Inspiration from Psalm 34:4

The Lord has laid this on my heart today…

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When we seek the Lord’s will and not our own, that’s when we find the answers we’ve been looking for and lose all of our anxieties. I’m finding this to be so true in recent days. I’m praying the Lord will continue to reveal his great plan to me and that I would open my heart and mind to what he has in store for my life. Amen.

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farewell facebook.

I remember when facebook was cool. Before it became a place of sharing pictures of every meal; before it was freedom of speech at it’s [not so] finest, and before everyone felt like they had to come up with a status better than the last guy to get maximum ‘likes’ and feel good about themselves.

I hardly remember what life was like before I had facebook. I do actually remember setting up my account, though. It was at the end of my senior year of high school, because back then you could only join if you had a college e-mail address, nowadays my cat and my one year-old niece can have a facebook. I just need some time away right now. I need time to focus on the things that matter and enjoy the relationships I have in my life, not on the internet.

Today is Ash Wednesday, which begins the Lenten season. Therefore, I have decided to give up facebook for the next forty days. Will it be a challenge? Of course. Will it be worth it? You bet.

I didn’t just give up facebook to prove to the world or to myself that I could do it. I didn’t just give it up because it sometimes annoys me more than anything (especially when a big event occurs), but I have reasons for why I am doing it.

1. Distraction. Everyone knows facebook has become this biggest distraction on the planet. We can’t go two minutes without the itch to refresh our news feed so we know exactly what everyone is doing at that exact moment. Who are we? A bunch of stalkers if you ask me. I spend a lot of time checking my facebook throughout the day and especially in the evenings if I have nothing going on. It has taken time away from cleaning when I need to, projects I have needed to finish, planning, and most importantly my quiet time with the Lord. It’s completely my fault for placing it above things I shouldn’t, but the Lord tells us to rid ourselves of the things that distract us from him [Hebrews 12:1]. So here you go, Lord. No more facebook for Jill…at least for a while.

2. Gossip. This is a big one for me. I don’t think it’s one that always occur to us, but facebook is a very dangerous place for gossip to start. I find myself a lot of times scrolling through my news feed and feeling like it’s okay to gossip about someone, because “hello, they put their issues on facebook, that gives me permission to talk about them to others”. Wrong. It’s so easy to fall into this trap. It’s never okay to put someone else down. It’s never okay to gossip. We should always be an encouragement to our friends [Ephesians 4:29].

3. Deception. Get real. Our lives are never really what we make them seem on facebook. We put all of our best moments, accomplishments, and pictures up for the world to see, but we hide our mistakes, fears, and failures. We can’t let people know we actually mess up, that we actually have problems. I’m very much guilty of this and it’s time to stop. If and when I do get facebook back, I want to be better about sharing my struggles and setbacks. I want people who are possibly struggling with similar things to know they are not alone. We are not meant to go through this journey of life alone.

Like I said, this WILL be a challenge. I already know that the devil is just waiting to tempt me daily…he already has. But! When I am tempted, I have scripture I can turn to in order to help me through it,

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. –1 Corinthians 10:13

PTL [Praise the Lord]! Amen!

#winterjamrejects

It was a chaperones worst nightmare.

On Saturday, my husband and I took some of the members of our high school youth group to Nashville, TN to a Christian concert called Winter Jam. When we arrived and saw how many people were outside the building, we knew it wasn’t a good sign.

“Why aren’t these people inside right now?”

Why isn’t the line moving forward?”

Millions of questions went through my head as I prayed that it didn’t mean they were sold out.

But it did.

My heart sunk in my chest. I literally wanted to sit down and cry. I knew that we were responsible for these twelve lives and I felt like we let them down by not getting in.

Just as I thought all hope was lost for what was supposed to be a great night of fun and fellowship, I heard the voice of an angel.

Ok, maybe not literally an angel, but pretty close.

Matthew West was playing his guitar and singing an acoustic version of one of his songs. We followed the voice until we got as close to the outdoor stage as we could. There were still a TON of people gathered around the stage. After he was finished singing, he said that he didn’t want the winter jam rejects to completely miss out on the fun so they were going to bring the concert to us outside.

A feeling of relief came over me as we continued to enjoy the concert, getting to see Jason Castro (American Idol Season 6), Toby Mac, Royal Tailor, Jamie Grace, Capital Kings, and a few others perform. We were blessed with incredible weather and I am so thankful that the situation turned out to be a good one in the end. The kids had a blast and even got some autographs from some of the artists afterwards.

The outdoor concert ended a lot sooner than if we had gone to the indoor one, but it actually worked out great because it gave us time to explore the Orpyland Hotel. Some of them had never been in it before, which made it fun.

But here’s the main point of my post:

God taught me a valuable lesson on Saturday. All too often when things go wrong or don’t go the way I had them planned, I think I’ve failed. That’s the Devil talking. I didn’t fail.

The Lord just had a better plan for us that night. It’s that way with the little things and the big things in life. His plan is always so much better than ours and sometimes we don’t see that until we look back on the situation and see how great it actually turned out. He says in scripture, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8), meaning we don’t always understand why things happen the way that they do, because we can’t even think on God’s level, but we can take comfort in knowing that we are in good hands…the Creator’s hands. He loves us and wants to take care of us. And he assures us he will take care of us when we put our trust fully in him. Something I need to work on myself!

And maybe, just maybe because we didn’t get in to the concert, that meant that others who didn’t know Jesus could get in and come to know him as their personal Lord and Savior through the testimony of the artists and speaker. And that my friends, is the best things we can hope for! Amen? Amen.

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jason castro rockin’ the dreads

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grammy nominated royal tailor

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toby mac layin’ down the beats

Why We Chose NFP.

I have had a lot of people over the past year and a half ask why my husband and I use Natural Family Planning (NFP for short) in our marriage. This post is not to inform you (in detail) on how NFP works and it’s certainly not to condemn those that use contraceptives; it’s simply to share with you WHY my husband and I choose to use it in our marriage and why it works when used correctly. It is also meant to be an encouragement to any couples considering it for their marriages right now.

When my husband and I were going through pre-marriage counseling, the priest who was going to marry us, mentioned NFP. It was the first time I had ever heard of the topic. He HIGHLY encouraged us to go to a seminar on how it works, why we should use it, and why it works.

I’ll be honest; I was completely against the idea at first. But after five months of studying how to use NFP, lots of prayer, talking it over, lots more prayer, meeting with a mentor, and even more prayer, C and I knew this was what the Lord had called us to use in our marriage. Did I mention we prayed about it?

Anyways, here are the reasons we chose to use NFP:

  • Avoids chemical/pill intake
  • Encourages couple communication & interaction
  • Fosters mutual responsibility by husband and wife
  • Fosters deep respect and acceptance of the total person
  • Values children and openness to life
  • Cooperates with God’s plan for marriage

HEALTH:

The number of young women on “the pill” is disturbing. Why is it disturbing, you may ask? Were you aware “the pill” has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency on Research for Cancer, a research arm of the World Health Organization? The sad reality is that any woman who takes a hormonal contraceptive for four years prior to her first full-term pregnancy increases her risk for breast cancer by 52%. Women deserve to know the truth. They have been failed by physicians in not being warned of the physical damage that they are doing to their bodies.

COMMUNICATION & INTERACTION:

We all know how important communication can be, especially in a marriage. NFP opens communication in a way I could never have imagined. It’s not just talking, but actually communicating with one another. Not only do I understand my body better and therefore respect it that much more, but my husband does as well. We talk about it (my body) on a daily basis and I truly feel our connection is a lot deeper because of it. We are a lot more open with each other about things.

RESPONSIBILITY:

NFP is not for the wife to experience alone. The husband is the “coach” of the relationship. The husband’s role is to continually communicate to the wife on how her charting is going and if she is charting correctly. The husband is to know how NFP works just as much as the wife. He guides her, helps her, and encourages her. It is a joint responsibility and it’s the couple’s job to work together in this. Whether a couple wishes to space their children or limit their family to the number of children they already have, the effectiveness rate of the modern methods of NFP are 96%-99.5% when taught by a certified instructor and used according to instructions. (This is higher than most artificial contraceptives.)

RESPECT:

As I said before, my husband understands and respects my body. He knows what it does and why. He understands that there are going to be days we cannot be intimate and he controls himself and in return, I respect him for that. We know that there are going to be/have been days when we have to completely leave the apartment and find another activity, but that has made our marriage so much more spontaneous and fun. NFP does not lessen the importance of sexual union and sexual pleasure, but it helps couples to find other ways in which to connect. In this way, NFP can reignite the romance of dating for a married couple. It’s wonderful.

OPENNESS TO CHILDREN:

At the seminar we went to there was a couple there that had been married for a few years and were using NFP and one of them made this comment: “NFP opened our hearts to children … Children are a gift, a blessing, not a burden.” My husband and I know that there is always the chance if we use NFP incorrectly, we could become pregnant, but that isn’t stopping us from using this method. The Lord has opened our hearts to children and we know he will provide for us in every situation, as long as we are faithful to him.

GOD’S PLAN:

Many couples say that an NFP lifestyle deepens their faith in God. I find that entirely true for me and my husband. The reality is that NFP is challenging, but it is clear to me that working together through the tough times strengthens and enriches our marriage. And as another couple said when discussing NFP with us: “The value I experience in NFP is in the long run …. It forces you to place your immediate choices in the context of spouse, children, family and Creator.”

NFP was actually created for couples TRYING to conceive children, but it can be used to avoid pregnancy as well. It’s good to know that when we are ready to have children, we know when it can be done. 😉

I encourage you, if you have ever or are now considering NFP to feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at jleachman2@gmail.com. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, try this website: http://www.rcdok.org/ministries/catholic_charities/family_life/Natural_Family_Planning/

And know that NFP is not just a Catholic thing, it truly is for anyone. I know plenty of non-Catholics who use this method. Say a prayer and see where the Lord is leading your marriage.

dear tomorrow, annie may love you, but I don’t.

Tomorrow is the 33rd annual Medical Center 10k Classic and I’m 100% dreading it. Yep, dreading it. I actually can’t even believe I’m still going to run it, because of course those good ‘ol sinus infections like to sneak up on you like a bandit on the west side of town at night in a dark alley. It never fails to come at the worst time, too, with the goal of leaving you feeling exhausted and completely worthless. Well, sinuses, you succeeded. I feel awful.

Not only has my nose been running like the mighty waters of Niagara Falls, but my head feels like a hot air balloon on steroids. Not to mention my training (or lack thereof) has been lame. I have felt so weak this week (did you see what I did there?) that I haven’t gone for a run at all. Six days without running..that’s insane when you realize you’re running 6.2 miles in 18 hours. So, unlike little orphan Annie, I don’t love ya, tomorrow. Maybe another day.

However! All of this weakness talk has got me thinking about Jesus. Wait, that sounds bad. What I mean is, it got me thinking of the passage in 2 Corinthians, chapter 12. Paul is writing to the Corinthians about his past and recent struggles. He says he will only boast about his weaknesses, because Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness. Now I know I’m not in the same situation as Paul, and running 6.2 miles is nowhere near imprisonment, persecution or torture, but it is a situation where I will need Christ’s strength to get me through…“for when I am weak, then I am strong”. This is my opportunity to give ALL of the glory to the one who truly deserves it.

“For I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”

-Philipians 4:13

Check back for the outcome of tomorrow’s events. If I survive….kidding. Kind of.

1 year down, a lifetime to go.

After one year of marriage we are officially pros, right? It feels weird to say we’ve been married a year. It has flown by, most of the time. I’m grateful for all the time we have gotten to spend together and for this life we get to share together (I can get pretty corny, I know…just wait).

Over the past twelve months we have learned so much about one another and even about our own selves. It’s such an adjustment going from being your own, independent-self to living with another person and having to work together with them on practically everything. I have learned more about forgiveness and submission, true love and respect, honor and trust than I ever thought possible. It’s one thing to know these things are important in a marriage, but to put them into practice 24/7 (especially when you don’t feel like putting in that effort) is truly a challenge.

Marriage is hard. I won’t lie and say everything is perfect all the time and that we never have issues, because honestly…it’s not and we do. I will say, though, that because of this, God’s grace is more evident in my life than ever before. And what a wonderful thing to see. Grace is a beautiful thing. It’s a relief to know that we don’t have to be perfect, to know that our main goal isn’t to look like a Hollywood movie, but most importantly bring glory to God through our marriage and to strengthen one another’s relationship with Christ.

One thing I love about our relationship is how much fun we have together. There is not a day that goes by that he doesn’t have me laughing like a little kid. He always has something fun planned and I love being adventurous and spontaneous with him. We’re our own version of a romantic comedy, only we’re probably the only ones who think we’re funny.

He not only makes me laugh, but makes me a better person as well. He’s always encouraging prayer and time in the Word. He is so generous and caring and he would do anything for anyone in a heartbeat. There are times when I just want to be lazy or let people solve their own problems (how lame of me); that’s not my husband. Never. At the drop of a hat, he is there to help. It always challenges me, which is just what I need sometimes. God knew exactly what he was doing when he brought the two of us together.

I’m so thankful I get to call such a wonderful, Godly man my husband. I’m not an expert on marriage and I probably never will be. I just hope to continue to learn as much as I have this past year and be able to look back on every year knowing we did our best to love and serve one another and the Lord.

Flowers sent to me at work. What an awesome surprise!

Happy one year anniversary, babe. I love you more every single day. Thanks for letting me be your wife.