Today I declare my joy!

I want to remind you that good things do happen. Really, how often do we get caught up in the world of complaining and judging all in the name of having an opinion, Facebook status or just something to say? In the world of social media and instant news it seems to me we still hear more negative things than positive.

Today I just want to remind you that there are positive things going on in the world AND not all positive things are news events but there is joy in the world. The Psalmist had a good thing going when he decided to declare joy constantly

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:5-8)

So today I declare my joy!

For 4 years my husband has been travelling for his job. We are thankful for his job, how it supports our family and the security it provides. We are thankful for my husband and all he sacrifices to do his job well. But it hasn’t been without its struggles. Travelling means extensive time away, missing special occasions and spending precious time at home recovering from all the travel.

Joy. My husband’s job, while exactly the same, will now require significantly less travel. Blessings.

At any moment in the last 4 years this could have happened. But God chose now, this year, this time, this place.

My soul clings to God even more so now, for He has upheld us but he has also blessed us. He is gifting us with time. Time with each other, time with our community, time with Him.

Now it is more significant than ever that we share this joy, God’s joy, in such a way that everyone we come in contact with is filled.

Where will you find joy today? How will you give it away?

Name

Travel Thursday: More Time or More Money?

So travel Thursday largely deals with the life happenings when you have a traveling spouse.  For those that don’t have a traveling spouse I am sure there is still something in here for you!

by bitslammer

We were recently informed that one of the regular travel routes my husband takes is being changed.  He will lose several hours of paid work when this change occurs November 1.

On the upside this means he will have more time at home.  On the downside it means that our finances will take a hit.  The other thought this change brings up is what is most important to our family.  More time at home or more money in the bank?

This is a question most of us, traveling spouse or not, face at one point or another.
Do we take the promotion if it moves us to a more expensive cost of living area?  Should I return to work after maternity leave?  Do I take the extra shift if it cuts into family time?

Sometimes the decision is clear and obvious.  Sometimes, like in our case, it is made for you.  And sometimes you make the decision and having lived through it, change your mind.

Regardless of the decision or the outcome we all deal with the same questions in between.  I’d like to challenge all of us to wrestle with them, regardless of where we are at!

What does our family time look like?  

Our time as a family is limited and I have been wondering if we make the best use of the time we have together.  For the most part our routine stays relatively the same regardless of my husband’s presence but we have made one big change with our kids lately.  When Dad is home he takes on all the duties of night time.

There is something really special about bed time.  It is a time to be one on one with our kids, reassure them that we are there for them and in our family it is time for us to lay hands on them and pray for them.

Before, I was doing this, even when Dad was home.  My kids generally requested me and so that’s what we did.  BUT, it was not the best use of our time.  My husband needs and deserves that time with our children.  Our children  need to know that their Dad is their for them, prays for them and loves them.

This also freed up my time.  It allows me to pick up the house, do small things lying around and be really refreshed and relaxed to spend time with my husband when the kids are in bed.  Such a big improvement for such a small change!

What do our family finances look like?

Another way to ask that question is “Are we spending our money wisely?”  I’m a big fan of having a budget and making sure you have some finances for family entertainment.  But regardless of how you keep track, are you using money during your family time wisely?

Family entertainment may include eating out, seeing movies or having a collective family hobby like putt-putt or bowling.  Whatever it is does the money spent during this activity make sense and is the activity worth it?

This is a question we are asking right now.  Our kids are still little so most activities they find entertaining are free (visiting the pumpkin patch, going the the library, taking a walk and looking for treasure).  But occasionally we do spend money to go out to eat or take our kids somewhere special like a zoo.

As we re-evaluate this flexible budget line I am thinking we should decrease it for practical reasons and replace the money we spent with a new family activity that is free.  I don’t know what that activity is but I am looking for something that is both entertaining and interactive for all of us.

Regardless of the activity I still have to ask.  Are we spending our money wisely?  Does the activity make sense? Only time will tell!

So what’s your take?  Has there been a time when more money takes precedence over more time?  Or maybe a time when family time together has been much needed regardless of the finances?  I’d love to hear how you have dealt with the question, leave a comment below!

Travel Thursday: Into my head…

We generally discuss travel on Thursdays…but today…something a little different! If you’ve ever wanted to know why I blog or what else I do, today would be the day you get to find out!

by limbte

Visit my interview with Stacy J. over at Person of Letters: Read Here!

Person of Letters: Why did you start writing/blogging? Was it for personal or for professional reasons?

Rachael Judd: I started writing for personal reasons, like most 20-somethings, I wrote for extra money. City life, while exciting, was expensive. With a college focus on English, writing was a logical way to use my skills. I started taking freelancing seriously as a job possibility in 2008. What was extra fun money now provides a part time income to help support our family. Freelancing also inspired personal ideas and I took the the blogosphere in 2010 which has been a slow, but amazing, personal growth experience.

Visit my interview with Stacy J. over at Person of Letters: Read Here!

Travel Thursday: Too Busy?

Due to my husbands frequent travel I have the tendency to fill the time away with many things.  Good things, but often “busy” things.  Here is a good reminder for those of us who are doers, regardless of our life situation we need to make sure to sit a little…

by jayneandd

Being busy is a fact of life.   But is your busyness a blessing or a burden? Are you so busy you only have time to do and none to be?  Both are important, but the being often gets neglected for the sake of doing.

Here are some thoughts on why we get ourselves burdened by busyness and some ideas on what we can do so we can feel blessed by it instead!

1. We Like the Attention That Being Super Busy Brings

2. We Haven’t Considered There is a Different Way

3. We Have Confused the Urgent With the Important

4. We Think It’s Our Job to Entertain Our Kids

5. We Have A Choice…I’m Not Joking

6. We Are Aiming for the Wrong Kind of Success for Our Kids

Read insights on these thoughts at…Family Matters

Travel Thursday: A Different Journey

As we talk about travel each Thursday we also often think about journey’s. As we seek our destination it is the journey that has the most impact. Today Michelle from Insight for Girls is going to take us on a journey of a different kind and challenge us to think about our steps differently.

by mikebaird

 “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Ralph Walden Emerson

When I was in my mid 20s, a quote I loved hung from my bathroom mirror. It said:

“Remember, God is interested in the journey, not just the destination…God is in no rush… He wants to use this process, and all the questions and uncertainties it involves, to refine us, sanctify us, and increase our faith.” (Joshua Harris, Boy Meets Girl)

During that season of life, I eagerly desired to meet the man God intended for me to marry. I repeatedly read the quote above and reminded myself that the journey mattered. How I waited mattered. How I dated mattered. I vulnerably gave God my hopes as I trusted Him with my heart’s journey.

Fast forward five-plus years. In God’s perfect timing, I met and married my husband and moved to Chicago to begin our life together. Finally, I had arrived at my long-awaited destination. Or so I thought.

A year and a half into marriage, much to our shock, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. My sweet, ideal world of playing house with my husband was rudely interrupted by an extremely frightening health issue. For the next six months, I underwent two surgeries and chemotherapy, complete with losing all of my hair.

Clearly, being diagnosed with cancer was no where near the destination I envisioned. And certainly walking the cancer road was about the farthest thing from the journey I desired. But after the shock wore off and our new normal set in, I began to ask God the same question I asked Him five years earlier: What do you want me to learn on this journey? This isn’t the journey I’d choose, God, but if this is what You have for me, I want to walk it well.

God certainly has answered that question by teaching me many priceless lessons along this undesired-but-so-valuable journey. After reflecting on this past year and a half, here are a few lessons I continue to learn on my journey:

by alq666


Slow down.

A couple years before I married my husband Jared, I lived a very fast-paced life as a fourth grade Language Arts teacher. My work was never finished as I was constantly grading essays, personal narratives, and biography scrapbooks. In my spare time, my college roommates and I created and presented a teenage girls’ conference. Just in case that wasn’t enough, I also was completing my master’s degree in teaching and writing.

Every minute of my time was accounted for and though it was a rich season, I was exhausted. So exhausted that I took a year’s leave of absence to move to Orlando for a change of scenery to write for Campus Crusade for Christ’s magazine. Since that time, God has been teaching me about slowing down and used my cancer diagnosis to drive home the lesson.

Over the course of the last year and half, God has taught me that when He said “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy” in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8), He wasn’t just suggesting that if I didn’t have anything else to do, I could take a nap. He tells us to rest because He knows that not only our minds but our physical bodies and hearts need a break to restore and rejuvenate. Resting still isn’t natural to me, but I notice that when I slow the pace of my life down, I am much more attentive to what matters in life and much more likely to tune in to hear from God.

by altemark


Listen.

As described above, I lived quite a full life and stopping to listen wasn’t really on my to-do list. Sure, I made time to read my Bible and write in my prayer journal, but I was mostly the one doing the talking rather than intentionally listening to hear what God had to say to me. Quieting my mind of the constant distractions takes intentional effort but I find that when I do, I often hear God impressing on my heart a significant truth that I needed and that He wants me to hear.

by mpclemens


Spend my time wisely.

One of the byproducts of looking cancer in the face is thinking about the legacy I want my life to leave. Although I have always tried to live intentionally, I have been thinking more about how I am spending my time and if it is honoring to God. For instance, shopping is one of my favorite pastimes and I could spend hours walking around my favorite stores searching for bargains. There is certainly nothing wrong with enjoying shopping, but if I am often spending my time shopping to merely distract myself from life’s stress with cute shoes, I need to reevaluate my priorities. I have been trying to look at life through a more intentional lens and ask myself, “is this a good and healthy use of my time?

by Hamed Saber


Leave the control to God.

I wouldn’t say I am an off-the-charts control freak, but I guess anyone that starts off this sentence that way has a bit of control running through her blood. Ha! As I’ve analyzed my life, I’ve realized that one of the ways I try to control life is by worrying. Somehow I think if I constantly chew on a thought over and over, it will prepare me for a pending disaster. God has taught me so much about this concept, but I still have many days where I drive myself crazy worrying about what-if scenarios.

Recently I’ve been realizing that I’ve tried to control my life post-cancer by eating a strict diet. When I find myself assessing in my mind if that food dish is better than the other or keeping a runny tally of how many veggies I’ve eaten for that day, I know that I’m leaning a bit too far toward control. While I know eating healthy directly relates to my health and is extremely important, God has also been showing me that He is ultimately in control of my future—not me or the healthy nutrients I consume.

Five years ago, I naively and romantically thought that by marrying the man of my dreams, I would arrive at one of life’s sunny rose-filled destinations. And although I love being married to my husband and have been blessed by my marriage, I have come to realize this is only one aspect of my journey.

Having a thriving marriage is not the destination. Nor is having children. Or having the perfect job. Or being cancer-free. Yes, these are highlights along the journey but they are not the destination because they will never provide the satisfaction that we are looking for them to give.

Instead, God is teaching me to seek Him along my journey, even when the path twists and turns with highs and lows and takes me to places I never wanted to go. He is reminding me to keep my eyes on Him and ask Him to reveal the lessons in my journey.

When we do this, He promises to give us a hope that doesn’t disappoint and a peace that surpasses all understanding. And experiencing His presence is by far the most satisfying destination.

God said [to Moses], “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.” (Exodus 33:14, The Message)

“Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God.”  (1 Peter 1:18a, The Message)

*****

Michelle is the author of Insight For Girls and is currently living in the hope that God has for her life. Visit her online at Insight For Girls, email her at michelle@insightforgirls.com or subscribe to her blog!

Travel Thursday: The Great Escape

by virtualphotographystudio

Doing anything alone can be difficult.  Working without co-workers, coaching without support or parenting without a spouse.  In the midst of getting things done life can easily become exhausting.

I would not trade where I am with anyone.  I feel blessed to have so many hours with my kids, a spouse who works tirelessly for our family and enough time on the side to engage the gifts I have like writing and volunteering.  However, that doesn’t mean I don’t get tired.

Sometimes you have to make the great escape. Even when it feels like there are 100 things you could be doing, remember that your rest, mental and physical state impact how you deal with everyday life.

Today I am doing just that.  My husband has been home for 3 days and I am heading out for just a couple hours.  I plan to check my email, people watch, enjoy a short walk and just be quiet for a bit.

Today I want to encourage you to find time to make an escape. Plan it well and make sure that you fill it with something that refreshes and revives you!

Some points to ponder:

Rest:

Home is not always the best place to rest.  Your bed or favorite chair might be there but so is the laundry, bills and kids. Consider sitting in a park, quiet coffee shop or bookstore.  Find solitude away from home.  Don’t be shy, close your eyes for a few minutes and just take in the peace around you!

Physical Health:

When you work a lot, at home or otherwise, you expend a lot of physical energy. But just because you work up a sweat doesn’t mean you are physically in a great place.  For some of us this means we just need to go to bed early.  Maybe we tell our spouse we are turning in at 8:30pm and they are in charge.  For others of us we need some focused time of stress relief or physical activity.  I prefer hot yoga! Whatever it is, make sure your body gets the boost it needs to do all those tasks that await you.

Mental Health:

When constantly thinking about the needs of others, especially our kids, it can be mentally taxing. We often put aside our own thoughts or life circumstances so that we can focus on what is right in front of us. Make sure to take time to process what is going on with YOU.  For me, mental health is strongly tied to spiritual health.  When I take the time out of my day to pray and reflect, everything, including my encounters with my kids, becomes clearer.

Make your great escape.  Get your spouse on board, hire a babysitter, swap with another mom…whatever it is you need to do, DO IT! Your family will thank you for it!

Travel Thursday: Time to Give

by Chicago Art Department

Awhile back I wrote that one of the upsides of having a travel spouse was time. The question is, what do you do with the time you have?  Even if you don’t have a spouse that travels I am sure there are hours you could reallocate or minutes you don’t fill.

Now, I am a big advocate of rest. Rest is how we recharge, enjoy quiet and find time with God.

However, I confess that often I find myself “resting” in things that aren’t really restful.  Hours on Facebook, T.V. and texting. Minutes wasted sitting around when there are important things to be done in my home.

So, I’ll ask again, what do you do with the time that you have?

Since my spouse travels 20+ days a month I have more time than most women.  I am a stay at home mom to 2 kids, have a part time job at our church and do some freelance writing on the side.  I have plenty to keep me busy.  But, when I look at all those things where am I generously giving of my time, for free, with no expectation of return?

As moms, we often feel emotionally and physically drained, as if we can not give another minute to anyone or anything. In those times it is when God calls you to rest “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.

As moms, we also have the capacity to give more than we imagine we can.  It is in those moments that we need to step out in faith and give “…but the righteous is generous and gives” Psalm 37:21b

If you are a mom, particularly a mom of a traveling spouse or a stay at home mom I want to challenge you to take an assessment of your time and ask the question:  Where am I giving my time outside of myself and my family?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Around the Neighborhood:  Do you have a local Chamber of Commerce or Main Street organization?  Contact them and see if there is a way to serve your community.  Maybe there is a quarterly or monthly clean up day or perhaps you can volunteer at a tourist center or event. Getting to know your neighbors and community leaders is a great way to get connected and give back to those around you.

At a Favorite Spot:  Do you enjoy the park?  Contact the Park District and see if they have volunteer opportunities?  Do you send your kids to the YMCA?  Contact the director and see if they could use an extra set of hands some where.  Are you an avid biker?  Contact your local bike shop and see if you can help them out.

At Church:  Call your children’s director and see if they have a way you can serve during the week.  Maybe you can help make pieces for an activity, clean toys or organize the resource room.  These are things you can usually do when you have time and you could even do them with your kids, what a great way to show your kids how to serve.

Life is busy but don’t forget to give back.

From an hour a month to an hour a day find a way to use what you have and take time out to give.