Marriage Mondays: Service Charge!

Joe and I always joke around about taking a service charge when we do something for each other. Typically the charge involves food. For example, if I ask Joe to pass me a bowl of popcorn he would take a few off the top and yell, “service charge!” In response, I would make a little face at him and we laugh. The same happens when he asks me to do stuff that involves a snack. As I was reflecting on the little playful phrase between the two of us and even thinking of how we borrowed the term from banks I started to think about God and how it would be if He service charged us. Can you imagine how that would be? Every time we took a breath God would yell, “service charge!” and take our breath away for a short time. Or every time we sat down to eat He would yell, “service charge!” and scoop half the food off of our plates.

Thankfully, He is not that kind of God and we do not have to worry about those things with Him. Likewise, we should not have to worry about them with our spouse. So often, I hear individuals saying that their significant other owes them this or that because of what they did for them. I even catch myself having that same mentality from time to time and I immediately feel convicted. In a marriage conference we attended a little while back the presenters talked about the importance of serving one another in marriage. Not just serving, but constantly working to out serve the other. I was reminded of John 13:1-17, where Jesus washed the disciples feet. He was showing them the importance of serving one another, in love. Verse 17 reads,

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

I just want to encourage you to apply the same principles to your marriage today. Joe and I have definitely not mastered this concept, but we are both striving to out serve each other daily. We have witnessed firsthand the difference this has made in our relationship as we take the focus off of ourselves and place it where it belongs, on God first and then each other. As the word says, “you will be blessed if you do them.”

How can you work to out serve your spouse today?

Marriage Mondays: How I See Me vs How He Sees Me

A friend and I were talking the other day about how our bodies have not bounced right back after having our babies. It is so easy to look at celebrities and even other women that we know and love in our own lives and wonder why it seems so easy for them and so difficult for us. I often look down at my little pooch belly with pride and thankfulness because I know that God has blessed my womb to carry two babies so far and that more are to come. However, I do not always feel confident when it comes to what my shape now looks like.

I did not really realize that this was a problem until my husband’s compliments to my body begin to feel like insults. When he would look over at me and tell me that I am beautiful or sexy I would cringe on the inside because I disagreed. I would instantly take a quick inventory of the parts of my body that need some work. I thought about the stretch marks, extra folds of skin, and the incision from my c-section (though barely visible it is HUGE to me!). Yet and still he would have this look in his eyes that let me know that he really did believe what he was saying. This dude really does think I am sexy!

It took a while for me to come to terms with that and to even see the parallel between this and how God views us. I am thankful that Joe loves me… stretch marks and all (as he should of course!). I am even more thankful that God loves me through all of my mess.

Did you ever have body image issues after having kids? How did you deal with it? How did/does your spouse make you feel?

Marriage Mondays: Vulnerability

One thing I struggled with for awhile when Joe and I first started to date was my ability to truly be vulnerable with him. Completely letting go and allowing someone to get that close scared me. Prior to Joe, I always had what I called “back ups”. They were guys that I could always turn to if my boyfriend at that time acted up. It seemed like the perfect situation for me. I always had someone there if I wanted. Someone to flatter me, to take me out to eat, and make me feel special. Over time, those things no longer mattered to me. Those things were no longer enough.

Joe and Toya 12:2006

Joe and I, at UGA in 2006.

So Joe came along and demanded that I called all of my back ups and let them know that their services would no longer be needed. I was so shocked and appalled when he made that demand. I was even more surprised that I actually did it. Several phone conversations later and few choice words from some of my back ups and there I stood in a relationship with Joe. I was excited and terrified all at once. What would I do if Joe acted up? How would I bounce back? What guy would I call to fill that position? I felt completely wide open susceptible to hurt and pain, I was vulnerable. What that meant for me is that I would need to learn to trust Joe with my heart completely, not because he was this wonderfully, terrific person. I would need to learn to trust him because I knew to trust God. I prayed for months for God to bless me with someone like Joe. I had to decide at that moment to trust that the man God sent me would be enough. I had to decide to forgive him if he ever did make a mistake. I had to decide to place my confidence for my relationship and subsequent marriage in God and not in Joe.

 

Once I stopped trying to guard my heart and I let Joe in, I began to experience a type of peace in my relationship that I never knew existed. We evolved together from a couple of teenagers in “like” with one another into a couple completely in love and invested in making our marriage work. Everyday I allow myself to be vulnerable with my husband, I give him my whole heart because I know that what I am really doing is saying God I trust you. It is such a liberating experience and has truly taught me so much about how to love someone with your whole heart, no restrictions, boundaries, or fear. For me, true intimacy starts with the ability to remove those barriers.

 

How do you feel about being vulnerable in relationships and even in friendships?

 

To Work or Not to Work?

So my six weeks are officially up! I am grateful, however that I am able to apply some additional time to extend my leave basically through to the summer. Since I work for a school I have the summer off so it worked out perfectly. As the weeks continue to pass us by I am consumed with thoughts on whether or not I should return to work. I am enjoying my time with Nehemiah and I love being able to do more around the house. Growing up I never saw myself as a stay at home mom. I just knew that I would always have a career. I wanted to have it all. To be successful in my career, have a wonderful marriage, wonderful kids, and a great home life overall. In those thoughts my home was always clean, the dishes always washed, laundry always done, and dinner ready for my family by 6:30pm! There was not any stress or feelings of being overwhelmed. And I never have to compromise in any area to get it all done.

Now we are in the process of deciding what would truly be best for our family. And I am so torn! I really enjoy working, but I would really like to work for myself. I love being home when Joe comes home from work. I love when he walks in and sees a clean house and a clean and happy baby. I also love being able to contribute to my family financially. And to be honest, Joe and I have some financial goals that we really want to knock out sooner than later. So what’s it gonna be? At this point, I have no idea… I am planning to return to work but I am praying that I will be able to discontinue that and somehow work for myself. Besides who wouldn’t want to be around this sweet face all day long?

IMG_1731

Have you had to make the decision between staying home or going to work? What factors did you consider? What did you ultimately decide?

Waiting


Waiting is truly something that I struggle with. Some people say it is difficult for our generation because we are used to having instant gratification. We want things and we want them now and typically we go ahead and get them now. Since Joe and I have been together I have had almost constant lessons on waiting. Joe moves slower than I do (not in walking or anything like that… clearly his legs are twice the size of mine). He is just a thinker, very methodical, and very cautious. While I can work with that now, it was super hard particularly when I was waiting for the proposal! I had moments where I broke down! I would get so upset with Joe and wonder what was the hold up! My mother said over and over that patience is power and I got so annoyed with that phrase. Now, it makes too much sense and is very applicable to so many things.

I discovered over time that my lack of patience, directly relates to my faith, it directly relates to how much I trust God to do what He has already promised, it directly relates to how much I trust and believe that Joe, the man that God sent me, the man that I married, a man that goes hard after God daily is perfectly equipped to lead our family. In our marriage, Joe is clearly the patient one and I am work in progress in that area. However, I am learning that many times he ends up being right and I end up causing us a bit of trouble due to my haste. Most recently, I was ready for Joe to do our taxes so that we would know ahead of time what needed to be paid or what would hopefully be received on our end. Two days after he filed due to my persistent prodding, another W-2 came in for a job neither of us remembered that he worked. Thank goodness it did not affect anything negatively and it was actually a positive for our situation. It did give us more work to do and caused a delay in receiving those funds. In that situation, I learned so much about myself and saw some things that I really did not like. My impatience could be a detriment to me and my family if I did not quickly get things together.

So much is written in the Bible about patience, but a few scriptures stood out to me in particular for various reasons. Lately, I have been very interested in Abraham and learning more about him. Obviously, he was a very patient man. Hebrews 6:14-15 reads, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. When I read that scripture I immediately thought about all that I am waiting for God to do in my life. I thought about all of the prayers that I am waiting to be answered. I remembered the scriptures that I have been reading and praying over my life and my family. I recall all of the wonderful promises written in His word and I feel super convicted. We always say we want things in God’s time, but how many of us really mean that and live by it? I am encouraged today by this scripture and will work to exercise more patience in my life all the way around. What about you? Are you already super patient? Or is this an area that you also need to work on ? What prayers would you like answered? Are you on God’s time or your own?

Why the Name Nehemiah?

When we first found out we were having a son we decided that his name was going to start with a J. I loved the thought of having a house full of children with all J names (kind of like one of my favorite reality TV families, the Duggars!). We sat down and discussed a variety of names and finally settled on one that we liked… or so we thought. The name was biblical and as we studied and read more about the individual in the Bible who carried this name the more we knew it was not the right name for our son. With our first child, Nia we decided that we were going to name our kids with N names and came up with a short list of boy and girl names and Nehemiah was on that list. My fear led me away from that name for a long time, even though I loved it and loved what it meant.

Eventually, when reevaluating our name choice the name Nehemiah came up again and we just knew that it was right for him. In the Bible, Nehemiah was the person who basically grabbed the reins and rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. He led the charge and took initiative. The biggest thing for me in his story is that he REBUILT the wall. As a family, we needed to be rebuilt. God was making us stronger through everything. I really feel like this past year has helped to prepare us to be better…better spouses, better friends, better parents, etc. In a lot of ways it has been our rebuilding year. A season where we have been able to really refocus on God and our personal relationships with Him. A time where we have been able to pursue different things that we have avoided or been afraid to start (like this blog). A year where God has truly been able to work on us from the inside out.

Finally, Nehemiah means ‘to be comforted by God’. That meaning really struck me because through it all that was one of my prayers. I prayed that God would comfort me. I prayed that He would hear my cry. I prayed that He would answer me and let me know that it was truly Him. God is so good and so merciful… He sent me Nehemiah.

He is here!: Baby Nehemiah Joseph

Initially, I was a bit hesitant to share the news of Nehemiah’s birth. I was afraid, nervous, and excited all at the same time. I realized, however, that Nehemiah’s birth is apart of our testimony and it would be remiss of me not to give God the glory and honor!

Nehemiah Joseph was born almost two weeks ago on February 25! Check back tomorrow for his birth story!

Falling in Love

Source

With Valentine’s Day being last week, I could not help but think about my first love. I remember being so excited, so head over heels, and so passionate about my new love. I wanted to tell everyone about Him and to declare my love from the rooftops! I have never experienced something so refreshing, uplifting, and comforting. I never wanted that feeling to go away and never thought that it would. Unfortunately, it did. My first love was Jesus and those first moments were so special and tender.

As I got older and continued to grow, it seemed that I had moments where those feelings were not present. Where I felt fairly distant from my first love. I was living life and doing the “right” things but it just was not the same. I failed to realize that like other relationships it would take time, effort, and attention to maintain and deepen that bond. It took me a while to learn what that would look like and would truly require of me. I needed to give Him my all daily like I did in the beginning.

What I discovered through all of that is that I can fall in love with Jesus on a daily basis. I can have that same giddy feeling over and over again because we can constantly reconnect on a deeper and deeper level. Everyday I learn new things about Him, His love for me, and how even through the difficult times He has never abandoned me. As the song goes, “Falling in Love with Jesus, is the best thing I have ever done.”

Marriage Mondays: A Moses Experience

Source

My husband and I experienced a great deal of hardship early in our marriage with the passing of our first child, Nia. We ended up going to speak to a pastor at our church for counsel and guidance. In talking with her, several things came out that really spoke to me and our situation. One of those things was that she described what we went through as our ‘Moses Experience’. When she first said this, I was like huh? She went on to reference the scripture in the Bible when Moses had a physical encounter with God on Mount Sinai. When he came down from the mountain he was not the same Moses that went up the mountain.

Exodus 34:32-35 reads,

And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in
in commandment all that The Lord had spoken with him in mount Sinai.
And til Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face. But
when Moses went in before The Lord to speak with him, he took the vail
off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of
Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the
face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the
vail upon his face again, until he went it to speak with him.

This scripture takes place after Moses spent forty days and forty nights on mount Sinai with The Lord. Exodus 34:28 says that he did not eat or drink during that entire time. As people, both Christians and non-Christians, it is difficult to fathom not eating or drinking for such a long period of time. Sure we fast nowadays, but most fasts are time-restricted or restrict your diet in some way, such as the Daniel fast. Can you imagine not eating or drinking for forty days? Can you imagine not being able to use your juicer to liquify fruits and vegetables, like many of us do for our liquid fasts? Or not being able to set your alarm clock to 6pm to eat for our time restricted fasts? Can you even imagine being all alone on a mountain for forty days with no other person to fellowship with or complain to about how hard fasting can be? Moses had none of that, but he made it through and came out wiser and stronger than when he went up forty days prior. He depended solely on God for everything he needed. He allowed himself to be fully immersed in God and in God’s purpose for him at that time.

Moses’ face was different because he experienced something deeper than the physical. He had a spiritual encounter with God, he experienced God’s glory firsthand. After an experience like that you will never be the same. When my husband and I lost are baby girl we had a similar experience. No, we did not go up to a mountain, or fast for forty days. But we did have a spiritual encounter with God. It was an experience and an encounter that can either make you wiser or break you down, it can either strengthen you in your faith or cause you to wither, and you can come out on the other side of it with your face shining with God’s glory like Moses’ face or with your face battered and beaten by the storm.

When Moses descended from the mountain he brought forth the Ten Commandments. He did not come back from his encounter empty handed. He came back with something to show for what he went through, something that God gave him to bless the people and give Him glory. Like Moses, we all go through tests and trials. Challenge yourself to allow God to use you for His glory in every situation you go through. Imagine how bright the world would be if we all walked around with faces shining like Moses’ face and giving God the glory He deserves through our lives and testimonies.

What are you going through right now? How can you turn that into a Moses experience so that God gets the glory?

Marriage Mondays: Cultural Differences

When Joe and I first started dating a lot of people seemed concerned about our cultural differences. Joe is from Kenya and I am American. To be honest, I cannot remember if Joe and I ever considered this before people started to bring it up to us. We were just happy and in love! Neither of us grew up in homes where we were taught that we could not date or marry people from other cultures. We were not advised against it or taught to “preserve” our culture by staying within the culture. So I was kind of surprised when the comments starting flowing in.

I did, however, learn rather quickly that there were some very stark differences in the cultures we were raised in. This was even more apparent as we begin to prepare for our wedding. Both sides of our family had elements that they felt should be included and Joe and I had to decide what we felt was best to include. The wedding planning experience caused me to really look at the traditions that cultures have and the meaning behind them. I did not want to do things just for the sake of doing them, or because so and so said this is how it should be done. We decided to do things that we felt were significant and meaningful and we eliminated the rest.

As a young couple that was very important for us because we learned how to make decisions based on our family and what we felt was best. It helped to create the foundation of our relationship and instill in us the importance of uniting as one in more than one aspect. Despite the differences in how we were raised we were uniting under God’s culture and our desire is to continue to create our own family culture and identity based on the word of God and not man. Galatians 3:28 reads,

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
I believe that culture can be a beautiful thing. It is something that unites people here on earth for a variety of reasons and purposes. It is something that can hold a nation together during difficult times. Unfortunately, it can also be something used to divide and destroy if given the power to. God’s culture and kingdom supersedes all and should be what unites us despite the culture we were raised in. Within our relationship, something may come up every now and then about how this was done in our homes growing up or what this means. Ultimately we discuss it and decide what is best for our family. So far, that works for us.

Are you and your spouse from different cultures? How do you all balance traditions and customs in your relationship and family?