Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does...  (Eph. 6:7-8)

We've had a challenging couple of weeks-- just fighting a virus that is making it's way through everyone in our house and lasting a long time.  I am weary- feeling pretty miserable myself and yet constantly up and tending to the needs of everyone around me-- wiping noses, praying, taking temperatures, giving medicine, rubbing backs, making a cozy spot for a lethargic child, getting another drink, praying some more... and on it goes.  On top of all of the stuff I normally do.  Then nighttime comes and what with all the coughing and congestion and these bothersome sore throats, the kids are up so much more and hence, so am I.  :)  Last night Audra was up at 11:30, 12:30, 1:00, 2:00... just waking herself up with her coughing and wanting some comfort, wanting to be held and prayed for or for me to just lie beside her and hold her hand.  Poor sick little sweetie.  Finally at 2:20-something I brought her back to bed with us- and we all slept much better from that point on.  Anyway-- as a mama I'm pretty tuckered out and am really going to try not to take it for granted when we are all feeling well again.

So recently when I read that verse--- it brought me such encouragement: God sees.  He knows all that I do. Every single act of service will be not just acknowledged, but rewarded.

And it was also encouraging in reminding me that it is GOD I am serving, not man.  It's all about Him.  My acts of service to Mark, the kids, others... it's all an offering to God.  (So, note to self: *Do more of it!* and with a right spirit, not a grumbly, complainy heart.)

*  *  *

Also, just a quick note to let you know that I'm going to be taking an extended break from the internet.  I won't be blogging or checking blogs.  I will be checking email, so you can reach me there and if you comment here on the blog I will get it via email.   Blessings to all of you!   ~Stacy  

The Four Stages: Revisited

Awhile ago I shared that Mark and I are in this stage of communication: 
Stage 4: Talk to your husband?! What is that?  Because there are all these other little people talking or interrupting CONSTANTLY.  You can't even *think*, let alone have a conversation. 
From the sounds of it, a lot of you are there, too.

It has been a challenge for us to try to figure out ways to maintain a good level of communication-- which I would define as: uninterrupted time to talk; the opportunity to share on a deeper level than just the daily conversations surrounding the management of the house and kids.

Just so you know, we're not experts by any means.  We are smack dab in the middle of this stage, struggling to figure it out ourselves.  I do feel so blessed to have witnessed solid, faithful, decades-and-decades-long marriages in two sets of grandparents and in my mom and step-dad.  I have also seen the devastation of divorce- years ago- with my mom and biological dad.  I  know that my parents' divorce has shaped me and has made me even more purposeful and protective of my own marriage.

Here are two reasons I think this communication-thing is so important:

1) Titus 2 talks about how the older women are to train the younger women (that would be me) to love their husbands.  I can't love my husband very well if we're not communicating; if I don't know him, if I'm not working to strengthen and nurture our relationship.  It's my responsibility as a wife to do so.

2) The enemy prowls around, like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  His goal is to kill, steal and destroy.  I see so clearly that he is working to destroy Christian marriages, and while that should not make us fearful (because greater is HE who is in us than he who is in the world!), I think we need to recognize that there's a spiritual battle going on over our marriages, and we have a responsibility to be prayerful and vigilant. 

It's always my goal that our marriage is thriving, not just getting by.  Now for some practical stuff:

I think a key to thriving in your marriage is prayer.  Pray for your spouse*, pray with your spouse, pray over your struggles, pray for the strength of your marriage, just pray already!  So many times in our marriage, God has answered specific prayers and I can look back and see His faithful hand in our relationship.  He is good, and He desires good things for my marriage and for yours.

The main thing I recognized that needed changing in our home in regards to our communication troubles was this: the constant interruptions from our kids.  As a mother, our time is very rarely our own.  Throughout the day, we are continually being interrupted by our kids- for a drink here, a snack there, a diaper change over here, a squabble that needs sorting there, a heart that needs mending, a hug, a word, an instruction, a prayer, a meal.  You name it: as mothers we are on call, all hours of the day.  But when Mark comes home, I need to mentally shift from being available to the kids to being available to him.  That's a difficult thing when all day long your focus is the kids.  That doesn't mean that I'm no longer available to them- but it does mean they may just need to wait.

What that means for us is that when Mark comes home from work, we make an effort to sit together or work alongside each other to talk about our days.  {This is often a time when I'll say- "Okay- everyone outside for 20 minutes!"}  When the kids run in- and they do!  numerous times!- to say this or that, we are learning to tell them to wait; to not interrupt, to please let daddy and mommy talk for a few minutes.  I think it's important for our kids to see, too- that we are loving and honoring one another that way.  And for us, taking that initial time together to cover the basics opens up our evening time to get to more quality conversation.

[One other thought I'm going to tuck in here, and that is to encourage your husband.  Compliment him, tell him every single day how thankful you are for him, for his hard work, for his provision for your family.  Speak well of him to your children and to others.  Tell him you love him, and show him with service and thoughtfulness and kindness and affection.  Greet him warmly at the door, give him a hug and tell him you've missed him.  Okay- that could be a whole other post entirely, but that's all I'll say now.]

The other thing we are always trying to be more diligent at is having planned at-home date nights.  (If you have a sitter and can afford it, by all means: get out of the house!- but if you're like us: just plan dates at home.)  I emphasized the word planned because it makes all the difference for us.  When there is a regular night set aside for that- written on the calendar, anticipated and assigned (either Mark or I in charge of the plan for the evening)- we have far greater success at those date nights actually taking place.  Or- at least they're not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants  "Oh yeah!  It's date night.  What are we doing?  Who was supposed to plan tonight?" kind of an evening.  If I know it's my night, I am far more intentional and thoughtful about what we'll do and what we can talk about.

One more thing: because we rarely have an opportunity to get away, Mark and I try to go away for even one or two nights once or twice a year.  This has become eagerly anticipated by both of us.

I'm counting on your inspiring ideas in the comments of this post, too!

*Here's a link to the list I posted in 2006: Praying for my husband.  

What is there *not* to love about two?

Just today, from my Audra Joy:

"I wuv you.  You're my sweetest mommy in my whole wide world."

Then again, later- as we discussed whether to bring Ella to the doctor or not, she chimed in:

"I think we should see Doctor Baker."  This is who she's referring to:

I sure love my sweet girl.  :)