SNOW DAY + SLOWING DOWN.

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We’ve had quite the winter in Tennessee so far, or at least it’s been quite the winter for us having been raised in Mississippi where temperatures can run anywhere from 20 degrees to 70 degrees in January.  Temperatures have been near 0 degrees, and this morning was no exception.  Last week, we had ice and very little snow.  This week, we’ve had snow that turned into ice.  It seems that winter has set in across Tennessee and is relentless.  And we’re okay with that… at least until we go back to work tomorrow.

2017 was a crazy year (putting it lightly) for us.  We both felt like we blinked and it was over because so much was happening in our lives.  We’ve even carried that over into 2018, but this winter storm we’re having… it’s forced us to do what we haven’t done in ages, and that’s slow down.  We’ve been in and out of the midst of this storm for six days now, partially because of the attribution of Martin Luther King Day.  We’ve had the opportunity to rest–really, truly rest.  We’ve had the opportunity to clean out our home.  We’ve had the time to actually clean our home.  We’ve had cozy breakfasts in the morning, warm french onion soup at night curled up watching movies.  It’s been a dream.  During all of this, we’ve been reminded of the importance of taking time to rest, reflect, and take care of yourself.  Although we were forced into it, it has been such a blessing for us to have no other choice than to settle in together.

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Last year, I was able to take time to read this book.  Present Over Perfect by Shauna Nequist has been a game changer in our lives.  Although it’s a slow ongoing process, the principles found in this book have opened our eyes to what REALLY matters in our lives and how to start taking steps at creating the kind of life we want, rather than the frantic, nonstop life that seems to be designed for us.  I would love to do a full book review for you.  It was one of the most impactful books I read last year, but I just want to leave you with a few quotes from the author.  The older I get, the faster I feel time flies.  It’s so important to take in this life we’re living, because we never know when it will be over.

“I hope you live a life you’re proud of.  If you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald

What people think about you means nothing in comparison to what you believe about yourself.”

It’s very hard to be loved and connected to the people in your home when you’re always bringing them your most exhausted self and resenting the fact that the scraps you’re giving them aren’t cutting it.”

“I’m not building a castle or a monument; I’m building a soul and a family.  I’ll tell stories all my life, writing on napkins and on the backs of receipts, or in books if they let me, but this is the promise I make to my God:  I will never again be so careless, so cavalier with the body and soul you’ve given me.  They are the only things in all the world that have been entrusted entirely to me, and I stewarded them poorly, worshiping for a time at the altars of productivity, capability, busyness, distraction.  This body will become again what God intended them to be:  living sacrifices, offered only to Him.  I will spend my life on meaning, on connection, on love, on freedom.  I will not waste one more day trapped in comparison, competition, proving, and earning.  That’s the currency of a culture that has nothing to offer me.”

On Pleasing and Pleasure:

“Some of what I’m leaving behind in this season is the need to please everyone.  I want to respect all people.  I want to learn from all people, most especially people who are different from me and who disagree with me, but pleasing, for me, is over.”

Pleasing is a shallow and temporary joy, not nearly as valuable or right as seeing or connecting or listening.  Pleasing feels like corn syrup, like cheap candy, while pleasure is homemade pie, rich with butter, this with sugar and ripe fruit.”

These days I want to love deeply and well, and that’s really different from pleasing.  Love is often quieter, and it’s never connected to that anxious proving and tap-dancing that so many of us have learned to keep people happy.”

Questions to Reflect on:

“God tells the rain to just pour down.  He tells the snow to simply fall.  What are the things that he’s asking you to do, the things he made you to do, the things you do so effortlessly and easy?”

“What do you need to leave behind in order to recover that essential self that God created?What do you need to walk away from in order to reclaim those parts of you that God designed, unique to you and for His purposes?”

 

WHEN GOD’S WILL ISN’T COMFORTABLE.

I used to have this belief that if it was God’s plan for my life, everything would simply fall into place and I wouldn’t have to worry about anything.  It would be a comfortable transition.  Now, there may be some truth to this statement, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned something.  Being a Christ-follower is no walk in the park!  It’s the most rewarding and genuine part of who I am, but no one ever said it was easy.

A few years ago, I was working on my master’s degree.  I was working a horrible dead-end job that I hated.  I was miserable.  It was one of those places that literally sucks the life right out of you on a day-to-day basis.  Then, an opportunity came up for a position at a local university that I desperately wanted.  I applied immediately!  I put every ounce of faith I had left in God coming through for me.  I was expectant and waiting in awe of what God was going to do.  I literally waited by the phone daily hoping for the opportunity to leave my current job situation.  I would even look for signs from God, trying to decipher what God was trying to tell me.  Then, the phone rang, but it wasn’t what I expected.  It was the chair of the hiring committee calling to let me know that Human Resources had denied my application.  I was crushed.  I mean… crushed!  I literally came home in tears.  It was just another blow to my bruised ego.  Looking back, that was one of the worst seasons I’ve been through so far, but I discovered something.  God didn’t leave me.  God was still working even though I couldn’t see it.  That December, I graduated with my master’s degree.  Just before graduation, I had an interview for the same position that had been open previously.  Just after graduation, I got the call that I had been waiting for.  Eventually, in God’s timing, it all fell into place.  Was it comfortable for me?  NO.  Was it rewarding to witness God’s provision over my life?  Absolutely!

I’ve learned that God is not as concerned about our comfort as we are.  I’ve also learned that, at least in my own life, God seems to deliberately put me in situations that require risk, trust, and faith.  Actually, he seems to do that over and over and over.  Along the way, I’ve learned a few things that help me as I run the race of life.

1.  It’s all about perspective.  I hate waiting.  I really hate waiting.  And for whatever reason, I just can’t synchronize my watch with God’s.  He works in a completely different format of time.  But, waiting is where growth happens, or it least it has been in my life.  That’s a tough pill to swallow for me, and if I’m honest, most days, I don’t want to hear someone tell me that.  Just remember, it’s not our job to figure God out.  It’s not our job to understand exactly what God is doing.  It is simply our job to live in a relationship with Him.  The rest will fall into place.  I’m so guilty of trying to figure God out.  I’ve learned, I usually don’t understand what God is doing until after the fact when I look back.  Even then, sometimes, I’m still thinking, “God, what in the world?!?!”  In the midst of my uncertainty, of trying to figure everything out, I constantly have to remind myself that it’s not my responsibility to have all of the answers.

2.  Surrender.  It took a long hard season for me to get to this place in my life, and if I’m honest, I still haven’t got it figured out.  The difference between now and then is I’m more willing to surrender myself, but I still struggle with it fully.  In my life, I finally realized that regardless of what my eyes see, God is for me and is not against me.  I have to intentionally surrender my problems to him every day… sometimes several times during the day.  It’s not easy.  We are naturally wired to make everything about ourselves, but I’m learning to step back and ask what God wants me to do, what or where God is calling me.  Sometimes the answers come and sometimes they don’t, and that’s okay.  We will never have all the answers.

3.  Be willing.  Do you know the question I hate most in job interviews?  I’ll tell you– “What’s your 5 year plan?”  This question always baffles me.  If I’m honest, it kind of ticks me off too.  The southern redneck comes out in me quick, because I’m want my response to be (in a loud and obnoxious tone), “NUN-YA.  NUN-YA business!”  Seriously though, I’m still trying to figure out if I want a cheeseburger or a salad for lunch!  And you want me to tell you what I’m planning to do with my life for the next 5 years??  You see, that’s just it though.  It’s not my life.  Who do I belong to?  I belong to God.  So, how can anyone expect me to know what God is going to do over the next 5 years?  I’ve learned, at least for me, that my plan doesn’t really matter.  Yes, God knows the desires of our heart, but His calling, His plan is so much greater (and better if I’m honest) that anything I could conjure up in my imagination.

This interview question gets to me because I have a different perspective.  It’s because I intentionally choose (most days) to surrender and be willing to serve a God that loves me and is already ahead of me.  Life is tough.  It’s unfair.  Good people have horrible things happen to them, but I truly believe that God is good.  God is for us, not against us, and has great things ahead that we cannot even fathom.

2015: the first half.

We realize we’ve been a little MIA on the blog, so we decided to do a post about what’s gone on the first half of this year for us. This year started out on a high note for us.  I started a new job fresh out of the water from graduate school, and Ashlynn entered her last semester of classes for her graduate degree.  We also missed more days of school this winter than we have in the past six years of living in Tennessee due to ice and snow.

Once Spring hit, we had some visitors.  We enjoyed eating at Puckett’s Grocery and going to Arrington Vineyards.  It was great having my Mom and grandmother here!

For Mother’s Day, we drove down to Mississippi for the weekend.  We picked up our parents and went to New Orleans for the day!  We ate at Middendorf’s and of course, Cafe Du Monde.

Ashlynn also surprised me and took me out to eat at 55 South in Franklin, and then to the Franklin Theatre to see Billy Dean in concert.

We also went on a date to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens in Nashville.  It was a perfect day for it.  It’s not pictured, but we also went to eat at Fenwick’s 300.  We highly recommend it if you’re in town.

During a trip to North Carolina, we stopped by Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen.  Y’all… add this to your bucket list today!

For Father’s Day, we drove down to Mississippi and went to eat at Georgia Blue.  We love this place.  You just can’t go wrong here!  I got the shrimp and grits.  I take it one step further and get a crawfish cream sauce on top.

2015 has been great so far!  We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next half.

It’s Friday!

I realize the last time we updated the blog, it was a list… just like this one.  That’s okay though, right?  Let’s dive right in!

I’m in the mood for a good burger.  Here’s what not to do when preparing them.

Also Shot on iPhone 6.

This Chicken Parmesan recipe.  It you want to take it to the next level, grab a fresh loaf of bread at Whole Foods and make your own bread crumbs.

Peanut butter + Bacon + Dark Chocolate = Cookies.  Best math problem we’ve ever solved.

As much as it pains me to say this, we didn’t pre-order.

Speaking of pre-ordering things, Our pastor, Pete Wilson, has a new book coming out May 5.  Pre-order here.

Making these soon.

WHO DOESN’T LOVE A GOOD LIST?

Hey guys!
Here’s the dealio…
We are in the midst of updating our blog and with both of us working pretty heavily right now, it’s taking some time, so if you see some crazy stuff going on, please be patient with us while we work hard to make our blog better and more user friendly.  You guys are awesome!  Thank you for showing us some love!

What Divorce Has Taught Me.

(photo from Dailyinfographic.com)

Disclaimer: I’ve been praying about this post for a while now, and my hope is that it will encourage others. The goal of this post is to bring a light to the corruptness our world is becoming and to help us remember what Christ says about marriage and divorce.  It has taken me years to muster up the nerve to type this post, but I’m passionate about it.  Marriage is the greatest example of God’s love that we have as humans, and if it goes away, what other example do we have?  I’m also afraid to do this post… part of me feels like being an advocate for marriage will make me a target by Satan.  Yes, I believe their are spiritual forces that seek to kill and destroy children of God (John 10:10).  I still have to write this though.  I have to trust that the God of the universe will protect the most valuable part of me, next to my salvation, which is my marriage.

Growing up, I never really dealt with divorce.  My grandparents were divorced, but it was when my dad was a child, and from where I came into existence, I simply had two sets of grandparents on my father’s side of the family.  It never even resonated with me they were divorced until I was older.  My grandmother on my mother’s side was married three times during her life.  My mother’s father passed away from Leukemia when she was young, her second marriage ended in divorce, and she passed away while married to her third husband.  When I came along though, I was barely old enough to remember her not being married.  I barely even remember her getting married.  The point of all this is, while their was divorce in my family, I never had to deal with the process of it.  It was already done by the time I came around.  Ashlynn’s family is another story.  Ashlynn dealt with divorce her entire life.  Her parents divorced when her and her sister were young.  Why is this?  What causes people to fall in love, make promises before God, and then to think they don’t have to keep them?

It’s a good thing God keeps his promises to us… if not, we’d be screwed.  I thank God that even though I fail him daily, he still loves me.

In the past two years, several people we love have chosen to get a divorce.  This is what I’ve learned…

Divorce has taught me that ministers can lie too… a lot.

Divorce has taught me the victim isn’t always the victim.

Divorce has taught me that when God says to put your trust in Him, and not man, he meant it.  People… even the people you admire the most… will let you down (Psalm 118:8).

Divorce has taught me that pride is deadly, and ego is even deadlier.

Divorce has taught me that families can fall apart in an instant.

Divorce has taught me to fear Satan and his power.

Divorce has taught me that vows do matter, despite what others may think.  They are, in fact, a promise to God.

Divorce has taught me that regardless of the actions of the people I love, I have a right to fight for my marriage.

Divorce has taught me to set a better example for my future children.

Divorce has taught me to love my wife like Jesus loved the church…selflessly forever and always (Ephesians 5:25).

Divorce has taught me the power of healing and forgiveness that only God can give (if you allow it).  

Divorce has taught me that being a man means respecting and supporting your wife at all times.  Does God leave us when we make a mistake or do something wrong?  I can answer that… NO!

Divorce has taught me that women should submit to and respect their husbands, not because they are weak, but because they are strong in the Lord (Ephesians 5:22).

Divorce has taught me that next to Christ, my wife is my priority.  Not work.  Not play.  My wife.

Divorce has taught me to pursue my wife for the rest of our lives (She’s not just a prize.  Now that you have her, you should still pursue her, date her, do nice things for her).

Now, let’s talk about what marriage is for me.  Like I said, marriage is the greatest example of God’s love for us here on earth.  It is my goal (and I fail daily) to love my wife like Christ loves me.  Stop and think about that.  Take a step back and comprehend how much God loves you.  If you’re a Christian, then you believe this.  God died for you, right?  God was beaten nearly to death, and hung on a cross because he loves us!  It sounds so simple, so down-played.  Words can’t even describe the love God has for us.

So, when we screw up, no matter how bad–Does God still love us?  Does God still support us?  Will God ever… EVER let us go?  NO!  He won’t!  That’s how I want to love my wife.

So, wait, let’s get this straight.  Do we have to earn God’s love?  Is his grace only sufficient when we do the right thing… when we look good in the spotlight?  NO!  We can’t earn God’s grace.  We just have it if we are a Christ Follower.  It’s that simple.  No matter what we do, what we’ve done, God love us, we don’t earn it, we simply have it.

My wife… simply has my love.  She didn’t earn it… she couldn’t earn it if she tried.  She can’t buy it.  She can’t persuade my love for her one way, or the other… she simply has my love.  Jefferson Bethke puts it best when he says, “We’re often judgmental, hypocritical, and legalistic while claiming to follow a Jesus who is forgiving, authentic, and loving.”  Why is pride so hard to swallow?  Why is it so hard just to let go?  I know people hurt others.  Believe me, I’ve been hurt so many times, but God can heal those wounds in time, if you give him the opportunity.  See, that’s the funny thing with Christianity.  We’re not puppets–we have the free will to do whatever we want.  But I want to say this…

If you’ve done something you think is horrible and you feel dirty and disgusting, God still adores you.    “You’re not what you did.  You’re not what someone did to you.  You are not what happened to you.  You are who Christ says you are” (Craig Groeschel).  To those who are hurting, remember this:  The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.  These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern” (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross).

Divorce isn’t always a horrible thing.  I’ve seen many people reclaim their life because of certain circumstances.  I’m not talking about abuse in the home or anything like that.   That’s not what this post is about.  I’m talking about the fact that you don’t feel love anymore is no reason to end something that you promised God.  Do we always feel close to God?  Do we always feel him near to us?  Does he still love us regardless?  I’m sure a lot of people would say, “well, you’ve only been married for five years… what do you know?”  Well, I don’t know much, but the scripture is a lot older than I am, and God’s views haven’t changed.  All I’m doing is quoting what God has already written in the bible.

I think we tend to turn the bible into a genie in a bottle.  Thanks to Christina Aguilera, we know that if we “rub it the right way,” we’ll find a verse to justify just about anything.  I’ve heard so many times that the bible says if a woman commits adultery, it’s okay to get a divorce (Matthew 5:32).  I mean, the bible does say that… specifically.  But, if we’re going to play that game, can we ignore everything else the bible says about marriage?  NO!  If we’re going to abide by one verse in the bible, we have to abide by all of them.

This is simply a matter of opinion, but I think most divorces end due to selfishness.  They want more.  They’re tired of the life they’ve been living.  They’re not happy anymore.  They want more money.  Sounds pretty selfish to me.  Remember, God’s love for us is selfless.  I understand it takes two in a marriage, but the faith of a man or woman can move mountains (Matthew 21:22).  Have faith.

I could honestly go on for days.  I hope that this post inspires you to love more… no matter who it is.  If we are advocates for Christ, we have to start acting like it.  If you’re in a position where you are questioning divorce, evaluate your reasoning.  Don’t be a quitter.  Fight the good fight.  Remember the promise you made for God.

Vows aren’t just words.  God promised to love us and be with us until the end of the world (Matthew 28:20).  Will you do the same for your spouse?


THIRTY DAY CHALLENGE.

Who doesn’t love a good challenge?  
Challenges are what makes us feel alive, right?  
The whole idea of a challenge, for us, is to become a better version of yourself.  So, with that being said, here we go.  We are gearing up to run in a race at the end of April, and thought a challenge would be a great way to prepare for it.  
We’re no stranger to challenges.  We’ve kicked fast food to the curb (for life), we can survive without soft drinks, so we wanted to come up with something new.  So here’s the rules for us:
1.  No Dairy.  
2.  Vegetarian Dinners Every Night.
3.  Complete Training Plan.
4.  Eat Clean.
That’s it!  The whole “no dairy” rule will be the hardest I think.  All that milk and cheese… man.  It’s hard to say goodbye (cue Boyz II Men), but for 30 days, totally doable.  The whole idea of eliminating these things from our diet is to make more room for more fruits and vegetables.  One thing we love about where we live is all the farms nearby.  We really have no trouble getting fresh produce, and we’re thankful, because where we’re from, it’s virtually impossible.
I’m also going to be re-reading through this book during the challenge.  If you’re a Christian and you love Jesus, but religion has beat you down… or if you’re not a Christian, and simply want some actual facts, this is a great read.
So, here we go!  You’re welcome to join us if you’d like!  The challenge starts today and ends April 16.  

Our TV Table.

We have a new rule.  When you can’t find what you’re looking for… build it yourself!  And that’s exactly what we did!  We love our new TV Table.  You can head on over to Craftsman Drive to see exactly how we did it.  We altered the measurements a little to fit our space, but for the most part, it is built to scale.

These are the behind the scenes shots.  It doesn’t get more real that this.  It was an easy project that only took about three hours, and cost around $50.00 to build.  We paid home depot to cut the wood for us so all we would have to do is basically put it together.

Why we’re quitting Facebook…

Actually…we’re quitting all social networking sites (for a period of time at least)… Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter more specifically.  Our first reactions when the idea of taking a break came to mind were “what if we miss something.”  It was then I realized that I had a problem.  Facebook and Twitter are everywhere!  Any channel you turn to, any website you visit, there’s always that logo.  Nowadays, people don’t even advertise their site, they advertise their Facebook page.  Now, don’t get me wrong, Facebook is a great tool to keep up with family and friends, and also a great way to market your business, but for us, we’re noticing a trend that needs to stop.  We don’t see Facebook as even by any means, we are just simply trying to grow in our faith more, and a good way to do that is eliminate something that takes up the majority of our free time.

It’s interesting.

We never have time to read our bible, yet we ALWAYS have time to see what our friends are up to, and scroll monotonously through our news feed.  We don’t have time to do our research papers in graduate school, but we have time to share countless pictures of food and our dog.  Most young people don’t even remember, but there was a time when social media meant listening to independent bands on myspace.  We weren’t into everyone’s business or posting our picture-perfect lives on the internet for the world to see.

Don’t get us wrong, we will definitely miss the interaction, but for now, it’s time to focus on more of what really matters in our life.  Of course, we’ll still be updating our blog, and if anyone is dying to get a hold of us, you can always email us at tschruff@icloud.com.