the Babylonian people for most of his life, a people who did not worship the One True God. Daniel certainly could have experienced anxiety over his future. When considering anxiety about the future, immediately, our minds were directed toward the looming events of November 9, 2016election day. The thought of the upcoming election produces feelings of anxiety almost immediately in the hearts and minds of many Americans, as we anticipate what the results will be on that day. Each day as I read the news of more scandals, lies, controversies, and vulgarity, I’m overwhelmed about what the immediate and long-term future holds for America. My mind already travels twenty years ahead as I worry about what America will look like when my children are young adults. What will they face? What will the experience? I can’t imagine.

As the sermon progressed, feelings of hope and peace, rather than dread and anxiety, washed over me as different Scriptures reminded me about WHO is in control of our future. The same God who was sovereign over Daniel’s captivity is the same God who is sovereign over the election results and the future of our country. He is ultimately in control, not the current earthly leaders of our nation.

With that said, let’s take a look at some Scriptures that point us to God’s sovereignty.
1.      2 Chronicles 20: 6: ”O Lord, God of our fathers, are You not the God who is in Heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can withstand You.”
2.    Job 42:2: “I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted.”
3.    Psalm 33:10-11: ”The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.”
4.    Proverbs 16:4: “The Lord works out everything for His own ends even the wicked for a day of disaster.”
5.    Proverbs 21:30: “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.”
6.    Daniel 2: 20-23: “Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king's matter.”
7.    Acts 17:22-28: “Paul Addresses the Areopagus So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’”
8.    Romans 13:1:  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
9.    Romans 9:15-18: “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”

These verses are so encouraging! They remind us that:
-       GOD is in control of which leaders come to power. It is GOD who “removes kings and sets up kings.”
-       NO MAN can thwart God’s plans. GOD’S PLANS will stand firm forever, even when all hope seems lost and it seems like God’s plans are not being realized here on earth.
-       God has determined the TIMES AND PERIODS for all people, which means He has placed YOU where you are in 2016. He knows the outcome of this election and the future of our country, and He is taking care of you in the midst of the uncertainty and turmoil.
-       God can use unholy people for HIS GLORY (as Romans 9 explains that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that God could receive glory for rescuing His people out of Egypt. We may not understand why God hardens hearts and allows corrupt leaders to rule, but we can be certain that the Lord is wise and just and knows the big picture. We have to trust that He knows what is best. Our finite minds cannot grasp the big picture, but we can trust the Lord who is in control!)
-       God plans for and desires for people to FIND HIM, because He is “not far from each one of us.” Instead of complaining or worrying about the fate of our country, let’s PRAY for our leaders to find Him. He is able to save them. Our complaining and worrying won’t do anything productive, but our prayers will!

-       READ: Reread the Scriptures listed above. What truths jump out at you?
-       STUDY: How do these scriptures stir in your heart worship for the Lord? What do these scriptures reveal about the character of the Lord? How can these scriptures give you comfort, peace, and hope amidst the uncertain election results and future of our country? How are you convicted by these Scriptures?
-       EVALUATE: How have you approached this election thus far? Fear? Anxiety? Bitterness? Complaining? Trusting? Griping? Praying? Evaluate your attitude regarding the election in light of the Scriptures listed above. How can you honor God during this time? How can you be an example to others?
-       PRAY: Praise the Lord for the comfort of His sovereignty amidst uncertain times! Praise the Lord that He is unchanging. Praise the Lord that we have an eternal home with Him free from the worries and struggles of sin and pain. Ask the Lord to remind you to pray for our leaders. Ask the Lord to give you an unwavering trust in Him no matter the outcome of the election or uncertainties in our future.

I pray that you will enter a season of deeper trust and faith in God as we anticipate the future of our country with the election growing nearer. I pray that all anxiety will fade away in the light of the peace of Christ. I pray that our minds and hearts will be focused upon the firm hope in the God of all ages who holds our future and has promised us eternity with Him! We were made for so much more than temporal things. A heavenly dwelling place is waiting for us, and no matter the struggles we face on earth and no matter the direction our country is going or who our next president will be, we have a hope in the eternal reign of King Jesus, so we have nothing to fear! We can have peace knowing that the Lord is in control over the leadership of our country. Pray for our country. Pray for our leaders to humble themselves before them. And pray that believers will be found faithful to their King, even when our culture is far from Him. Above all, PRAY and TRUST!

Always, Jacquelyn 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Christmas is Basically Here...

(Riley Grace's 1st Christmas!)

How many of you saw the popular Grinch meme that depicts this following frightening declaration: “There are 12 Saturdays until Christmas?” Or the Elf meme that says, “There’s only 11 more Monday mornings until Christmas?” Christmas is still three months away, but when you put it that way, it seems like Christmas is basically here! Does that bring up feelings of anxiety or excitement in anyone?? Has anyone started shopping yet?? Christmastime usually sneaks up on me. I don’t like to rush the pleasant crisp weather of fall (now that I’m out of Louisianasorry, friends), with its pumpkin spice and pumpkin carvings, along with cornbread dressing and cranberry sauce, but I do LOVE Christmas! However, once November is behind us, I usually feel completely unprepared for all I wanted to do for Christmas. I scroll through Pintrest days late, finding a million new recipes and crafts I want to try, only to find myself too late to successfully accomplish any of them! This year, I’m going to be prepared! J Here are a few tips I’m trying to follow for myself and my family in order to prepare for the season, and I thought I would share them with you! Happy Fall, y’all, and enjoy preparing for the most wonderful time of the year the birth of Christ!

1.      Keep first things first! It can be extremely easy and tempting to make the commercial side of Christmas primary. But it’s NOT primary, and it’s not even necessary. We went to give good gifts to our family. We want to “wow” our friends with the best dessert, décor, and DIY projects. We want our kids to have more than we had, and so Christmastime is an opportunity to spoil them. We want Santa and Elf on the shelf to spur on our kids’ imaginations and make them believe that magic exists. We generally have party after party after party to plan for, attend, and clean up after. We probably indulge in way too many pumpkin spice lattes and peppermint bark mochas. If we aren’t careful, Christmas can either pleasantly or stressfully become about the secondary things with Christ nowhere to be seen! This mindset is dangerous, but all too common, even in the Christian setting. As women (and especially as moms), we need to be cautious of this tendency because our mindset at Christmas is visible to others, especially little ones who are so excited about all the season encompasses.
2.    Be intentional about serving others! Christmas is a time for giving, and not just to the people that you know and love. I found this amazing online resource about getting your family and friends involved in intentionally serving others during the Christmas season. This resource has ideas for the “25 Days of Christmas,” choosing a new small project each day. Some of these projects are really simple, and a few are a little more involved, which is why it’s a great idea to plan now for which service projects you want to do when the Christmas season rolls around!  If you have your own kids or are a leader of a kids/youth group, then allow them to play a role in deciding how to give and serve and even raise money for that cause. World Vision and Compassion International have a really easy giving proces that shows what different needs are around the world. Samaritan’s Purse provides the opportunity to kids and families to fill shoeboxes with gifts for other kids through “Operation Christmas Child”. Kids can donate a toy to “Toys for Tots” or sponsor a child through the Angel Tree Prison Ministries. Many of these projects can even become yearlong! Find a project (or many projects) and be intentional about making Christmas about serving others!
3.    Cultivate traditions, old and new! Traditions with family and friends are so much fun to start and continue. I have fond and vivid memories of shopping for the tree with my family each year, decorating it together while we drank hot chocolate, opening one gift on Christmas Eve, waking my sisters up at 2am to peek at Santa’s goodies, and reading the Christmas story on Christmas morning before digging into presents. I still love that my mom chooses a special Christmas ornament for us each year. Traditions help us to remember our blessings and the ones with whom those blessings are shared. All that to say, here are some Christ-centered traditions and interesting Christmas ideas that would be wonderful to begin with family and friends during the Christmas season! Whether you are single, married, have no physical children, have young children, have grown children, have spiritual children, have a close circle of best friends, are young, are old, or are somewhere in between J, you can participate in different ways to celebrate the birth of Christ by forming traditions of your own!
4.    Create/buy/participate in an advent calendar. This can be as simple or elaborate as you’d like. Pintrest has some great advent resources, although many are a little too elaborate for my skill level. J (Who else actually attempts to make/cook/create only .1% of what you pin on Pintrest?? I have hundreds of things on my boards that I haven’t tried and haven’t even looked at since the first time it was pinned! I usually end up stressing myself out with too many options and no idea where to start. So, side note, don’t overwhelm yourself on sites that offer options of how to celebrate! Choose what works for you and keep it simple!) For advent options, there are calendars, reading plans, Christmas trees, banners, etc. Choose what works for you in the season that God has placed you in!
5.    Find a new book or devotional focusing on Christmas. Find a book about Christmas that is new to you. Open it with fresh eyes. Read it with anticipation of learning something new about the familiar Christmas story. Or read an old, cherished book that has traditionally stirred your heart toward the Gospel at Christmas time. As a personal suggestion, I LOVE The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. The author provides a fresh and deep perspective on the miraculous story of the events surrounding Christ’s birth. My mom and sisters also read this book each Christmas, which makes it even more special to me! (So, side note, find a book and some girl friends who will commit to read and study it with you!)
6.    Cook timeless family recipes, and find some new specialties to call your own.
7.    Create meaningful and godly gift-giving traditions within your own home. Kids love to receive gifts. Adults love to receive gifts. People in general like gifts, and as people living in America, we can easily grow accustomed to “stuff” and expecting “stuff” as primary at Christmastime. As a child, I can remember feeling depressed when December 26 rolled around, wishing that I could relive Christmas morning again, where I’d receive new gifts! While gift giving/receiving isn’t sinful in itself, we can place unhealthy priorities and expectations on it. Of course, as parents, we love to see our children delighted by the thoughtful gifts we sought out, but we don’t want them to see Christmas as merely a time to gain more stuff. One gift idea is to use the “three gift rule,” following the tradition of the wise men’s gifts to Jesus. The mom in the “three gift rule” blog talks about the correlation between the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and the gifts she chooses for her kids. Others prefer to simplify the giving with the “four gift rule.” Whichever system you find, whether its one of these or something else, remember that getting millions of gifts can promote materialism. Also, if kids (or adults!) live with the expectation of receiving as being primary, then the other elements of the Christmas season (Christian traditions that focus on celebrating Christ’s birth, serving those in need, worshipping with other believers, giving gifts to orphanages, etc.) will not be exciting, special, or important to them. I definitely don’t want to be a scrooge about gift giving and I don’t think it’s sinful! BUT I want to be intentional about what our family Christmas traditions teach my daughter, and giving/receiving is a big part of that!

So, all that to say, have fun planning how to intentionally keep Christ in every aspect of your Christmas traditions and celebrations. Don’t stress amidst the busiest season of the year and the other elements that culture throws at us during the season. Yes, there are parties and gifts and casseroles and teacher gifts and Christmas programs and tree lightings and tree buying, etc. (ok, you get the point), but with a little intentionality in planning, you don’t have to live completely overwhelmed and stressed during the Christmas season. Don’t overspend (that causes stress!). Pause to rest and remember the true meaning of Christmas amidst all the hustle and bustle. Be aware of the legacy you’re leaving for your kiddos. Allow the story of Christ permeate every single thing you do during Christmas - the decorating, shopping, cooking, singing, celebrating, etc. What do you want your children to remember and learn from the years that they celebrate Christmas in your home?? 

(And in the Christmas planning process .don’t gloss over Thanksgiving, either! J)

Merry Christmas in 12ish Sundays! J

Always, Jacquelyn