Fairy Tale Proposal and Happily Ever After

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Eleven years ago today, I got pulled over by the sheriff. I couldn’t imagine then how one “traffic stop” would change my life.

Last year, I was so excited to sit in the very spot of this momentous encounter with our sheriff with my daughter and watch this video of her daddy’s surprise return from Iraq which had a bigger twist than I realized.

I was stunned. I had no idea what was happening. I wasn’t even sure what I said until I watched the replay – on NBC, MSNBC and now YouTube!

Now I can say, even with all the challenges we have behind us and all the challenges we have before us, I would say YES again.

April 6, 2006 felt like an ordinary Thursday, not a Fairy Tale Proposal.

Today, reflecting on where we’ve been, I can see how much God has grown our marriage since that day. And we’re so blessed to have had it filmed to share forever, and have such a wonderful start to our lives together.

When the sheriff pulled me over, I couldn't imagine how this would become a fairy tale proposal. Click To Tweet

Struggling with a terrible surgery, disability, and recovery, I’ve had a really rough year. And my husband stepped up. Despite working early mornings, long shifts, and short weekends, he has selflessly given to me when he has been home to do so.

He has cooked and cleaned. He even shooed me away from doing chores a couple of times. He said, “I’m trying to take care of you! Would you just let me?!” Sometimes, in order to be a blessing, we have to let others be our blessing. And what a blessing it is to have someone offer to care for you not out of obligation, but out of love.

Sometimes in order to be a blessing, we have to let others bless us. Click To Tweet

I have felt my husband’s ‘thank you’ for all the times I’ve served him quietly, and I felt God’s love through my husband. Even in the worst moments of the past few months, I’ve had reasons to be grateful instead of complain.

I live in a country which has wealth more abundant than 90% of the world can imagine. I have the luxury of being sidelined and sick because we have a stocked freezer and pantry. And internet to allow me to visit friends all over the world from my couch.

And my husband has sacrificed his time, his energy, and his hobbies to be home to care for me. He spent all day Sunday (during Turkey season!) making a gourmet feast because I’ve been stuck on the couch for months and haven’t been able to go to our local Mediterranean restaurant for my favorite dish – fresh from scratch fettucine Alfredo with wood fire grilled steak in a balsamic reduction sauce with fresh homemade bread.

Why did I originally share this post on Veterans Day?

My husband is a soldier. He has served overseas many times in various capacities during his time in the Marine Corps and US Army. He spent four years of his life in Iraq, trying to defend our values and nation from those who spread hatred. While not untouched by war, he has come home alive and unhurt. Not everyone can hug their veteran today.

Also, Veteran’s Day is our wedding anniversary. We’ve been married 10 years last November. Six months prior, he came home from Iraq and surprised me with this outlandish proposal.

I thought I was getting arrested, but instead I was getting a fairytale proposal.

Military life isn’t easy. We can spend time complaining or be grateful. We live in a country so free people can scream from the top of their lungs ideas that are completely opposite of what our nation stands for, and a soldier will say, “but I fought for his right to say it.”

Eleven years ago today, I got pulled over by the sheriff. I couldn't imagine how one "traffic stop" would change my life with a soldier's fairytale proposal.

My marriage isn’t perfect, but it is growing stronger. We have enough. We have each other, a lovely home, and amazing kids. I get to choose my perspective. When I choose to focus on God, the complaints die away unsaid, my heart turns from bitter to blessed.

Every low moment in our lives is a chance for God to whisper His perspective into our hearts. Every small joy is a gift to us. Every challenge a chance to grow and overcome. Even in moments that destroy and devastate, God shows up. He is present, giving us rest, using people to love us.

I am supremely grateful for a husband who has given me so much, I honestly couldn’t think of anything I really want except to grow closer.

The fairytale isn't having perfection, it's having perspective, God's perspective. Click To Tweet

James 1:2-4 ESV  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

I’m counting it ALL JOY, learning to be complete, realizing in Christ, I am truly lacking in nothing. And that is how our fairytale proposal turns in our Happily Ever After.

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More than Conquerors

I started this #30DaysWithoutComplaint challenge with a true desire to let God’s work in my heart flow into all areas of my life, starting with what I say, hoping to then transform how I think, and eventually be able to master what attitude I have. The first couple of days went really well, but I got a little cocky and too busy. I let distractions pull me away from my quiet time with God.

And I didn’t have my armor on when life got tough.

Ephesians 6:11 ESV “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

When my daughter was having a few challenging days in a row and my husband got upset over something small, I got hurt. And I let my exhaustion, hurt, and fear define my reaction. I complained, which hurt me and my family. When I fill my cup with the Lord, dwell and abide in His word, I know the truth and react with that truth.

John 15:6 ESV “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers;”

I withered because I let myself get separated even just a step from God. I felt Him calling to me, “Sit down, visit with me.” But I kept saying in five minutes I’ll have time, and then I didn’t make the time. And I started wanting the people, fallible people, to be my portion even though I know they cannot be.

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

I let my hope be in things of this world for a day or two and my attitude started looking ragged around the edges.

Since I became a mom, I’ve walked around talking to myself. No, I haven’t lost my mind, at least not completely (yet), but I narrate everything. “It’s hot in here.” “Ooh, that’s cold.” “My head hurts”. . .  ad nauseam. I started when my daughter was a baby, just talking with her to bond, help her interact with her world, maybe because my mom did it with us.

I never realized just how negative my self-narration has become. I can’t think of one “narrating” comment Tuesday that wasn’t somehow negative. I knew this wasn’t going to be a simple challenge, but it has been discouraging to hear how quickly the little negatives come pouring out. “You’re making me upset. Your behavior isn’t making me very happy. Mommy doesn’t feel well.”

Tuesday afternoon, she was so out of control that the more I tried to reason with her the more whining and crying she did. Thank goodness, I paused, mentally threw God a hail mary, and had a quick heart reset. “You’re acting really upset over lots of little things that don’t usually bother you. What is really wrong?” Her stuttered sniffling dissolved into wails of “I’m hungry.” Well, shoot, if you had just said something. You can have a snack. End of issue.

But a day later, a day more exhausted, and when my husband’s attitude rubbed me the wrong way, I responded with an empty heart. I was hurt, and I let him know it, which defeated the purpose of the no complaint challenge.

Then I felt defeated. I really am not good when I fail. Anyone who knows me, has seen me just absolutely crushed under the need to get everything right every time. I don’t know how to live with the grief when I don’t get something right on accident, but when I let my hurt feelings and indignation turn into a HUGE dose of iVoice, I can really get down on myself.

John 1:12b-13 ESV “he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Then, I read this verse. I was born as a child of God through His will, not my own. Trying to do this on my own, even for a day, was a recipe for failure. But today, God’s grace grabbed me by the heart as I prepared to lead Bible study and verse after verse reminded me of who I really am in Christ, of His forgiveness and redemption. Then sharing my failures with my study group, I was able to reach into the broken places of others because I was honest about my broken places, too.

2 Timothy 1:7-8 ESV “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,”

When I clothe myself in God’s spirit, I don’t have to be a failure because I failed. I can choose self-control and love next time. Even in failure, I still had a testimony of the changes in my heart because I was able to recognize what happened instead of playing the blame game. I was able to apologize first and not wait for an apology. I was able to reconstruct the discussion and tell my husband what I should have said and how I had been wrong. And I truly didn’t need him to apologize or admit his failures to me at all. Because I was abiding in God’s truth today.Life is wonderfully imperfect and busy as it can be, but today was a good day. I claimed God’s promises and held them tight, even when things tried to distract me, I was not confused about who I am in Christ. I’m still growing for sure, but I don’t have to live empty, I don’t have to live in defeat. More than Conquerors

Romans 8:37 ESV “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

I don’t know if I made it through the whole day without a single complaint, but my attitude was certainly centered on the right perspective today, which is the point of this challenge anyway – to get to the place in God that the complaints fall away. And on that, I’m still a work in progress.

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30 Days Without Complaint 48 hours

As I prepare to undertake this transformative challenge again this year. I am revisiting what I learned only 48 hours into 30 days without complaint last year. As the last day before I start this year, I’ve already seen how destructive a little complaining can be.

Oh no! 30 Days Without Complaint 48 hour in I've already learned how hard this will be.First, since I’ve started this challenge, I’ve found God has blessed me with ample opportunities to practice already. Not complaining may be a bit like praying for patience. Once I ask, I get lots & lots of chances to practice.

Planning to quit complaining is like praying for patience - lots of chances to practice. Click To Tweet

I am outgoing and friendly if you meet me because I genuinely care about people, but my heart is fed by lots of quiet time, so a busy day can be very stressful for me. You might think I would have planned this better, but nope, Day 1, I had an extremely busy schedule.

Simply getting out the door for Bible study without any complaining (at least on my part) was going to be my first real challenge.

30 Days Without Complaint – Learning to be the light of the world!

The next part of our day (2014) was pretty amazing. We met up with Mike Viti, from Mike’s Hiking for Heroes, who is (was) walking across America, over 7,100 kilometers, one kilometer is designated by name for every service member who was killed in action during the Global War On Terror.

When Legacies Alive - Mike Viti 30 Days Without Complaint 48 hours I asked him why he walks, he said, that his goal was to be not just one voice, but one person doing something to raise awareness of the sacrifice of our nation’s heroes and their families.

Having followed his journey since April, I was so excited, nothing was going to dissuade me. Yet, having had hip replacement in January with a string of complications and injuries, this was going to be my longest walk in a year. We walked on a busy highway with three children in strollers.  My body got a really good workout while we talked and hiked almost 4k (one for each of my husband’s Iraq tours) with this very dedicated American.

By the end of a very full day, my body had been pushed pretty hard considering my recent occupation of perpetual patient. I smiled and took an Aleve, joyfully using my microwave-able heating pad, and didn’t utter a single complaint. My husband could see I was sore, but instead of grumbling, complaining about the aches, I smiled. I could almost see him relax, ease into the story of his day, not having apprehension about my needs.

Which brings me to my next observation. This challenge seemed pretty straight forward when I devised it, but the intricacies are continuing to blossom in my heart.

#30DaysWithoutComplaint challenge is one of the most transformative I've undertaken. Join me! Click To Tweet

The first part of what I have learned is that carefully crafting my words from, “I’m hungry” to “I would like to eat now,” seems like just a lesson in semantics, but choosing positive words is part of being the light in a dark world.#30 Days Without Complain 48 hours -Light of the World

Philippians 2:14-15 ESV “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,”

Carefully crafting every sentence isn’t superficial. If word choice changes the way people perceive a product, don’t the words I use change the way people perceive me, my attitude, or even the way I perceive my world?

I have already seen how much my words affect not only my heart, but the hearts of those around me. The past few days have felt lighter, more joyful. I feel like my attempts to guard my mouth from complaining are also guarding the hearts of those who would hear those complaints. My husband and daughter are already responding to the light in me.

I can already feel myself slowing down and giving more thought to the words tumbling out of my mouth. Spending more time thinking about my words changes my heart for others, slowing down to listen and love. God is already blessing me in this challenge after only 48 hours.

If you’ve taken the #30DaysWithoutComplaint challenge, I hope you’re seeing the fruits of change in your life as well.

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30 Days Without Complaint

Want to change your attitude? Make-over your internal dialogue? Take the 30 Days without Complaint challenge with me!

I started taking this challenge in 2014. After considering what constitutes complaining, I decided that I wanted to eliminate all of it from my attitude, truly find contentment no matter my circumstance.

The dictionary definition of complain reads, “to say or write that you are unhappy, sick, uncomfortable, etc., or that you do not like something: to say something that expresses annoyance or unhappiness.”

How would your life change if you went #30DaysWithoutComplaint ? How would your heart soften? Click To Tweet

I was overwhelmed to think about going without uttering a single complaint for 30 days.

I am pretty sure I am going to fail everyday. So why bother trying to go without complaint?

Because I want to change my attitude to reflect joy.

I started by paying attention to my complaining. Well, that was a wake up call. If you had asked me the week before I began this challenge, if I complain a lot, I would have said no.

But listening to myself this week, hearing myself mutter under my breath about the husband who dirties every dish, or my sinus headache, or the yucky film on the counter, or the tone and attitude of my four-year-old, I complain much more than I had believed.Want to change your attitude? Make-over your internal dialogue? Take the 30 Days without Complaint challenge with me! It stops today.

Today, I pledge that I am not going to complain for 1 month. Tomorrow, I am going wake up with every word that comes out of my mouth focused on being positive or quiet. I might be quiet a lot.

Pledging to quit complaining for 30 days. I may fail daily, but learn even more. Click To Tweet

God must have a sense of humor. Not five minutes after I decided to take this challenge, I walked into my daughter’s room to find that an F5 tornado had apparently struck. I was racing to work on a photo shoot for work before the sunlight changed. But rather than complain, I carefully crafted every word.

“It looks like you need some help cleaning up. You must have been having fun.”

We cleaned it up quickly. Having a positive attitude even kept a few near meltdowns from happening. Even under a stressful deadline, going without complaint makes big changes. Then, she cooperated getting dressed up, having her hair curled and styled. She was just the perfect little model on my photo shoot for work.

What started the #30dayswithoutcomplaint challenge?

Other years, I did the days of Thankfulness challenge on Facebook. I posted something new I was grateful for every day in November. My social media was full of gratefulness, but I want my heart full of thankfulness.

Philippians 2:14-15 ESV “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,”

I want people to see Christ in me. God has been teaching me a lot this year about how I speak, softening my tone, being quiet, listening more, keeping anger out of my voice.

Tonight, I really noticed how rephrasing my words gives them a completely different tone. Instead of I’m too tired to give her a bath, I said, I would prefer to finish folding the laundry.

Do you have an internal monologue?

Most of my complaining was part of an under-my-breath running narration of my life. My little one is picking up on all my grumbling.

It’s negative and hurtful, and critical of my husband in front of my daughter. I wouldn’t dare actually say those things to him; I shouldn’t be saying them at all. And if I’m being honest, if I’m truly going to stop complaining, I’m going to have to stop the thoughts as well.

Never complaining ever again might be a stretch, but radical change in my speech, mind, and heart takes radical actions.

Radical obedience takes radical actions to produce radical change. #30DaysWithoutComplaint Click To Tweet

I am going to do my best to completely revamp my attitude over the next 30 days, to start a new habit of positivity.

So, If you find me speaking very slowly and deliberately, I haven’t had a stroke, just a rough day.

Speak slowly, speak intentionally so you can speak life into the lives of those around you. Click To Tweet

I’m trying to speak intentionally so that I do not complain. I am really looking forward to seeing how this transforms my life at home, with my daughter, my ministry.

I hope you’ll join me. #30DaysWithoutComplaint

Make sure to follow the blog or on Facebook to get the real scoop on my progress throughout the month.

Two day update

 What I Learned when I Stopped Complaining – 30 Days Without Complaint final

No Complaints – the second annual challenge.

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