Monthly Archives: February 2014

The beautiful smile…that’s a bonus

Our oldest daughter, Emma, started her orthodontics journey this week.

The orthodontist said that her teeth are not aligned right, so they are not working together they way they’re supposed to. He told us that her bottom jaw needs to move forward a little and her upper palate needs to be a little wider so that her teeth will align correctly and work properly. He explained that it’s not about cosmetics for Emma – it’s about function. There is simply not enough space in her mouth for her teeth to function the way they need to – they need to make space. They can’t just put brackets on them and straighten them up…it might fix the way they look, but it won’t solve the underlying problem. She needs to be reshaped a bit, under the surface, from the foundation.

So this week she got an upper palate expander and a Herbst appliance. Over the next 22 months, they will slowly – ever so slowly – move the bottom jaw forward and make the upper jaw wider.

They call it “Phase 1.”

Many people only see the cosmetic side of orthodontics…get braces and straighten your teeth and you’ll have a beautiful “perfect” smile. I will admit, that is how I viewed it too…all about just making teeth look good, having a pretty smile. But as I talked with the orthodontist (and asked a hundred questions, to make sure that all of this was really necessary), I realized that I had it all wrong. He said that he is more concerned with how her teeth function…shaping her mouth and her teeth so they function at their best and can last her a long, long time without other major problems creeping up later in life.

And then he said these words: “A beautiful smile is a bonus.”

The thing we think it’s all about – that perfect smile – is just a pleasant side-effect of the more important, foundational changes.

 

Sometimes…a lot of the time…I feel like I am in the middle of soul orthodontics. This slow, slow process of reshaping my heart.

I am imperfect. Broken. I was born into sin that left me out of alignment. I need to be fixed, reshaped.

Often, I think we think that being a Christian is all about what we do. If we can just do the right things in the right ways…if we can just act like a Christian and follow all the rules…if we can just be “good” enough, then we’ll be good.

But we have it all wrong.

Being a Christian is not about what we do, it’s about who we are. It’s not about changing how we look or act, it’s about changing our very heart and soul.

God wants more for us than just an outer change…He wants more for us than just a “perfect” Christian smile. He wants to change us from the foundation…from the inside out.

Just like orthodontics, the process of reshaping who we are is not a quick fix. Yes, our salvation is immediate…our eternal destination is secured the moment we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior…He paid the price for our sin, and we are forgiven and redeemed. But it doesn’t stop there.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says “And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” More and more

When I accepted Jesus, God gave me His Spirit that immediately began the process of reshaping me.

The Holy Spirit works like a palate expander in my soul…slowly – ever so slowly – stretching me, moving me, making space for the purpose God has for me…aligning me with Himself, with His will, with His purpose.

This is foundation work – “Phase 1” – and it takes a long time…a lifetime. The important work happens under the surface, in my heart. Changes that happen here, how I am shaped and molded within, are fundamental. They are not about cosmetics – they are about my character, the heart of who I am.

And those outer traits? The things about me that people see? How I “look” as a Christian? Well, that’s a bonus. When God changes me on the inside, it’s going to spill out and have positive effects on the outside.

 

Emma has been very uncomfortable this week as she adjusts to these appliances in her mouth. They feel weird and her jaw is sore and she is just not comfortable. I hate seeing her upset and in pain…I think I’ve cried as much as her through this process so far. But I know this process will produce the results that will make the best difference for her mouth. It’s going to be a long process, but it will be worth it. There will be hard days along the way, it won’t always be easy, and I’m sure she will grow weary of the process. This is Phase 1, foundation work, absolutely necessary to have the kind of lasting results that she needs. And in the end, that beautiful smile with all those perfectly aligned teeth? Well, that’s a bonus.

 

It’s the same with my soul. The Spirit is shaping me to be more and more like Him. It’s a long process. And very often, it is quite uncomfortable. He uses painful situations and difficult circumstances to reshape me. He uses my discomfort to align me with Himself. There are hard days, it’s not always easy, and oh how I grow weary of the process sometimes.

Sometimes it’s easy to just want a quick fix…like a set of “perfect” dentures you can just pop in. And sometimes I think we do that…we pop in our “perfect” Christian smile and pretend that we have it all together. We do all the right things and follow all the rules (at least as far as others can see), but underneath nothing has really changed.

That verse from 2 Corinthians about the Spirit changing us? Well, the verses before that one say this:

“But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had the veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18, NLT)

There’s this veil we put on, covering up what lies within. This veil of good works or good intentions or perfectionism. This veil that makes others think we’re perfect and good and we have it all together.

There’s this veil that hides who I really am, even from myself.

But then God takes that veil away when I turn to the Lord. He strips it off and moves right in and gets to work in the place that really matters – my soul. No more veil. No more pretending. No more “try really hard.” Instead, there is freedom. Freedom to be. Freedom to rest in knowing that He is working in me, shaping me from within. I don’t have to pretend.

But I do have to do my part.

We were given this little “key” by the orthodontist. I use it every day to turn Emma’s palate expander. Just a tiny bit, every day. We will turn it for 8 days, then not again for a few weeks. We also have a special prescription toothpaste she has to use, and we have strict instructions on how to keep her teeth really clean. They stressed to us over and over again the importance of keeping her mouth really clean…it’s critical to this process.

In the same way, I’ve been given tools and instructions by God as I follow Him. Yes, the Spirit is doing the work in me to shape me and make me more and more like Him. But I’ve got to “turn the key” every day…I need to “keep really clean” and follow His instructions. I need to pray and read His Word…I need to make my relationship with Him a priority. I need to stay close to Him and be sensitive to His leading. I need to allow Him to shape me.

If we don’t keep Emma’s teeth clean, if we don’t turn that key, then we will undermine the whole orthodontics process.

If I don’t listen to God, if I don’t follow His Word and do what He tells me, then I will undermine the whole soul-shaping process.

It’s not always easy, this slow process of soul-shaping. But there is peace and freedom here. There is peace in trusting Christ…in knowing that He is doing a great work, and that it is ALL working together for good.

The Spirit “makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.” And that beautiful smile, that life that shines with the glory of His character and love? That’s a wonderful bonus.

Mini Mailbox Makeover

DIY Mini Mailbox Makeover {for Valentine's Day}

I’m making some final preparations for our Family Valentine’s Day Dinner tomorrow {read all the details about our Valentine’s Day family tradition, and snag that “Love One Another” printable, in this post from the other day}.

One of my favorite things we do for this family night is our Love Note Exchange.  We’ve been using these little metal mailboxes every year to deliver our notes to one another:

I found them for just $1 each at Target in that little dollar spot area.  (Tip: if you want to grab some, try going after Valentine’s Day…they usually mark them 50% off, so you can snag some mailboxes for super cheap!)

This year I wanted to give our little mailboxes a little update.  This little DIY was super easy…and I love how they turned out.  Here’s what I did:

First, I had a budget of, oh, $0….so I rummaged through all of my old, leftover craft supplies to see if I had anything I could use to give the mailboxes a little height.  I found these:

I had previously used these little wooden pieces as little cupcake stands for Emma’s birthday party a couple of years ago:

They worked great as little cupcake stands, but I figured if I flipped them around and painted them, they’d make great little mailbox stands 🙂

So I painted them blue, and glued them together like this:

Then I decided to paint the little flag on the mailbox to match the stand:

Because I used regular acrylic craft paint (because it’s what I had), I had to add a layer of mod podge on top of the paint so that it wouldn’t scratch off easily (you can use any kind of acrylic sealer…or a paint that is intended to work on plastic 😉 ).

Then I just hot glued the little mailboxes on top of the little wooden stands:

Next, I drilled some holes in the “door” of the mailbox so I could add a little pull to make the mailboxes easier to open.

Notice how amazingly lined up my holes are…lol 😉  I am terrible about just eyeballing things and not taking the time to measure or make things level…my eyeballs were very uneven on this one 😉  (It didn’t really end up mattering…you can’t tell once I added the fabric strips)

Next I cut some little strips of fabric from some scrap fabric I had.

(I used this same fabric when I made the “LOVE” bunting/banner for the living room – you can see it HERE).

Then I just pulled the fabric strips (4 strips total, 2 of each pattern) through the holes that I drilled in the mailbox doors:

Then I just tied them in a simple knot and put the doors on the mailboxes.

DIY Mini Mailbox Makeover {for Valentine's Day}

After painting our names on the sides of the mailboxes, they were done!

I love our little mailboxes…they are going to look super cute on our table for our Family Valentine’s Day Dinner tomorrow!  Now to get busy filling them with notes and treats for one another!

DIY Mini Mailbox Makeover {for Valentine's Day}

Family Valentine’s Day Dinner {and Printables}

One of our favorite Family Nights is our annual Family Valentine’s Day Dinner.  We started doing a family dinner for Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago, and we love it.  Holidays are an awesome opportunity to connect as a family…especially on a holiday that is all about celebrating love!  Valentine’s Day gives us a perfect opportunity to intentionally teach our girls about love…that love is so much more than just chocolates and flowers, more than just the “romantic” kind of love that Valentine’s Day can sometimes tend to focus on…that love, true love, all love, comes from God.  And the reason that we love each other, that we show love to others, is because love comes from God and He loves us so much.

Love One Another

This is our Valentine’s verse for this year…this is our focus this week, this month, as we talk to our girls about love.  “Love each other, for love comes from God.”  Love doesn’t come from us…it comes from God.  So even when we don’t “feel” like it, we love. Even when we have a bad day or things don’t go our way, we love.  Even in the hard times, when we’ve been let down, when we’re disappointed….even when our hearts are hurting….we love.  Because love comes from God.  And He ALWAYS loves.  And He tells us to love one another.

And our Valentine’s Dinner is just one way we celebrate God’s love, and our love for one another.

We’re already making preparations for our special family night on Friday. I’ll post more details on this year’s Valentine’s Dinner after we have it.  But if you’re interested in starting a similar tradition in your family, here’s the basics of what we do (and at the bottom I’ll share some printables that I made for us this year…feel free to use as many of the ideas and resources as you want to make your own family night special).

We usually do our Valentine’s Day Dinner on Valentine’s Day.  I know a lot of couples make special plans without kids on this day…and that’s awesome! Time together for mom and dad without the kiddos is SO important in a family…after all, long after the children are grown and gone, that marriage relationship is what will still be there, so that needs to be consistently invested in and made a priority.  We have just decided to use Valentine’s Day as a family day, and we do our date nights and kids-free things on other days (the restaurants aren’t as crowded on other nights too, which is a bonus 😉 ). That’s what works for us. But you can definitely make your family Valentine’s dinner or celebration ANY night, ANY time that works for your family.  There really are no rules to this…as with any family night, it’s all about just taking the time to intentionally connect and spend time together.  I’ll share what we do in our little family, and hopefully it will inspire you to make some special memories in your own way in your own family. 🙂

Here are some pictures from our past two Family Valentine’s Dinners:

Family Valentine's Dinner 2012

In 2012, we made some pasta casserole and french bread pizza with heart-shaped pepperoni (super simple meal).  For a special touch, we had soda in glass bottles and crazy straws (the girls loved them!).  I pulled out our plastic heart-shaped plates that I think I got for like $1, and decorated the table with mason jars and tea light candles.  I added a few little goodies at each plate, and scattered some heart confetti to finish off the table decorations.  I try to keep it pretty simple (and inexpensive)…you can make it as simple or elaborate as you want.

Here’s a few pictures from last year:

Family Valentine's Dinner 2013

Last year we went with a breakfast theme.  The table decorations were very simple, just a couple of candles and some fresh flowers.  Stripey straws with mustaches and lips were a fun touch.  But our favorite part of the night…our favorite part of every Family Valentine’s Dinner…is our Love Note Exchange:

(Top photos are from 2013, bottom photos are from 2012….I just love that picture of Lilly with no front teeth…oh my goodness, that kid!)

We have little mailboxes that we use each year for our Love Note Exchange (these are getting an update this year…more on that in another post). Before our dinner we make Valentines cards, love notes, and/or pictures for one another and deliver them to each other’s mailboxes.  After dinner, we get to open our mailboxes and see all the “love” that we were given.  This is quite possibly my most favorite part of the whole night.  The girls get so excited, and they take their time to read every word of every note…the smiles on their faces are beyond words.  And of course, the notes they give me just completely melt my heart.

This year we are extending this a little bit by adding “acts of love” to our Valentine’s tradition.  All this week leading up to Valentine’s Day, we are going to do little acts of love for one another.  I’ll share how that goes in another post later this week, but I’m hoping it will help us make love a verb in our family…that we will be able to model and practice tangible acts of love and service to one another.  I’m so excited…I think this is going to be our best Family Valentine’s yet!

Since we are spreading out our Valentine’s Day love all week long this year, I have already started working on some of the decorations for the house…and I wanted to share some of them with you, in case you would like to incorporate them into your family Valentine’s celebration.  Feel free to use any of these graphics you want for your home (you can share them, just please don’t take them and sell them…thanks!! 😉 ).

For this year, we are going with the “Love One Another” theme, so I made a few graphics to decorate our dinner table with, and to decorate the living room and other areas of the house.

Here’s a little “LOVE” banner I made:

Valentine's Day LOVE Banner

To download this banner, click HERE. Then just print it, cut it out, punch holes in the top and string it up on some twine. You can just hang the LOVE banner, or add some other garland and decorations to “fancy it up” a bit.  I made two strands of garland here by cutting some leftover pieces of fabric into strips (I didn’t measure or anything, just cut a bunch of strips), and then tied them onto some string…super fast and easy!

Here’s a couple of signs that you can print and display anywhere in your home (I have the Love One Another one on our mantle):

Love One Another Sign ~ Free Printable

{Click on the image below, or click HERE to download the PDF file of the Love One Another Sign}
Valentines LOVE_Love One Another Sign ~ Free Printable

{Click on the image below, or click HERE to download the PDF file of the Happy Valentine’s Day Sign}

Valentines LOVE_Happy Valentines Day Sign ~ Free Printable

I also made a smaller version of the “Love One Another” sign to put on our dinner table.  It folds in half like a little tent, so it shows the graphic on both sides (that way, no matter which side of the table you’re sitting on, you’ll see the verse 🙂 ):

Love One Another Table Tent ~ Free Printable

{Click on the image below, or click HERE to download the PDF file of the Table Tent}

Valentines LOVE_Love One Another Table Tent ~ Free Printable

And here’s some little place cards. I’m going to use these when I set our table for our dinner on Friday:

Family Valentine's Day Dinner Place Cards ~ Free Printable

{Click on the image below, or click HERE to download the PDF file for the Place Cards}

Valentines LOVE Place Cards ~ Free Printable

A lot of these graphics can be used in multiple ways.  You can make gift tags or note cards…even print some and write notes to your kids and stick them in their lunchboxes this week (or your spouse’s work bag/purse/etc). Get creative…have fun…show some love…use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to invest in your family.  It doesn’t have to be big or fancy…but consistent intentional investments over time will make a huge impact in the hearts of our children, and in the dynamics of our family.

So, no matter what comes this week…whether you have chocolates and roses on Valentine’s Day, or screaming babies and a sink full of dishes…may you have a Valentine’s Day that is full of love…because, no matter what, God loves you, and your family, SO much!

Death That Produces Life

It starts with a seed.

With what has died.

Something small.  Something plain.

A seed is not flashy.  It doesn’t sparkle or glow.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside.

But if it is buried…

If it dies and is buried, covered in dirt and dark.

Then if it is watered…put in the sun…

something amazing happens.

It comes back to life…it produces new life…beautiful life.  And it produces fruit and crops, abundant and multiplied.

All from one little seed. That died. And was buried.

John 12:24, death that produces life

This verse has been weaving its way through my thoughts a lot the past couple of weeks…especially as I am planning and starting this year’s garden.

There is just so much meaning in the words of that verse.

Unless it dies…it remains alone. But it’s death will produce MANY new kernels…a plentiful harvest of new lives.

It’s death that brings life.

Christ’s death brought us eternal life…our death in Him gives us new life…abundant and multiplied.

And then we produce fruit and multiply…we spread more seeds…

It’s how it works.  It’s all part of God’s perfect plan.

First, there is death.

Then, there is life.

Death is only the beginning.  It’s only a seed.

It’s what happens next that’s the miracle.

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