Raising Masculine Sons

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We just had possibly the best first day of Spring Break we’ve ever had as a family yesterday!¬† ūüėÄ

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The beauty of spring is in full swing now here in Texas, and having our oldest home this week is exciting to me as I think of all the things we’ll be able to go and do!¬† But… staying in our own backyard is truly such a wonderful feeling of peaceful satisfaction.

And yesterday, that’s just what we did ūüėÄ

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In the early morning, I was able to do some gardening before it got to 90 degrees (yes!  In MARCH!!! :D).  And while I was digging and planting, my husband was teaching the boys some woodwork skills.

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Yes, that’s a 3 year old using a handsaw!!!!¬† My husband loves using opportunities like that to teach them, and I’m so grateful… because you know I’d NEVER use a handsaw unless my life depended on it LOL!¬† Much less be able to actually teach our sons those skills ūüôā

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The reason why I don’t do any posts on “Things I Want My Sons to Know” is because although I have a lot of influence over them in understanding femininity, I can’t teach them how to be men.¬† I could never “raise masculine boys” without the constant help and wisdom of my husband.

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It’s been beautiful to watch his relationship with our older son, the way he’s diligently taught him throughout the years and given him a sense of confidence in his little masculine self ‚̧ !!

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Reflecting on these pictures this morning, I realized how far we’ve come from that first year with our dal.¬† Back in 2015 when we first got him and our oldest was only 5, he had a very hard time being confident and dominant enough in his personality that the dog refused to submit to him at all!¬† I wrote in detail back then here, how my husband’s guidance and fatherly instructions is what was raising our son to be far more masculine than I could ever manage on my own.¬†¬†

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Here’s an excerpt from 3 years ago:

My husband takes control

My husband then came into the kitchen, I explained our walk and situation… he immediately took over control and began explaining to our son frame control, and having firm authority in establishing respect with the dog.

He took over and disciplined our son for acting fearful by making him stay with puppy, even forcing him to go outside with it. My husband stayed outside with our son, explaining to him what he needed to do in order to control his fear with the dog and show dominance.

It was so incredibly reassuring and relieving to feel the weight of control and discipline shift from my mommy-role shoulders, onto my capable husband’s.  A father’s unique masculinity and fortitude are so desperately needed as parenting is a million times easier with his strength and presence taking over to instruct or demonstrate.  I watched as he stayed outside a little longer with our son and the dog, teaching how to demonstrate dominant assertiveness, so thankful for his aptitude as a father and husband.  He then came inside saying that he wanted him to play with the dog outside alone for awhile.

Our son played for a good 15 minutes with the puppy, and then ran excitedly to the door and told us that he and his dog were having lots of fun together playing.  This was a dramatic difference from when he’d be outside alone with the dog before my husband had time to teach him confidence and authority.  Before, when he’d be outside letting the dog go potty, he would immediately run to the nearest chair or higher surface in order to escape any potential play-biting or jumping of the puppy.  Him being confident with the puppy and playing with him outside for a steady 15 minutes was a breakthrough!

When it was time to eat lunch, he came back inside¬†and my husband had our son watch a few short videos of the¬†Dog Whisperer¬†explaining masculine dominance and calm authority in different scenarios with difficult dogs. ¬†It led into an interesting discussion the two of them had where my¬†husband explained leadership, and¬†asked our son¬†who is in charge of our family. ¬†Our son undoubtedly answered that it was him. ¬†And my husband asked him why he thought that was? ¬†‚ÄúBecause you‚Äôre in charge.‚Ä̬† My husband¬†then explained what it meant to ‚Äúbe in charge,‚ÄĚ what that looked like in different situations or even environments with different kinds of people. ¬†He explained why our son could¬†sense¬†that his father was in charge of our family….

My husband explained how even without violence or force you can establish yourself as a leader in any given situation. ¬†He described¬†how he is assertive in our family ‚Äď he simply employs a feeling of authority in his manner, body language, and voice. ¬†He used the example of how he has managed to¬†show our extremely stubborn and at times rebellious cats, who‚Äôs in charge. ¬†They obey him simply by his commanding voice ‚Ästand its¬†no small feat to get a cat to listen to you and obey you. ¬†He doesn‚Äôt use violence or brute force, however, his voice alone has the strength and authority that makes them feel like they have to obey.¬† (From here)

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Now it’s so different!¬† They can go outside and run and play soccer (our dalmatian is WICKED GOOD at playing soccer, which is funny, because he looks like a soccer ball himself!).¬† They are becoming admirable little men because of my husband’s leadership in guiding them in that way.

Enjoy your Spring fellow bloggers and readers!  I am SO EXCITED about the sunlight, gardening, and playing in the sand and with our athletic dal!

I hope y’all have a wonderful Spring Break as well ūüôā

‚̧

Stephanie

 

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Labor of Love – Painting!

So… my oldest has officially inspired me to start painting again.¬† I think it’s been… over 10 years since I’ve actually sat down and painted anything serious on an actual canvas.¬† Finger painting with toddlers – yes!¬† But actually sit down, sketch out a portrait and landscape, do all the colors and shading and back-painting a real painting requires?¬† Nope.

That actually changed today, and I sat down and painted a rather large sized canvas of my oldest (because he’s the one who has inspired me to paint again ūüėÄ ) when he was about 2 years old.

This is what happened today:

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It just took the afternoon, and it’s going to be a gift to my sweet Mom… I had to keep stopping to tend to the kids and then to make dinner ūüôā¬† but wow was it fun to paint again.

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I used to draw portraits in high school for fun… and then my friends started actually paying me to draw them.¬† I could never draw (or paint) faces of people, even though I tried a lot growing up… until finally something “clicked” when I was 17, and suddenly, it made sense in my brain and I was able to draw them.

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Honestly, this felt so relaxing and was so easy tonight.¬† I think I’m going to make it a point to paint more LOL.¬† I forgot how enjoyable it was…. ūüôā

All the tiny little details, the millions of leaf prints and different shades of green and blues… it does take some time, but it is so worth it to make all the little leaves.

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‚̧

Stephanie

Parenting – Teaching Your Children to Use Their Gifts

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Our oldest is just amazing.¬† I know I’m his mom and so of course I’m biased… but oh my gosh, God has blessed him with many talents and gifts!¬† He’s kind… he’s gentle… he’s a strong leader and he’s only 7 years old!!!!!¬† Watching him is so inspiring to me to be a better mom – to be the mom he truly deserves in life (and yes, I feel like I fail constantly)!¬† We all deal with some amount of “Mom Guilt.”

Anyway… his school was having a city-wide art competition, and right away I was like, “You have to do this.”¬† He doesn’t believe in himself, just like I was growing up and still have issues with at times.¬† But his raw talent and gifts can’t just be shut up inside him and never used or developed!

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This is something I wish I had learned earlier in life myself – that my gifts, whatever they were, were supposed to be used and practiced and developed and strengthened!¬† It’s nice to have people loyally on your side, watching you with a gracious intent, gently encouraging you to use your gifts, but usually none of us really have people like that around, so we develop self-consciousnesses or neurotic beliefs that we’re always wrong or not very good.

And I see them reflected in my son.¬† His self-doubt, his belief that he’s actually NOT a good artist, or that he’s not funny, and not that smart (when he makes All A’s and B’s and excels in things like math!!).¬† It’s weird to me how we can have such a distorted view of ourselves when in reality, we are given so much more than we see.¬† This is what I imagine Paul was referring to when he was encouraging Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because he was young, but to set an example for other believers and to USE his gifts, and practice them and develop them.

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Practice.

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Develop

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It took him 3 days doing it a few hours at a time, and I had to keep reminding him that he probably wanted to work on it or it wouldn’t be finished in time for the contest, and he did want to finish it.¬† The more he painted, the more he enjoyed it, too!¬† As he and our other children grow older, I’m not going to be harping on them as much so that they can learn that if they don’t hustle and do their work on time – or be consistent in it – they will miss MANY opportunities in life and some that they won’t get a second chance at.

 

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But for now, I’m like the woman Jesus talked about who kept pestering a man to do what she wanted ūüėĬ† I will encourage him, remind him, love him, prod him, and “train him up in the way he should go,” according to his gifts I’ve seen God has given to him.

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His art teacher came up to me with excitement yesterday when I picked him up from school, and told me with wide eyes that he had placed in the competition… out of THOUSANDS of other kids who entered all over our city!¬† He won his school somewhere between $1,000-3,000 in art supplies!!!¬† Of course we were so proud of him!!!

And I asked him in the car when we were driving back home, if he was glad that I pushed him to enter… because he never would have known if he could win if he hadn’t even tried.

I explained to him again that when God gives us special gifts like that, He expects us to USE them for Him, and that others are BLESSED through our gifts – but only if we have enough confidence in ourselves to decide to step out in faith act.¬† We are also blessed when we bless others!¬† As he found out when he won that much money for his art teacher!¬† It’s a blessing to be able to bless other people!

He’s heard about the parable of the talents, but it will probably be a deeper lesson saved for when he is a little older – that if we don’t use our gifts, that God may decide to take them away.¬† I know it sounds harsh, but we are stewards of the things God has given us, and that includes our giftings and talents.

May we all learn to be more confident in the gifts God has given us, and to use them, practice them, develop and strengthen them for His glory.

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Stephanie

Things I Want My Daughter to Know: Keep it Classy

There’s an woman I know who looks, acts, (and even talks!) very much like this beautiful woman in this video.¬† For some strange reason, she has decided to adopt me over this past year, lol, and taken me under her wing (in advice, elegant home party planning, ettiquite, proper form, entertaining higher ups, etc.), and helps me a lot with running the events I do for our wives organization.¬† Her level of sophistication and class has truly challenged me to step up the elegance and effort on my part.¬† Wow was I ever lacking in this area!

Her sweet, beautiful and kind daughter is high school age, and I ADORE watching their relationship. ūüėÄ

So I would be remiss to not post this as “something I wish my daughter to know.”

Keep it Classy ūüėÄ

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Stephanie

Christmas Season Joy!

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A half-done tree ūüėȬ† We waited until my husband got home to do the star at the top, which is always down by the youngest in house who is able to walk ‚̧¬† Watching my husband pick up our 2nd son and let him put the star on is like winning the lottery.¬† So. Much. Love.

We got our decorations up last week, it’s been so much fun decorating with the kids and seeing all the ornaments come out again.¬† I get so much pleasure from just seeing everything again – like seeing old friends… LOL.

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My mom got us this sweet decoration a few years back.¬† I know Santa is a controversial figure, but I do love the story behind him, the legend if you will.¬† And I love this decoration because it kind of epitomizes the importance of Jesus’ birth amidst all the craziness of Christmas shopping, Santa visits, or whatnot.¬† It’s really about this, when it comes down to it.¬† None of the other stuff matters, and it’s nice to be reminded of that.¬† We can have all the other joyful stuff, as long as Christ is still the at the center.

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Love lights ‚̧

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And at night….

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Our famous skyline.

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The top of the building in the center of the above pic, is where my parents bought their chunks of land in the country back in the 80’s.¬† All the way at the top in the penthouse.

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So cute… ūüėÄ

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Our river ‚̧¬† There were less lights for some reason this year.¬† It was still gorgeous and we can’t really complain – but apparently we have new boats that light up the water below them.¬† LOL

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Our cutie…

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Christmas Candle… I always try to get one every year and light it every night, at least through dinner.¬† It’s just a simple tradition, and the light is beautiful for the kids (and me) to look at.

LOL our mischievous one!¬† Wait… they’re both mischievous… oh well!

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Enjoy this season readers!¬† Please go out and have fun!¬† Do joyful things… go listen to some carolers, or watch a ballet of the Nutcracker.

Do something to remind yourself of beauty this season!  To recapture how you felt when you were a child.

Go see some glittering, brilliant lights around in your city.  Really look at a well-decorated Christmas tree at a hotel.  Enjoy some wine!  Go out dancing!

Do something this season to bring more joy into your life, please.

‚̧

Stephanie

 

Spring

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We’ve been enjoying this beautiful weather for a couple of months now since our “Spring” starts so early. ¬†Each year it mesmerizes me with how beautiful Texas is in the Spring. ¬†There’s something about the sunlight hitting the newly green grass or leaves and delicate flowers with a backdrop of the most gorgeous blue sky you can imagine that is just too much!

It’s like the weather itself radiates¬†happiness and joy ‚̧

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Our oldest found a rock with circles cut out like eyes from a skull LOL!! ¬†Our boys could seriously be comedians… ūüėÄ

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St. Patrick’s Day craft making green peeps into little Irish men. ¬†It was so fun!

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Our green Riverwalk dyed for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

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We let our oldest start taking care of some strawberry plants, it’s been fun watching them grow and produce fruit. ¬†Just need to figure out some netting to keep the birds and squirrels away lol! ¬†We recently found one with a bite taken out of it!

 

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This was the first strawberry it produced! ¬†Our son ate it and although he “hated” strawberries before (yet still wanted the plants?? lol) he’s now decided he LOVES them! ¬†(Sneaky parenting 101)

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Sometimes our oldest reads bedtime stories to his little brother. ¬†These are honestly the moments that you live for as a parent. ¬†Just. So. Sweet. ¬†‚̧ ‚̧ ‚̧

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New kitten adventures.

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HAPPY SPRING!!!

Abigail – The Scandalous Wife?

This study of David, Nabal, and Abigail has been truly enlightening for me. ¬†Having studied it a few times before, I thought I had a decent grasp on the story, but it’s been particularly interesting looking into the hearts of David and Nabal, where they were at emotionally and spiritually in the way they spoke to each other, and the ramifications of giving in to folly that this lesson teaches us.

And now we will look at the second part of the story, the part where Abigail steps in, and in her wisdom and insight, giving the longest speech by a woman ever recorded in the Bible, is able to help both of these men from the fates of foolishness. 1 Samuel 25:12

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Davids men retraced their steps. ¬†When they returned to him, they reported all these words. ¬†He said to his men, “All of you, put on your swords!”

So David and all his men put on their swords.  About 400 men followed David while 200 stayed with the supplies.

One of Nabal’s young men informed Abigail, Nabal’s wife:

“Look, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, but he yelled at them. ¬†The men treated us well. When we were in the field, we weren’t harassed and nothing of ours was missing the whole time we were living among them. ¬†They were a wall around us, both day and night, the entire time we were herding the sheep.

Now consider carefully what you must do, because there is certain to be trouble for our master and his entire family. ¬†He is such a worthless fool nobody can talk to him!”

Abigail hurried, taking 200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five butchered sheep, a bushel of roasted grain, 100 clusters of raisins, and 200 cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys.  Then she said to her male servants,

“Go ahead of me. I will be right behind you.” ¬†But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

As she rode the donkey down a mountain pass hidden from view, she saw David and his men coming toward her and met them.  David had just said,

I guarded everything that belonged to this man in the wilderness for nothing. ¬†He was not missing anything, yet he paid me back evil for good. ¬†May God punish me, and even more if I let any of his men survive until morning.”

When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off the donkey and fell with her face to the ground in front of David.  She fell at his feet and said,

The guilt is mine, my lord, but please let your servant speak to you directly. ¬†Listen to the words of your servant. ¬†My lord should pay no attention to this worthless man Nabal, for he lives up to his name. ¬†His name is Nabal, and stupidity is all he knows. ¬†I, your servant, didn’t see my lord’s young men whom you sent. ¬†Now my lord, as surely as the Lord lives, it is the Lord who kept you from participating in bloodshed and avenging yourself by your own hand.¬†¬†May your enemies and those who want trouble for my lord be like Nabal. ¬†Accept this gift your servant has brought to my lord, and let it be given to the young men who follow my lord. ¬†Please forgive your servant’s offense, for the Lord is certain to make a lasting dynasty for my lord because he fights the Lord’s battles. ¬†Throughout your life, may evil not be found in you.

When someone pursues you and attempts to take your life, my lord’s life will be tucked safely in the place where the Lord your God protects the living. However, He will fling away your enemies’ lives like stones from a sling. ¬†When the Lord does for my lord all the good He promised and appoints you ruler over Israel, there will not be remorse or a troubled conscience for my lord because of needless bloodshed or my lord’s revenge. ¬†And when the Lord does good things for my lord, may you remember me your servant.”

 

I don’t know about you, but when I read Abigail’s reply, I’m shocked and in awe of the enormous amount of humility and grace this woman shows when the natural response would be quite the opposite. ¬†One might¬†expect her to have gone to her¬†husband in a mix of anger and panic, and rant and rave about his actions causing them all certain death.

But Abigail calmly and quietly prepares a great offering of foods as a generous gift to David and his men.  Although the situation is a dire crisis, she keeps her head and her cool, and boldly goes to meet David herself, confident in her intentions and his own goodness.

Abigail comes to David in humility and¬†covers over her husband’s offense, even taking account for it – saying the guilt is hers! ¬†Although I’ve seen her story used deceptively as a way to teach women that they can disrespect and dishonor their husbands if they believe they are acting foolishly, Abigail clearly honors and protects Nabal by covering his sin.

She also calms David’s anger by acknowledging¬†his grievance against Nabal’s mistreatment of him – she acknowledges the fact that her husband is a fool, that his name even means “fool.” ¬†This is not the same offense that is spoken of in Matthew 5:22

“But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice against him shall be guilty before the court; and whoever speaks [contemptuously and insultingly] to his brother, Raca (You empty-headed idiot)!‚Äô shall be guilty before the supreme court (Sanhedrin); and whoever says, ‚ÄėYou fool!‚Äô shall be in danger of the fiery hell.”

-Jesus

***

When Abigail refers to Nabal as being foolish (or acting in stupidity), it is not the same as her going to Nabal, and actually telling him “You were a FOOL to treat David that way!” ¬†That particular response WOULD be disrespecting her husband and dishonoring him – speaking to him in a way that God would not be ok with. ¬†Abigail explaining to David, in order to help him avoid reacting in equal folly as her own husband, that Nabal is “just a fool, not worthy of even paying attention to,” is morally right¬†and beneficial in the situation, even honoring her husband in the way that she is preventing innocent blood to be on his hands because of his foolishness. ¬†Matthew 5:22, however, is different from what Abigail did, calling someone something that condemning – telling it to them in a mean-spirited way, is akin to cursing them, something which was taken much more seriously in biblical culture, and something God clearly hates. ¬†In Hebrew culture, if you cursed someone, and it was clear they didn’t deserve your curse, the words and meanings you spoke over their head would fall back onto yours. ¬†Cursing another person was a serious, big deal, which is why Jesus Himself declared that if you called a person a fool, you’d be in danger of going to hell, and it should be noted that Abigail did not directly curse her husband in this way. ¬†She instead used the fact of how he was conducting himself in order to prevent rash and unnecessary violence, and to prevent a good, righteous man from committing great sin.

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Oh to Have an Abigail When We Need One…

I can’t describe how much I would have longed to know and talk to Abigail, and I can’t wait until we get to Heaven so that I can meet her and get to know her soul. ¬†How many times have you wished you had an Abigail to prevent you from reacting in anger or harshness in response to something that ultimately didn’t matter? ¬†I know I’ve had many times where I could have used an Abigail, a person to remind me of God’s plan for my life – of my goodness and desire to be righteous, of my need to act how God would want me to, especially in times of anger. ¬†This is one of the main reasons I believe we as Christians need godly mentors, and as wives, to trust and go to our husbands for their counsel and wisdom.

If you are married to a man (or wife) like Nabal, my heart breaks for you! ¬†I cannot even imagine the pain and sadness you would endure over the years in¬†being linked to a person with that degree of foolishness that they actually endanger your family through sabotaging their career, or endangering their life through their careless words and wickedness. ¬†I’m blessed and humbled to have¬†a wise and incredible man, he has been a wonderful help to me in shielding me from the words of people like Nabal, but he’s also counseled me in how to acknowledge a person’s¬†foolishness so that I know what I’m dealing with, and be confident in disregarding whatever they say, knowing that this pleases God.

Abigail teaches us how to respond in grace and humility to the provocations of a foolish or wicked person.

Notice how she came to David to help him calm down in his anger:

  • First, her non-verbal display of showing him submission and honor, falling down before him – easing the hurt pride her husband’s careless words had caused David. ¬†Our non-verbal responses are so important because if they don’t add up with what we are saying, they betray our message. ¬†Her genuine care for David is shown more through non-verbal actions than even her words. ¬†Her husband mocked who he was, degraded his reputation, and belittled his future anointing as King, but Abigail, in even just her non-verbal actions, undoes all those messages, and reaffirms her belief that David in good, honorable, and righteous.
  • She humbles herself, and takes the guilt of her husband onto herself.¬† A natural response for a wife in this situation would be to say that it’s her husband’s fault, and that she was innocent, but Abigail does the opposite! ¬†She doesn’t blame her husband, but actually asks David to forgive her for his offense. ¬†This honors her husband and also diffuses David’s anger, telling him to direct it at her instead. ¬†It reminded me of an old story of a child, in their ignorance, doing something disrespectful in front of a king, and deserving death for the ignorant act. ¬†The father runs up to the king, and covers his child both physically and emotionally, telling the king to put the blame on him, to punish him instead. ¬†The father covers for the sin of the child, indeed, taking the sin upon himself because of his great love and devotion – because he didn’t want to see his child perish. ¬†The king, affected by the display of love and affection by the father for his foolish child, pardons both and enjoys giving them forgiveness.
  • She tells him not to pay any attention to Nabal. ¬†This is a very fundamental truth in understanding how to deal with a Proverbial Fool. ¬†It’s not wise to take their words to heart, because they are only meant to insult or provoke, are meaningless, and provide no actual wisdom or insight. ¬†The Fool is not seeking understanding, thus giving them the benefit of the doubt, trying to reason with them or even rebuking them only invites harm on oneself. ¬†Even Biblically, you don’t respond unless it’s absolutely necessary. ¬†You don’t pay them any attention, because they are not worth your time. You don’t give them any words of wisdom because they will only trample on them like pigs would on precious pearls. ¬†When David found himself ruminating over Nabal’s wicked words mocking and insulting him,¬†Abigail brought to light that Nabal’s words mattered very little in the course of David’s life and future. ¬†He would likely never see Nabal again, Nabal’s acceptance or rejection of David didn’t matter. ¬†In other words, when dealing with a Proverbial Fool, you don’t worry about whether or not¬†they like you – you only care about what God thinks of you and if what you are doing glorifies and honors Him.
  • She reminds him that God wants more for him and from him. ¬†Her reply is akin to her¬†telling him in our modern language, “You’re better than that.” ¬†She reminds him not to avenge Himself, but to leave room for God to, something that is repeated in Romans 12 in response to how we should treat our enemies – by not repaying evil for evil, but by “overcoming evil with good.”
  • ¬†She offers him and his men a generous, tangible gift to nourish their hunger, something to remind them of God’s goodness and generosity. ¬†There is just something very powerful about giving a good or well-timed gift, especially in a tense situation that can calm strife or anger, and bring people together. ¬†But it’s worth noting that she doesn’t just come empty-handed, pleading for their lives, but comes bearing baskets of food overflowing from their celebration to comfort and still them – it could definitely be called a “peace offering.”
  • She verbally speaks blessings of affirmation over David, “for the Lord is certain to make a lasting dynasty for my lord because he fights the Lord’s battles. ¬†Throughout your life, may evil not be found in you.” ¬†She speaks confidently of God fulfilling His known promises to David, and assures him of the joy set before him. ¬†This is just such a beautiful gift to a person in David’s situation – someone insulted, mocked, and ridiculed, denied what they arguably should have because of how they’ve acted in integrity. ¬†He was condemned when he had done nothing wrong, was repaid evil for his goodness, something only a wicked person would do, but Abigail takes his mind off of his anger and pain, and assures him that he is doing right, that God is going to bless him immensely, and that his work and success (something that Nabal completely disregarded as worthless) was godly and would be rewarded.
  • She shows compassion and care for David’s personal and spiritual well-being – outright telling him that she doesn’t want him to have the weight of a guilty conscience because he acted rashly – or have the blood of innocents on his hand for having avenged himself.
  • She assures him that God is the ultimate avenger, and that God will deal with David’s enemies, even with Nabal. God is a righteous and just God, and He knows and weighs the motivations in people’s hearts.

 

Abigail protected and honored Nabal even though he was wicked and enjoyed dealing with others in an evil manner. ¬†I think it’s safe to say that Nabal was probably not a man of God, but since the Bible doesn’t say either way, it is possible that he actually was a man who believed he knew God. ¬†Obviously, even if a person believes they are a Christian, if they are continually acting sinfully and in an evil manner towards others, they have a Satanic stronghold in their life, and are not allowing the Holy Spirit to convict them so that they treat others appropriately.

I encourage you to read the end of the story if you aren’t already familiar with it. ¬†David is blessed by Abigail’s appeal, and thanks her and blesses her in return for her discernment. ¬†She returns home to find Nabal feasting, drinking, and celebrating, completely unaware of the terror that could have happened to him. ¬†She waits until he’s sober the next morning to tell him what David was planning to do, and what she did to avoid their deaths. ¬†Nabal has something like a heart attack that leaves him in a coma for 10 days, before the Lord strikes him dead.

When David finds out about Nabal’s death, he says,

“Praise the Lord who championed my cause against Nabal’s insults and restrained His servant from doing evil. ¬†The Lord brought Nabal’s evil deeds back on his own head.”

David then sent for Abigail to become his wife.  And she accepted in grace and humility.

Staying Focus: Having Joy in Spite Of

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I feel like I’ve learned so many little lessons from not only this Joy study itself, but the many different things in my life during this time. ¬†It’s amazing to experience God’s peace and joy, even in the midst of things that would seem negative, things that normally would rob one of joy or happiness or peace.

This week, we’ve been learning how to practice having joy in spite of difficult or less than desirable circumstances. ¬†This journey over the past few months¬†has truly grown me and stretched me, to where I’m not even the same person I was a few months ago. ¬†I’ve heard so many messages now on what God was pressing on my heart – Staying Focus – and so many gifts of wisdom from people in my life on how to respond in better, more Christ-like ways to attacks and accusations.

I don’t retaliate anymore when I’m tempted to. ¬†I don’t try to fight back in ways that only make matters worse. ¬†I don’t give in to feeling ashamed when Satan uses people to bring up my past failures, things I’ve already apologized for and reconciled with them about. ¬†I know God’s used my past failures to help me learn how to respond better in my life, and that I’m fully covered in His grace. ¬†There is no more condemnation for my past failings. ¬†And I know how to spot Satan’s attempts at stealing my joy – they don’t even work anymore – when he tries to condemn me for things I’ve already been forgiven for. ¬†I know I’m covered in God’s grace, and feel no condemnation! ¬†I still have joy ūüôā

Now I actually celebrate and am actually a little excited to see insults and slander, not because of it or the pain it does cause me, but because I have the renewed chance to respond the right way this time. ¬†To do things right. ¬†Even last night, I decided to pray for someone that was obviously acting without self-control… again, and trying to cause harm by what she thought was a good plan at retaliation at feeling wronged. ¬†It was exciting for me to know and decide right then at that moment, that I would not retaliate, and that I would pass that test God was giving me to learn how to deal better with sinful people.

I decided not to retaliate with insults or accusations of her past wrongs, or attacks like the last time I failed this test. ¬†I decided I was going to forgive her, again, pray for her, and thank God for what she was doing and saying. ¬†Sometimes we have to forgive people multiple times because they keep allowing Satan to use them. ¬†But my reaction last night, is a far cry from what I would have done just a few months ago. ¬†And that’s amazing!

It’s something to celebrate! ¬†So I’m celebrating this week, for doing something I never would have been able to do with such grace this time last year. ¬†I’m celebrating for the progress and maturity this means for me. ¬†I’m celebrating because in passing this test, I’ll be able to move to the next level with God and be ready for whatever He has for me there.

So be encouraged readers!!  Have joy Рjoy in spite of.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

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This is the epic soup of Fall.  The combination of all the ingredients with their surprisingly opposite notes of flavor (onions + maple syrup anyone??), all came together to almost taste like a prelude to a Thanksgiving dinner.  It was like eating a Thanksgiving Soup!

Anyway, I’ve never successfully made this soup before, I think I have tried maybe 2 years ago or so, and failed miserably – somehow it just tasted horrible. ¬†But this recipe I found at our local grocery store (HEB for you Texans) was a new spin on the traditional Butternut Squash Soup. ¬†This soup is drastically different from it’s more widely consumed version; it has maple syrup, brown sugar, and apples – giving it a much deeper flavor and intensity as the regular version sticks with the plain ingredients.

I loved how it gave our family a taste of Thanksgiving to come!  I hope you try it and enjoy it!

Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Soup – HEB Recipe

  • 3 pkg. HEB Butternut Squash or 1-Whole Butternut, cleaned and diced discarding peel
  • 2 Apples, cored and diced (Ambrosia Apples are great flavor), or 2 cups Apple sauce (Unsweetened preferred but sweetened works just fine)
  • 8 oz Diced Savory Vegetables (HEB wants you to buy their packages, but I just looked online to see what “diced veggies” could go into this soup normally. ¬†It’s a blend of 1/2 an onion diced, 1 potato diced, along with other optional things like 1 carrot or 1 celery stalk. ¬†It’s up to you what you use really).
  • 6 oz Maple Syrup or 1 cup Brown Sugar (I used 1/2 cup Maple Syrup and 1/2 cup Brown Sugar because I liked the idea of having both in the soup).
  • 1 Tbsp Texas Prime Coarse seasoning (I simply used some parsley & garlic as I didn’t want to buy more seasoning)
  • 1 qt HEB Chicken broth or stock
  • 2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream (I used 1 1/2 cups of milk, whisking it in after the soup was pureed)
  • Salt & Black pepper

Preheat oven to 400’F.

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Amazed at the brown sugar and maple syrup combination!

Amazed at the brown sugar and maple syrup combination!

1 Potato diced

1 Potato diced

The beautiful veggie mixture, onions were added afterwards.

The beautiful veggie mixture tossed and coated, onions were added afterwards.

After roasting for 1 hour

After roasting for 1 hour.  Smelled heavenly, like a Thanksgiving Soup!

After puree, the end result!

After puree, the end result!

Combine all squash, diced apples (applesauce) and veggies and place into baking pan.  Drizzle maple syrup and add seasonings.  Toss to coat.  Roast for 45 min to 1 hr.  Allow veggie mixture to cool and add into food processor in batches to create puree. In a stock pot, pour broth, cream and puree and simmer for 10 minutes.

Adjust to your favorite consistency (by adding more water or broth if you have any left over, or the texture of the puree). ¬†My husband loves soup that isn’t completely pureed, so I make sure to leave some of¬†chunks of the veggies in the soup. ¬†It was glorious!

Bon Appetit!

Single Women: Don’t Do Messy-Girl Style!

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Single women… men notice your counter tops!

Not those counter tops – not even your kitchen counter tops, although those matter, too. ¬†I’m talking about your counter space in your restroom, and the storage of your feminine beauty items. ¬†A woman’s restroom and how clean she keeps it is actually more important than you think.

Growing up my mother always tried to instill in me to keep my bathroom area – mainly the counter top space – clean and organized, free of clutter, but it always seemed like a chore and slightly unnecessary. ¬†Especially when one is single – who sees your counter top in your bathroom?¬† It began to make more sense in college when I would see my friend’s dorm rooms and see guys using their restroom. ¬†If it was dirty or unclean, the guys would mentally make note of it, sometimes even say something about it.

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A few years ago, I read an article over at Into The Gloss, the chicest resource for what the models and celebrities secretly wear and do for their beauty regimen, a brief instruction to all the female readers to not be a “messy girl” and that one of the greatest sins of chic they could commit was to have a messy bathroom, especially a cluttered up counter top.

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It’s true. ¬†Since then I’ve read many comments from men, talking about how much they wish women were aware of what they accidentally show them when they enter their apartment. Or (gasp!!) use their girlfriend’s bathroom. ¬†Men love to have the idea of a woman being polished, together. Seeing you outside of your home, looking beautiful and polished, only to find out that your inner world is a mess is disappointment to them. ¬†Most men are completely and utterly turned off by the messy girl life style. ¬†It demonstrates low value, that the girl doesn’t care about her possessions, that she isn’t responsible enough to take care of where she lives, and that she doesn’t have the integrity to be disciplined and clean behind closed doors. ¬†When reading Into the Gloss, where it showed pictures daily of the Top Shelfs (bathroom storage) of the beauty supplies, perfumes, candles, etc. the models and designers, producers, and leading women in the beauty industry – all women of high value – each and every top shelf was organized and clean.

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I don’t want it sound like this is the most important thing in attracting men, because obviously it isn’t! ¬†The models and designers that have their bathrooms go on photo-shoots probably clean like never before! ¬†But it’s still something beautiful and good to aspire to. ¬†It’s unreasonable to expect 24/7 organization, but the key here is to learn how to make it easier, more manageable, and give you that boost of enjoying a clean, organized bathroom space.

Even Elisabeth Elliot had something to say on the beauty of cleanliness in a woman,

‚ÄúThe way you keep your house, the way you organize your time, the care you take in your personal appearance, the things you spend your money on, all speak loudly about what you believe. The beauty of thy peace shines forth in an ordered life. A disordered life speaks loudly of disorder in the soul.‚ÄĚ

***

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Tips to keep your bathroom looking like a Top Shelf:

  • Keep your vanity counter clean by wiping it down every night after you use it, this helps dust and debris from building up over time. ¬†My dad taught me this and continued to do it himself for years.
  • Only keep a few key feminine or favorite pieces on your counter top to avoid clutter. ¬†Clutter just looks horribly messy, believe me I wish it didn’t! ¬†So just stick to a couple of key pieces that are beautiful, even better if they can provide dual functions like a toothbrush holder. I have a couple of elegant pieces right now, 2 that serve as dual functions. ¬†My Grandma’s antique angel jewelry holder is the stand for my contact case, a beautiful tiny vase holds my favorite nail polishes and glasses, along with little things like bobby pins at times. ¬†And an antique, glass perfume bottle I found at a thrift store for $1, just to add a more feminine touch.
  • Store your bulky beauty items that you rarely use either under the cupboard in trays, bags or boxes to keep out of the way and yet still organized and easy to find when you need them.
  • Store your more regularly used beauty products on a shelf – a Top Shelf is great for this. ¬†It’s out of theway, and easy to reach, and it forces you to only keep so much at a time – making you periodically have to go through your items to put away things you don’t use anymore, or throw away old bottles.
  • The hardest thing for me to keep on top of is dust getting on the things that are on the counter top itself, even the flowers. ¬†Either weekly or monthly, depending on how much dust you collect in your house, try to just dust off the key pieces. ¬†It’s hard for me to notice when it’s building up, so having a somewhat steady time when I dust there is better overall.
  • USE WINDEX! ¬†In this age of the Selfie, how many girls and young women do you see posting up selfies with dirty mirrors? ¬†Men actually make fun of this phenomenon, that the girl is so narcissistic that she’s focusing so much on herself, that she can’t see that the mirror itself is dirty, giving the photo a horrible overall look. ¬†Use Windex once a week when doing your regular bathroom cleaning duties, it makes it so much more beautiful to have clean mirrors rather than dingy ones.

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We all try to look our best when out in public.  Single women especially, try to look polished.  But a truly polished young woman will care about the little details of her home, and work to keep even her counter tops clean and organized.

It all basically comes down to being clean and organized.

Men appreciate this, much more than society tells us.  So enjoy the beauty and peace of a clean, elegant space!