When Nothing Else Matters

whatreallymatters

Have you ever had a “stop in your tracks” type of moment in your life? A moment where you realize that nothing else really matters. Your life successes no longer matter. Building your dream home no longer matters. Your profession no longer matters. Your coveted season tickets to your favorite sports team suddenly doesn’t matter. Your awards you’ve accumulated over the years no longer matter.

What kind of moment causes everything else to seem so incredibly insignificant?

The moment you hear that your thirteen-year-old daughter is now fighting for her life. The moment when you hear that your cancer has spread. The moment when you hear that your husband of 20 years no longer wants to be your husband. The moment when you hear your adult child has made a tragic life-altering choice. I can describe these scenes because sadly, these are fresh realities of women I know and love.

Moments like these, take our hearts and minds to places we never knew existed. We learn how frail we are in our humanity. We realize that at the end of the day, all that really matters is something so intangible that money can’t buy it, dreams can’t fulfill it, the brightest minds can’t create it or duplicate it.

When we have one of those “stop in your tracks” type of moments, and I pray, oh how I pray, that these moments are few and far between in your life, we immediately, as if instinctively, do one of two things: 1) in longing desperation we turn our hearts toward heaven; or 2) in indignant anger we shake our fist toward heaven.

Either way, we look toward our Creator. Instinctively, we embrace Him, or we blame Him.  We look to Him to be our refuge and comfort, or we look to Him to cast blame and outrage.

It is in these “stop in your tracks” moments when we are forced to come to terms with our own mortality. Our frailness. Our insufficiency. Our brokenness. Our utter dependence on our Creator.

So what does matter in moments like these? What causes us to turn our hearts to Him instead of shake our fist toward Him?

It is the intangible becoming tangible … embracing the supernatural love of God poured out all over us. It is experiencing first hand the supernatural phenomenon of having great strength in our weakest, most vulnerable moment. It is drawing on the resurrection power of Christ to sustain us. It is the eternal … knowing and accepting that every life truly is a vapor, but eternity is timeless … forever. It is loving God and loving others. Jesus said, in Matthew 22 that “the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind.” Then Jesus said, the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

THAT’S what really matters!

We are at the end of the first month of 2015, and there’s no better time than this very moment to determine to focus on what really matters …

God. 

Our family.

Our friends.

Our neighbors.

Our co-workers.

People. People! PEOPLE!

The younger our children are, the more teachable and moldable they are. We must not waste a day in teaching our children what truly matters most! And, of course, the best way to teach them is to model it …

Loving God, loving others. And, in light of eternity, it’s all that really matters.

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TherMOMeter: Setting The Temperature In Your Family

As a young mom, I had no idea that my mood could and would set the temperature for the entire house; actually I wasn’t aware yet, but I was the therMOMeter of my home. If I was in a bad mood, it eventually bled over and made everyone else have a bad mood too.

My boys were little when I decided to test this idea out. I decided that no matter how I “felt” that day I would take a few notes and see how quickly my attitude started affecting how the kids (and even my husband) were behaving in response.

One of the ways that I started to put this whole therMOMeter idea into practice was when I was picking up the kids from school and in our transition into dinner time at the house.

Here are a few ideas:

For the kids –

  • When the kids get in the car, make it a point to try and end your phone calls. When they get in the car, they  want to know they are the most important thing for you right at that very moment. Are there times when you have to take a call or cannot get off a call…yes, but maybe they are few and far between.
  • When the kids get in the car, make it comfortable for them. Have some relaxing music playing, like classical or jazz. If it’s hot, then have the a/c on so the car is nice and cool. If it’s cold, then have the heat on so the car is nice and toasty.
  • Maximize the car ride home–make it your time to chat. They want to talk (whether they admit it or not) and they also want to make sure they are being heard.
    • How was school? Did anything exciting happen that day? What was the best part of the day? What was the worst part of the day?
  • At home, have a snack together. Chances are they are hungry, and it’s another great opportunity to sit together and catch up on their day.

For your husband –

  • Notice when he gets home. Greet him with a warm smile. Don’t immediately overwhelm him with stuff he needs to do around the house.
    • Find out what’s the best rhythm for your husband. Does he need a little time alone when he gets home to transition? Does he want a great big celebration when he walks in the door, or is he ready to sit down and talk about his day? Ask him — he’ll let you know.
    • Let’s face it, if mom and kids are not in the middle of world war three that already makes his night better.

At this point, the temperature is already set. The time between the kids and I walking in and my husband walking in really decides how the rest of the night will be at the house. Will the kids still fight and things happen to mess with the temperature in your home? Yes, but moms this is where we can really make a difference. By being aware to check the therMOMeter of our house, then we can change the temperature of the whole night.

Tonight you and I can make that temperature change in our family, but the choice is yours–hot, cold or just right…you are the therMOMeter of your home. 

Here’s a prayer for you as you seek to adjust the therMOMeter in your home;

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26 ESV 

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Setting Sail

SettingSail

Dear Mom of Moses,

It’s not about letting go,” I hear you say, “it’s about setting sail.” I let that float around in my head awhile.

I want to look into your eyes – the ones that memorized your baby’s face, and spilled over with tears. My heart weeps for you, dear mom of Moses. You, the one left with empty arms. 

For months, you’d held him close, whispered in his baby ears and drank in his perfectness, knowing the time was coming. 

Did you ever wonder if you couldn’t just keep him? Ever want to just wrap his little fingers in your hand, and never let go forever? Every mom through every century would’ve understood that choice.

How I need to look into your eyes, need to ask you this: in that unforgettable moment at the bank of Nile, how in the world did you let go, Mama? 

After all, you’re a mom just like me. You love your babies. You wake up at night when they cry. You live to feed them, bathe them, hug them and wipe away their tears. This is what we do, and somehow, we love it more than life itself. 

But, you? Your mother’s love was void of self. Your courage, greater than your crushed heart. Your strength, greater than your sorrow. When everything in you was shattered, crying out for just one more embrace, one more day together- you put one foot in front of the other down that path to the Nile.

Sometimes, fulfilling that greater purpose means accepting God’s plans with open hands and empty arms. It means releasing. I guess that’s why you say it’s not about letting go; it’s about setting sail. 

On that bank, you cradled his young life – one your Lord had ordained for something far bigger than your basket could provide. Then you laid him in the Nile and ignited transformation on those waters, a transformation ushered in with your open hands.

You placed a mere basket of wriggling, Hebrew innocence in the waters and a few bends later a princess drew out an Egyptian prince, your deliverer. And then, sacrifice became freedom for your people, for you.

Sometimes, fulfilling that greater purpose means accepting God’s plans with open hands and empty arms. It means releasing.

So, today my Nile rushes before me.

It’s the door of the kindergarten classroom. It’s the car keys jangling in his pocket. It’s the foster child walking away with my heart. It’s the church aisle and bouquets of flowers. It’s the goodbye before the train, the car, the plane leaves.

And I must open my hands to release.

Here at my Nile’s bank, I think of you, the mother of Moses. And, I place my babies, wrapped in the best basket I can provide in waters of faith. 

I stand now with open hands and empty arms. But, I’m not letting go - am I, dear Mom of Moses? I’m setting them sailing to their destiny of royalty, as heirs of the King and children of promise.

Guest post by: Anne Dahlhauser

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Anne blogs at Front Porch, Inspired about surrendering everyday living for sacred purposes. She and her husband, Jay, are founders of a ministry focusing on missional living, discipleship, and intercultural relationships.

Jay and Anne have four kids, a front door that can’t stay closed, and an abundance of messy, holy chaos at their home in a unique, Iowan
neighborhood.

You can find Anne at FrontPorchInspired.com

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104 Date Night Ideas instead of 50 Shades of Gray

102datenightideasHeatherRiggleman

My mother thought if she loved my father enough, he would change. He didn’t.

Instead, I watched my father love my mother to the best of his broken abilities. I watched my mother become less of a woman, and I watched my heart break into millions of little pieces as my mother would clean up the glass from one of my Dad’s anger fits or hold an ice pack to a broken nose; deep down I knew this wasn’t real love or healthy. 

Flash forward fifteen years later. I am raising two girls and one precious boy. My fifteen year old has discovered the opposite sex and is testing the waters of romance. The last thing I want her to think is that she can change someone by loving them–isn’t this the essence of 50 Shades? Ana thinks if she loves Christian enough, she can chase away his demons? Is this what we want our children to encounter in box office hits, novels or real life?

This isn’t real love. The problem with the sex and the romance portrayed in this movie or any other erotic novel, or in real relationships is that it is never honest, always selfish, extremely self-seeking, never truthful, never honorable, never trusting, and never protecting. There is no hope, no celebration, no wonder, no beauty, no commitment.

Take a Stand

To the mothers and women of America, we have this single moment in time to do something jaw dropping. We can stand together and make history.  Instead of standing in line at the box office, we can be home in bed with our husbands or on a date. Don’t underestimate the significance of this. Here, now, we have been given the opportunity to make a statement to the next generation of both women and men–to NOT see this movie. Instead set the example of real romance.

Here, now, you have been given the opportunity open the eyes our society, our church culture, and tell Hollywood this film is garbage, while we can’t chase away abuse, the love of money, or pornography we can do this:

Don’t buy one ticket. Not one. 

Instead

Go on a date

Or have sex.

Or BOTH.  

 Show America and your children your morals. Show your children and husband what you truly value. And if that isn’t enough to move you take action, read Matt Walsh’s post here

While other women are standing in line, I’ll either be on a date or in bed with my husband because this is the kind of love I want to celebrate. This is the kind of legacy I want to leave my kids. I want them to understand that in marriage  sex and romance is hot and passionate. I want them to know marriage is a never ending love story of discovering your partner. 

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102 Date Night Ideas plus Hot Mama Tips

If you’re a single mom, I hear your heart; I want to encourage you to take your children on a date, and if you’re the mom who needs a list of ideas to create date night anytime, anywhere, here are 102 Date Night Ideas PLUS two more ideas from Erin Macpherson and Kathi Lipp. Sign up for Friday Night Lights Off to get date night tips texted to you every Friday. Join their Hot Mama Facebook Group too. 

For a printable version of this list, click here: 102 Date Night Ideas TMI

  1. Netflix night—watch movies or your favorite TV series on Netflix when the kids are in bed. Plan a movie marathon night. Order take out or make the perfect movie meal.
  2. Stargazing in the backyard.
  3. Bubble bath with glow sticks (trust me, the glow sticks are worth it and your husband will LOVE seeing the soft glow against your skin). :-)
  4. Board games: Monopoly, Twister, etc.
  5. Fondu—what can go wrong with chocolate?
  6. Camping indoors—complete with sleeping bags, tent, and a string of Christmas lights along with your favorite snacks.
  7. Picnic indoors.
  8. Picnic at your favorite park or in the backyard during lunch breaks if your schedules match up.
  9. Sushi night— Plan a take out night with your favorite food and eat it in bed.
  10. Do crossword puzzles together.
  11. Go for a walk or jog. Because of my husband’s knee issues, he either rides his bike or one of our kids’ scooters.
  12. Go for a bike ride and watch the sunrise or sunset.
  13. Go fishing at sunset. Pack some sandwiches and chairs.
  14. Give each other back rubs or foot massages with warming gel.
  15. Visit a local winery for an afternoon or evening filled with taste testing wine while snacking on cheese and other complimentary snacks.
  16. Create a gourmet meal. This is one of our favorite nights. My husband can make anything taste like it came from a five star restaurant—even refried beans. Make sure to grab the candles and eat by candle light or by the fire place.
  17. Homemade pretzels. Here are the recipes: Vegan Soft Bites & Soft Pretzels. 
  18. Make homemade taffy. The pulling is a lot of fun. Old Time Taffy Recipe
  19.  Try a new exercise together.
  20. Dress up and visit open houses at homes for sale in your area. Chat about whether or not you like the back splash. 
  21. Midnight nacho run. If you have older kids, this one is so much fun.
  22. Have a facial night. Try making homemade facials. Believe it or not, some guys go for this, especially if it means he might see you naked. Facial Recipes
  23. Weekend alone in your home. Drop the kids off for an overnight at their friends’ homes or at grandmas.
  24. Morning or evening devotions together.
  25. Be a tourist in your own city. Look for travel guides and visit local attractions. Remember to take pictures.
  26. Facebook romance. Often when I’m at work, Chris will send the lines of songs to romance me in private messages. You can also Facebook each other at home.
  27. Youtube dancing. Learn your favorite dance at home. (Lift from the movie Dirty Dancing)
  28. Play video games.
  29. Card games with stripping. :-)
  30. Take a shower together.
  31. Flea market browsing. I love this one; it often sparks my husband’s carpenter skills.
  32. Attend a college sports game; grab his favorite snack like popcorn or hotdogs.
  33. Create a drive in night. Grab your computer and watch movies in the car with your favorite snacks and cozy blankets. (DO NOT TURN ON YOUR CAR).
  34. Do activities at your local fun center: bowling, ice skating, horse shoe, or roller-skating.
  35. Play games together at the arcade.
  36. Go to the gym together. Many gyms have passes for trying the gym for the first time.
  37. Go rock climbing or try a new exercise together. Make it a challenge and whoever loses has to give a back rub.
  38. Try a new exercise DVD together at home.
  39. Dress up and visit open houses at homes for sale in your area.
  40. Play Frisbee golf at the park.
  41. Play Frisbee golf in the backyard with laundry baskets after the kids are in bed.
  42. Do a home improvement project together.
  43. Make organizational projects to help with the clutter at home. DIY Pinterest Project. 
  44. Visit the local hardware store for ideas to remodel. You’ll get ideas for a new backsplash for the kitchen sink.
  45. Visit a furniture store, and don’t forget to try the beds.
  46. Bake and decorate cookies together.
  47. Draw artsy portraits of each other with or without clothes.
  48. Take photos of each other for each other’s work desks.
  49. Create a memory book of your favorite dates for each of your kids. Include 10 building blocks you use for a good marriage.
  50. Wrap gifts while you watch your favorite holiday movie.
  51. Dessert night. Visit your favorite restaurant for dessert. Be sure to check the site for coupons.
  52. Dress up and order appetizers at a high end restaurant.
  53. Visit your local museums. Many are free or have times when you can visit for free.
  54. Attend a local concert in the park. Grab a blanket, chocolates and other snacks. Check your city’s community events.
  55. Go sledding without the kids and bring a mug of hot cocoa and share kisses in the car.
  56. Spend an afternoon picking fruit or vegetables at a local farm.
  57. Spend an evening planning a getaway trip and create a savings jar. Savings JAR DIY
  58. Take your guy to the gun range and learn how to shoot. Sounds like a strange date but it is a lot of fun.
  59. Plan a book review night. Read books like Love to Stay orLove and Respect.
  60. Hobby night. Your hobby may be knitting and his may be rocking the guitar, try teaching each other.
  61. Hang out at the local library on a Saturday morning reading the newspapers or browsing for new books.
  62. Travel back in time. If you live close to where each other grew up, visit your childhood homes and neighborhoods. Grab a camera and take pictures there of your grown up selves.
  63. Eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner in bed; lock the kids out until you’re finished with the meal.
  64. Roast marshmallows and make s’mores over your backyard fire pit or your kitchen stove.
  65. Play hide and seek with post it notes. Plan ahead to leave clues all over the house where your hubby can find you. Consider spicing it up by wearing one of his t-shirts or a new night gown (make SURE the kids are asleep.)
  66. Learn a new card game together for two. Card Games for Two. 
  67. Catch fire flies. Seriously! It is a lot of fun.
  68. Go horseback riding. Often you can find horse ranches outside city limits. Google to find one in your area.
  69. Pick out flowers or vegetables to plant.
  70. Go to a drive-in theater together. Make or purchase your favorite snacks (let him pick the movie).
  71. Run through the sprinklers or hang out in the kiddie pool—without the kids.
  72. Circle Maker night. If you’ve read the Circle Maker, you and your spouse can write out goals and prayers for each other, for each child, and as a family.
  73. Visit your local bookstore and browse CD’s and books or people watch—our favorite.
  74. Walk to your local coffee shop and share a scone and a coffee.
  75. Go to open mic night at your local coffee shop.
  76. Go to the carnival and state fair. Embrace the cheesiness and purchase cotton candy to eat while cuddling on the Ferris wheel.
  77. Visit your local car dealer and let him test drive his dream car.
  78. Visit a chocolate or cookie factory or ice cream shop. If they offer tours, plan to go on one.
  79. Prep meals together. Google your area to see if there is a business where you can prep freeze ahead meals or pick a couple of recipes to do at home.
  80. Invite another couple over for dinner.
  81. Visit the zoo and take a slow walk, taking in God’s creation.
  82. Take a class together. Many community colleges offer community education programs. Try a cooking class or pottery class.
  83. Take a CPR class and practice on each other at home.
  84. Window shop downtown or at the mall. Pick out a new sexy night gown or bra.
  85. Go hiking.
  86. Camp overnight at your local recreational park. Either camp in your car or in a tent by the lake.
  87. Save some cash and stay the night at a bed and breakfast in your area.
  88. Housesit at a friend’s house together.
  89. Surprise your guy with tickets to his favorite major league sport.
  90. Go to a local high school or college game. Go to their website and print out the season’s schedules to put on your fridge for last minute date nights.
  91. Watch a play together at the local high school or community theater.
  92. Hunt garage sales. Grab his favorite on the go breakfast and hunt for home improvement items, décor, or whatever else strikes his fancy.
  93. Rent a tandem bike. Pack a few sandwiches or snacks and work together to get moving.
  94. Stay the night at a local hotel. Plan ahead and visit the hotel’s site for good deals.
  95. Visit a planetarium. See the stars without braving the cold by getting tickets to the planetarium (for extra privacy for make out sessions, go during off seasons).
  96. Volunteer at a local shelter together or another area of interest like Habitat for Humanity.
  97. Go with him on a business trip or vice versa. He might be gone all day, but you’ll have a cozy hotel room to cuddle when he gets back. Order room service.
  98. Sign up for a 5K or try something more challenging like the Warrior Dash www.warriordash.com. Train alone but also train together when your schedule’s allow.
  99. Go to a marriage retreat. This will take some planning and saving, but it is SO worth it. Consider Family Life’s:Weekend to Remember.
  100. Dance in the kitchen. Load your Ipod with your favorite tunes and dance the night away.
  101. Go the dog park. If your man is a dog lover, he will love you for this one.
  102. Play hooky. Send the kids to school and spend the day doing your favorite activity or stay in bed.

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Your Children are Not a Statistic

I’ve done the research.

The statistics for single parents and their children are not encouraging to say the least. From failed marriages, to increased drug and alcohol use, crime, and depression: the picture of children from single family homes is bleak.

And it makes me angry.

Not because I’m in a demographic that I never wanted to be in—isn’t that the case for most single moms? Not because the statistics always take a negative bent—I mean, seriously, almost every one. And, not because what they say has the power to keep some women in bad situations because they fear for their children—regardless of how much more dangerous staying in their current situation is.

But because we believe them.

As if single moms aren’t facing a hard enough battle ahead, we’re told from the get-go that “they” already know the outcome. As if the numbers set our children’s lives in motion and what happens next is out of our control. As if speaking the very things they say sets some cosmic order that can never be changed. That we are helpless to change.

But here’s the thing: Single moms don’t raise their children alone.

Overcome

Because our God is the God of the fatherless, who promises to never—never—forsake us. He is the God of the brokenhearted. He promises to restore the broken years. He is the God of the widow and orphan—including those who are placed into the same position through separation, abandonment, or a failed marriage.

And no amount of surveys, calculations, or statistics can compete with that.

In fact, if we looked at the statistics of families in the Bible, it would look pretty bleak as well. Families broken by the very same things that have broken apart our own. And yet—God redeemed them.

Because God doesn’t believe in statistics. He believes in grace. And forgiveness. And the truth that all of us—regardless of where we come from or what we go through—are loved deeply by Him.

And while we often live up to the expectations people put before us, we don’t have to live up to these. In fact, we need to dispute them. To tell them that in this broken world, where the definition of family is changing by the minute, single parent families are a reality for more than one out of every four children. That those children matter. And that we are committed to doing everything we can to help them heal, prosper, and make a difference in this world.

Sweet mom, your children are not a statistic. And neither are you.

You—and I mean all of you—are children of God. And that alone is enough to overcome anything we face. Because the one who is in you is far greater than anything in this world. 

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