Why #LoveYourSpouse Challenge is Good

I understand why people are rolling their eyes at the #LoveYourSpouse trend…  Because the reality is, life is NOT A FAIRY TALE.

And for most people who are against the trend rightly feel that it is a little too polished and perfect to be true. However, this challenge is a reminder of something all couples need a little more of.

Positivity. Bonding. Forgiveness. Solidarity. Encouragement.

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Here are three short reasons why the #LoveYourSpouse Challenge is a good thing.

-Keeping a Positive Outlook on Your Marriage is Healthy-

I’ve shared before that Tap and I have made a commitment to not bash each other in public. When we do this we feel safe in our relationship, we don’t fear embarrassment in-front of or away from our spouse. Our spouse knows our deepest and most hidden flaws, and with this rule I feel safe with him knowing all of me.

So no, facebook doesn’t show the reality of our roller coaster relationship, but it shouldn’t have to. Fights are for us in our own space and time, until they’re too big- Then they’re for us and a mutually trusted counselor or wiser couple.

-Telling and Sharing Your Story is Bonding-

In all of my communication & relationship courses in college the theme of “story” was studied. The premise was that “memory sharing” creates and reinforces a bond between two people. Just watch a couple recite their story, over time they can finish each other’s sentences and they can repeat this story with bravado! You also begin to see them lean into each other, and show outward signs of affection.

Why? Because, once you walk down memory lane it tends to resurface some of those initial butterfly feelings.

Furthermore! Every positive memory is like an investment in your relationship. So when those imperfect hard times hit, you have an investment that softens the blow! We need to keep remembering the reasons we love our spouse, as well as create more reasons and memories for future hardships.

-We all Desperately Need Encouragement-

We should never stop encouraging our spouse… or our friends, family, or other marriages and love stories.

Just after 4.5 years of my marriage, I may feel like I’m not the woman my husband married. Fear that I have disappointed him with the pounds I’ve gained, the patience I’ve lost, and the slow change of personality that happens with experience and time. We all doubt ourselves, and need the reminder and reaffirmation that our marriage is still strong in the midst of challenge or change.

Even in a healthy, loving, committed relationship, I’m glad to still hear I love you.. still.

It is important to remind each other that we did, do, and will always love one another, despite the surfacing flaws, bumps in the road, and challenges we face.

And in a world that pushes divorce, selfishness, and the pursuit of happiness over holiness, it’s good to see love conquer.

How about you? Will you be joining the challenge? Why or why not?

 

Build Each Other Up

Kids tend to make people the punchlines of their jokes.

They often grow-up, but don’t grow out of it. The jokes may take different set-ups, forms, or turns… but people still end up battered on the other end. Their bruises covered by laughter.

In highschool, I was blessed with a positive influence. My youth pastor, Brian, made it our mantra that we would not tear each other down, but that our job was to build each other up.

Whenever we said something negative about someone else, we had to apologize and list three things we liked about that person- and the mantra would be spoken again “Build Each other up.”

Ryan McGuire at StockSnap.io

Life is hard, why make it harder for each other? We have the power to tear down and the power to build up. Why not stand together to make the burden lighter?

How are you using your voice?

As I get older the challenge has changed.

Instead of redeeming negative comments with positive ones, I should be keeping my mouth shut before I say anything negative in the first place.

Bob Goff shared that every time he says something critical to another person he logs into his bank account and gives away $500.  He said this helps him stop and think, “Do I really want to say this, or would I rather take my sweet Maria on a trip?

Most of the time he picks a trip with his wife, keeps his mouth shut, and instead focuses on speaking words of “life and encouragement.”

This is the next step… Speak life and encouragement into others without prompting.

I want to live my life as an encourager… a builder.

This is especially important in my marriage. As a wife, my sole job is to be a helper and encourager to my husband.

As a wife, I get to see the worst side of my husband, but I am called to be his greatest cheerleader despite it. This is oxymoronic, but that paradox gives it even greater power.

Knowing his faults, yet respecting, loving, encouraging, and believing in him anyways is what makes it mean more.

As I try to master being an encouragement to my husband, I need to let that habit flow into all of my relationships.

What would it be like if we used our words to build instead of tear down?

Build up our family, friends, leaders, servers, or the next generation.

I think we will find that a kind word goes much farther than a critical one.

 

Is it easier for you to speak negatively or positively about others? Is there someone you are specifically speaking life into during this season of your life? Who do you know that could use some life-giving words right now?

 

 

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

-Philippians 4:8

 

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

-1 Thessalonians 5:11

The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

-Proverbs 14:1

Remake Your Life

Quote & Photo Courtesy of Shauna Niequist

The author of my daily devotional, Savor, posted this quote on her facebook wall. The words keep resonating in my heart and echoing through my mind.

I believe it’s worth it, too.

It’s worth it to turn the ship around, and finally begin the journey in the right direction.

Yes, we may lose something… we may lose the time we spent on the wrong career, the money we spent at the wrong school and in the wrong major, the people we called friends… maybe. Maybe not.

God has a funny way of weaving all of our experiences together to make up who we are.  Our destiny is often tied up in our past, and you never know how God will redeem it.

If you’re scared that you will lose too much, keep in mind that the sooner you turn the ship the less backtracking you will have to do.  You’ll cut your losses of time, money, energy, and you’ll have more time to invest in the right path.

Just thinking about it burns my heart up.

I want to remake my life.

All of the happiest and most successful people I know have started over and remade their lives… multiple times.

My mom and dad have had more businesses than I can count or recall. My brother has moved to Chicago, Orlando, and Minneapolis, and traded up jobs several times… all to restart again. Moving from a career in computers to one as a financial adviser.

Ed Catmul wanted to be an artist, but lacking the skills he went to school for physics and came out with a degree in it and computer science. At the time this seemed far from art.. physics? Then he did the unthinkable by blending computer science with animation, and after many new beginnings, he is the well-known president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios.

My sweet husband went to school for environmental science, but God called him out of that. Tap had to remake his life to fit God’s call, and transferred schools for Worship Ministry.

Countless entrepreneurs had to begin somewhere, and many had to begin again… and again. Usually coming out stronger, more defined, and more fueled with passion then ever before.

Life is short, wild, and ambitious. We need to rise up and meet the challenge and embrace the whims of it.

It’s better to remake your life now, than look back with regret.

Don’t wait until you have all your ducks in a row.

Don’t wait until the kids are grown.

Don’t wait until forever.

It takes time to remake your life, so you better start now.

The sooner you start the longer you can savor.

What do you want to remake your life into? What is your first step? What remaking have you already done in your life?

Does Your Heart have to be in it first to be Considered God-Honoring?

I see my friends, my colleagues, and, in hindsight, I see myself miss out on awesome opportunities all of the time.  God opens doors wide open for us, and we walk past it.  Meanwhile, our hearts are empty and we desire a closer relationship with God.

The reason we miss these doors are numerous.  We can hear ourselves often say, “I didn’t want to do it, because my heart wasn’t in it.”  -or- “I would feel like a fake, it wouldn’t be genuine.”

These excuses could be used for a wide variety of things : Not wanting to sing hymns, or refusing contemporary worship; Not signing up for a service project or praying for an individual; Not sharing the gospel with a stranger; Not forgiving a trespasser; Not going to Church or Sunday School.  Because, “I’m not feeling it, it wouldn’t be genuine.”

In our culture, we give our hearts too much control of our actions.  This often leads us to more heart-ache, which is probably what we are trying to avoid.  We need to lead with our minds, and let our hearts follow.

What if we did our Spouse’s chores when we didn’t feel like it?  What if we chose joy when it would be easier to wallow in our sadness?  What if we offered forgiveness before a grudge set in?  What if we sang praise to God even if we didn’t “feel” the music?

I can hear those excuses surfacing back up again in me already… But that’s not genuine, that’s fake, I need to be real.  Yes, we do.  But we also need to understand that the heart makes some bad decisions.  I can attest to that! My heart has chosen some lousy relationships to follow, and has led me to insecurity and bitterness in the past.  This has taught me that the heart is a much better follower than it is a leader.

You can choose, and your heart will follow.  Soon your heart and mind will work in tandem, spurring each other on towards the goal.  When I let my mind lead, in time my heart will catch up and swell at the enormity of God’s grace.  It will overflow at the opportunity that was seized.  Then my heart begins to crave more.  More good decisions, More love, More service, More grace, More God…. MORE GOD.

Let’s be a little more like Isaiah:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’

And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’

Isaiah 6:8

Have you ever done something when your heart wasn’t in it?  What did you learn?  Did your mind lead your heart closer to God?

Travis & Molly

Travis is my brother, closest to me in age, and I have the most childhood memories with him.  I’m sure I was the annoying little sister who always got in the way, but he didn’t make me feel this way too often.  More often then not he showed me that he was proud of me and loved me.

At Zion, on one of my first days of school, I ran out of class trying to chase after my mom who snuck out of the classroom.  She was already long gone, and Travis found me in the halls.  He made me feel better and helped me back to class.  Him and his friend created a Carnival night for me and my niece and nephew.  They pushed us around in toy cars like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, we rode a wagon down the drive way like splash mountain, and did all sorts of fun things.  He was constantly using his imagination to come up with fun games that evened the playing field between our 6 years age difference.  We played shutoff, legos, and built computers out of carboard and folders.  He taught me how to be creative, and how to draw.  We watched anime together, told nerdy jokes, and played video games.  He even let me visit him in the college dorms, and never let me feel like a burden.

Travis is smart, super loving and thoughtful, and insanely creative.  I have always wanted to draw like him, and to have the imagination he shares.

Travis and I

Molly is my sister, who would be closest to me in age.  She touched my whole family’s life, but I did not get the chance to meet her.  She was innocent and beautiful.  I often wonder what it would have been like to have her around… someone to share clothes with, to fight over boys with, and share a bedroom with…. But in reality she paved the way for me to be born.  I wish it could have been both of us together, not one or the other.  But I’ll meet her someday, and I will get to see along with the rest of my family, how she grew up and what her personality shaped up to be.

 

Declare : Ephesians Worship

Last Friday night, my husband was a part of Declare.  Declare is a worship gathering put on by the Miami Valley Worship Community.  You can listen to the music here.  Several churches are represented, as each team is comprised of various leaders, denominations, and cities. It is an awesome gathering as many come to worship the One.

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This particular night was focused on Ephesians.  Both bands did a fantastic job leading us in worship.  It reminded me a lot of the worship services at the Christian Bookseller Association Conferences that I was able to attend growing up.  The similarities would be the modern songs, cream of the crop musicians, and most importantly a strong Christ-Focus instead of a denomination focus… God’s presence was real, the worship was moving, and it was easy to lose myself that night.  I wasn’t even distracted by my own sexy husband playing drums (as I often am), but I was wrapped up in God’s presence.

This is what the night looked like:

OPENING TEAM
This Is Amazing Grace (Wickham, Bb)
Eph 1:3-4 – praise
Behold Our God (Sovereign Grace, C)
Nothing But the Blood (Redman, B)
Eph 1:5-10 – redemption through the blood of Christ
In Tenderness (Citizens, A)
Eph 2:1-10 – made alive in Christ
Raised To Life (Elevation, B)
In Christ Alone (Passion, Eb)
Eph 2:19-22 – Christ the cornerstone
Cornerstone (Hillsong, C)
Eph 3:14-21 – BREAK
CLOSING TEAM
Cannons (Wickham, A)
Forever (Kari Jobe, Ab)
Eph 4:1-6 – unity through one Lord
To Be Like You (Hillsong, C)
Set A Fire (Will Regan, C) – w/ Eph 5:19-20
Eph 5:8-14 – imitate God, living as an offering
The Stand (Hillsong, G)
Eph 6:10-12 – benediction, declare the Gospel boldly
This I Believe (Hillsong, C)
It Is Well With My Soul (D)
New Doxology (Gateway, G)

Troy Lowe & Jennie Prather

Troy is my oldest brother. I don’t remember too much from my childhood. I knew I was never allowed in his room, and his door was always shut.  I visited him in his apartment, in his first tiny house, then later in Chicago, Florida, and even Minnesota.  My mom said she was worried that, because of our large age difference, we would never bond.

We did.  Eventually, I would get to stay the night at his place and do nails with his wife Jantina.  We would watch cool movies and t.v. shows that I didn’t watch back home.  They taught me videogames and how to use a tivo.  However, we really connected over karate. I had so much respect for my brother, I wanted to do something like him.  My mom refused to sign me up, so I asked him if he would when he was visiting.  He did, and then I was in karate.  It gave us something to talk about, and when he moved back to Illinois, it gave us something to do together.  I loved sharing that with him, the car ride, the class, and so much more.  We would go to Sunday School together, we would talk about faith, we would play board games, and we would do karate.

Troy is my big brother, who I know will always protect and love me.  He is black and white, and gives you a straight answer when you ask.  He is faithful to his wife, and He is faithful to God.

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Jennie is my hip sister, she claims she’s the middle child, but there is no middle of 6.  She would babysit me and let me and Travis call in to Nickelodeon.  I’d watch her eat crackers and would do workout videos with her.  She took me on a lot of her dates to Chuck-e-Cheese and Jungle O’Fun.  She taught me how to line dance, and how to have fun.

We drowned her car together, she took me to the newest Disney movies like Parent Trap and Anastasia, she watched me throw up in a movie theatre… haha.  She encourages me to work out and teaches me how to do it well.  She answers my texts right away even when they are out of the blue.  She knows all things Disney, and is willing to help anyone plan their next magical vacation even though it probably makes her a little jealous each and every time.

Jennie is fun-loving, and laughs longer than anyone I know.  Her laugh is contagious and makes me happy.  If you want to feel young, she knows how to do it and show you a good time.

Jennie and I

Katie Hoinacki & Amie Kenney

Katie is my oldest sister and my second mom.  Her children, Kallie & Ethan, were so close to my age that they were my best friends.  To outsiders they would think that we are cousins.  Growing up, I was always at Katie’s house on Frorer. We would climb the tree and fall out of it with sap all over our hands.  We would play in the basement and do mischievous things.  A lot of the time we would play legos or hide n go seek.

In my memory, Katie and Jeff were always watching me.  I’m sure this involved a lot of time, supervision, meals, and discipline.  I distinctly remember a few spanking’s from Jeff.  As I grew up, Katie’s role shifted from a motherly figure to a true sister and friend.  We could mutually share and confide in one another, encourage each other, and cry together.

Katie has a good heart, the best of intentions, and truly desires to make all people happy.  She is fun and goofy, and the social butterfly, not afraid to be silly.

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Amie is the second oldest, my twin, and my mentor.  Before she had children of her own, she treated me like hers.  As a baby I slept in her room, showered with her, and ate her licorice.  I don’t remember a lot of what she did for me, but I know it from pictures and stories.  She also spoiled me at Christmas and with sleepovers.  I loved to make elevators in her tree, and play school in her basement.

By highschool she went from my sister to my teacher and mentor.  She was always my sounding board, and would hear me vent and listen to my drama.  She would read and discuss books with me that would solidify my worldview and shape my character.  She knew things about me that others did not, and she kept them when she could.

Amie is tough on the outside, but soft on the inside.  She is full of empathy and understanding, she only speaks the truth, and her stubbornness has made her successful.

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My sisters have influenced who I am today. I look up to them and admire them, and see small pieces of them in myself.  They are constant and stable, more than any friend.  They have certainly spent many “minutes” on me.

Our Christmas Story

As everyone starts making their way back to work, we ask one another, “How was your Holiday?” “How was Christmas?”  It is so hard to summarize the answer in the snippet they are really asking for, but to put it shortly: it was wonderful and too short!

The Christmas Eve service went so well that an old pastor came up and thanked my husband for his hard work, saying it was “the best Christmas Eve service my wife and I have seen.”  What a compliment!  I am so proud of my husband, who worked endlessly to pull together a team and a service to truly reflect the true Christmas story.  He worked hard to keep his focus on Christ during all of the extra practices and late nights.  Opening with a devotional and prayer, he tried to point everyone’s eyes up.  After the service we left in a pre-packed car and headed to Illinois.

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We pulled in at an early 11:30pm, with my parents and brothers waiting up.  Crashing into our beds shortly after, and waking to the traditional jingle bells in the morning, it was Christmas.  This year we slowed down our festivities to watch every single gift be opened.  It was wonderful pacing it down and seeing the excitement and joy spread on everyone’s face.

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With paper-crowns adorning everyone’s head, we had the traditional brunch .  We watched nieces and nephews open all their toys.  They cried with appreciation, and jumped with joy.  Siblings grabbed their stockings and tore open all the trinkets others had lovingly chosen.

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My most-surprising gift came from the most surprising person, my 16 year old nephew, Noah.  Noah worked at DQ over the summer and saved his money up to buy me a very big and special present.  He handed me a large box and I immediately thought of the times he spent teaching me how to long-board.  I once mentioned to him that I’d buy his board if he ever upgraded…. But as I began to open it, it wasn’t his board inside.  It was a beautiful sandy blonde board that looked just like a retro surf board, one I had spoken of before.  He had bought me a brand new board, with custom trucks and my favorite colour turqouise wheels.  He picked each piece and put it together himself.  The hand-me-down would have shocked me, but this selfless thoughtful gift had made me cry.  I am so very thankful for the relationship I have with Noah, and I wish I could be closer to be the cool aunt he could come run to when he needed advice.  Although I am states away, his selfless gift told me he was close to me anyways. I am pretty sure I cried at the overwhelming love I felt, and I am holding back tears now.

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I can’t wait to move closer to my family that I love so much.  I want to longboard with my nephew, have sleepovers with my niece, to do karate with my brother… Someday that will be my Christmas gift.

IMG_7716IMG_7712But just look at all these happy faces!

Virgil & Kathleen Lowe

My mom and dad were, of course, two of the most influential people in my life.  They have both been there for me no matter what.  In my teen years when I thought they didn’t know a thing, when in reality they had the wisdom I needed the most, they were there. They held on strong when I was pushing away, because they knew better than I did that I would need them.  They wiped away the tears, they encouraged me to strive for better, they reminded me to be humble, but they were there to catch me when I’d fall.

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My mom inspires me by her strength.  Everything she has faced in her childhood, and how she grew up too fast, the responsibility she took up without being asked- She is strong and still today she holds our family together and she is a fighter.  She always displayed a strong work ethic, family-first values, and most importantly a free-giving faith.  God has held her close and she always praises Him for His protection.  She taught me about the comfort God gave her throughout all the trials in her life, and she showed me her unwavering faith.

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My dad inspires me by his wisdom.  Throughout my childhood, I could always count on dad to know the scriptures, to answer my questions, and to always fold reason and faith together in every answer to life’s problems.  He relies on God heavily, and gives every day to the Lord. He never misses a beat, He knows that God is in every thread and every fabric of our life and he never answers without acknowledging God’s role in the situation.

They taught me to work hard, to put my faith in God, and to love others.  When I messed up they showed me grace and forgiveness.  When I needed counsel they were always there with answers and prayers.  When I didn’t believe in myself, which is often, they believed in me.  My dad is always breathing life into my dreams saying that He knows God has something in mind for me.  They are my cheerleaders, and I love them so very much.  They have instilled in me to be an adventurer and a believer.