The Post I’ve Needed to Write for a While…

If you follow this blog at all, I have clearly been pretty M.I.A. this year. I had a pretty rough first half of 2016 – I tried to continue blogging from time to time, but my creative energy had been pretty zapped by a pretty terrible job situation. For being a generally confident, happy person, I can say that I have never been pulled so low as I was from December of last year through June of this year. I won’t go into details, but by the end of it, I felt stripped pretty bare.

But then I quit. Without a new job lined up, I prayed a LOT, asking God for guidance and if He COULD just MAYBE have me a new job by August 1, that would be wonderful. I had an incredible amount of peace during this time, and amazingly, on August 1, I got the call at 8:03 a.m. with my new job offer. Since then, the rest of the year has gone MUCH smoother. I’m finally feeling more my old self again, confidently working in a fabulous team environment, spending time outside of work with friends, getting back into a workout routine…the second half of the year has been SO much better.

Yet, as you’ve seen, there haven’t really been any posts. I’ve been cooking, decorating, sewing…but I just haven’t had it in me to write as much. Maybe this blogging phase of my life is over. Maybe I’ll revive it down the road. But the experiences of the year have made me care more for my friends, my family, my activities…and a little less about documenting every moment. The only place I post much these days is over in IG (@megstermeter), but I have definitely downsized my overall social media presence. I encourage each of you to really consider what is most important to you, and what is keeping you from loving those important pieces of life. Is there a job you need to quit? A relationship you need to repair? What can you do in 2017 to have your best life? I’m considering these questions for myself as the year ends.

As a “goodbye for now,” I can’t resist sharing some of my favorite pictures (in random order) of the last eight blogging years, as I welcome in this new 2017. I mean, TWENTY-SEVENTEEN, am I right? I remember December 31, 1999, in my friend Laura’s basement, singing “I’m Blue” by Eiffel 65…yikes. I am optimistic about 2017 – I hope that both for you and for me, 2017 shares more laugher than tears, more joys than sorrows, and more gratitude than complaining.

 

Why We Tithe 10%

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  — 2 Corinthians 9:7

In my career, I live and breath philanthropy. I have been the recipient of immense generosity in the past, and I work daily to connect donors to the causes they care most about.

Philanthropy: the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. 

TRUE philanthropy is cheerful and generous, and it is not something that comes naturally to everyone.

As Christians, my husband and I each feel that it is important to give our time, talents, and treasures wherever possible. But we are also human, and the reality is that we don’t always make the time or effort to pour into others. We can be pretty selfish, getting hung up on our own situations, and disregarding others’ needs. So when we first combined our incomes, we made it a point to put tithing in our budget. At the LEAST, we would give every month.

The “10% rule” comes up early in the Bible, starting in Genesis when Jacob vows:

If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house,and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.  — Genesis 28:20-22

The New Testament references giving MANY many times. It’s pretty clear that it is an expectation of us, not a request.

Look, I know the Bible tells us to do (and not do) a LOT of things, many of which I (and probably most of you) fail at on a daily basis. And there are plenty of months where one of us (usually always me) tries to justify why it just doesn’t make sense to give away that much when we have THIS and THAT and ALL OF THESE THINGS happening in our life. But if we go down that road, there is almost never a GOOD time to just give money away. Instead, we choose to joyfully give to the organizations that we care about and that are doing God’s work in their communities. We do occasionally use a part of our tithing budget to give to non-Christian causes that we care about, but generally speaking, tithing was asked of us in order to give back to God’s work. And honestly, we have reaped so many blessing from God these last several years, I have to believe it is in part, at least, due to our constant and (mostly) cheerful tithing.

PHEW that was a mouthful. I’m wide open for any thoughts or questions you might have. How do you give or tithe, and how do you decide when/ how much?

Changing Perspective {slow but sure}

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If you’ve spent any time milling around my blog, you know that I am constantly trying to discover new ways to improve my health and wellness through nutrition, fitness, faith, and general positive thinking. And slowly but surely, I’m noticing a change in my inner voice. It’s less harsh. It’s more encouraging. It’s more thoughtful. In OTHER words, I have been way kinder to myself lately. The idea that my body and mind and life is unique, and that God created my body and mind and life to serve Him and to love others is soaking deeper and deeper into my bones. I updated my kitchen chalkboard (above) to remind myself when I’m wandering around my kitchen aimlessly. Feed my body because I care about it. Workout for my body because God gave me only one to use while I’m here on earth. While I have a LONG WAY TO GO before everything I do is truly for the GLORY OF GOD, I am beginning to reap what I’ve sowed through years of studying The Word, being in a faith community, and surrounding myself with loving and Christ-loving people.

So whatever it is you are struggling with today – whether it’s health and body image, or something totally different – ask yourself if you’re doing it for the Glory of God. And then go dive into some good ol’ community!!

Good Friday in the Gospels: HOPE

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My God, My God…Why have you forsaken me?

Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34

It’s a mournful day, so it always seemed odd to call it “good.” But I get it – without this day, without HIS SACRIFICE, none of us would have the hope and the future that we do. Without this day, there is no Easter.

This week, I’ve been reading the stories of Jesus’ crucifixion in each of the four gospels. Let me just say honestly…it’s depressing. I have not read on to His resurrection, and without it, the story of His death is lonely and heart-breaking. I cannot wait to spend time on Sunday reading through the resurrection stories and reminding myself of the glory and hope Jesus’ death and resurrection have provided us.

I don’t know where you are at with Jesus today. I don’t know if you think Jesus-lovers are wacky, or if you wish you were one of them. I don’t know if you have a relationship with Jesus, or if you’re searching for one. Regardless, I encourage you to read the stories of Jesus’ death today. Even just one of them. And all of these stories have others leading up to them, and they jump into the story and different points, so if you have the time, I recommend backing up a little bit. But if you just want to read one chapter from each story, read these!

Matthew 27

Until I read this the other night, I did not know that Judas hangs himself…did you know that?! I guess they leave that out in Sunday School…

Mark 15

Here it says that Jesus cried loudly when He breathed His last breath…The other chapters portray it more gently, saying simply that He breathed His last breath, or gave up His spirit. This chapter just seems “louder” in general.

Luke 23

I love this story, because here we get the conversation with the criminals on either side of Jesus. It so clearly paints the difference between a believer and a non-believer perspective of death and heaven.

John 19

I love the image of Jesus taking care of His family (25-27), telling John that he is to be a son to Mary now. Our families should always be our first priority! Also, Jesus’ death is less dramatic in this story – it doesn’t talk about the darkness in the sky or the tearing of the curtain. He doesn’t cry out, “My God, My God…”

There are many more similarities and differences among these stories. I feel like all of these versions together truly paint the picture of Jesus’ death, even though they come from different perspectives. It really goes to show that our relationships with Jesus are all unique, but still have the same underlying story: Hope.

Married at First Sight

I know it sounds INSANE. But I got completely hooked on this show last year when it debuted on FYI (which, by the way, did you know there is a channel called FYI? I didn’t.).

Married at First Sight. It is exactly as it sounds.

 

It is the ultimate “social experiment,” where a group of singles trust four experts, each with a different specialty pertaining to psychology and relationships, matches three couples. Those three couples then marry each other…without ever having met. Think arranged marriage meets the 21st century.

I was very skeptical. I realize that in this modern age, people meet in all sorts of strange and crazy ways. We have the Bachelor. We have match.com. We have Coffee meets Bagel. We have all sorts of strange ways to connect with people. But THIS? 

With a degree in psychology, I have always LOVED seeing how different aspects of our personalities mix together. Watching the first few episodes of this show last season completely hooked me. I could see why and how the “experts” matched the three couples. To me, it made total sense.

After being married five weeks, and because this was a legally binding marriage, each couple had to choose whether to stay married or get divorced. Two of the three couples chose to stay married. And then, Married at First Sight: The First Year began, where we, the audience, got to follow along in the first year of the marriage.

I FREAKING LOVE IT. I think I love it because the two couples who stayed married are adorable, of course, but have also gone run the gamut of normal issues. They are very, VERY real people with real joys and hurts. I also think it takes a lot of courage not only to go through with this experiment, but to do it on national television.

Here are the two couples from the first season – Courtney & Jason, and Doug & Jamie. ADORABLE.

 

This season, A&E picked it up. Smart move, A&E. Very smart. So far, we have seen two episodes – the matchmaking and the weddings. Already, I see so many similarities to the couples from last season. I truly wish these six individuals the best. They were married in December, so in “real life,” they have either been married for three months, or they are already divorced. They all seem like genuine people, in it for good reasons, and committed to the process.

Here are the couples for this season. I pretty much agree with this assessment of the couples…don’t read it if you want to form your own opinions!! My personal favorite is the couple in the middle – Sean and Davina. Have you watched it? Do you watch it? What’s your opinion of the whole modern day arranged marriage premise??

Supplements for Marriage

Happy (Belated) Valentine’s Day, y’all! Vday got me thinking this year…

We take supplements for our bodies. We read and study hard for years to supplement our knowledge and our careers.

But how much time do you spend truly preparing for marriage? And once you’re in it, do you have any idea what you are doing at all?? Are you truly giving of yourself, or are you at least a LEEEEEETTLE bit selfish. Or a lot selfish.

Do you tell your significant other about all the things that he or she needs to improve on? Do you ever think about the things maybe YOU might need to improve on?

Recently at our church here in Columbus, our pastor embarked on a seven-week series on Marriage. This is how he begins…pointing out how very little we really DO to prepare for marriage, where just about every aspect of our life, from education to finances to pet ownership, is carefully planned out.

This series has been an incredible supplement to our marriage. About half way through, I think the hubster and I have already taken many, MANY lessons to heart. We are all human and we need HELP sometimes. We need guidance, mentorship, kind words, direction…and we should never be ashamed or embarrassed or scared to seek out what we need. I encourage you to watch this series, in your own time. Listen to the words and take notes. Read your notes back before bed, and pray for your marriage. Or read them when you wake up in the morning, instead of diving right into your to-do list or your work emails. I promise this will start to change your life.

Another wonderful tool I’ve been using in recent weeks is a book called, The Power of a Praying Wife. It is truly making many of the exact points as Pastor Kevin in his Marriage Sermon Series. While his sermons truly challenge and convict my heart in the best of ways, this book by Stormie Omartian focuses me on praying for my heart in our marriage, and for my husband on a daily basis. It is helping me build an even stronger foundation for our marriage.

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It doesn’t matter if you feel like your marriage is perfect right now, or if you aren’t even married, or if you aren’t even THINKING about marriage. No matter what, we should each always be working to improve ourselves for the many relationships we have in our lives. Do you need a more open and loving heart towards your family? Your coworkers? Strangers? It doesn’t just have to be your spouse. Think about how you are spiritually supplementing your relationships. Think about what sorts of help you may need, and begin to seek them out.