Monday, November 24, 2014

My Life Puzzle

Our church is in the middle of a three week series called Puzzled. The overarching theme is summed up in a key phrase: In your doubts of today, trust in His tomorrows.

On the first Sunday there was a puzzle piece in each seat to help us think about the message throughout the week. I picked up a puzzle peace that was two shades of blue. I chose the piece because blue is my favorite color and it would help me to think that, although I don't have a picture of what my life will look like when finished (because life doesn't have a box with a completed picture on it like most puzzles do), with God in charge it will look beautiful.

This Sunday I again had the thought that although I may not be able to see the whole picture, I can trust God that it will be beautiful. I only have to look at nature to see the creativity and beauty God is able to create. Then I thought that although a rainbow-hued picture may be beautiful, I really hope that when my life puzzle is complete it looks like this:

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Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Yearly Review

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I have been thinking back over the past year and feel like I have experienced a lot of personal growth as a person and in my relationship with God. It started when I began participating in the women's Bible study at our church where we went through the book Seeking Him. I have a few posts from last fall that speak about some of my experiences with the study (and I would HIGHLY recommend going through the study if you desire to grow in your relationship with God). I thought it would be fun to list some of the highlights of this past year for future reference.

Here is my recap of God's work in me this past year:

  • a better understanding/grasp of God's grace
  • the realization that I can't change me but I can ask God to do so and he is faithful (I used to think that if I just tried harder I would be better.)
  • more consistent and meaningful times of prayer and Bible reading
  • a stronger desire for and pursuit of God
  • awareness of weak areas or strongholds in my life and a partnership with God to strengthen the weak areas and break the strongholds (related growth - believing God's truth instead of the enemy's lies)
  • more time in God's word and hiding it in my heart (memorization, especially verses that speak to struggles I am dealing with)
  • recognizing God's hand and provision in my life
  • more purposeful/meaningful relationships with others
  • increased recognition and following of promptings by the Holy Spirit
  • choosing to seek God more in difficult times

So that's my list. I know that I am not always successful at all of these and I still have a long way to go in terms of living like Christ and for Christ. I need growth in choosing God's agenda over mine, consistently/constantly tuning my heart to God, selfishness (oh the selfishness), praying more for others, choosing opportunities to serve others more. The good news is that God is faithful will complete his purposes in and for me.

What changes have you seen God working in you this past year?

"With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." Mark 10:27

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever - do not abandon the works of your hands. Psalm 138:8

Monday, July 28, 2014

Loneliness, friendships and hope

I have noticed a cycle within my friendships. I start out really excited about hanging out with others and send emails, texts, FB messages, etc to the people I would like to get together with. Often it’s for a playdate because, let’s face it, I’m a SAHM and most of my time includes my two kids. I have a period of time when I am seeing other adults on a regular basis (which means once or twice a week, which probably seems like a pitifully small amount of adult interaction to non-SAHMs - obviously I see my husband much more frequently, but there’s something different about girl time).
Eventually I hit the other half of the cycle where I feel worn out from doing most/all of the inviting and stop with the hope that someone will invite me (and probably the kids) to do something. While waiting for this to happen, I tend to throw myself a little pity party. I don’t quite know how I get back into the inviting mode or how long this part of the cycle usually lasts. I think several things happen. First, I decide that I’ve had enough loneliness and would rather suggest gatherings than continue to go without other adults. Second, I choose to believe that the people really do want to hang out but they are very busy with their families and just need someone to ask them to make time to hang out.
I feel like I can’t be the only one who deals with this. I certainly can’t be the only SAHM who needs to have conversations with non-children. Part of my problem seems to be that most of the other SAHMs I know live 30+ minutes away from me or are already part of an established group. It probably wouldn’t be so pronounced if I had family around. It kind of feels like our family is a little island when we really want to be part of a community. Maybe we aren't showing our vulnerability so others don’t know that we are in need.
Well, here is my confession. I’m lonely. I need others. I’m tired of feeling like I have to always be the one to reach out in order to connect. I want to know that someone cares and enjoys spending time with me.
We, as people, were created for community (Genesis 2:18). The devil likes to isolate us - especially from God and other believers - because then we are more vulnerable to his lies and schemes. God’s word says that he works all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). Since I know these things and have just reminded myself of these truths, my next step is to end my pity party and figure out what God might be teaching me or trying to develop in me through this.
I have struggled with sharing my deeper thoughts and feelings with my husband. I have been praying to be bolder in opening up with him. Perhaps God is answering this prayer by temporarily removing other outlets so that I can improve my communication with him. For this, I am grateful.
It may also be to help me see my need for others. I tend to live fairly independent and self-sufficient. Feeling loneliness is a good reminder that I do need others and that it’s okay to not be able to do it all alone.
This experience has caused me to ask again, Do I trust God? (Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5) Yes, I do. I trust him to provide me with the things I need when I need them, including friendships (And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19). I am so thankful for the encouragement his word provides and the ability to recall applicable verses during times of personal struggle. Having reminded myself of God’s love for me, his provision and perfect timing, I am refreshed with hope and courage.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
 “Where is your God?”
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
~Psalm 42:1-3,5~
You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
you, God, are my fortress,
my God on whom I can rely.
~Psalm 59:17~

Monday, May 5, 2014

Compassion and Mercy

For a while I have admitted that I struggle with compassion. For some reason it has been hard for me to get into another person's shoes and try to feel what they might be experiencing. I saw hurts and struggles and injustice from a distance but did not allow myself to get close enough to experience emotions.

A few months ago I started seeing and reading a lot about child abuse and sex trafficking. The more I read, the more horrified and outraged I became. I felt sick to my stomach at things that have happened to women and young children. I thought that these issues probably bother me because I have young children, a girl and a boy, and I cannot imagine either of them being victims of these things. I want to do everything in my power to protect them from the evil in our world. And I'm sure most parents feel the same way. Although thinking about these horrors causes me to pray for Jesus to come quickly and make everything right, I find myself kind of relieved to know that there is some compassion in me after all.

Then, of course, God slammed me with a new realization. What he wants from me is not compassion, but mercy. Mercy is compassion in action. It is taking these feelings and doing something about them. I love how God has patiently guided me toward his true desire. He has met me where I am and faithfully brought me closer to where I am supposed to be.

But I feel somewhat helpless at this point. What can *I* do to help prevent these injustices, to rescue and heal victims of injustice? I know that there are wonderful programs out there being the hands and feet of mercy. I *feel* like I don't have a lot of time or opportunity in my stage of life. Yet I know that if I research, God will bless me with an opportunity to help in this area right where I'm at. Lord, please move me from compassion to mercy!

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To ACT JUSTLY and to LOVE MERCY and to WALK HUMBLY with your God.   ~Micah 6:8~

Friday, April 25, 2014

If the Bible Is True...

In our community group, we have been watching a video series by Timothy Keller called The Reason for God. It has led to some interesting discussions about objections people have to the Bible and Christianity. Through the series an interesting question was posed. Do some people really object to the accuracy and validity of the Bible itself or do they object to the Bible because admitting it's truth would mean a need to change parts of their lives?

I definitely think some people don't want to have to change parts of their lifestyles that conflict with things God says and Jesus taught. I still struggle with things in the Bible - what I understand it to say constantly challenges things I think and do (or don't do). 

I also know how daunting it is to see how short my life and efforts fall compared to what how the Bible is calling me to live. I have spent years trying and failing. Only recently have I more fully grasped the true meaning of grace. I now understand that *I* can't change my selfish, sinful nature. Only with God working in me through the Holy Spirit do I have any hope of living a life that loves others well and brings glory to God.

That's why I need Jesus. Jesus is the one who lived the perfect life, died for my sins and conquered death so that I can be reconciled to God. Without Jesus, I am stuck in my sin and all of my efforts at doing good are in vain. With Jesus, he is my righteousness that makes me right with God. Praise God for his great love for me (and us)!
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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Living Love

I have been thinking a lot about what should characterize someone who loves Jesus (because that's how I would like to be known). With minimal digging it is fairly obvious. In John 13:34-35 Jesus says,"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." Jesus was pretty straight forward. Proof of our love for God and Jesus is a life of love.

It sounds easy, but it's obviously not. I am often focused on what's going on in my life which tends to eliminate (or causes me to miss) opportunities to care for and love others. Selfishness seems to me to be the greatest barrier to really loving others.

Jesus told us to love others like he loved us. Let's just think about that. Jesus took time to listen to those who needed an ear and provide physical healing to others. He looked at their heart to their true need and spoke to it. He did not look to see how others could benefit or serve him. He did not consider any task below his station. He gave freely of his time, energy and abilities. He did not retaliate when others mocked him and abused him. He continued to love people and even sought forgiveness on their behalf. And then he gave his life for those who loved him and those who despised him. He was the physical example for everything he asks us to be willing to do in the name of love.

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command." John 15:13-14

I think that if everyone focused their efforts on loving others, we would be so consumed with this task that there would be no room for anything else - no room for gossip, falsehood, betrayal or any other form of evil. I wonder what that would be like.

Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37-40

I have decided (realized) that my life's work should be accomplishing the above two commandments. I think if I can make headway into loving God with all I have and also loving others as I want to be loved I will probably manage to cover any other exhortation in the Bible. I may also actually begin to look a little more like someone who truly loves Jesus.
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Do you think that it is easy to love God and others? Are there obstacles you face to truly loving those in your life?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

God's Reassurance

I have eczema (also called dermatitis) that affects some of the skin on my hands and face. It comes and goes depending on the weather, and seems to be more prevalent right now (probably due to all of the weather swings we've been experiencing). I am somewhat self-conscious about the dry skin on my face because it's noticed the most (obviously). It has caused me to question my attractiveness as I don't find the condition very pretty. This morning I was feeling particularly vulnerable to these thoughts and wanted to talk about it with my husband because he is good about reassuring me when I need it. Of course, today is the day he will be gone all day and I will not see him before I go to bed.

I was praying about all of this and asked why it seems that whenever I am in need of some sort of reassurance it coincides with the unavailability of my spouse. I had a thought and voiced it to God. "Are you trying to tell me that you want me to come to you for reassurance and comfort? Am I to seek my value and worth from you?" Well, duh, right? I know that God loves me, has a purpose for me, created me the way I am, and finds me very valuable. I struggle sometimes with claiming these truths and seeking peace and reassurance from my Creator. 

So I spent some time looking through the Bible to remind myself of what God values and finds beautiful. I first read 1 Samuel 16:7 to remind myself that God looks at my heart. The most encouraging verses were found in 1 Peter 3:3-6, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment...Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and DO NOT GIVE WAY TO FEAR."
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I have noticed lately that the enemy has been trying to use fear to immobilize me and break down my relationships. Perhaps I should spend some time reminding myself of all of God's do not fear proclamations in Scripture.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Do you turn to God first for comfort and reassurance? Do you have a verse that encourages you to keep going when you are feeling discouraged?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Acts of Love

  As I was folding laundry one day, I wondered whether some of the things I do as an act of love for my husband are noticed and received as such. This may seem like a random thought, but it's not. You see, my husband's socks are most often inside out when they are tossed into the laundry basket. When they come out of the dryer, they are still inside out. Each laundry day I make a choice whether to leave them inside out while matching them or turn them right side out. For a while I have been choosing to turn them ride side out because I determined that it was the loving thing to do and would make his mornings before work go more smoothly. I was curious as to whether this was noticed and also to know what little things I do make him feel loved. So I asked him, while also volunteering an example.

  I shared that I know he loves me because he calls me every day when he leaves work to give me an idea of when he'll be home and also to ask if I need him to pick up anything on the way. He responded that he knows I love him because I put his clean and folded laundry away for him. I then asked if he noticed I turn his socks right side out. I joked that he'd know I was mad at him when he started to find inside out socks in his drawer.

  I do think it is important to learn what things make your spouse feel loved and then try to do them regularly (not that I always succeed at this). It may be something small like putting away the clean dishes you find in the dishwasher. It could be something a little bigger like giving your spouse a massage gift certificate and time/opportunity to use it. Perhaps your spouse likes you to make time to talk or play a game with them. It would also help your spouse out to tell them what makes you feel loved so that they can reciprocate.

  Do you know what makes your spouse feel loved? Do you succeed in showing him or her love regularly? 

Monday, January 27, 2014

When Do I Need God?

There are plans for our church to train some people to be lay counselors. When I first heard about this I was quite excited because one of my dreams has been to be a counselor. I have a bachelor's in Psychology but have not yet pursued a master's degree. I wasn't able to determine exactly which route to take (MSW or MAC) before my life veered in a different (and wonderful) direction. I have talked off and on with my husband about whether or not to go to grad school when the kids are older. So when I heard there might be an opportunity to pursue my dream in a slightly different way, I was interested in pursuing it.

Before service yesterday one of the women involved in this potential ministry asked me again about my interest and mentioned a potential timeline for it. While I was sitting in church I was thinking about how exciting the opportunity would be I also thought about how much I would need to seek God when I stepped into the role. I know that I have no wisdom of my own that can encourage someone exactly how they need it. I know that God will know exactly how he wants to use me in others' lives and I will need to faithfully seek him to do this. I was excited by this, by stepping into a role where I needed to rely fully on God. 

And then it hit me. Am I saying that I am doing all of my current roles in my own power? Am I saying to God, "I've got this marriage and parenting and friend thing"? Because I surely do not! I cannot have a thriving, loving, encouraging, supportive marriage in my own wisdom and power. I am naturally selfish to the core and that will not work for marriage. Nor can I raise two kids with the compassion, grace, love, and wisdom that will yield godly adults without seeking God daily (sometimes hourly). I am too prone to frustration, tiredness and impatience. Without God, I cannot truly care for another person (we're back to that selfish thing where I focus on my little world). I cannot have a deep, intimate relationship with someone that includes genuine concern, compassion and giving of myself and my time. 

Duh. Thanks, God, for reminding me that I need you right now. You have already given me more than enough to bring to you each day.

I'm still excited about the potential new opportunity, but right now I will refocus on seeking God in the roles I currently hold.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Yesterday's message at church was based on Matthew 5:4, Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. It made me smile (seems contradictory I know) because I have been going through a grieving process of sorts recently in the loss of a close friendship. It didn't really occur to me that this is what I've been doing until Aaron began talking more in depth on the verse. I see that it is good that I am trying to sort everything out with God so that I will be able to move forward into new friendships without bringing along any bitterness or hardness of heart.

And the verse is accurate. Jesus has come right along with me to give me hope and encouragement and peace throughout the process. No one wants good things to end but that is life. If we continue to try to hold on to what was, we will miss what is and what could be.

Another thing that humbled me was realizing how small and insignificant my "loss" is compared to others. There are people dealing with lost jobs, poor health, a family member's illness, death. It almost seems silly to mourn a lost relationship in light of those. And yet I was reminded that God still cares about my loss just as much as the losses of others. How incredible my God is! He loves me so much that nothing is too small or insignificant to him. If it matters to me or you, he cares. Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens (Psalm 68:19).

Praise the Lord, my soul;
 all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul;
 and forget not all his benefits -
who forgive all your sins
 and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
 and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
 so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
             ~Psalm 103:1-5~

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Is Jesus Enough?

Here's a follow up from my last post.


Dear God,

 I think you are finally getting through to me. My mind keeps harping on this best friend thing. Why do I want one? Because I want to be known intimately. I want to be able to air my dirty laundry - my shortcomings, struggles, temptations and weaknesses - and still receive acceptance, love and compassion from the one who hears it all. I want someone who can say "I understand. I can help." Saying all of this to you, I know feel kind of silly. You are that someone. You are able and willing to be all that and more if I will just let you. You are enough. I keep telling you that "I need this" and "I need that" - that I need things other than you, things apart from you. And you are kindly and lovingly showing me that no, I don't. You know my needs and you want to meet them with your vast stores of love, compassion, acceptance and wisdom. You are always with me. You will never forsake me. You can answer and help and encourage. You will always listen You are enough for me. Thank you, Jesus, for showing me that I have not internalized this truth. Help me to remember this truth and live it. 


Monday, January 6, 2014

On Becoming Poor in Spirit

I have been terrible at regular posts. I'd like to blame the busyness of the Christmas season but I must also admit a bit of a lack of inspiration. Anyway, after yesterday's church service I felt a desire to write a letter to God as a response. I thought I'd share my heart with you today.

Dear God,

Thank you for reminding me this morning that I need to be humble before you and trust you to provide for my needs. I admit that I have gotten into the habit of pretending I am the expert on what I need and also pretending that I must also figure out how to meet my needs myself. I struggle a lot with independence (or rather willingly depending on others). Please forgive my pridefulness. I was not created to live life on my own or in my own strength. I know that my current desire for a deep friendship with another woman - a best friend if you will - is known by you. You know my needs and wants before I can verbalize them. I need to trust you to handle it. This is me admitting my dependence on you to meet my needs. Lord, give me what I need. I trust your wisdom and timing. Show me my next step - here I go wanting to do something. Help me to lay down a doing mentality and simply rest at your feet, accepting your gifts as you give them.